The Best Herbs to Grow That Can Be Used In Cocktails

In my humble opinion, cocktail gardens should be more of a thing. Yes, having a cocktail in your garden sounds wonderfully relaxing, but a garden devoted entirely to things that can go straight from the garden bed into your glass sounds very convenient. It can also be called “the bartender’s garden,” which sounds just as fun.

As with all herbs, these herbs need lots of sun and water to grow well enough to be suitable in a cocktail. If grown indoors, put them in a place that gets plenty of sun; perhaps on your kitchen window sill. Be sure to clean all herbs thoroughly before using them in your drink.

One very easy way to use herbs in cocktails is to make them into a simple syrup. Once you have grown your herbs of choice, bring water, sugar, and your cut herbs to a boil in a pot. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from heat, and let it sit for at least one hour. Strain the remaining liquid, and keep it refrigerated. You can do this with any herbs, such as lavender or sage.

Whether you have an entire garden bed devoted to these herbs or a container garden with a select few for the cocktails you love the most is entirely your choice. Here is a list of herbs that can be grown to put straight into your glass.


This one is a no brainer. Mint, which should be grown in a pot due to its very invasive nature, can go into almost any cocktail. There are many varieties of mint sold at garden centers, but the one most commonly used is spearmint for its bolder flavor. It can be muddled, it can be chopped finely and added into ice, or it can merely be a garnish.

Mint typically pairs well with cocktails that use rum or vodka. Use the mint in classic cocktails such as mojitos or mint juleps.


This herb has so many uses in the kitchen, but I never would’ve imagined putting it into a cocktail. Basil is a very hearty plant that needs a lot of sunlight, but very little water. Grow it in the garden, or on the sill, and not only will it be a great addition to your drink, but it is also a natural pest deterrent.

I recently muddled rosemary and mixed it with grapefruit juice, gin, and triple sec. The cocktail was very refreshing, and perfect for a warm summer day on the patio. Basil also mixes well with tequila-based cocktails.


I have had very little experience with using rosemary in drinks, but it is life changing. When growing rosemary, keep in mind that your plant can grow out, as well as up. It’s not as invasive as mint, but the plant itself can become more of a bush if left untrimmed. All the more reason to cut it and put it in your cocktail!

Try adding a sprig of it to an Italian Greyhound: grapefruit juice and vodka. The rosemary not only adds a beautiful pop of color, but also an earthy taste. A rosemary gin fizz is also delicious. It pairs very well with bourbon.


It could be said that lavender is one of the most popular and recognizable plants grown in the world. Its scent is just so soothing, and it has so many uses and benefits. Lavender does well in drier conditions with lots of sun and make sure it has good drainage.

Using it in a cocktail is easier when it is used as a simple syrup. For a refreshing spin on lavender lemonade, try this combination: lavender simple syrup, lemon juice, sparkling water, and gin. Use a sprig of it for garnish.


Like all other herbs, thyme needs plenty of sun, good drainage, and low watering to thrive. It is a slow growing plant and does well in garden beds with other herbs. Thyme is a strong herb and is perfect for muddling, but be sure to strain the drink before consumption.

It is the perfect addition to a classic cranberry and vodka. Also try it with blueberries, lemon, and prosecco for a light afternoon cocktail. Thyme also pairs well with whiskey cocktails.

I hope these cocktails whet your appetite. Salut!

Simple Alexa Commands to Use in the Kitchen

It was like welcoming a new roommate into the house. It took some getting used to, but now that the Amazon Echo is here and Alexa is all moved in, we’d all be useless without her. Yes, there is a weather app on my phone, and sure, the news is readily available from many different sources around the home (radio, television, the phone), but being able to do anything else while simply having to ask “Hey Alexa, what is the weather today?” just makes life a bit easier.

She can do anything from creating a shopping list to locking the front door. She can answer almost any question you throw at her (go ahead and ask her about the meaning of life), and she can turn off the light you’re too lazy to walk 10 steps across the room to do yourself. She can even play music for your family’s impromptu dance party.

Alexa’s real moment to be most helpful might just be in the kitchen. Here are just a few of the things you can ask her to do. Keep in mind, some of these commands require an app, or “skill”, which can be found at The simpler commands are built into Alexa and require no extra steps once she’s set up in your home.

Convert Units of Measurement

Simply say “Alexa, convert cups to gallons” or “Alexa, how many tablespoons are in 1 ounce.” Math is hard for everyone, it’s okay.

Multiple Timers

The trick to using multiple timers is to remember to name them. Tell her “Alexa, set a timer for 3 minutes for tea,” and then “Alexa set a pizza time for 15 minutes.” When the time is up, she will say “Your tea timer is done,” and “Your pizza timer is done.” Don’t forget to tell her to “stop.”

Dinner Ideas

If you are not sure what to cook for dinner, ask “Alexa, what should I make for dinner.” Her answer was a “top recipe” which was “creamy shells with bacon and spring peas.” She also gives you other popular recipes if you say “next.” Her default responses usually take 30 minutes to prepare and are relatively simple.

You can also ask her for specific recipes, like “Alexa, how do I make chocolate chip cookies.” She will give you an ingredient list, and step by step instructions. Something fun to do is ask “Alexa, what is the best chocolate chip cookie recipe.” It’s a bit like spinning a roulette wheel, in terms of quality, but who am I to argue with her?

A few “skills” that you should look into if you like recipe ideas are Allrecipe, Food Network, and GoodNes (which is run by Nestle, as in, the most delicious cookies that Phoebe Buffet’s grandmother ever made her).

Cocktails and Wine Pairings

Trying to impress your friends? Not sure what kind of wine to serve with the steak you’ve been marinating all day? Ask her “Alexa, what kind of wine pairs well with steak.” She will list off several choices. 

Want to make a mojito to go with that ropa vieja that’s been in your crockpot all afternoon? Simply ask “Alexa, how do you make a mojito.” She finds the top recipe and gives an ingredient list, as well as step by step instructions.

Calorie Count

You can ask “Alexa, how many calories are in a can of Pepsi.” I cannot promise you’ll like her answer.

If you are one of those people that is trying a low carb diet, she can also help with that. Ask “Alexa, how many carbs are in green beans.” This is a bit more limited, as she can only answer questions about food that has easily available nutritional information.

General Cooking Questions

Sometimes there are just things going on that a person just doesn’t know. Thankfully, Alexa is not here to judge. So, if you have to ask things like “How long does water take to boil,” or “Is there caffeine in a matcha latte,” it’s okay. That will stay between you, your kitchen, and Alexa.

No matter what you ask Alexa, be sure to thank her when you’re done.

Best Plants for a Container Garden

Sometimes a person just doesn’t have the space for planting things in the ground. Perhaps you’ve only got a concrete yard, or you have a bit of patio that could use some color. Maybe you can’t spare any extra space in your garden box. Container gardening is the practice of growing things in containers or pots.

Whether those pots be plastic, metal, or terracotta, there are plants that thrive under these growing conditions. Mint, for example, is a spreading plant. It would take over if placed in a garden bed. Keeping plants that spread in a container will keep them isolated, and therefore thriving in your space.

Container gardens are a great way to add color, height, and texture to a space. If one so chooses, these plants can attract bees, aid in cleaning the air, or give off a lovely scent. In this article, we will be focusing on one type of plant per pot. Here is a list of some of the best plants to grow in a container garden.


Ivy is one of those rare plants that do well in both sun and shade. It also has the benefit of being very cold hardy, so does not require much attention during the winter months. It has a cascading effect as it grows within the container, which adds a lovely dimension to any space. Varieties such as English ivy also help filter toxins out of the air, so keeping it in a pot indoors where it can get some light would be a great idea.


Ferns are shade-loving plants that do best in moist soil. It would be an easy plant to remember to water often if kept next to a deck chair or by a door. The roots do not need a lot of extra space, so be sure to plant it in a shallow container that is not much wider than the plastic pot it came in.


Marigolds will add a beautiful pop of color to any container garden. They do like at least 6 hours of sun, and will do best in light potting soil with good drainage. Be careful not to overwater this plant, as they are susceptible to rot.  It is also believed that certain varieties carry a scent that repels mosquitoes and aphids.


Hydrangeas will add a beautiful burst of color and fluffy texture to a patio. They come in a variety of shapes and colors. They do best in a partially shaded area and can be kept small to fill in front space. For best results, keep the soil moist and make sure it is in a spot that gets morning sun.


If you would like to try your hand at vegetable container gardening, peppers are the perfect starter. They do require a deeper pot to allow the roots to grow, as well as good drainage. To really thrive, the pepper plant will need at least 6 hours of sun per day.


Another vegetable (or fruit, depending on who you ask) that does incredibly well when grown in a container. This can be grown in a variety of containers, but consider growing this in a recycled material fabric pot. Be sure that when choosing the best container for tomatoes, you choose when that gives its roots plenty of room to grow. Also, choose a location that gets plenty of sunlight. They can get quite tall, so keep that in mind as well.


Strawberries are spreaders, so growing them in their own container is wise. When planted in a strawberry planter, they can spread and cascade in such a unique way that it will add a beautiful addition to your space. They are also quick-growing plants that do best in a space that gets at least partial sun. They also like to be kept relatively moist.


Aloe is technically a succulent and does not need much attention to really thrive. Choose a pot that will give its roots plenty of room to grow, and it will consistently amaze you with the shapes it takes as it gets larger. It is best to get succulent soil when planting this one. Aloe can also flourish indoors and will act as an air purifier. It does need some sun exposure to grow; at least 4 hours of sun will suffice.

Above all, be sure to fill your patio and containers with flowers that will bring you joy.

The Benefits of Using a Weighted Blanket

There are many benefits of a weighted blanket. They can be used while sitting on the couch, at your desk, or while sleeping. They not only have the ability to aid in sleep but also with concentration and focus. It has also been shown to help people who struggle with PTSD and ADHD.

I feel like I should point out that I have only used the weighted blanket that was gifted to me by a friend. I can only speak to the effect it had on me, and cannot verify any of the findings mentioned in this article.

A Better Night’s Sleep

The number one use of the weighted blanket is to get a better night’s sleep. These blankets have been shown to simulate Deep Pressure Touch (DPT) therapy, which reduces the body’s levels of cortisol, which is the stress hormone. It actually releases serotonin, which helps to regulate moods and reduces stress. Serotonin, in turn, releases melatonin into the body, which is the sleep hormone.

There is also the theory of “grounding.” This simulates to the body that is being pushed into the ground, which the body believes means it is safe. The pressure from the blanket reduces the “fight or flight” activity and allows the body to relax. It is meant to have a calming effect, and allow for a more restful sleep.

A Calming Effect

A weighted blanket calms down the nervous system. Due to the pressure it puts on the body, and again referring back to DPT, it presses upon important pressure points in the body. You are able to fall asleep faster, sleep longer, and sleep deeper.

Another thing that it aids in is anxiety. When someone is awake while using the weighted blanket, it stimulates the same thing in the body that receiving a hug would. This is called oxytocin, also known as “the love drug” or “cuddle drug.” This is typically released into the body when it is touched in a loving or comforting manner. Oxytocin in the body makes one feel calmer and more at ease, which can lead to lower levels of anxiety.


While more people use the blanket to aid in sleep, it has also been shown to have a productive effect at work, or when people need assistance with focusing on a singular task. Referring once again to DPT therapy, wearing a weighted blanket while focusing on one task can release a calming feeling in the body, making it easier to calm the mind of all other thoughts. While working on a paper, or reading a book, the user is likely to focus on what is right in front of them, and not thinking about what else needs to be done, or what could be happening elsewhere.

How to Find the Right Weighted Blanket

There are many contradicting opinions about the ideal weight of a weighted blanket. Many say 10-15% of the person’s body weight, while others say it should be the same weight as the user. If you are someone who is claustrophobic or hesitant at the idea, maybe start with a lighter blanket, and see how it affects your body first.

Another thing to consider is the size of the blanket. The consistent recommendation is to choose the size to fit your body, not to fit your bed. If you share a bed, that person may have different needs, so sharing a weighted blanket is not recommended. Again, find a blanket that suits the size of your body, that way you can easily take the blanket to other locations, as opposed to it remaining on the bed.

Another thing to note: do not wash your weighted blanket. You can get one that has a slipcover, but do not wash the actual weighted part. The weight in the blanket comes from small beads or pellets, and if those get into your washing machine it would be a disaster.

How to Make Your Yard Bee Friendly Using Plants and Flowers

Saving bees seem to be all the rage these days. If you thought they were just those scary bugs who fly around your trashcan and sting you from time to time, they actually are more beneficial than we all thought.

Bees are the reason we have fruits and vegetables. Bees are the reason fields stay so green. They are necessary for almost everything in nature staying fertile and lovely. They have also gifted us with honey, essentially making all our lives sweeter. After years of treating them badly, it is time we start to return the favor.

Bee Houses and Bee Baths

Bee houses, or “hotels” as the internet loving calls them, are meant primarily for solitary bees. Think of these guys as the introverts of the bee world; the ones who don’t adhere to the hive mentality. They also tend to be more docile. They are beneficial to the garden, and they need a place to stay. Even calling it a hotel is a misnomer, as the solitary bee typically moves in and will not relocate.

Picking a location for the bee house is imperative to its success. Pick somewhere close to the pollinating plants in the garden, and somewhere close to a fresh water source. Putting it in the shade may attract more wasps than bees, so give it a spot that gets a lot of sun. The key to a successful bee house is to make sure it has a rainproof roof.  

Bees need fresh water. They can often collect it from leaves after a rain shower, or in the mornings from dew on plants, but in the drier months, they need our help. In a shallow bowl place some marbles or rocks at the bottom, and then fill it with just enough water that it does not cover the top. Bees can easily drown and when collecting the water, they need a dry place to perch.

Planting pollinators

The first thing to know is that not all flowers attract bees. In fact, there are some plants that repel bees. Bees are very picky when it comes to what they want. If you are one who frequents your local garden nursery, ask the staff which plants would be best for attracting bees. Be specific about which pollinators you want in your garden. Depending on the region you live in, your options will vary. Odds are that each person you ask will have a different answer, which will benefit your garden in the long run. The more, the merrier!

Bees are attracted to bright colors, such as yellow, purple, white, and pink. The brighter, the better. To keep bees coming into your yard all year long, get a variety of plants that will bloom during different seasons.

Herbs can also be a great way to attract bees. Try planting herbs such as lavender and basil in the garden. Mint is another herb that attracts them, but for gardening purposes, you will want to keep it separate.

If you are allergic to pollen, or just have valuable space that you’d rather not waste on flowers, fear not. Bees love flower-bearing fruits and vegetables too! Try planting things like raspberries or blackberries.

If you’ve got the space, bees also love flowering trees. While fruit trees do seem to be the obvious choice here, willows, red maples, and crape myrtles are all attractive to them. This not only gives them a bigger space to forage, but will provide your yard with shade, and possibly an opportunity for that hammock you’ve always wanted!

Making your yard bee friendly

Stay as natural as possible, but if you do need to spray for pests, make sure to use something organic. Have an ant problem? Try beneficial nematodes. Using chemicals in your backyard can drive bees away from the yard. Fertilizers can also contain harmful chemicals, so look for organic or natural ones that will benefit all the critters in your yard.

Here’s a tip that will save you time on the weekends: mow your lawn less. Allow those dandelion weeds to grow. Try as one might to plant all the pollinators, bees still tend to love the weeds the most.

When choosing plants to grow in your garden, make sure the tag says “organic.” This helps to ensure that no harmful fertilizers or insecticides were used in its growth, and that will keep it from being introduced into your space.

Bees in the garden is a good indication that your yard is healthy and thriving! Enjoy the afternoon in the garden making it a more welcoming place for them.

How to Care for Your Cast Iron Skillet

There are so many wonderful things that can be made in a cast iron skillet. Cornbread probably isn’t as great if it’s made in a regular bread pan. Fried chicken could not possibly taste better if it were made in a regular frying pan. Everything just tastes better when it’s made in a well-seasoned cast iron skillet. And it was probably a blast to make. But then comes the fun part. How the heck do you clean that thing? It’s sacrilege to soak it in water, and use a sponge and dish soap. Don’t you dare even think of putting it in the dishwasher. Allow me to help.


You’ve cooked something delicious with your beloved cast iron skillet. It’s the one passed down through the family from your great grandparents, no doubt. When cleaning, depending on the level of mess, you can usually just wipe it out with a paper towel. It is best to do this while the pan is still warm, but not too hot that you burn your fingers.

If the residue is sticky or syrupy, run the pan under warm water, and scrub using a gentle brush or sponge. Never use soap. No matter what. It removes the oils that keep the skillet in good working order. You want the oils.  While the pan is still damp, put it back on the still-warm burner.  Cast iron skillets are incredibly porous, and letting it dry on the warm burner will evaporate the water quickly. You will know it is cleaned properly and ready for another use when the pan has a nice shine to it.

If you’ve made a proper mess of your skillet, no need to worry. There are a  number of metal sponges that work wonders. Chainmail cloth has been determined to get cast iron skillets looking brand new. You can also try steel wool. If you do not have these handy, try scouring the pan with coarse salt. Sprinkle a healthy amount of salt into the bottom of the pan. Use a dry paper towel to rub the salt into the skillet and around the edges. If the residue still remains, fill the pan with water and bring it to a boil.

One helpful thing to note: when cooking in your skillet, be generous with the oils from the start. This will give you an added nonstick coating. Fats such as lard, butter, coconut oil, or ghee are helpful additives.

When you are satisfied with the cleanliness of your skillet, make sure to dry it and put it away.


Depending on how often you use your skillet, this may not need to happen often. It certainly does not need to be done after each use. When you start to notice the finish is wearing off, or it has lost its shine, then is it time to re-season. Seasoning is also what keeps the skillet from getting rust.

There is plenty of debate on which oil is best for seasoning. It usually comes down to vegetable oil versus flaxseed oil. Both seem to work well, so whichever you have on hand will do fine.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.  Rub the inside of the pan with the oil using a clean cloth or paper towel. Keep the amount light so that all that remains is a thin layer. Put the pan into the oven upside down, and let it “bake” for one hour. Once the hour is complete, turn off the oven and let the skillet sit inside until it is cool enough to remove.

A good way to test the non-stick surface of your freshly seasoned skillet: fry an egg. Add a small amount of oil to the pan, and crack open the egg.  If the pan has been seasoned properly, the egg should slide around easily.

If you have never seasoned your cast iron skillet before, follow the instructions from above, but repeat the oiling part at least 4 times to ensure proper seasoning. Keeping your skillet dry and seasoned will prevent rust and ensure it retains its place of pride for generations.

Helpful Tips

  • Never let your pan air dry, as that is how rust occurs.
  • Store your pan in a cool, dry place.

The 5 Best Cooking Herbs to Grow in Your Garden

There are so many wonderful herbs that can be grown in a garden, but here are the ones most commonly used, and easiest to grow. Keep in mind that most herbs need well-draining soil and plenty of sunlight. The herbs in this article are Mediterranean herbs, and therefore do not need to be watered as often. They also need to be free of pests and herbicides. Clean all herbs thoroughly before consuming. Herbs can also be dried and stored for later use.


It is one of the best herbs with the widest variety of uses. It can be used in teas, salads, desserts, or sauces. Mint is popular in many types of cocktails, such as mojitos and mint juleps. It can also act as a natural cure for indigestion, nausea, and headaches. When planted in the garden, it can be a natural deterrent for spiders.

If you decide to grow this in your garden, grow it in a large pot by itself. It grows rapidly, so plant it in a container that is at least twice as wide. It is invasive, so if you do plant it in a garden bed, plant it in a bottomless bucket set into the soil. This will keep it from spreading. To really help mint thrive in the garden, keep it moist, and water any time the leaves start to look wilted or run down.


Basil is one of the most popular herbs at any garden center. There are an overwhelming amount of varieties of basil, the most common of which is Sweet Basil. It is full of calcium and antioxidants. It is also high in fiber, and has a detoxifying effect on the liver.

Once established, it requires little maintenance. It does have a low tolerance for cold weather and should be brought indoors during colder months. Basil grows well indoors as long as it still gets enough sunlight. In the hotter months of summer, basil should only be watered every other day, if necessary. In order to better retain the flavor in the leaves, clip the buds if they begin to flower. Alternately, by keeping the blossoms, the smell is fresh and wonderful, and will attract pollinators.


Also commonly called “wild marjoram,” this herb is very popular in Italian dishes. It is best known as the “pizza herb” for its tasty addition in marinara sauces on pizzas. It can also be used to flavor eggs, poultry, and bread. One word of advice when cooking with fresh oregano: be sure to add it last. It is quite delicate, and while the flavor is strong, the leaves do not hold up well if cooked on high heat for too long.

Oregano thrives in a hot, sunny environment. Its leaves and flowers are edible. Be careful to not overwater this herb, and check to make sure the soil is dry to the touch before giving it any moisture. In the winter months, protect the roots from frost to ensure that it makes a hearty comeback when the weather warms up again.


Dill used to be regarded as a cure for hiccups. While that may not be the case anymore, it is an herb full of antioxidants. It also has the ability to reduce cramps and swelling, and aid in digestion. It is the perfect herb to use with seafood or eggs, and goes nicely in soups or with potatoes.

It is grown best in full sun, although planting it in partial shade can keep it from flowering too quickly. It thrives in deep soils so that its roots have plenty of room to grow. It will attract helpful insects to your garden, such as wasps, but keep an eye on the leaves, as it also attract caterpillars.


Of all the herbs on this list, sage has the most medicinal properties. When made into tea, it can aid with anxiety, as well as enhance memory. It is an antiseptic, and contains antioxidants. It is said to help the body fight fatigue, and reduce fever. Supposedly it can also get rid of grey hairs (personally, this just seems unrealistic, but who can argue with science?). Sage is often paired with pork. One of the most unusual things about sage is that the bigger its leaf, the more flavor it will have.

It grows best in sunlight, with good soil and drainage. In the hotter months, it needs water every other day. The bees love the flowers. To retain the health and flavor, remove any branches that appear woody. It is also important to thin out sage in the spring, to let air flow through the plant and let sunlight into the base.