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Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Christmas Treats 2020

I like to keep a record of what treats I make so that the next year I can go back and see what I did the year before.  This time of year is so hectic, it's helpful to have a record!

Here is what we made in December:

Next year I want to make a Yule Log from Pioneer Woman.  

Monday, December 28, 2020

Our thriftiness knows no bounds

I just got an email from Chick-Fil-A saying our most favorite item on the menu in 2020 is - WATER!  That's right, the free item on the menu is our favorite.  This is a result of requesting 6 waters every time we go to CFA and as a result it accumulated as our most ordered item.  

Baked French Toast with Honey Pecan Sauce

This is our favorite Christmas breakfast.


4 eggs beaten

¾ cup half and half

½ Tablespoon brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

4 thick slices French Bread

¼ cup butter (1/2 stick)

¼ cup brown sugar

¼ cup honey

¼ cup maple syrup

¼ cup chopped pecans

Combine eggs, half and half, brown sugar and vanilla extract in small bowl.  Pour half the mixture into baking dish.  Place the bread on top and pour the other half of mixture on top.  Refrigerate covered overnight.

Melt butter in 9 x 13” baking dish and stir in brown sugar, honey, maple syrup and pecans.  Add soaked slices of bread.  Bake at 350 for 30 – 35 minutes until puffed and brown.  Serve immediately

This does not need syrup or butter after baking because of the sauce it is baked in, but when reheating it might need some syrup so it's not dry.  

Sunday, December 27, 2020

Could Covid-19 be repeated in our lifetime?

The short answer is yes.  I base my prediction on 19 years of travel to Asia and following their progression of SARS coronaviruses from 2002 to current day.  

In 2001 I made my first trip to Asia, I was 25 years old and my mission was to work through complications of Monsters, Inc. plush toys which included the nose of Sulley and sound boxes.  I first went to Hong Kong because my flight to Korea was diverted due to a worker strike.  I then went to Korea for a week and then back to Hong Kong to finish my trip.  I could write so much more about this single trip but that's for another post.  For this post it's merely a point in time.

The 2nd time I went to Asia was in 2004 and as business has ramped up, I was required to go three times a year until the financial crisis of 2008 where we cut back on travel and I got pregnant with my first child so that kept me home until spring 2009.  

After I started having children I went to Asia twice a year for client meetings, these trips could be anywhere from 2-3 weeks long with 10 day stretches in our China sample room working alongside the team on hundreds of plush developments over the years.  

In these years of travel, I avoided 3 SARS coronaviruses and 1 Swine flu which is a type of influenza:
  • 2002 - 2003 - SARS
  • 2009 - Swine Flu (H1N1)
  • 2012 - MERS
  • 2019 - Covid-19 - I traveled to Asia in January and I would have traveled again in October but the protests in Hong Kong raged all year long and it kept away our buyers so we traveled more to California.  I also would have possibly gone January 2020, but protests continued so we went back to CA to see buyers.
To my knowledge, only two of these diseases made it out of China and into the rest of the world, in 2009, H1N1 spread rapidly but it was not as deadly as the current Covid-19 so no lockdowns or world wide panic.  I don't think it prepared the world for Covid-19 because it was ten years ago and the world reaction was concern but not panic.

This last one has been incredibly shocking in terms of world wide reaction, panic, misinformation, general misbehavior, and the devastation to hundreds of industries dependent on travel. I could go on but if you've lived through this you get the general idea.  None of these prior diseases caused this much devastation to the entire world.  

Let's look at the time line between each disease - just looking at coronaviruses since they seem most feared:
  • From SARS to MERS 10-12 years
  • From MERS to Covid-19 - 8 years
There's no easy way to predict with any absolute certainty when the next virus will hit but I'd say it could be anywhere from 6 to 10 years.  The only question my husband and I have is how can we better prepare for the next big one?  

This is our plan (post Covid-19):
  • Travel more to see friends and loved ones, truly own and cherish the moments we have together
  • Gather supplies so we are ready, I guess that means we are finally going to become preppers of a sense.  
  • We want to build a home that has enough land to grow more crops with adequate storage, and places for all family members to find sanctuary and possibly isolation from others if needed.  In 6 years our oldest will be 18, in 10 years she will be 22.  We need a very big library!
  • Go to all the places we can't visit during a pandemic - zoos, libraries, restaurants, amusement parks, special places like the Gettysburg miniature horse farm
This is not meant to be a pessimistic post, we are optimistic in our plans to make the best of time when we have the freedom to move about and embrace others, and then when it's time to hunker down again, to be ready and embrace that time as well.  

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Smores Puppy Chow

We came up with this dessert by accident last weekend.  Initially I wanted to put melted chocolate on pretzels to use them up, then I checked the expiration date and they were almost a year old.  I tasted one and they were kinda stale so I decided to make my first puppy chow!


  • 8 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 4 cups of honey graham cereal (generic brand is fine)
  • 1 cup marshmallows

Melt chocolate and peanut butter together in 30 second increments until smooth. Mix melted chocolate/peanut butter with cereal and then put into fridge until melted parts are solid, then mix with one cup of confectioner sugar and 1 cup of marshmallows.

Monday, December 21, 2020

November & December Summary of Covid-19

This post is back dated to fill in our history with this virus.  I realized I missed a major chunk of our story and need to fill in the blank.

In the first week of November the virus swept through our church, as the week went on more than half the church reported symptoms, six went to the hospital, two didn't come back.  They were a married couple in their mid-70's, a very dear couple who I will miss tremendously.  They were parents to two of our children's teachers at Truth so we walked through this month in constant prayer and waiting.

My mom got the virus, but we didn't know until she was almost better.  Her symptoms never required medication, she didn't develop pneumonia, and she didn't require any hospitalization.  It still took her over a month to regain her strength.  It was jarring to go through because of the unknowns.  

Somehow we managed to stay covid free in our immediate family, my cousin and her mom had missed the Sunday the virus swept through the church so they were covid free.

In Mississippi, my husband's aunt and uncle came down with the virus around Thanksgiving.  She survived, he did not.  He was one of my favorite people on this earth, so funny, it's been difficult to process his death.  He survived the tornado of 2019, survived a heart attack a few months later but didn't survive this.  In time I will write more but for now it's still hard to lose him, right before Christmas.  

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Garden Recap 2020

What worked:

  • Tomatoes - we have canned over 40 quarts, 15 salsa and 10+ sauce and juice pints 
  • Tomatillos - we've canned a few 1/2 pints, maybe 4 or 5 jars, these came in late so I've also got several freezer batches of Salsa Verde
  • Jalapenos - we have 4-5 pickled pints and 2 quarts of fermented probiotic jalapenos
  • Green Bell Peppers - we had enough for one large pan of stuffed peppers and the rest we diced and froze for later
  • Anaheim Pepper - only one plant grew and we used it for the Salsa Verde
  • Pinto Beans - we got just over a pound
  • Black Beans - about two cups of beans, so far, I still have some waiting to be shelled
  • Zucchini - outstanding, we had fresh zucs from June - August
  • Purple Sweet Potatoes - outstanding crop this year, we didn't weigh it but was 3 boxes spread evenly
  • Marigolds - they got huge and attracted bees
What didn't work:
  • White potatoes were small and the taste was not my preference, they seemed very earthy if that makes any sense
  • Strawberries - the purple sweet potatoes took over their space and when I tried to transplant them they died
  • Butternut Squash - came out very tiny and dense, a nearby farmer said we didn't get enough rain and too much sun.  Last year we got too much rain and didn't have a good local crop.  I guess these are pretty finicky on their rain balance. 
  • Poblano Peppers - never grew
  • Squash from our compost bin - it took up a huge amount of space but never generated any squash, the flowers would grow and fall off, something happened that made it not get to the next stage.  I didn't see very many bugs so I'm not sure what caused this.
  • Next year we want to try some container sweet potatoes of new varieties.  I was inspired by my friends videos on You Tube and all the types they grow.  You can see his videos here:  https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCgX2wKnEwHCv0qVDQ0IRAlw
  • We learned it was completely not necessary to start beans inside, they do perfectly fine when planted straight into the ground.  That's good to know because they were tall and unwieldy to take in and out during the hardening process.  
  • I heard it's best to use a heating mat for peppers so I'll try that next year if I can find one.  They were impossible to find this year.
  • We tied up our tomato plants with stakes and twine, it worked for two rows, the third row we waited too long and they got extremely messy and hard to walk through.  I want to emphasize how important it is to have neat rows for picking tomatoes later in season so the vines don't get trampled when little ones are helping and tomatoes are not falling down in the ground area for easy access to critters.  
  • We didn't trim our tomatoes at the base and they got rather heavy near the bottom, I'd like to be more vigilant on this next year.
  • We plan to cut back on the number of crops in our 16 x 16' garden area, we will probably narrow it down to Pinto's, Tomatoes, and Purple Sweet Potatoes.  The strawberries and white potatoes didn't do well so I think we had too many things in there.  

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

From Phase 4 to 1 in two weeks!

On October 29th it was reported we'd be entering Phase 4 the Monday after Thanksgiving.  This week we got the news Maryland is going back to Phase 1 due to a recent spike in Covid 19 cases.

In our church, three people went to the hospital today and at least 1/3 of the congregation is reporting some variation of illness, including my mom - who we believe has a cold and we call her every day to check on her.  I stopped by today with a plant and she was pretty chipper, I'm really hoping it's just a cold.

Our kids school, which is supported by the church, closed on Monday due to a case that was made known at the end of last school week.  

So going back to Phase 1 seems like a rather logical step to me.  I'm just in shock that it happened so fast, in our state and local community.  I'm guessing Halloween and the election may have been contributing factors.  

My kids are panicked about getting enough books.  I'm off work tomorrow so we are hitting the library when they open to stock up, if they open.  The last time Maryland went to Phase 1 they closed faster than you can say quarantine!  I'm not even kidding, Phase one was announced in March and they closed at noon that day!  

The world is falling apart and all my kids care about is having enough books.  I guess I know what we need for our future apocalypse shelter - books, lots of books!  

Meanwhile, I'll be stress baking, praying and checking my phone constantly for updates.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Mango Coffee Cake with Streusel topping

Mango Coffee Cake
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 mango diced
Streusel Topping
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup butter, cold and cut into small pieces
Pre-heat the oven to 350 and grease your coffee cake pan with shortening or non-stick cooking spray.

Step 1 - dice one mango

Step 2 - 

Mix flour and butter together and using a dough blender, cut the butter into the flour until it is crumbly.  Next add the remaining dry ingredients.  Next mix wet in ingredients in a separate smaller bowl.  Combine wet and dry with a hand mixer or kitchen aid, or mix by hand if you choose.  The last step is to add the mango and this should mixed by hand so they do not get smashed.  Finally, spoon the batter until the prepared coffee cake pan.

Step 3 - 

Blend the streusel mix with the dough blender.  You can use the same dough blender that was used earlier.  Once the mixture is crumbly, spread evenly over the coffee cake.  I use a spoon to shake it over the batter.  It should look like this when finished.

Bake for 50 - 55 minutes.  Insert a knife to test if it's cooked through, if the knife comes out clean then it is done.  Serve warm or at room temperature.  

My oldest daughter is a huge Mango fan so this was really well received.  

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Why I did not renew our Prime Membership

This year I've been on a campaign to cut unnecessary spending as much as possible.  I've been a Prime member for many years and like most recurring expenses, it continued because it was convenient to order online and receive items two days later.  There was also the idea that Amazon was cheaper and originally they were!  

This year I noticed packages were not coming in two days and more importantly, Walmart and Target have been price matching or beating Amazon so why wait two or more days for packages?  

What about the other services Amazon offers?  Their Prime selection of new content is mostly rated R with sexual content I don't want to watch or language I don't want to listen to so after a series of disappointing shows, I had no reason to keep Prime for their new content offerings.  

I canceled Prime in July and since then I have realized I could still order with free shipping as long as I spend $35.  Walmart does the same thing for Pick Up orders so I'm used to this.  It may take 5-7 days to get an item but if I order it on Prime, it's because it's a unique item I can't easily find elsewhere and I'm willing to wait for it.  

Wednesday, September 09, 2020

Grocery Store Pick Up Rated

Walmart - 4 stars out of 5

I've been using it for almost a year, here's the pros and cons:


* The minimum buy is $35 and I can usually hit that twice a month.  Our primary grocery shopping is at Aldi and I use the Walmart pick up for anything I can't buy at Aldi or want name brands such as Old El Paso Enchilada sauce, Starbucks espresso beans, brand name cereals, Great Value Garlic Bread, Jalapeno Cheddar sausages, brand name chips and the occasional soda, and Walmart has a much better ice cream selection.

* You can also ask for things like school supplies, toys, bedding and containers.  I think you can order anything in the store but I mostly stick with groceries with a few others thrown in.  I've even ordered deli meat but it has to be one pound increment to start.  That's fine, we can go through a pound of deli meat in one week.  

* They are super professional and hard workers at our local Walmart.  The first couple of times I wanted to give them a hug because they were so warm and friendly.  If I only had this when my babies were in car seats!  


* Sometimes an item is available on the app but when you get to pick up they either don't have it or will offer a substitute.  Usually they will send an email so you can be aware before going.  At the beginning of Covid-19 it was so prevalent that I stopped using pick up for awhile.

* If an item isn't available like a toy, and you were shopping in the store you could get something else.  The one time I tried this it was for a birthday party and it was really inconvenient to have to then go into the store when I wasn't planning on it so I've ultimately avoided items that can cause greater stress by just getting food that is not urgently needed that day.  

* The app doesn't track our vehicle correctly so when we get there the system shows we are still in transit, that can cause delays.  I hope they get this fixed soon.

Target - 4 out of 5


* There doesn't appear to be a minimum requirement for pick up order.  I've ordered just under $20, then I placed an order that was half pick up and half delivery for items not in store.  

* You can go any time in 3 days from order placement and just let them know you are coming through the app. This super beats Walmart because they require you to schedule almost a day in advance, during the early days of Covid-19 it might be a three day wait.  I really love scheduling it whenever I happen to be in the area within the time frame.

* They are really strict about no touch.  My first visit I didn't know and the girl was new so she handed me the bag, the next time I was told they must put it in the car.  Then I have to reach around to grab the bag and make sure everything is there but safety is important.


* In my last order, I purchased 8 bags of masks for the kids.  Out of the 8, six items had a message that masks were resized for better fit.  The two that did not have the message did not fit well.  Those are the two going back!  I kinda wish the person picking them out had thought to only give me the ones with the message to be consistent but that's the kind of detail I might bring to a shopping trip and that's one small thing you give up when asking a total stranger to do your shopping for you.  

Lowes - 5 out of 5

There doesn't appear to be a limit for pick up.  I ordered a $10 chair and it was fine.

They have the same policy as Target, order and tell them you are coming through the app.  I've been there twice now and each time it went smoothly.  The first time a guy was stationed outside and as soon as we pulled up he came right over and then went to get my item.  The second time I waited 15 minutes for a guy to show up but he did come out with my items.  It was a longer wait than normal but it was Labor Day so I won't ding them a star for that.

Aldi - 1 out of 5

Aldi, uses Instacart for pick up and they charge a hefty mark up for their efforts.  I realized this because I memorize prices and while putting items into the online cart I noticed ground meat was $3.85 and I last paid $3.39.  That's a 20% mark up!  I quickly discarded the cart and went there in person.  Aldi's in store prices are great, and this might be helpful to someone who cannot do their own shopping but I'm not willing to pay a mark up.  The sad thing is on their website they advertise free pick up and I think that's hugely misleading.  

Revised back to school plan

The first day went well enough, I kept Violette home and she did two hours of work where I would initiate a subject and then give her a page to work on while I worked my job.  Then I had an unexpected conference call in the morning and had to send her off to play her phone for an hour and a half.  Later that day when I picked up the others, I talked to the principal and learned she was less concerned about student spacing than I originally assumed.  Later in the afternoon my cousin came over to finish the lessons and we both realized if she could be squeezed into the classroom it would be better.  So today all four kids went to school!  The only problems we are having is school runs from 8:30 - 1pm and the kids are starving when I pick them up.  I've sent snacks but it's not enough so I might just prepare lunch right before I pick them up so they can eat when they get home.  It's either that or I pack lunches and let them stay with their dad until he's ready to leave at 3pm.  

I have to say today was unbelievably peaceful from 8 - 1pm.  I think it's the longest span I've been alone since they were sent home mid-March!  

Friday, September 04, 2020

Our Back to School Plan for 2020/21

The kids were sent home from spring break through the end of their 2019/2020 school year.  We did well, but in hindsight it's because the teachers gave less work, cut out entire subjects and the kids had the benefit of being in school for three quarters of the school year so they were used to the curriculum.  We were told our kids were outstanding students.  They did their school work while I worked full time.  Mike was home more often and could help with questions.  

For the fall semester, Mike will be working at the school from 8:30 - 3 or 4pm.  The school has two plans - distance learners and in-school learners.  The classrooms are small for some grades so there is a limit to how many students can squeeze into a classroom and be positioned six feet apart.  We decided early on to keep ours home, after all they did so well in the spring, and many parents were desperate to get their kids back in school.

This week I met with the teachers to pick up books and go through all the subjects they would be learning.  After reviewing the 7th grade workload I panicked and asked the teacher if there was space for mine to switch to in-school, thankfully she said yes.  My oldest freaks out when she can't hear instructions clearly, or can't figure out what to do next and I can just see myself having to sit next to her and teach along with the teacher, while at home on a lap-top, and the laptops haven't even been delivered yet, so she'd be home on our terribly old laptop that everyone hates.  So the new plan is for her to go for a few weeks until the computers come in, and if she feels comfortable enough to work from home she can switch.  I have a very strong feeling she will continue going to school.

My 2nd child is in 6th grade and I'm more familiar with his work load, but I'd rather put him in school for at least two weeks so he can get used to the curriculum and then he can come home.

My 3rd child is in 3rd grade and her class is too full for her to attend so I'm trying to make it seem really cool and awesome that she gets to stay home with me.  My cousin is the teacher and I have a huge comfort level with her so I'm very confident this will work out fine.

My youngest is in Kindergarten this year and her teacher said if we can teach her to read she can stay home, I can't do that and work full time.  She also is very determined to go back to school so she's going!

If my 2nd decides to stay home in two weeks, then I'll have two home and two in school.  I'll be driving in to get them every day at 12:45pm but we live 10 minutes from the school so it's fine.

One school mom is bringing her two kids over on Thursday's to watch so she can maintain her full time job.  

It's going to be an interesting year!

I plan to get up at 5am to work for 1.5 hours, then help get half the family off to school, get the remaining kids started on their school work, then back to work.  It's a good thing I thrive with a busy schedule, also a very good thing that I don't have any trips for the foreseeable future.  

I also plan to work on meals this weekend so there is less meal time prep on school days.

Wednesday, September 02, 2020

Rebuilding the Camper

 Last year we noticed water damage at the front of the camper.  Mike ripped out part of the floor and rebuilt it but he knew there was more damage to the front panel and so we made plans to rebuild after school let out.  School finished the 2nd week of June, and I think we started working on the camper the weekend of the 20th.  It took a month to remove the front cover, strip it down to the metal frame, and rebuild the front end.  We finished on July 19th.  Here are the progression photos:

The first image is after we rebuilt the inside panel.

In this image you can see the partial ceiling rebuilt.

This shows some of the insulation added to sandwich between inside layer and outside layer.

In this image, the girls are helping clean the front panel.  We wanted to remove the glue along the edges.

I loved the finished wooden look, but we had to put the cover back on to keep it water proof.

We didn't put in the cabinets so there is a gap at the roof line, we can fix this later when we have time to install the cabinets.

And here she is, put back together!

I didn't show the roof, but it was black with dirt.  While Mike did the rebuild, I got on the roof and cleaned it with a scrub brush.  Then put a special tape over the holes and painted white RubberFlexx over the entire roof.  Our goal is to waterproof the camper as much as possible.  I think I'll put another coat on in the fall before we cover it for winter.  

At this point we've put more time and money into this then what we'd ever get from re-selling it.  This is our first camper and we didn't catch the water damage before we bought it.  That's okay, we like it and we've made it our own.  Next thing I want to work on is the interior curtains and textiles throughout.  We also really want to re-paint the exterior panels and get rid of all the branding.  I'm really looking forward to continued customization!!  It's hard work, but we enjoy the end result.

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Burn the Buggers!

My precious butternut squash has an infestation of bugs.  I learned from a You Tube video that these bugs must be removed by cutting off the infected leaves and killing the bugs.  The first thing I thought of was a fire!  The eggs are tiny bronze dots and the bugs look like tiny green ticks!  I think they were baby bugs because when I look them up online, the adults look like stink bugs.  I never saw an adult bug.  

Friday, July 10, 2020

Update from my June 26th Post on the Coronavirus

I feel history deserves a footnote saying although we came in contact with those who had it, we did not get the virus. We quarantined for two weeks.  We missed my family reunion which was devastating, but I still think it was the right decision.  If we had contracted the virus we'd have felt terrible about passing it along.   

Friday, June 26, 2020

Squirrels did this

We almost had a crushed flamingo!  I had a mint plant on top of the stump and the squirrels had been digging in there.  I put a rock in the place where they were digging but I guess they came back and got a little too aggressive!  I've since moved the plant to the ground.  I thought about nailing the planter to the stump but they could still rock the entire thing over.

After the accident, with more rocks added to prevent digging.

Mint spreads fast so we've put it in a pot to keep it stationary and it helps prevent mosquitoes.

The stump in the back is there to give the squirrels and occasional cat something to jump down on instead of the birdbath which can also fall over.  Now I guess we have two stumps for that purpose.

Quarantining Just Got Real

Wednesday I attended a funeral with my cousin and aunt.  Yesterday we got the news that a family we sat beside had spent time over Father's Day weekend with family members that tested positive for the Coronavirus.

Their 25 year old relative from Florida, flew up to visit for Father's Day weekend.  She felt sick enough to get tested and while waiting for test results, visited with family on the 17th and 20th but neglected to tell them she was waiting for test results.  The 20th gathering was outside, and that's the one that the family we sat beside attended for three hours.  The 25 year old attended church the next day and hugged everyone in sight, then got her results the next day that she was positive.  The church has been forced to close for two weeks.  The family that sat beside us, has not been tested but say they feel fine, their grandparents who attend my home church have tested negative.  

We have my family reunion this weekend of which only half the family were attending, but it was still considered a precious time to spend with family we only see once a year.  Now due to caution and concern that could have contracted the virus, we are forced to stay home.  My aunt will be devastated, she has dementia and was really looking forward to this reunion, so much that it was all she talked about and it's going to be really hard to explain to her why we can't go.  We don't know how many lucid years she may have left so it's extremely hard to stay home.

Our logic in staying home is this:
  • My brothers both work for companies where they have to report if they've come in contact with anyone who is known to have the virus or even suspects they might have it.  This could result in them being sent home for two weeks.  One brother can work from home, the other would be sent home with no pay for two weeks.  One has to fill out paperwork every day that states he hasn't to his knowledge come in contact with a sick person. 
  • I reflect on how upset I got on hearing the news that someone thought they might have it and got tested but meanwhile went about their activities like nothing was wrong and I said to myself, I just can't do that to my family.  How could I put my family through that frustration?  
  • While the event this family attend was outside, they have 3 young girls, given the nature of 25 year old hugging everyone in sight, it's best to assume she probably cuddled with her nieces and thus they could be carriers.  
  • The family that sat next to us had a daughter that coughed throughout the service, a deep cough that sounded like bronchitis to me but enough of a cough to wonder why did they bring her to an indoor service?!?  I don't know the time line of how fast a child or person could get infected, we sat with them on the 24th and the event they attended was on the 20th, could she get sick in 4 days?  Seems like it could be a cough from another illness but the doubt is still there.
I'm told that it takes at least 48 hours to become symptomatic, which means today at 10am we've reached 48 hours. We are now going into strict quarantine until I can get tested next week, Tuesday or Wednesday and hopefully we can get a test result by next Friday.  I'm trying really hard to not be super bummed out and discouraged.  

Saturday, June 20, 2020

2019 Garden VS 2020 Garden

2019 June Garden - covered in lettuce towers

2020 June Garden - one lettuce tower on the outside of the fence

I liked the wooden rows last year, but it didn't stop lettuce from invading and we didn't do a very good job of keeping it weeded out so it kinda took over.  This year, it never showed up in the main garden so I guess we got it out last year.  

Our garden fence needs rebuilt, we've decided to do it in the fall when things cool down.

Friday, June 19, 2020

Happy 12th Birthday Charlotte

At 4' 10 - 11" you are tiny but a force to be reckoned with.  This year your birthday fell during a quarantine that just won't stop.  You sweetly said to me, "I don't need to have my friends over, I did that last year and this year I just want to be with family".  That meant so much to me.  Happy Birthday Shark (my favorite nickname for you).  

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Canoe mounted, Squash planted

Today is a victory in terms of the honey-do list.  I've been pestering husband to get the canoe mounted to the fence for quite some time and today was the day it went up onto the fence, thus making way for a small squash patch.  I've been trying to keep these squash happy in two pots but they are out of space and clamoring for a patch to spread out in.  How do I know this?  Every day they get hot and wilt no matter how much I water them.  This shows me they need to dig deeper than the space I've given them.  

We are still working on getting the claw foot bathtub out of the yard.  Last year I filled it with sand and gravel from the wider path than we wanted.  Husband has been steadfastly finding places for it and promises to get rid of it one day.  The stone path leading to the gate needs reset and check out our work in progress shed - it's made from reclaimed pallets!!



Tuesday, June 02, 2020

Purple Sweet Potatoes have arrived!

I've been waiting a week for these babies to arrive, somehow the roots were still damp.  All are planted and waiting to be taken to the garden at my mom's house.  They look sad now but once planted all should be fine.

Monday, June 01, 2020

The Library has re-opened for curb side pick up!

Last week I got a phone call asking if we still wanted the items we had on hold since the library closed suddenly in mid-March.  I may have gotten a little too excited and promptly took the first appointment available which was today at 10:45am.  Husband was at school working with students who haven't turned in their work and hadn't answered their emails in the last two months so I dragged all four kids out of the house - two were not even dressed yet - and off to the library we went!  We got there 10 minutes early and two people came up to give us various instructions like call this number and let them know inside that you are here.  While calling the number a third person came out and told me to back the vehicle up 4 spaces, then when I got out she said my name and told me to grab the bag on the table.  The kids didn't even get out of the vehicle!  The youngest was peeved because she can't read and didn't get anything.  The oldest was miffed because she had asked for new items three days ago when we got the call and they weren't pulled yet, so basically two out four were happy.  Then after we got home I showed the oldest how she could read one book she hadn't selected as it looks interesting and now she's happy.  Sorry 5 year old, I'm sure you will find something to do today.

Well I guess May is over

And I guess school is mostly over for the school year - the last day coded into my calendar at the beginning of the school year was May 25th, it came and went with no ceremony last week.  Usually husband plays that horrid song from Alice Cooper "School's Out" and there's a school picnic.  Instead we have a two week extension for those who need more time to complete their assignments.  I was a bit surprised when my two oldest hadn't finished their work last Thursday with both declaring they had a few things left to do and would do them on Monday.  I just thought you'd want to be done but that's my aptitude and I'm careful to let them manage their own schedules.  See I'm adapting to this home school thing just fine.

I've not minded having them all home since mid-March.  I was the organizer of schedules and lesson plans which came from teachers email, text message and posts on the school website - everyone has their own way of doing things.  If it's language related I'm your teacher, if it's math or science track down your dad for help.  Join me on the daily walk with the dog or not.  Occasionally we might take all to the empty parking lot for relay races at lunch time but don't expect it every day.  Help me with the gardening or not.  It's my hobby, not going to make it mandatory.  Help me with the baking or not, also my hobby.  Just don't fight about it and I'll make sure each gets a turn who wants one.  The only thing I've been super adamant about is daily chores.  You want screen time?  Get your school work done, or at least a couple of hours progress, finish your assigned chores and then you can have two hours or more if we lose track of blissful screen time.  

Things are slowly opening up.  It was announced last Friday that pools can open with 25% capacity, drive-in theaters, youth sports and day camps with 10 or less may operate.  Restaurants may open with outdoor dining.  We are now in part two of phase 1 in re-opening Maryland.

I've grown used to life of working from home and projects with no plans of needing to be anywhere.  We haven't gone to church since March 15th, or the YMCA, or art classes at the museum, and no work trips since January.  I'm afraid the children have grown feral, the girls hair is certainly tangled enough.  I honestly wonder how we will ever get back on schedule but I'm sure when the time is right we will persevere.  For now I'm enjoying an empty calendar.  

Monday, May 25, 2020

Memorial Day 2020

We didn't do our usual bar-b-que fest, it didn't seem right to celebrate with the subdued mood from corona virus casualties reaching 100K in this country and to be honest, it's really more about honoring fallen soldiers.  Still, it's a day off work, so we worked on the kids/guest bathroom and painted walls, grouted tiles, etc.  At the end of the day we sprung a blue jello with whipped cream and strawberries on the kids to be festive.  

At mom's house we weeded our primary garden and planted one butternut squash (bought at a local nursery) and one zucchini grown from seed.  I'm super nervous about these because last year my butternut got fried from the heat.  I've asked husband to set up a separate bucket with soaker hose just for this small plant bed. 

Friday, May 15, 2020

Happy Dinosaur and Chocolate Chip Cookie Day

We learned our lesson from the last announced theme holiday to be prepared with an idea before the day arrives.  Husband decided to create the La Brea tar pit with chocolate pudding and crushed cookies for topping.  It literally took less than 5 minutes.  We got so excited we forgot to make lunch, fortunately it was chicken nuggets and they only take 10 minutes.  We then covered the table in trees and boulders from the kids dino play sets.  Then, after lunch, I made chocolate chip cookies with Sam.  As he was the nominated baker, he was given a handful of chocolate chips to eat.  He counted them out and gave each sister 7.  Random acts of kindness make this mom's heart so proud.

May 15th is also the day Maryland reopened parks for kids to play on playground equipment!  It feels so good to be in phase 1 of recovery from the coronavirus lock down. 

Primary Garden is Planted

Update on the big freeze that came after our first attempt to plant - it killed our tomato plants, that we bought at the store, but strawberries and potatoes survived!

Today is May 14th and we are now quite sure the cold weather is over, the next 10 days are predicted to be 50 - 70's.  It feels a bit late to be planning as we usually plant after Easter, but it's been an unusually cool spring.

Here is a our landscape plan for the garden at mom's house 16 x 16':

Tomatoes are all grown from seed, strawberries are from my cousins garden that were overgrowing her neat rows, potatoes are from last year's crop that were too small to eat so we let them take root, pintos were grown from seed, and the purple sweet potatoes were ordered from Filaree Garlic Farm which should be shipped to us soon.  I'm really excited and super nervous about putting these babies into the ground but all we can do at this point is cross our fingers and hope for great weather conditions!!

As a side note, we are aware that strawberries and tomatoes are not traditional companion plants, but there is nothing saying they cause harm when planted next to each other so we elected to plant in this order although after further research, potatoes and tomatoes can grow side by side and strawberries and potatoes can grow together so maybe next year we move the strawberries to the front and grow in order of strawberries, potatoes, tomatoes, pintos.  I might even eliminate regular potatoes because they are cheap to buy and I don't do any canning or freezing with them.  I might switch to one row of purple sweet potatoes and two rows of strawberries.  

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Garden Update

Early April, when things were still tense with the Coronavirus lock down,  I ordered a bunch of seeds on Etsy.  This week I realized the strawberry seeds had not arrived so I went online and canceled the order on the basis that they sent me an email three weeks ago saying it had shipped.  I got back a rather rude email from the supplier saying they had written in big bold letters on the website that shipments would be delayed.  I get that, but if the system already says my order shipped, I'm never going to get it.  Regardless he returned my money so I'm satisfied.  

Last week my cousin gave me 10-12 strawberry plants so I'm good on that front! 

In recent weeks I've gotten everything I need from either Lowes or the local nursery who is very happy to have paying customers.

Update on my seedlings:
  • Roma Tomatoes - all 6 are 3-4" tall and doing extremely well
  • Beefsteak Tomatoes - 12+ are going strong
  • Pintos - 6-8 are doing well
  • Black Beans - all 6 are good
  • Zucchini - 1 is doing well, another just sprouted
  • Jalapenos - 6 out of 8 are about 1" tall
  • Red Bell Pepper - 6 out of 6 have been 1" for a long time so not sure if I should count these as a success yet.
Now for what is NOT working:
  • Tomatillos - nothing
  • Anaheim - 1 out of 6
  • Ruby Red Onions - 2 out of 8
  • Lettuce - nothing
  • Carrots - nothing
  • Basil - looks like red bell pepper, I'm confused on this
  • Poblano's - nothing
  • Chili Cubanelle's - nothing
  • Butternut Squash - nothing
I went to our local nursery on 5/1 and bought one butternut squash, two tomatillos, 2 roma's and 4 jalapeno's.  I really didn't need the jalapeno's but it was before mine had gotten to 1" so I thought those were not performing like the other peppers.

In summary, I'm very sad about the peppers.  I've put a heater in the room with the plants and plastic over the door entrance so the room is up to 75-80 all day.  It should be warm enough.  The next step is to get a heat warmer for plants but I still think I'll hold off on that for now.  It's time to get the successful plants into the ground and move forward!  

Check out my babies.  I've been putting them out for two weeks now, skipping the rain/freezing days and they are finally ready to be planted.  Some went into the ground yesterday.   Some went into the ground last weekend and had to be repotted when we got a two day freeze - in May!  Craziness.  

Saturday, May 09, 2020

Fixing up the Porch

To be honest, the entire porch needs to be rebuilt, but currently we are being careful with our money so this will need to wait a year or two.  For now I will have to be satisfied with re-painting and replacing the lattice work.

Before Photos

Snow - in May!?!

Okay it was just flurries, but still a concern since we've already planted strawberries, potatoes and 4-6 tomatoes at mom's house.  In our backyard garden we planted 2 tomatillos and 4 jalapenos.  I repotted our plants and brought them back inside.  We covered the ones at mom's house with plastic.

Saturday, May 02, 2020

Time to get our plants in the ground

The weather seems to be holding up to 50-60's so we're ready to get our first round of plants in the ground.  Potatoes, strawberries and 4-6 tomatoes.  Our seedlings are not big enough so I bought the tomatoes at a local farmers market.  

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Today I learned a valuable lesson

Do not put a special day on the calendar if not prepared to fully celebrate that day.

Today is Superhero Day.  We only intended to play superhero music and movies but we were badgered all day to make capes!

I put the onerous on husband to make the capes because I'm working full time and he knows how to use the sewing machine better.  He just ignored them until they stopped asking.  Somehow they still managed to make me feel guilty for not providing capes.

Happy Superhero Day!

PS:  In writing this quick post, I learned that Superhero is one word, that really bugs me, I feel like it should be two words.

Update - youngest put on Batman jammies, because it's Superhero Day y'all!  She found a way to celebrate without capes!! 

Friday, April 17, 2020

Week 5 - Quarantine Life

We're at the end of week five, and it's starting to feel like the new normal.  I've read that if you do anything consistently for at least three weeks it will start to feel normal, that's usually in reference to diets and exercise but I think it applies here. 

I got into a rut of ordering things online because of repeated warnings to stay home except to shop for groceries so once we achieved our two week food run, we would stay inside with the exception of working in the yard or walks with the dog.  This week I finally broke quarantine by going to two garden stores with a face mask and hand sanitizer to buy garden supplies.  I just got so tired of searching online for stuff, then waiting for it to arrive.  I'm still waiting for most of my Etsy seeds to arrive and both garden stores were full of seeds!   The only run on seeds is through online suppliers.  I feel a little sheepish because I paid 3X for strawberry seeds which are hard enough to grow and I could have spent the same amount on 3 nice plants.  Some of the items ordered are unique and not in local stores so I feel okay about the specialty peppers, tomatillos, and purple sweet potatoes. 

It's a tough time in that we're being shouted at every day by someone on Facebook or the media to stay home, flatten the curve, yet we've been at this for five long weeks with no end in sight.  We have important things to work towards such as our summer garden that is not easy to do whilst waiting for online orders to trickle in.  Why is our garden important?  We use a canned or freezer item every week throughout fall, winter, and spring.  By summer we've run out of most items, this week we ran out of salsa! 

Our two week shopping trips are going well and it's a trend I might continue after this is over.  Pre Covid-19 I found that I was going to the store twice a week for extra milk and forgotten items.  Now I create a two week menu with a thorough grocery list that includes necessary ingredients plus staple food items.  I think it's great discipline to be satisfied with what is in the pantry/freezer/fridge.  We are so fortunate to have the ability to store food abundantly. 

Friday, April 10, 2020

Seedling Update

Peppers  (shown below) - I gave up on these until husband suggested they need more heat.  After checking online, they need 85 degrees to germinate so I put them into a disposable cake container to help boost the heat and put them next to a window that gets the most sun.  Currently waiting for something to happen.

Beefsteak Tomatoes (shown below) - awesome progress, next step is to begin fertilizer once a week.  Around 4/19 we will check the roots and if they are progressing nicely we will replant them and back under the grow light until all danger of frost has past.  I've been following this video for reference.  Right now my only concern is to cut out the least performing seedlings because they all look great!

Pintos (shown below) - all 8 have sprouted!  You can see the first bean in the back of this photo with the tomatoes, I know the others have sprouted because I found roots on all and replanted them.  I had started 6 in an egg carton so they needed to move.  I used the egg carton so I could fit more plants on the plant shelf but once I have actual sprouts they become quickly too small and hard to keep moist due to size.

Mystery Plants (shown below) - these could be pumpkin, butternut squash or acorn.  They sprouted in our compost bin and why not take advantage of a viable seedling!  

Butternut squash (shown below) - after further research, I've learned they need 95 degrees to sprout!  That's not going to happen in our 70 degree room, so I put them in with the compost that's grown other sprouts.  Even though it's 50 outside, the heat builds up inside this can.  They should germinate in one week.  Actually this compost can is ready to be sifted and spread over the garden but we'll get to that once I'm finished using it for a temporary greenhouse.

Roma Tomatoes (shown below) - have finally sprouted a tiny bit of growth.  I've moved them up closer to the light as they look quite skinny.

Lettuce, Red Bell Peppers, Carrots and Basil (shown below) - absolutely zero progress, all planted on 3/30.  Time to actually do some research and figure out what temps these guys need to germinate.
  • Lettuce - need 70 degrees - guess I'll leave them in place for now
  • Red Bell Peppers - 65 - 85 degrees - might be a tad bit cold at 70, will put them in with the other peppers greenhouse
  • Carrots - need 55 to 75 degrees, maybe it's too warm?  Have read it takes 10-12 days but some varieties can take three weeks.  Guess I'll leave these guys alone for now.
  • Basil - need 73 to 81 so definitely too cool for them in the basement so putting them in with the peppers greenhouse
  • Zucchini - need 70, just started these a few days ago so I guess this is ideal temperature

I check on the seedlings once a day.  I add water if the soil is dry.  Otherwise I've left them alone since planting.  Today is the most activity I've done since planting to check on germination temps and make adjustments - all which should have been done first but no harm done.