We've moved!

Please keep up to date with all think Yankee and gluten-free over at A Yankee in Rebel Clothes.

25 April 2013

We're where it's at

Apparently, our driveway is where it's at. Even when we're not outside and the dogs are in the backyard, our  driveway is filled with kids.

Kids that don't belong to us.

Kids that leave their bikes on the pavement.

Along with their shoes and socks.

And then run around the neighborhood barefoot.

It's awesome. 

Or something like that. 

Don't tell Jack, but we've got beanstalks!

Well, not beanstalks yet, but the definite makings of some!

These just popped through the soil on Sunday!
Look how big they are now!

Since my beans didn't make it through the seedling process (something happened while I was away in NOLA and they died. Sad face.), I had planted new seeds just to see how if they would make it. I wasn't counting on it, but I was hoping for the best since freshly snapped green beans are the perfect summer taste. I was more than presently surprised when every seed I had sowed had planted popped through the soil last Sunday. And I was even more surprised when they had grown significantly all week long. I thinned them out yesterday to give the sturdiest seedlings room to grow, and, today, they seem to have gotten even bigger!

If they keep growing like this, we'll have A LOT of beans in a few weeks!

I also applied the first watering of Miracle-Gro, so we'll see how they like that. (But I didn't Miracle-Gro the herbs because they are far too tender for such fertilizer. They're leaves will quickly burn, so, if you're growing your own, be careful!)

I've definitely got a lot of weeding to do this weekend, and it's already become a thing I'll have to keep up with regularly. This soil not only grows plants well, but it certainly nourishes the weeds and grass as well!

22 April 2013

Giving purpose to my idle hands

All week long, I have felt frustrated and detached and disconnected. The Boston Marathon bombings and the subsequent investigation happening in New England have made me feel far from home and completely helpless. My heart has ached for a city and a people that I love, and I've found no way to help other than sending my prayers to them every day. I know that, even if I had been in Boston all week, my efforts would be insignificant, but at least I would be able to make an effort, do something to make even the smallest difference. Instead, I've been stuck in North Carolina, finding myself glued to the news at every possible moment. And this coming from a girl who is repelled by the news is saying something.

So when my good friend Sheila suggested participating in a memorial 5k in Raleigh on Sunday, I was eager to join her. While it wouldn't really do anything to help, it gave me something to do. I bought the memorial t-shirt of which 100% of the proceeds are going to One Fund Boston, and I walked/jogged the 5k with about 3000 other people who cared and wanted to show their support. It was a beautiful afternoon with puffy clouds and blue sky and a shining sun, and seeing all those people gather together to stand united was certainly moving. And it made me feel like I was doing the right thing. All these people felt helpless as well, and coming together was just a small gesture in showing the people of Boston that we stand together, regardless of geographic location.

One of the most impressive things about this walk was that it started off as a Facebook event with no expected police presence and quickly evolved into a 3000+ mass of people requiring roads to be shut down and police and medical personnel to be on the run route. They had a bagpiper playing "Amazing Grace" and an amazing vocalist who belted out the national anthem. The opening ceremony was moving and inspiring, and it certainly made me feel like I was a part of something bigger with a wonderful purpose.

The enormous flag flying over the start/finish line. 

Over 3000 people came together. Looking ahead to see a wave of people was indeed very cool.

A local company brought out their crane to fly a flag over the run route. 

Sheila and I, post-jog/walk

Impressive growth

It's been an interesting week in the garden. I finally finished planting it last Sunday (April 14th) and had been nurturing it carefully all week. I've been watering it in the afternoon to avoid scorching the leaves, and I've been pulling weeds to remove competition for water and nutrients. Everything was going according to plan.

And then Friday came. And with it came a torrential downpour.

Given my last experience with a heavy rainstorm, I was quite worried. Granted, we had done a lot of work to prevent such a problem in the future (diverting the gutters into a rain barrel, adding more soil in low spots ...), but I was still nervous. While it only rained heavily for about 20 minutes, if you've ever experienced Southern rain storms, you know how much rain can come down in 20 short minutes. Our rain barrel was overflowing before the rain had subsided. This, we discovered, is due to the sad fact that our house only has one downspout on the back half of the house so ALL the rain that hits the roof ends up in the same location ... our rain barrel. But, while there were a few standing puddles of water during the rainstorm, most of it had been absorbed by Saturday morning. I did have to cover one tender plant with a plastic cup because I was afraid it was getting pulverized, but, beyond that, the garden survived the rainstorm without incident.

As the sun rose and warmed the soil on Saturday, I ventured out to check in on my little baby plants and to pull some weeds. I was pretty impressed with what I saw. The beans that I had sown directly into the soil have already started to burst through the ground. I'll need to thin them by Wednesday! The rest of the already-established plants have grown significantly since I first planted them last week!

My squash plants (April 14th and April 21st) have nearly doubled in size in just a week!
This one is harder to see, but my carrots are making good strides as well!
My nasturtium on April 14th and April 21st. Look at the growth!

I love seeing how the plants grow, especially in such a short time! I've been doing some reading, and I think I'm going to start adding JD's coffee grounds to the soil. Apparently you can add them directly to the dirt or make a "tea" with them in water overnight. They supposedly add a lot of nitrogen to the soil, so I'm eager to see what happens there!

16 April 2013

Inspiration in the devastation, hope in the chaos

I'm not a Bostonian. I don't claim to be. I proudly hail from NY and yet I loudly cheer for the Red Sox. Despite my geographical roots, as an adult, I've felt a strong affinity for New England and Boston. Part of that stems, I'm sure, from dating a Bostonian for a long time, but a huge part of that affinity comes from the history (both literary and national) that is deeply rooted in the culture and architecture and landscape and people. I'm a 19th Century American Lit PhD (ABD for now ...), and all of the authors that I study are from New England and Boston. I feel closer to them and their world whenever I visit. 

Sadly, I haven't been to Boston in almost two full years. I haven't seen a Red Sox game at Fenway in almost three. I miss the noise of the city. The screech of the old trains and their dirty, earthy, subterranean smell. The beating of the waves against the boat hulls in the harbor. The tranquility of Chris Columbus Park surrounded by the towering office buildings and honking horns. Mike's Pastries and NEBO and all the amazing food. The glistening sparkle of the capitol dome. The crack of a bat in the Fen. I'm not a Bostonian, but a large part of my heart belongs there. 

So hearing about the marathon yesterday hurt. I've never been a runner and I've never followed running, but marathon runners have always impressed me. I've never understood their desire to run just to run, but I respect anyone who can run for 26.2 miles. The Boston Marathon has always been an event that brought people together. It's kicks off a significant week in Boston's culture, a week filled with community events and celebrations. Baseball games, hockey, basketball, concerts, parades ... The long drifted snow has finally started to melt, and spring has finally arrived. And for someone to disrupt that feeling of joy and togetherness with such violence and hatred is unthinkable and beyond all comprehension. 

But, sadly, I've seen this before. We all have. September 11th may be over a decade past, but, for those of us who experienced those terrifying days, it is still as fresh as what we had for dinner last night. I remember Oklahoma City and Newtown and The Trade Center and my own personal tragedy. These acts of violence are nothing new to me. And, despite their familiarity, I still fail to comprehend them. I find myself feeling sad and lost and overwhelmed by the monsters of the world in which I live. So overwhelmed that I forget about all the good. All the bright shining moments and generous people who work tirelessly in their own way to make things good. And I've realized that nothing I ever do will change the world. No act, no matter how great or small, will change the actions of people who seem to act with no reason. But I can change my reactions to the world. 

I refuse to let the actions of a mad man (or men) change my heart. I believe that the majority of the world is kind and good, and those who cause harm are a sad minority in need of something. I don't know what that something is, and, honestly, it's beyond me to worry about that. Instead of ranting and raving on social media and to my friends and on this blog about how devastating this tragedy is and how this person (these persons) are such monsters, I am shifting the focus to celebrate the overwhelming swell of humanity and love that has emerged from such sad events. When the name(s) of the attackers are released, you won't find them here or on my Fb page or in my Twitter feed. I refuse to contribute to this person's (people's) desire for fame and celebrity due to whatever motives that they may have. Every time our news media increases their ratings by splashing the images of these madmen on the nightly news, we only confirm that such acts of hatred are worthy of recognition and celebrity. While I'm sure that this is not the intention of the news, it is the result.  Instead, I'm going to celebrate those who were there to help. Those who were there to love. Those who were there to freely give to strangers. Those who rose above the senseless violence to extend a hand to help others to their feet.

Like Brett who tells the world where he lives and his phone number and that he's "got food and a futon and a warm place to crash."

Or Barbara who offered her pull-out couch and a hot, home-cooked meal to anyone who needed it. 

And Rachel, who didn't have any extra room, but was happy to transport people to where they needed to go and feed them as well.

And Aviva, the MIT student, who offered up her already cramped dorm room. 

Or Kelsey, who happily offered to give up her own bed for the comfort of a displaced and disheartened runner. 

And Sarah, who offered her home for rest and her dogs for cuddles and affection.

THESE are the people who deserve our attention and nightly news time. The first responders. The trainers who shifted their focus from muscle aches to missing limbs. The off-duty police who rushed in to work to help. The hundreds of bystanders who stepped away from their own immediate needs and fears to help those who were scared and alone and confused. THESE are worthy. But we too often forget them for the sake of images of carnage and violence and catastrophe. But I refuse to do this. Just looking over the list of homes volunteered in the hours after the explosions brings tears to my eyes. Not the normal tears of sadness and disgust and heartbreak that typically follow such events. Instead, I shed tears of hope and love and inspiration knowing that all these strangers stepped up to the call of need. THESE are the people who I will focus on and celebrate in the days and weeks that follow. Those who have helped the hurt. Those who have sacrificed their own safety for the well being of others. Those who opened their hearts and their homes to provide shelter and warmth to the lost. I refuse to waste my thoughts, my words, my heart, and my strength on those who cause destruction. I will continue to believe in the good of mankind, and, anytime I doubt that it exists, I look back at that Google Doc and be reminded. 

Blue sky over Boston Harbor.

Chris Columbus Park.

The Seat.

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” 
― Fred Rogers

15 April 2013

Ready? Set? Grow!

I finally got to get my hands dirty and dig into my garden on Sunday. Before I could begin, we had to figure out a solution to my downspout problem (the positioning of it led to a small river running through my fresh soil after a heavy rain) and had to get a dog-deterring fence up. For some reason, two of our dogs LOVE to eat the fresh soil and the third just likes to tear through it and make a mess. JD's dad came into town on Saturday and helped us to put up a fence and install a modified rain barrel. It looked great and was just sitting there waiting to be planted.

Sunday morning after church, I hit up Lowe's to get a few final staples (including two small tomato plants so I can grow the kind the JD's dad likes as a "thank you" for his help) and rushed home to get to work. I was so excited to get out there and work in the dirt that I actually dreamed about it on Saturday night. I haven't had a proper garden since the summer after I was married back in 2002, and the prospect of having a garden again is exhilarating. I love growing things. Even when I was apartment-bound, there were a million plants in pots all over my patios and porches. Even my classroom windowsills are littered with plants of different varieties and sizes.

Thankfully, the weather outside was beautiful and absolutely perfect for planting. I began by mounding up my rows - six in all - and trying to figure out what I wanted to go where. I knew my squash and creeping vegetables - pumpkins, eggplant, and watermelon - needed room to stretch out, so I dedicated two rows to them. I only planted one watermelon and one pumpkin seedling because, let's be real, those badboys are hugs and take forever to grow. But I planted at least six squash/zucchini seedlings because I want to have enough to make goat-cheese stuffed fried squash flowers. And, since I need to cook the flowers, that plant will produce less fruit. So I compensated by planting extra. There is definitely a method to my madness.

I planted my four tomato plants on the edge closest to the house because they will eventually need to be staked/racked up, and putting the racks near the house will be less intrusive than smack in the middle of the garden. I've planted an entire row of herbs with chives sown directly into the soil. The beans I planted weeks ago never grew, so I'm attempting to sow them directly into the soil to see if they grow. If they do, they will grow against the fence where I can easily tie them up. If they don't grow, I haven't wasted any space. It's a small square of soil, but I'm really looking forward to seeing how it produces.

The Garden. Fence in place with flowers trimming it. 

Squash babies.

Tomato babies. 

I've never grown carrots before. Let's see what happens!

Nasturtium. For color and for flavor (they are edible flowers). 

I also attempted to soften/prettify/improve the constantly-soggy corner of our yard. The draining at this property is HORRIBLE (which our rain barrel will hopefully help!), and the corner opposite the garden is always wet. Always. Unless it doesn't rain for like two weeks straight. But I also don't want to invest a ton of money given that we are only renting. So, while at Lowe's, I found these ferns on sale for $8. Since ferns LOVE super moist soil, I'm hoping they do well in this corner. My only fear is that they will get too much sun. The corner definitely needs work, but at least it's less barren right now. And the ferns are certainly distracting from the boggy nature of that area.

After spending over three hours in the sun on my hands and knees and bent over at weird angles, I had very sore muscles and a series of weird sunburns in random spots on my body. But the soreness was the good kind. The kind you feel after working hard and creating something that you will enjoy (hopefully!) for months to come. I had no problem falling asleep last night and slept harder than I have in a long time. 

11 April 2013

A simple dirt plot

Almost a month ago, I posted about my new little seedlings that I was starting for my new garden. I may have started them a little too early because our weather suddenly got very cold and delayed the start of my outside garden. But the weather has finally warmed up (relatively) consistently, and it's time to start preparing the ground for our garden.

JD rented a tiler yesterday and, in the sweltering hot sun, started to break ground. Being the go-getter that he is, he started it while I was at school but quickly realized that he couldn't get the whole thing done without help. There was just too much organic matter (i.e. clumps of grass) to do it alone. I rushed home from work, put on my work gloves, and dug in. Literally. We raked and tilled and raked and tilled for about 3 hours. And finally we layered some fresh soil on top to add fresh nutrients to the ground. And, now, she is ready for my seedlings who are rapidly growing out of their spaces. And, of course, she needs a fence because I have three dogs who can't wait to dig in that fresh smelly dirt.

The plot. I'm looking forward to seeing it covered in green. 

I was hoping to start relocating my seedlings to their permanent home today, but some storms are expected to pass through tonight and tomorrow. I would hate for them to get beaten up by the rain and wind, and the rain would certainly help the new soil to settle in. But the free watering would be pretty wonderful. If I can't get their feet into the ground today, they will certainly be in new soil this weekend. The forecast is calling for spectacular weather.

A few seedling outgrew their homes and had to be placed into a temporary space.
A large Rubbermaid container. 

08 April 2013

It was a very good day

Sunday was a perfect day. The sun was shining. The birds were singing. The weather was warm. It was almost like a Disney movie except real.

I had been complaining to JD that we hadn't spent any real time together since I had gotten back from NOLA. Every moment of the day since I had returned seemed to be filled with family and responsibilities. All I wanted to do was just hang out and be together, but there was always something else that needed to be done. Sunday finally came and we had nothing on the agenda. The prospect was pretty exciting.

I went to church as usual, and, as soon as I got home, we put the dogs in the backyard and started washing the cars. First, his behemoth of a truck and then my little Vdub. After a solid hour of washing vehicles, we put together the new lawn mower and I had my first ever lawn-mowing experience! I only mowed the front lawn because the ground was still pretty wet and soggy from previous rainy days. Which ultimately led to three dogs getting baths because they were running and playing in the soggy wet ground. Finally, when all our work was done, JD went on a quick grocery run so we could cook out in the nice weather. And then we just relaxed.

Even though we were busy from sun-up to (almost) sun-down, it was just what I needed. I loved working side-by-side with him our chores, laughing and joking about silly things and serious things, singing along to the music that was playing, and just being together. Moments like those are so much more important and special than any fancy date or extravagant dinner. Don't get me wrong. Those are nice, too. But the day-to-day stuff is so much more enjoyable when we're doing it together.

I guess it must be meant to be if even the mundane is enjoyable, right?

04 April 2013

My Very Grown-Up Easter

This year is the first year I attempted to cook Easter dinner for my family and friends. I've been wanting to have a gathering at the new place for some time now, but it never seemed to work out. Weather and family emergencies and vacations all seemed to get into the way. But Easter seemed to be coming together. We were expecting JD's brother, sister-in-law, and niece, dad, and step-mom, and we had also invited my favorite Durham family. I was planning to make some of my Mom's recipes that remind me so much of my childhood.

I remember as a kid, in the first house we lived in, Easter always seemed to be on a sunny day. Mom would make a ham with cherries and pineapple and a brown sugar glaze (which I found out was not actually her recipe but rather my dad's sister's) and a pineapple upside down cake. We'd always have scalloped potatoes and other tasty morsels. I remember that my uncle Marvin would always bring something cool to entertain us kids. I specifically remember the giant electric airplane that he flew around our backyard for hours. It was great fun, and, faced with a new chapter in my life, I've been feeling nostalgic. Plus we always eat Southern food around here (we do live in NC, after all), so I wanted to bring some of my own traditions to the table ... literally.

Easter morning started rainy and dreary and with a sick pup. Pickles ate something the day before, and he was certainly not feeling well. He couldn't get comfortable and he whined non-stop. JD finally decided that he needed to go to the emergency vet. So, at 7am, we loaded into the car and drove through a rainstorm to get him seen. They performed x-rays and an exam and determined that he had eaten WAY too much food but, thankfully, didn't have an obstruction. The vet felt confident that, with a day fasting and some meds to ease his tummy, he'd be fine. So back home we went.

By the time we got home, it was after 10. The ham needed to be in the oven by 11 to make our 1pm dinner time. Sadly, despite being ready to go to church, I didn't get to attend. I jumped into dinner-prep. I started with my ham, putting it all together just like Mom told me to...

Before the over
After the oven. Yum!
 I also made Mom's pineapple upside-down cake. It turned out so pretty!! It was also an interesting experience because, since the recipe is old school (like Betty Crocker cookbook circa 1970), I had to use Crisco in the batter. But, oh my Lord, that cake tasted DIVINE!

One of my favorite desserts EVER!
We had three kids coming to dinner, so I made sure to have lots of candy and sweets on the tables. Plus, they made for pretty decorations!

All in all, we had 12 people at dinner, and everyone seemed to be happy. My scalloped potatoes were a little underdone, but the cheesiness of them helped compensate for that. The broccoli casserole was yummy as well. My guests brought a nice green salad, some tasty wine, and a chocolate cake for dessert. By the time we were done with dinner, the rain had subsided and the sun had started to shine. The kids even got a little outdoors time. 

So, for my very first grown-up Easter, I think it was quite the success! Good friends. Good food. And good wine. Cheers!

Update: Pickles the pup turned out to be fine. After a day of nothing but sleep and no food, he finally "passed" a rather large chunk of rubber that he had chewed off of a rug. Which, in all honestly, I'm surprised that it didn't cause an obstruction. That thing was HUGE! And now he's back to his normal self. And I'm trying to forget the fact that he BITE me and I'm excusing it because he didn't feel good. :)


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...