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  • Archive for March, 2016


    +Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon: As I finish my third reading of this book, I have to say I have developed an appreciation for taking it slow and sussing out the details of this book and series. With any of Diana Gabaldon’s books, when they first come out it is a race to devour the story, to see where it leads. Often I finish mentally exhausted, which is to be expected after 800+ pages. And then I don’t pick the book up again for years. I’ve read the first four in the Outlander series multiple times and really need to pick up the last four once again. I’m curious how my opinion of the tv show’s rendition of the story will unfold having been so close to the story for these last several months.

    +The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz: As I mentioned in the February book report about this book, I hadn’t realized it was a YA novel. It definitely had two of my favorite common threads of a YA novel: historical and a heroine. However, the story fell flat a few times. The premise of the novel is of a young girl of about 14, pre-WWI, who is living in an emotionally, and borderline physically abusive household. As primary caretaker to her father and brothers, there’s little love going around. She wants an education but has been forced by her father to abandon her schooling, not unheard of in that time, to run the household since her mother died. After seeing an ad in the paper about actually getting paid for work as a hired girl, she makes a run for it one day using money her mother had hidden for her in a doll.

    Eventually she makes it to a larger city and by weird circumstances comes to work in a Jewish household. There’s a lot of concealment of age, young crushes, and a coming of age story tied up in there. If I had been a teeanger I would have loved the story more but as an adult I saw a lot of faulty story going on. That said, if you want a light YA read, it’s worth checking out.

    +The Florida Trail End to End: A Father and His Sons Two and a Half Year Adventure Hiking 1100 Miles Across Florida by Mike Umbarger: I have held off for years in reading hiking memoirs in an effort not to sway my writing of my own trail story. However, when I began working on my book proposal I found out I needed to know the market of what was currently on sale for the genre. Being that there are relatively few Florida Trail memoirs out there compared to the Appalachian and Pacific Crest Trails, it was fairly easy to pick a few books to scope out.

    I chose this as a Kindle read. It was self published by the author and hiker, and is a narrative, as the title suggests, of the section hike he went on with his sons. I hesitate to be too harsh because it is someone’s creative endeavor, but the book needed serious editing. However, I did find a lot of humor and inspiration threading through the book. I also commiserated many times with some of the stories, particularly with the wretched Lake Butler Forest. What I liked best was that he was taking his kids on a journey that most people don’t even attempt to do. As someone who actively tries to engage my own son in the natural world, I really hope that I can take Forest on section hikes or maybe even a short thru-hike in the coming years.

    Currently Reading

    +The Art of Asking: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help by Amanda Palmer: This is kind of an on-hold book only because I didn’t finish listening to it before it expired with the library. I was so close to finishing it, too! I’m now like 17th in line for it once again!

    If you don’t know who Amanda Palmer is, she’s a musician and performance artist. She’s also married to author Neil Gaiman. If you want a little background on her you can see her TED Talk. I listened to this as an audio book and I highly, highly recommend it. Amanda read the book herself and is an excellent choice for doing so. She should narrate more audio books! Interspersed throughout is music from her solo work as well as her work with The Dresden Dolls.

    I won’t go into detail about the book until I finish it, which might be a few months since I’m so far down the list again! But from what I’ve listened to so far I definitely recommend you put it on your list of to-read non-fiction books.

    +Along the Florida Trail by Bart Smith and Sandra Friend: One of the books I purchased for my proposal research. Love it so far! I found a used book on Amazon and it was signed by Sandra. This is more of a photo book accompanied with narrative about each of the sections of the Florida Trail.

    +Hiking the Florida Trail: 1,100 Miles, 78 Days, Two Pairs of Boots, and One Heck of an Adventure by Johnny Molloy: Molloy gets around in the hiking and backpacking book world. He’s had a ton of books published. This story is about his thru-hike of the trail in the mid 2000s. I haven’t read much of it yet but it is well written and very interesting so far!

    +Fire Season: Field Notes from a Wilderness Lookout by Phillip Connors This book has been on my radar for several years now. I’m sure it was profiled in Backpacker or Outside which is probably where I found out about it. As I’d finished Umbarger’s book, I needed another Kindle read for Forest’s bedtime (he takes 45 min-1 hr to get to sleep…so I have lots of time sitting around in the dark!) and tried finding backpacking and hiking books from the Overdrive library app. Those searches yielded little results and so I tried ‘wilderness’ and came up with this book. I saw Finding Everett Ruess hiding in there, too, so it might be my next read.


    +The Map of Lost Memories by Kim Fay

    +How to Live: A Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at An Answer by Sarah Bakewell

    +Winter World: The Ingenuity of Animal Survival by Bernd Heinrich

    +Captive Queen: A Novel of Eleanor of Aquitaine by Allison Weir

    What are you reading?



    Hi friends! I’m still here, just taking a little bit of a blog break at the moment. About a month ago I decided to buckle down and get down to business with finishing my book. The first round of editing was finally completed a few months ago but then I had to format the book into chapters. That took some time because I was also including a break down of campsites along the trail. After all of that, I began researching how to submit books to publishers. I am not a writer by profession but I had enough knowledge to know I had to send query letters to publishers first. However, once I got into reading I found out that query letters for non-fiction writing also meant a book proposal.

    Wooo boy.

    Book proposals, y’all. That lead me to reading all about book proposals and getting that ball rolling. Needless to say, I’ve been working hard to get a ‘main’ book proposal written that can be tailored for each publisher. Basically, something that has all the information that everyone is requesting and then break it up into individual proposals for each submission. Of course, those proposals also require a query letter and I haven’t even started that yet!

    In betweeen all of this I’ve also been going through the book for a second edit. I edited the first half of the book last summer so I had some conflicting issues between how I was editing in one frame of reference versus another. Also, I found myself reusing metaphors because I forgot I had used them earlier in the book! Yep. It’s that kind of stuff you have to look for among many others. I’m sure I’m missing more issues.

    Anyway, I wanted to drop in and say that I haven’t forgotten to write here. I’ve just been using what little spare time I’ve got in the evenings to work on the book. I have a lot to share with y’all, including a few posts from our camping trip back in February that I never got around to sharing. The photos above are from this weekend. We went over to Austin for the weekend to camp and stopped by the Lady Bird Wildflower Center on the way in order to scope out their wildflowers. Forest had a blast and wanted to pick all of the bluebonnets and was sorely disappointed when we wouldn’t let him. His new favorite word is “No” said in the most adorable voice that makes it really hard not to be upset with him after. “No” also means “Yes” and “I want that” so it’s not always to be taken at face value.

    Be back soon!


    I walk around the yard these days and I get glimpses of life pre-Forest. I will never be that same person, have those same moments, but I get glimpses. It’s peaceful, and yet still incredibly fast-paced and definitely not still. Just being able to notice the sun (Earth) changing positions as it heads towards spring, seeing the different ephemeral weeds popping up in the yard, or the budding of the trees; those were things I barely caught a glimpse of last year.

    As much as I get those pre-Forest glimpses I really, really love the here and now with Forest as he wanders the yard. He loves it so much and I love how he spots a flower and has to have it, picking it to hand to me or casually abandon to the grass for another flower-picking target. I can’t wait for him to get his own plot of dirt to play in, or to find bugs and amphibians (maybe reptiles—can we stick to lizards, dude?) to play with.



    The yard is sprinting fast towards summer. The bulbs, much to my dismay, are already fading and the transition to wildflower season is on. February? What happened to you?




    Because the winter was so mild, many more sensitive plants did not die to the ground as the normally would have. It will be interesting to see just how much more growth they put on the rest of the year. One plant in particular is the Mexican flame vine, a plant that in years past would have died completely to the ground before we even got to see it bloom. This year, however, while it got nipped in late January by a light freeze, it has put on blooms for us to enjoy. I suspect we will see more in the coming months and I’m completely thrilled about that!





    The fruit trees have been in varying states of blooming glory. Shades of pink and white lighting up the yard, a little bit of happiness to see when we peer out one of the windows in the morning or evening. Speaking of peering out the windows, we’ve had a great white egret roost across the pond these last several months and it has been a lot of fun to see them all flying in around sunset every evening. Every morning when we wake up, they are still there, at least for a little bit. Then they decide it’s light enough to take flight and hunt for the day.




    Most of the Rhododendron canescens are blooming. Now, just to wait for the yellow-orange Rhododendron austrinum to bloom. They always seem to be the later of the two to bloom.




    The strawberries are now in their second year of growing in the vegetable garden and are getting quite established. There was a whole host of fruit, ready to ripen, when last week had some epic rains. Like usual when there’s an epic rain, the yard flooded. The berries that were nearly ripe were sitting underwater for a day which was just enough time for the birds to find them before we could wade out and get them. Go figure!




    In all, the garden is in a wonderful state at the moment to enjoy. I find myself seeing new weeds to pull every hour. It seems they sprout between the moments I walk through the garden chasing Forest in the morning to the moments I walk through the garden chasing Forest in the afternoon. There are still seeds to sow and hopefully with the time change I will be able to get a little of that done this week. I have another plan: to compile a comprehensive plant list of the yard. Both ‘native’ (what was here, exotic or otherwise) and what is in the garden. I’m probably going to exclude the vegetable garden due to is transient nature. We’ve been trying to keep a wildlife/interesting thing journal of the yard for about two years or so. Sometimes we (Chris) are better about keeping up with it and other times, not so much. This plant list would be something that gives a little more perspective to our little 1.2 acres.

    I’m just trying to bottle it all up and savor before we’re already on to summer.



    We’re deeply entrenched in toddlerhood. Except, when I look at Forest, I can easily see him as a little boy already. The baby-baby is long gone. It’s a fast and subtle change. It seems that every few weeks is a new transition, something that will throw us (and him) off for a few days until we get back into the swing of things. Most of that has to do with sleep…sleep is *hard* around here.


    At his 18 month checkup Forest was 24 lbs and 9 ounces and 32 inches long. I knew he had grown a few inches since his visit in early December and I believe it was at least 2 or 3 inches. We’re into full-on tantrums but I’ve found that if you let him just get the tantrum out, usually it’ll fade off in a few minutes and he’s happy again. Or just change the subject and move on! He’s working on exercising his new found ability to have freedom and opinions and that’s what half of the tantrums are. I have an opinion and I’m going to express it!



    As for talking he’s still a really big babbler and isn’t saying too many words. He’s said a smattering of various words in the last six months but the most consistent are mama, dada, sometimes he’ll say mom, no, and night-night. In the last week he’s been trying to say bubble and puppy. I accidentally called him bubba one day, a tongue twist of trying to say baby and changing my mind in the middle, and he repeated it thinking I had said bubble! However, he may not use real words yet but he does understand just about everything we tell him. He will point to things and we’ll say the words to them or if we ask him where something is at, his favorite is his balloon and the light above the kitchen table, he’ll point to them. He’s also fond of pointing out the fans in the house. I think in the next few months the words will just start pouring out of his mouth and it will be a fun day when he starts doing that!



    Food-wise, he’s turning into a typical toddler. We typically try to start by offering him whatever we’re eating for dinner, which depending on what that is he may or may not eat. Then we move onto something we know he will eat. He’s still nursing some during the day when I’m with him but we definitely stretch it out quite a bit. Sometimes if we’re sitting around the living room he’ll come up and ask to be picked up and throw himself to my chest and we’ll nurse multiple times in the course of an hour or two, but then other times we’re going 4-5 hours or longer if we’re out and about. Nighttime is still his biggest nursing time. *grumble grumble* on my end, there.



    His attention span is definitely getting longer and he has no problems playing on his own for a long period of time, giving Chris and I a chance to relax on the couch or to do chores. We’ve actually not been doing much in the way of tv these days, except maybe on a weekend, but I have been showing him some crazy cat videos on YouTube sometimes. He *loves* seeing the cats fall in the water and run! Apparently, that’s hilarious! If he does watch tv we’ve been trying to put some more nature-type shows on for him to watch. Sometimes it’ll hold his attention and other times it won’t. I found the Brave Wilderness YouTube channel the other day and it has a lot of good, short videos that he really enjoyed. He *loved* the wolf video!


    Forest still loves to read and has no problem finding books to sit down and flip through. We’re starting to be able to read to him incrementally as his attention span gets longer, but he mostly enjoys flipping through and looking at the photos. He was rambunctious one morning as we were getting ready for work/daycare and I sat him in his Elmo chair and handed him a book. He sat there and flipped through it for quite awhile; I had even gone outside (Chris was inside) to do a few things and when I came back he was still there, reading! Please, be a reader! Please!!!!

    His most favorite thing in the world, though, is to be outside. Which is pretty awesome for us, but remember those tantrums? He does not like to come in when we have to! Forest loves looking up at the birds, finding flowers to pick, just wandering around…whatever. If it is outside, he’s happy! Now, to get him not to wander off every 30 seconds…

    He does not like his socks and shoes on when he gets in the house but if he thinks he can go outside, such as if he sees one of us go out the door for whatever reason, he will go get his shoes, sit down, and try to put them on! He has definitely tried helping when I put his shoes on, latching the velcro and such. Clever little dude!



    I briefly mentioned sleep, but sleep is definitely an issue. I did read that there’s a big 18-month sleep regression and it’s pretty rough. I figure that’s what we’re dealing with right now. I’m doing my best to be patient but it gets old when I’m sitting there with him while he’s trying to go to sleep in his crib. I mean, yeah, I’m reading on my phone but really, I’d like to be able to leave the room and get some other things done. Especially when the time changes, I plan to add some running into my evenings in addition to whatever gardening I want to do outside. And he’s still waking up in the middle of the night. Where it used to be that he would go back to sleep and I could put him in his crib; that isn’t happening now. He *knows* that I’m creeping away and sits straight up and wails. He may have actually been asleep, too. So frustrating. It’s insane because in early February we were actually getting a few times with one wake-up and then he’d sleep until 4 or 5 am, or even a few nights of pretty much sleeping through the night. I guess I’ll just ride it out like always. Oh…naps. Naps! Sometimes they are great, he goes down easy. Sometimes they aren’t. And I just give up, he doesn’t get a nap that day. I don’t know how daycare does it!

    All in all, the kid is keeping us on our toes, making us laugh, and teaching us how to be patient. Forest is incredibly sweet and we love him so, so much! Leo…Leo might not be loving him so much now that Forest has figured out how to chase him! I think Leo’s getting a lesson in patience, too!


    1. Downton Abbey!!! The series finale was almost everything one could want after several ‘blah’ seasons. You know, one character I never thought I would come to like was Thomas. Frankly, I think he and Edith might have become the better characters by the end of the show. And Bates? His character just went from loveable to creepy.
    2. 7 Lessons Bindweed is Teaching Me
    3. Super Tuesday and Primary voting: I know this is not the week that happened, but I did vote in my first ever primary and Super Tuesday. Florida has closed primaries, and as I was a registered Green party member in that state, I did not ever get a chance to vote in a primary when I lived there. Texas has open primaries so it was really fun to go and vote this time around. It was rather awkward being handed some Tea Party literature from some rather friendly fellows as I approached my polling place. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I was not their demographic!
    4. A couple of random ‘days off’ this week due to bad storms that caused some flooding around here. We worked from home the first day, but on the second day there wasn’t much for us to do so we spent a lot of the day doing chores around the house and yard, taking walks, I went for a run…it was nice to have a little time off in the middle of the week.
    5. Bald eagles have been active on the pond lately and it seems the swallow-tailed kites are back! Super excited for this!
    6. Here’s a bonus #6: Indian paintbrush are blooming in the roadway medians! We have a few bluebonnets blooming on our right-of-way, which means—soon it’ll be a bonanza of wildflowers around the state!

        What’s your Friday Five??


    The Lady Elizabeth by Allison Weir: I started this back in late January but didn’t finish it until sometime in mid-February. It was fairly long and took a lot out of me! However, I really did enjoy it. The author has several historical fiction books of this era that I want to read at some point in time. What I liked about this book was that it followed the life of Elizabeth Tudor (Queen Elizabeth I) from about 3 years old until about 25 years old, when her sister Queen Mary died and Elizabeth became queen. The book picks up on the rumor that Elizabeth may have become pregnant from Thomas Seymour when she was about 14-15 and takes off with that storyline a bit. From my reading, that rumor seems to be unfounded. It’s an interesting thread, though.

    The writing was done well and I found myself Googling various historical figures in the book as I went along. I will definitely read more of her books in the future.

    The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown: I’ve been a Brene Brown fan for years now, long before she hit the popularity with TED talks. I just never got around to reading her books! I started this one back in early fall but never finished it. Finally, i took it with me to the gym and flipped through the last 1/3 that I had left. I definitely resonated with more of the first 1/2 of the book than the second half. If you struggle with perfectionism, either outwardly or inwardly, this book is worth reading. It deals not only with perfection but touches on shame, which is one of Brown’s biggies when she talks. Honestly, shame is a lot more related to emotions, feelings, and actions than I thought. It keeps coming up in so many readings and podcasts I listen to. While I don’t consider myself a perfectionist, there are some aspects on the creative front that I get in an all-or-nothing attitude with myself.

    Currently Reading

    Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon: I’ve been rereading this with Elizabeth the last four to five months. We should be wrapping up this month before the second season of the tv show starts.

    The Map of Lost Memories by Kim Fay: I was looking for something to read on my phone while Forest goes to sleep every night and this sounded good. Just started it.

    The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz: This has been in my queue digitally for quite a while. I just came into the slot for my turn and I’m probably going to be switching to reading it first before I finish The Map of Lost Memories. However, once I downloaded it I realized it’s a YA novel. Not a bad thing, I like some particular YA novels as an adult, so we’ll see. It has quite a high rating on GoodReads and Amazon so I’m betting it’ll be worthwhile.


    How to Live: A Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at An Answer by Sarah Bakewell: I’ve been hearing about stoicism and the Stoics for the last six to eight months in various online venues. They’ve piqued my interest and I tried to find something digitally from one of the more famous philosophers of that time period but came up empty from the library. I’ll have to look elsewhere for something from the original Stoics. However, I found this book about this dude Michel Eyquem de Montaigne a philosopher from the French Renaissance who had influence from the Stoics. This particular book isn’t his writings directly, and is instead more of a biography. It has been interesting enough for me to want to find his writings. Montaigne is basically the person who got essays into being. If he was around now he’d probably have a very popular blog or column in a newspaper. He influenced the likes of Emerson and Woolf.

    This is only on hold because I couldn’t renew my digital copy as someone else was in line for it. When it comes up again I’ll be reading it again.

    Winter World: The Ingenuity of Animal Survival by Bernd Heinrich: This one I began as an audio book. I’ve found that I have difficulty getting into audio books if I don’t like the reader. I ended up finding this one in paper from the library and will be giving it a go from there.

    Captive Queen: A Novel of Eleanor of Aquitaine by Allison Weir: I jumped into another long historical fiction too soon after The Lady Elizabeth. Only a few pages in, I couldn’t read it and the Montaigne book at the same time. I let it lapse and will get it again another time. It’s promising, though!

    What are you reading?

    Justicia spicigera, Mexican honeysuckle

    Gladiolus dalenii

    A creeping violet thing that we’ve long lost the tag for.

    Prunus mexicana, Mexican plum blooms.

    Tomatoes in the vegetable garden.

    Bolting Chinese cabbage.

    Peach blossoms

    Sophora tomentosa, necklacepod

    The last of the cauliflower

    Sugar snap peas




    Our strawberries are finally looking like they will do well this year!


    ‘Bali’ tomato seedlings


    Variegated hydrangea

    Mexican flame vine


    Budding brugmansia

    Budding azalea

    Crawfish burrow

    Bolting mustard greens

    Collard greens

    Red Russian kale


    Bolting cilantro


    Nun orchid flower spike


    Woodland painted petals flower spike


    Scilla sp., Leopard lily spike



    If you’ve been reading here for any length of time you may remember when I got into kombucha. I let my SCOBY go into the compost when I was pregnant and for much of the year after Forest was born but, I think it was last summer, my SIL gave me her SCOBY because she wasn’t doing much with kombucha at the time. Well, it molded quickly and I had to chunk it. I ended up ordering another SCOBY from Kombucha Kamp and had success with it for 6-8 months. There were some down times when I wouldn’t be interested in brewing and would let the SCOBY just hang out for a month or six weeks before I’d revive it.

    Well, back in early January I’d renewed my interest and had just brewed some tasty pineapple flavored kombucha and wanted to make more. Well, MOLD! Again. So, I threw the SCOBY into the compost pile and asked my mom to bring me a bit of her SCOBY when she came to visit us the next time. Mom and Dad were here over the last weekend and so my kombucha is now revived! I even bought some fancy schmancy bottles that were on clearance at Target to make it all that more enticing to take with me. There’s just something about having a special drink in a special bottle that makes it easier to sip and take with you.

    Now, to wait two weeks on that first ferment!

    It’s been about three years since I’ve made sauerkraut. The first time was four years ago and it was really fun to see the process take place. Previously I had let the cabbage ferment for about four weeks but this time I only left it for two. It has just the right sour but plenty of crunch which was something that was missing from the last two ferments I did. I let them go just a little too long, I think.

    Fermented Radishes
    We have radishes that are beyond ready to be picked in the vegetable garden. I’ve been pondering what to do with them as we’re not very good at eating them fresh. Frankly, we both think we need to do better about eating what we grow. I think we did so much better when we were eating vegetarian meals primarily. Now, not so much. Plus, there’s that toddler that now occupies our house; he makes things a smidge more difficult during meal planning for the week.

    Back in December I did a traditional pickled radish mix with some of the radishes in the garden. I’ve been eating them with my boiled eggs on occasion, and it pairs great with them; a nice salty/vinegar combination. In an effort to try something different I began reading up on small batch fermenting. There’s actually several different options for using Mason/Ball jars as fermenting vessels but I opted to use the Mason Tops Pickle Pipe and Pickle Pebble to try my experiments.

    I started a ferment using this recipe last Wednesday and tried my radishes on Saturday. They had just a bit of tang but I wanted a little bit more so I left them for a few more days. I will give them another whirl soon! I’m very excited about the ease of this small batch style of fermenting.

    Fermented Peppers
    Since I was excited about the radishes I got into a let-me-ferment-everything mode. We had a pepper plant that lasted through most of our mild winter, up until an actually decent sub-freezing night or two at the end of January. Chris and I went out there and pulled the ripe peppers off of the plant so he could plant potatoes in that spot a few weeks ago. The peppers have been sitting in my fridge since then with the plan that I was going to dry them. The problem is we already have a bunch of ground, dried pepper that I made the summer before Forest was born and we’ve barely used it. Why did I need more of that?

    So, I looked up fermented pepper recipes and came up with A Great Idea! Homemade Tabasco!! Yep! I followed this recipe and cannot wait to see how it turns out in a few months! We definitely use hot sauce around here and it would be really cool to have something like this, a good alternative to using peppers. We love to grow peppers but definitely have trouble using them.

    I asked Chris for a mead kit at Christmas and I got one. The problem was I felt completely inept as even thinking about starting a batch of mead without doing a lot of reading and YouTube watching first. I still have not started my batch of mead yet because I’m terrified about ruining our honey. I ended up ordering a book about making mead since I felt the directions that came with the kit were lacking, and have started watching some YouTube videos. In the end, it doesn’t seem terribly hard but the biggest thing is to sanitize, sanitize, sanitize before hand.

    I’m hoping in a few weeks I will get a batch of mead started and will report back to you on that then!

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