Friday, April 06, 2012

April showers bring May... vegetables?

At least, I hope so!  My parents came up from Florida this past weekend so my Mom could attend a bridal shower for my sister (with me, of course).  Since it was my Spring Break, I convinced her to stick around for a few extra days and help me conquer a mini-dream of mine - planting a garden!
My one attempt at vegetable gardening in the past was a complete flop.  The blog post was entitled "The $50 Pepper".  Granted - I never actually wrote the post, but the title alone should give you a hint.  Basically, one lonely little green bell pepper plant in a too-small pot that struggled with bugs, fungus and who knows what else and ultimately I ate one small pepper that was about 2" long.  That was it.
So this year I decided to do it "right" - and do a raised bed.
My husband has always hated the bushes that were under our bedroom windows (to the right in the picture below -- apparently we don't take many pics of the back of our house, since this one is from before we bought it!).
It wasn't hard, then, for me to get permission (or help) pulling them up and putting a small raised bed in their place!  The ground wasn't pure clay, since this was a "flower bed" in a previous life, but some tilling was definitely needed.  We started with a hand tiller, but my neighbor was kind enough to let us borrow their little mechanical one, which did the job much better and faster.
A bit of online digging (pun intended) and Mom and I opted to use cinderblocks to mark off the bed.  Easily adjustable (to expand next year, if this goes well), fairly inexpensive, and no worries about warping, rotting, or leeching chemicals like we'd have with wood.  A few layers of newspaper theoretically serves as a bit of a weed barrier, but also will eventually compost and be good for the soil.
We used half-blocks for the sides (7 on each side) and whole ones for the ends (3 each).  This gives us a planting area of about 4'x8' - just perfect to start out!  We added 5 cubic feet of regular top soil, 4.5 cubic feet of Miracle Grow Organic top soil/fertilizer, and 100 lbs of Black Kow composted cow manure (no, it doesn't stink).  Should make for a nice, rich soil to grow things in!
Now, what to plant?  Several people we talked too said NOT to overplant or it would be counterproductive.  Despite my rough first attempt, peppers were still on the top of my list since I like them, they are in the "dirty dozen" list so I try to eat them organically, and they are pricey.  And everyone I've ever known who gardens grows tomatoes, so that sounded like another good place to start.  And since we had room for a little something else, some green beans.  Next year hopefully I'll start from seeds with everything, but not messing with that this year.  We ended up buying 4 plants - a bush tomato, a cherry tomato, a green pepper, and an orange pepper - and some bush green bean seeds.  Again, per our online exploring, we opted to plant 6 herbs in the "end caps" (oregano, parsley, basil, rosemary, mint and cilantro), and a few flowers in the small spaces in the side blocks to pretty it up a bit.  Here I am with the finished product:
Total cost was probably around $170, (approx $30 for the cinder blocks, $45 for the various soils, $25 for a hand tiller, $5 for a new pair of gardening gloves, $60 for the plants/herbs/flowers/seeds).  Pricier than I had planned, but considering that most of it won't need to be bought again next year, it's not too bad.  Now I'm just praying the rabbits and deer stay away so I can get some real produce!
Of course, how could I leave out a picture of our little champion who cheered us on while we worked?
Working the soil... Soli Deo Gloria.

Monday, February 13, 2012

I see you!

My sweet Ethan is nearing 9 months old already - and I can hardly believe it!  He's a happy little guy and loves to smile and laugh.  His list of solids/purees that he eats is growing, and so far there's nothing that he won't eat.  I gave him a few Cheerios last week - what a hoot!  The looks on his face as he "chews" them, and the cute little effort to get them in his mouth on his own.  It never occurred to me while babysitting that eating Cheerios was a lesson in fine motor skills!
Since about 6 months old, he's consistently slept 7pm-7:30am without a fuss.  He had a stomach bug 2 weeks ago (my, was that terrible) and even slept great through that.  And then last week, he suddenly decided he didn't want to sleep at bedtime.  Some nights have been better than others, but it's been rough.  I didn't realize how much I'd come to appreciate that time from 7-10/11 when I was awake but he was sleeping!  Teething is perhaps the culprit?  Or time to drop a nap?  Who knows...
Anyway - none of that was in the original mental draft of this post.  What I really wanted to talk about was more "separation-anxiety" related.  Ethan doesn't really have much - most of the time he's happy to be with anyone, especially if they're holding him - and I'm thankful for that.  It's nice to have a break sometimes and for others to be able to enjoy him as well - and certainly makes going to work and leaving him in nursery a lot easier.  But he DEFINITELY recognizes his Papá and Mamá.  I can't tell you how many times I've seen him contentedly across the room, and when his eyes land on me, his face just lights up.  And if Papá walks in the room, he reaches out for him and smiles.  What joy it brings to my heart to see that sweet face and know that it's smiling because of me.  To know that he loves and trusts me.
And then the other day, it hit me.  That must be what God feels when we rejoice in His presence.  But more importantly, when I see His face, do I look like Ethan does when he sees me?  When I hear His voice as I read Scripture, do I burst out in smiles?  When I see His handiwork in Creation or see evidence of His sovereign hand in my life, do I giggle and reach towards Him?  I'm not sure that I always do.  And I'm even more certain that I don't have much separation anxiety.  I don't cry as soon as I feel myself moving away from him, and I'm not generally "fussy" and yearning for His presence when I fail to spend time with Him.  And if that's not shameful enough, my promised future in His unadulterated and eternal presence in Heaven rarely even enters my mind.  Why, oh why?  Lord, PLEASE, give me that anxiety to sit at your feet, and that joy that lights up my face when I see your glory - as well as the anxiousness for an even purer taste of You!
Wanting to have separation anxiety... Soli Deo Gloria.

Friday, January 06, 2012

HT Super-Dups - 1/6

Today is "el Día de los Reyes" in Spain (or Three Kings' Day, or Epiphany).  Our family across the pond has the day off and spent the day enjoying each other's company and opening gifts.  We saved a few little gifts from Christmas to open today, but we haven't gotten around to it yet.  My treat to myself, though, was to get back on the coupon wagon and hit up Harris Teeter's super doubles sales.  It feels good!  Here's what I came home with:
In list form (with the final price after coupon/sale):

  • 1 bottle Soft Scrub - $1.99
  • 1 4oz can HT green chiles - 77¢
  • 2 bags Snyders tortilla chips - $2
  • 1 box Banana Nut Cheerios - $2.12
  • 6 Clif bars - $4.10
  • 1 8oz box Annie Chun brown rice noodles - $3.49 *no sale/QP for this one :(
  • 4 boxes Honey Bunches of Oats cereal - 94¢
  • 2 jugs HT premium orange juice - $4.54
  • 10 Yoplait yogurts - $5
  • 2 Chobani yogurts - 80¢
  • 2 1/2 gals Smart Balance milk - $1.50
  • 2 HT soda 2 ltrs - $1.74
  • tax - $1.10
TOTAL: $30.09
TOTAL SAVED: $38.90 = 56%

Definitely worth the trip.  Now if I can keep the momentum going, but without buying so many deals that I blow the budget :)

Feeding my family on the cheap... Soli Deo Gloria.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

AO Update

I realize that after many months of not blogging, the LAST topic anyone who reads this expected me to blog about would be my produce delivery :)  However, I've been meaning to do this math again anyway, so I went ahead and figured I'd share it with the world while I was at it.  Here's a picture of the box of organic produce that I received from Absolute Organics just today:

And here's the cost comparison if purchased at my local Harris Teeter:

  • head of cabbage - $2.07* (assuming it weighs 3 lbs - who knew they sold cabbage by the pound? and i'm too lazy to go weigh it now that i've put the scale away.)
  • 3 kiwi - $2.37*
  • 1.5 lbs banana - $1.50
  • 2.5 lbs pink lady apples - $7.23
  • 2 red navel oranges - $2
  • 1 bunch kale - $2.49
  • 2 yellow bell peppers - $5.58
  • 4 lbs potatoes - $8
TOTAL: $31.24 at HT and the * indicates that that item is not available organically.  Not to mention that HT won't deliver to my doorstep.  And I paid only $30 for 100% organic produce dropped at my door.
I can honestly say that I don't think I've ever owned a cabbage before!  I have no idea how this is going to work out, but I have 2 recipes that I'm interested in trying with it, so when I saw it on the list I decided to take a leap and go for it!  Within the next week or two I hope to try Lynn's Coconut Milk Asian Noodle Soup and Vonda's Spiced Cabbage and Apple Slaw.  And you can bet your bottom dollar that the kale and potatoes will end up in a Kale and Potato Spanish Tortilla on a day when I have plenty of time to be in the kitchen!
So, nearly 2 years after starting to receive Absolute Organics deliveries, I'm still glad to be getting them and we're still eating more (clean) produce and saving money in the process... Soli Deo Gloria.