Lazy Days of Summer?

In looking back at a recent email where the sender had asked what I had been up to this week, I thought long and hard.  What have I been up to this week?  Here it is already Thursday and even though the days seems to pass by in a blur, I couldn’t actually say that I had done much.  Well, I did go to a baseball game with all 3 of my kids on Monday night (hey, $1 tickets through KwikShop, couldn’t pass it up!), ran track night Tuesday night (my awesome running group), church group Wednesday night (DivorceCare), did some baking (banana muffins and brownies – yum!), cleaning, watched the latest episode of Zoo, and finished an entire library book (they’re due on Friday) so I did do something, just not as much as I would usually accomplish.

This morning I made sure I was going to do better than that.

So, I hit the weeds.

This was supposed to have been a vegetable garden.  Although I didn’t seem to get around to it this year.  I meant to.

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Instagram caption: “My vegetable garden. Hey, at least the weeds aren’t too crazy – yet! #keepingitreal #haventgottentoityet #notenoughtime

Geesh, it had gotten ridiculously crazy.

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A third of it was already weeded by this point. And I had a huge blister on the palm of my right hand to show for it!

The dogs were chasing around a humongous wasp the entire time, which was like, 2 hours in the semi hot sun, that seemed to think I was disturbing its area.  It kept landing on the fence around the garden but, fortunately, never on me!  I never found a nest so hopefully it just moved away but it certainly kept my fur boys busy!

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Cooper finally gave in to the heat and wasp chasing and collapsed in the cool earth under the bay window in a section that I hadn’t weeded yet.

I had some potted plants that weren’t fairing too well in the heat, despite the constant watering and their location, so I planted them in this really-next-year-it’ll-be a vegetable-plot.  They’re likely going to die anyway so at least it’ll look nice for a day or two. Okay, I’ll be honest, I’m hoping they’ll last longer than that since it took me so long but I won’t hold my breath. At least my neighbors will be happy not to have to look at the overgrown mess that was there before! (You might be asking why is there an old tire in the garden? I saw somewhere on Pinterest that they made a planter out of it so I thought I’d give it a try. I may regret it later . . . )

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The finished product, including the fence, to keep the dogs out of it! Granted, Cooper can jump it in a single bound but it does slow him down.

I worked very hard this morning to accomplish this, then went inside to change clothes and headed to the Y for a treadmill workout with my daughter, who had missed her cross country conditioning this morning (likely on purpose because it was early!).  After getting in my miles (our group run was scheduled for 6 pm tonight, but I haven’t been doing well with the heat/humidity and the heat advisory was brutal today – 108 degrees – so the treadmill had to suffice), a quick drive to MacAlister’s for their free iced tea day (free drinks! Yay!), lunch at home, then preparing for book club. Book club is always fun (a post on that coming up soon!), then dinner, which my son didn’t want to eat.

I feel quite accomplished with today. Is it time for bed yet?

 

Bucket by Bucket of ROCKS!

With the trees and all of the grass!

With the trees and all of the grass!

Another project that I’ve been wanting to do for YEARS. . . The back corner of where 4 yards meet can get mushy and add that huge green electrical box and that equals some serious ugly.  This past summer our neighbors decided to put in a wooden fence within a few inches of our wrought iron fence, giving me a sort of a back drop.  Finally, a chance to do some work!

It only took A LOT of back power and a few days of work to get it done.  First, I had all of the lines marked.  Couldn’t risk “accidentally” digging up a power line!  Next, I put in the trees prior to a rain storm to capitalize on the good moisture. I only added two that should get quite large, which is why I gave them plenty of growing room.  I have a mum in a bicycle planter and a lavender plant and then transplanted two lilies that Cooper has enjoyed sitting on.  One damp morning I put in the trim.  I had bought it a few years ago when I first had the idea for this project only recently my oldest son decided he was going to cut it up to make an outdoor guinea pig pen.  Oh well, I took it back and used it along the side edge.  After a Pinterest tip of using newspapers as weed block (yeah for more $ savings!), I commenced moving buckets and buckets and buckets and buckets and buckets and buckets . . .  of rocks from underneath to the deck to this area.  The only cost I incurred on this project was the trees, approximately $20 after my Lowe’s discount.

Cooper was "helping".

Cooper was “helping”.

The lighting wasn't so great when I finally got around to finishing the last few bucket fulls. And Buddy photo-bombed the picture, too!

The lighting wasn’t so great when I finally got around to finishing the last few bucket fulls. And Buddy photo-bombed the picture, too!

The next day final shot. So pretty!  Looking forward to watching the trees grow! (cross fingers hoping my lack of a green thumb doesn't make them all DIE!)

The next day final shot. So pretty! Looking forward to watching the trees grow! (cross fingers hoping my lack of a green thumb doesn’t make them all DIE!)

I finished up by moving my plants and ‘Love’ frock from the deck into this area as well as a bird bath we’ve had for years that’s so old it doesn’t even hold water anymore. No worries! I can always put something else on it!  I’m sure it’ll be a work in progress until the trees grow and with seasonal flowers but for now I’m enjoying the lack of soggy, muddy dog paws and not having to edge around that stupid green box!  And some even better news, although I knew I would be sore the next day, I didn’t injure my back (my legs were sore from proper lifting techniques) and I got an awesome cross-training workout!

Ms. Independent

My significant other used to complain that I wouldn’t “relax” on the weekends. I usually have a to-do list a mile long and I actually enjoy accomplishing these things and marking things off my list. Since I’m the one that enjoys doing this, it also means that I’m usually doing this on my own. Hmm, Ms. Independent!  Well, this weekend was no exception. And even better? It was a three-day weekend due to a Conference Release Day! Too bad my body didn’t know how to actually sleep in on days that my alarm wasn’t going to be going off!

Friday consisted of an orthodontist appointment for my son, prepping for a painting job in my daughter’s room , a quick run on the treadmill at the Y (thanks to the thunderstorms in the area), cleaning the basement, prepping my vegetable garden (after the rain), and helping weed the front flower bed in our neighborhood before heading out for a night with my favorite girlfriends.

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Saturday – WOW – it was a go, go, go day. I started early finishing the prep work on my daughter’s room and painting. I hadn’t anticipated it taking as long as it did but it required 2 coats and moving the loft bed back and forth and back and forth wasn’t easy. And the high ceilings meant up and down, up and down the ladder. No wonder I’m sore this morning! Not to worry, though, I still had time to do some shopping with my mother at Gordman’s, attend church, have dinner at Doc Green’s, clean the kids’ bathrooms, and yes, even though it was late, added new knobs to my bathroom cabinets.  I might add that I am so proud of myself using the drill and not screwing things up! I now do all of these jobs on my own and I’m learning so much.  Now I can say that I am no longer afraid of this tool!

I'm so happy with the way these knobs look! Good deal, too, $8.08 on clearance for a 10-pack from Target, with an additional 5% off for using my Red Card. Score!

I’m so happy with the way these knobs look! Good deal, too, $8.08 on clearance for a 10-pack from Target, with an additional 5% off for using my Red Card. Score!

Sunday was a catch up day to somewhat relax considering how sore I was but I still started a new cross stitch ornament, made some cookies, and ran 8 1/2 miles. (It should have been 11 miles but shhhhh, I struggled and *gasp* even walked a bit! I had to listen to my body, though, and let it go. After all, next week is another week of training.) The rest of the day has been kind of blah as I’m quite tired so I’m going to finish my day flipping through some magazines, sipping my hot green tea, and putting my feet up. Not to worry, though, as I can still feel that sense of accomplishment by checking off the items on my to do list! 😉

4th of July Goodies

My husband’s brother’s family was traveling in to visit for the 4th this year and I wanted to make something healthier for desserts to along with our typical hamburger cookout.  The thought of making the Jello thing from last year didn’t appeal to me so I checked out Pinterest again for some new ideas.

This first one was incredibly easy.  3 kinds of yogurt and a bit of food coloring. Extra fruit optional.  Delicious!

Yogurt Popsicles

Yogurt Popsicles

I already buy the big containers of vanilla yogurt so this time I bought one of strawberry as well.  In the 2 stores that I checked they didn’t have blueberry ones so I ended up buying some smaller containers and scooping out what I needed from those.  I should have added some blue food coloring to the blueberry yogurt as it turned out more purple than blue but oh well!  They were all very flavorful!  I put them in small Dixie-equivalent cups and used popsicle sticks. I actually have popsicle makers but they were so large that I thought the yogurt would get wasted.  These are perfect and I still can still rinse and recycle them when they’re done.

Next, watermelon!  A little time consuming using my cookie cutters to make the star shapes but they sure looked cool!  I had an extra bowl for the extra cut offs that went around the shape so there wasn’t anything wasted.

Star shaped watermelon pieces

Star shaped watermelon pieces

Last but not least was a cookie, cream cheese concoction that did require me to buy a mini muffin pan but I’ve been wanting one for quite some time so the $5.96 that I spent at Walmart for said pan will be well-worth it, I’m sure.  I bought 2 small Betty Crocker packets of sugar cookie dough (the bigger one was all sold out) for $1 each to make the base.  I had enough to fill all 24 muffins and make 6 extra cookies.  The recipe called for 2 cups of cream cheese but I didn’t even use a whole one (reduced fat, of course!) and it was plenty!  I used my pastry stuff that used to be my Grandma’s — ah, a trip down memory lane.

Cookies baked, now adding the cream cheese!

Cookies baked, now adding the cream cheese!

I added fresh blueberries and strawberries to finish it off with the red,white and blue theme, also on sale at $0.99 each with leftovers that we will eat without any problems.  We eat a lot of fruit at our house! These were perfect little bite size cookies that were indeed delicious. Yum! No leftovers of these when the night was over and done with!  I don’t feel bad in the least that the majority of it was healthy(ish!) I hope you were able to enjoy a safe and enjoyable Independence Day with fun, family and friends!

Flag cupcakes ready to go!

Flag cupcakes ready to go!

P.S. Just in case you’re wondering, the rest of our menu looked like this: hamburgers, veggie burgers, salmon burgers, hot dogs, baked beans, grilled fresh green beans, green lettuce salad with homegrown tomatoes, jello salad “green stuff” (a specific request from my daughter), 3 bean salad on wheat flat buns or white buns. There were a few brownies and some baked chips for the kids as well as cantaloupe. We were blessed to have such delicious food!

Meatless Monday Pasta

My daughter has recently decided to become a vegetarian for personal health reasons.  Our family doesn’t eat a whole lot of meat anyway, primarily fish & chicken but I’m a sucker for a good, juicy hamburger.  Last night we tried a recipe that I had pulled out of a Ladies’ Home Journal from March 2009!  It did look good, and with it being meat-free, it was perfect. There wasn’t an actual title of the recipe so I improvised (of course!).

Mushroom & Spinach Pasta

Work: 10 minutes          Total:  20 minutes

  • 6 oz. dried farfalle (bow-tie pasta)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 cup sliced portobello or other fresh mushrooms
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 cups spinach, thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves, chopped
  • 1/8 tsp ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp shredded Parmesan

1.  Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain.

2.  In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat.  Add onion, mushrooms and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, 2 to 3 minutes.  Stir in spinach, thyme and pepper and cook until spinach is slightly wilted, about 1 minute.

3.  Toss mushroom and spinach mixture with pasta and sprinkle with cheese.

Makes 4 servings Per serving: 225 calories, 5.5 g total fat, 1 g sat fat, 66 mg sodium, 37 g carbs, 2 mg chol, 9 g protein, 3 g fiber.

mushroom and spinach pasta

mushroom and spinach pasta

Sooooo . . . how was it?  Although somewhat, my husband and daughter added quite a bit of salt.  It seemed to be missing something – chicken, perhaps, suggested my husband?  My daughter thought that it would taste better with halved tomatoes (fresh my garden would be absolutely yum. . . ).  My changes? I used whole grain penne pasta instead of bow-tie as I can’t find it in whole-wheat and I used dried thyme instead of fresh (which daughter claimed had a funny texture). I used fresh cremini mushrooms which are supposed to be more flavorful than the classic white button mushroom. I’m not sure if I’ll make it again or not.  It might be a good side but not as an entire meal.  My youngest son had chicken nuggets, pasta and applesauce as I knew he wouldn’t eat it. Maybe I could add chicken or another protein that would make it a heartier meal.  The magazine claimed that “mushrooms make a fantastic substitute” for meat and that this meal is “fast, filling and super low in fat”, which sounds fabulous if it actually works!

A Yummy Pepper Concoction

The garden has been bountiful lately, yielding a ton of grape tomatoes in my garden and peppers in my mother’s. Before they pulled their plants for the season, I got a bag full of them. Yesterday I spent quite a bit of time chopping, measuring, and prepping to freeze them. I love to have peppers ready to go for stir-frys during the winter and spring months! The fresh produce is so worth it not to mention it saves money!

I had some left over and decided to cut them into strips and saute them with garlic and onion. I served it with cubed steak and brown rice. It was delish, although Wesley said it was too dry (the meat) to enjoy it. Of course, he didn’t want the peppers first (doesn’t like them), then changed his mind and added the peppers, and then said he didn’t like the meat. No one else complained . . . so, okay, whatever! Considering I didn’t use a recipe, I didn’t think it was bad at all.

Fresh peppers make yummy dishes!

Fresh peppers make yummy dishes!

I know I had originally said I was going to do so many new recipes per week, but really – what the heck was I thinking!? That’s a lot of new recipes and a lot of time, something I don’t have a lot of at the moment with school being back in and the children in sports . . . Besides, when would I use them all again?! There are only so many days in a week, after all. The recipes won’t be coming as fast as they were before but I’ll try to put in a few a month.

Hallelujah! Spring break is Here!

My first crocus bloom of the season!

My first crocus bloom of the season!

Although it wasn’t that long ago that we just had a “break” thanks to the snow days (I wrote about those here), I was sooooo ready for another one! I’m sure the fluke days of warm days and glorious sunshine fed my spring break appetite! So now it’s a Saturday and knowing I have the rest of this weekend, the WHOLE WEEK off AND another weekend before going back to our final nine weeks of the school year is absolutely exhilarating. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE teaching but it sure can take it’s toll!

Usually on spring break I pack up the kids and head to Keystone, Colorado for some skiing/snowboarding and tubing. This year my daughter has decided that she hates cold weather and was a bit of a party-pooper over Christmas break when we went. It’s also quite expensive with the gas prices not to mention the lift tickets/equipment rental. Oh, and Mr. Tax Man gets a hefty chunk in April. So, that all being said, I opted to stay home for a stay-cation spring break.

Yes, I have a to-do list because it wouldn’t be me if I didn’t. I’ve got simple things like upload my new CD to my MP3 player, do some training runs, and do some spring cleaning. The warm weather has whet my appetite to do some yard work and I’m pleased to say I’ve already accomplished cleaning out the flower beds in the front yard and finally taking down the Christmas lights extension cord (yeah, yeah, I know, it’s March).  A quick trip to see my sis-in-law & her children is planned. I’m also going fix the popcorn ceiling in the downstairs bathroom, paint said bathroom, yard work in the back, and sort through the storage for a yard sale this summer. Oh, and sleep. I’m exhausted.

I’ll keep you posted on what a great spring break this will be!