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!