Monday, April 5, 2010

Picture Blog of Garden


Stonecrop and Daffodils...and a little cherub, too!



Close-up of the daffodil. I love it!



This has May Night Salvia and Daffodils in it.





I bought this Spirilla bush last year on clearance, so I wasn't sure how it would do. So far, so good.





Admittedly, this forsythia is not my favorite thing, however, it is blooming as scheduled.







Another view.







These grape hycianths are coming up, now. Not purple just yet.










I think this is a peony I planted last year and assumed dead...looks live enough, though!







In these pots, I planted various seeds: Pink Girl Tomatoes, Bell Peppers, Ornamental Peppers










Can anyone identify this for me?

















I'm proud as punch of these little daisy seedlings.










This is a bad picture showing that my Jackmanii Clematis is coming back to life.









jackmanii clematis























creeping phlox












my Hostas are coming back...















yes, I know, clean this bed out! It's Lambs Ear. Not much to look at...until it blooms!












oh, I can't wait for the roses!

















Azalia...c'mon baby, you can do it. I got these on sale...One, I'm pretty sure, is dead. But the other 3 or 4 look great!












This is some sort of dianthis...it is a lovely surprise perennial.... I mean, around here, you just plant it and forget about it.





Stella de'Oro Daylily...Love 'em











This is Perewinkle (vinca) I planted a few years ago. In a few short days, it will be covered with blooms.


















My crepe myrtle isn't showing any signs of life, yet...but I know it's in there!





Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Gardening!

So, I'm proud to report that two of the daffodils I planted in the fall have bloomed. All the way. In their sunny little yellow, beautiful way. I'm so darn proud of those things!

Today, I went to the library and got a couple books on gardening. One is written in real English (as in, you don't have to be a Master Gardener to appreciate it)... It's "Tough Plants for Southern Gardens" by Felder Rushing. This guy is funny. Really funny. I mean, to some people, it would be difficult to work a sense of humor into your garden...but this guy describes a zillion plants that grow with no extra watering or fertilizer...and smack in the middle of all the seriousness therein, he shows you how to grow a bottle tree. (Picture this: 4x4 post, nails, place glass bottles on the nails.) He describes its care and maintenance (as in, water the glass bottles from time to time to remove dirt). I like this guy. He can come over anytime and admire my garden of daylillies and weeds.

Am I the only fruit-cake that stays awake all night holding gardening books and catalogs? I know, what a geek. I just can't help it.

This year, I'm determined to make a garden out of nothing. I mean, I am determined to make a pretty flower garden and a bountiful veggie garden from free and cheap seeds. Thank goodness I've been buying perennials the last few years, as I have less and less area that needs new plants from year to year.

I'm thinking of going up the road to the neighbors beautiful garden and asking her to trade some seeds with me. If I know gardeners like I think I know gardeners, she'll be happy to help. It's so nice there are a few givers left in the world.

Well, I guess I'll close my eyes for a few minutes, as toddlers get up with the sun and kick the chickens awake. Love ya'll, mean it!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

It's Springtime in Zone 6b

Or so I'm told...it's been cold, dreary, rainy...I know April Showers bring May flowers...but it's March and I haven't planted the darn flowers yet, so enough already!!!

Ahh, I lied just a little. I have started some seedlings in leftover cello-packs from the last couple years nursery visits.... Like some awesome "Pink Girl" tomato seeds that my grandma gave me. I've started some bell peppers, banana peppers, daisies, and some unidentified seeds merely labeled, "Pink, Red, and Purple" which are a mystery to me. Therefore, they HAD to be started so I can figure out where they go. I don't want to plant something that's 4 foot tall at the front of the border, after all. My back yard, lining the deck, looks like a nursery (before the seeds germinate). To the untrained eye, it might look like a plant cemetery, even. To me, it looks like GOLD! See, seeds are so much cheaper than the actual plants, and in cases like the daisies that are perennial, it's the gift that keeps on giving. It's also what over-zealous Spring gardeners like me have to do so that we don't plant $200 worth of flowers before the real last frost (like I did in 2007!).

Along with the gift of seeds, grandma also gave me a metal sieve so that I can juice tomatoes for canning in the summer. It looks like a medieval torture device but came complete with an instruction manual, so I'm hoping that it's idiot proof...after all, I did tell grandma I'd be giving her some of my canned veggies from the garden.

Last but not least, she gave me two books. One on canning produce, one on freezing produce. Now, I do have a large metal pot that should work for canning, but I don't have a pressure cooker, so I'm limited on what I am able to can. This being said, I'm super excited to learn the proper method to freeze veggies (this is more of an art than I thought.) Turns out that each different vegetable should be blanched for a different number of minutes prior to freezing. If she hadn't given me this book, they probably would have been washed, sliced, and thrown into a Zip-lock freezer bag with wild abandon. Food poisoning is one thing I don't want my family to have, so I really appreciate this new-found knowledge. Not to mention, both cookbooks are time-worn and stained. I'm so excited about that. I really believe that a clean cookbook is clean because the recipes suck, even to the reading, hungry eye. A well-worn, stained cookbook is one that is kitchen-tested and grandmother-approved. These books are an heirloom now, and I hope I can pass them on to younger generations myself one day. I'm just mushy like that!

Grandpa gave me a tiller. I've been piddling with it, trying to get it started, but as only a non-mechanical person can do, I'm failing. I've taken to asking strangers to come tinker. OK, it's not quite that bad yet...but it's getting close. I SO badly want to till up this garden plot, except not the shallow end...

The spot I've planned for my vegetable garden is actually only 4" of dirt, covering a boulder the size of Utah. Welcome to Rocky Top, ladies and gentlemen. Luckily for me, my aunt gave me landscape timbers. So...we'll build up the plot and pray for the best. Since roughly half of the garden plot is this shallow land, I'll plant the cucumbers, zucchini and butternut squash there. On the deeper side, I'll plant tomatoes and carrots and peppers. I'm going to try my hand at gardening the organic way, but I'm not so hooked on the prospect that I'm unwilling to use Seven dust if things get out of hand. I have been reading about the best companion plants and weed prevention methods. I have read that if you scratch the dirt once a week, you can keep your weeds at bay. I am going to try this method...but will confess before-hand that my gardening attempts start out like a blaze of fire in April, May, and June...but by July and August, I peter out a bit. I mean, I lose my desire to work my tail off. I make a stab at it. Oh, ok, fine, I simply SUCK at gardening when it's so hot you can fry an egg on the sidewalk.

(Side-note: Once, as a child of 5 or so years old, I actually tried to fry an egg on the sidewalk. I remember it was in Farina, Illinois in the "white house" behind Blombergs. Kids: If you try this at home, no problem, just 1) make sure you ask a parent to make sure you're not actually wasting food you can't afford to waste and 2) make sure not to try to fry your egg on the sidewalk leading to the main enterance of the house. I learned from experience that this type of experiment tends to irritate adults, especially financially broke adults that don't like stepping on semi-raw eggs. My experiment didn't work (and even if it would have worked, you can't cook eggs on a rough, sandy sidewalk and actually expect me to eat them).

I don't mean to be an alarmist, here, but if the economy does happen to fail, I want a little experience living off the land. I'm a fat girl, and the thought of starving to death drives me to extreme measures to prevent said starvation. Hence, the need for a garden and learning to put up the produce.

Fishing, I know how to do. I can bait my own hook, catch my own fish, clean my own fish, cook my own fish. (Thanks, Dad, for taking me fishing even though I'm a girl.) Once that's done, I'm going to need some veggies to go with it. ;) I think I'll be fine, although I don't know a thing about hunting, I am very fortunate to know people that do!

A few things I've learned from my relatives: Grandpa - "If it looks pretty as a picture, it probably tastes like one." (this in reference to store-bought tomatoes); Grandma - "Hate is not the opposite of love. Indifference is." (how true.) Aunt: Before you try to dig in the rocky yard, poke it with a wire coat hanger. If it pokes down a foot, go ahead and dig. If it won't poke down, there's a rock in your way.

Last fall, before the big lay-off and having the rug yanked out from me, I bought Spring bulbs on clearance at Lowes. Hey, they were 50% off and I'm a bargain shopper! I planted them (a little later than what was recommended) and now I'm beginning to see the fruits (ehh...foliage) of my labors. My garlic, onions, tulips, hycianths, and grape hycianths are coming up. Some of them are about to bloom. And my heart is about to burst with pride.

If this darn rain will quit it for a while, I'll get out there and take pictures of what's budding and blooming right now. I won't go out in the rain, because as you know, sugar and witches melt. I know each of you have an idea which I am, but I'm not open for comments on the subject!

Well, I could go on and on about gardening and the things I'm learning along the way, but it's 1 in the morning and my peeps get up with the chickens, so I better get my beauty rest. Goodnight, Jim Bob. Goodnight, Mary Ellen. Goodnight, Pa.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Yeah, so see...it's been a while.

Told ya I wasn't good at sticking to stuff, but I have made a little progress on some of my New Years Resolutions since I last cast my dreams into cyberspace...

I now have two awesome followers! So freaking cool! So, thank you, Aunt Becky (always the queen of my universe) and thank you Leslie (because you're the awesome friend that I miss so badly!).

OK, on to the resolution progress. So far, I've managed to clean a considerable amount of space out of my cabinet using Cooks.com. It's an amazing thing, using ingredients that I have on hand to make fabulous meals and flop-u-lous things that I won't make again. Fabulous category first... 1) Honey Wheat Rolls (mmmm nothing better than homemade bread) 2) Home-freaking-made (oh yeah) Turkey Pot Pie. See, I guess I'm deprived because I only had those tiny little frozen pot pies that you can get on any given day for about $1 a pop. Yes, those are pretty darn good, but let me tell you how proud I was when I peeled the potatoes and onions and carrots and I sliced the celery and I made Betty Crocker cry with pleasure. OK, I exaggerate slightly (ever so) but I'm "chasing rabbits". (Chasing rabbits is something a grade school teacher called "getting off topic".) 3) Homemade banana pudding. Well, crap, I had milk that I needed to use up and I had 2 bananas that were going black. Turkey Pot Pie, Wheat Rolls, Pudding. Fat-ass ecstasy. Diet friendly? Well, not so much. One thing at a time, ok? Because I was using stuff that I have. Don't blame me, I'm not built to waste food!

Ready to hear about the flop-u-lous dish? This dish sounds like something in a fancy restaurant. It's Chicken with Almond & Butter topping. I'm sure it had a better name in the recipe, but I don't remember what it was. OK so in the recipe (which I followed to the ridiculous letter) says you need to buy bone-in split chicken breasts (awesome, they were in my freezer)...then you boil those for a few minutes and remove the skin and bone. Hello??!!? I did this and the whole freaking time I was thinking...damn it, why didn't you just skip all of that messy weirdness and start from the top with boneless, skinless chicken breasts??!?! Seriously? So I was pissed before the chicken was even releasing clear juices. Then, you flour the chicken and slowly brown it in an ass-load of butter. Then ya take the chicken out of the pan, and add to the pan some wine and lemon and slivered almonds. Now, I did have almonds in my cabinet (thanks to a big sale at Kroger) but they were whole and not slivered. What did I do? I sat there, with a knife, already pissed and I slivered each and every freaking one of those almonds. It's a time consuming process, this. Anyway, here I go, finally add back the chicken, stir it all around, and serve it. It was weird tasting. The almonds give a sweetness, the lemon gives and sourness, and the whole dish was ... edible but nothing I will ever ever make again. I mean, 3 hours of messing up the whole freaking kitchen and I come out with something barely edible? Eeecchhh! If anyone wants to try a bite, come on over, it's lurking in my fridge and praying that poor kids in Africa don't find out that it's going to get tossed with the next fridge-purge. The only good thing I can say about this dish is that it was part of my resolution not to let the remainder of the wine just perish...I had to drink it!

But enough about food, I know ya'll want to hear about me moving this fine body. Oh yeah. So I think I made it through about 3 episodes of 1-song sweatiness. I have not made it yet to the second dance song, probably won't at this rate because you have to actually play the darn thing and try. I have, however, been using the Wii Sports to get a little motion. Do you know that I have been trying my butt off to hit a baseball? Hand-eye coordination, I do not have. That's why I was on the high school swim team. Throw a ball at me and it'll hit me right between the eyes, because I can't make my arms move fast enough to catch it and I'm not coordinated enough to dodge. Pathetic. Anyway, the first time the Wii told me my fitness age, I was a spry little 62 year old lady (where's the AARP when I need them?) but I've been getting a little better each day and right now, I'm in the throws of a power-surge (hot flash) beings that I'm now 45. My real BIRTH age is 33.6. I'm not happy about this judgemental little program and the geek-squad little programmer that decided that I'm not just a fat-ass, but an old fat-ass. If I ever see this guy, I'm going to sit on his glasses and throw pens at him.

BTW the Man of the House is 21 on the Wii. Actually, he's 30 but he played ball as a kid. Damn it.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Sticking it to "The Man"

Have I told you guys how much I just LOVE Kroger? I'm a Kroger girl. I guess because I know where everything is (and their secret little stash of clearance stuff by the employee break room.) Anyway, today I had to buy a few things to make meals with the stuff I already have. ("Yeah, me!" for sticking to this so diligently!) I needed about 5 things. What to my wondering eyes appeared? Christmas clearance stuff! Now, I know, you're thinking, "Everyone has Christmas stuff on clearance right now." And right you would be...but you see, people don't think "Kroger" when they think of buying it. So I was able to get those new LED Christmas lights for $5, and some that look like lollipops to line the driveway for $8. There were gifts that I can give next Christmas, too...but I won't go into any detail here, but let's just say some lucky lady is going to be very pleased with this $4 gift next Christmas. Also, they had cologne on sale 50% off...and it so happens that The Man of the House loves this certain kind of cologne that's normally about $45 and I was able to get it for $22.50...And here it is, so close to Valentine's Day! Then, I pounced on the greatest thing...Christmas colored paper plates for 39 cents. I know, right? I don't care if we eat sandwiches off red and green plates! I bought a HUGE stack of them. So I bought $20 in groceries and $60 in "Christmas" stuff, and SAVED $186. I saved more than twice what I spent. So I'm pretty puffed up right now, if you can't tell.

As for the "Lose weight" goal... well, see, I'm still working on those overstuffed cabinets. I have no excuse to offer for the fact that the workout video is still in it's original package, unopened and unloved. So goes my list of reasons.

Tonight for dinner, we had baked chicken w/ one of the 4 BBQ sauces I had in the cabinets. Also, leftover (frozen) corn from Christmas dinner and broccoli w/ fat free cheese sauce (from triple couponing at Kroger.) So, it was a healthy dinner (oh, yeah) and delicious, and it met my goal for cleaning out the freezer today. Did I mention how cheap dinner can be when you're a mega-couponer?

Speaking of coupons, one of my sisters called me yesterday to inform me that Harris Teeter is having Super-Double coupons starting Wednesday. Every time Harris Teeter (a local grocery chain) does this, the neighboring Kroger's feel compelled to compete and honor the same deal. This means that although Kroger normally only doubles coupons up to 50 cents in value, they will double them up to $1.99. Another good thing is that Kroger runs sales from Sunday to Saturday, and Harris Teeter runs them from Wednesday to Tuesday, so basically I can pick and choose what to buy on sale with coupons Wednesday through Saturday, then do a different deal Sunday through Tuesday. Normally, they allow you to use 20 coupons per transaction. So this is how it goes down:
Step 1
Go through sales ad, find items with matching coupons (hopefully using bigger-value coupons, since they don't normally double)
Step 2
My sister and I go to Kroger together, because 4 eyes watching for deals is WAY better than 2. We each buy our 20 coupon limit items, then take them to the truck. We start with non-food and non-perishable items first, although as cold as it is outside right now, everything would probably be fine in any order.
Step 3
Rinse, lather, repeat until we're out of coupons, out of money, or until we're too tired to go in anymore.

Last time, Kroger had triple coupons and I was able to buy a trunk load of groceries including washing detergent and cleaning supplies for $11.00. It was SO fabulous! So, I'll see you at Kroger this week!

One more thing, www.snapfish.com is an awesome deal this week. If you need to print out your digital pictures from Christmas, go here and use the code "NEWYEAR50" and get 50 prints for 50 cents plus shipping. I did, and it was less than $5 total. Great deal, and I don't have to go pick them up! This is a public service announcement.

Friday, January 1, 2010

It's not diet food...but it was in the pantry!

Tonight, we had meatloaf, mac n cheese, baked beans, and beer bread. Everything I needed was already in the freezer or cabinet, so I've reached my goal today of using what I have. However, if you noticed, none of that contributes to my goal of being a size 10, unless you consider the fact that once this food is out of my house, I'll replace it with lower fat stuff. So I say. That's the plan and surely I can do at least that much.

In a minute, I'm going to do an exercise video that I bought approximately 6 months ago. It's still wrapped in the original cellophane. Don't blame me. Fat girls have to work up to these types of things. Picture me, for a minute, in all my chubby glory. Flabby arms, a deflated spare tire, double or triple chin. Sweating it out...I sure hope I can finish the video without having a heart attack, especially since our "free" dinner was SO delicious that I ate and ate and ate. I can barely move. I know it wasn't smart or goal-oriented, that's just how this bowling ball rolls. Round and heavy.

Tonight after dinner, we played one of the games the kids got for Christmas. It's called Curious George Hide and Seek at the Zoo. It's really a fun little family game, and our kids (almost 2 and 5 1/2) got it. Even The Man of the House and I kinda got into it. So if you have kids this age, give it a whirl. It's so silly (you're wearing zoo animal masks while you hide and seek...) you can't help but love it. Also, I'd like to thank whoever got this game for whichever kid it was for. In all of the unwrapping flurry, I have no idea who got what.

I finished taking down all the Christmas trees today. We had 5 (one in the kitchen, one in each boys room, and two outside) so it took me a little time. I also cleaned out both boys closets. There are still gifts in there that we haven't gotten out yet. They just have so much new stuff to play with right now, we're waiting until they get bored with it before we break out the new toys.

Also, I signed up for swagbucks today. (Thanks, Amy, from www.savingwithamy.com ) I'll let you guys know how it goes. She recommended another money-making thing on her blog, Pinecone Research. You just answer a few e-mailed questions and they mail you a check. No kidding. I didn't believe it either but I've gotten two checks (totaling $8 so far this month) so I'm happy with that. I'm going to keep the money from these two things in a separate envelope and use if for Christmas money next year.

Thursday, December 31, 2009

January's Goals

So I'm a fat ass. Most nicer people call me a "foodie". I like to make and eat great tasting foods. I'm also a cheap skate. The nicer people call me "frugal". I'm a couponing-sale nabbing-rebate sending queen. So what I have is kitchen cabinets stuffed full of stocked food. Not one, but TWO fridge/freezer units stuffed full of food. And now comes my big New Year's Resolution - I want to lose weight. Damn.

They say, "Waste not, want not" and they say "Taste makes Waist". I don't want to waste food and I want to lose weight. So my challenge to myself is to find lower-fat ways to make the food I already have on hand. Mainly because my stuff is so stuffed, I can't find things even when I know they're in there. Just ask The Man of the House about the fit I threw over missing guacamole mix when I was pregnant. Ohhhh yeah. It's not the only fit I've thrown about stuff like that, just the most serious example of "Melisa is Crazy" related to overstocked cabinets.

So, last night we had white beans (one of the 7 or 8 bags of beans in my pantry) w/ hambone (left over from Christmas-frozen) and cornbread (already in pantry).

Today, I made a double-batch of bananna bread because the banannas were starting to brown. By the way, very ripe banannas are much sweeter and better for baking or making bananna pudding.

Tonight, we're having leftover Chicken Parmesean. Garlic bread will be simple toast w/ butter, sprinkled with garlic. Good thing my peeps aren't picky about these things.

I have made and the frozen several meals in the last couple of months, and while I don't want to have the same things over and over, it's been long enough that it's starting to sound good again. So I'll kinda post what we're having for dinner each night. Who knows, you might have the same things lurking in your cabinet. Oh, and I must confess, although I love to coupon and save money, I freaking hate going to the store. SO I'm on the plan of trying not to have to go out and buy a bunch more stuff. Once I get some of the stuff out of the cabinets, I'm going to buy more fresh veggies and less red meats. That sounds like a quick and easy way to lower my fat/calorie intake.

Now, for homework, please tell me your favorite meals that are made of stuff most people keep on-hand.