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April 2017

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!