Sunday, July 17, 2011

Thinking Forward to Fall

   
     Fall isn't in the air, but it is in my mind when it comes to the garden.  Originally,  I had just planned just on planting some pretty fall flowers, because they are much lower maintenance that anything that produces food.  Through researching what to do to prepare for next spring, I have convinced myself to plant one or two things just to see what happens. Most people think of summer as being the only time you can grow your own food, but if you plan properly you can extend your growing season through most of the year.
     What you can grow, and when you need to plant it depends on where you live.  I suggest your state or county extension if you need help with finding your zone and plants that work well with your climate.  Here in TN the UT Extension has a free publication on fall vegetable gardens you can download.   Make sure you research what you want to plant because not all cool weather plants are created equal.  Many crops planted in the spring prefer cool and moist conditions, and if you have been outside lately you know that's not what goes on this time of year.  There are other precautions you must take as well, like keeping the seeds moist. One tip in improving your germination success, is planting the seeds 1/4 inch deeper than you would in the spring.  Compared to spring and summer crops you may also need to give your fall garden a little more TLC.  This is the one thing that seems daunting to me.  I spent  A LOT of time this spring hand picking insects off my tomatoes and I'm not sure I am up to the work this fall.
    I have been thinking about what I might want to plant for my fall garden. I have been thinking something simple like greens or lettuce and a few flowers.  I really need to think about it some more and see what seeds are available. SO as your summer garden starts to wind down, will you be thinking about a fall garden?  What will you plant?  Do you have any tips?  Happy gardening!
   

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Menu Planning SavesTime and Money

     I used to be the Queen of Run to the Grocery Store.  It seemed like almost every day I there was something.  After I had Thing #2 going to the grocery store became exponentially more difficult.  I'm not sure how my friends with large families ever make it through the store in one piece and with their sanity intact.  There are several small changes I made to make my life a little easier.
     One thing I have done to make my life a little less complicated, and save a ton of money is menu planning.  In it's simplest form all a person has to do is sit down and spend a few minutes jotting don what meals they want to eat for the week.  I know some of our city friends don't have the ability to shop for a week at one time because public transit and a cart full of groceries to carry wouldn't work, just plan for whatever span fits your lifestyle best.  If you have transportation and the storage space by all means plan for a month.  I personally plan for a week, because that's what I can fit in my car, lug up a flight of stairs, and store in my house.  Once you have your meal plan completed you need to make a list of the things you will need to buy.  It is always good to check out what you already have in stock to avoid buying many duplicates.  The most important part of shopping with your menu plan is actually using the list you brought.  As long as you buy everything you have on your list  you will be able to avoid unnecessary trips to the store.
     Once you have mastered the basic menu planning, and you feel like you have a little more time to spend on it, you can move on to reducing your grocery budget.  Now, I know you're thinking, "I've already reduced my bill by sticking to the list why should I do any more?"  My answer is, YOU CAN SAVE EVEN MORE!  The next step is shopping sales.  If you get the local newspaper,  the Sunday paper usually has the grocery stores' inserts.  Take out the insert from your favorite store and look through it. You can start by circling things that are on sale that you would typically buy.  Don't go out and buy things that you won't use just because they are on sale, you will be wasting your hard earned money.  Finally, using these sale items build your menu.  For example: While browsing through your ads you find turkey 49 cents a lb at Store X.  You think this is a great deal (you might even buy 2 of them) and you choose this as the foundation to your meals.  One day you might have a roast turkey with the trimmings, the next day you might have turkey pot pie, another day you might have turkey stir fry, and turkey tacos, and freeze the rest for another time.  So you don't get turkey phobia you could space the turkey days out with vegetarian meals.  Pasta and beans are always a cheap way to make filling meals.  Add coupons to sales for an even bigger bang.  If you have a garden take your fresh veggies and fruits into consideration too! 
  So try menu planning!  It will save you from running to the grocery store four times a week with screaming children or pet monkeys in tow!  It might eve make you improve how you eat!  Now make sure to stick to your list and you are ready to go.

If you want a great simple menu plan printable you ca go to Organized Home .  I knwo you can also find templates to use on the Microsoft Office website.  I prefer to use a weekly planner note pad I picked up at the Dollar Store.

THIS WEEKS MENU

Dinner
Chicken Corn Chowder (using leftovers) with crackers
Three Cheese Broccoli Stuffed Shells with garlic bread sticks
Poor Man's Dinner (we use ketchup instead of spaghetti sauce and add garlic, salt, and pepper)
Hot turkey and Cheese Subs with shredded carrots
Breakfast Casserole
Grands Deep Dish Pizza
Spaghetti with meat sauce and greenbeans

Lunch (all served with fruit or veggie)
Sandwiches (PB&J, turkey)
Chicken Nuggets
Grilled Cheese
Chicken Noodle Soup

Breakfast
Cereal (I let the kids chose a box and I pick the other)
Frozen Waffles
Homemade Pumpkin Muffins

Snacks and Treats
Kroger brand cheese crackers (like Cheez it's but better)
Chex Mix
Homemade Sugar Cookies


I let the kids pick the fruits and veggies out at the store unless there is a a super deal.The current faves are watermelon, cantaloupe, bananas, apples, shredded carrots, and cucumbers(which are now free from the garden) .

     In other news my in the ground garden is amazing.  This is the haul from yesterday.  I picked 4 huge cucumbers and half enough green beans for dinner. This is from a 2X4ft garden plot!  and I pick 3 times a week.  My poor container garden is pathetic. It is so depressed it refused to have it's picture taken this week.  I'm already planning how I am going to improve the container garden next year.

Friday, July 8, 2011

It's July Already?

     Wow! When did July happen?  It seems like the kids were just having their last days of school. Now, my oldest has less than a month before his great adventure in middle school begins!  This summer hasn't gone quite how I had planned it.  I imagined swimming at the lake once a week, fun crafts with Thing #2, and playing outside together.  Instead, Thing#1 has spent massive amounts of time hanging out with friends and having sleep overs.  I am really glad that he is old enough to spend time with his friends independently of me, but I miss him a little.  I have actually had to tell him to stay home just so I can see him. My little guy seems to be content as long as his big brother is home.  After about a month, the crafty mornings stopped because I ended up chasing him around the house with paintbrushes.... and if he gets one solitary minute alone he will be creating the best toddler graffiti art ever all over my walls and furniture.  So now in the lull of summer vacation we sit a lot.  I get up and do my "Morning Routine", I attempt to make my 11 year old do some of his chores, and Sage plays.  By the afternoon it's too hot outside to play and we have quiet time.  By this time the say is 2/3ds over we are all lazy and tired from doing not much.  They need to call July the Doldrums of Summer. 
     As for me I'm STILL trying to find a job.  I never remember it ever being this hard EVER.  I have been in school and at home with my children for the last 3 1/2 years so I have no recent job history which probably doesn't help.  Maybe I should put that I am a freelance writer Ha Ha!  I'm still tending what is left of my container garden.  We added our tomatoes we grew into our sloppy joe's last night.  We haven't had enough to make an entire dinner!  I am getting ready to pick a cucumber in the next day or two from the container garden and I might have a few more at my "in the ground" garden.  We have had plenty of green beans from this garden as well, and  I hope to go out this weekend and pick some more.  I'm also still using my FlyLady routine with quite a bit of success.  I have even managed to get all my morning chores done before lunch the past two days in a row!  This is quite a feat with 2 children in the house.  It has made a huge difference in the house even if I only get part of my list done.  I have also started requiring my oldest child to put in 5 minutes a day in the living room.  This is a huge burden reliever for me. Next week is going to be crazy around here and I can use all the help I can get.
     I hope everyone is having a great summer no matter what you are doing.  Remember, Don't worry be happy!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

How Does Your Garden Grow?


This week has been the third week of my battle against poison ivy and the new secondary allergic reaction to who knows what.  Three weeks of itching can get a little old. I have it all over, but and my stomach is the worst.  I finally went to the Dr. and they gave me a steroid shot and a pack of oral steroids to take, plus some medicine to help the itch.  The shot helped out TONS.  I'm starting to itch again and the second reactions just look as red as ever (the photo doesn't do it justice).  The nurse who gave me the shot was great.  I didn't even feel the needle!  I find this amazing, but then it might have ti do with the plethora of extra padding on my hip.  HA HA!
secondary allergic reaction to something on my arm

I refer to these as my ow personal fireworks courtesy of mother nature.


     We also made ice cream this week from a  recipe I found.  I will hopefully get that post up in a few days.  We had so much fun doing it as a family and it tasted good o a hot afternoon.

     The container garden is still plodding along.  The cucumbers are growing and have several fruit on them.  The tomatoes are hanging on and I even have some more tomatoes that I am hoping will make it till picking time.  It just got too hot for the greens.  They sprung up and some have even started to go to seed.  I'm going to do a second planting in September when it cools down.  While I was picking my kids up yesterday at my mother's house, I took a look at my "in the ground" garden.  I donated some supplies to create another raised bed in my Mom's square foot garden so she gave me half of the new bed.  I planted vine cucumbers and 2 varieties of bush beans.  This garden has exploded in the last week.  The cucumbers are just starting, but the beans are finally producing harvestable veggies!  I managed to pick a bowl full yesterday and I am going back Sunday and will hopefully grab some more.  I'm thinking a nice stir fry diner.  Here is a slideshow of my garden at night and day and my combined harvest.  I know it's meager, but my vegetable garden is small. I'm also proud to say I haven't used any chemicals on my plants. Enjoy!
video

Friday, June 24, 2011

Hectic

Who need's paper when you can create art on yourself?

     Life has been crazy at our house lately.  Normally summers around here are lazy and boring.  Since my youngest was born, my older child (who is 11) hasn't had as many play date opportunities because it has been hard to lug his little brother along so I can help supervise.  I think my oldest would die if I said he was going to a play date. I guess they don't call them play dates when they are going to middle school....they are "hanging out".  We are lucky enough to live in a neighborhood filled with kids, so now that he is a little older this year I have let him walk or ride a block or two to a friend's house.  A lot of time the friends wander over to our house.  Then, they all roam around like an unruly pack of feral dogs from house to house. So needless to say with this new freedom, my oldest chooses to hang out with his friends rather than his little brother and his mom.  I guess it's all a part of growing up.  On the other hand my youngest (who is 3) is getting very busy as well.  Unlike his older brother he is not content to sit and play quietly.  The world is his Mount Everest and he is bound and determined to climb and jump off every part of it.  I spend a majority of my day making sure he doesn't end up in the ER.  I try to plan some sort of activity for him each morning.   Sometimes it's playing outside if it's cool enough, or painting on old paper shopping bags.  To top it off I am STILL trying to find a job.  The economy isn't being kind to someone a semester short of having a master's degree. I'm exhausted just thinking about it all.

     When I am not trying to wrangle children I am still tending my mini container garden.  The peas were and EPIC FAIL.  I was able to harvest (if you can even call it that) one tiny little pea pod.  Then they all turned turned a funny color and died.  The cucumbers that I originally thought were going to die are doing better.  One of the plants is doing great.  I have had blossoms ans now there are tiny cucumbers growing on both plants.  The tomatoes are starting to die.  After fending off the hungry bugs by hand picking aphids and other assorted six legged creatures of they now have blight.  I am not spraying anything on them so I have just been trying to slow the demise by picking off and disposing of the damaged part of the plant.  It seems to be working a little.  I had two decent sized tomatoes and I picked them while they were green to save them, and I plan to do that with the rest as they get bigger.  Maybe I will have enough to make a little something by the end. I apologize for not having garden pics this week, but it has stormed for the past 4 days or so.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Hang in There!


Over the next few days (or longer) you might see some cosmetic changes to this blog.  Like me, my blog gets bored with  the same look after a while.  It might take me several changes before I like what I see.  So if there are multiple backgrounds, bad color choices, or the alignment is off here an there, please forgive me.  Sometimes my toddler decides to base jump the kitchen counter and I have to stop blogging to intervene. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Peach Crisp


Yay!  Now that I have canned peaches…what do I do with them?  Originally, I thought I would make a peach pie, but at the end of a busy day I know for sure I don’t want to be making pie crusts.  Then I pondered about a peach crumb cake, but I just made two batches of banana muffins. All of the sudden, Pow! It came to me (All epiphanies should be accompanied by a POW)!  A peach crisp would be perfect.  It is spicy like a pie, crumbly like a coffee cake, but easy and FAST.  This is something a novice Betty Crocker or Susie Homemaker could do.  We all have to start somewhere.

What you’ll need:                                                                             
Filling
2 pints of peaches ( 2 large cans of store canned peaches would work too)
2-3 tblsp all purpose flour
¼ tsp. cinnamon
Topping
(I often make a double batch and freeze half)
1/2 c.  all purpose flour
1/2 c. fast oats
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/2  c. cold butter

Directions:
Drain liquid from peaches.  Pour them in a bowl ( I had to drain them again after I put them I a bowl as well).  Add cinnamon and flour. Stir.  ( Because they are packed in syrup I don't feel they need more sugar)

Combine flour, oats, sugar, and butter in a large bowl ( I chop the butter into small chunks).  Using your hands mix the ingredients until the mixture easily crumbles in your hand.  The butter should no longer be in chunks.  

Pour your peach filling into a pie plate or an 8-9 inch cake pan or casserole dish.  Next crumble the topping over your filling evenly.  

Bake your peach crisp for 30 -40 min at 350 degrees.  The top will be a golden brown.
 
Serve warm with cream, ice cream or whipped topping.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

I Think I CAN!


     I was finally  able to do  little canning this week.  Peaches were on sale this week at one of my local grocery stores.  They aren't technically local, but they come from the next state over, so that's good enough for me.  I have never canned peaches before so I made sure to do a little research first.  It is VERY important when preserving your own foods that you do things in the safest way possible.    The best and most up to date instructions on food preservation can be found on the USDA 's website.  I know some of us like to find instructions on YouTube, but when dealing with food it's best to follow the basic instructions from the government ( or another up to date source).  Now don't get me wrong, I did watch a few YouTube videos to get the gist of things, but I also saw some mistakes made that could make you very sick. 
     To try out canning peaches, I bought 15 or 16 nice sized, ripe yellow peaches.  I figure if I mess up it isn't too big of  blow to my food budget if I mess up.  This many peaches should make about 3-4 pints.  The first thing I did was skin the peaches.  To do this I boiled a pot of water and placed the peaches in the water for about 60 seconds, then immediately placed them in cool water.  The skins of the peaches then slide right off.  I was amazed at how simple it really was.  After taking off the skins, I removed the pits, and sliced the peaches.  You can chose whatever slice size you prefer.  My peaches didn't look to pretty after slicing them, but my stomach doesn't mind ugly food. Next, I mixed in 1/4 c. of lemon juice to try to prevent browning.
You can use the product Fruit Fresh if you like.  Now, I had a slight problem...I had to leave for the afternoon.  I threw my peaches int he fridge and covered them up. When I got home I picked up where I left off, but my peaches had definitely browned.  I proceeded anyway.   I decided to hot pack my peaches because I had read in many sources that this was the best way to go.  I wasn't sure how much syrup to make, so I just followed the recipe of 3 c. sugar and 6 c. water.  I threw in the peaches, and brought the peaches and syrup to a boil.
Meanwhile I sanitized my jars and lids.  When the mixture was ready I pulled each jar out of the boiling water.  I placed a canning funnel on the jar to keep the mess to a dull roar.  I ladled in the peaches and made sure to cover them with extra syrup, making sure to leave the recommended head space in the jar. I used a spatula to remove air, and put the lids on and placed them back into the boiling water.  I processed the jars for 30 min in the water and then removed them.  I made sure to place the hot jars on my counter in a place they wouldn't be disturbed (or touched by an unsuspecting toddler THEY ARE  HOT).  I checked them about 20 minutes later and they seemed to process like they needed.  Unfortunately, the peaches did seem to be floating.  I left them overnight to cool and sure enough they had sunk back down by morning.

  Next time I can peaches I might make a few changes from what I did this time.  I think I might go with a lighter syrup.  The syrup seemed a little sweet to me when I tasted the left over peaches.  Second, I think I will add some more syrup to the jar and maybe pack the peaches in a little tighter.  I have yet to try the peaches I have canned.  I'm a little nervous about the whole thing actually.  That will be the true test of my canning success. 

GARDEN UPDATE:
     The tomatoes seem to be doing well.  I have two tomatoes on each plant.  They get bigger every day.  The salad greens are growing, but I think I planted them a little too late in the year for our climate.  We will see how they go.  You can harvest them at any size, but I would prefer mine to get be triple the size they are right now.  The cucumbers have made a rebound and look great!  I even have a little cucumber starting to form.  Now for the sad story...get the tissues out.  The peas were a failure.  I pulled them out today.   I am hoping to pick up some marigolds cheap to keep the bug population down.  Not everything can be a success.    This winter I will have to do a little research.  Oh an we had some baby birds in the front yard.  They flew away last week, but I was luck enough to capture them.



Wednesday, June 8, 2011

I Found My Sink!

  
     Hi, my name is Amber and I suffer from Chronic Messy House Syndrome.  Kidding aside, I know this is something many of us suffer with.  It crosses all socioeconomic, education, and child status levels.  I have been a messy person almost my entire life.  I think there was only one time that I can remember having an immaculate house, and that was when my oldest son was a baby and toddler. I gave up on immaculate after boy child number two.   Even as a child I was messy.  It was so bad, that every year when I went to overnight camp, my grandmother would come in and purge.  I kept nearly every toy I had growing up.  This probably comes from when I was little and my mother wasn't able to spend money on things like toys.  At one point I was one of those kids that got nothing for Christmas ( one of the children from the other family we lived with gave me a Hot Wheels to make me feel better). When my grandparents got custody of me I was lucky enough to be spoiled rotten, but I still hung on to "things" for dear life.   I am a lot better about getting rid of things than I used to be, because I realize the stuff isn't important.   I try at least twice a year to donate our still in good shape clothes and toys (It's actually mandatory at Christmas to give away 25% of toys to charity).   This cuts down on clutter and makes my children realize, that even though we struggle , there are families that have even less. Since I have been able to keep everything to a dull roar, I have decided I want my house to actually be tidy.  Step in Fly Lady. ( She has a book just go to my Books I Love  in the right column and click on "Sink Reflections")
   I have been a fan of Fly Lady for the past 11 years.  I have used her baby steps to at least minimize the clutter damage.  I  fall of the wagon more often than not.  I am pretty good keeping up the routine when I am at home with my kids in the summer, but the second I am in school or work.......well, you know the story.  I  jumped back on the wagon about a month and a half ago halfheartedly , but I am determined to step it up.  I have already established and adjusted my routine and this week I am adding two more habits.  They are puting away dishes and shining the sink. Today, I actually followed the rules of shining completely... minus soaking the sink in bleach for an hour ( my sink won't hold water for an hour).  I probably won't soak my sink in bleach very often, because I feel like we use to much antibacterial products in our homes (we are all in good health in our home).  I of course always disinfect after meat, illness, and things like that.  If you have someone in the house who is immunocompromised you would of course want to disinfect things on a constant basis.
     Keeping a routine and a clean house is also good for the soul.  I have to admit I am a bit "complicated" leaning on the overused Facebook term "it's complicated", but that's the best way to describe me.  I have had a lot of ups and down's in this life and routine is what always helps me bounce back.  Getting up, getting dressed, and actually doing something, ANYTHING can help a girl start off her day in the right direction.  At one point I literally had to write out a schedule.  Fly Lady doesn't use lists but with my ADD and my "dynamic personality" I find that having a list broken down in small increments (and crossing each of when done) helps me see that I have accomplished something.  Sometimes I will even take before and after pictures, so I can physically see what I have done.
  So check out Fly Lady and see what you think.  Does it work for you?  Just set your timers to 15 minutes and go!

In other news the tomatoes are great, the cucumbers are flowering, the salad greens are growing, and well.... the peas look ill.  I spend a lot of time picking aphids off one plant, but it is paying off!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Storms...Again

Approaching storm  5/26

When it was starting to get a little scary looking 5/26

The edge of the scary clouds

Red sky by night sailor's delight (after storm 5/22)

Edge of storm on 5/22 as it clears out pretty huh?

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Food Choices


     I love to read blogs almost as much as I love YouTube.  The other day while I was navigating an insurmountable amount  of homesteading blogs, I came across an interesting blog 100 Days of Real Food  (You can also find this link on my homesteading page).  It is about a family who has taken a pledge to eat "real food" for 100 days.  The blog tells about them, what rules they are going to follow, and even mini pledges for readers to join.  This all sort of inspired me.  I say sort of because I have a commitment problem hahaha!  I decided instead of taking one of their real food challenges, I would make up my own.  This way I wouldn't be setting myself up for failure.  Anytime I go all out into something it never lasts very long.  So I don't really have any of it outlined yet, but I know for a fact I require high fructose corn syrup on occasion.  Factoring this in  I decided to start by eating more whole wheat and reducing the amount of white sugar in our diet. 
  The first step to conquer,  How do I add whole wheat to our diet without my children noticing (as much)?  Easy!  Bread and muffins!  These are two things we all like.  I had already planned on making banana muffins and wanted to try one of those no kneading bread recipes.  I went on a mission across the internet to find recipes I thought would work.  They had to use whole wheat and no white sugar.  It didn't take me very long to find some recipes to try.  Now there was no turning back.  I got out all the ingredients for the muffins, then mixed them up and tasted the batter.  Well they definitely had a stronger taste and heartier texture than my regular white flour muffin batter.  I was a bit worried about the outcome, but threw them in the oven and crossed my fingers.  As a side note, I don't use paper muffin cups when I bake, so if you do the same thing make sure the tin is greased or you apply cooking spray.  Twenty minutes later I realize the oven was turned down by Thing #2 and the muffins had been baking at 175 degrees.  I turned the oven up and baked them for 15 more minutes and hoped for the best.  Fifteen minutes later my muffins emerged and looked pretty good.

WW Banana Muffins
     While the muffins were baking, I started working on the bread dough.  This was a very simple recipe I found on the back of the flour bag.  I didn't even have to look for it!  Thing #2 and I worked on mixing the dough together and had fun.  It's always a great idea to let your kids help you when you bake.  First spending time together in a positive way does a family good.  Second they start learning skills they will need someday.  I always tell my sons they need to learn to cook and bake, because they shouldn't count on their wives to do everything for them.  Back to the baking.  After mixing the dough together we threw it on a baking pan ( we decided to go with the round bread rather than the loaf).  We let it sit for 90 min to rise covered in a greased peice of plastic wrap.  You could cover it with a towel and it would work just as well.  (A tip for those of us wh turn on the AC, you can put it in your bathroom with the window open and it will be warm enough to rise).  We ended up having to leave for Thing # 1's 5th grade graduation, and threw it in the fridge and crossed out fingers yet again.  When we came home I let it sit out a little before we put it in the oven.  We baked it for the amount of time specified on the pacakge, but it relaly could have stayed in another 5 minutes.  You will have to watch your bread as every oven is different.  The bread came our beautifully.  We sliced into it right away and tried it out.  The boys LOVED it!   Mom earns a star!  We tried the muffins the next day and they were tasty.  Actually Sage has eaten them every day and he is a picky eater.  The boys have had them for breakfast and for snacks.  
WW Homemade Bread (do you see the little face?)

     I may start a page for our own Real Food Challenge.  I also went out and bought a bunch of fresh veggies.  I figured the boys and I could come up with some recipes and try new foods ( or things we don't like).  In other news today is the last day of school for both boys, I continue looking for a job, and  the garden is still alive.
RECIPES FOR MUFFINS AND BREAD ON RECIPE PAGE.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Container Garden Experiment

Week 1

Week 2
Sweet Peas

Petunias

First tomatoes


     I absolutely love to be outside working with flowers and gardening.  Once upon a time I kept a small garden and my Grandmother's house.  I grew cucumbers, beans, strawberries, pumpkins, and tomatoes.  Then Sage arrived grad school happened, and gas prices..well you know about those.  I was just lucky to make it through the day, never mind drive 20 min to garden.  Last year I did attempt to grow some beans and salad greens with no success.  The salad greens germinated then died, my green beans grew to about 6 inches then were eaten by something.  Total fail.  So this year I wanted to try again.  This time I reflected on what may have gone wrong last year.  Maybe the  plants didn't get enough sun in the back?  So this year I planted them in the front.  I have less room, but my garden is very small so it has worked.  Then I thought maybe my plants didn't get enough food?  This year I made sure to feed them when I planted them.  Were they neglected?  I didn't realize container gardens had  different needs than a conventional garden, so I make sure to look at them and care for them twice a day.  I also decided this year to choose disease resistant varieties.  The main goal of my garden this year is to grow something other than flowers, so if I am able to get a few veggies I will be delighted.  I will leave the heirlooms to people who have more luck.
     I have had a few problems in the past few weeks.  The number one issue....RAIN.  We had 5 days of rain and clouds and my plants didn't appreciate it.  They started to get very soggy.  I eventaully pulled them under the roof overhang to try to keep some of the rain away. I think in the future I will place some gravel in the bottom of the containers to allow for more drainage.  My tomatoes looked like they were getting early blight.  I am not sure if this was the case, but I decided to be proactive and carefully removed the lower foliage and any area that looked affected.  It seems to be working and my plants are looking better.  Last but not least I think my cucumbers are in major trouble.  I didn't grow these from seed and I think they brought something with them.  I'm not sure what it is yet, but I can see it growing on the soil around them.  I may just have to remove them if they don't improve :(
     I did plant some veggies in my mother's small garden at her house because a girl always needs a Plan B.  I planted two varieties of bush beans.  They are doing great and have germinated and are starting to grow.  I have also  planted cucumbers at their house.  These are just starting to  pop up out of the soil.
    I will try to post pictures of the garden weekly so everyone can see how it is growing and changing.  If you have any tips about growing veggies in containers let me know.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Easy Like a Sunday Morning

    
      One of my favorite times of the year has arrived!   Strawberry Season!  You can't beat fresh local strawberries that were picked just hours before you load them into your car.  I bought a gallon bucket yesterday, but they are already almost gone .  Yesterday, we had some with lunch, then last night I made shortcake for dinner, and I had more shortcake for breakfast this morning.  Tomorrow, I am going back to buy some more strawberries to make jam and preserves.  I haven't made strawberry jam in forever so the outcome might be interesting to say the least!  It's been such a long time since I canned anything, that I had to go out and buy mason jars.  They don't seem quite as heavy as they used to.  I also didn't know that WalMart made their own jars.  I went with Ball  even though they were more expensive, because that is what I have used in the past and they have always held up to their end of the bargain.
    I am also going to attempt to grow things in containers again.  I've always been able to grow vegetables in the ground (Square Foot Gardening Rocks!), but my last two attempts to container garden haven't gone well.  We will see what happens.  I would have preferred to have larger containers, but anything larger would keep us from being able to navigate our stairs.  I am also hoping they will get enough sun during the day.  I am hoping we get enough that I can make fresh sauces on occasion.  If it doesn't work out it's fine and we are planting beans and cucumbers at my mother's house.
     Our main reason for venturing out today was to get the Sunday paper.  It's the 1st and the good coupons are usually in this Sunday paper.  I looked briefly and wasn't impressed, but I won't form an opinion until I really get to go through it.  I am not an insane coupon fanatic, but if I can get a deal I will take it.  I am trying to figure out a better way to organize everything.  My current system involves an envelope.  I bet you would like to know how that's working out.  It's not.
     Other than that I only have a few other plans this week.  I of course have to sit down and menu plan tonight and get a grocery list together.  I also want to make a few dozen banana muffins. Muffins freeze well and I can whip them out the night before and my kids have a yummy and relatively mess free breakfast.  My fridge and freezer might run away or come to life and devour me whole when I try to open them, so I am planning on gutting those and cleaning them out.  I also  need to start restocking my non perishable supplies.  I try to keep at least a week's worth of these kind of foods in case we ever lost electricity for extended period of time or for whatever reason we couldn't get to the store.  I've had this happen enough times in my life to know that being prepared is key.  I also have to clean my house.  I have been a bit lazy about.  It needs a good purge and scrub.

http://www.uga.edu/nchfp/
http://www.squarefootgardening.org/


Thursday, April 28, 2011

I Thought I Was On The Discovery Channel

from TriCities.com

     As many of you probably all know the Southeast woke up to devastation this morning.  They think that this was the largest outbreak of tornadoes in US History.  I live in an area that rarely sees tornadoes.  This is the second time in a few weeks that area has been hit .  The previous time I watched  a tornado rip through my neighborhood, and while it was small, it left an indelible mark on the people who live here.  I believe that last nights tornadoes will be an experience we talk about for years to come.  I have the luck of living near the only alert system I know of.  I was able to use this, fb, and my cell phone to alert others that I know each time a tornado warning was issued.  Although, one time last night I had a text from a friend before the sirens even went off saying our part of town was going to be hit.  I lost count of how many times we had to hide.  One time our downstairs neighbors came to get us to hide in their closets.  Strangely enough it was my old closet I was hiding in.  Eventually I managed to clean out a small hall closet to put the kids in.  It was scary telling my 11 year old that if something came I would close the closet and he had to try his best to hold on to his 3 year old brother.  I thank God we stayed safe.  Unfortunately this morning there are at least 16 people dead, and many missing and injured.  There re over 200 confirmed dead across the South.  Keep these people in your prayers in thoughts to give them strength in hard times.

If you are looking for anyone the Red Cross may be able to help.
PS.  Excuse the choppy writing I'm a little tired and jacked up on espresso.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

My Exciting Saturday

video

I saw it come right at me with my own eyes. I never want to see a vertical spinning wall of water and wind coming at me ever again. It wasn't bad, but there are several trees down at neighbors homes.  More to come.  These were posted on facebook from people near me. 

Monday, April 4, 2011

Zombies Have Devoured My Brain


Day?? Post Apocalypse.  I don't even know how many days ago I turned of the cable.  My brain has since turned to liquid and oozed out my ear.  The kids seem to be doing great thanks to the nifty Netflix on wii.  I on the other hand can't seem to be satiated by anything other than the good ol' boob tube.  Every time I come in my room and sit on my bed I grab the remote and turn the TV on.  NOTHING.  ARRGGHHH.  I miss you Brian William, Harvey Levin, and Judge Judy!  I think the lack of TV is rotting my brain.  I can't think straight.  I also can't seem to relax at night.  I just turn of the light and lay there.....yup...still laying there.......wide awake....do you get points and prizes for shooting the sheep jumping over your head?   As glimpse at the kind of sick , twisted, and demented sideshow going on  in my brain.  I don't know how I will make it until the end if August.  One positive attribute of no cable TV * drum roll* I wake up and look more refreshed.  I don't think the few extra minutes are helping me meantime mentally, but WOW my eyes looked pretty good for a post 30 grad student.  I saw bags, but NO dark circles   this morning,  I'm tired and if this makes sense in the morning,,,i'll be hornswoggled,    Night.

Friday, April 1, 2011

C Day is Here


     So it's C day.  I came home from school today and the boys were happily watching "The Suite Life on Deck".  I thought YES! My prayers have been answered!  Well,I was wrong.  We get 2 channels without the box (which is being returned).  Strangely enough the two channels we get in are BET and CMT. These are channels no one in the house ever watches. So I just turned the TV off.  We do have a digital converter somewhere in the house with an antenna, but It didn't do much for us the last time we used it.  I figured I might as well go cold turkey.
     Have you ever turned off the TV and noticed just how noisy it is?  We live in a neighborhood.  Now, I am not talking about a subdivision, but and ACTUAL neighborhood.  Tree lined streets with old houses, street parking, and one way streets.  We have music on sunny Sunday afternoons,  a neighborhood organization complete with a website, and a new community garden.  On any day there are lawn mowers, dogs, children, drunk frat boys ( a benefit of living near the university), cars, helicopters, firetrucks, police sirens, ambulances, people walking,  talking, and the list goes on.  I never realized how much the TV drowns out all the outside noises.  Maybe this has become part of the reason why we love our TVs so much.  They block out the outside world.  They leave us to socialize from a distance on our cell phones, Facebooks, and Twitters.  When we are finished talking there is no uncomfortable how do I get out of this moments.  We just stop texting back or turn ourselves to Go Offline.  I know personally, my people skills have declined over the years.  Do I really want to get them out for some fresh air and a jog?   Not really.  Hey!  One step at a time.  You can't cut a girls 400 channels off and expect her to transform overnight.

Julie at Yes Our Kids Eat Veggies has inspired me to go through my pantry and make a Pantry Clean Out menu plan for this week.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Exhausted

     
     I just finished up my second day of student teaching in 6th grade and I am exhausted.  You would think it was because I worked really hard all day, but it isn't.  TCAP prep is happening right now and so I just assist the teacher whenever she needs it.  I got to see a great geometry lesson today.  I took notes and filed it away for later.  Getting my ADD mind back on track....the reason why I am tired is I didn't go to bed until after 2:30 am.  My late night activities were a mixture of wandering around the house aimlessly and watching TV.  Tomorrow is the April 1st  and it is C day.  I plan on doing nothing other than watching TV (and maybe a little YouTube) until I go to sleep.  I keep hoping silently in my head that when I wake up there will still be the basic 27 channels.  This will caress me into the land of no TV, rather than making me go cold turkey.  How is my 11 year old going to entertain himself after 7 pm?  I just keep telling myself that this has to be easier than getting off processed sugar.  If you're wondering, I failed after a month and scarfed down a box of Little Debbie Zebra Cakes. 

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Perfect Timing

    
     Only a few more days of cable left.  I was initially feeling apprehensive about not being able to watch "my shows" (like they are mine alone), but it looks like the powers of the Universe are turning.  I FINALLY got a 2nd student teaching placement.  Better 3 weeks late than never right?  I will be so busy, that I won't probably care if the TV exists.  No TV might even benefit me!  No Nancy Grace drama for 2 hours, no TMZ, Nightline, or the smorgasbord of late late night TV.  On the other hand what am I going to do about my insomnia?  Maybe Middle School will cure me of the years of sleepless nights! 
     On the home front, my kids are in for a rude awakening.  They have just had 3 1/2 weeks of REAL home cooked meals and quality time.  Maybe my goal for the blog this next week can be to come up with some fast and easy home cooked meals for my kids.  Now if I could just hire someone to wash the dishes!

Cutting the Cord


      Beginning April 1, 2011 our  family will be unplugging the cable.  The cable is the first step to ripping off our umbilical cord to electronic  devices that run our life.  Do you ever think of how much time a day you spend on these gadgets?  Over the course of 1 week, the average child watches TV 1,680 minutes (28hrs)!  That's an entire day lost!  This figure excludes all the time we spend on cell phones, computers, and game systems.  If we added those hours in addition, could you even imagine???
     I am a bit apprehensive about this first step into the abyss.  My children are at very different stages in life.  How will they entertain themselves?  I think that Thing 2 will be just fine, but there might be violent withdrawal from Thing 1 (who is 11).  Aside from my children internally combusting, what will I do?  I like to read and I devour books whole.  I can make use of my  kindle to read, and other books to reread, I have my internet for school, and blogging.  I hope I take up things such as cleaning my house, interacting with my children,  homework, creative lesson plans, more homemade meals, and fun out door adventures.  We shall all see.  I may spend tomorrow trying to see if we can pick up a few channels with the antenna.

PS I am bad about proofreading when I am tired.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Reason for Being

    
     Welcome to my new blogging adventure.  I have created several other blogs in the past.  Some of these are now defunct and others are still up and running.  The idea for this blog began when I decided to turn off the cable in our house to save money.  I then thought about slowly unplugging or at least partially cutting the cord to other electronic crutches.  I thought it would be fun for myself and my oldest son to create blogs and share the story.  I have decided to add other areas into the blog as well.  Nothing is set in stone right now and over time I am sure things will change.  Please be patient as I slowly build up content on The Unexpected Life.  Ideas are always welcome.

Test

Attention! This has been a test of the Unexpected Life System.  This is only a test. Beeeeeeep.