Thursday, June 18, 2015

Hurricanes and syrup.

Yesterday, Hurricane Bill was downgraded to Tropical Storm Bill as it raged straight north into Texas.  We were expecting 6+ inches of rain and dreading every bit of it.  We actually lucked out because the main body of the storm passed just to the west of us, and we were stuck in the armpit between it and the following tail as it lifted north.  We caught the tail end of that tail around 9 PM and it just poured for awhile.

8:51 AM

My mint beds are totally out of control, and I don't want to lose ANY of the minty goodness I've grown, so I took a big harvest of the chocolate mint.  I filled all nine trays of the Excalibur dehydrator and still had a lot left over, so I made a mint simple syrup and canned it to put it in iced or hot tea all year long.  I might use it as part of a liquid substitute in some baking recipes as well.

LOTS of mint.  (You can see I've already started filling trays in the background.)

NINE trays... becomes one quart of dried mint leaves.

Boiling down the sugar, water and mint.  I had about 4 quarts of water and added about 9 cups of sugar.

Final result... 8 pints.  My small water bath canner only holds 7 pints, so the open one went into the fridge when it had cooled a bit.

Today, I'm going to run out very soon and plant some of the stems from yesterday's harvest into the NE side of the house to get it started there.  I love Chocolate mint.  When I'm done with that, I'm going to go harvest an equally large amount of the peppermint!

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, June 14, 2015


I have been really seeing some of our gardening efforts playing out.  The blackberry bushes are almost done, and I had gotten 7 pies in the freezer before we went on the cruise (gave one to the neighbor who ran the tractor mower across our yard) and they are DELICIOUS!  (I baked the 8th one for us!)

Since I'm still recovering from my unfortunate run in with a new (to me) allergen, I stayed inside most of the day today, but here is some of what I accomplished!

The four ducks we have are laying regularly now, and we usually get 3 eggs, sometimes 4 a day!  They are SO beautiful!
The colors of the eggs are really lovely!  

A double yolker next to a normal sized duck egg.  Pretty fun!  Poor ducky butt!

We had 3 dozen eggs on the counter, and I decided to use up a bunch of them, so I made FOUR quiches this afternoon.  Some ham, some sausage, each one with a little different add-in list.  We even added some of our zucchini to one of them!

All four out of the oven!

After letting them cool (and tasting a couple pieces from one of them,) I cut them all up and wrapped them to put in the freezer.  

I'll let them stay in the freezer overnight until they are firm, then I'll gather them into some larger freezer bags so we can snag out one piece at a time as we want them.

While those were cooking and cooling, I grabbed a bunch of the zucchini and ran some through the shredder in the food processor, and got 9 bags of generous 2Cup portions to put in the freezer for zucchini breads later. (I'm going to have to get my sun oven out there... it's too hot to put it into the house!)  I figured I had enough shredded for now, and so sliced several more and put them into the dehydrator. 
I don't usually use all 9 racks at the same time, but I am this time!
I'll have them available as chips, or to toss into soups this Fall.  
I took a half dozen beautiful tomatoes off my vines and took them to the elderly neighbor to the SW of us since he told me most of his tomato plants failed this year.  He was really glad to get them, and they sent me home with about 25 yellow crooknecked squash!!  (Insert eye roll here!!)  I'll have to figure out what to do with them pretty darn quick!  I cruised through Pinterest for some ideas, and maybe I'll try some of them!  

I had a pretty productive day!
Thanks for reading!

Saturday, June 13, 2015

SO much to share!!

Our cruise was full of LOTS of excitement.  Not all of it good, but we are fine, and happy for the time together without any other demands for our attention.  It was a good way to celebrate 30 years of marriage.

The ship was just beautiful, and the FOOD!!  MY GOSH, THE FOOD!!  I came back with an additional 6 pounds that I would have liked to leave onboard, but WOW!  I'm thinking a month of salads will be worth it!
On the pier in Cozumel posing with our ship.

The chandelier in the 3 deck Sapphire dining room where all that amazing food was served!
Kern and I in front of the showpiece are in the center of the ship.  It climbed from about the fourth to the 10th deck and looked like a big column of bubbles.  SO pretty!
Another shot of the bubble sculpture.
     Our first stop was Cozumel.  We had a snorkeling tour set up, and I have to say that I love to snorkel.  The fish and the coral were just stunning, and the time I spent there was just breathtaking.  THAT being said, I also have to admit that small boats, bouncy waves, salt water circulating through my sinuses and my motion sickness are NOT a good combination.  Sometime during the first snorkeling stop I just knew this hadn't been a good idea.  When we all piled back into the little boat I lost my breakfast, and at the second stop, I couldn't even get out of the boat.  I sat on the bench as still as I could and stared down the beach.  That blessed, STILL, solid beach that I should stick to from now on.  I would love to go snorkeling again, but FROM THE BEACH so I can get a break from all the motion.  

     All the pictures I had on MY phone up until that point are still somewhere in Cozumel.  I had put my little phone wallet into a paper bag we had gotten from a local shop while I visited the ladies' room (So I wouldn't lose it, LOL!), and when we got back to the terminal, I reached in and it wasn't there.  Kern jumped into another taxi and went back to where we had been snorkeling to see if he could find it, but no luck.  While he was trying to do that, I had turned the bag around and discovered that one edge had gotten wet (presumably from resting against a wet swimsuit) and there was a gaping hole the entire length of the bag.  I'm certain the phone wallet fell out of it.  Along with my ship card.  And my debit card.  And my drivers license.  (sigh)  Whattaya gonna do?  The local authorities let me onto the pier without identification since Kern vouched for me, but at the security point at the bottom of the ship boarding place made him go up to our cabin and get my passport before he would let me on.  Word of advice... DO NOT keep your passport on you when you take a day trip off the ship.  JUST.  IN.  CASE.  Back onboard, they issued me a new ship card and let us use the phone to call VISA and cancel my card, then AT&T to kill off my phone.

     The next day we stopped at Cayman Islands, but the weather was just crappy, so we didn't even get off the ship.  Kern took in a movie, I think I took a nap, we walked and shopped around in the ship.  We spent some time up in the skybar reading and chatting with another couple who were there also passing the time.  It's a lot of fun chatting with strangers and getting their stories.

     The NEXT day was our Jamaica day.  It looked a little gray, but we decided to take the excursion we had already paid for.  We went to The Enchanted Gardens and Aviary and 'mini' waterfalls.  This place was beautiful, and a bit sad.  It seems like it would have been an amazing resort in its time, but had fallen into some disrepair over the years.  The aviary had lots of gorgeous, friendly, seed-seeking parrots (and a couple of peacocks, mourning doves, and fancy chickens, LOL!) We enjoyed our time in there.

The 'mini' falls were absolutely amazing.  We had not come prepared to get soaking wet, but I did take my shoes off and put my feet into the water for a bit.  It was cool and refreshing.  The weather was sultry, so we were already pretty damp from the heat and humidity, so I guess it wouldn't have mattered if we had climbed the falls like most the others in our little party.

Toward the top of the falls.  The rock was worn smooth and the water just flowed so sweetly.  I could spend a LOT of time here

There were 14 natural waterfalls as the waters skipped across the property.

It wasn't very deep anywhere, and I would have loved to sit under some of that water.
The following evening (the first of 2 sailing days to get back to Galviston) was the second formal night, so we got cleaned up to go down and stopped by the photographers area on the way down.  I like this pic and think I'll frame an 8x10 to put on our headboard.
I love this man.  SO much.  
During our last day at sea the sun finally decided to come out and play nice!  The color of that ocean!!  I wish I had the right descriptive words.  This is near where we spent several hours just enjoying the ocean breezes and reading and relaxing.
After getting off the ship on Sunday morning we headed north to work our way home.  The Houston traffic was horrific, and we stopped for lunch, and went to a Best Buy nearby to replace my phone.  I'm the proud owner of an iPhone 6, and the loser of a bunch of $ I wasn't planning on spending.  

Monday after getting back, Kae took me up to Terrell to replace my drivers license, so I'm carrying around a piece of paper with my new info and waiting for the plastic one to arrive in the mail.  New VISA card has arrived and been authorized, and I'm back in business!  

It didn't rain while we were gone, and a day or two after we got back, our wonderful neighbor used the tractor and mower to plough down the 4' grass in the front yard.  He did what he could while avoiding the still soggy spots, and I followed him up with my ZTR mower.  I woke up the next morning with my torso on fire and lots of little lumps.  I was afraid it was chiggers or some little bug, and put some essential oils on them.  By 10 p.m., the welts had grown in size and intensity and I was in a blazing amount of pain.  I was quite sure I was having an allergic reaction, so Kern took me to the ER where we stayed for about 4 hours.  They stacked a bunch of antihistamines into my system and gave me steroids to help me get through.  I'll be on a bunch of both for the next 5 days.  I stepped outside for about 5 minutes today in the heat, and several of the welts and itchy spots came back with a vengeance.  Sigh... I'm going to have to go see if I can get to an allergist and get some meds.  I can't NOT work in the yard, but I don't want to go through that again.  

Ducks are happy with the mown lawn.  I think it's easier to find tasty treats without having to wade through the tall grass.  The Quack Pack has finally found the pond, but they don't spend much time in it.  The Golden Girls go in frequently, but nobody strays too far from the shoreline.

I think that's enough babbling for today.  IF you got this far, thank you for reading!


Saturday, May 30, 2015

Bon Voyage!

Monday marks 30 years of marriage to my Kern.  I love him more today than ever, AND... I still even LIKE the guy!!
Life is just a piece of cake with this wonderful man by my side!
In a few hours we are leaving for a week-long cruise to celebrate each other and get a good start on the next 30 years!    I'm sure I'll have LOTS to report when we get back!


Thursday, May 21, 2015

Lots of NEW stuff!

We are all of a sudden seeing some return for all our hard work!!  The berry patch is just getting prolific, and I picked several cups worth the other day, and a big bowlful yesterday!  Look how big they are!  They are the perfect sweetness to eat them just like this, but last night I cooked them down JUST enough to extract about 8 C. of juice, and am planning on making blackberry jelly in the next day or two!

GROAN.... this takes forever!

The Quack Pack has finally started laying eggs!  We are so excited!  These are the first two we got.  I was really surprised that they were BLACK!!  Kinda cool!  Kern and I enjoyed them as breakfast sandwiches that first morning! 

The gardens are also waking up!  The tomatoes are forming up and I've already gotten a handful of zucchini squash! The eggs are getting lighter with each laying.   
First squash harvest, and the next
 two days worth of eggs.
The big one was a double-yolker!

One of the squash beds!

Can't hardly wait for a fresh tomato.  I'm gonna make BLTs!
The mints are doing quite well, and it's time to do another marathon harvest and drying session!

Chocolate Mint (my favorite!)

Sweet Mint

Peppermint (My second favorite!)

The skies change constantly around here.  I thought this little arrangement to be especially lovely!

We continue to get rain, and the ducks are the only ones not complaining.  The Golden Girls have discovered the pond.  They are staying right at the edge for now, and they are having a blast!  Except for Gimpy.  Kern and I have had to extract her from the water at least a half a dozen times already.  She spent one night in the pond when we couldn't find her after dark, and we were astonished to find her still alive the next morning.  Each time we fish her out, she is completely submerged except for her head and only about 2 inches of her neck.  I thought ducks were supposed to float!  Not her, apparently.  She is trying to stay away from the edge a little more, but the pull of that water is strong, and she wants to be with her sisters! 

The are SO happy!

Yesterday we were able to visit the Dallas Zoo with a bunch of other home schooling families (which got us a great admission price).  Raine was working at his new job, so he wasn't able to join us, but Kern just carried his phone and worked on and off while we walked through.  We only stayed a couple of hours since it was hot and Toby was a bit grouchy.  It was long enough to make it worth the trip!  

Waiting to go in... I love my girls, Kae and Anika!

The macaws greeted us first thing!  Man, are they loud!
This beauty posed for my camera.  I think they are used to being adored!  
Long, eclectic post, I know.  I've had trouble getting photos to be where I want them to be on my computer so I can get them where I want them to GO!  Sigh.  I'll keep working on that.  

Blessing until we 'meet' again!


Thursday, May 14, 2015

Hairy, scary, berry!


I'VE HAD IT!!!  I was going to try to let my hair grow out, but decided I was over it.  My husband has arranged a cruise to celebrate our upcoming 30th anniversary, SO... I went shopping for a few clothes yesterday, and today, it was time to take care of the hair.  This is the first time I've ever had my hair colored in a salon, AND the first time EVER for getting highlights.  I love it!  It should be  easy to take care of.  (I hope.)  Working on looking good for our cruise!

Before and after.

The storms keep coming.  THIS is what it looked like on the radar:
Moving just to the south of us.
THIS is what it looked like standing on the back patio!
Blue to black, just like that.

This wasn't taken as a black and white... this is what it really looked like!

Rain to the SE.

Weird clouds.  Got the ducks stirred up a bit.

Remember the red spot on the radar? This.
Once again... just a few drops, but it was close.

After all that stuff passed, Kern and I went out to watch the ducks play for a little bit.  He mentioned that he had picked a couple of the golden raspberries, so I suggested we go check out the blackberry patch!  I'm really glad we did!  We were able to bring a couple handfuls back to the house to share, and the only reason we didn't get more was because we didn't have a bucket, and I wasn't wearing shoes or clothes to wade into the briar patch!  Tomorrow, I'm thinking I should remedy that!!

Blackberries!  Giant blackberries!  Sweet blackberries!!

Monday, May 11, 2015


Yesterday we had some pretty ugly weather move through.  In the pic below, the blue dot is where I live.  See the giant ugly cell to the south?  It was tracking to hit us, but as it got close, it would dissipate or swirl to the south.  It was the weirdest thing.  A blessing to be sure, but weird.  We did get about 1.25 " of rain.  The town of Van, about an hour SE of us got hit by 2 tornadoes, and I read they lost both the elementary, AND the high school.  Not a good way to finish up the school year.  Corsicana (SW of us... had terrible flooding, complete with lots of high water rescues and a couple feet of water on HWY 45!  Crazy.

My tomatoes are doing very nicely.  I took some time to thin out some leaves and tie up the main stems.  I'm no expert, but I do know enough to remove any leaves that are touching the ground or are odd colors.

One side almost done.
 Starting the other side.  Tomatoes need to have air circulation and mine were getting really bushy.  Here is a before:

Too many leaves that block air flow and some can't get any sunshine.  All those have to go.
And the 'after':  

They may look a bit butchered, but they will be better for it. 

 Tomatoes put out suckers that start between the main stem and a leaf.  I try to pinch these out when they are small.  They will grow quite large, and they WILL produce tomatoes, but they also make it hard to manage the plant and they draw strength from the main stem.
That's gotta go.
Here you can see a sucker that I missed when it was small.  It already has some flowers on it so I just tied it up with the rest of the main stems.  It will be fine.  

Just means more tomatoes.

I planted two pepper plants on the North side of the tomato beds.  They are looking a little anemic (So I bade sure to trim the tomato leaves covering them up.) but one has already produced two pretty jalapenos.  These are supposed to be really big, so I'm going to give them some time to grow.

They need to get bigger!
                     I added some more pepper plants that I started from seed into this and other beds.  They are really tiny right now and I'm hoping they will thrive.  I planted a Tam (jalapeno) and a Lemon Drop (another hot variety) at the south end of the tomato bed, three banana peppers in the squash bed, and another Tam and Lemon in the middle bed.  I plan on putting more in there, but I have to deal with a fire ant nest before I play around in there anymore. (ouch).  I had ONE cayenne pepper seed make a little plant and I added it to one of the decorative pots, and a Lemon Drop to another pot.

I have some artichoke starts I want to add to the pond garden but haven't gotten them out there yet.  Maybe tomorrow?