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Fragrant, Culinary, Libation? How Does Your Garden Grow?

By Master Gardener


(AP) Now's the perfect time for planning your spring and summer garden. Gather up your seed and garden catalogs, take some notes, visit a garden center, let your imagination loose and put a plan on paper.

Choosing one style, though, can be difficult. Do you want a formal garden, a cottage garden, perhaps herbs mixed in with vegetables and flowers? Will you grow only culinary herbs, or a combination of culinary, aromatic and decorative?

Well, why not a little of them all? Consider planting a number of smaller, themed gardens.

There was a beautiful knot bench in the TEA GARDEN where I grew chamomile, lemon thyme, sage, yarrow, lemon balm, roses, calendula, bee balm, mint, lemon verbena and several scented geraniums. The bees loved this garden, and it was a great stress-reliever to sit on the bench in the warm sun and listen to the buzz of their activity, inhale the fragrances, and enjoy the garden's peace and beauty.

Rose Garden

The CULINARY GARDEN was circular with a birdbath in the center. The walks around the beds were of crushed rock, and bricks outlined the circular shape. In the winter, the snow would melt off the rocks first and leave the herb beds covered, making an interesting pattern. I grew tarragon, marjoram, curled onion, chives, sage, winter savory, Welsh bunching onion, garlic chives, thyme, oregano, nasturtium, parsley, coriander, chervil, basil and borage here. It was my habit to pick a bouquet of these herbs to chop and toss into a salad. If there were any left over, I would put them in a basket to dry for winter use, or freeze them in a little water to add to a winter soup. As soon as the snow melted, the chives and bunching onions were there to harvest for the first taste of spring. The blue jays and mourning doves that frequented the birdbath were great company on an afternoon spent cultivating and harvesting.

The ROSE GARDEN was next; it had two entrance trellises and a third trellis with a bench underneath. In the beginning, I planted 14 old-fashioned roses, but some didn't survive the cold winter. I replaced them with the more vigorous rugosa rose. This garden was also circular, but with a larger center then the culinary garden. I edged the center with sweet alyssum; placed a lovely old clay pot in the middle filled with scented geraniums; then planted double pink petunias around it. I planted creeping thyme between the bricks in the path. The aroma was out of this world. When the thyme was in bloom, the bees were busy at the blossoms so it was necessary to step carefully.

The next garden was the EVERLASTING GARDEN, where I planted herbs and flowers that dry for decorative use: liatris, strawflowers, statice, echinops, xeranthemum, acroclinium, feverfew and salvia horminium, to name a few. Everlastings are generally easy to grow, and in most cases the annuals can withstand a light frost.

Herb Infused Cocktails

I planted this garden first in the spring and simply covered the rows with Remay cloth until the days became warmer. A huge number of strawflowers can be harvested from just a dozen plants; This garden provided me with bouquets to carry to friends, fresh flowers in summer and dried bouquets in the winter.

I had never heard of a LIBATION GARDEN until one day I realized I had inadvertently planted hops, grapes and elderberries together in one corner of the main garden, and that all are used to make alcoholic drinks. I decided to expand on the idea, did some research and discovered that heathers were once used as a substitute for hops in making beer. So I added heathers to this garden. I planted sweet woodruff for May wine, and a quince bush, rose bush, mint, wormwood and lemon balm for making cordials. A friend would occasionally harvest hops for beer, but I didn't try it. I did, however, harvest the hop cones each year for use in sleep pillows, an old-time remedy for insomnia. And the heathers were a marvelous addition for year-round pleasure. The reds, greens and golds of the leaves and the pink, rose and white flowers make a garden tapestry to be enjoyed even on a winter walk. I harvested bunches to use in wreaths and winter bouquets. There was a low bench in this garden that was a wonderful place to hide away and sit quietly.

The FRAGRANT GARDEN was just what the name implies. On warm summer afternoons, its heady aroma could be overpowering. Lavender was of course a part of this garden. Old-fashioned cinnamon pinks, though not as attractive as the new hybrids, smelled beautiful. I planted several dwarf lilacs and a half dozen peonies, along with several fragrant rugosa roses and garden phlox. There was a succession of aromatic blooms all summer, from the early spring peonies to the late summer phlox. I harvested huge baskets of peony petals for potpourri, and added rose petals from the rose garden.

With all this talk of meditative teas and secret hiding corners, you might get the wrong impression of what it is like to cultivate more than an acre of garden space.

My knees were permanently stained brown. It was difficult at times to really enjoy the gardens, or get away for any length of time, because there was always something that needed attention. Summer was an intense time of planting, weeding, harvesting and processing. But I loved it.

Inexpensive Ways To Add A Little Luxury To Your Home

(Family Features) Seventy-two percent of homeowners plan to decorate or redecorate in the next two years, according to the 2012 Houzz and Home Survey; and 86 percent said that improving the look and feel of the space was their most important goal.

You can find plenty of décor inspiration on sites such as Houzz or Pinterest. And with the right materials and a little creativity, you can add a little luxury to your home, too. Here are some ideas to get you started:

Paint - You can add a fresh look to a room with a fresh coat of paint. You can also add richness and depth with a specialty paint treatment. Textured paint allows you to give your walls the look of soft suede, leather, linen or even vintage plaster. Metallic paints can be used with stencils to create elegant patterns, or on textured wallpaper to create the look of antique tin ceiling tiles.

Textiles - Fabrics are a great way to add color and texture to a room. Browsing the remnant tables at a fabric store can lead you to some beautiful bargains. You can use remnants to recover pillows, add banding to drapes, or make runners for the table or buffet. Try adding a luxurious throw to the sofa or a small wool rug on top of existing carpet for a cozy, layered look.

You can also consider investing in having a quality piece of furniture reupholstered. Look for a fabric that is not only beautiful, but durable as well, so you get more bang for your buck. For example, Sensuede is easy to clean, child- and pet-friendly, yet is soft, comfortable and luxurious to the touch. Learn more, and explore the more than 200 colors available, at

Accents - Sometimes little things can add up to a big difference. Change out some of your accent pieces to add a special touch to any room. Metallic colors and materials such as gold, silver, bronze and copper add warmth and elegance. Vases, picture and mirror frames, decorative bowls and trays are simple ways to bring beautiful metals into any room. Richly colored candles add color and scent to a room, and their soft light will make your metallic accents glow.

Flooring - Sometimes the floor can get overlooked as a design element in a room. But a beautiful floor can pull the whole look of a room together. Refinishing hardwood floors, installing laminate or stone flooring, replacing carpets, or investing in quality area rugs are all ways you can add the perfect finishing touch to a room.

There are a lot of ways you can add luxury to your living spaces, so start exploring creative ways to make your home the picture-perfect place you've always wanted.

5 Tips For Purchasing The Perfect Recliner

(Family Features) When it comes to choosing new furniture, it's easy to get stumped when purchasing key pieces. Homeowners have to consider how each piece will blend with existing décor. While the word recliner may evoke images of your father's favorite plaid-covered chair, recliners today are designed with comfort and style in mind.

Choosing a Recliner: Even with the ever-growing assortment of recliner styles available, choosing a recliner involves more than just aesthetics. You must consider the size, shape and fit of the chair. The best fit will provide the most comfort. Longevity is another consideration. Here are five tips from Ekornes; makers of the Stressless recliner, to help you easily choose a recliner that fits your physical and aesthetic needs:

1. Choose a size. Keep in mind how much physical space you have allotted for a new recliner. Consider not only the space available in your living room, but also the size of recliner that will fit your shape as well. "Recliners with attached ottomans will never fit your exact shape and size," says Janet Odum, national sales trainer at Ekornes. "Choose a chair with a feature that allows you to unlock the ottoman, so it tilts when you recline, which takes pressure off your knees, ensuring a more comfortable position." The better a chair fits you, the more comfortable you will be in it.

2. Seek comfort; consider longevity. While you may be inclined to purchase a less expensive model, you want to ensure your investment is worth the cost of the recliner down the road. Be sure to consider the quality of fabrics, leathers, woods and metals from which each recliner is composed, as well as the comfort of the piece. Keep in mind that finding the proper fit will mean more comfort. And while quality recliners may cost more up front, the right recliner will provide years of comfort and support. For example, according to Good Housekeeping magazine, the average recliner lasts about 10 years with regular use. Stressless recliners are built to last between 20 and 25 years.

3. Narrow down your style preferences. For many, the idea of choosing a bulky recliner to complement existing dÈcor may seem impossible. But recliners now come in a variety of designs and materials. Whether you're searching for a modern and sleek chair, or a beautiful love seat composed of wood and leather, you can find a recliner to match your dÈcor preferences.

4. Make a list of must-have features. Recliners now offer a variety of features, so keep in mind the features you most desire. For example, are you looking for a recliner that gives you total body support - including lumbar support - when you're in the reclining position? New recliners, such as Stressless recliners offer added comfort features such as an articulating headrest, which cradles the head and neck in the reclining position. In addition, these recliners offer a sleep function to fully recline, and a dual support base, ensuring that the base of the recliner will provide even support whether you're sitting, or in the full reclining position.

5. If you're still stumped, go with a classic model. If you have trouble choosing between several styles, consider this - if you're purchasing a recliner that will last for two decades or more, you may want to keep in mind that your home dÈcor preferences are likely to change in that span of time. Choose a classic piece that will complement any style evolution.

To learn more about the variety of recliners available, and to find a store near you, visit

Ribeye Steak With Salsa

The next time you fire up the grill, give your taste buds a thrill with recipes that are inspired by some of the best cuisines from around the world. These recipes from Omaha Steaks will take you on a culinary adventure right in your own backyard. Sweet and spicy Korean, zesty South American and bold Mediterranean flavors make perfectly grilled steak even better.

You can find more adventurous recipes at

10 Tips for Perfect Grilling

To help you get the perfect steaks every time, follow these simple tips from the experts at Omaha Steaks:

1. Clean and preheat grill on high.

2. Lightly oil everything before putting it on the grill. This helps the searing process and prevents sticking.

3. Season food before grilling.

4. Sear the outside of steaks when grilling. This helps with the flavor and juiciness.

5. Use tongs or a spatula to turn meat on the grill. Using a fork can damage the meat.

6. Cover grill as much as possible during the grilling process. This helps to lock in the grilled flavor and will help prevent flare-ups.

7. Keep a spray bottle with water handy to douse any unexpected flare-ups.

8. Use the 60/40 grilling method. Grill for 60 percent of the time on the first side, then grill 40 percent of the time after turning over the food. This will make sure your food is evenly cooked.

9. Place cooked food on a clean plate. Never place cooked food on the plate you used to transport the raw food to the grill without thoroughly washing it first.

10. Allow foods to “rest” for 5 minutes between cooking and eating. This will help them retain moisture when you cut into them.
To get your grill time just right, download SteakTime, Omaha Steaks’ free app with an innovative grill timer, at

Grilled Ribeye Steak with Chimichurri Salsa

Serves 4

4 Omaha Steaks Ribeye Steaks

Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

1 cup Chimichurri

Salsa (see recipe)

4 cilantro sprigs

Begin by thawing steaks. Then season and grill to desired doneness.

Top each steak generously with Chimichurri Salsa. Garnish each steak with one cilantro sprig.

Chimichurri Salsa

Makes 1 cup

1/2 cup green onions, minced

2 teaspoon fresh oregano, minced

1/4 cup red bell pepper, minced

1/4 cup cilantro, minced

1 tablespoon jalapeno, minced

2 teaspoons fresh garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1/2 lime, juiced

Combine all ingredients and mix well.

Korean Barbecue Beef Tenderloin with Stir-Fried Bok Choy

Serves 6 to 8

1 3-pound Omaha Steaks Tenderloin Roast

2 cups Korean Barbecue Marinade

(see recipe)

1/4 cup Omaha Steaks Private Reserve

American Steak Rub

1 pound Stir-Fried Bok Choy (see recipe)

1 14-ounce bottle Korean barbecue sauce

6 to 8 cilantro sprigs

1 teaspoon black sesame seeds

1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds

Begin by completely thawing tenderloin. It will take 2 days in refrigerator or 1 hour in a sink full of cold water.

Remove tenderloin from plastic, and place in a large resealable bag with Korean Barbecue Marinade. Marinate overnight in refrigerator.

Remove tenderloin from marinade, and season with steak rub. Sear tenderloin on all sides on a pre-heated grill. Place in a 250∞F oven for 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until the internal temperature is 125∞F for medium rare.

With 15 minutes remaining, prepare the bok choy and heat Korean barbecue sauce.

Remove tenderloin from oven, let rest 15 minutes. Slice and serve. Garnish with cilantro and a mixture of sesame seeds.

Korean Barbecue Marinade

Makes 2 cups

1 tablespoon sesame oil

2 tablespoons garlic, finely chopped

2 tablespoons fresh ginger, minced

1 cup canned pear juice

1/2 cup soy sauce

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1 tablespoon crushed red pepper

Place sesame oil in a thick bottom pot and add garlic and ginger. Place pot on a medium burner and add the rest of ingredients and slowly bring to a boil. Bring heat down to a simmer and cook while stirring for approximately 5 minutes. Remove sauce from heat and refrigerate for up to one week.

Stir-Fried Bok Choy

1 tablespoon canola oil

1 pound bok choy, chopped

1/3 cup Korean barbecue sauce

1 tablespoon sesame oil

Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

In a wok, briefly heat canola oil. Add bok choy and cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Add Korean

barbecue sauce and sesame oil to wok and mix well. Serve while hot.

Mediterranean Sirloin Skewers

Serves 4 to 6

2 pounds Omaha Steaks Sirloin Tips

1 cup Mediterranean Steak Marinade

4 to 6 skewers

Thaw sirloin tips.

Prepare Mediterranean Steak Marinade.

Drain sirloin tips and place in a resealable bag with marinade. Marinate sirloin tips in refrigerator for at least 8 hours or overnight. Agitate bag periodically to ensure marinade is well combined with the sirloin tips.

Preheat grill on high. Thread sirloin tips onto skewers. Grill for 4 to 5 minutes on each side.
Serve over couscous, pasta, salad or rice.

Mediterranean Steak Marinade

Makes 1 cup

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

2 teaspoons sea salt

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice

2 tablespoons fresh garlic cloves, chopped

1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped

1 tablespoon fresh oregano, chopped

1/4 cup California chardonnay wine

Combine all ingredients and mix well.


Source: Omaha Steaks

Getting Air Conditioning Ready For Warm Weather

(StatePoint) When the weather heats up, your heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system quickly becomes a most valuable player in your home life and stays that way for several months. However, the U.S. Census Bureau estimates that more than 3 million HVAC systems fail each year. Do you know if it’s time to maintain, repair or replace your air conditioning system?

“Air conditioning is a big investment in your home. Learning what maintenance steps you can take on your own and what questions to ask your air conditioning contractor, can save you time, money and keep you comfortable this season,” says Frank Landwehr, Vice President of Emerson Climate Technologies, a major provider of equipment used in heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration systems.

Remember, not all maintenance needs to be outsourced. Here are some preventive tasks to take that can extend the life of air conditioning equipment:

• Change air filters: A general rule is to change indoor ductwork filters every three months or at the beginning of every heating and cooling season. Ensure the filter is sized correctly, fitting snuggly.

• Keep the outdoor unit clean: Keep coils free of debris by hosing off with light pressure. Any bushes or shrubs should be trimmed back away from the unit.

• Let air flow: Maintain a reliable airflow to reduce moisture buildup which can lead to mold. Keep vents open. Similarly, keep internal doors open inside your home to maintain air flow.

• Clean duct grills: Annually, clean the vents and grills at the opening of each duct in every room by lifting the grill out of the floor, wiping with a rag or vacuuming to remove dust and debris.

• Keep condensate drain open: A stopped up condensate line can lead to expensive water damage. Keep the drain line clean and the drain tube open and clear to prevent backup.

Good maintenance will only get you so far. Eventually, your equipment will need to be replaced. Landwehr offers these tips for when that time comes:

• Hire wisely: Even the best equipment won’t provide comfort if it’s not sized and installed properly. Hire only a certified A/C technician you trust. Also, remember that not all contractors will carry the brand you want. Determine what features and comfort level you want so you can identify a contractor that can fill your need.

• Educate yourself: You can make smarter investment decisions if you’re speaking the same language as your contractor and they understand what you want. You can hone your A/C knowledge online at fact-based, objective resources like  

• Save money: A few features can go a long way toward maximizing energy efficiency, saving you money in the long run. Use a programmable thermostat to avoid wasting money on cooling costs when no one is home. Also, consider a high efficiency air conditioner with a Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) rating of above 16.

This season, keep your cool. Take the time to maintain, repair and replace your A/C equipment when necessary.

Easy Tips That Save Time On Lawn Maintenance

(StatePoint) If it feels as though your entire weekends are spent mowing, trimming and watering your lawn, there are steps you can take to speed up your lawn care routine. 

Automate: How many times have you forgotten to water your lawn -- or worse yet, over-watered it? You can eliminate the guesswork (and the grunt work of dragging hoses around your yard) by installing an automatic sprinkler and drip irrigation system that is based on your specific landscape, characteristics and geographical region.

New technologies are making it even easier to optimize a watering plan for your lawn as they can be controlled from the comfort of your computer or from a handheld remote you can take into your backyard. For example, the Irritrol PCW Control system is a software system that allows you to set up an irrigation calendar for different areas of your property. This smart technology can even connect to the Internet and retrieve the day’s weather for your zip code, and change watering time and frequency accordingly. Homeowners can visit to learn more.

Maintain Your Equipment: Keeping your mower properly maintained will save you time all season long. For walking mowers, a good maintenance routine is as follows:

• Carefully check blades for sharpness.

• Make sure the cutting deck is clear of clippings. Cooking spray on the underside of the deck will make a new mower easier to clean.

• Check pull cords to ensure they aren’t frayed.

• Check that attachments are connected and working properly.

• If you use your mower infrequently, fill the tank with a fuel stabilizer.

• Periodically change the oil and perform air filter maintenance.

Less is More: It’s tempting to cut the grass as frequently as do your neighbors. But where mowing is concerned, less is more. You can prevent weeds from taking over your lawn by letting your grass grow out a bit, as longer grass supports a deeper root system. If you cut more than one-third of the grass length, you will have clumps of clippings that lie on top of the lawn, slower decomposition, and a less attractive, bristly appearing lawn.

Keeping grass longer also allows it greater surface area to carry out photosynthesis, which results in healthier plants. In addition, taller grass grows slower than shorter grass. You can use this fact to eliminate up to 20 percent of the mowing you do annually, an average savings of about eight hours a year, not to mention the savings of gasoline and wear on equipment.

When you do cut the grass, be sure you’re using great time saving equipment. A model with great maneuverability will give you greater control around landscaping and obstacles.

With all that time saved working on your lawn, you’ll have more time to kick back, relax and simply enjoy your lawn instead.

Simple Tips For Tackling The Dreaded Closet Clean Up

(Family Features) When it comes to getting the house clean and tidy, closets often get left off the to-do list. From hall closets and linen closets to bedroom closets, "out of sight, out of mind" thinking quickly leads to clutter - and then frustration when you can't find what you need when you need it.

But a little planning and a few simple tips can help you get your closets in user-friendly shape in no time.

Put your closets on your calendar. Set realistic expectations - you don't have to conquer all your closets at once. It may make sense for your family to forego TV one evening a week and focus on one closet at a time, for example. Start by sorting.

• If you haven't worn a piece of clothing in the past year - or you can't remember the last time you wore something - then you don't need it. Other items to purge from your closet: children's clothes and shoes that are either too small or too worn out to pass down to a sibling or a friend.

• Sort your remaining clothes by season and then into piles to keep or pass down. If you have limited closet space, keep only the current season's wardrobe in your closet. Carefully pack and store the rest for later.

• Linen closets stay more organized when you stack similar sized items together. Sort sheets by size, and group washcloths, hand towels and bath towels together.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

• For closets that hold everything from the vacuum cleaner to art supplies and anything in between, work one shelf at a time. Sort items by categories and dedicate one shelf or area of the closet to each group.

Eliminate excess - but don't throw it away. As the saying goes, one man's trash is another's treasure. There are easy ways to donate your unwanted items to benefit those in need. One example is, where you can request pre-paid UPS shipping bags that make it simple and free to send in unwanted clothes, shoes, accessories and household linens. Your donation benefits one of three national nonprofits of your choosing: AMVETS, Easter Seals, or The Purple Heart. It's tax deductible, and it reduces waste. Americans throw away an average of 68 pounds of clothing each year - helps keep over 470,000 pounds of clothing out of landfills every week. You can learn more at

Green up your storage. When it's time to put things back into place, instead of buying new containers to hold things, look around the house for boxes and containers you already heave. Baskets, crates and even empty shoeboxes can be reused to keep your closets more organized.

Repeat often. You don't have to wait until the next neighborhood yard sale before you sift through your closets again. As with most household chores, a little maintenance goes a long way to keep your closets looking neat and clean. You'll be amazed at how much happier clean closets can make the whole house feel - especially when you turn the stuff you don't need into a good deed.




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