Saturday, March 31, 2012

Friday afternoon day trip into Louisiana

Yesterday afternoon, I rode along with D.H. for his work assignments for a chance to get out of the city and enjoy some nice scenery. One of the stops was in a small town in Louisana, at a lakeside campground. While he did his thing, I stretched my legs and enjoyed the view. I managed to get one good photo with my phone, the one above. It was so peaceful and still, the water was as smooth as a mirror. I'd love to go back to spend a weekend camping there someday.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Stevia? I'm really trying to make it work for me.

I don't like artificial sweeteners, too much of a nasty chemical aftertaste. And I have to limit sugars to keep my blood glucose in a healthy range. Most of the time, I just have a modest serving of something sweetened with a "real" sweetener like cane sugar, honey, or maple syrup; and just plan the rest of my day's meals around it to compensate for the sugar spike. But sometimes I just want something sweet and don't want to fool around with planning meals and counting carbs.

I'd tried stevia years ago when it was strictly a health food store product and it was okay. But all you could get were little pellets, packets, or liquid with an eyedropper. Fine for iced tea, but pretty much that was all I found it good for. Lately, I've been seeing more and more products on store shelves with stevia in them, and decided to give them a try.  My husband drinks a natural energy drink sometimes that is sweetened with stevia, and it tastes pretty good. I also tried a naturally flavored water with a little bit of stevia in it and it was okay too. I had seen the Zevia sodas in the store, but at $7.99 a 6-pack that was a bit steep to give them a try, and I had never seen them sold by single cans. I had gotten a coupon for $3 off a 6-pack, and found them last night at Kroger on sale, so it turned out to be $4.79 for a 6-pack. Expensive for soda, but not so much that I wasn't willing to give it a try. They had Black Cherry, Ginger Root Beer, and Dr. Zevia (presumably a Dr. Pepper type flavor). I picked the root beer because I've just been having a taste for that lately and gave it a try when I got home.

First of all, it's a really complex root beer flavor. Very comparable to microbrewed "boutique" root beers. Being sweetened with stevia, it's much sweeter than something sweetened with cane sugar. The sweetness hit me like a brick at first, but didn't leave much of a lingering aftertaste. The more I drank, the less unpleasant the extreme sweetness became. Would I choose it over a cane sugar sweetened soda given an equal choice? No, but to be able to enjoy something sweet without having to worry about carbs and blood glucose, it was plenty good enough!  I'll finish off this six pack and see how well it grows on me before I try another flavor. The next one I'm interested in trying will be the Dr. Zevia flavor because I LOVE Dr. Pepper. I know it won't be the same, but for what it is, it might be as good of a substitute as the root beer was.

Zevia - Stevia sweetened root beer!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Another garden blog.

I decided to not do battle with the dreaded Squash Vine Borers this year, and ditched the plans to plant zucchini and squash. There are ways to combat the foul beasties, but with only five containers availible for squash plants, I decided to go with something else and just buy my zucchini at the farmer's market from people who grow on such a scale that they can afford to lose a few plants here and there. I had to go to the garden center this morning, and I got two Husky cherry tomato plants, and three Yummy bell pepper plants and put them into those containers instead. Yes, the variety of pepper is called the "Yummy" pepper. If you've seen little plastic clamshell containers of 2-3" yellow orange, and red peppers at the supermarket, that's what they are. The variety I'm growing turns from green to orange when ripe. They are extremely sweet, like fruit sweet. And have next to no seeds and membranes. I have only ever used them in salads, but I'm sure there is lots more you can do with them. The Husky cherry tomato does well in containers too, and since I didn't have any cherry tomatoes already, it seemed like a good choice. All the rest of the seeds and transplants get planted this weekend, so I am looking forward to a nice, sunny and warm weekend working in the garden. By the end of the weekend, I should be finished with about 80% of the gardening. Flowers and additional herbs may have to wait until the first of April payday. But I am for sure going to go ahead and get one 24 pack of colorful annuals just to have some more color in the back yard.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Fashion Confession #1: I love funky nail polish.

I truly do! I just finished painting my fingernails a bright tangerine orange with gold crackle top coat. This weekend's manicure will be black with an iridescent/color shift flake ("flakie") top coat. I'm not going all nail blog here with swatch photos and reviews, there are plenty of them already out there who do it quite well, this is just a fashion confession. But be it a non-typical color, glitter, special effects like crackles and flakies, nail art, etc... I love it all.

Why? I guess because it's something fun that's literally right there at your fingertips. Looking at a bright color or interesting texture makes me smile. It's also easily changed. Need to tone it down a bit? Clashes with your outfit? Just sick of looking at it? No problem, all it takes is a little remover and problem solved. And, it's (relatively) cheap as far as fashion and beauty goes. Even premium brands cost less than 10 bucks a bottle, and more often than not, you can find something that works just as well for half that. I've never bought designer cosmetics brands of polish though. No Chanel, Estee Lauder, MAC. I've received a few in gift with purchase bags, but they never really seemed to be anything terribly special. If there was a color I couldn't live without, I might splurge. But I'd rather find a knockoff at Sally's or Ulta and save the difference for some tea and a paperback.

Also, it's a one size fits all kind of thing. I might have a hard time finding some fashion trends to work for my size and shape, but I can always buy the "must-have" nail shade. And if the must-have happens to be a color that doesn't flatter me, well it's just on my nails so it really doesn't matter much.

All that being said, I usually keep my toenails neutral. Pale peachy pinks or nude shades. My feet have taken a battering over the decades, and I don't like to draw too much attention to the scars and funky bumpy toes. Occasionally I'll paint them bright if I'm spending the day at the beach or something, but not often because it makes me self-conscious.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Gardening photos and commentary

The blue container in the foreground with the small green leafy plants are a red-stemmed variety of spinach I planted over the Winter. They took a bit of a beating from the heavy thunderstorms we had this past weekend, but that's okay, I'm intending on picking them tomorrow anyway so I can prepare the soil to plant some more eggplant plants. There is actually a second blue box in the far background with more of the same, and again, I'll be putting new eggplant transplants in it too. And speaking of eggplants... that chaotic mess of a bush in the background is actually four eggplant plants I planted in the middle two blue containers last year. They never completely stopped producing fruit, so I never pulled them up. There are two Ichiban eggplant plants that have about a half dozen baby eggplants between them right now, a white ghost eggplant (literally the size and shape and color of an egg) that has one baby fruit and a bunch of flowers, and a Black Beauty plant with a bunch of flowers. The fruits haven't gone bitter yet, I had some with supper Sunday night, and after talking with a couple other gardeners, I was told to leave them be and let them keep on keeping on! Apparently in our climate, where we really don't get much of a Winter, they can go for at least a couple of years before the fruit gets bitter and they slow production to the point where thery're not worth dealing with anymore.

Above are the four new eggplant plants I got to plant alongside the established ones. Two more Ichiban, since they did so well for me and I liked the flavor so much. And two "Fairy Tale" eggplant plants, for something new and different. They make clusters of tiny fruit that supposedly have a nice mild flavor. Eggplant seem to like the spot I've planted them in, so might as well put a few more in and see what happens, right?

This is "Pepper Lane" so to speak. The containers are about 6-7 gallons each, which seems perfect for container peppers I've found. I've got a basic jalapeno, a poblano, and three bell peppers. A green, a brown, and an orange. In the foreground is a happy little chive plant that has literally been growing in the same pot for at least four years now. I pluck out any yellow leaves when I see them, and give it a nice little trim now and then for the kitchen and it just keeps on going and going and going.

Above are my tomato plants for Spring 2012. I planted quite a few less than I have in the past couple of years. But, this is the only really sunny spot I have for them right now and I didn't want to crowd them. If I had more sunny space, I'd plant more. I considered putting some in the front yard, the bushy patio variety, but we never really got around to the landscaping we had hoped to get done. It'll have to wait another year. I have space for maybe two out front, if I can find some good sized established container plants that don't cost a fortune. Maybe a couple of cherry tomatoes.

Above are seeds I want to get planted this weekend. Lemon cucumber, Japanese cucumber, green beans, purple beans, Italian style beans, baby round zucchini, strange little striped melons, basil, dill, and cilantro. It's a little late for the herb seeds, but we'll see what I get this season. I may buy some transplants if I can find them cheap enough.

 And lastly, above is a baby Meyer lemon. Because we had such a warm Fall and Winter, I had a bloom and fruit set towards the end of last year, and that's when this lemon started to develop. I'm just finishing a second bloom and fruit set and can already see the tiniest beginnings of fruits. I guess I'll be getting two harvests this year? No complaints from me, I love lemons!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Spring 2012 Garden: Time to start planting!

So, here's what I will be growing this season:

- Tomatoes. Yellow Pear, Lemon Boy, Cherokee Purple, German Heirloom, and some red hybrid that's supposed to be good for this area. Along with 4 patio tomato plants to see how they do. Those got planted Monday. I might add one red cherry tomato plant, but not sure yet.

- Peppers. Chocolate bell, orange bell, green bell, poblano, and jalapeno. Those got planted today.

- Eggplant. I still have the 2 Ichiban, 1 White Ghost, and 1 Black Beauty plants from last year that are going strong and making fruit. I'm adding two more Ichiban and two Fairy Tale for this season. I'll plant those by the weekend.

- Cucumbers. The main planting will be an heirloom Japanese long cucumber I heard good things about, and also a smaller planting of lemon cucumbers for something different.

- Bush Beans. Royal Burgundy, Blue Lake, and an heirloom broad Italian variety.

- Squash. I'm going to try the baby round zucchini yet again this year. We'll see how they go.

- Beets. I have some Detroit Dark Red beets that got planted back in February that ought to be ready to harvest in another month or so.

- Carrots. I have some red cored Chanteney carrots I planted back in January that are starting to really show some growth too.

- Melons. I ordered a pack of seeds from an heirloom seed catalog that make tiny orange striped melons, and will try growing them in big containers with a trellis. The melons are only the size of an apple, so they can grow that way without pulling off the vine or pulling the trellis apart.

- Herbs. Rosemary, mint, thyme, oregano, dill, basil, catnip, parsley, cilantro, and bay leaves so far. I will probably add more though.

- Fruit. Lots of lemons on the mature tree, the immature lemon, orange, and satsuma trees are all doing well so far.

- Berries. 4 different kinds of blueberries, the bushes are half-mature so they will produce a few berries here and there but I won't get a full harvest for at least another couple of years.