How to Force Paperwhites for a DIY Homemade Holiday

Homemade Holidays
Welcome November! I’ve got a series of posts for you this month. This series features DIY, homemade gifts for the holidays. The goal is to have easy, frugal projects that you can make easily do with your kiddos.

I’m starting this series with one of my favorite projects, and one that you really need to start right now.


Paperwhites I forced in a repurposed floral bowl last year.

One of my favorite hostess gifts to give – AND one of my favorite ways to decorate for the holidays – is to force paperwhites, or narcissus bulbs. (Try saying narcissus three times fast. Now you know why I always say paperwhites! 🙂

Last year I made a video on exactly how I do it and what you can expect cost-wise:

You will need to get started on this project sooner rather than later, but you should be able to have blooms in perfect timing for gift giving in the weeks just prior to Christmas.

Have you forced paperwhites before?

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Growing Green or Growing Purple or Growing Green

I had a reader ask if the purple beans I’m growing stay purple when cooked. So, I just thought I’d show you how fun these beans are!

Here they are before I steamed them for dinner last night:

Purple Beans

And here they are right before we ate them:

Purple Beans Turned Green after Steaming

Isn’t that fun? If you have little ones, this is such a great bean to grow! I wish I had thought to do this when my nephew was here. He isn’t a big fan of vegetables, but I think he would think these beans were pretty cool!

Linked to Simple Lives Thursday

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Growing Green: Daily Harvest

Farmers Market

Last year, before I had a garden, I went to the Farmers Market weekly. I do love the Farmers Market. I love the people, the smells, and of course the free samples. The picture above is from last year where I visited the Farmers Market and spent $12.

Garden Harvest

This picture is of one day’s worth of harvest from my garden. I pop out to the garden two or three times a week and pick a similar amount. I can’t really do an accurate cost comparison. I know the organic lettuce from the farmer’s market was $1. I’m so pleased every time we have a salad and I know I only paid $2.50 for the packet of seeds. I can tell you that everything I’ve grown is 100% organic and 100% natural. And I am 100% proud of the results.

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Growing Green: Garden Tour

Just like a politician, I’m flip-flopping today! Usually on a Monday you get your Meatless Monday recipe. But two things have happened. First, I just got back in town last night from visiting the East Coast. So I’m totally unprepared for Meatless Monday. Second, I’m part of Northwest Edible Life’s Nosy Neighbor Garden Tour. So I needed to get my garden post up today instead of a Tuesday. Be sure to head over to Northwest Edible Life and check out all the garden posts to grow your garden inspiration! And if you’re visiting from the tour – it’s my first organic garden! Go ahead! MAKE A SUGGESTION! See something I could do better, I’d love your advice!

So sit down and take a look around at how things are growing here in Colorado!

Here is where we started. We dug up this corner and added raised beds:

Garden During Construction

Now it is this:

Garden in August

I made a mistake with the first bed. I really did believe that filtered light would be ok for a Colorado garden. What? I’m a novice here peeps! I believe people when they give gardening advice! I don’t know what I’ll plant in here next year, particularly in the back corner, but it’s gotta like some shade, which probably means it won’t be a veggie of any sort. And excuse the weeds. One week of my being gone, and they’ve made themselves at home. I feel it’s a bit like showing up to a party with lipstick on my teeth or a bra strap showing.

First Raised Bed

The next raised bed has been so much fun. I love the beets and carrots. We thought we’d have harvested them all already, so we stuck a cantaloupe and a watermelon plant in the back. Here’s the deal. I now know you can’t just stick a watermelon or cantaloupe in just anywhere. You plan for a watermelon. You plan for a cantaloupe.

Second Raised Bed

I thought I’d enjoy a cutting garden, so I took the smallest bed and added zinnias and sunflowers. I hope to have fresh cut flowers in the Fall, but next year… I won’t have a fresh cut garden. Maybe a few zinnias or sunflowers in the back of a bed – but definitely not a whole bed. Veggies are waaaaaay more fun!

Flower Bed

And next year I’ll make more room for my tomatoes! I’m so proud of how well they are doing since I started them from seed when all the naysayers said there wasn’t enough time for tomatoes to be grown from seed in Colorado!

First Tomatoes

And here is what I had planned for the section of the yard I think of as the fruit garden when I started it this Spring:

Fruit BedsAs I mentioned previously, I missed the Rhubarb planting season. But, I’m really pleased with how the currants I got from Craig’s List are growing! And remember how I lamented that only 4 of my raspberry canes made it? Well, it turns out 6 have made it! And as you saw up above, I stuck my white pumpkins in one of the raised beds. We’ll get a raised bed made next year, or maybe in the Fall, and I’ll plan for my watermelon and cantaloupe next year! Here is how it is all growing now!

Fruit Garden

I wasn’t planning on the peonies, but I love them. And they will act as my cut flowers next year instead of a zinnia/sunflower bed.

And that’s how The Greenbacks Gal garden grows! Now I’m off to take the tour of all the other gardens! Won’t you join me?

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Growing Green: Beets and Berries


My strawberries are starting to blush. It won’t be long before we’ll be out there first thing in the morning trying to beat the birds to these tasty treats. I was diligent about pinching back the blooms until July 1st – just like the planting guide instructed me to do. Each time I pinched back a bloom I was worried it meant I would have no crop this year. I might not have enough to put up jam this year, but I will be rewarded with a few sweet berries for my trouble.


I’m definitely learning about staggering my planting dates! All my beets are ripe right now. And truly? I want to enjoy them as long as I can. Now before you dismiss the beet as something you’ve never liked, you need to try them roasted.

Roasting Beets

Aren’t they beautiful with their rings? I slice them as thin as I can (Hey Mom! Can I have a mandoline for Christmas?), drizzle them with olive oil, and roast at 425 for about 20-25 minutes – depending on how thin you slice them. My girls have asked me if we can have them every night!

Finally, remember my carrots roots?

Two weeks later:


Yep. We now have actual carrots we’re eating straight from the garden after a rinsing with the garden hose!

How is your garden growing?

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Growing Green: Bolting and Blooming

Lettuce Bolting

Thanks to the crazy Colorado weather, I now know what “bolting” means and what causes it. This is my buttery, delicious lettuce that has decided to go to seed, or “bolt”, due to some unseasonably hot weather. Other causes of bolting could be stress to the plant due to drought or overcrowding. Since I am not a fan of this wicked hot weather, I’ve decided it has to be the culprit and the reason behind why it has bolted.

{Ok, quick break here to say, did you see that picture? With the wasp right on the flowers? Hello? It was a fluke but I love that it makes it look like I’m some masterful photographer. I’m going to bask in this photo….}

Until this next photo. It’s so bad I felt the need to do a little doodling. Look realllllly close to the inside of the red circle and you can see what an onion looks like when it bolts.

Onion Bolting

Prior to the stupid hot weather, we had some cool rainy weather. Onions bolt due to unseasonably cold weather, lettuce bolts due to unseasonably hot weather.

What I have here is the Goldilocks of gardens: One plant is too hot, the next plant is too cold.

Good news. For some of my plants the weather happens to be just right.

Guess what this is:

Plant Bloom

No really, guess what it is because I can’t remember. Hmmm. Watermelon? Cantaloupe?

I do know what this lovely bloom is:

Bean Plant Blooms

This is the bloom that will turn into a purple bean! I was called “Green Bean” quite a bit growing up. Nothing against green beans – but I was thrilled to be able to plant purple beans. I’ve already got a few that are ready to be picked!

Anyone else have a problem with the hot or cold weather causing bolting?

Linked to Oregon Cottage and Frugal Gardening 101

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Growing Green: Peas and Carrots

Peas and Carrots

Ok, so I’ve learned I have a few more weeks to go before I have carrots – not just roots! But look at the fronds! They are huge, are they not? So tell me you can see where I thought maybe, just maybe, there was a full grown carrot underneath there.

I’ve also harvested 4 pea pods. That’s it. 4. We each ate one, and I think that’s gonna be it folks. 4 peas. Meh. There’s always next year.

{BTW – Do you notice that my dog is staring at us? She loooooves carrots! She is no stranger to the sound of the carrot grater and will come running from anywhere in the house if she thinks I’m peeling carrots. Sorta like how I have the ability to hear the opening of a package of chocolate chips from 3/4 of a mile away.}

Because I’m so inexperienced in growing my own food, I’ve been soliciting a lot of advice. Back in June, I had no fewer than 3 people tell me the growing season in Colorado is too short – that they always buy their tomatoes from the nursery – they never start them from seed.

This caused a general panic for me. One quick trip to the nursery where I bought two tomato plants and into the garden they went. Yep. This is the same trip where I bought 2 pepper plants  because mine were not growing.


Well, I should have had more faith. I know this picture just looks like a mess of plants and it may be hard to tell, but the tomatoes that I lovingly started from seed in April – then transplanted into the garden in June – are now as tall as the nursery purchased plants.

This rushing off to the nursery to grab plants when I lack faith in the ones I’ve planted is a general trend for me. I’d like to say I’m keeping a garden journal, and next year it will be different. However, it’s more like I started a garden journal, gee I wish I could find that thing, and its ok because I’m sure I’ll remember for next year even though I can’t even remember what I did yesterday.

There is one thing I do know I will remember. Anything you pick and eat out of your own garden tastes so good that all the fussing and care is well worth it.

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