Tuesday, July 31, 2012

New Orleans Style Pecan Pralines

   After any trip to an unusual place, but especially after every trip to New Orleans, I come home full of cravings and ideas and this insatiable desire to adapt those things to my own to my home. Or my home to that town, or whatever. The urge covers everything from recipes to decorating ideas and (of course) gardening. Once in a while I get lucky and discover some foreign treasure that both Handsome and I would like to enjoy again, as is the case with Pecan Pralines.

   Last week in New Orleans, while strolling somewhere between downtown and the French Quarter, we followed our noses past the raw sewage (an unfortunate fact of life in some parts) and into a heavenly cloud of butter and sugar and toasted pecans and other wonderful fragrances. We cruised a glass front case that had been stocked with every imaginable variation of praline possibly known to man. We watched someone making the pralines fresh. And then we sampled tiny little crumbs offered by a temptress in a cotton apron, both of us staidly acting as if we still might not actually buy anything.


   So anyway, ten minutes and eighteen dollars later we emerged from the store with a box full of various candies, sealed with a pretty little foil sticker. I may or may not have felt panicky over the long walk back to the hotel. Will they melt in the box? What if we get mugged? I feel faint, I think my blood sugar is low. We better stop and eat all of these right now, just in case of all that. I definitely said most of this out loud.

   I am fairly certain my husband took a deeper breath than he actually needed, and he purposefully did not make eye contact with me.

   We each ate one praline as we walked through the skinny, bricked streets lined with book stores and art galleries. None of the other pralines melted. We certainly did not get mugged. And my blood sugar has not been low once since that heavenly day. That is how powerfully sweet these things are.

   I was shocked and delighted that Handsome liked this delicacy enough to want more. So when we got home I suggested he look up some recipes, and within a few minutes we had agreed on the first one to try. You can find it by clicking on this link.  It is perfect. PERFECT. I do not need to try any more.


   If you own a candy thermometer; if you can gather six basic pantry supplies; and if you have half an hour to spend in the kitchen then another half an hour to let these firm up, then you too can have New Orleans style Pecan Pralines. I pinky promise you this. I am not really known for my candy making skills, but I must say that this was super easy. It was even easier than making cookies, and much faster. Go figure, since it hails from the Big Easy, right?

   The photo above was taken immediately after I spooned the hot mixture onto waxed paper. The pralines look extra dark, almost like chocolate no-bake cookies, but that changes.

   A couple of hours later they were sturdy, flat bottomed, and that believable golden pecan color that makes me miss my Grandma Stubbs.

   As I write this, the time is 2:46 p.m. I have already eaten two pralines since lunchtime, and my blood sugar levels would probably give a hummingbird the shakes. That weird but wonderful sensation is the only thing ensuring that my husband will have pralines to eat when he gets home from the Commish. It also means I will never be making this recipe while he is out of town, because basically I don't trust myself.

   More Nawlins stories and inspiration to come, I just had to share this with you guys real quick.

Eat dessert first.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Did You Get Your Goat?

   About eight weeks ago I embarked on a new journey toward fitness, attempting in my weird ways to conquer the U.S. Navy's Iron Goat. Perhaps you remember reading about it here on this blog, and perhaps you even joined the fun! I hope you did. Basically you give yourself one full month to run 26.2 miles, bike 112 miles, and swim 2.4 miles. It's the Iron Man events, but accomplished over a month instead of in one day.

   Well, the time has come for an update. I have some awesome news and some awkward news.

   Let's get awkward out of the way first: I do not own a bicycle and therefore did not even make a dent in a full third of the goal, the biking 112 miles part. What was I thinking back at the first of June? Did I imagine repairing the old blue forest bike and riding it to and from the feed store?

   Or did I maybe think that time on my garden tricycle with the big metal basket, pedalling up and down the driveway would cut it? Not sure, folks, maybe I already had heat stroke and didn't know it. But despite fellow adventurer Tracy's invitation to borrow her husband's bike and ride with her around Lake Hefner in Oklahoma City, I just never left the farm to do it. Thanks anyway, Tracy! Maybe some other time, I hope.

   So that's the awkward news. I completely skipped what was probably the funnest part of this challenge.

   The awesome news is that I got myself hooked on running. This is the most major of major life developments, you guys. My grade school P.E. teacher Mrs. Heinen would shake her blonde head in disbelief and walk away skeptically to hear this news. Then she might secretly do a cartwheel, to think that all of her nagging and encouraging and prodding finally worked, albeit a thousand years later.

   My schedule in June was unusual, our calendar different every week with wonderful fun plans with friends and family, so my running schedule varied a lot. Actually our nephew Matthew was staying at the farm for a while and helped kick start me. He runs cross country in high school and was slightly kind but also slightly cruel about my slowness.

Matthew attacking his sister Sammie with whipped cream. Or defending himself, it's hard to tell. Things got vicious that day. There may or may not have been peanut butter in his ear while he slept and later maple syrup on her hairbrush.

   Yes, it took me a while to find my groove, but when I did I loved it. I chipped away at the 26.2 miles, running laps around the back field of our property. The first several days included plenty of walking and wheezing, but having that very doable goal and a small group of friends asking me about my progress kept me trying.

   Then I added in swimming, though not at an Olympic lap pool like Tracy and I had imagined. I just paddled around our above ground pool here at the farm as consistently as possible, without touching the bottom or stopping, and estimate that I met the goal, more or less. You know what lovely thing I discovered? Swimming is as effective as yoga at stretching and cooling muscles. And the pool is a great place for ab work and flexibility.

Lots of times the chickens, geese, and guineas are hunting back here when I run, as this photo shows.  
   This is my favorite view on my morning run, the first big downhill slope, with the sun behind me. Handsome and a different nephew of ours drove the riding mower around one day, carving a nice, wide path for me in the prairie grass. Hopefully a good way for me to spot sleuth coyotes and wild Okie gators before they spring out, too. Because we do have those now, you know.

   So having completed those two parts of the Iron Goat, I feel pretty good. Actually I feel amazing. The earlier I run each morning, the longer I can run, topping out so far at three miles, non stop. Three desperate, sweaty miles, but still. That is huge for me. Then I immediately strip down and swim as many laps around the pool as I just ran around the back field, and magically I find that my body craves less caffeine. Handsome and I just might become millionaires by the money we save every month on dark roast coffee and real cream. Which is good news, because our once promising watermelon crop has dwindled painfully in the heat, so that will definitely NOT be the source of our windfall.

   Anyway, the Iron Goat has served me well. I haven't lost more than about six pounds, but who cares? I feel stronger and leaner and just better... I dunno... aerated? My body feels better in so many ways, as does my mind. I love it. I totally see why people become addicted to running, it has so many surprise benefits.

   Big thanks to my gorgeous sister in law Halee for the inspiration, and thanks to my girlfriends who joined in the Iron Goat fun this summer!! Keep up the good work everyone.

When You're Married Bikini Season is Actually Twelve Months Long

Sunday, July 29, 2012

You Take it From Here (Book Review)

   Having just returned from six days in New Orleans, I have three and a half thousand beautiful stories to share with you guys. I really should have been writing constantly all week long to keep up with the inspiration, and in fact I was scribbling things on hotel stationery every day, but I had almost no internet and was too busy enjoying the magic of the French Quarter and my Handsome guy anyway.

   Tonight, instead of Nawlins stuff, I just finished another VEEEERRRY interesting book and have a review to share. Got a few minutes?


   Another generous gift from Julia, my most recent selection has been You Take it From Here by Pamela Ribon. It's a new release, and I actually get butterflies in my stomach to realize that as I read these 311 pages, most of it at home floating on our 97-degree pool filled with dragon flies, Ms. Ribon was touring the south talking to her fans about her newest novel.

   One of these days I will finish a book in time to catch its author on tour somewhere and, while snagging an autograph, find time to discuss the original literature at length with its creator. I would really liked to meet Pamela Ribon in particular. She relays through her writing a lot of warmth and empathy that I think would be perfectly delicious in person.

   Okay, the book.

   I liked it a whole lot. I actually like it more and more as it sits in my Creole-stuffed belly, and I expect to want to read it again and also share it with friends and family. It seems to belong to a genre I would not normally say is among my favorite (chic lit maybe?), but that doesn't matter one bit.

   You Take it From Here is immediately engaging, infuriatingly truthful, and wildly thought provoking about big, heavy topics. It weaves together maternal abandonment, cancer, coming of age, divorce, friendship, romance, and more. Ribon effortlessly juggles the weight of so many important themes at once that I am stunned to accept this as fiction. The wanna-be writer inside me kept thinking, Only real life could be so complex and yet so accurate, it's just crazy how she orchestrated this much at once. Pamela Ribon, you have my respect. I found it very easy to relax into your story and let it flow over me.

   Reading this book's teaser might tell you what it's about technically, but only by devouring the actual story cover to cover can you experience all the author wants to give you. Just for fun, though, a sample:

On the heels of a divorce, all Danielle Meyers wants is her annual vacation 
with sassy, life-long best friend, Smidge — complete with umbrella cocktails by an infinity pool — 
but instead she’s hit with the curveball of a lifetime. 
Smidge takes Danielle to the middle of nowhere to reveal a diagnosis of terminal cancer, 
followed by an unusual request: “After I’m gone, I want you to finish the job
Marry my husband. Raise my daughter. I’m gonna teach you to how to be Smidge 2.0.”

   I strongly suggest that you read this book if you fall into any of these categories:

  • You have ever had a best girlfriend you loved more than a sister, who might even compete with your husband for space in your heart.
  • You are a child of divorce.
  • You have lost anyone to cancer, but especially a parent, and even more importantly your mother.
  • You have left your hometown for a new life but feel that gravitational pull to return even though you are an independent grown up. Especially if the town you left is in the south.
  • You have ever fallen in lust before falling in love, with the same man.
  • You are SICK of being bossed around by strong willed, controlling, arrogant women.
  • You are a strong willed, controlling, arrogant woman yourself. (I admit to hating Smidge right at her introduction, and I was actually relieved when she was soon to be no longer hurting and controlling her friends and family. I know, I am an awful person. But Ribon wrote a terribly difficult character, and I wonder is she maybe intended her readers to detest this cancer patient so we could let go more easily.)
  • You are raising a teen aged daughter who is closer to adulthood than you would like. 
  • You are a woman. Mother, daughter, sister, friend, any of it. 
    There is something in here for all of us, ladies, and I  hope you give it a few days of your life. I hope you encourage someone you love to read it, too, so you can discuss the emotional tide that will inevitably happen.

   Thank you for sending the book, sweet Julia! And thanks ever so much for writing it, Pamela. I am much better than pleasantly surprised by a new genre; I feel good all over. Just warmed and challenged and inspired to appreciate my health better; to see things from other viewpoints more often; and to love my people more deeplyReading has, once again, enriched my life. Just as it should. 

Read Outside Your Zone

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

A Sweet Wakeup in Louisiana

   Too excited for this New Orleans getaway to wait until the next morning, we said goodbye to the farm after dinnertime on Sunday. We armed ourselves with a giant French vanilla cappuccino, an even bigger Dr. Pepper slushie, and a bag of cheesy Bugles then did justice to some excellent road trip music by singing along and performing for each one like American Idol hopefuls. Sort of. We drove all night, stopping once for food and fuel and twice for quick if cramped naps. The tethers of daily life and recent stressors gradually loosened their grip, but the brutality of a marathon road trip was unkind to our tired bodies.

   Very early Monday morning, just as I was really waking up in the passenger seat, stretching and yawning and noticing my need for a good face scrubbing and swig of mouthwash, the beauty of Louisiana unfolded around our rental car. Handsome was still focused on efficiency, still driving and battling the aging GPS machine. Still distracting me with his good looks. The early morning fog was clearing in small efforts as the sun rose. Magnolia trees bigger than most houses, cypress trees old and elegant around every bend, and thick ivy covering hard surfaces as if they were secrets in need of protection. Everything was familiar and exciting. Such a strange thing to feel like you are coming home to a place you have never lived.

   Then rural scenery gave way to a small town where Handsome had apparently found us a breakfast surprise. We both had been craving donuts for about two weeks and had agreed that at some point we would indulge for our anniversary. What better place than Louisiana, on our way to our favorite city?

   He wordlessly pulled our rental car into the parking lot of “Shipley’s Famous Donuts,” where the great flavor debate was already firing away in my head. You can have any flavor you want, but not every flavor you want, I was hating myself for telling myself. My husband has a way of providing surprises, both big and small, in a way that proves he listens and wants desperately to show his love but also does not want to talk about it. So I only gushed over the thrill of early morning donuts for approximately eight and a half minutes. Then I let it go. Because I am nothing if not in control of myself.

   Inside the low, glass front building a woman behind the counter was laughing with a small group of customers, probably regulars, and making the sweet donut air even sweeter with her southern accent. She greeted us brightly with that perfect, cozy drawl and stood sideways so we could feast our eyes on the library of colorful pastries behind her. I remember noticing that the whole place was fully unadorned, not so much as a silk flower or scrap of fabric or framed photo was anywhere to be seen, but that was perfect. The east facing glass building must be almost always flooded with sunlight and a view of nearby gardens, and that wall of color and texture behind the counter is all anyone could really look at anyway.

   We struggled with our donut selections, filled our hands with either coffee or chocolate milk, and sat down at a scrupulously clean formica table for two. The whole place was scrubbed to shining, actually. I ate my monstrous apple fritter witout any runner’s guilt whatsoever. That thing was as heavy as a grapefruit, you guys. It was rich and buttery, overflowing with apple pieces, and had such a glaze on it that it literally crunched then oozed when I sank my teeth in. In seconds all ten of my greedy fingers were crusted with the sticky evidence of the indulgence.

   As Handsome and I ate and flirted with each other, the table of regulars maintainted their laughing, amiable pocket of the room. Huddled around their gleaming formica table as if it provided heat on a cold night, they smiled at each other and made a slow breakfast of friendsip. The woman behind the counter tended to drive-through customers and seemed to love every one of them with equal sincerity. 

   Then an impeccably dressed elderly black man entered the shop and was greeted magnificently by the woman, “Mornin Reverend!”  He responded with a grand bow and warm, booming salutation back to her. The table of regulars also nodded or waved at him affectionately. The gentleman collected his steaming coffee in a porcelain mug instad of a styrofoam cup, and he took that and a small stack of glazed donuts and sat down at a corner table near us. From this table, for the next fifteen minutes that we stayed and probably much longer, he held court.

   One by one, men came in off the street and made a beeline to the gentleman, hats removed and clutched in their hands, sometimes patronizing the donut shop but not always, every time gracious and hushed in their approach. Part of me wanted very much to hear their conversations, but most of me was satisfied just to witness the ritual.

   We polished off our sugary breakfasts, thrilled to be so near the end of a long drive and so near the beginning of another New Orleans adventure. As Handsome pulled our rental car out of that clean, crescent shaped little parking lot, huge droplets of condensation rolled down the windshield and allowed sunlight to blind me. I relished the warm morning and tried to memorize every detail of the neighboring houses and gardens. We left that small town and climbed back onto the Interstate, driving south between forests and farmlands. Trading Oklahoma for Louisiana and hopefully gaining some lushness of spirit in the process.

   And then, just like that, the long, raw night of travel and undercover escape was forgotten. My left hand on is right thigh, we were refreshed and singing love songs again.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Birth of Venus (Book Review)

   My most recent literary adventure was orchestrated by a lovely woman named Sarah Dunant, author of The Birth of Venus. It is a 400 page piece of historical fiction, illustrating and exploring the life of an Italian woman during the late fifteenth century. I loved it. It reads like a guilty pleasure but feeds your mind enough to make you feel pretty good about it. Like a bacon sundae.

Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant, 2004
   In all seriousness, reading good historical fiction is a fabulous way to both tempt and satisfy an appetite for real history, all the while thoroughly indulging in everything avid readers love. This novel weaves together with dazzling emotion and detail the lives of Renaissance artists, authority figures of the Catholic church, Italian politicians, and nameless but fascinating private citizens. 

   I wonder if history teachers ever use fiction to reinforce their lessons? I think it would be a great idea. Seeing the world's most notable events unfold from the street view, so to speak, rather than from the usual global perspective, really raises better questions and prompts more compassion and understanding than just memorizing lists of names, dates, and capital cities. 

   Okay, teaching style rant over. Back to highly recommending this gorgeous piece of writing.

   If you are interested in art history, this book will surround you with mouthwatering images, understanding, and fascination about who painted, how they painted, why they moved around the world, what impacted their style, and how their careers evolved. Without hitting you over the head with the obvious, Dunant hints at and whispers secrets about artists some people only know as teenage mutant ninja turtles. It is wonderful. I have walked away slightly pleased with what I could discern from her sneaky suggestions but also desperately hungry to know more.

   If you are a sucker for reading about social struggle and the motivations of different classes of people at key moments in history, this book will tease you plenty. Dunant deals a lot with the impact of religion and politics on the Italian social fabric, and I think the issues raised in these 400 pages could keep a good intellectual discussion fueled for months. Book club, beware...

   Perhaps it comes as no surprise to you that a complex tale of a woman's life during this highly textured time in history would include sex. Well, it does. Plenty of it, though not in the Christian Grey kind of way. Dunant unfolds this aspect of life elegantly but directly. So that is just my little caveat for you, lest you should arrive at that first juicy page while reading aloud to either your history class or your mother in law.

   One more thing I would like to mention is how the author has generously seasoned her story with lines that are perfectly quote worthy. Her characters speak sometimes in a vernacular of adage, so if you borrow my copy you will find lots of highlighting and dog-earring.

"My limitations made me despair. 
As long as I was both 
my own master and apprentice
I would be forever caught 
in the web of inexperience."

   You guys, what a beautiful story. Truly. What a great way to be reminded of the importance of the Italian Renaissance, the seriousness of religious corruption, the power of the female force, and the tendency for history to repeat itself. I am so thankful to authors like Sarah Dunant who take the time to study our mutual past then express it in new and sparkling ways. 

Consider Your Own History 
and the Complex Story it Would Tell

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Senses Inventory in the Museum

Earlier this week I was very fortunate to escape my daily routine 
and tour a few museums alone, with no hurrying and with no cell phone.
The experience refreshed me down to my bones.
Just when I needed it, the universe offered up 
a wider view and a long, cool drink of beauty.
As the first tendrils of inspiration began to wind around my heart, 
I found some paper and scribbled down a senses inventory.
This happened in the Trammel Crow Museum in downtown Dallas, Texas.

See: Filtered mid morning sunlight and small, quiet cones of artificial light glancing down from recessed bulbs in the ceiling... My anonymous purple silhouette against a pair of glass doors and glimpses of a small, exquisite garden through that door... Twenty or more displays of ancient jade carvings... a museum docent dressed in an orange golf shirt and plastic name badge necklace.

Hear: Gentle flute and harp music, like a bubbling brook, nearly inaudible and ticklish in my ears... Echos of two school field trips and the impatient docent who tried earnestly to teach them something... Air conditioning humming through the sealed building... Clicking heels descending the nearby stairs.

Touch: Cool, dry stillness of the perfectly maintained museum air... Smooth marble floors... Cushy leather bench beneath me... and denim on my arms. My sharp right elbow finally split through my favorite threadbare jacket, and the strings are pulling tight against me. They feel like the music sounds.

Smell:  Artificial air fragrances, leather cleaner, and my own perfume... This is all I can actually smell, but the thoroughly meditative environment has me imagining incense, lotus flowers, and maybe hot tea.

Taste: Cheap lip gloss. And a reminder to buy extra tooth paste and tooth brushes at a drugstore, because I forgot to pack them. Grody.

Think: What artifacts from our civilization will be preserved, either by design or by chance, and then studied  in 2,500 years? The Asian artisans a few thousand years ago worked and created beautiful things for their own lives and purposes; I wonder if they ever considered how much we would gaze, examine, and revere their work now? I wonder if Buddha ever considered how his spiritual revelations would impact interior design far into his future?

Feel: Completely humbled by history, intrigued by the spiritual aspects of design and beauty, and refreshed to take another look at our own home... Feeling more peaceful and motivated than I have in weeks. No, months.

The day I spent museum hopping was so meaningful, 
so surprising and worth remembering,
that I hope to share more of it with you this week.
For now, thanks for joining me on this little senses tour!

"Be careful how you interpret the world:
It is like that." ~Erich Heller

Monday, July 9, 2012

Hive Relocation Day

   Yesterday was an important day around here, certainly one for the hobby farmer's history books. Maribeth visited  and helped me relocate our two bee hives from their temporary waxy box homes to their permanent wooden-ware mansions. Perhaps you remember the painting day we had just before bringing the bees home? Well, now all of that artwork and passion is being enjoyed by our 79,987 buzzing, winged children.

   In addition to moving the bees, we also collected several gorgeous chunks of honey comb and about 20 ounces of fresh, raw honey. Our very first harvest of the molten treasure was a surprise to me, as was seeing how much honey was still on the combs when we closed the hives and walked uphill. Just weeks after bring bees to the Lazy W, we have our own honey. Gobs and gobs of the thick, oozing beautiful stuff.

   Everything went so well. The hives are abundantly healthy and have multiplied much more than I expected. The interior frames are all loaded with honey comb, capped brood and capped honey. The bees were active but gentle. Incredibly gentle. At one point I was holding a frame, gazing at the many different cells and relishing a sudden forest breeze, when I felt a heavy vibration on my right hand. At least twenty bees were clustered across my gloved knuckles, buzzing and flittering without malice. Throughout our afternoon in the bee yard, Maribeth's arms and veil were often dotted by a dozen or more bees, and they all swam loosely and peacefully in the air around us. I never one time felt threatened.

As always, Mia kept his loving vigil. He never crossed the threshold into the bee yard,
but he honked affectionately and watched us the whole time we worked.

Smoking the bees a little calms them down, and it calms me down too.
The fragrance is not terribly unlike burning sage,
a Native American practice used in all kinds of prayerful rituals.

Can you see how glossy and vibrant the honey is? And how calm the bees are?
And how much I look like a Pink Power Ranger?
Here I am using a plain spoon from the kitchen to scrape the raw honey.
Later I licked it clean and almost cried form the deliciousness.

Maribeth is using a "hive tool" to scrape that thick, luscious raw honey off of the frame.
You can see its straight path there in the gold.

Honey bees possess incredibly accurate internal "GPS" systems,
allowing them to distinguish between two hive locations only inches apart.
Bonus points if you can find the Lazy W animal portrait hidden here! 

I now know that a quart of raw honey weighs about three pounds. 

This little guy was nobody's enemy.
He only circled our sticky tools and gloves and meandered through some clover patches.
But Maribeth did endure one sting yesterday and taught me that
rubbing a speck of honey on the site will kill the pain and reduce swelling.

   Big thanks to Maribeth for her guidance and help. If any of you lovely people should ever venture to keep bees, I hope you find a mentor like her. She makes it feel as natural and magical and unintimidating as it should, and I believe the bees are benefiting from this mood. Also big thanks to Handsome for photographing our second trip to the bee yard yesterday. I will treasure these photos.

Work Hard & Be Sweet to Each Other  

Friday, July 6, 2012

Horse-feathers & Happiness

"It is a happy talent to know how to play."
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Wish You a Magical Weekend!!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

5 More Pinterest Experiments

 Hi there! So, the biggest "try" in my life here lately has been running at least a couple of miles every morning then staying productive throughout each day despite the heat. Sprinkle in one minor but lingering illness, regular intervals of happy guests, and intense cuddling with my guy every night, and you have a pretty good snapshot of my life lately.
   I know that staying mildly productive is a lot to ask of a girl whose home bears the name "Lazy," but the good news is that I keep discovering little projects that make me a look like a much harder worker than I really am. Leaving me more time to read, entertain and cuddle.

  Care for a quick review? I have linked to the original posts for recipe and tutorial details, but the photos are my own.


#1. Make a T-Shirt Into a Summertime Scarf:
   I made this yellow t-shirt scarf for my friend Stephanie, and I plan to make tons more. It was so fun and easy, and once you fiddle with it for a while, it looks pretty cute too. Its light weight is nice for summer, and of course "free" is a wonderful price for any craft. I think knotting the strand ends is a good idea, but you do whatever the heck you want to do.

Tutorial from PS I Made This 

#2. Incredibly Effective Bathroom Cleaning & Deodorizing:

   No photo, but this works. Our downstairs bathroom has both a toilet and a urinal but neither windows for sunlight sanitizing nor any kind of ventilation, so there is zero room for error in cleaning. I promise you this method works, plus you can feel good about using fewer chemicals.

#3. Paula Deen's Gooey Butter Cake:
   I made this dessert a few days ago when a cheerful menagerie of loved ones was almost due here at the farm. Between bursts of laughter and slicingly smart and witty stories, my little sister Guinevere read the recipe aloud to me. There is something about hearing a recipe verbalized that kind of cements its nutritional value or, as is the case here, total lack thereof.

   This has a lot of butter in it, you guys. And sugar and cream cheese and powdered sugar. And more butter. Therefore I highly recommend this gorgeous and decadent cake. While it baked, my house smelled like a giant sugar cookie brought from heaven on angel wings under a strand of white pearls and twinkle lights. Everyone who sampled it loved it, and even Handsome approved. It has a soft cheesecake texture but is a snap to make.

Get the recipe straight from her sweet Southern website. 

#4. Edie's Creamy Tomato Basil Pasta Salad
   So far I have only loved every recipe I have tried of Edie's, and this is no exception. Especially if you have some tomatoes and bail growing in your garden, try this recipe! A few weeks ago I took a cold batch of it to our most recent book club dinner, and since then I craved it suddenly one night and made a hot version of the sauce to drizzle over some skinny spaghetti. Really scrumptious, you guys. Give it a try.

Edie is also the author of the apple tart and chocolate chip cookie recipe #2, remember? 

#5. Mascara Rescue:
   Sorry, folks. I do not really have a photo for this one either, but I can tell you that it does work. Surely you've seen the image on Pinterest yourself, right? Just add a few drops of eye solution to your drying up mascara, and it magically reconstitutes. I was able to squeeze another couple of weeks out of mine, which rocks.


   Well, besides cooking, cleaning, gardening, and fake sewing, I have been realizing that heat stroke and dehydration are real. It has knocked me off of my feet more than a couple of times in a few days, making that little bit of sun glow or farm work totally NOT worth the sickness. Please take care of yourselves. Please work outside early or late or not at all, and keep cold water nearby at all times. 

What New Things Have You Sampled Lately?

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Make Your Own Mulch

   Probably any gardening climate calls for some type of mulch, but here in Oklahoma at the height of summertime, using some sort of ground cover between your plants is pretty much a must. We all need something to slow down weed growth and prevent the soil from losing too much moisture. I am personally not a fan of the commercially bagged mulches for which all big box stores are happy to take your loads of extra cash. I like to use either dried grass clippings, rotted dried leaves, or my new favorite... shredded paper.

   The first thing to celebrate is that shredded paper is basically free. Most offices produce it, and lots of homes do now too. You are recycling something that would otherwise go to a landfill somewhere. Around the Lazy W, just one big trash bag filled with shred is all I need to refresh the vegetable garden and fill our chicken coop nesting boxes, plus a little extra for the flower beds. You need a lot less in each little area than you might expect, and it clings to itself and retains water magically.

   This past week on Wednesday morning I scattered shredded paper all through the garden then watered it all down, deeply. I ended up getting pretty sick on Thursday, spent Friday split between the doctor and my bed, and never got back outside until sometime Saturday morning. During all of these days and nights, we had 100-plus temperatures and zero rain, so I expected some withering and suffering. You know what? Nope. The plants were still fluffy and vibrant and producing food, and the soil beneath the white shred was still damp! Seriously. I would not lie about gardening advice. I might lie about how much I weigh or the status of my library account, but not about how effective shred is as mulch. It is very effective. And I know that when it has done its job, the paper will just decompose into the earth. The worms are crazy for the stuff.

   This photo really shows how nicely some shred fills in the spaces between the growing plants. I also like how the white cools everything and brightens up the garden. I suppose if you were to shred some colored paper or used wrapping paper, all the better! The possibilities are limitless. If you try this with colored paper, will you pretty please share a photo? I would love to see that!

   Here is my soy bean experiment bed, growing like gangbusters! In the gentle morning shade, these vines display fuzzy little purple blooms which should soon grow into edible pods. My eldest human chicken is very excited about that. I'll keep you posted.

   We are up to 714 farm fresh eggs and two and a half zillion baby cucumbers.

   This is not our biggest watermelon on the vine, but it is the most hilarious. I can see it almost from the house when I walk downhill, just hanging right there in the middle of the garden gate, looking out. It has kind of a high pitched voice and only sings, never speaks. It sings to me questions about freedom and democracy,  love and destiny. This round little fruit is heavy for its size both in ounces and wisdom.

All You Need is Love!

   Besides my garden, do you know what else I love at the farm? Everything. Specifically? I love this fuzzy behemoth so dang much. Chunk-hi let me scratch and cuddle and kiss him for about a million hours on Saturday night. He let me cover his eyes and play gone-gone-peekaboo, squeeze his long floppy ears, steer his horns, pull his beard, rub his wet leathery nose, everything... He is a big, warm, dangerously gentle hunka hunka burnin love around this crazy place.

   Okay, friends, if your garden needs some ground-level TLC, I hope you will consider shredded paper as an option. Get out there this week and enjoy all the changing beauty, no matter what else is going on. Know that your garden connects you to God.

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