Signs of Spring + Seedling Update

Spring is coming quickly, and winter cannot do a thing to stop it.  While the large picture outside still looks dreary, bursts of color and signs of life are popping up all around.

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By our mailbox, the Sedum “Autumn Joy” is beginning its journey to a fall bloom, the first of hundreds of flowers has emerged on the Creeping Phlox, and tulips and daffodils are beginning to push their way through the dirt.

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The crocuses making the first appearance in our yard

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New growth on the rose bushes

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Gardenia bushes and tulips–lots of tulips–planted in the fall

Winter, you are defeated.

We even did some long overdue yard work this weekend. The shrubs by our front steps were way overgrown, leaving only a small opening to walk up and down the stairs.

spring before

Okay, so maybe it was more than a “small opening,” but those shrubs were out of control.  I attacked them with some hedge clippers while Andrew raked and weeded, and we were left with this:

spring afterSo much better, right?

A few quirks about our yard that we inherited with the house:

1. We have about three types of grass growing (plus the control group of no grass in the back yard…) They are different textures, grow at different rates, and turn green at different times during the year.

2. There are six azaleas in front of our house–three on each side of the steps (the giant shrubs are mostly hiding two of them, but I promise they are there.)  Five of those azaleas are alike.  The center shrub on the left?  Different variety, different size, different color, bloom time, etc.  I don’t have the heart to pull it up and replace it (Okay, I have the heart; I don’t have the confidence that I could pick the variety that does match the others.)

3. While I love spring bulbs–and in fact planted many myself back in the fall–the previous owner of our house planted tulips and crocuses (and monkey grass? Why monkey grass??) very randomly between/in front of the azaleas.  I don’t hate it, but it does look a little silly.

I realize these are very much “first-world problems,” and I am not complaining, simply acknowledging quirks 😉

In other spring news, our vegetable seedlings that we planted about a month ago are doing fairly well!  Well, most of them.

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Notes on the process thus far:

-For the first week we kept kept them in our “greenhouse”: the guest bathroom with a sky light and space heater, the container covered by its plastic top.  Once they sprouted, we moved them to our sunny living room by a window.

-The broccoli is thriving (bottom row in the top photo.)

-The cantaloupe is not thriving (top row in top photo)

-The peppers, while very late to sprout (we thought they weren’t going to make it,) are now growing and looking well.

-The tomatoes sprouted quickly and continue to look strong.

-At some point I know we were/are supposed to thin the sprouts to one per square.  I know ultimately it has to be done, but I can’t bring myself to uproot the ones that look so healthy!

I think the next step is to transplant them to larger, individual containers so they can continue growing before being planted outside.  We need to do some more research on this project, but I am so looking forward to starting the plants outside once it warms up a little more!

Spring, we welcome you 🙂

A Rock Star Birthday

Six years ago I drove down to Raleigh, NC for my spring break;  my sister was due with her first child that week, and I was hoping to be there when my niece made her debut into the world (uh, not in the room… just nearby ;-))

After spending a few days waiting, I finally had the joy to meet Kendall:

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I didn’t know it was possible to love someone so quickly and so deeply, and my life was forever changed.

Last weekend, Andrew and I had the pleasure of attending Kendall’s 6th birthday party.  To make a long story short, Kendall’s parties are elaborate.  Like, make-other-moms-look-bad elaborate.  This year the party was “Rock Star” themed.  I’ll let the photos do most of the talking:

Friday night, the photo booth needed to be constructed and tested:

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Saturday morning we had a bit of downtime to relax and break-in the bounce castle:

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Andrew stepped up to the role of Cake Engineer and made an awesome guitar cake for our little rock star:

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Impressive, right?

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VIP passes and sunglasses for the guests, cream cheese and JAM! sandwiches, yogurt-dipped pretzel drum sticks, pop star popcorn, guitar pick carrot chips…

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Kendall was born for the spotlight;  this was the best smile we could get from Lauren 😀

Cake and presents, of course:

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Isn’t Lauren a good helper? 😉

There was also Just Dance happening on the Wii and guitar decorating for the photo booth.  Speaking of the photo booth…

After all the kids left (and I should mention there were 30 kids!), the big kids adults had some fun:

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Charles, Kendall, Whitney, Ross, Ms. Patsy, Lauren, Andrew, and me… My dad, grandmother, aunt, and uncle were not able to make the drive from Atlanta, and we missed them dearly!   

The masterminds behind the Jam:  my sister, Whitney, and her best friend Jeanine:

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We had a wonderful time celebrating Kendall.  I sure am glad that kid was born!

Elliptical Interval Workout

It’s 8:15 p.m., and you’re at home.  The gym closes at 9.  You’re still planning to honor your commitment to squeeze in a workout before going to bed.  By the time you arrive at the gym you will have no more than 25 minutes to workout.  What do you do?

High intensity interval training.

HIIT is essentially a workout in which you alternate bursts of intense activity with periods of less intense activity.  The benefit?  Greater fitness in less time.  Perfect for such a night as described above.

That was last night for Andrew and me.  Here’s the workout I did on the Elliptical machine:

elliptical workout

Now, I should note that the levels are all relative.  While level 16 for me means I am working nearly as hard as I can and my heart rate is way up, that was Andrew’s warm-up level.  He literally weighs 100 lb more that I do, and gravity helps move those pedals!  Because it can vary so much person-to-person, focus more on how you feel than the number on the machine.  You should be breathing heavily on your sprints and feeling your heart rate come back down on the “easy”s.

ellipticalI have no idea what the 24.2 speed means.  I wasn’t going 24.2 anything.

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Thumbs up for a good interval workout and a sweaty face.

Now, gather your belongings from the locker room, and walk out the door at 8:59 p.m. to avoid receiving the stink eye from any and all gym employees.

The Easiest Stew You’ll Ever Make

We celebrated Stewsday this week with a recipe I created a few years ago, of which I am quite proud.  This stew is delicious, healthy, hearty, quick, and most importantly, foolproof.  Truly foolproof.  If you can open a few cans, you can make this stew.

Here’s the original recipe:

Simple Salsa Stew

16 oz salsa

1 (15oz) can Great Northern beans, drained/rinsed

1 (15oz) can carrots, drained

1 (15 oz) can green beans, drained

1 (15oz) can corn, drained

1 lb canned chicken

Water to reach desired consistency

1. Put all ingredients in a large saucepan.  2. Heat and stir.  3. Eat.

It’s really that easy.   The longer you let it simmer, the better it will taste, but if you are in a hurry you can eat it as fast as you can heat it!

This week we had a few bags of frozen vegetables and chicken breasts (not canned), so we modified the recipe, making it only slightly more labor intensive.

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We used: 32 oz medium salsa (2 jars,) 1 bag each corn, carrots, and green beans, 2 cans Great Northern beans, and 1.25 lb chicken breasts (boiled, then shredded with a fork.)  We added chicken broth rather than water to make up for the juices that would have been in the can of chicken.  (Chicken juices… mmm… ;-))

We heated everything over medium-low heat for about 30 minutes;  we let this batch simmer a bit longer than usual to allow the frozen vegetables to soften.  The end result:

stew

So good.  We like to scoop ours with tortilla chips–it is, after all, a souped up version of salsa (pun intended :-D).

There it is: quite possibly the easiest stew you will ever make.  And for the amount of work you put in, the taste is pretty tough to beat.

Enjoy!

Colorado Part 2: Mountain Views and Hot Flashes

High altitude can do strange things to the body.  The lack of oxygen can cause shortness of breath (check,) headaches, digestive issues (check,) fatigue, dizziness, and…hot flashes? (check.)  Okay, so I can’t find proof that high altitude causes hot flashes, but I also can’t find any other reason that I experienced them on this trip!  It happened a few times Wednesday night and Thursday, which would have been when my body was trying to acclimate (plus, we drove even higher Thursday.)  At first I thought the hotel room was too hot, the heat in the car was turned up too high, etc.  When I noticed that Andrew and Jenny both were still wearing their jackets, I realized: I was having hot flashes.  Hah!

Has anyone else experienced this?  Are high altitude hot flashes a thing?

Moving on…

Saturday morning we ate brunch at Beatrice and Woodsley–a fairy tale-esce restaurant in downtown Denver.  I ordered the “Eggs Johnny Fever–Pan fried goetta on toasted onion bread with sunny eggs, mustard hollandaise, and roasted cauliflower.”  Yum.

Jenny brunchcoffee BandM

It was a sunny, 50-something degree day, so after brunch we met our friend Ashley at Washington (“Wash”) Park, walked around the lake, and chatted for a while.

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Then we continued chatting over ice cream at Sweet Action.  They serve a few dairy-free flavors, so Andrew was able to have some as well.  It was apparently the best DF ice cream he’s ever had!

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After saying goodbye to Ashley, we decided to get a late lunch (the theme of the day was “keep eating” ;-)) at Sputnik–a quirky, hipster, hole-in-wall restaurant with great tacos and waitresses that say, “What do you want?” when taking your order.  At least ours did.  We filled up on tacos and drove west towards the mountains to continue enjoying the weather and the scenery.

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 photo (21) Awesome.

Finally, on the way home we stopped at a point of geological interest:

photo (12)My husband.

It was a whirlwind trip, but we managed to pack in lots of great food, outdoor adventures, and time with family and friends.

Until next time, Colorado!

Colorado Part 1: Bison Burgers, Powder, and Hot Flashes

We are home from Denver and feeling a bit jet-lagged today!  While I only spent three and a half days out West, Colorado did not disappoint.  We packed as much as possible into our brief trip.

I arrived Wednesday evening after flying by myself for the first time (I know–how does a person make it nearly 27 years without flying alone?)  I made it through security without being pulled aside for the first time in three trips, I navigated the enormous Dallas airport, and it only took me one song on my iphone to realize the earphones were not plugged in all the way and everyone around me on the plane could hear my music.  Success!

Andrew and Jenny met me at the airport, and we drove downtown and had dinner at Ted’s Montana Grill.  After a day of peanut butter, bananas, and trail mix, I opted for a bison burger with fries and a side salad.  The burger was delicious, but huge, so I was only able to eat half of it (and Andrew helped with the fries ;-))  It definitely hit the spot!

Jenny had to work Thursday, so Andrew and I borrowed her car and took a trip to Golden–home of the Coors Brewery.

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We walked around town for a bit, then ate lunch at Windy Saddle Cafe, which boasts some excellent gluten-free grub.  We split a GF butterscotch muffin as an appetizer (because who doesn’t need a lunch appetizer?), and each ordered a sandwich–Andrew’s on GF bread, mine on a fantastic baguette.

windy saddle

This is only half of the sandwich… the half I couldn’t finish 🙂

After lunch we took a tour of the Coors Brewery.  Neither of us are really beer drinkers–Andrew can’t have it because it contains gluten, and if I’m going to drink hundreds of calories of sugar, I’d rather have a Coca Cola– but the tour was actually very interesting.  Andrew said it was like being in an episode of Modern Marvels (that’s a good thing, in his mind.)  Of course, the few photos I took had little to do with how beer is made:

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We picked Jenny up from work just before 4:00 and headed for the mountains; we’d booked a room at a hotel close to where we were skiing Friday so we wouldn’t have to wake up early to make the drive.

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As we drove west, it began to snow…and snow…and snow…

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We arrived safely at the Alpine Inn, where Andrew morphed into an icicle maniac:

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(Side note: As we walked past this window to check in, we noticed someone changing clothes inside.  I quickly turned away, feeling awkward, but also wondering why the heck someone on the first floor would get dressed with the curtains open!  When we walked back outside to get our things out of the car, we noticed someone else changing clothes in another room.  As Jenny and I were saying, “What is wrong with these people?!” Andrew pointed out that, perhaps that was the pool room.  And it was :-D)

Friday morning, we hit the slopes.  Because it had snowed the day before–and continued snowing throughout the day–we had the opportunity to ski on fresh powder, or “pow-pow” as we’ve heard it called. 😉  All three of us were more or less beginners (I skied twice in 7th grade,) so we took a group lesson.  Our instructor was amazing, and by the end of the day, we were pretty much pros not half bad.

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The obvious height difference on the ski lift cracks me up 🙂

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Yes, I was wearing the same skis as 10-year-old boys.

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At the end of the day our instructor told Andrew to watch out, because the next time he took me skiing I was going to kick his butt 😀

photo (9)Awesome sunset on the drive home

To keep this post from becoming longer than anyone cares to read, I’ll stop here for now, but there are more Colorado adventures to come in another post!

Oh, and the hot flashes?  I’ll save them for my next post as well. 😉