Saturday, April 16, 2011

Strawberry Fields Forever

The kids and I had the opportunity to go to a local berry farm yesterday.  We came home with 16 pounds of strawberries all picked in under 30 minutes!  At $2.00 a pound, I felt it was a bargain, not too mention completely delicious! 

Once home, we sorted through the berries picking the ripest ones to either eat immediately or make into jam.  I've only made jam once, many years ago, and the friend who came to make it with me provided all of the needed supplies.

I began investigating how, exactly, to properly can and became increasingly more anxious by the moment regarding the amount of work involved, not to mention the expense in purchasing the utensils, pots, and other odds and ends to perform the task correctly.

Another friend of mine mentioned "freezer jam".  I have never heard of such a thing so I spent a little time investigating on the internet.  It seemed simple enough, but in my mind I was fairly certain that the jam would not be as good as a traditional jam since the work involved in preparing freezer jam was almost nothing.

I was dead wrong.  I found a recipe on Pinch My Salt and trusted that things would turn out ok.  Not only did the jam come out beautifully, the little boys and I had a wonderful afternoon together.
I haven't tasted berries this heavenly since I was a child.
I love my helpers!
Chefs Fish and Boo
Best Friends
"Can I stir, Mommy?"
Our first batch of Strawberry Freezer Jam!
Even if the jam hadn't come out well, this was an afternoon of memories I hope to never forget.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Mish Mash of Progress

Fitness and Nutrition is off to a better start this week.  The allergy season has wreaked havoc on me and my family.  It's not pleasant when the nicest time of the year with regards to weather is also the most dreadful time of year due to the pollen.
I have been trying out my new shoes, the Ghost 3, and am pretty pleased thus far.  I have been running in a motion-control shoe since I first started running four years ago.  I have always run in the Cascadia Trail shoe, however, which is a neutral shoe.  I could not figure out why the neutral shoe was great on the trail, but not on the road.  After having more pain in my legs than I would leg this past year, I decided to try the neutral shoe and see what happens.  

I don't notice a fluffy cloud when I place my foot into the shoe.  I am glad for this as I want to really feel what my body is doing while it is in motion.  I feel how I am moving my legs and the work involved in lifting the knee and the foot from the ground.  

I have been having some burning in my calves, especially when I run hills, but this usually goes away if I am running longer than 5 miles. 

I have also been attending Yoga classes at the Y.  I've enjoyed the stretching and the feeling of relaxation once the class is finished.  It is not easy by any means.  I find I am sweating quite a bit to maintain the poses.  I don't know all of the names yet, but that really isn't of great importance to me right now.  Perhaps some day.  
Our garden is doing well.  It's been 10 days since we planted everything and we have already begun to witness some changes.  
Boo's 1st Strawberry!
Trying to learn not only a method of gardening, but also everything about gardening all at once is quite a daunting task.  I'm trying to not become compulsive about this, rather, just let nature take it's course and teach me along the way.

The kids and I planted some seeds indoors as well.  We are hoping these sprout soon so that we can add them to our garden.

Check back in 2 weeks to see if they've sprouted

 My Lenten sacrifices are going well.  I have only checked FB once or twice and that was on a Sunday.  I do get some of the messages from FB on my phone, so if it is of an urgent nature I will respond.  I am not checking into FB, so it's not really cheating, right?  Truthfully, giving up FB wasn't as hard as I anticipated.  I stopped thinking in "status update" mode about 10 days into Lent.  I guess I didn't realize how caught up I was in it.  I do miss it a tad when I am trying to distract myself from other things, but really, I don't even know if I want to pick that sacrifice back up again.

My other sacrifice was to give up everything except tap water to drink.  The first thing that came to mind was COFFEE!  I love my coffee.  I didn't think I could give it up.  I gave it up several years ago and I was miserable during the detox process.  I had the headache from you-know-where, and I was quite unpleasant to live with for about a week.

This clean, clear, fresh water is a blessing.

This time was different.  I did not experience a headache at all.  It was easy to give up.  The first week I hardly noticed it being gone.  I was drinking plenty of water and that felt good.  Now, though, I find I am really craving it.  I miss it so much.  This is truly a sacrifice for me.  And when the cravings hit, I offer them up to God.  It is seems like such a silly, small thing to offer as a penance.  It is a sacrifice made in love, and hopefully that is pleasing to Him.  I would not be truthful if I didn't say, I do look forward to that cup of java on Easter morning!   

Saturday, April 9, 2011

The End

I've reached the end of my running funk this week.  9 weeks post Rocky, I think enough excuses have been made.  I've recovered fairly well, endured a few illnesses, and put on a few pounds.  I wouldn't mind the pounds if they were from muscle gain, but alas, not running does not do much for developing muscle.

So some good old fashioned flab has reared it's ugly head.  The battle is on.  I've run twice this week which is pitiful.  Being tired won't count as a reason to skip a run or a workout anymore. 

I registered for an inaugural 100 miler this week.  The Pumpkin Holler Hunnerd.  Should be a great time with some great people.

Six months to get back to where I need to be for this race.  I hope to be stronger than I was for Rocky. 

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Back Yard Project 2011

A few weeks ago, we made the decision to take our deck that was close to 25 years old down.  It had become more and more work to maintain and really was no longer attractive.  A call was made to our handyman neighbor and with the help of Foo and Fish, the deck was dismantled.

You can see the condition of the deck in these pictures as well as the overgrown status of much of our yard plants.

The dead vines are made up of trumpet vine and passion flower vine.  They did an amazing job attracting butterflies and hummingbirds.  As soon as the deck was out, however, I pulled down all of the overgrowth and dead plants.  I am not sure how much will return this year.

When pulling up the deck, we discovered a very large infestation of carpenter ants.  The deck's integrity was severely compromised and we did not regret our decision to remove it.

What remained in the yard after the deck was gone was a nice plot of dirt.  The kids dug up the cemented in posts, no small job.  KC and Hannah (our dogs) were besides themselves.  They didn't quite know what to make of the situation.

The next few weeks we worked on pulling up plants, transplanting bushes such as azaleas, roses, gardenias, monkey grass, and more.  We got rid of all the overgrowth and thinned out the yard nicely.  We had hoped to put in a natural stone patio, but after pricing it out, we decided our best choice would be to put in grass and a vegetable garden, something I've always wanted to do, but never had a space with adequate sunlight to be successful.  Since the deck was now gone, we had plenty of room and plenty of sunshine.

We also worked on the front yard as we planned to get everything done at the same time.  The next several weekends were spent preparing both the front and backyards for mulch, dirt, gardens, and grass.

I really had not given the vegetable garden much thought past the idea of having a raised bed.  I sent a quick email out to Welshrunner inquiring about his recent experience into the realm of suburban farming.

He sent a few suggestions and then reminded me that he had been following many of the concepts of Square Foot Gardening.  I took his advice and proceeded to spend the rest of the day well into the wee hours of the next day reading everything I could online about the process.  I was hooked on the idea and decided to make my plan to follow much of the same ideas.

Thursday and Friday were exciting as the grass, dirt, and mulch were delivered.  Foo started putting the mulch out and when Mark got home, he started as well.

Saturday morning, I headed to Lowes for the remainder of our supplies.  The rest of the day consisted of good, old-fashioned hard work.  All of the children helped and by the end of the day, they all appreciated their new backyard.

Here are a few glimpses of the day in progress.

Some of the supplies.

 By the time I returned, the team had removed all of the overgrown bushes from the front of this window and transplanted many of them to other areas in the front yard.  This was great because we lost several plants this winter.
They had also laid most of the sod leaving an area for the vegetable beds. 
To see grass outside of my kitchen window warms my soul.

KC and Hannah enjoying the new dog beds, while Lem plants some of the veggies.

Mr. Mellow Yellow posing for his herbs.

Fish and Boo have 3' X 3' boxes.

Better view of the 3 X 3 box.  We made them deeper to accommodate potatoes at some point.

Foo and Lem have 4' X 4" boxes. 

Hannah is in Heaven.
KC is just looking for trouble.  

Our new Mary Garden with plenty of room for hummingbirds, song birds, and butterflies!

A view of how all the beds look against the back of the house.  St. Francis is watching over us.

I will hopefully post pictures as the gardens progress.  I can't put into words how satisfying it is to see the family all work together to get the yard in order.  Growing our own produce will be a great experience as well.  Looking forward to our home grown bounties!