Projects While You Summer-at-Home

Suddenly it’s the middle of summer and we’re still very close to home. So, while you’re in – quarantining, recuperating, or simply being – may we suggest a project or three, to keep you feeling calm and productive as you maintain your little island of serenity in these challenging times?

Indoor Projects

DIY Skin Care

Cut down on trips to the store, and bypass a few chemicals, by making your own skin care products. The heat and humidity – and bugs – mean tweaking your skin care routine. Hello Glow has 20 homemade summer skin care recipes featuring aloe vera, cucumber, and teas; like this Cooling Cucumber Lotion.

We’re in for a miserably hot and humid summer; so treat your skin to homemade lotions or tonics to help refresh and protect your skin. Like these three:

Rosemary balances oils in skin and hair, clears pores, stimulates hair growth, and reduces pain. It’s also used to boost mood, and studies show it can help improve cognition.

Rose Geranium, unloved by ticks, fleas, mosquitos, and other insects is frequently used in cosmetics and in aromatherapy as a relaxant. Properties that will make your skin happy:

  • anti-inflammatory, good for aches, pains, and reducing puffiness
  • antioxidant – reduces the signs of aging
  • antibacterial/-fungal – eases psoriasis, eczema, and combats oily skin

Mint has many benefits; Stylecraze counts 22 ways this prolific family does a body good inside and out. For instance, apple mint (aka pineapple/wooly/rounded leaf mint) has antihistamine, antidepressant, and anti-inflammatory effects.

Plants can serve double duty as insect repellents. Wellness Mama shares her insect spray and repellent recipe containing witch hazel, mints, lavender, and chamomile.   

Rick at Worst Rooms suggests 21 plants humans like/love and ticks hate. Beautyberry may be unfamiliar (but certainly worth checking out) but there are staples like mint, rosemary, and (chrysanthe)mums.     

Beauty Berry. Pixabay

A Little Kitchen Time

You still have to eat, well. It’s too hot to do a lot of cooking, so it’s a good thing that there are oh so many recipes that require little or no heat. August is National Sandwich Month; what garden-based creations can you try? How about:

  • Cucumber sandwiches with dill 
  • Grilled zucchini sub (grinder)
  • Tomato-pesto spread
  • Roasted veggie with cheese
  • Banh Mi on a baguette (carrot, daikon radish, cilantro, cucumber)
Sandwich Cake – Cuisine Actuelle

Then there’s the sandwich cake. Now there’s a project! Bread layered with spread and cucumbers and salmon and, and – just look at that garden on a plate! I especially love this photo above from a French cooking site, Cuisine Actuelle. Your browser should offer to translate the text into English. If not, learning a new language is also a good way to put your house-bound time to use…

Smoothies and Cold Soups

Herb-based and protein-rich, smoothies  can be a nourishing snack or a complete meal. Or there’s cold soup like gazpacho or the cherry soup I still think about from my trip to Budapest nearly 30 years ago.

Of course, if you have a Vitamix or other high-powered processor, making hot soup is a 4-minute job with minimal heat or energy expended and a quick clean up. The folks at Blender Authority share several Vitamix recipes featuring garden favs like:

  • cauliflower
  • peppers
  • tomatoes
  • carrots
  • celery
  • cabbage
  • onions
  • zucchini
  • basil
  • spring onions

Salads and Slaws

For a one-dish meal, try a cobb salad. It can also be served with all ingredients chopped and tossed together with a creamy dressing. These typically contain:

  • fresh vegetables: lettuce, tomato, celery, onion, carrot, avocado
  • dairy: blue cheese, dressing (or a plant-based dressing like avocado or herb vinagrette)
  • protein: boiled egg, roasted chicken, bacon

Other salad-as-meal is this Roasted Potato Salad with Egg by the Foodie Dietician featuring dill, argula, and parsley. Or combine garden-grown with your protein of choice (meat, poultry, fish, nuts, soy) .

GOIN’ FISHIN’? CATCH A BLUE CAT, SAVE THE CRABS

In a 2019 study of just 3 Virginia rivers, blue catfish devoured an estimated 1.12 MILLION pounds of blue crab.  These cats, which can grow to 5 feet and about 150 pounds, eat anything in their path – finfish, shellfish, snakes, birds, muskrats, and each other. The study didn’t show a vast reduction of other fish but, the sheer number of them could impact the ecosystem in a bad way, say researchers.

Introduced to the Chesapeake Bay in the 70s for sports fishing, this Mississippi native has more than made itself at home in Mid-Atlantic waters. Bringing these interlopers to your dinner plate is highly encouraged as a way to reduce their population and allowing other species the room to thrive.

So if fishing is your idea of relaxation and supplying your grill/kitchen, the Maryland Fishing Report tells where the invasive Blue Catfish is biting.

Since it was nearing lunchtime as I wrote this post, when I didn’t see any recipes I liked for noodles and cabbage, I got in the kitchen and came up with my own:

Noodle Slaw with Almonds and Herb Vinagrette

While the noodles were boiling, I hauled out our vintage Saladmaster food processor (in use since 1968!) and used the #2 cone to shred the cabbage and carrots.

I stirred in a little avocado mayo and 1 tsp apple cider vinegar and set it aside.

If you’re not familiar with shirataki, it’s a noodle made from Japan’s konjac yam which is super high in glucomannan. When it comes to tastelessness, this noodle has tofu beat six ways from Saturday! But it marries well with whatever you put it with – eventually. It’s very gelatinous; I had a hard time getting the veggies and almonds to blend with the noodles.

The noodles were drained into a strainer and then liberally sprinkled with

  • dried parsley
  • freeze-dried ginger bits
  • a sprinkle of powdered turmeric
  • ground white pepper
  • salt

Everything was tossed together and a sprinkle of toasted sesame seeds finished it off.

The warm noodles made a nice contrast to the crunchy, cool vegetables. This would be fantastic as a hot dish, vegetables sauteed in avo oil. I’ll have to try that sometime.

Noodle cabbage salad with slivered almonds centered on a white plate with rose trim border.
My noodle slaw with slivered almonds

Dessert

Mother Earth Living suggests 5 sorbets loaded with basil, rosemary, lavender, melon, and strawberries.

Pistachio Ice Cream

I don’t remember if I was looking for a recipe for pistachios or coconut milk when I came across a simple ice cream recipe that didn’t require any machinery beyond a high-powered blender and the freezer. The recipe ghosted on me so I winged it…                    

Ice cream in a green glass bowl on a square white plate with gold borders.
A little icy coming out of the freezer but not for long.

I tossed into the Vitamix:

  • 1 can coconut milk
  • about 3/4 cup shelled and toasted pistachios
  • 2 T birch xylitol
  • dash of salt

I let the Vitamix run on high about 2 minutes then poured the mix into an ice cream container and popped it into the freezer.

I’d refrained from eating every third nut that I shelled, there would’ve been more pistachio flavor. But what was there was plenty to put forward the subtle flavor which balanced nicely with the mild coconut flavor. The ice crystals quickly melted, making a nice cool and creamy spoonful.

Beverages

Hydration is essential in these hot months, even if the air is water-saturated. Pinch Me I’m Eating shows off a nice collection of herb and produce drinks featuring

  • cucumbers
  • rosemary
  • basil
  • sage
  • thyme
  • mint
  • blackberries
  • cilantro
  • watermelon

And yes, before you ask, some do contain fermented grains and grapes.

Projects to Store Your Harvest

Image by Pexels

Carry summer’s harvest into Autumn, Winter, and Spring by canning, freezing, drying, or fermenting. Preserving food has a 3-fold benefit:

Emergency preparedness It’s a time-honored way to store food at home in the event of an emergency.

Reducing grocery store trips and cost  The more you grow, the less you’ll need to buy. And, as things stand, the less time in public, the better.

Healthy gut, happy mood Fermented food will be the topic of an upcoming post. I was taken with the idea of homemade fermented foods after lunch with friends earlier this year. What a cost savings that would be, not having to buy expensive pre- and probiotic supplements!

Fermented foods help our digestive system function. A well-functioning digestive system is important for immune health, mood, and other positives. I look forward to sharing more on homegrown probiotics with you.

Plan Your Yardscape

vertical gardening wall
Beautiful example of vertical gardening (flickr.com)

What will your garden grow? Now’s a good time to sit down and put some plans to paper; July is actually a great time to start planning your Autumn garden. The Maryland Grows Blog offers a shopping list of plants, how to start, and strategies for finding something to grow since many traditional sources may be out of stock.

Then there’s lawn-to-garden conversion, creating living fences, or vertical gardens. Yes, now that you have (more) time to look around your living space, imagine the To-Do lists that can keep you occupied and feeling good!

Outdoor Projects

Inspect and Protect

Mosquitoes and ticks are two neighbors it’s good to be socially distant from any year. Summer is their busiest time; in fact, the heat and humidity combo is a tick’s delight. So when you get outside to soak in some Vitamin D, be sure to also yourself from unwanted company.

There is so much to say about ticks, I wrote a separate article which includes State resources for help identifying what’s near you and strategies for keeping your living space tick-free.

As mentioned in another post, it takes very little standing water (1 ounce or 2 tablespoons) for a mosquito nursery to grow in your yard. So inspect your yardspace for any collections of standing water.

Worst Rooms list of 21 plants loved by humans but hated by ticks (and other insects) is a great source to consider which insect repellent/home beautifiers to plant.

work glove on wooden handle
SOURCE: wallpaperflare.com

Reuse and Repurpose

  1. Harvest and safely store this year’s abundant rainfall to save on your water bill.
  • Start composting to cut down on smelly trash and enhance next year’s growing season

Deep Dive into Urban Farming

What can you do with 1,000 square feet?

Chickens and Ducks together
Read about the pros and cons of raising chickens vs. ducks here

Raise poultry, says Mother Earth News. Check out their book Raising Backyard Chickens. https://www.motherearthnews.com/store/product/raise-backyard-chickens

Image by <a href="https://pixabay.com/users/klimkin-1298145/?utm_source=link-attribution&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=image&utm_content=1520402">klimkin</a> from <a href="https://pixabay.com/?utm_source=link-attribution&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=image&utm_content=1520402">Pixabay</a>

Grow grain, says Modern Farmer. They say it’s easier than growing produce so, imagine seeing not just the pasta sauce but the pasta growing in your backyard. And the beer and breadsticks…

Maintaining Self in the Year of the Virus

As 2020 continues bringing surprises welcome and otherwise, please continue to take care of you and yours. Being outdoors is a proven mood booster, so is accomplishing goals. The next months won’t be the best weather-wise, but there will be opportunities to enjoy being out.

As time and finances allow, take on projects to beautify and make your livings space more productive. It be your little island of sanity and productivity; and harvests can be shared to brighten someone else’s day.

So, happy summer and… just keep going.

#frontyardgarden happened. I guess it was only a matter of time. – Jonathan Davis

What are your summer-at-home plans?