DIY Garden Markers That Last

Spring is here and I’m all wrapped up with giddiness in preparing for gardening season. This year I am sharing seeds with my cousin Diane, who got a greenhouse just like mine last year. We’ve been collaborating on sharing seeds, because let’s face it, sometimes those seed packets have way too many seeds in them for us to plant individually so why not save some money?

Unfortunately, this has led to the fact that we are planting crazy amounts of flowers, especially the zinnias we both love and adore.

Recently in one of the garden rooms I am in on Facebook, I saw a lady post some garden markers that I thought were brilliant. She used a mailing label template, printed them off and laminated them.  Then she fastened them to floral card holders. She said they had lasted for five years so my ears perked up at that info.

I’ve made some other cute ideas for garden markers over the year, but painted wooden spoons rotted, and the words washed and weathered off of wine corks.

So I thought I’d give them a try!

To begin I opened up Microsoft Word – selected Labels and picked Avery Self Adhesive Badge Labels #5395. I wanted visuals of what my plants would be so I picked a font and then searched for clip art -some were available from word and some I searched for on Bing until I found ones that looked similar to what I was planting. This will come in handy with my new dahlias because I will know what they will look like while waiting for them to bloom.

Then I printed them out in color on white card stock.

And I cut them out individually.

My first go – I laminated the entire sheet and cut them out after, but found that that opens up the laminate where you cut and this happened.

You want the laminate to completely seal all four sides -so cut first, then laminate, then cut again leaving a border of laminate around each side. I picked up this cute little laminator at Aldi for $15. It worked great and I’ll use it for other things around the house! You can find similar ones here.

That picture is from when I laminated the whole sheet – DON’T DO THAT!

Then I cut them apart. This is what it should look like!


I also ordered a large package of floral pick place card holders.

And because I live in super sonic WINDY Oklahoma, I reinforced mine on the back with a large piece of white duct tape.

And that’s it! These have been outside nearly 3 weeks now with no leakage. I did face them in a direction where they will get the least sun possible just in case of fading…

Once I show you these next pictures, you’re going to understand just why I like to use garden markers.

I plant ridiculous amounts of zinnias by seed, and I like to know which are where.

Yes I know I have a sickness…


Lots of other flowers.

My new obsession – Dahlias!

Fancy peppers – because we all know, most pepper plants look exactly the same – this takes the guess work out of what you’re going to get on what plant.

As do tomatoes right?

I’ll keep you updated on how these work out, but so far they are doing great!


Warm Chocolate Cobbler aka Chocolate Pudding Cake

Chocolate Pudding cake recipe

Chocolate Cobbler.

Yes you heard me right.

There IS such a thing…and it’s easy and delicious. Also, known by various names like Chocolate Pudding Cake and Fudgy Pudding Cake, the recipes out there are varied but pretty similar and all result in a pan of warm chocolate goodness.  Think molten lava cakes, but instead of individual cakes, you spoon it warm out of a pan and top it with ice cream. It’s like a crispy topped brownie with a layer of warm fudge sauce lurking underneath it, waiting to ooze out and make you swoon.

Instead of fussing over those individual molten cakes, I’m making this for my Wonderful Guy for Valentine’s Day. It’s simple and it’s warm and gooey chocolate…what more can you ask for?

Some say the origins come from an old Betty Crocker Boys and Girls Cookbook and you’re probably bound to run into it in some old cookbook of your grandma’s. But aren’t those the BEST recipes?

Now I have to tell you to trust the process in this recipe. SERIOUSLY.

Don’t question yourself on the final step because it really is that weird.

You make two layers, (like any good cobbler). The first layer or the bottom layer looks just like a brownie mix and you start with a mix of dry ingredients in one bowl and wet ingredients in another bowl, then combine the two.


Spread the thick batter with a rubber spatula into a sprayed 8 x 8 inch baking dish.

Then in a third bowl, you mix brown sugar and cocoa powder and sprinkle it heavily over top of the brownie mixture. And really…just use your hands to mix. the spoon didn’t do well with the brown sugar lumps but your built in mixing hands can squeeze those into submission!

Sprinkle the chocolate chips over the brownie batter and then spoon the brown sugar/cocoa mixture over that.

I totally did that backward because I forgot the chocolate chips so pay  no attention to that photo!. Shake the pan back and forth and this will level out your toppings!

Pop it into a 350º oven for 40 minutes and then let it cool for 10 minutes or so before serving.

And when you dig in with that first scoop you’re going to be tickled pink. Just LOOK at that hot fudge sauce underneath!
warm pudding fudge cake

Add a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Chocolate Pudding cake recipe

And watch it melt onto that warm, chocolate crispy topped Chocolate Cobbler and mingle with that fudge sauce.

Valentine’s Day will be covered. Your honey will love you.

Enough said.

  • 1 c. all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 c. granulated sugar
  • 1/4 c. unsweetened cocoa powder, divided (so use 1/8 here)
  • 2 t. baking powder
  • 2 t. espresso powder (optional)
  • 1/4 t. kosher salt
  • 1/2 c. whole milk
  • 6 T. butter, melted
  • 1 t. pure vanilla extract
  • 1 c. packed brown sugar
  • 1/8 c. cocoa powder (the rest of your divided cocoa powder!)
  • 1/2 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 1/2 c. hot water
  • Serve with Vanilla ice cream-mandatory!
  • Preheat oven to 350°F.
  • Spray an 8 x 8 inch baking dish
  • In one bowl mix flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking powder, espresso powder, and salt.
  • In another bowl whisk together milk, melted butter, and vanilla.
  • Pour the wet mixture into the dry mixture and mix with a spatula, because it will be very thick - like brownie mix.
  • Spread into sprayed baking dish
  • Sprinkle chocolate chips over top.
  • In a 3rd bowl, mix together brown sugar and cocoa powder
  • Sprinkle a thick layer of this over the brownie layer and shake pan to level.
  • Pour the hot water over top evenly. It will start to soak into the brown sugar layer.DO NOT STIR! TRUST THE PROCESS!
  • Bake for 40 minutes
  • Remove and let cool for 15 minutes, then serve warm with vanilla ice cream

    Suzie’s Stuffed Bread

    Oh my goodness you guys! This recipe for Suzie’s Stuffed Bread is so yummy! You’re going to love it! Imagine a heavenly, cheesy dip baked inside of a long loaf of french bread that is baked in the oven until the outside of the bread is crispy and the inside is soft and warm.

    Are you drooling yet?

    You should be! It’s fantastic! My son and his beautiful wife Makayla were home from Virginia for two weeks on Navy leave and I had so much fun with them!

    They went to a party one night with some of Conner’s high school friends and their wives/girlfriends and they took this stuffed bread.  After I saw it come out of the oven I had some issues that the kids were taking this wonderful pan of goodness out of the house to somewhere else, so I asked her to make it for us on Christmas for our family party!

    I’m calling it Suzie’s Stuffed Bread because it is a recipe her mom Suzie has made for years, and it’s always one of the first things that disappears wherever it’s served.

    One day Suzie and I are going to cook together somewhere. I think she must be my soul mate! Makayla has been telling me all about all the wonderful things her mom bakes and if they are anything like this stuffed bread, I can’t imagine how lucky she’s been to have indulged in them for years!

    Also, can I just share with you how much we love Makayla as an addition to our family?  She is such a sweet soul and I love to watch how well her and Conner love each other!

    Anyway, I got to have this twice because one night before Christmas,  Makayla and I made some homemade fusilli pasta and I talked her into making another recipe of the stuffed bread for us. (And then she made it again on Christmas!)

    Then I sat on a stool in front of her and watched and took pictures!

    It starts with a loaf of french bread. And don’t be messing around with those thin stick-like french breads! You’re going to need a large loaf to hold all this goodness. Trust me! Just get one of those loafs from the bakery that are around a dollar.

    Then you slice it in half length-wise…

    And you scoop out the bread from the bottom half of the bread with your fingers to look like a hollowed-out boat.

    Don’t hollow out the top of the bread. That’s going to be for later!

    Next Makayla mixed up 2 packages of cream cheese with 2 jars of dried beef that she chopped up pretty finely, 2 cans of green chiles and 2 cups of shredded cheddar cheese.  She said it’s easiest to just dig in with your hands and mix it all together!

    Incidentally, if you’ve never used dried beef before it comes in a jar like this…

    After you get it well-mixed, wash your now, really messy hands and using a large spoon or spatula, spread it evenly into the hollowed-out bottom of the french loaf. It might help to line your baking sheet with tin foil because you know – NO CLEANUP AFTER!

    Use your large spoon to level out the filling.

    The pop the top of the bread back on and loosely tent foil around the whole thing.

    Next you’ll need to put the pan into a preheated 400º oven.

    Let this bake for about 45 minutes. As an option, about 10 minutes before it’s done, you can brush the top of the bread with melted butter and pop it back into the oven uncovered.

    Did I mention this is a purely indulgent recipe?

    Remove your bread from the oven and slice through into about 1 – 1 1/2 inch slices and serve warm with crackers as well. I really loved it with crackers, but then again I loved it with that warm bread with the crispy baked crust as well!

    You guys, this is pure indulgence…I mean holy cow! You must take this to your next party…it’s so good!

  • 1 large loaf french bread
  • 2 (12 oz) packages of cream cheese
  • 1 (4.5 oz) cans green chiles
  • 1 (7 oz) cans green chiles
  • 3 (2 1/2 oz)jars dried beef, chopped finely
  • 2 c. shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/3 c. melted butter (optional)
  • Preheat oven to 400º
  • Line a large baking sheet with tin foil
  • Using a serrated knife, slice bread length-wise all the way through. Place bottom of bread on line baking sheet
  • Using hands pull out most of the bread from the inside of the bottom piece of french bread, forming a hollowed-out boat but still leaving some of the bread around the sides and bottom for stability
  • Mix together the next 5 ingredients well and spoon evenly into the hollowed out bottom of french loaf smoothing with a spoon evenly-
  • Place top of french bread over the filling as a cap.
  • Loosely tent the entire stuffed bread with a large piece of foil, kind of pressing around it with your hands down to the baking sheet
  • Bake in preheated oven for about 45 minutes
  • If desired melt butter and brush over top of bread about 35 minutes into the baking.Uncover the bread for the remaining 10 minutes.
  • Remove from oven and slice with serrated knife into slices
  • Serve with crackers if desired as well

    Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes

    mashed potatoes in the crockpot

    You guys! This was revolutionary!

    Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes are the best thing I’ve done in quite a while for Thanksgiving!

    More and more, I love to do most of the work for my parties ahead of time so I can relax and enjoy our company without stressing over so many hot pots on the stove. There is nothing worse than having to peel 10 pounds of potatoes for a giant gathering, and all the steam that envelops your kitchen from boiling them. Not to mention, I NEVER fail to boil the pot over in my haste to be doing 100 things at once and the mess that ensues from that! Also, the dishes…there isn’t a giant pot, colander and potato masher to wash at the last-minute on Thanksgiving morning!

    After these are mashed, they are then frozen in a baking pan (my 9 x 13 worked great but was fully loaded). The day of your event, you can take these out the day before, let them thaw, scoop them into your crock pot a few hours before on low…dot them with butter and they are fantastic!

    Our Thanksgiving day was in the balmy 70’s, and the entire lot of us ended up out on the deck watching the grands run around. It was a gorgeous day and we felt incredibly blessed, although a tad overstuffed!

    We started a new tradition this year called the Thankful tree. More on that later but it is going to become much-loved.

    I hope you all had a wonderful holiday. These Make Ahead Mashed Potatoes could be fantastic for your up and coming Christmas festivities as well! If you want something a tad more adventurous, try my other make-ahead version – Holiday Mashed Potatoes! Our kids love them!

  • 1 (10 lb.) bag of russet potatoes
  • 1/4 c. salt, divided
  • 4 garlic cloves smashed
  • 1 (12 oz) cream cheese, room temperature
  • 2 sticks butter, softened
  • 1 T. black pepper
  • 1/2 c. milk, if needed
  • Peel potatoes and cut into 1 inch pieces
  • Put all potatoes and garlic clovesin a large pot and cover with water - add at least 2 T. salt to water
  • Bring to a boil, then reduce to simmering and cover and cook for 20-30 minutes or until a fork inserts very easily into several of the potatoes.
  • Drain and return to pot and cook over heat a minute or so, then mash with potato masher.
  • Add in cream cheese, butter, another tablespoon of salt and pepper. Mash over heat until creamy. (cooking over heat keeps the potatoes from getting gummy or sticky. Also don't overmash! You can also use a potato ricer if desired.
  • Scoop out of the pot into a deep 9 X 13 baking dish - put UNCOVERED in freezer until frozen then cover with foil until a full day before you need them.
  • The day of party you can bake them but I scoop them into our slow cooker and heat on high for about an hour then turn to warm. Dot with butter, sprinkle with chopped parsley for a pretty look.

    Autumn Butternut Bacon Mini Tarts

    Brrrr…it’s officially fall over here in Oklahoma which means Thanksgiving is right around the corner.  This weekend we cleaned up the garden and tilled the valuable compost bin matter into the beds. I had separated garlic cloves to plant but never quite got to it.

    Oh for more time in a day!

    As I get older, I realize just how much I cannot deviate from our Thanksgiving traditional dishes. I would be strung up if I didn’t have all the usuals, like Sweet Potato Crunch and Green Bean Casserole, but shhhhh…..can I share with you that I am kind of over casseroles and all the cream of soup dishes that I long ago loved?

    I much prefer a giant pan of roasted root vegetables over casseroles these days, as does my hips and thights, so I have been letting the kids make their favorites and I’ve branched out over the years to trying some new things.

    This appetizer is sure to please anyone who is standing around waiting for the turkey timer to chime. It marries together flavors like the sweetness of butternut squash and maple, the salty smokiness of bacon and chipotle pepper, and the tang of dried cranberries and it all comes along with the satisfying crunch of baked puff pastry.

    Prep the separate ingredients days ahead and assemble and bake these just before your Thanksgiving gathering and everyone will be happy and mighty, mighty thankful!

  • 1 package frozen puff pastry (2 sheets, thawed
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 6 bacon slices, cooked and crumbled
  • 1 medium butternut squash, cubed (about 4 cups)
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 1 t. salt
  • 1/4 c. pure maple syrup
  • 1 t. chipotle pepper powder
  • 2/3 c. dried cranberries
  • 1 c. grated fontina cheese
  • 1/4 c. chopped pistachios
  • Optional: 1/4 c. pomegranate arils
  • Preheat oven to 400º
  • Unroll puff pastry until flat and cut into 2-inch squares and place on parchment lined baking sheets (or Silpat lined)
  • Using a small paring knife, cut a square inside of each puff pastry square about 1/4 inch in from edge. When puff pastry bakes, this will form the center of the tart.
  • Brush egg over each puff pastry square
  • Bake for 20-25 minutes in oven until golden brown.
  • Remove and retrace the cuts on the squares and pop out center of tarts.
  • Cook bacon until crisp and crumble in a bowl (I bake the bacon on a separate lined baking sheet and put in with the tart shells for 20 minutes. It's perfect!)
  • Cube butternut squash into 1/2 inch cubes
  • Add olive oil to skillet, sprinkle salt over squash and toss and saute squash over medium-high heat until fork tender, about 20 minutes
  • Add dried cranberries and bacon into squash in pan after squash is fork tender
  • Mix together maple syrup and chipotle powder and add to squash/cranberry/bacon mixture.
  • Stir often, letting squash caramelize in the syrup, about 3 minutes.
  • Grate Fontina into a a bowl
  • Add about 1-2 t. fontina shreds into center of each square
  • Add about 1 T. of butternut/cranberry mixture on top of cheese (which will melt the cheese underneath)
  • Sprinkle with pistachios and pomegranate arils if desired.


    Autumn Harvest Soup

    Kielbasa cabbage soup beans

    As fall begins with its cool crisp air and the musty smells of fallen leaves and smoky outdoor campfires going in the backyard, I always crave a wonderful brothy soup full of good things.

    Fall cabbage soup

    This soup offers it all; it’s broth is laden with the rich spicy flavor of turkey kielbasa, and a bevy of autumn harvest vegetables like carrots, cabbage and spinach. The broth is bumped up in health benefits as well and colored fall-like with beautiful tinges of golden turmeric and curry powder.

    Kielbasa Bean and cabbage soup

    The overall flavor is amazing as well as good for you. This pot makes a large portion for a crowd but also freezes incredibly well for a no-fuss reheat later on in fall or winter when you want to pull it out, thaw it and warm it up some chilly night when hot soup with its soothing ways will warm up even the coldest toes and fingers.

  • 1 T olive oil
  • 3 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 cup julienned carrots
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 pound turkey kielbasa
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 cans fire roasted tomatoes (14.5 oz)
  • 3 boxes chicken or vegetable broth (12 cups)
  • about 1/2 head green cabbage, chopped into 1 inch pieces
  • 4-6 c. baby spinach
  • 1 T. curry powder
  • 1 T. turmeric
  • 1 t. cumin
  • 2 (15 oz) cans great northern beans, drained and rinxed
  • 1 T. kosher salt (Morton)
  • 1 t black pepper
  • Optional: fresh chopped parsley and chives
  • In large heavy bottomed pan, drizzle olive oil and turn burner to medium-high
  • Add in trinity of onion, carrot and celery and saute about 5 minutes or until onion is becoming transluscent.
  • Add kielbasa and saute until it begins to brown, about5 minutes more.
  • Add chopped garlic and stir for one more minute.
  • Add in fire roasted tomatoes, broth, cabbage, curry powder, turmeric and cumin along with the salt and pepper
  • Simmer for 30 minutes
  • Add in spinach and beans and simmer for 5 minutes
  • Serve with crusty warm bread and garnish with parsley and chives

    Introducing Aspen Square in Aspen Colorado

    Introducing Aspen Square in beautiful Aspen, Colorado!

    Aspen Square’s warmly welcoming personality, ideal location across from the base of Aspen Mountain, and full hotel-style services and amenities combine to make our property a great choice for a memorable vacation year round.

    Booking a stay at Aspen Square during the off peak winter season has many advantages for a frugal traveler.
    * Early and late season rates can be as much as 50% lower than high season, for the same room type
    * More rooms are available in the lower seasons, so even hard to book rooms like our one-bedrooms or three-bedrooms are more likely to be open for booking.

    * Guests receive the same outstanding services and amenities as the high season guest
    * Smaller crowds translates to shorter lift lines, easier access to restaurant and event tickets
    * Pre-holiday stays allow guests to enjoy the festive ambiance without the crowds and costs associated with holiday rates and costs in town
    * End of season snow is sometimes the best of the entire winter season, with longer ski days in late March and early April

    Fall Decor for the Porch

    how to plant in a birdbath

    Ok so it’s Oklahoma and we get started a tad late on our fall decor…

    On account of it’s often in the 90’s clear through September.

    It’s hard to think of hayrides and carving pumpkins when it’s 90º because, well, hay sticks to sweat and pumpkins rot too quickly.

    We had a few weeks of coolness, which found me every night out on the deck out back in our double lounge chair book in hand. I’m hooked on Joel Rosenberg’s books right now and crave every moment of quiet time to get back into one.

    The garden is slowing down it’s offerings, but we’re still clipping okra daily that is reaching to the sky and endless cherry tomatoes, a few eggplants and peppers by the drove. Last year we froze enough peppers to get us through the winter without having to buy any. We currently have red and green bells, poblanos, banana peppers, shishitos (my love), serranos, jalapenos and their less-hot cousins Coolapenos and a new one this year -Asian Five Peppers. They make the best pepper flakes ya’ll!

    I finally got around to decorating the porch for fall last weekend and i wanted to show you my most favorite thing about it.

    But first I put out old Phinneas, Master of all Crow kind.

    He wins because of seniority!

    names for scarecrows

    Phionneas has been around for quite a while and he always commands a not-so-scary scarecrow presence on the porch.

    I think at one time Phinneas may have been a lady, I can’t really remember,  but over the years her hair has fallen out and now well…she’s Phinneas.

    In front of ol’ Phinneas is a hay bale (future bedding for our girls) with a couple of pumpkins and a magenta-colored mum to set it all off.

    I think Phinneas appreciates the footstool.

    See that stone basket on the pedastal? I fell for that one year in Northern Michigan at a little nursery but quickly learned that here in our fiery summers, you cannot keep the thing watered due to its slender and tiny base for dirt…

    This is why silk flowers were created no?

    On the other side of the porch in between the chairs, a cute little welcome sign my sis-in–law gave me sits to say hello, fall style.

    And in front of those in one of the beds flanking the porch is another sign proclaiming the season.

    But on the other side sat a bird bath…and not just any bird bath.

    A cracked bird bath that I’ve been meaning to try to repair or plant something in as it will no longer hold water.


    how to plant in a birdbath

    I found this small pumpkin for dirt cheap and filled the birdbath with some healthy rich potting soil. Then I tucked the smallest mums and pansies and violas I could find, (again very inexpensive!) around it in all colors. The crack in the birdbath is perfect for drainage…see? You can always find a silver lining in every cloud!


    All in all I’ve been quite please with the overall effect.

    Now that we’ve got the front porch taken care of, we’ll need to get working on our back deck. Perhaps some beautiful outdoor furniture is next!

    Happy Fall ya’ll!

    Cowboy Candy – Candied Jalapenos

    Cowboy Candy.

    The name itself evokes questions.

    Is it candy?  What exactly is this stuff that sounds like it’s straight off the frontier.

    I guess….an explanation is in order.

    Cowboy Candy is sliced fresh jalapenos that you simmer in a sweet vinegar syrup and then pour into a mason jar to sit and age like liquid gold.

    Once you’ve tried it over a cracker with some cream cheese or even better – creamy goat cheese, you will be forever addicted…the sweet syrup balances out the heat of the jalapenos and just makes you sigh with joy.

    But don’t stop there…pour it over grilled pork chops or a pork loin. Drizzle them over hot dogs or grilled brats. Whatever you do ….

    Make. Cowboy. Candy.

    Our garden is cranking out peppers like crazy…the jalapenos and seranos are going nuts! The shishitos, our personal favs are the ones getting the most attention. We toss them onto a hot iron skillet with a little olive oil and blister them then sprinkle with a good sea salt and eat them right out of the skillet.

    Here is what we’re currently doing with jalapenos.

    Slice up about a pound of jalapenos.  If they’re garden fresh, red ones are A-ok as well!

    In a medium saucepan, add 3 cups of sugar and 1 cup of apple cider vinegar, 1/2 teaspoons of turmeric, 1/2 teaspoon of celery seed, a teaspoon of granulated garlic and 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper. Bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes.

    Then add in all those sliced jalapenos.

    Simmer for approximately four minutes.

    Then using a slotted spoon, remove the peppers to a bowl.

    Pour the peppers into a mason jar.

    Then using a ladle, pour the syrup in on top of the peppers until it reaches about 1/2 inch of the rim of the jar.

    And that’s it…you can go ahead from this point and can the Cowboy Candy using the directions on the printable recipe that follows. This stuff never lasts long enough in our house to make it to the shelves for much time though…

    Our family is especially fond of cheese boards…so we put out a dish of this deliciousness with some kind of soft cheese at family cream cheese, honey goat cheese, even brie.

    You will love this stuff…it’s so addictive. I am hoping to make several more jars…it’s that good.

    © Katie Johnstonbaugh and Dishin & Dishes, [2009-2013]. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Katie Johnstonbaugh and Dishin & DIshes with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.