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!