Momma Dun Raised Me Right

      My mother is a tightwad. Growing up it would occasionally drive me crazy.  Now, as an adult with my own financial goals and my own set of bills, that I have still been unable to find someone to cover for me, I have adopted some of those same behaviors.  Earlier this year, I started planning a trip to NYC for J and I and quickly abandoned it (not forever) because I wasn't mentally prepared to give away so much of our hard earned money.  At the same time that I made that decision I'm thinking things like, "You only live once!", "You can't be buried with your money.", and "Carpe Diem!!".  Nonetheless, my frugality got the best of me and I chose no at least for now.
      A a few weeks ago J returned from a trip to Florida with a friend and while there he decided that we need to get a kayak or canoe.  At first I see dollar signs.  I don't state any objection but rather ask if he has looked at any or knows the price range.  He begins his research and I begin to think.  Inevitably, J convinces himself we don't need a kayak and I react completely opposite to how I expect to act.  I take us to a couple of shops to just "look" at kayaks for fun knowing that if Justin really wanted one but was just refraining from getting one to save money that seeing them would bring him back around to purchasing one.  That day we picked our kayak and accessories and I went back two days later and purchased it.  The whole purchase cost us a sizable amount of money.  My response, both internal and external, was pure excitement and joy!  I kept looking for the stress of parting with that much money to creep in or the regret to poke its head around the corner but it never did.  This was truly remarkable for me.
      I thought about this reaction for several days trying to figure out what it was about the purchase that left me feeling stress- free and excited whereas spending that money on a vacation choked me with stress.  The kayak, I realized, is an avenue for many memory creating opportunities and quality time spent together in nature for Justin and I. Additionally, he can take it out alone, a perk of the kayak we chose, or he can take other friends out. Thus, creating other fun memories.  I think this is why it never once stressed me to drop all of that money.  The kayak will provide us with so much more than a one time vacation would and for many, many years.  The other neat thing about the kayak is that it's our thing.  Our friends aren't necessarily looking to purchase a kayak and come along with us.  This was a present to ourselves as a couple to enjoy together.  In fact, we purchased it as our present to each other for our second wedding anniversary which passed last week.  This actually started a new tradition for us.  For future anniversaries instead of purchasing presents for each other we are going to get something for "us" as a couple since that's what we are celebrating anyway!

Its nice to know that my ingrained frugality can take a break when it truly deserves to...another quality of my mother.  The USS Lily Pad embarked on its maiden voyage two weeks ago and will hopefully have many more fruitful trips over the years!


Everything Belongs

       About two or three weeks ago Justin and I paid a visit to his parents house out in the country of Carencro, off of a properly titled road named Wilderness Trail.  His mom, Peggy, is a big inspiration to me for my gardening and natural endeavors.  She has a large vegetable garden, an herb garden, about 3-4 other grouped gardens, around 10-15 bird houses, a rabbit named Petey Pie (my 4 year old niece may have played a hand in naming her), a bird named Polly, several fish, and probably close to 100 potted plants.  While we were there, Mrs. Peggy showed me a mockingbird nest under the patio on her shelving unit of plants (pictured to the right) just a few feet away from where we, adults and children, were hanging out and relaxing.  Within the nest lay four eggs colored teal with brown spots.  My initial response was excitement, but then waned into concern.  I don't know a lot about birds but I've always heard mockingbirds were pretty aggressive and here we all were standing around the nest just asking for the mom to show us who's boss!  I voiced my concern to Mrs. Peggy and she simply said, "Oh no girl, that bird knows me.  She's always coming around and she lets me get close to the nest even when she is around."
    This past weekend Justin and I visited again and I was wondering how the little eggs were fairing.  To my excitement (I don't use that term lightly here- I was REALLY excited), the babies had hatched!  I wanted to see the birds, but again a little fear crept up inside of me.  I had seen the momma mockingbird bringing nesting material and food back to the nest several times while we sat outside so I knew she was around and watching.  Again, Mrs. Peggy laughed my anxiety away and we checked out the hungry birds.  They were really living the luxurious life if you ask me.  These birds are nestled between tons of potted plants in the shade where most predators wouldn't be brave enough to venture to with the amount of human activity occurring.

     I was really surprised by my reaction to the birds nest being so close.  Growing up we are taught this idea of taming nature.  Nature belongs in the city park or on a camping trip but not under the covered patio two feet away from the playing children and toddlers, right?  With my undoubted love for nature- which I've always fostered to varying degrees growing up- I was even ready to tame the processes of Mother Nature to where I saw fit.  I hope that with time I can foster the integration of my cultural and daily life with the natural world around me.  Maybe one day I'll see a bird and be able to tell Mrs. Peggy, "Don't worry, she knows me!"


Rowdy Neighbors!

Does it mean I live in the country if these are some of my neighbors?

Mardi Gras Stir Fry

BEFORE: A few veggies from the garden.
Look at the size of that squash!!!

AFTER: Veggie stir fry...yummy!



Several years ago I left the church that I grew up in.  For me it was a long time coming and I found great relief in finally following my heart and instinct.  I have greatly missed one thing that church provides the space for and encourages: meditation.  Since meditation, for me, had always occurred in conjunction with a religion in a religious setting, I didn't know how to find and develop a space for contemplation after my beliefs changed.  Of course, I've read yoga and zen articles that tell you how to meditate or Buddhist thoughts on the topic but I was still unable to do it.

To a certain extent, my life is sort of a living meditation.  I work a job that I enjoy and perform well.  I come home and tend to the garden, cook, or read. I don't have the typical distraction of a TV (although the computer tends to take its place) or the hectic life style of a parent.  I intentionally try to keep my life simple and balanced.  Attempts are made to find life lessons in most things I do.  Yet, I still yearn for the sitting contemplation of my past but with a different focus then before.

One day a couple of weeks ago I decided to lug my flea- market blue chair to the very back corner of the property to position it right under a canopy of oak tree limbs.  At the time, I wanted to enjoy the lovely spring weather, watch the wildlife flutter around the property, and distance myself from the highway in front of our house.  I have continued to spend about thirty minutes in my chair each day.  I've begun to notice subtle changes in nature that take place daily and have started recognizing different plant and bird species- just in two weeks.  The biggest change that I've noticed, though, is in myself.  Reflecting on the external processes continuously leads me to reflection and contemplation on the internal of myself.   The quiet sitting and thinking has lead me to recognize disturbances within myself that I didn't know were there.  Its lead me to consider relationships in my life, past and present, and the positives and negatives those relationships provided.

Along the way, I've made a handful of true, soul-stirring friendships.   Some of these friends are still in my life actively, others passively.  The most striking piece for me though, is the grieving I've done for friendships that can no longer be what they once were.  People change, life changes, and that requires friendships to change sometimes.  Its a hard process to accept this simple truth when its someone that you felt so connected to at one point or another.   It wasn't until I found myself sinking into meditation on my little piece of earth, that I even realized one can grieve over friendships lost or changed.  It simply never occurred to me.  That's the beautiful thing about being still and listening.  Not to be confused, the feelings I experienced weren't regret or frustrations.  I simply allowed myself the space and time to realize and accept the passage of things that once were in my life in a distinct way and now are not in my life in the same way.

My longing for a spot and way to meditate has finally been met through a happy accident and a longing just to enjoy nature.  I should have recognized long ago that Mother Nature would be my passage way to contemplation again but I guess I'm not that bright!  For now this is my new found form of meditation.  Eventually, it will change because contemplation isn't a static experience.  It requires you to ebb and flow along with it and adapt to the changes it requires of you.  I'll deal with that issue when it arrives.


Mini Veggies

 I love watching the vegetables grow in the garden.  i find it both beautiful and intriguing!  Here's a few more pics from the garden that I took yesterday.

Oriental Eggplant blossom

Oriental Eggplant growing

Baby Jalapeno!

Lots of basil

Mini squash


Updated Photos of the Garden

I purchased this lavender plant a few weeks ago from the Hub City Farmer's Market.  It's grown a lot since I potted it and it smells wonderful!  In the background is my favorite little blue chair I got from an antique store/ flea market.
I just purchased this transplant last week from a guy people call "The Professor".  He grows and sells transplants and fresh veggies from home for a killer price! Most of the transplants are $1 and his veggies are cheaper then at the grocery store.  You can even pick a gallon of blackberries for only $10- that's only $2 a pint!  This particular bell pepper will actually be purple when fully grown!  The Professor had some already full grown peppers and they are beautiful!

This is a very small sampling of our blackberries!  I can probably pick 2-4 cups a day of berries right now, if I had time, and there are just as many red berries that will be ripening soon.  It's been great having the huge production this year.  I've made a few desserts with them and have been putting them in my salads for lunch frequently.  The best part is being able to "gift" freshly picked blackberries to friends and family.  I can even show them the little cuts I got on my hands from the thorns from picking their berries that morning. That's a labor of love!

Figs in waiting!  Our fig tree has loads of unripened figs just soaking up the sun and waiting for their time to shine!  We may put some kind of netting or a fake owl in the tree to deter birds from eating the sweet fruits.

A peak at the front beds of the house.  You can see Frank the Frog defending the garden, the varigated liriope, the nandina bushes, and the newest addition to the garden, caladiums! 

Front to back: Garlic chives, Roma tomato plant in wire hoop, jalapeno plant, a very dry rain barrel, wood pile.

The tomato plant is hard to see behind the freshly planted, sprawling chives but the plants are doing very well! 

Green beans! This is one of several plants producing beans.  I will be snapping those suckers off today and preparing a delightfully fresh dish with them! 


Bird Feeder

    About two months ago I attended a local Arts and Craft Fair/ Farmer's Market that happens annually near my home.  One of the vendors had little homemade bird feeders made mostly out of 1by 2's and 3's and mesh wiring.  They were cute, practical, and seemingly inexpensive to make so I studied the feeders and decided to try my hand at building one soon.  I kept a look out for scraps of wood my husband would bring home from his many remodeling jobs and Mother's Day weekend I decided it was time to create the feeder since cardinals, blue jays, and red- winged black birds were gracing the yard daily!
    I searched through the scrap wood pile and found a number of pieces that would work perfectly for my feeder and then set off to find a skill saw in the shed to begin. Somehow, with the multitude of tools my husband owns, I was unable to locate a saw.  Since he has been working on a large job I assumed all tools were with him for the day.  Suddenly, I had to revisit my bird feeder plans.  
    In the corner of one of our sheds Justin has a dozen or so logs stored up to use for creating sculptures (once he has both a bigger shop and more time).   My two or three creative genes started up.  I had logs and I had chisels.  Thus, the new, impromptu bird feeder plan was birthed.  The new plan consisted of using a chisel to create a circular recession a half inch deep at the top that could be filled with bird feed (in this case safflower seeds for cardinals) and then, in a very rustic way, sit nestled between a couple of nandina shrubs right out front of our living room window.  I set to work removing parts of the wood and about thirty minutes later, my feeder was sitting in its new home.  

    While I don't typically do any woodworking/ chiseling/ sculpting (Justin is the artistic and creative one in this match) I really enjoyed the simplicity of the little project and working with the wood.  Justin promises to teach me more about carving correctly and efficiently in the future, but for now I can mark "Making My Own Bird Feeder" off of the to do list.  
    Now, I'm just waiting for those cardinals to start fluttering around the feeder for a delightful show in front of our window! 


Tomatoes and Peppers

         Its been a few weeks since I invested a little time and energy into the garden.  Mothers day worked out to allow for free time during the day, so I took full advantage of my time and the beautiful day and tended to the garden.  The veggies are looking a lot better since I added the Miracle Gro a couple of weeks ago but I still wanted to add a little top soil under each plant to reduce the amount of compost.  This, as you can imagine, was somewhat time consuming to achieve.  The black weed paper was one obstacle I had to overcome.  I thoroughly enjoy not having to pick weeds (yet) out of the garden thanks to the paper so it was important that I didn't rip the paper too much and have gapping holes.  The other concern is obvious: the plants are rooted in their location and I didn't want to uproot them.  With painstaking care, I added enough topsoil to make myself feel better and offer a little incentive to the plants to continue growing.  I did, of course, rip a huge hole in the black paper in one area of the garden but, ah, what's a girl to do!

Roma Tomatoes
(The variety I am growing) 
        I also transplanted my three tomato plants and a banana pepper plant.  I had previously moved the tomato plant seedlings to clay pots outdoors to give each plant more room to grow.  The plants quickly became larger transplants and looked great.  When I finally moved them to the garden I was amazed at the speed in which the roots grew.  It seems like the roots must have been out of room to grow a week or two ago without my realizing it.  I carefully transplanted the four plants into a lovely mixture of top soil, native soil, and compost.  Hopefully, delicious ripened tomatoes and peppers will make it to my table soon!

         The green bean stalks are starting to flower and the fig tree is starting to produce figs (not yet ripe).  I plan to get a camera soon so that I can share photos of whats going on.  We already have a camera but its designated for the business since Justin takes a lot of pictures for work.  My last little project yesterday was one of inspiration rather than a "to do".  More on that for my next post!


A Little Left of Well

I've been sick for nearly two weeks now so it's been a little while since my last post.  On top of that, the garden is struggling and hanging on for dear life due to some mysterious cause.  The leaves of the plants were turning yellow instead of a bright and happy green and it seemed that the plants' growth was stunted but there were no bugs to be seen and I don't suspect any type of disease.  We have a few hypotheses for the culprit: too much watering, not enough watering, high levels of chlorination in our water, too much compost, the garden gods are against us.  After talking it over with a few family members that garden and are much more skilled than I, we decided to get Miracle Gro for vegetables (which I was mildly saddened to have to purchase) and 200 ft of extra hose so that we can better water our garden.

Side note on the watering situation: The garden is about 200 ft from our outside source of water.  We have a rain barrel that we put out a couple of months ago with the intent of watering the garden with rain water but it has rained exactly time since we put it out, so no watering from the rain barrel yet.  I was lugging jugs of water to water the veggies until today.  (See why I blame the garden gods?  One dose of rain in two months, really?  I guess the garden gods forgot the phrase, "April showers, bring May flowers".)  Ok, back to the story.

This 200 ft. of hose just made my life and my garden so much better.  I expect that with the Miracle Gro, the new found source of water, and the Alaska Fish Fertilizer we have been using, our garden will recover in no time.

Since I haven't been out in the yard for about a week now because of my sickness, I was delightfully surprised by our blackberry bush.  Four cups of plump blackberries were ready for the picking and literally hundreds of red berries are patiently waiting to turn black.  I doused the bush with water (thanks to my new hoses) to encourage nice plump berry production.

For the first time back in the garden in a week, it felt really nice to be out there and feel like I was being productive with the garden.  I still need to transplant our tomato plants which look great and I need to pot the lavender transplant I bought from the farmers market.  Those thing will have to wait until Monday though, because Festival International is this weekend and plenty of good music, friends, and food are awaiting!


Clean Simply

I love the idea of simplifying my life as much as possible.  Do away with the mental, emotional and physical clutter.  Even when my post doesn't focus on this Zen topic, you will probably see it as a theme through them.  Mother Teresa once said, "Live simply so that others may simply live."  Simple yet profound.

Don't worry- this post isn't going to tell you to get rid of your home or clothes.  Rather, I want to share with you about a couple of new books I purchased (both in the neighborhood of $6!).

clean: the humble art of zen cleansing by Michael de Jong is packed with practical, useful information in spite of its pint- size appearance.  Jong gives you remedies for everyday household cleaning needs such as cleaning counters, tubs, and sinks as well as even bigger task like getting mud out of carpet or removing wallpaper.  You may not be impressed yet since you probably have a store bought cleaning product for each of these needs.

Jong uses only 5 ingredients for ALL cleaning needs: Baking Soda, Borax, Lemon, Salt, and White Vinegar.  Most task only require one or two of these ingredients.  I've tested out several of his concoctions and was delightfully surprised!  I've already made an agreement with my mom to bring her my over 20 store bought cleaning products for use at her store.  I can't wait to have the extra space to store gardening supplies (we have a small house!).

I'll give you one recipe to test out before moving on to the next book (also by Jong).

"Mix one- quarter cup borax and one- quarter cup baking soda to make the best bathroom and kitchen cleanser ever. Add some salt as an abrasive, if necessary" (120).

To my delight, Justin discovered another book by Jong called, clean body: the humble art of zen- cleansing yourself.  I don't know about you, but I find it outrageous what a girl has to pay for a good moisturizer or exfoliating cream. Jong, again, gives you five ingredients to tackle all of your bodily cleaning needs: Baking Soda, Lemon, Olive Oil (really good quality), Salt, White Vinegar.

I tested out his facial scrub this morning and loved it.

"In a gentle, circular motion, apply this homemade facial scrub: a brew of three parts baking soda to one part water.  Rub the scrub in gentle circles from your forehead to your jawline to your chin, taking your time as you go.  Rinse super well to reveal a clean, fresh- scrubbed mug.  No need to towel yourself; just let your skin air- dry" (53).

Jong looks at ways to clean and enhance elbows, knees, faces, feet, hair, hands, mouth, privates (yep), scalp, skin, and even your tush.

Try these recipes for yourself and see what you think.  If you have a specific need that you would like to see what Jong's remedy is for that problem, let me know and I'll see what his advice is.  I know our local library has a copy of the first book (actually I still have it!), so check there first before you purchase the books if you aren't sure you are going to like them.  I know I'm looking forward to simplifying, saving money, increasing my storage space, and having less chemicals in my home!


Eggs: It Does the Body Good

Since Easter is nearly upon us and a big part of the Easter celebration includes dying hard- boiled eggs, I thought it fitting to spotlight the often forgotten about hard- boiled egg. Justin and I eat two boiled eggs nearly every morning of the work week.  Each Sunday, while cleaning house and working in the yard, I put about a dozen eggs boiling to supply our breakfast for the whole week.

There are a number of reasons that I do this.  One reason is the fact that eggs are really good for you!  Two eggs provide the following: 12.6 g of protein which have 18 different amino acids ; 10.6 g of fat (3.3 g of saturated), 56% of the DRI for selenium, 24% of DRI for phosphorus (helps store energy), 14% of the DRI for zinc, 46% of the DRI for riboflavin and viamin B12, 40% of the DRI of choline (boost brain health), 28% of pantothenic acid, 12% of folate, large amounts of Vitamin B, 22% of the DRI for vitamin A, 6% of vitamin E, 352 mcg of lutein (antioxidant that promotes healthy skin and eyes).  Many say that the cholesterol found in eggs can be bad for you so they recommend limiting the amount of eggs you eat.  New research shows that the type of cholesterol in eggs is actually the "good" kind of cholesterol.  While, I am not in any way a health adviser or telling any of my readers what to do, I would prefer to eat eggs with the chance of increased cholesterol (even "bad" cholesterol) than to eat the other types of readily available breakfast foods.

This brings me to my second reason for dining on eggs for breakfast.  I don't like to prepare breakfast in the morning.  Plan and simple.  If I don't have my boiled eggs, I end up not eating breakfast 90% of the time.  Unfortunately, most quick prep breakfast items are bad for you.  Most cereals are loaded with sugar and rarely contain enough vitamins and minerals to last you to lunch.  This is the same for pre-packaged oatmeals.  Regular old steel- cut oatmeal is a good alternative for breakfast but is a little more time consuming to prepare.  If I had the gumption to make a good breakfast before work I would definitely consider steel- cut oatmeal with fresh fruit, honey and a little brown sugar and cinnamon.  Another alternative would be plain yogurt with fresh fruit.  (Not the fruit- flavored yogurt you can purchase in stores.)

I love the simplicity and lack of effort it takes to prepare the eggs (I hate doing dishes!).  This is how I boil my eggs.

1) In a pot with enough cold water to cover eggs, place the desired number of eggs to be boiled.
2) Turn stove on medium high- you want the water to come to a slow boil and not a roaring boil that will crack all of your eggs before they're boiled!
3) Continue boiling eggs for 5 minutes.
4) Cut the heat off, place pot on another cool burner and cover.  Let sit for 15- 20 minutes.
5) Rinse eggs with cold water multiple times.  If the eggs continue cooking, the yoke will turn a greenish color which is still delicious but a little dry.

*I don't add any salt to the water for boiling or to the eggs when I eat them.  I get more than enough salt in my other meals so I keep it simple and healthy in the morning.

We currently purchase the two and a half dozen trays of eggs a week but will eventually rely on our own chickens once our yard is "chicken ready".

Happy Easter and 
Happy Eating!

References for statistics:


Hub City Farmer's Market

Every Saturday from 8 am- 12 pm the Hub City Farmer's Market is bustling with several vendors and shoppers looking for the freshest vegetables, breads, tamales, etc.  I rarely make it to the market because I work many Saturdays and its all the way across town.  Plus, if you want the good pickin's, you need to get there first thing in the morning.  When I am not working on Saturdays, I don't like to rush out of the house early in the morning.  I planned to go this Saturday though with by baby nephew, Jaxson, in tow.  We met a friend at the market closer to 11- which was really too late to get any of the vegetables I wanted.  The good thing is that everyone's signs still said what they had sold that day (even if sold out) which is helpful for my next trip in a couple of weekends.  

There were several booths dedicated to just vegetables.  The largest one being the Gotreaux Family Farm.  This family is really unique.  They have a huge farm, I actually toured it once, and not only practice organic farming but practice nutrient dense farming.  This may be confusing to some but there is a difference.  Organic farming is really about what you don't add to your veggies or soil (chemicals, pesticides, etc.).  Nutrient dense farming is that plus adding organic matter that increases the nutrients in the vegetable.  There were of course other booths selling vegetables but unfortunately for me, all that was left were beets and swiss chard which I was not looking to purchase today.

Click here to go to the  Hub City Farmer's Market website
One of the vendors was a younger guy selling plants that he grew from seeds in his greenhouse in Lafayette.  He had a great selection of herbs and vegetables and other houseplants.  I was in the market for lavender and he had several beautiful plants for me to choose from.  My friend purchased a pineapple sage plant along with a hanging basket of "culinary herbs".  

We moved down to a booth that sells roasted coffee.  I was intrigued, being that I LOVE coffee.  We asked her about where she got the coffee from and how she roasted it at her home in Lafayette.  The coffee I purchased is from Nigeria and the growers parents actually live here and are friends with the vendor.  Thus, she simply buys the "green" beans directly from the grower and then she roast them upon arrival.  At the market, she only sells what she has roasted that week.  

There were other booths that were selling items from beautiful homemade cypress furniture to baby bibs and even painted decorative flamingos for your garden.  I didn't recall seeing these booths the last time I went so I inquired.  It turns out that every third Saturday of the month craft vendors set up shop along with the vegetable growers and bakers.  

The market is a great place to start becoming a Locavore even in small ways.  Its a great feeling to talk to the farmer or person who produced the product you are purchasing because you know you are not just getting quality food but supporting that family.  The market is also a great place to get advice!  The vendor who hand raised seedling plants (whom I purchased my lavender from) was more than happy to give me advice AND tell me some of his failures so that I didn't attempt them.  Who knows, maybe one day I'll have a booth there, assuming I have more successes than failures in the gardening department. 

So all you need to do now is GO to the market!

When: The market takes place EVERY Saturday, year round from 8-12
Where: The Oil Center, 427 Heyman Street 
Who: Anyone can attend, it is a great family atmosphere with many of the vendors children there helping out



Ok, so maybe the title is a bit exaggerated!  I'll explain.  I have a morning routine of checking on and watering my front beds and my vegetable garden in the back.  I particularly love doing it right now because its still a bit chilly (at least for this Southern girl) at 7:00 am in the shade.  To get to my garden I have to walk through about a 1/4 acre of shade and then get the pleasure of being kissed by the morning sun when I make it to the garden.  We chose a spot in the yard for the garden that gets plenty of sun!  Presently, its a nice little routine but soon enough it will be hot and humid at 7 am, so I'll enjoy this weather while it last.  In the evening, I have a similar routine: check on vegetables, check on fig tree, check on pear tree, and check on blackberry bush.

While, there isn't much change each day I enjoy seeing the process of growth for the different fruits and vegetables.  The pear tree has budding pears that are only about an inch long and half an inch wide.  Because we haven't had a good rainfall in over a month, they have remained that size for a while.  The fig tree's leaves are big and beautiful but figs haven't started growing yet.  The blackberry bush on the other hand, started producing red berries last week so I have anxiously been awaiting the change from red to black each day.  Our bush was actually already here when we purchased our home.  At that time, it was a small little bush that wasn't terribly noticeable.  In the two and a half years that we have lived her, the bush (left to its own devices) exploded in size.  It is now about twelve to fourteen feet long and at its thickest point about eight foot wide.  Technically, its not a bush but individual stalks that easily propagate without any assistance (or approval) from this homeowner.  The size is a bit of a problem that I am trying to resolve, not so much because of the amount of space it takes up (we have a whole acre of property) but its impossible to access the entire bush and harvest it.

All of these details aside, I did my evening ritual of observations, and to my delight 5 whole blackberries were ready for the pickin'.  Yup, just five in what will eventually be hundreds by the end of the season.  I was a little surprised because I guessed a few would be ready this weekend at the earliest.  I ate a couple right off of the stalk and saved the others for my husband.  Harvesting, even if only a few blackberries, is especially wonderful when its just a gift from Mother Nature and I didn't have to invest any time or energy into producing this delicious treat!


A Brief Guide to Life

I borrowed this post from the blog, "zenhabits: Smile, Breath, and Go Slowly".  Justin stumbled upon the blog a couple of weeks ago and I really liked this particular post so I decided to share it with you.  I hope you enjoy it too. 

the brief guide

less TV, more reading
less shopping, more outdoors
less clutter, more space
less rush, more slowness
less consuming, more creating
less junk, more real food
less busywork, more impact
less driving, more walking
less noise, more solitude
less focus on the future, more on the present
less work, more play
less worry, more smiles


Endless Questions

Yesterday I spent a little time focusing on my garden and preparing for future gardens as well.  I did simple things like watering the garden and trimming back the black weed paper where needed.  I closely inspected each plant to look for any early signs of disease or insects.  This is my first rodeo so I'm not looking to lose all hope for a successful production because I didn't catch a few insects in time.  Through my reading, it seems like the real threat for disease and insects come a little later though, around when the plants are blooming and flowering.  It was also finally time to transplant my tomato plants to pots (with the final destination to be the garden).  I planted the tomatoes indoors on March 13th...a little shy of a month ago.  Tomato transplants take about 8- 10 weeks before they are ready for the garden, thus, growing plants from seeds is definitely not instantaneous gratification but rather an exercise in patience. 

4 week old tomato seedlings 

 I also considered what I want to do in the future with our garden.  What do I want to grow? When do I need to germinate seeds to grow them? Do I have enough space in our current garden?  Do I even want to keep the current garden as it is or change the layout? With all of these questions swirling in my head, I sat down with a couple of books on veggie gardening and a printed out calendar of the next year and a half.  I simply put on the calendar when I needed to plant transplants in the garden for the different vegetables I want to grow.  Then I counted backwards to the number of weeks it takes the seeds to become viable transplants and I logged that date too.  Now that I know the "when" for my future produce, I can focus my attention on other questions.

Snap bean (front) and zucchini (back)

As a new gardener, without much knowledge there are so many questions to answer.  It seems like just answering one question leads to even more questions.  For me, tackling one question at a time makes things more manageable!  I've already learned a few things I did "wrong" with the current garden.  Some of the herbs I planted, would probably do better growing in pots for a while then being moved out to the garden.  I probably planted my carrots to early too.  Certain seeds I started indoors should have been directly seeded into the garden.  To make sure I learn from these missteps, I keep a log documenting dates, types of plants, things learned, etc. in a notebook in order to reference the information when I start my next crop.  For now, I'll hope that Mother Nature works her magic with what I've given here!


When life throws you lemons....

 Since I'll be working this Saturday I had the day off today and I had a packed agenda for things I needed to get done.  It started off great with my coffee and breakfast at 6:30, and my work out at 8:20.  I had an oil change scheduled for 10:00 which I was promptly on time for only to find out that an "appointment" isn't actually an appointment.  I was told all an appointment does it let the service department know a car is being dropped off.  But for all said purposes, it is still first come first serve just like anybody else.  Honestly, I was a little annoyed by this.  Do you ever have that moment where some voice in your head is telling you to be mad just for the point of it? Well, that voice was awakened with this slight inconvenience.  Luckily, one of the local libraries is only about half a block from where I was and I had one of the projects I wanted to work on in my car.  I strolled on over to the library (still annoyed) and found a plethora of resources that I can use for the garden (and picked up a couple of novels too!).  I then found a seat in the corner of the library and worked on my project.  Before I knew it the dealership called to let me know my car was ready to be picked up and I had gotten nearly all of my project completed!

Once I left there, I proceeded to run a couple of errands and returned home to take care of things on that front.  After letting my two excited labs in the house, I put my seedlings that are still growing indoors on the porch to slowly harden them off and get ready for their debut in the yard!  In my haste, I closed the door behind me only to realize I just locked myself out of my house.  Now, a little aside here about the location of my home.  I basically have one neighbor (who works nearly sun up to sun day and is definitely not home).  Across the street is a field that is farmed with not a single person on it.  The nearest store is about a half mile down from me, albeit not far but we live on a highway that I would prefer not to walk on.  On top of this, all of my keys AND my phone were inside the house with my dogs and all of the doors and windows are locked.  I had two conscious thoughts at this time.  One was, "So what did people do before cell phones?" and the other was, "Ok, do I panic or not?!!"  (Seriously, I really did ask myself these questions).  I decided to offset any panic for a few minutes since I actually had things that I needed to get done outside.  I decided to think over my situation while I watered my front beds and my vegetable garden in the back.  If I still hadn't resolved my situation, I would then weed my garden in the front as well since I planned to do that today.  I started gardening the front and after about 4.345 minutes, low and behold, a bicyclist approaches on the street!! We very rarely have cyclist by my house (again, said highway).  Mr. Kirby, the cyclist, was kind enough to lend me his phone for a moment and my mom, who I'd given a spare key to only a month or two ago, came to my rescue.  While I waited, I got nearly everything done outside that I needed to for the day.

While, both of these incidents were minor and insignificant they could have robbed me of productivity and good spirits for the day.   I toyed with the temptation and realized just how silly I can be sometimes- I think we all have these moments.  I'm glad I didn't let those events shape my day because not only did I have a great day, but conquering those type of little insignificant feelings or illusions is what ultimately makes me into a stronger and better person.  So, when life tried to throw me a little lemon today, I didn't just make lemonade but got stuff done with sipping that sweet, refreshing lemonade.


Breaded Chicken Alfredo with Spaghetti Squash

I discovered "spaghetti squash" a couple of months ago and was really excited about trying it but was unable to find it. Last night I happened upon it at my favorite grocery store and coincidently a friend of mine just posted an article on her blog about spaghetti squash.  So, the time had come.  I purchased the squash and this is the recipe I made.

1 spaghetti squash
1.5 lbs of meat (I did boneless, chicken thighs)
Veggies of your choosing (I did mushrooms, garlic, onions, bell peppers, and swiss chard)
Stuff to make a sauce (typically Parmesan, cream and butter)

How to's: 
1) Bake halved and de-seeded squash for 45 minutes at 350 degrees.  Remove and let cool to handle.

2) Increase oven temperature to 400 . Season chicken tenders and bread.  (I dip them in a bowl of seasoned flour, then in a egg wash mixture, and finally dredge through bread crumbs).  Bake for about 20-25 minutes.

3) While chicken bakes, heat a little oil in a skillet. When warmed, cook veggies of your choosing.  I did onions, garlic, mushrooms, bell peppers and then at the last minute threw in swiss chard.

4) In another skillet, make a light roux (flour and butter or oil).  Add whole milk, water (or chicken broth) and cheese (I did feta and Parmesan) until you get desired consistency.  I also put a couple tablespoons of butter.*

5) To remove noodles from squash, simply take a fork and scrap away the flesh of the squash throughout.

6) Add veggies and "noodles" to alfredo mixture and let combine.

7) When ready to serve, place baked chicken on top of pasta mix.

I am intentionally not specifying what seasonings to use and trying to leave the recipe open for interpretation.  One of my favorite things to do in the kitchen is to take a recipe and make it my own so I hope that you will do the same with this.  For instance, the chicken can be prepared differently (baked but not breaded or just grilled) or you can use another meat such as shrimp, and you can choose which vegetables you have in the house already (or in the garden!).
*There are other simple ways to make a true alfredo sauce of just cream, Parmesan and butter.  Simply google how to make an Alfredo sauce to find them.  I wanted to use what I already had at home so that is the concoction I came up with!

Bon Appetit!



Sometimes it can be really difficult to take time for oneself to really relax and replenish.  Over the past few months (since grad school) I've made this a priority for me because of the intense lifestyle I led while in school.  I was working full time and pursuing an MBA part time at a campus that was over an hour from my house.  The idea of resting sounded great, but when? When I finished school I made a promise to myself to focus on me and on finding balance in my life.

Initially, when I tried to move away from my overstimulated and overbooked schedule I felt bored and unproductive (which does not replenish ones soul, in case you were wondering).  I decided to just experience those feelings and try to move through them with time.  It was almost an experiment that I conducted on myself.  If over time I still felt bored and unproductive, thus less positive about myself, then I would pick up my busy schedule again.  But, if the feelings dissolved, I would continue focusing on replenishing myself.  To no surprise, the feelings dissolved after a couple of weeks and I found myself really being able to enjoy my experiences.  I hadn't realized it before then, but I was so depleted that I didn't even sleep well at night (even though it was the same number of hours of sleep). I didn't enjoy my time and conversations with family and friends as much.  I dreaded having social events because it was another thing I had to do.  These feelings were subconscious and weren't really evident to me until I stopped and slowed down.  I wonder, now, how many wonderful things did I miss out on by being so mentally and emotionally tired for such a long time.  How often was I not available emotionally or mentally for a friend or family member?  

Whats frightening to me is that this chronic fatigue is culturally accepted and propagated.  

So, why did I name this post Sunday?  Lately, Sundays have been my day to replenish (at least since football season is over- Go Saints!).  I'm currently writing my blog at home next to my dogs with the windows open allowing for a nice, cool breeze to sweep in and out.  Shortly, I am going to an arts and crafts/ farmers market nearby to peruse and enjoy the effort others have put into their own hobby.  Besides that, working out, tending the garden, and some house work are in order and I'll probably cap it off with some reading.  This to me, is a glorious day.  My husband, who never takes time for himself, is actually doing so today! He is fishing for the day with a friend.  My mom, who also never takes time for herself (they both own and operate there own business), is finally getting back on her motorcycle and taking a joy ride for the day.  How different each of our days are, but hopefully with the same results: feeling replenished and balanced and ready for the adventures that lie ahead.  I hope your Sunday is filled with YOU time, too! 


Homemade Laundry Detergent

That's right...I am talking about making your own laundry detergent!  Why?  Well for one reason, detergent is expensive!  For another reason, I like the idea of increasingly becoming more self- sufficient even in simple ways- such as making my own detergent.  Today, after working my 8-5, I rushed home to do my experiment.  I purchased the 4 ingredients required for the recipe I used: Borax, Washing Soda (sodium carbonate- I found it in the pool maintenance area of Home Depot), a bar of soap (I used Kirk's Original Coco Castille because I can count its ingredients on one hand), and a 5 gallon bucket.  Actually, I was given the bucket for free from a local grocery store's bakery.  The total bill came out to about $18 and can make enough detergent for over a YEAR for a couple!  My project only took me about 30 minutes total (shopping and preparation included).

Now, before you start giving me credit for my ingenuity and cleverness, I must divulge my source: The Simple Dollar Blog.  If you click the hyper link it will take you straight to the step by step article on how to make your own detergent and it even includes pictures.  Since the recipe is written out so well there, I will not include it in this post.

What I love about little projects like this is its inexpensive, simple to do at home, and gives me the ability to reduce cost and increase knowledge about the products I use everyday.  With time, I plan to try more DIY projects at home like making my own soap, candles, and even cleaning solutions for around the house.  If my concoction is a success, I will not only save "loads" of money, but feel a little bit of pride each time I go to do the mundane task of washing clothes.


Who I'm learning from...

Mother Earth News: This site is so much more than just vegetable gardening.  It is actually a magazine that covers all sorts of topics from gardening, farming, homesteading, food, and health.

  • 40 Gardening Tips to Maximize Your Harvest: I included this article from Mother Earth News mainly because I want to be able to find it again at another time but if you are reading this because, you too, are learning to garden, it should prove helpful to you as well! 

LSU Ag Center: I refer to the LSU Ag Center a lot specifically on timing and type for veggie planting for South Louisiana.  I even have the book pictured at the top of this post on order to help me a little more.

Chiot's Run Blog : An organic vegetable gardener living in N. Ohio sharing her experiences with helpful information and funny anecdotes.  She responds back to emailed questions, too!

Cold Antler Farm Blog: I started reading Jenna's blog about one year ago.  It is about her attempt to start, what is now a full blown farm, with little experience or resources.  Jenna takes on much, much more than vegetable gardening (she now raises sheep, rabbits, goats, bees, etc.). The honesty in her experiences is portrayed so wonderfully that you feel as though you are there helping her along the way.  Her blog is a place where she gives you the good, bad, and ugly of her learning experiences which is why I follow it daily! This little lamb, Ashe, was born on Cold Antler Farm a few days ago.

PRETTY SMART GIRL blog: Erica, an acquaintance of mine, has this wonderful artisty blog that really has nothing to do with veggie growing!  The post are mostly about her life including recipes, quotes, renewal exercises, DIY projects and a multitude of other interesting experiences.

Finally, I have to mention my mother- in- law who grows her own garden and has given me much advice, support, and vegetables from her garden (YUM!).  Unfortunately, for you, she is not on the world wide web (she doesn't even have a computer anymore), but she is a go- to resource for me with my beginner attempts at gardening.



We transplanted a few veggies that were begging for more space and a spot of their on.  In the picture you can see a few of our snap bean transplants (about 2.5 inches tall), squash and zucchini transplants in the background, and a rosemary plant in the furthest point in the background.  A jalapeño plant and carrot seedlings are not shown and the rest of our crops will be planted as soon as the seedlings are ready for their new, big, brave world!  

Since this is our first joint garden and our first time growing plants from seeds, I am anxious to see the results and fruits of our labor but I am also relishing in the hope offered by these mini versions.  A couple of the seedlings, particularly some of the snap beans, may not make it to production but if even one of these plants produces, the waiting and nurturing will be worth it.  It may seem silly that something as simple as a 2nd grade science project, like planting a seed in a cup, can cause a grown adult so much excitement, but it does and I'm okay with that.  Lucky for me (and my husband), I don't need expensive, fancy jewelry to get excited...just a little seed to sprout and offer its own version of hope!  


Gardening 101

Our first "real" garden: 25 by 6 ft.

Justin (my husband) and I recently decided to really try our hands at vegetable gardening.  We both are interested in living a more self- sustainable life style and recognize that one of the first ways to do that is through growing your own food.  While we have done a rather small garden once in the past, we are both pretty green to growing a larger size garden started with just seeds.  I plan to track our gardens progress on my blog so that I can learn from our mistakes and so that others trying to grow veggies in South Louisiana will be able to learn from our mistakes and successes- or at the very least point and laugh at our meager attempts. :)

The picture above is the result of many hours of work including multiple tillings of uncultivated land, shoveling yards of free compost from our local consolidated government,  and, finally forming 3 rows and covering with a weed barrier.  We are attempting to grow zucchini, squash, tomatoes, snap beans, carrots, rosemary, basil, oregano, bell peppers, and jalapeños.

After hours of hard work in the hot sun I enjoyed the cool afternoon breeze that only Spring can offer by reading a book from the library and relaxing on an outdoor blanket given to me by a friend.  

Planting the Seeds

In the past few years I've slowly unearthed what Joie De Vivre means to me:  It is a close relationship with my husband.  Time alone. Creating memories with family and friends.  Gardening. Learning new things.  Reading (a lot).  Homesteading.  Spending time outdoors.  Staying fit and eating healthy.  Cooking. Being greeted by my two labs when I get home.  Living simply. 

These are the some of the things I plan to write about here and I hope they add a little bit to your own search for what brings you joy in your life!