April Garden Update

Spring–along with its appropriate weather–has finally arrived.  Right now I am loving watching everything come to life in our yard.

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As part of my birthday present this year, my mom gave me little figurines to make a fairy garden;  at first I was skeptical, but I gleaned some ideas from Pinterest and created this:

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Hah!  Isn’t it cute?   I visited our local greenhouse earlier this week, and they apparently have an entire section dedicated to fairy gardens, complete with mini plants and figurines.  Who knew?  Fairy gardens are a thing.  Andrew thought it was ridiculously frivolous when I showed him, but ultimately conceded that it is kind of cute, then wished the tiny lawn ornaments the best of luck against the squirrel thieves that frequent our yard. 🙂

To balance out the frivolousness of the fairy garden, we do have some very practical plants growing: our vegetables!  Lots and lots of vegetables.  We started our seeds at the beginning of March (then started some more a few weeks later), and now we have quite the greenhouse of our own.

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Here’s what we are growing:

~Tomatoes- Brandywine, Black Krim, Yellow Pear, and Sweetie (Cherry)
~Peppers- Red Bell, Yellow, Pimento, and Jalepeno
~Squash- Yellow, Zucchini, Spaghetti, and Butternut
~Tomatillos
~Eggplant
~Watermelon
~Cucumber
~Green Beans (not yet planted)
~Strawberries (already in garden from last year)
~Kale, Spinach, Lettuce, Chard (already planted in garden)

So, it looks like we’ll be able to eat this summer.

In a few weeks, once the outside temperature is more consistently warm and the plants have a little more time to grow, we will plant them in the garden, which is prepped and ready!

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Vegetable gardening season, we welcome you. 🙂

-Are you growing any vegetables this summer?
-Have you ever made a fairy garden?  Have you ever heard of a fairy garden? 😀

Tastes of Spring

My office is closed today, and I’m watching the snow fall outside through the kitchen window…again.  I like snow, but I am ready for the warmer weather we experienced briefly this weekend.  It was quite the teaser!  We did manage to squeeze in a few spring activities, one of which I am so, so excited about: planting vegetable seeds!!

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Last year we took the “go big or go home” approach with our vegetable garden, tilling a 10-ft x 20-ft plot in the middle of our back yard, and we experienced surprisingly great success.  (You can check out last year’s garden updates starting here.)  We ate amazing, fresh produce throughout the summer, and we are still working our way through the veggies we froze by using them in soups and stir-fries.  It’s been wonderful.

This Saturday we gathered our supplies–some seeds saved from vegetables last year, some new seeds, dirt, a seed starting box, a clear storage bin to use as a makeshift greenhouse–and set up a planting station in our driveway.

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We planted:
-Brandywine Tomatoes
-“Sweetie” Cherry Tomatoes
-Black Krim Tomatoes
-Yellow Pear Tomatoes
-Bell Peppers
-Pimento Peppers
-Tomatillos
-Butternut Squash
-Spaghetti Squash
-Watermelon

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And now our guest bathroom is a greenhouse. 😉  In the seed starting box in the foreground, which has a clear plastic lid, we planted all the tomatoes and peppers.  For the others, we are experimenting with 1. bigger containers and 2. a bigger greenhouse: a clear, upside down storage container.  We put our space heater in the bathroom with the seeds to make sure they are nice and warm. 🙂

Even though our garden last year was a success, I feel so nervous about how well these little guys will do;  we are still rookies who just happened to have ideal growing conditions last summer.  We’ll have to wait and see what happens!

Sunday was even more gorgeous than Saturday.  With temperatures in the 70’s, we simply couldn’t stay inside, so we drove to the University of Richmond to play disc golf.   If you’ve never played disc golf before, I think it’s the perfect compromise activity for people like Andrew and me–it’s essentially taking a walk in a park with elements of competition and athletics. 🙂

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Also, we found a turtle:

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It was an awesome way to spend a beautiful Sunday afternoon. 🙂

And now we return to our regularly scheduled winter weather.  On the upside, I took these photos this morning of a giant hawk that sometimes hangs out in our back yard…so beautiful in the snow!

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Have a great Monday, everyone!

What’s the weather like outside your window today?
-Have you ever played disc golf?  What do you think?
-Are you growing veggies this summer, and have you started the seeds?

Boating + An Almost Farm-to-Table Dinner

Greetings on this dark, but delightfully cool morning (at least in Richmond)!  I hope everyone had a great weekend.

We kicked ours off Friday with dinner at a nearby Thai restaurant and a movie–Red 2.  We saw the first one in the theater when we were still dating and loved it, and the sequel did not disappoint!  If you’re looking for a good suspenseful, action-packed, make-you-belly-laugh movie, I highly recommend Red 2.

On Saturday, we spent the day on the bay.  One of Andrew’s coworkers, Bruce, has a bay house (technically his mom’s) and a boat, and he invited us down for the day.

IMG_1472It was a gorgeous day–warm,with a breeze, but not hot; big fluffly clouds in the sky…

We spent most of the day in the boat, but stopped at a little island beach for a while to eat lunch and relax (you know, because riding around in a boat is so stressful ;-)).

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We also did some fishing from the boat.  Well, Bruce did some fishing (Andrew and I don’t have licenses.)  In a short amount of time, he caught five decent-sized croakers, which he cleaned and sent home with us!

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Driving home we caught this awesome sunset:

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On Sunday, after an excellent worship service at church, Andrew and I (…wait for it… this might surprise you…) worked in the garden.  😉  I weeded;  Andrew demolished a stump and tilled the soil so we could put the strawberry plants in the ground (rather than pots.)  We replanted the strawberries, and planted more green bean, broccoli, carrot, and beet seeds.  Our green beans are doing well and don’t take long to mature, and we just wanted more!  Our row of broccoli failed–one tiny head was starting to emerge just as the caterpillars destroyed the plants.  We planted the beet and carrot seeds in pots with store-bought soil.  As much as we tried to improve our ground soil, it still has lumps of clay and some rocks, which produce gnarly little underground vegetables.  (Exhibits A & B.)  We’re hoping the pots will be more of a controlled environment for them!

In sad garden news, I think we are losing our cucumber plants.  The leaves are getting yellow spots, then shriveling up and dying.

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Anyone know what that’s about?  Is it a disease?  Over/under watering?  I’m not very happy about it.

For dinner last night we enjoyed the fish from Saturday with green beans from the garden and some quinoa:

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We breaded the fish in gluten-free bread crumbs and pan-fried it (healthy, I know ;-)).  Apparently the tails are delicious, but you’ll have to ask Andrew about that.

And now, I’m off to tackle Monday.

What did you do this weekend?
What the heck is wrong with our cucumbers?

The Weekend: Family, Vegetables, and a Police Report

What a weekend!  I may need a few days to recover from the busyness.

I kicked things off Friday evening by filing my first police report after being stalked in the grocery store and parking lot.  I’ll write a full post on this either later today or tomorrow, but suffice it to say that it was a very scary experience, and I’ve been a little bit on edge ever since.

On Saturday, we held a memorial service for my grandmother, and it was all that we wanted it to be.  After the service and wonderful reception put on by the Bereavement Committee at church, family gathered back at our house.   We had a veggie tray with a lot of goods from our garden, as well green salsa that Andrew made from our tomatillos!  It was a lot of fun to show off the garden to our family members who had heard about it but never seen it.  After the weight of the day, it was so nice to relax with family, share the Grandma Tudor stories that weren’t appropriate for non-family, and laugh.

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The nieces and me before the service 🙂

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My brother and brother-in-law passed out in my living room 😀

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Andrew, Ross, and my dad in the back;  Aunt Ann, Kendall, Lauren, Whitney, and me in front (Charles behind the camera!)

On Sunday, we slept in and skipped church (I know.  Sometimes you just need to be a recluse for a day, and yesterday was one of those days for me.)  Andrew and I went for a walk, then spent a few hours working in the garden–harvesting, weeding, pruning.

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We finally harvested our beets and carrots and had a good laugh about it:

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Five tiny carrots and a toothpick, and a bunch of beets… the largest of which is roughly 1.5-inch in diameter 😀
(Side note: I just started using Instagram!  Follow me @ctstorey)

You win some, you lose some, right?  Well, what we lost in root vegetables, we are winning in squash, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers…

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Yesterday’s harvest (minus the beets and carrots) + the crazy-tall tomato plants (those are 6-ft stakes!)

After gardening, lunch, and a few episodes of New Girl, Andrew went to the gym, and I stayed home to lift weights in the living room (again, the recluse thing.)

In the evening we went to Bonefish Grille to celebrate my mom’s birthday!  We love Bonefish.  Four of us split an order of Bang-Bang Shrimp (which I’d never had before because I always go with Andrew, and he can’t eat it… it’s delicious!) and an order of Saucy Shrimp.  (My mom’s friend Bill then ordered another Bang-Bang Shrimp for himself…before his entree. ;-))  For dinner I had the grilled scallops and shrimp with steamed broccoli and garlic whipped potatoes.  Mmm. 🙂

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We loved celebrating with my mom (and we missed you, Whitney and Charles!)

The weekend was a bit of an emotional roller coaster, but held more smiles than tears.  I was able to see so many of my favorite people all at once, and for that, it was awesome. 🙂

What did you do this weekend?
Any tips for growing full-sized carrots and beets? 😀

Sharing the Harvest + Weekly Workouts

“Honey, we should share some of this produce with our family and friends.”

You know the look an eight-year-old gives you when you tell him he has to stop playing video games with his friends and clean his room?  That is precisely the look I received from Andrew yesterday when I uttered those words.  It was a mix of, “Are you really speaking English right now?” and “I cannot even believe how unfair you are.”

Share?  We can freeze it!  How are we going to store up for the winter if we share?

Family, friends–we are working on it. 😉

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As it turns out, Andrew’s reluctance to share only extends to the zucchini because he loves it, but he is more than willing to part with some of the other veggies.  On the flip side, I am happy to hand out zucchini to anyone walking by the house because 1.  I don’t love it, and 2. We have so much of it!  The photo above is today’s harvest, which includes three zucchini totaling 4.5 lb.  Each one is seriously bigger than my forearm.  Also today we picked three cucumbers, one yellow squash, and about 10 oz of cherry tomatoes!

Here’s our haul from a couple days ago:

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Cucumbers (which are now in the process of becoming pickles!), fantastic peppers, even more zucchini, cherry tomatoes, and the coolest looking, most delicious tomato I’ve ever beheld (<–That sounds like an exaggeration simply because I used the word “beheld” in reference to a tomato… it was very tasty. ;-))

The goodness just keeps rolling in.

In other news, I am rebounding from my cold that developed last weekend.  I’ve been limiting my workouts this week to easy walks, yoga, and light weight-lifting.  Yesterday afternoon I was feeling mostly better, so I went to the gym to do intervals on the Elliptical.  I pressed through–10 minute warm-up, 10 minutes of 30 seconds hard/30 seconds recover, 10 minutes of moderate intensity, 5 minute cool-down–but during the last bit I felt exhausted, and not in the I-just-had-a-great-workout kind of way, but in the I-don’t-feel-well way.  I probably should have given myself one more day to recover.  Oh well.

I have a busy day ahead–my family is coming in town this weekend for my grandmother’s memorial service, so in addition to work, I need to do some house cleaning, and, uh, finally put on paper what I want to say at the service tomorrow.  I have been thinking about it, but putting off actually doing it because I know I will need a few boxes of tissues just to write it.

What’s on your schedule for the weekend?
Do you workout when you are sick?
Zucchini: love it or hate it?

Beach Day and Crazy Tomatoes

Life is about to be busy–a good busy–for a season.  Next weekend I leave for a mission trip with the youth group, will be home for a week, then leave for another mission trip (more on this later this week!), so this past weekend was somewhat of a “calm before the storm.”  Saturday we drove to Virginia Beach and met my college roomie Leah for a day of fun in the partly cloudy sun.  Other than a couple of brief rain showers, it was a wonderful beach day!

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Andrew and I are not exactly “beach compatible.”  My ideal day on the beach includes lying on my back, taking a long walk, lying on my stomach, dipping my toes in the water, and repeating.  Andrew, on the other hand, turns into a giant 9-year-old as soon as his toes hit the sand.

“What do you want to do first??  Build a sand castle??  Dig a hole??  Body surf??  Throw the frisbee??  Dig a bigger hole??”

I say that with all the love in the world. 🙂  Because marriage involves many compromises, we did a little of both beach methods.  We sat, Andrew built a carefully measured, structurally-sound castle (you can’t turn off “engineer”), we threw the football and Waboba in the water, and we relaxed.

Before Leah arrived, Andrew was in the zone building his castle.  I thought it would be funny to turn on the self-timer on the camera, sneak up behind Andrew, and take a funny picture without him noticing.  Well, as I was walking over, raising our sand-diggers (yes, we bring toys to the beach), I noticed the woman on the blanket next to us looking at me like I was nuts.  I lost my nerve, and camera took the photo mid-sneak.  It’s not what I had in mind, but I look so awkward that it makes me laugh:

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😀

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We had a great time catching up with Leah just enjoying the beach!  On the way home, we met our friend Allison for dinner.  We miss her so much in Richmond, and was so, so good to share a meal and chat for a bit. 🙂

Things were productive on the garden-front this weekend as well.  Between the heat and the afternoon rain we’ve been having for the last few weeks, our tomato plants have grown out of control.  Part of the problem is that we planted too many too close together;  it’s hard to tell which branches belong to which plant now!  They’ve long surpassed their 4-ft cages and started flopping over on top of each other.  This weekend we had to stake them:

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Most of them are taller than their 6-ft stakes, and a few are even taller than Andrew now.  Despite the craziness, they are producing lots of beautiful fruit:

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We are approaching an exciting point in which we are harvesting a lot of veggies.  I know it’s all relative, but we were thrilled to bring these beauties inside yesterday:

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They were (we ate them all) the best cherry tomatoes I’ve tasted!  Thankfully, there are dozens more ripening at this very moment. 🙂

What did you do this weekend?
What activities do you like to do at the beach?

Jillian Michaels and Fresh Green Beans

I am officially bringing Jillian Michaels back into my life (her fitness DVDs, that is.)  Leading up to our wedding over a year ago I completed her 30-Day Shred workouts and really enjoyed them.  Well, perhaps “enjoyed” isn’t the right word;  I felt whatever it is you feel when you are successfully motivated by someone yelling, “Get up! Get up! Get up!  I have 400-pound people who can do this… so can YOU!” through the TV screen. 😉  Around the same time I purchased Jillian’s Ripped in 30 DVD.  I used it a few times, then fell off the wagon.  Yesterday I pulled it off the shelf, put it in the DVD player, and allowed my butt to be kicked.

I’d forgotten how much I love her workouts, and how much harder I push myself when, well, someone else is pushing me!  I am definitely feeling the good kind of sore today–like I worked hard.  Jillian is back in my regular workout rotation, and I am pretty excited about it. 😀

Transitioning from fitness to food, last night we cooked some green beans from our garden for dinner!


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We picked exactly thirty green beans.  Thirty beautiful, fresh, delicious beans.

Along with the green beans, which we lightly sauteed, we made mahi mahi, brown rice, and side salads.  We used this recipe for the mahi mahi, but we baked, rather than seared, the fish, and used a dairy-free buttery spread rather than butter for the sauce.  We also used fresh basil from the garden!

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It’s interesting how careful we’ve been to not waste food that we have grown.  Typically when preparing green beans, I snap off more of the bean than necessary for the sake of doing it quickly.  Last night I was so careful to only break off what was necessary.  It takes hard work to grow every centimeter of those beans!  I really think home-grown food tastes better too.  We have one zucchini and a few yellow squash that are about ready to pick, and I am so excited to eat them, even though they aren’t my favorite veggies.

After dinner we went to Ray’s for ice cream and DF frozen ice with our good friend Amy (she has an awesome blog you can check out here!)  She teaches in Florida and is town visiting for the week now that school is out for the summer.  It was so good to catch up, and made for a nice end to a great Tuesday. 🙂

Have you harvested/eaten any of your summer veggies yet?  Have you done any Jillian Michaels workout DVDs?