Vegetable Gardening

Sarah

Last September I leased a 10 x 10 garden plot.  I’ve done quite a bit of gardening, but I’ve never grown vegetables because I have very little sun in my yard.  My friend and I attempted to grow seeds in those tiny “plantable” containers.  I had them on a table on my patio.  Some had begun to sprout.  Unfortunately we had a torrential rain which poured off my roof onto the table (and seedlings) and washed most of them away.  A disaster!  Next we bought plants at a feed store.  I bought lettuce, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, radicchio, kale and several herbs (thyme, oregano, parsley, cilantro and mint).  I also tried planting seeds directly into the soil because I couldn’t find the plants.  With the help of my sisters we planted everything except the mint which we left in a pot.  Like all of my gardening efforts I’ve met with some success and several failures.  The spinach seeds did not come up.  Some critter ate the kale.  The carrots and beets should have been thinned.  (Next time.)  I had too much lettuce.  How much lettuce can a person eat?  The greatest success has been with the herbs and radicchio which isn’t a vegetable that’s on everyone’s list of favorites.  I’ve harvested some broccoli and several heads of radicchio, and yesterday I pulled up three beets.  I’m hoping to get some cabbage.  We’ll see.

When the fall/winter garden disappears, I have several packets of poppy and larkspur seeds to scatter.  I’m looking forward to enjoying a showy plot before it’s time to shop for summer vegetables.

beets

 

2017 Resolutions

Sarahcamellia-2

Does everyone think of things they would like to do differently in the new year?  The beginning of another year does have the feeling of a fresh start and making positive changes.  Here’s my list:

1.  Practice yoga every day.  I received the book, Yoga As Medicine, for        Christmas which led me to this resolve.  Walking a couple of miles daily has become a habit for me.  Even though I’ve been attending a yoga class twice a week, I’d like the practice of yoga to become a daily habit as well.

2.  Always have fresh flowers in my home.  During the holiday season I’ve had poinsettias, amaryllis and a Christmas cactus which I received last year.  It survived to bloom again!  I also cut camellia blossoms out of my yard.–I tried to find those with long stems.  Also, throw the flowers out when they’ve wilted.  Nothing more depressing than sad flowers and stinky water.  Let me replace those camellias right now!

3.  Live a little more elegantly.  I have beautiful crystal, silver and dishes.  What am I saving it for?  Presentation, even for myself, is important.

4.  Have cosmetic eyelid surgery.  My eyelids are drooping!  Is there a stronger word?  Sagging?  Over hanging?

5.  Share my home with more friends more often.  I enjoy visiting in a small groups.  This means I need to keep certain things on hand:  soft drinks, beer, wine, cheese, crackers, etc.  (I’ll try not to eat and drink it all.)

6.  Post to this blog regularly.  I did a poor job of that in 2016, but I resolve to do better.  I’ve already thought of the next topic.

Wow! 2017 is going to be a very good year.  I’m looking forward to it.

 

 

Freelance Writing

Sarah

I have recently met a young woman (40?) who is a freelance writer.  I think that’s sort of intriguing.  I began to think about trying my hand at freelancing.  It seems that non-fiction is much more likely to be published.  I immediately found a magazine that solicits articles from amateur gardeners.  Hmmm, I really enjoy gardening, and I could certainly write about what not to do in the garden, but I don’t know that I’m really knowledgeable enough to write a “profile of a single plant species or cultivar, including a personal perspective on why it’s a favored plant.”  (600 words).

The other two subjects that I know about are cooking and cats;  however, it seems that most women don’t cook, and those who do, turn to the internet for recipes and culinary advice.   That leaves cats.

I don’t know if dog lovers or cat lovers dominate in pet preference, but there are a lot of cat people out there.  I have three:  Isabella, Oliver and Stella.  Oliver and Stella team up to capture all sorts of creatures.  Today they brought a long, green-striped snake into the dining room through their cat door.  It may be the same snake they’ve caught twice before.  If so, he’s survived and seems to have grown longer.  I managed to sweep him into a bucket before he slithered under the low (and heavy) hutch where they were taunting him.  I then released him in the neighbor’s flower bed and sternly warned him to stay there.  He could easily be snared again if he returns.

Happy New Year

Sarah

It’s resolution time again.  I’ve been thinking about my resolutions for 2016.  I resolve to post something in this blog every week!  Our categories include exercise, fashion, food & drink, gardening, life long learning, mental/spiritual and aesthetics.

For some reason I’m interested in fashion as the new year begins.  I’ve recently purged my closet, determined to remove items that I haven’t worn because they are no longer becoming (sleeveless), out of style or too worn and tired looking.   I also got rid of several pairs of shoes that were uncomfortable or dated (huge cork wedges which I loved).  One of our original goals was to buy fewer clothes but better clothes and to wear only becoming colors.  (See post titled Living Well.)   I guess I can resolve again to follow that advice.

I’ve recently read that we are wise to base our wardrobes on one dark neutral color:  black, navy, brown, charcoal, deep olive, taupe.  A good neutral isn’t trendy, complements your hair and skin and looks great with other colors you like to wear. Black is the most commonly chosen basic color.  It’s easy to find, goes with just about any other color, is slimming, conceals dirt and is a great backdrop for jewelry.  According to Leah Feldon, author of Does This Make Me Look Fat?, if you’re looking for an easy to manage wardrobe scheme, pick a darkish neutral or two that you like and that suit your skin tone and build your wardrobe around them.   You may have done this without realizing it.  What’s the dominant color in your closet? Personally I’m always torn between black and brown.  I wear almost all the dark neutrals though not much navy.  Of course, some seasons some colors are hard to find, but the search could be worth it.  Besides we’re shopping for classic pieces that can be worn for years.–I’m inspired!– Let’s go shopping.

 

 

Cat Antics

Thanks, Stella!

Thanks, Stella!

Sarah

Some of us are dog lovers, and some of us are cat lovers.  I like dogs, but I’d rather live with cats.  Since adulthood I’ve had several cats:  Louisa, Mathias, Tomas, Miranda and currently Isabella, Oliver and Stella.  Isabella is a sort of a dusty yellow with gold eyes.  She’s very independent–doesn’t like to be picked up or held.  Olivier is a black and white tuxedo cat whose muddy paw prints I find everywhere.  Stella is slim, brindled/gray girl and very friendly.  She and Oliver are good friends.

There are advantages and disadvantages to owning a cat.  They are wonderful hunters.  I think it was the Egyptians who valued cats for protecting their grain from mice and rats.  I’ve read that the well fed cat is the best hunter.  He (she)’s able to be more patient.  Cats discourage snakes.  The cat finds a snake highly entertaining much to the snake’s displeasure.

My cats are able to come and go as they please through a cat door.  It’s very convenient for me and for them; however, over the years I’ve had lots of unwanted critters in my house–live prey brought in by the brave hunters:  two snakes, birds, a bat, several moles, a rat (dead), a couple of crawdads, numerous frogs, toads and lizards.  Yesterday I returned home to find Stella batting at something under the grandfather clock in the dining room.  It turned out to be a half grown squirrel!  I don’t know how the live squirrel got in the house.  She may have chased it in the cat door!  I had gardening gloves and a pillow case ready, but fortunately my neighbor arrived, donned heavy gloves, reached under the clock, grabbed the squirrel and deposited him in a small cage.  The squirrel was unharmed in spite of his ordeal–and mine.

 

 

Great Gifts

Gifts

Great Gifts

Sarah

This was a wonderful Christmas season for me which culminated with a visit to Susan’s home in Austin on Christmas Day where we began the festivities with raw oysters and champagne provided and served by her son and son-in-law.  Gift exchange around the Christmas tree followed.

As one approaches (or has attained) the age of 70, consumable gifts are often the most desirable, and I again received lots of those gifts this year:  a box of grapefruit from Pittman and Davis, pecans from San Saba, Texas and Georgia, homemade jalapeno jelly, tomato jam and pickled okra and several bottles of wine.   I also got some sweets which I really tried to share with others.–Too tempting to have in the house!  I ordered coffee, dark chocolate and almonds from Equal Exchange which is a Fair Trade worker-owned co-op which distributes a variety of organic products produced by farmers in Africa, Asia and Latin America.  I think they also offer tea and cocoa.  I sent grapefruit and oranges to family members as well.–Have you noticed that we give things we like to receive?

In case you’re wondering what I’m doing with all those pecans I got, I found this recipe.  The result is even more tempting than sweets for me!–I’d better give them away.

Toasted Pecans from Cotton Country

12 cups pecan halves

1 stick butter

Salt

Place pecans in a 17 x 12 inch pan in a 300 degree oven.  Toast 30 minutes to dry; then add 1 stick butter, sliced.  Let pecans get completely greasy, stirring once or twice.  After pecans and butter have mixed well, sprinkle with salt generously and stir very often sprinkling with salt each time as all the salt does not stick to the pecans.  Toast pecans one hour or more to desired taste and until butter has been absorbed.

Good Advice

Sarah

I bought a book titled Shopping for the Real You by Andrea Pflaumer.  There are a few gems in the book.  One point that the author makes is the importance of a good haircut and good shoes.  While I’ve always subscribed to the merits of a good haircut, I’ve been lax in the purchase of shoes.  I’ve bought several inexpensive pairs that aren’t really that comfortable, or I’ve bought a pair that’s fills only a need for a special occasion.  Here’s what Andrea writes:

“Years ago there was an article in Town & Country magazine that ran down the principles of making a home look affluent and refined.  If you did just two things, the piece said, you could achieve the look of elegance.  Lay out the money for expensive picture framing and good Persian carpets.  I would say dressing well follows a similar rule.  If you splurge on only two things make them the things people see framing you face and anchoring you to the ground:  your hair and your shoes.  Well cut, healthy hair will make any outfit look better and will make you feel good inside.  Well-made beautiful shoes will do the same.  More important, they will likely be comfortable which can definitely show on the outside.”

I’m going to make an appointment for a hair cut this week, and I’m turning over a new leaf in 2016.  From now on I’m shopping only for well-made beautiful shoes.  I’m sure my feet will appreciate this resolution!   It also conforms to our original goals:  buy less but better.  Happy New Year!

 

Poached, Fried, Boiled or Scrambled

Sarah

Several years ago, eating eggs (particularly egg yolks) fell out of favor, but it turns out that eggs are an excellent food.  They are good for our skin and our eyes because they provide two key nutrients:  choline and lutein.  It seems that choline, a member of the B vitamin family, helps our bodies maintain proper levels of other B vitamins.  Our skin needs B vitamins to  produce energy and manufacture collagen and elastin, those two substances that seem to dwindle with age.  Lutein is another great reason to eat eggs.  It preserves skin’s elasticity and prevents free radical damage to skin cells.  Lutein is also essential for maintaining good vision and helping to prevent macular degeneration.  An egg a day can boost your lutein levels by 26%. Impressive!  I just tried the recipe below:  eggs with the bonus of veggies!

Italian Vegetable Custard

4 eggs

½ c. flour

2 c. coarsely shredded yellow summer squash

1 c. coarsely shredded zucchini

½ c. Kalamata olives, divided

2 T. grated Parmesan cheese

1 t. dried basil leaves

½ t. garlic salt

6 very thin tomato slices

1 small onion, think sliced and separated into rings

½ c shredded Monterey Jack cheese (2 oz.)

Heat oven to 450 degrees.  Beat eggs and flour in medium bowl until smooth.  Add yellow squash and zucchini and ¼ c. olives, mixing well.  Spread in greased 8-inch square pan.  Bake just until custard is set, about 10 min.  Mix Parmesan cheese, basil and garlic salt; sprinkle over custard.  Top evenly with tomato, remaining olives, onion and Jack cheese.  Bake until cheese is melted, about 4 min.  Serves 4 generously.

Daylilies–One of My Favorites

Great Color!

Great Color!

Sarah

According to garden.org few plants are as rugged, widely adapted, or versatile as daylilies (hermerocallis).   They require little care, multiply freely and tolerate a variety of conditions–full sun to light shade, dry or poor soil.  The colors are myriad:   pale yellow (almost white), gold, orange, bronze, rusty red, purple.  There are many daylily collectors that know the names of their special plants.    While I can appreciate those special blossoms and their often creative names, I’m not a collector.  I value daylilies for their impact on the landscape.  I love the splashes of color that a clump of daylilies adds to the garden.  May is the best month for them in Texas.  I prefer the yellows, bronzes and oranges.  Their blooms are particularly nice when paired with the blue lily of the nile (agapanthus) or plumbago if you have a sunny spot.  I have finally learned that it’s most effective to repeat plants in your garden.  I have daylilies scattered throughout.  They are so rewarding, blooming dependably every year, and since they multiply and need to be divided periodically, there are often plants to share with friends and neighbors. They can be planted at any time of the year but preferably February through April or September and October.  Regrettably the individual blossom lasts only one day (hence the name), but  usually one bloom follows another for a colorful show.  If you don’t already have this great plant in your garden, find someone who does and ask them to share.  I believe the blossoms are edible.  Hmmm, I’m afraid deer may know that too!

Hooray for Nuts & Seeds

Sarah

Do you like nuts and seeds?  If not, you may want to learn to like them.  It seems that people who eat nuts face a lower risk of weight gain, type 2 diabetes and heart disease.  Nuts provide protein, healthy fat and fiber.

Almonds and sunflower seeds boost fiber intake significantly. An equivalent serving of pistachios and pecans offers an effective alternative.

Experts tell us that we need fat as part of our diet.  Walnuts and flax seeds, in particular, boost our healthy fat intake because they contain alpha-linolenic acid, a type of omega-3 fatty acid. This type of fat helps maintain brain function, nourishes your red blood cells and helps fight excess inflammation.  Sounds good! Select English walnuts to boost your omega-3 intake.  Flax seeds also provide a rich source of omega-3s.

I eat almost any kind of nut though pecans are my favorite.  I also eat sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds; however, I’ve never eaten flax seeds.  How do you eat them?  I believe a flax seed is about the size of a sesame seed.  Apparently you can sprinkle them on cereal or your salad, add them to a smoothie or add the ground form to baked goods like muffins, breads and pancakes.  I think you can also take ground flaxseed in the form of a pill.—Not too appealing.  Nutritionists also advocate eating chia seeds and sesame seeds.–I haven’t eaten chia seeds, and about the only sesame seeds I’ve eaten have been on top of a hamburger bun.   Again, these seeds can be sprinkled on a variety of foods.  You can also eat sesame paste (tahini) spread on toast or crackers.  I might try that.  Studies show that sesame oil may improve brain health.—Who doesn’t want that?  I believe I had some oil, but I failed to use it before it became rancid.  Time for a new bottle because  I’m ready to expand my variety of seed intake and reap the benefits!