Friday, March 30, 2012

Giggles


I watched this video of my boy late last night and it always makes me smile. (I can't believe how small he was.)
This is my boy last summer. He does this silly laugh every once in awhile that seriously makes my heart sing. 
I hope it brightens your day! And HAPPY WEEKEND! 

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Growth Spurt

 
All my seedlings are going through a growth spurt. My broccoli grows a new leaf daily and the peppers expand their thin leaves across the small container. I love it! 
Week 2
Week 4
When starting indoors, I always add a few seeds per cell to ensure something will grow. But then I need to single one sprout out. I always struggle to cut the extra seedlings to allow the strongest plant to thrive. I don't know why, but I just don't want to kill the little plants trying to grow. (Silly, I know.) 

However, this must happen and I recommend any pair of scissors. 
Refrain from pulling the extra seedlings out as it's easy to tear the developing roots of the surviving plant. (I know from experience.) 

This is also a good time to give you plants a little extra love by adding a small amount of  plant food. Here are the two choices I like to use. I just spill a little by each plant stem along with a bit of water. 
 

Speaking of water, now that the seeds are sprouting I water every 3-5 days. If you notice the plant wilting, water more frequently. However, do not confuse weak, light green/yellow plant as thirsty. You probably have over watered. Give it sometime to dry out and return to a healthy, dark green glow.


Here is the plant schedule this week. Next week we begin to plant squash... Summer is coming!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Operation Backyard

Phew...I lost my blogging spirit last week due to a sick baby! Looks like we are on the upswing of this nasty virus, but still remain quarantined to our home until he is not contagious. This has led to very little sleep in our household, and to mom comforting her feelings with donut holes, ice cream and a 2 liter bottle of Dr. Pepper. (Just to let you know, new feelings of despair developed from eating my feelings yet again.)

So.... I'm super hesitant to post before pictures of my backyard because frankly, it needs a TON of work, and it may take years before I'm satisfied. That being said, I feel posting the befores will give motivation to creating a masterpiece. (Kind of like the weight loss photo....BTW don't expect those to EVER be posted on my blog.)

Thom (my darling husband) finally gave in to my constant pleading for a huge garden, and it only took two years of begging! Really though, he is a dear and keeps me grounded because if I had my way the whole backyard would turn into a farm. He wanted a 16x16 space- I, of course, wanted at least half the yard. We settled with a good chunk in the back stretching fence to fence. Total gardening space: 24x75 ft. (SCORE!)

OK...I can do this...just take a deep breath...Here is the before:


BEFORE








OPERATION BACKYARD
  • Remove grow boxes, find new use
  • Remove random metal poles in the yard
  • Find a way to cover the 4 different fences
  • Prune the overgrown Pear and Apple tree 
  • Remove Grass from garden area, till, add nutrients to soil
  • Remove or find use for clothes line
  • Create a structure for the grapes
  • Create a outdoor living space 

For the past three Saturdays, Thom and I have dug, removed, hauled, cut, plowed, filled, pruned and bruised (our bodies) and honestly...there isn't too much difference. So give us, what... 20 more Saturdays and I think it could be worthy of an after picture. HA!

Here are pictures from 3 awesome weekends in the yard.
Here we go!

pruning and moving boxes to clothes line

Removing grass

Rest of the day spent at the dump (have about 4-5 more loads to go)




Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Awesome Garden Planner Program

Early Morning Gardening with Brad Saturday
It's been a few days since I last wrote and frankly I'm impressed that I'm writing now! A few friends, including family and myself decided to sign up for a Triathlon Sprint race, May 19th. I honestly don't know what spurred my desire to race. I haven’t ridden a bike since 7th grade; my best stroke is the breaststroke/doggie paddle, and I injured my knee over 10 years ago restricting my running abilities. Basically, I’m the worst candidate to attempt this race.

But I did sign up, so I’m gonna do it. This means waking up at 5 am for a swim. Ugh! Let’s just say I’m a little tired these days…well tired since last Monday….when I decided to start training. I know I’m a slacker! I should have started months ago because I’m pretty pathetic when it comes to swimming, biking and running.

I realize I need to make up a lot of lost promises to discuss soil, planning, planting etc. and I will soon…..HOWEVER…

I just found the coolest thing that saves SO much time when planning a garden. It’s this awesome online program where you basically create the garden you want with your garden dimensions. Seriously, this is so easy and saves so much time.


In the past, I’ve drawn my garden plan on graph paper, and end up losing it. But this program keeps track of what you plant and where no need to worry about replanting in the same spot the following year. 

I can also create my dream garden in just minutes:
This program accommodates square foot, portage gardening. It’s a $25 year membership with a 30 day FREE trial. If you are a bit intimated by creating a plan, check out the published plans of other users to get the juices following.

Here is the link: Vegetable Garden Planner

Happy gardening! 

Thursday, March 15, 2012

My First Date

When asked to my first school dance, I couldn’t contain myself. Me, a gangly sophomore, asked by a junior! I received plenty advice from my sisters and parents on proper first date etiquette and couldn't wait to put it to the test.

Per dance tradition, dates were usually paired with more couples to make a large group. I met the group for the first time while at Galaxy Diner for a bite before the dance. Remembering the importance of first impressions, I became extremely focused on using correct silverware, chewing with my mouth closed and befriending new classmates. Then the balloon artist appeared....

The table became enthralled in the balloon creations. I was annoyed by the balloon artist and didn’t pay much attention until I took a gulp of water. That’s when I heard a laugh, more of a high-pitched squeal, from a guy in our group. That in turn made me giggle or more like gargle.

I started to choke.

My date asked, “Are you ok?” tapping my back lightly. Suddenly, through my nose and mouth comes my dinner (chicken and coleslaw). I couldn’t stop. I pulled my hands close to cover the lower half of my face and like a fountain, I filled my plate with vomit. It was a surreal moment where I saw everything happening around me in slow motion. All the facial expressions from group and tables near by are still vivid. 


While I watched the group of unknown classmates begin to dry heave, My plate began to overflow and my sweet date took noticed. “OH DEAR! OH DEAR!” he yelled as he cupped his hands and hesitantly drew them close to my face. Not knowing what to do, I used the friendly gesture and continued spewing poppy seeds and cabbage from my nose into his trembling hands.(I think of what he did now and realize what a gentlemen he was!)

Finally! I gained control over my reflexes and stood up to a table of silence and dropped jaws, along with our waitress almost in tears.  Still dripping poppy seeds from my chin, I watched as my date dumped my regurgitated meal from his hands onto his plate giving a few groans and maybe a whimper.


Let's just say that was our first and last date.


Sigh.  

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Memory Jar & Planting My Dad's Tree

My sweet father passed away late January of Alzheimer’s. He was known as a strong, gentle man and truly the best father five daughters could ask for. My dear father loved the outdoors, his girls and his garden.

A friend of my sister gave her a thoughtful gift at his passing that I’m now creating for our home. The questions not only revive his memory, but may help my kids know their Papa John.  

The jar holds various questions which stirs forgotten memories, like my dad’s rough hands from carpentry; how he’d dance with his fingers shaped like guns to Buddy Holly, Jimmy Dean and Jonny Cash; how us girls waited impatiently to dance with him even in his sweaty plaid shirt he wore for work.

Here is just a sample of the questions in the jar which may help you draw memories of past loved ones. 
  • What is something you say that he used to always say? (for me, Half Assed! or Half Fast) 
  • What items could you always find in his pockets? (Pocket knife and a white hankie)
  • Describe a typical Sunday in your home.(warm and cozy)
  • If you close you eyes and picture him in your childhood home, what is he doing? (sitting on the couch giving me (what I called) strokes-or cuddles)
  • What was his middle name? From who was he named? (Royal, from his father)
  • Where did he take your mom out on dates? (Hire's Big H)
  • What was the best advice he ever gave you? (Always know who you are)
  • What was his favorite drink? (Diet Coke)
  • Where did he grow up? (Lewingston Idaho)
  • Were his hands soft or rough? (rough and sratchy, he had thick fingers)
  • What did he smell like? (Often like work, and the outdoors)
  • Describe the outfit you most remember him wearing. (plaid shirt, Dickies pants, worn leather belt)


This weekend, we finally planted a tree in memory of my dad. Each daughter and my mother received a tree (6 girls total) to plant as a reminder of who John Stone was. 

When Brad is a little older, I plan to sit by our Cedar tree, in the glowing sunsets and pull questions to refresh memories of the grandfather he’ll never know. 

He truly was a Boy Scout through and through and left this earth better than he found it.

Love you dad!

BACK TO GARDENING.....

To plant a tree you want to dig a hole twice as wide of the root ball and the depth of the root ball (not deeper). For balled/burlapped trees, remove or loosen the burlap around the tree remove as much as possible.

When the tree is place and standing straight, fill the hole making sure there is good contact between the root ball and the soil.(Stomp lose soil towards the root ball.) Water the tree thoroughly by letting the hose run on low for about 30 minutes. 

Continue to do deep, slow soaks with the tree for about a month.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Restaurant Roulette & Planting Schedule


Another exciting adventure ensued in a game of Restaurant Roulette. New friends joined us for a game, and I actually found a pair of huge, orange dice to roll at the dollar store! (SCORE!) 

For those who don’t know, restaurant roulette is a game Thom and I came up with where a number is chosen along with a starting point. We then drive the chosen road and count the restaurants that pass until we reach the lucky number. If we land on a national chain, we go until we hit the next local restaurant. I actually love going in the more flavorful (or sketchy) part of town because you never know what you’ll hit.

Lucky number seven was rolled and led us to…..


Asia Palace. Kim, our good sport of a friend, started to question the game as we pulled up and wanted a recount. Although a little dumpy from the outside, we decided to give it a try as none of us knew of the “Asia Palace.”

As we walked in the restaurant, it became fairly obvious this was our first time as all the patrons grew a little quiet and gave an eye (not the eye… just an eye).

The menu had over 165 items which ranged from Pho to stir fried frog legs to fried intestine. 

I sincerely wanted to try the frog legs, but then I noticed everyone in the restaurant had these giant, white bowls.
I decided to taste, what appeared to be the favorite; Pho (there are some accents missing) soup with steak and meatballs.

Pho consists of rice noodles, broth, onions, meat, and on the side are fresh basil leaves, limes, jalapeƱos, sprouts and other greens to be added to the soup while you eat.




Honestly, it was quite good, that is until I ate one of the meatballs…ick. It gave me a few shivers going down. If you decide to go there just stick with the steak.

The next day, I looked up reviews of Asia Palace to see what others thought and it actually received raving reviews for the Pho. I’ve never had Pho before so I couldn’t compare, but I definitely could see myself craving a bowl on a cold, rainy day.

I’m still working on a post with a full plant schedule, but here is what I have for this week. If you already planted last week then you are off the hook except for root crops.

Also, I need to still include seed depth and watering. Seed depth can be found on the back of your seed package and if planting indoors water every other day or keep soil moist until sprouts appear. Then go every 4-5 days.

(Sorry for slacking. Working, baby, husband, eating, gardening, and sometimes cleaning take precedence.)

Friday, March 9, 2012

Soil 101


Soil. (Insert deep breath…release).
I realized why I’ve procrastinated this post. Soil is boring. Don’t get me wrong I love working, mixing and prepping soil, but writing about soil feels like a college term paper. 

In determining what to write, I decided to bring a spiritual side to the soil post.

The parable of the sower in the New Testment is a favorite of mine:

Matthew 13
  • 3 And he spake may things unto them in parables, saying, Behold a sower went forth to sow;
  • 4-And when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up;
  • 5-Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth:
  • 6-And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away.
  • 7-And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them:
  • 8-But others fell into good ground and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold.

We know the seed is the constant and the soil is the variable, and when the seed fell in “good ground” it bore “fruit.” One thing that always comes to mind when reading this parable is other seeds fell into different, poor soil conditions and alas didn’t survive. 
However, poor soil can always be worked into “good ground.” It takes work and sometimes more than expected, but the seed will grow given the right conditions. 

The question then comes, “Am I prepared to receive the seed or the word of God? What must do I to prepare my ground?” Another interesting note- soil needs continuous preparation. I can’t buy potting soil and think the same nutrients will exist year after year to sustain life forever. It continuously needs work just like me.
Of the soapbox and on to soil.

WARNING: Although the same rules apply everywhere, my garden is in Utah where the soil is more alkaline and clay like.

Soil Part 1: Types of Soil (term paper outline)
Three types of soil:
  • Sand
    • Pros:
      • Great for root penetration
      • Drains well
      • Creates great air pockets for roots
    • Cons:
      • Doesn’t hold the soluble nutrient like nitrogen
      • Little water retention
  • Silt
    • Pros:
      • Higher in nutrients
      • Allows root penetration
  • Cons:
      • Quick to erode
      • Retains water a little too well and slow to drain
  • Clay
    • Pros:
      • Usually higher in nutrients
      • Good water retention
  • Cons:
      • Clay is so thick it makes it difficult for root penetration
      • Can retain too much water
      • Clay particles are so tight it allows for little air in the soil and doesn’t release nutrients

Obviously, a mixture of all three soils would create a happy medium. So how do we create that without breaking the bank?
  • Adding decomposing minerals, organic matter and fertilizer overtime will greatly increase the quality of any soil. For example, adding decomposing organic matter such as yard clippings or leaves greatly increases water penetration, aeration and draining of clay soil.

So how do we improve the soil we have?
  • There are 16 elements for plant growth including; Nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium, sulfur, calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc, manganese, copper, chlorine, boron, and molybdenum. (Successful Home Gardening)
  • Return plant base materials you eat or grow to the garden, eliminating any diseased plants and nutrients will increase. (Carrot peals, tomato greens, leaves, grass clippings, sawdust, etc.)
    • Items to avoid include:
      • Treated grass clippings, anything for a redwood or black walnut. Regular walnut leaves are a bit toxic but lose it after a few months of decomposing.
      • (more on this topic next post)

Side note:
  • I avoid a compost bin because it’s a pain and unnecessary (but that is just me.) I find there is always a spot in my garden that isn't in use and just add my plant base leftover to the unused area.. DO NOT DO THIS WHERE PLANTS ARE GROWING. For the soil to break the matter down, it becomes nitrogen deficient. However, with a few months the nitrogen will return even higher along with other nutrients to enrich the soil.

Ok-Enough soil talk for now. This post is too long! Tomorrow I'll post how to change the composition of your soil to make it plant worthy.  


Thursday, March 8, 2012

Half Fast (or half-ass)

I'm such a procrastinator! I sincerely keep meaning to talk about gardening but am easily sidetracked. That being said, this is a story resurrected the other night and is a must share.

A few months back, my father-in-law and I began discussing issues of teenagers receiving awards for little to no work, while other hardworking kids received the same award. I, of course, chimed in stating that I'm sick of rewards given for an incomplete job and the half-ass mindset.


My mother-in-law looked over at Thom and asked, "Did she just swear?" (Not a common practice in our homes, especially the in-laws.) The conversation then switched to Thom and me and went something like this-



Thom responding to his mother: Yup, she swore.
Cynthia: I did? What did I say?
Thom: Half-ass.
Cynthia: Wait, what did I say?
Thom: Half-ass.
Cynthia: What?
Thom: Half-ass.
At this point I decided to drop it. 

Driving home, I asked Thom again...

Cynthia: What swear did I say?
Thom: Half-ass.
Cynthia: That's not a swear.
Thom: Yes it is and why are you referring to it as a "swear"?
Cynthia: How is half fast a swear?
Thom: It is half of an ass.
Cynthia: No it means half as fast... half fast. I'm calling my sister.


Cynthia: Sue, do you know half fast is a swear?
Susie: Cynthia, it means half an ass. How did you not know this?

MY WHOLE LIFE, I've heard my dad say this word talking about 
spotty workmanship, but I always heard it as half fast...and after 15+ years of using this word (sometimes in church or important work meeting) I finally find the true meaning. I always wondered why it seemed like I caught people off guard in conversation.
Sigh.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Seedlings Hatching


Spring has sprung…in my kitchen that is! Over the weekend I notice a few seeds have hatched. Looks like chard, cauliflower and broccoli. I love when sprouts appear and the little anxiety of something not growing disappears.

Last night I also planted onions, a few tomatoes, and peppers. Peppers always seem to take a while to sprout so don’t be concerned if two weeks go by without movement.
Currently, this is what is growing:
  • Cauliflower: 4 plants
  • Broccoli: 4 plants
  • Bell Peppers: 6 plants
    (I love peppers though!)
  • Hot Peppers: 4 plants
  • Onions: 40
    (I love onions too!)
  • Tomatoes: 7
    (This includes all the varieties)
  • Leeks: 5
    (I don’t need a ton)
  • Kale: 2
  • Chard: 2
  • Peas: 4 packets

Just a note on onions- I add around 20 seeds per cell because they are easy to split and it saves tons of space!
 

I realized the big 50% seed sale at Smith’s was this past weekend! I hope some of you could take advantage of the deals. If not, here are a few coupon codes for Burpees Seeds.
15 % off $75
RMN1575
$10 off $50 or more
BSTEN
$5 off $30 or more
FC53

I’m also creating a list complete list of when I plant (indoor/outdoor) and when I transplant for all those interested. I’m almost done and will post it soon, but for now here is the schedule this week. I’d love some feedback to make it user friendly. The seeds I’m planting are added to this list but really just focus on the plant variety. I HIGHLY recommend splitting seeds with a friend or family member because you don’t need twenty tomato plants!

Here is my schedule this week:

This week my goal is to post information about creating good soil, the benefits of square foot vs. traditional vs. portage gardening, and how to plan a garden. I feel that if I post a deadline I’ll have more pressure to get ‘er done. 

Kisses!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Sunday Snack



This is a favorite little Sunday treat, and is super easy.  Cut a bell pepper into fat slices as to create a natural scoop. 

Dab a bit of goat cheese (You can buy it cheap at Costco) and grill for about 7 minutes. (This can all be done in the oven on broil if you don’t have a grill.)

Once cooked either eat plain or heat some pesto to spill over the top. YUM!
This is best served warm, so make sure you plan accordingly if serving for an appetizer.



Friday, March 2, 2012

Cooking Thai for Pregnant Sue


Sue, my sister, is SUPER pregnant. Truly, Sue looks about 14 months. She also is extremely picky when it comes to our Consecrated Kitchen, and is always generous to give cooking suggestions.
Last night she needed some spice, which could only me one thing, THAI!

I have to admit, I can make an awesome Red Curry. Only one problem, I don’t have a written recipe. About eight years ago, I tried my first Red Curry and LOVED it. About a week later, I found myself at the Southeast Asian Market following the cute cashier who walked me around the store plopping ingredients into my basket. In an extremely thick accent she explained “add a little fish sauce, and a little paste until it is spicy, then and add your vegetables.”
So I finally wrote down, or tried to write, what exactly I do. When I cook Red Curry it is usually for about 14 people (because I make enough to last the weekend), so these measurements may be a little off.  Please let me know if this recipe works. This recipe is great with a long grain, white rice sprinkled with a bit of rice vinegar. I also added a quick description of making a lot of wontons fast. Enjoy!

RED CURRY

CURRY SAUCE INGREDIENTS

  • ½ tbsp oil  
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 3-4 tbsp Red Curry Paste (depending on your spice level)
  • 2 cans coconut milk
  • ¾  cup peanuts 
  • 4 palm sugar discs (This may be a little too much so try 2 discs and then add the remaining two after tasting)
  • 1 ½ tsp fish sauce
  • 2 Big limes (I prefer fresh lime, but I always seem to forget it so I have lime juice as a backup)
  • 3 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp white sugar
*Best place to buy cheap ingredients is the Southeast Asian Market on 900 South and about 200 South. These are my favorites...
Coconut milk I like
Curry Paste I like
Fish Sauce I l
VEGGIES & MEATS
(Really you can add anything veggie or meat that sounds good, below is what I usually add)
  • 3 Golden Yukon potatoes
  • 1 large yellow onion
  • 1-2 bell pepper
  • 2 cups mini carrots 
  • Handful of frozen peas
  • 2 chicken breasts (cook prior to recipe, simple saute and season with salt & pepper)
*Chop onions, potatoes, peppers and chicken in to bit size pieces prior to creating the Curry
 

DIRECTIONS
  1. Heat oil in large saucepan over medium-high heat 
  2. Add garlic and saute
  3. Add curry paste to pan and heat for 1 minute
  4. Next add coconut milk, peanuts, palm sugar, fish sauce, soy sauce, salt and white sugar to pan and bring to boil.
  5. Continue to boil for 5 minutes or until sauce begins to thicken and peanuts begin to turn soft (this is a good time to taste the sauce to see if the spice is right)
  6. Begin to add your veggies in this order
  7. Potatoes-Cook for 3 minutes then add next
  8. Carrots-Cook for 4 minutes then add next
  9. Precooked chicken- Cook for 4 minutes then add next
  10. Onions- Cook for 3 minutes then add next
  11. Peppers and peas- cook until veggies are tender but not soggy

CREAM CHEESE WONTONS
INGREDIENTS
  • Cold Cream Cheese
  • Wonton Skins
  • Peanut oil, or veggie oil
  • My favorite dipping sauce Mae Ploy Sweet Chili Sauce (super cheap at the Asian market) 
DIRECTIONS
  • Heat a wok with enough peanut or veggie oil that could cover a wonton over medium heat
  • Meanwhile, cut cream cheese into even cubes
  • Spread 12 wonton skins over a cookie sheet and add a cube of cream cheese to the center
  • Using a sauce mop or fingers, moisten all wonton skins on tray with water
  • Pull all wonton corners to the center and pinch closed, sealing all edges
  • Immerse wontons in heated oil 
  • Wontons will float to the top when completed or remove when lightly golden brown
  • Place completed wontons on plate with a paper towel to absorb excess oil
  • Enjoy with Mae Ploy Sweet Chili Sauce 

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Starting Indoors


Confession- The first time I started seeds indoors I sincerely had anxiety. It took some deep soul searching to understand my apprehension. Maybe I'm the only one, but I feared my seeds wouldn't grow. Sounds silly, right? 

First time transplanting broccoli, I called Larry wondering what happens if there was a freeze. He replied, "your plants die, and  you buy new starts at Home Depot. No biggie."

If you're like me, take a deep breath. Realize if seeds don't grow, you won't starve and  are out a couple bucks. Only two containers in my four years haven't sprouted and probably because I forgot the seeds!

Each year I create a new, "fancy" rigging system. This time I bought a shelving unit at Home Depot and connected an old florescent light fixture with tie downs. 

I found cheap plastic trays at IFA and reused some of my old plant cartons. I'm trying toliet paper rolls as an alternative for cartons this year, (cut the bottoms and fold like a cardboard box.) We will see how it holds.

Also, I'm using my brain and actually keeping a grow journal. Nothing amazing, just dates and seed types. (Should have done this years ago!)
Seeds planted as of Monday:
  • Red bell peppers: seeds harvested last year
  • Chard: Bright Lights 
  • Broccoli: Hybrid Super Blend
  • Cauliflower: Early Snowball (would prefer Cassius)
  • Kale: Dwarf Blue Scotch
  • Parsley: Italian Flat Leaf (soak parsley overnight before planting) 
Temptation to buy unnecessary gardening supplies always haunts me when entering a store....I really do need a package of garden labels for $7, right?!? 

Here's a list of necessities to stop the impulse buying.

  • Florescent lights (nothing fancy, regular bulbs- Don't be fooled into paying more for the "aqua" lights)
  • Place to hang the lights (I've had my plants on the floor and a light dangling between PVC pipe)
  • Soil
  • Pod cartons 
  • Seeds (very important)
  • Garden plan (still on my to do list)
  • Markers for seeds (Popsicle sticks, etc)
  • Notebook, and calendar
Total time to setup indoor grow system and plant seeds= 25 minutes. Seriously, If I can do this you can too! I have extra florescent light fixtures if anyone needs one.