I Got A Little Carried Away

I badly needed to do some pruning in the veggie bed.  The pole bean plants absolutely took over, and the leaves they continued to produce were incredible.  I’ve seen pictures of garden structures like teepees and trellises that use winding pole beans as shade and covering, and they are glorious.  That being said, mine produced like six actual green beans.  They were much larger and tougher than the bush beans, which are more like the green beans you find at the grocery store.  Then the winding vines of the plant jumped to the cage for my cucumber plants and ended up pulling three of the four garden stakes inward, making the entire bed close to collapse.  I tried to pull them out, leaving the cucumbers in tact, but they were so intertwined that it was impossible.  So I ripped up everything.   Keep Reading

What’s the Dill, Pickle?

In trying to figure out what to do with my mounds and mounds of cucumbers I find myself harvesting, I found some seemingly easy recipes for pickles and decided to give it a shot.  Pinterest had a plethora of pickle recipes for me to check out, but I decided to go with this one from the kitchn because it seemed relatively simple.

Keep Reading

Cool as a Cucumber

My garden exploded.

Seriously.

When I last documented, about six weeks ago, the garden looked like this: 

Mid-May, it looked like this:

 

Now, it looks like this:

Out of control!

Closeup – pole beans on the left and cucumbers on the right

Apparently, you’re supposed to prune and remove the weaker-looking plants to make room for the strong ones to grow.  I meant to do that, but then I got busy.  And I felt bad destroying some of the plants I had grown attached to.  Now, they’re all so intertwined that I definitely missed the window of opportunity.  I wouldn’t know where to start even if I wanted to take some out.

The first harvest was from the bush bean plants.  I’ve harvested from them twice, and they were delicious.  The pole bean plants have grown tremendously and are larger than the trellises, but they haven’t produced any actual green beans yet.

The herbs were also growing strong, and I was thrilled to snip some of my own homegrown basil to use in an appetizer for my dad’s birthday!  It was the absolute most Martha Stewart I’ve ever felt in my life.

Rachel Ray’s antipasti cups – super easy and a crowdpleaser

Then came the cucumbers.

Their leaves exploded pretty early, and I was excited to see the yellow flowers that I knew meant the cukes were close behind.  At the end of May, I was thrilled to see this little guy blooming.

Behind him were some tiny little guys that looked like those baby pickles seen in delis.  I had no idea how quickly they’d turn into monsters.

That was last Saturday, and today I harvested the rest of these:

My mom immediately asked what happened to the little guy on the right.  Here he is in action, growing up against the chicken wire that made him start curving around.

If you look closely in the pic above you can see the little spikes that grow on the outside of the cucumbers.  I had no idea this happened, but they help protect the fruit from insects.

So, now I have an insane amount of cucumbers.  Thankfully, I took a cooking class recently that included a Thai cucumber salad with peppers, carrots, onion, and an herb trio (basil, cilantro, and mint) that was to die for.  I made a big batch of it earlier this week and have been enjoying some with every lunch this week.  I also sliced some up to eat drizzled with lemon juice and olive oil, and sprinkled with chili powder.  

I also snipped some parsley and dill today to make Paleomg’s herb-crusted salmon.  Ridiculously easy and delish! Here’s a quick rundown of the herbs growing in the cinder block holes around the perimeter of the garden.  I’m a little worried that the gigantic cucumber and pole bean leaves are going to shade them too much from continuing to grow, so I have another little project planned for more herbs coming up this weekend.  In the meantime, here’s what I currently have growing.

oregano

 

thyme

 

dill

 

basil

 

a little sage peekin’ through

There you have it!  I’ll have pics of my herb project for you soon.  In the meantime, I’ll just be here snacking on sliced cucumbers, enjoying the Thai cucumber salad, and drinking cucumber water.  Let me know if you have any recipes I need to try, and if you’re local and want to come steal some cucumber, give me a ring!

How to Spend Summer in DFW Part Two

Last summer, I created a big list of all the things I wanted to do in the DFW metroplex.  Some with kids, some date-nights, some more cultural, etc.

Then I did zero of them.

None of the things.

To be fair, we were selling a house, temporarily moving in with my parents, buying another house, and permanently moving there.  (For those keeping track at home, that’s two moves in one summer.  And “permanent” = “never moving again.ever.”)

Since then, we did manage to check out Lee Harvey’s and enjoy a little date night with our handsome pup, but the list remains otherwise still completely in “to do” mode.

This summer, things are different.  (See note about never moving again, above.)  PLUS, my stepson will be spending a lot of the summer with us, which is even better!  My last day of school was Friday, and we began typing our summer fun list as soon as I got home.

One of the biggest contributors to the list is our local library, which is walking distance from our house.  Kiddo BEGS to go to the library.  The day I brought him there to get his very own library card, you would’ve looked at his face and assumed it was Christmas morning.  I love, love, love that he loves the library.  I also love, love, love all the programs they provide over the summer.  Especially because they’re F-R-E-E!  We’re planning to check out arts-and-crafts hours, creative challenges, family STEM activities, and much more, on top of going to get tons of books as well!

Some other things we want to check out:

  • The Dallas Museum of Art has free admission and tons of fun kid-centered activities to entertain littles of all ages
  • Ride the McKinney Ave Trolley and picnic in Klyde Warren Park – I’ve taken both my kiddo and my nephew on the trolley (also free!) and they both had a blast.  It stops right in front of Klyde Warren Park, so it’s the perfect opportunity to adventure without dealing with parking.  The Park has SO MUCH to offer, and I haven’t explored any of it.  I’m pumped to check it out on a weekday, when it will hopefully be less busy.
  • Dallas Arboretum – always stunning.  The kiddo actually requested this one, so I’m happy to oblige.  It’s pricier, but always well worth the cost of admission.
  • The Sixth Floor Museum – I feel like I went here in middle school, but I truly can’t remember.  My husband is a huge history buff, and neither he nor the kiddo have been, so we’re planning to go together.

 

A few in Fort Worth – probably a day trip:

 

Screen-free (aside from a screen with the instructions for some of them) options for home:

  • Make balloon-powered lego cars 
  • Read
  • Play guitar
  • Coloring books
  • Go for a walk
  • Write a letter
  • Make cookies
  • Wash the car
  • Play with legos
  • Play a board game
  • Puzzle
  • Go to a playground
  • Make paper airplanes
  • Write a story
  • Make a comic
  • Make pasta at Lulu’s
  • Science Activities (very vague, but I found approximately eleventy-billion ideas on Pinterest to try; some are listed specifically below)
  • Alka seltzer rockets
  • Spirograph – putting a Christmas present to good use
  • Kanoodle puzzles (affiliate link) – my mom bought these for kiddo a few weeks ago as a gift, and he and I are both obsessed – it’s a wealth of two- and three-dimensional puzzles to build
  • Fidget spinner art – bless.  The teacher inside me hates this with a fiery passion, but the spinners have invaded my home, so we might as well be creative with them. 
  • Science molding kit
  • Magnet kit (both kits were presents from Lulu as well – we’re excited to check them out)
  • Make your own slushies 
  • Density experiment
  • Magnet maze 
  • Elephant toothpaste – he can’t remember where he heard about this, but he’s asked me three times in the past 36 hours if we can do this, and it was the last thing he said when I tucked him in tonight.  We’ll have to move this to the top of our priority list.  

 

There you have it.  Lots of fun, at all price points, in addition to the million pool parties at Lulu’s and Booya’s this summer.  Stay tuned for our official reviews!

What I’ve Been Reading Lately

When I was a kid, I was a complete and total bookworm.  The first email I ever received was from Ann M. Martin, author of The Babysitters Club series.  I could knock out one of those books in an afternoon. My mom still has a letter I wrote her at probably 8 years old when I got in huge trouble for something.  The note begged and pleaded (it included the phrase “puh-lease” – I’ve clearly grown out of that dramatic phase) for her not to take away my books while I was grounded.

Then I hit middle school and started reading magazines.  While I devoured those, I pretty much stopped reading books other than occasionally skimming the ones I was assigned for school.  The Epic of Gilgamesh just did not capture my attention.

Fast forward, oh, a few years, and I have rediscovered my love for reading.  One of my friends introduced me to an app called OverDrive that allows you to download audiobooks and ebooks from the library onto your device.  Now, I have a book with me wherever I go.  Things that used to drive me crazy like standing in long lines at the grocery store or waiting for an appointment are now opportunities to turn a few more pages of Amy Poehler’s hysterical writing.  While I’m nowhere close to my father’s pace of reading about 73 books per week, I’ve finished around 12 books since Christmas (plus a cookbook), which is about 10 more than I used to read per year.  Don’t judge.

A few were pretty meh, and one was terrible, but here are a few that I enjoyed the most.  (Disclaimer: if you choose to purchase anything through the links in this post, I will receive a small commission.  All opinions are my own, and I am only recommending books I genuinely enjoyed.)

 

First, Bossypants.  Tina Fey is just the queen.  Anything else I add will only take away from the book.

 

After reading a few memoirs, I was ready for something different.  The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware popped up on a few lists I saw of books “you can’t put down.”  That was an accurate description.  I think I read half the book after waking up one weekend at 2am.  A travel journalist on a luxury cruise is sure she hears the woman next door in cabin 10 fall off the ship in the middle of the night.  The next day, nobody on the ship believes that there was ever a woman in cabin 10.

 

Right now, I’m halfway through Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan.  My aunt recommended this book to me, and it is both terrifying and fascinating.  Cahalan tells the true story of several years ago when she started having mysterious symptoms that everyone believed to be the start of a nervous breakdown.  It reads like an episode of House, with doctors frantically trying to diagnose her and people doubting the legitimacy of her medical concerns.  I’m dying to know what will happen next, but…

 

I have to read this first.  Earlier this month, a few ladies in my area decided to start a book club.  Riding my reading high, I jumped at the chance to join them!  Our first meeting is this coming Tuesday.  Thankfully, I went back the other night to take a second look at the evite because I discovered that they had already chosen our first book.  I’ve heard this one is another page-turning thriller, so I’m excited to read it.  I’m even more thankful, though, that I realized my error before showing up to make a really poor first impression as the scatter-brain who didn’t know I was supposed to have already read the first book.  Oops.  

With only 28 more school days (I mean, if one were keeping count…), I’ll have a lot more time on my hands pretty soon.  What are you reading?  What do I need to add to my list?

Plants In the Ground

Do ya’ll remember this guy?  American Idol season 9 is quite the throwback.  In fact, I just looked it up and am shocked that I was still watching the show in 2010.  It seems like much farther back than that.  I have no idea who won that season.

ANYWAYS, that’s totally the song that was stuck in my head last week when I transplanted my little sprout babies to the raised bed in the backyard.  I have a bad habit (or a charming quirk, depending who you ask) of singing a song about pretty much everything I’m doing at home.  When they were all set, I sprang back into the house hollering “plants in the ground, plants in the ground.”  I think there were more lines, but I don’t recall them now.  You’re welcome.

I got home late-ish on Tuesday and had a short window of daylight left to get the plants into the dirt or it would be another few days before I had a chance.  And because my mutant plants (as my husband and kiddo call them) were growing so quickly, I needed to make the move.  It took longer than I intended because I decided to continue the science experiment and needed to keep a good record of which sprouts were going where.

I also had to detach some of the roots from the egg carton where the were already taking hold tightly.

By the time I finished planting them all, I was in such a rush to get inside and make dinner that I forgot to water them.  The next day, they weren’t looking so great.  I think my little guys were still suffering the trauma of the move.  I only managed to take one picture before coming back inside.

A week later, here is how they’re looking.

Please forgive the picture quality.  It’s been pouring all day, and I’ve fallen ill to spring allergies.  I can’t think of anything I care enough about to make me put on shoes right now and go outside, so you’ll have to enjoy this shot from my bedroom window.  Complete with reflection of my mini blinds.  The leaves are significantly larger, and more seedlings are starting to sprout.  All of the herbs are in the cinderblock holes surrounding the main bed, but you can’t see them from the window.

My biggest revelations so far are:

  1. We’re going to be eating green beans with every meal until October.

and 2. How on earth did I forget to plant cilantro?!?!

Stay tuned for more gardening wisdom, and for more dated pop culture references.

Beans, Beans, They’re Good For Your Heart

As promised, here is how my veggies are growing!

Like I said before, I decided to get extra nerdy this year to see what works best with growing vegetables.  To start, I took a few of each type of seed, and placed them in separate plastic bags with a damp paper towel.  I duct-taped these (because painters tape fell off in the heat last year) to the window so they could soak up the moisture in some sunshine.  One week later, most had started to sprout a little bit.  The big exception to this was the bell peppers.  I’m starting to understand why bell peppers cost about $7 each.

A week later (I had planned to do something with them earlier, but the week got away from me), I needed to get the seeds out, but we were expecting storms.  I pulled a few egg cartons from my recycling stash and decided to make good use of them.  We get amazing afternoon sun in our kitchen, so I filled four egg cartons with some of the soil mixture from the bed in the backyard.  This commenced what I called “driving my husband crazy by bringing dirt inside.”  I put the pre-sprouted seeds from the baggies into two of the egg cartons, and I put new seeds in the other two egg cartons.  The latter is serving as my sort of control group, but it isn’t very accurate since they were planted a week later.

Here are the initial plantings, with the pre-sprouted seeds on the left.  I even had the forethought to put the cartons onto a jelly roll pan so that they didn’t leak water all over the place.  If that’s not adulting at it’s finest, I don’t know what is.

Here is my fancy diagram, showing what I planted where: 

As you can see, the beans and cucumber had sprouted the most in the baggies.

So how are they doing?  I’m so glad you asked!  One week in, and look at the growth!

Those are pole beans at the very top of the picture, with bush beans right in front of them.  At the bottom left are the cucumbers.  Over to the right, you can see the baby dill and basil sprouts.

I’m obsessed with them.  I read this the other day and, while it aims to inspire perseverance in the midst of personal growth, it’s a beautiful description of what I’m witnessing in my kitchen daily:

For a seed to achieve its greatest expression, it must come completely undone.  The shall cracks, its insides come out, and everything changes.  For someone who doesn’t understand growth, it would look like complete destruction.” – Cynthia Occelli

Because the beans are the largest of my seeds, they have made it easiest to witness this process.  First, tiny sprouts begin forming.  Next, the bean begins to crack open, just a tiny bit.  It continues opening each day, pushing the skin off like a shell until it falls off completely.  Then, before you know it, boom! It’s grown six inches taller and has numerous leaves.

I was playing around with a macro lens earlier and snapped a few close ups of my babies to share.  If you have any photography skills whatsoever, please forgive my novice .

Here is one of the pole beans opening up to release some leaves. You can see the white skin being shed in the background.

This is one of the bush beans starting to shed its brown skin before opening up.  You can see the beginning of leaves forming just inside.

One last non-macro shot because the sun is shining and glorious! 

Soon these beauties will be transplanted outside where I can get them a trellis to support them.  Is anyone else starting their gardens yet?  Any recommendations?

Veggie Garden 2.0 – Even Better Than Before!

Last spring, I made my first attempt at a vegetable garden, and I was astounded by how successful it was.  To be fair, my expectations were extremely low.  Like, “I hope this doesn’t turn into a pile of dirt,” low.  When I was able to actually eat green beans that I grew myself, it gave me an incredible sense of accomplishment.  Then we moved, and my tiny garden plot stayed behind.

A few weeks ago, my husband took a day off of work while I was on spring break so we could set up another garden plot in our new backyard.  We used almost the exact model from last time, framing a plot with cinder blocks and blending a mix of peat moss, vermiculite, and compost for the soil.  To keep Murphy from turning it into his sandbox, we still needed to put up some chicken wire around it.  This time, we added some wooden stakes in the corner to give the chicken wire better structure.

 

When it came time to order seeds, I decided to focus on things I know we will eat.  I grew tomatoes last summer, which grew well… except I don’t really eat tomatoes.  I don’t know what my logic was there.  I ordered green beans again this year, and I decided to try pole beans in addition to bush beans to see if there’s a difference.  I’m going to try bell peppers again, although those were unsuccessful last year, and I added cucumbers as well.  When we were picking up supplies for the garden bed at Home Depot, I decided to throw in some herbs as well and bought, well, basically all of them.

I used to be extremely intimidated by growing plants from seed.  The little starter plants just seemed so much easier and harder to mess up.  My inner-nerd is completely fascinated by the whole process now, though.  I decided to get extra scientific about it this year to see what works best.  Stay tuned to see the different methods I tried, and how many ways I can drive my husband insane by dragging gardening inside the house!

Opening Day

I’m eschewing the post I intended to write tonight to bring you this breaking news:

 

 

Baseball is back!!!!

 

Even more exciting, I’m watching it from my own living room!  Several years after cutting ties with cable, I have only one regret… sports.  I miss watching games from home.  I justified it by reminding myself that I needed to be working on school and didn’t really have time to be up at night watching games, but that time has passed.  We decided to get Sling TV knowing that our newfound access to Fox Sports Southwest would mean Rangers baseball and probably a few Aggie football games as well.  So worth it.

 

So, while I’m sitting here without peanuts, Cracker Jacks, or even a hot dog, I’m reminded of how ridiculously happy baseball makes me.  If you need me for the next six ish months, you can find me parked in my living room rooting for Yuuuuuuuuu, yelling ADRIAAAAAN, and cheering the return of Nap-o-li!  Come October, I hope I’m doing exactly the same.

 

Let’s Go Rangers!

I’m baaaack!

Good to see you here again!

My internship for grad school basically ruled my life for the past few months, but it’s over now.  I graduated, just in time for spring break and a fabulous girls’ weekend in NYC with some of my faves!

We saw Glenn Close star in Sunset Boulevard on Broadway, and she was incredible.  The entire show was amazing, but holy moly does she control the stage with her presence.  We shivered in the cold, ate entirely too much delicious food, and squeezed in some r&r too.  It was the perfect weekend.

With my rediscovered free time, I’m in need of a project.  I feel a little bit scattered not knowing where to channel my energy: I’m excited to be reading for pleasure again, I’ve been working on a few knitting projects, and I’m elated to start up a veggie garden again at our new house.

Oh!  and I bought an Instant Pot, which may just be the greatest kitchen appliance of all time.  I’m still learning my way around it, but the number one best thing about it so far is that, because it does everything, it cuts down majorly on dish washing.  The other morning, I made hard-boiled (technically steamed, not boiled, but whatev) eggs in it before work, rinsed out the steel insert, and then popped in a pork shoulder to slow cook all day while I was at work.  Easy peasy!

So, internet friends, send me your book recommendations, recipes I must try, garden tips, and what you want to read about here!  and, since you’ve been waiting months (with bated breath I’m sure) for an update, let me honor your time by gracing you with a picture of our mascot, Murph.

 

’til next time!