How to Start Composting

Whew! Happy Tuesday! You know what I like about 3 days weekends? You can spend one day binge-watching Wet Hot American Summer all afternoon and another working your hind end off. This weekend included some serious DIY projects–cutting, priming, painting, landscaping–moving a new (used) refrigerator, and a failed beer cheese recipe. And while I will share pics of all of that in the near future, today I thought I’d tell you about one way we try to stay green. So here it is: “How to Start Composting.”

How to Start Composting | Hannah & Husband

The side of the garage before Husband worked his magic…

How to Start Composting | Hannah & Husband

The side of the garage after with our new compost bin.

While the timing of our move to Rivermont was absolutely perfect, I missed my summer garden. I am not fabulous at container gardening. A couple weeks ago, I picked up 3 pots of herbs and set them on the back porch. I found them Saturday. We had a brief ceremony and hummed Amazing Grace before tossing their shriveled remains.

But I love taking a little plot of land and watching food–real food–pop up out of the dirt. (Cue Oliver Wendell Douglas’ oration on farming here. #greenacres4lyfe) So I’m looking forward to next Spring’s garden by starting a compost bin. The best thing about compost is how much it helps cut down on our trash! The site of landfills turns my stomach so we are really trying to reduce our waste.

Compost is basically broken down organic materials that act as a superfood to your garden soil. It’s made up of 50% carbon materials (browns) and 50% nitrogen materials (greens). These are stored in a bin that is sealed enough to keep out animals but also has a few holes to allow air to circulate.

How to Start Composting | Hannah & Husband

I ordered this one from Amazon and put it together in about an hour. (Turn on a good podcast because there are A LOT of screws.) Our local tractor supply stores usually carry compost bins in the Spring because that’s the easiest time to get started. There are scraps from vegetables grown in the garden or clippings from mowing your lawn. Plus, it doesn’t have to fight freezing temps. But, as the carbon and nitrogen work to start breaking down, the mixture will heat up itself so the most important thing to do is just to be sure it has enough of each–greens and browns.

How to Start Composting | Hannah & Husband

What to Compost

Fruit and veggie scraps : GREEN

Eggshells : Neutral

Leaves : BROWN

Coffee grounds and tea bags: GREEN

Dryer lint : BROWN

Shredded newspaper, cardboard, toilet paper rolls (avoid glossy finishes or too much ink) : BROWN

Wood chips, saw dust : BROWN

Grass and garden clippings : GREEN

Stale bread and cooked pasta : BROWN

Never Add…


Dog Poo
Invasive Weeds (like ivy)

Now that you know what to throw in there are just three other things to note. The first is that your bin should avoid direct sunlight. Our’s is in a partly sunny spot to avoid the crazy Tennessee summer sun. The mixture will heat up because: science. It doesn’t need too much help from the sun.

Second, mix your compost (or turn your bin a few times if it’s suspended like ours) every 2-3 days.

Finally, be sure that your mixture stays moist. You want it to be the dampness of a sponge. If the mixture is too wet or starts to smell a bit like rotten eggs, add browns. And if it’s too dry, just sprinkle on a bit of water.

Next Spring, we’ll be set!

Cinnamon Almonds & Pics from the Weekend

Cinnamon Almonds & Weekending Pics | Hannah & Husband


We had such a great weekend. We spent some time with friends and also got some quality whittling done on that Rivermont to do list. We started on the yard when we got home on Friday, and Husband actually ended up laying grass seed ’til 10 that night! We discovered some new things in the yard including this beauty which shot up over the summer.

Cinnamon Almonds & Weekending Pics | Hannah & Husband

One thing I love about the internet? The free knowledge base for plants and flowers! I have so many friends that know more about these things than I do so anytime I learn something new, I just make a note so hopefully I’ll remember next time. The lovely lady is called an angel’s trumpet and the flower is 11″ long from stem to stern. I’ve never seen such a big flower!

Cinnamon Almonds & Weekending Pics | Hannah & Husband

This rose bush is tangled up in the rose of sharon.

Cinnamon Almonds & Weekending Pics | Hannah & Husband

We found this model airplane in the china closet, and I’m pretty obsessed with it at the moment. It looks like the dash in the cockpit was hand drawn.

Cinnamon Almonds & Weekending Pics | Hannah & Husband

Cinnamon Almonds & Weekending Pics | Hannah & Husband

While Husband was laying grass seed, I spent some time preserving tomatoes. You can read about how I peel tomatoes in this post. These frozen fruits will be like treasure come late fall!

Cinnamon Almonds & Weekending Pics | Hannah & Husband

Finally, I whipped up some cinnamon almonds, and I thought I’d share the recipe. I always need a little crunch with fruit and yogurt, and these are perfect! Plus, they’re so easy to make.

Cinnamon Almonds & Weekending Pics | Hannah & Husband

Cinnamon Almonds

1/2 cup sliced almond
1/2 tsp vegetable oil
1/2 tsp honey
1/8 tsp cinnamon

Toss until all almond slices are covered evenly. Set over to broil and watch like a hawk! These can burn quickly and truly don’t take more than 3-4 minutes.

Cinnamon Almonds & Weekending Pics | Hannah & Husband

Try them! They also make a great snack.




2 Minute Tip

Two Minute Tip | Hannah & Husband

Here’s a two minute tip for you: This time of year, I like to keep cut herbs from the garden in a vase on the counter with a little bit of water. The herbs stay fresh in the water while making the kitchen smell fabulous.

FYI: This basil is headed to Mornings with Fox 43 tomorrow! 

Homegrown Tomatoes

Happy Tomato Season! | Hannah & Husband

Homegrown tomatoes are a luxury like no other in the South. During these summer months, porch ledges are lined with tomatoes that need just a little more time in the sun to reach edible perfection. When I was little, there was an anthem that was sung during these holy days…

My dad once referenced this in one of his sermons at which point my mother stood up and led the congregation in the chorus. (#southern #smalltown)

I also insisted on starting all my presentations with that song when we designed HGTV Gardens a couple years ago. I choose to think it endeared me to our NYC colleagues who were unfamiliar with this season second only to Christmas.

This year, I’m happy to report that we’re growing 7 heirloom varieties in our garden.

Homegrown Tomatoes | Hannah & Husband

And they’re inspiring more than their fair share of art projects. (More on that at a later date.)



I take mine most often on homemade toast with a little salt and pepper. But thanks to the magic of Twitter, I’ve found that how you take your tomatoes most often seems to reflect the region you hail from. So what about you?

How do you take your tomatoes?



The Green Acres Complex

The Green Acres Complex | Hannah & Husband

Husband & I have long had what I like to call our “Green Acres Complex.” Husband mows the lawn in what most people consider church clothes. And if I could spend my mornings in silk gowns while my chicken laid eggs-to-order in a china bowl, I most definitely would. Click here to check out my Style File on Lisa Douglas.

So it should come as no surprise to you that each year our garden has expanded. This year we’re growing several things we never have before–broccoli, greens, cucumbers–alongside old favorites like okra, zucchini, and numerous herbs, tomatoes, and peppers.

The Green Acres Complex | Hannah & Husband


It’s Husband’s Garden because he is most definitely doing the laborious work with this one as he continues the job hunt. I am so excited that our little garden keeps expanding.

The Green Acres Complex | Hannah & HusbandThe Green Acres Complex | Hannah & Husband


Last year we were members of a CSA, which stands for “Community Supported Agriculture.” The way it works is you buy into a farm and then get a basket of food every week from them. (If you’re in East Tennessee, we used Mountain Meadows Farm last year and loved them!) But this year, with our life a little more in flux, we decided we’d grow as much as we could ourselves and then just supplement the rest with goods from local farmers.

There’s something about Spring that seems to make everyone I know get a green thumb, but I wonder if it’s just because we live in a small town in Tennessee. Does it work that way in the big city? Is it even possible to eat local in a big city like NYC that is more pavement than garden? If you have any experience with the matter, I’d love to here about it!




Kitchen Basics: Peeling Tomatoes

This week I brought in the last of our tomatoes for the year. It is bittersweet because there is nothing quite like cooking or eating a tomato you’ve grown yourself. Nonetheless, when the time comes, you’ve got to figure out what to do with all those little red fellas.

Later today, I’ll share one of my favorite end-of-the-season recipes, but for now I thought I’d share an easy step by step that will teach you how to peel tomatoes yourself. I just started peeling our tomatoes this year before cooking with them, usually in big batches on the weekends. I’ve found it helpful because whether your cook, freeze, or can them, you’ll find the peel will often detach from the fruit and become quite tough changing the texture of your dishes. So here’s what you’ll need…

1. a pot of boiling water
2. a bowl of ice water
3. a bowl for your end result

If you can, set your 2 bowls in the sink. This will really help cut down on the mess.

Finally, here’s how you actually peel the little guys…

1. Bring water to a boil, and drop the tomatoes in for about 2 minutes. Boiling time will be dependent on the size of the fruit, but you’ll see the skin start to change slightly–it may even start to crack.

2. When you start to see the change, drop the tomatoes into the ice water. The cold water on the hot fruit will literally make the skin pull away from the fruit.

3. Finally, hold the fruit in both hands, peeling off the skin. See easy as pie!

*Pro Tip: If you mark the bottom of the tomato with an X, it will make it easier for the skin to loosen.

*Speaking of pie, I’ve found this also works well with peaches.

Anyway, I hope this helps! I’ll be back in a bit to share the perfect 1st-of-Fall-Last-of-the-Tomatoes recipe.