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  • Archive for the ‘Thoughts’ Category

    1
    Hello, 36.

    My birthday was on Monday. I turned 36. I’m officially heading straight for 40 and that seems really strange. I took the day off because I learned years ago that working on your birthday just isn’t all that fun. If I’ve got the days available, why not take the day off?

    Last year’s birthday was a bit of a dud. We were driving back from vacation in Port Aransas so most of the day was spent in the car. Forest had been sick that week as had several of us adults, and while the vacation itself was great and we celebrated my birthday the day prior with my parents, the day itself was a little disappointing. When we arrived home it was full of the stress of unpacking as well as nursing a little baby who was cranky. I honestly can’t remember what we had for dinner, pizza? I just remember feeling very blah about turning 35. I know that birthdays as an adult can be hit or miss but it helps to not feel stressed on your birthday even if it isn’t the most celebratory day, right?

    The year of 35 itself had been pretty good. I finally started feeling more like myself, the self before Forest, but merging that with my new identity as a parent. I knew that as my 36th birthday approached that I just wanted to spend a lot of the day by myself. One thing I really miss right now, and I know it will change again in a few years, but is the ability to run errands around town all day and just pop in different places just to browse. Mostly I miss bookstores. I could do some of that on a weekend but a lot of the time it is about juggling time for both Chris and I to do things we each need to do as well as spending time together as a family. So, I might be able to run out to one or two places but it’s difficult to get around to everything I want to do. And that’s not even every weekend, it is usually once a month or so. Needless to say, I order a lot of stuff online these days. Plus, part of it is the alone time that I crave and don’t always get. It’s nice to zone out in a bookstore for awhile.

    On my birthday I dropped Forest off at daycare a little later than usual because we lingered at home that morning. I was debating whether to include him in our breakfast plans but I opted for a quiet breakfast with just me and Chris at a local diner. We rarely eat breakfast out and if we do it is to a kolache bakery, usually. I had a hankering for Eggs Benedict or something similar and found a great Farmers Hash that satisfied most of that craving, complete with hollandaise and goat cheese.

    Afterwards Chris and I went our separate ways. He had also taken the day off and had plans for working around the house. When I began planning what I wanted to do for that day I came up with so much, including seeing a movie. The movie eventually got cut from the list as did a few other things. I was early for a few of my first stops after breakfast, the stores weren’t open yet, so I made my way down to Buy Buy Baby to return an extra diaper sprayer that we never installed upstairs. I oogled at the cute baby stuff but realized that I was glad we were out of that early baby phase of life. World Market was next door but I was too early for them so I dashed them off of my list and moved on for the bank to cash a birthday check and then found my way to Half Price Books.

    At HPB my goal was to buy books for Forest with a giftcard from Easter that my parents gave him. Of course I was also there to add to my own library. I meandered the aisles for awhile, checking out the sections, debating which books I really wanted to get and which to save for later. I chose a few for Forest and stuck with non-fiction for me. I was thinking on this lately, this non-fiction book buying. I think I feel like I’d rather borrow a fiction book than own it unless it is a particular author or series. But non-fiction, most of the time I want to keep it to have on hand to peruse or re-read later. I lamented that HPB doesn’t have a location closer to me as I left the store.

    The next stop was Barnes and Noble. Of course I wanted to peruse the book section but my main goal was their magazines. Misadventures magazine had launched their first issue and I wanted to check it out. I also wanted to compare a few gardening magazines because I am looking to subscribe to something else/different. Unless I’m already familiar with a magazine, it is hard for me to want to pay money for a subscription, particularly those that lean heavily on subscription fees versus advertising dollars, and I want to know what I really liked before subscribing. So, I grabbed Misadventures and Modern Farmer and oogled some other books before leaving.

    I had a noon appointment for an 1.5 hour massage so I didn’t have a ton of time after this. I knew that I wanted to hit up Ulta after hearing about the Orly Rubberized basecoat on The Girl Next Door podcast. I keep my toes polished and generally they last quite awhile but have been wanting something to help them last longer. That and I would like to polish my nails again but with gardening and an active toddler I haven’t really done that the last two years. If something made them last longer I thought I’d try it out. I grabbed that and an OPI purple that was on clearance and browsed the aisles for a few minutes.

    Lunch was next. I thought about going to Olive Garden to get my fill of soup and salad since I’d not really gotten that satisfied when I was there a few weeks ago but I saw McAlisters Deli and decided to go there instead. It was a nice change of pace to sit down there but I had to listen to some frustrating conversations about the recent arrests and protests. I had about 25 minutes before my massage and saw Motherhood Maternity around the corner and popped in there. Since having Forest I have not been comfortable wearing bras unless they were nursing bras without underwire or just regular sports bras. Since I regularly wear them over and over they definitely get some use and I needed a few more. I knew Macy’s had the ones I liked but didn’t really want to cross street traffic and deal with going to the mall. Happily, Motherhood Maternity had the ones I like in stock and were having a sale so I grabbed some more of those. Being in the store reminded me of the time I went with my mom, SIL, and the kids. That was a funny experience!

    Then I got to have my massage, which was glorious! Glorious! I really need to go once a quarter but never make the time. New resolve…massages once a quarter! After all of that I made the two short stops I needed to do that morning and then headed home. Forest would be waking up from his nap around 3pm and I wanted to pick him up early. Chris rounded out the day by making lobster and salmon and we both drooled over our meals! We also resolved to have lobster more often! It made me miss going lobster snorkeling/diving in Florida. Open season is soon! Chris got me a new camera lens to replace my 18-55 that started having problems. It’s a lot nicer, with image stabilization, and I’m glad to have that lens available to use again. It’s become a bigger problem the last few months with the old lens continually throwing errors at me. I’m going to keep the old lens and use it strictly for reverse lens macros.

    It was a really great birthday. There wasn’t anything huge about it but it satisfied some self-care that really needed to happen.

    golden lotus

    When I started The Garden Path Podcast late last year I knew that it would be hard work but that I would enjoy it. Podcasting takes oogles more time than writing a blog, at least for me. I thought I’d break down some thoughts here about these first six months.

    Overall Goals
    It was originally the Cultivate Simple podcast that really got me into listening to podcasts. I’d dabbled in them before that but they really weren’t terribly popular yet. Podcasting has been around since the mid-2000s so it wasn’t even a new format at that point in time when I started listening to Cultivate Simple, but it wasn’t as popular as it has become now, just a few short years later. It seems as if almost every genre of podcasts have expanded but the garden podcasts have stalled. Sure, there are some still going strong and there are even some farming podcasts, but I didn’t always necessarily identify with the farming podcasts. And the permaculture ones can even be hit and miss because sometimes they are just too out there for me.

    Honestly, looking back at it now, I would have started a more broad ‘outdoor’ podcast that touched in various aspects of the outdoors with a heavy influence on gardening. Not that I can’t have that broad reach now but it is probably a little more far fetched for me to add in hiking interviews on a gardening titled podcast…but hey, I still might have that happen sometime!

    My overall goal for the podcast talk about gardening with other gardeners across all sorts of abilities, regions, and themes.

    Being an Introvert as a Podcaster
    Writing a blog post is easy peasy as an introvert. There’s no gathering the guts to a: email someone to interview and then coming down from their yay or nay to your request, and b: hyping yourself up pre-interview and telling yourself that this wasn’t a horribly bad idea. Other than screwing things up on my end with the first interview I tried with Leigh and crying miserably as soon as I got off Skype with her, I typically always have a few moments after scheduling an interview with someone that goes somewhere along the lines of “Why did I just do that? This is going to be horrible. What are we going to talk about? Do we have enough to talk about? Am I going to sound like an idiot?” I perk back up in the time between scheduling it and the actual interview but usually minutes before the interview, and as I’m setting up my computer and microphone, I get panicky and all the fear comes back to me. Of course after each interview I’m elated and happy and we’ve had the greatest conversation, and each time I think “Awww, I wish they lived near me so we could be real-life friends!”

    As a person who doesn’t enjoy talking on the phone, isn’t big on striking up conversations with people I don’t particularly know, podcasting is definitely out of my comfort zone. It’s a comfort boundary that needs to be tested every once in awhile, especially when there’s something creative about it. It’s a curiosity and creativity fire that needed to be stoked and so I just plug along and do it, despite my fears and any pre-interview jitters.

    Thoughts on Sponsorships
    I’m fairly firm about not having ads on my blog, though I’ve never been totally no on that. If the right person contacted me about some gardening tool or wanted to pay for a camping or hiking trip I’d probably say yes to writing an honest review in exchange for whatever I was writing about. That said, podcasting is different. I’m definitely down with having a sponsor or two on some episodes. Podcasting is much more work than I imagined and it would be nice to have compensation to pay for hosting as well as a bit of my time.

    Now, do I have sponsors or have I actively sought them? Nope. But the line for having as sponsor is far closer on my podcast than on my blog. Frankly, most of the ads on podcasts I’ve listened to are pretty good. I’m a little tired of Audible being a sponsor on many of the shows I listen to because you only get that free download once—and I’ve already redeemed that!—, but I’ve heard a few interesting sponsorships across the podcasting genre. A lot of people seem to be plugging just straight donating to a particular podcast through Patreon (not my link, just a general link to the site) as a way of supporting the content creators you enjoy. That’s an option and I might look into it.

    Right now, though, this podcast is self propelled!

    Creating Connections and Building Friendships
    As an early adopter of the internet and building friendships online (I met my first internet friend in person way back in 2001! That’s when people were all “OMG, you did what???” about it), making connections with people across the various hobbies I have through social media is old hat for me. Honestly, sometimes I probably talk/connect to my ‘internet friends’ more than my in-real-life friends because of these hobby connections. Developing these connections even more through the podcast has been fun and interesting, too, because talking to them and hearing their voices makes that screen name a little more real.

    For now I am focusing, for the most part, in trying to interview people that I have some kind of connection with online or in the real world instead of contacting people that I follow but have never actually become acquaintances or friends with online. For one, it is the simpler way to start. I have emailed one very big named creative blogger who has a garden and was nicely rejected due to time constraints (no biggie! But for me to do that was h.u.g.e.) and have played email tag with another fairly big named creative and lifestyle blogger who has a homestead and we’re hoping to chat sometime this autumn when the growing season slows. But those are the only two people I’ve reached out to that I don’t have some kind of online connection to, people who wouldn’t recognize me or any of my screen-names.

    Podcasting is just another dimension to creating content in the ever evolving online world. It’s amazing how much the internet and internet accessibility has changed in the last 5 years with so many people having smartphones.

    That said, if you want to hear a particular gardener, farmer, or plant enthusiast on the podcast who fits the scope of the podcast, and can make that connection for me, I definitely want to hear from you!

    How I Podcast
    My research into podcasting started with me inquiring with Elizabeth about how she records her two podcasts. She uses GarageBand which is supported on Mac products, which my computer is not. Searching around it appeared that I could use Audacity for my recording, mixing, and exporting. As I typically teach myself by the seat of my pants and using the lovely University of Google, I finally found out that Audacity and Skype don’t get along. Cue meltdown with Leigh above. To overcome this I downloaded Pamela for Skype as a trial and then officially bought the software so that I could record Skype conversations appropriately. It works great and I’ve had no problems so far.

    Now, in reality, I actually really love using Google Hangouts On Air for people with Gmail accounts. Most people have a Gmail account but are not familiar with using Google Hangouts. This is how Elizabeth does her shows and the quality is much better, I find, than Skype. Google Hangouts records to one of my YouTube channels as an unlisted video/audio and later I download the .mp4 and Audacity will convert it into a format (after getting a plugin for conversion) it can read and edit. *Voila!*

    Before podcasting I was already familiar with the Free Music Archive to find music for YouTube videos with Creative Commons licenses that fit my needs, so I did the same for the music on the podcast. I’m still tinkering with the music and I will probably switch it up next ‘season’. Also, as I listen to other podcasts I get ideas on how to create interesting introductions. The last two interviews I experimented with cold opens, which I typically like hearing on other podcasts. So far I am liking that method and as I’m talking to my guests I keep a mental note of something particularly interesting they say so I can go back and splice it into the intro.

    This summer I’m opting for Summer Garden Journals instead of interviews due to time constraints for both me and my potential guests. Everyone is gardening and it is the busy season! I know some podcasts do ‘seasons’ which sometimes are only a month or two breaks between seasons, others go year round. There’s really no right or wrong way to put episodes out there. Right now my thoughts for next year is to take a break from posting episodes at the end of the summer and then focus on getting a bunch of interviews underway and then scheduling episodes throughout the winter. But we’ll see, I might change that up!

    Overall, I am really enjoying this creative medium and just going with the flow. I have no end goal in mind for the moment but I foresee at least continuing for another year. We’ll see how the overall podcasting platform evolves in the next year, what other podcatchers develop, if iTunes overhauls its poor search and filing system for podcasting, and if demand for podcasting continues.

    It’s just fun to do this for now!

    g10

    Today we’re wrapping up 11 days of Forest and I flying solo around here. Chris has been in northeast Texas doing field work. I’m trying to determine, I think it might be the longest stretch of time he’s been away since Forest has been here. When I found out a few months ago that Chris was going to be gone for this long amount of time I asked my parents if they would want to spend a long weekend with me, because, well, have you solo parented a toddler? It’s kind of hard, especially when there’s things to do around here! Thankfully they were up for coming down and helping out—hey, they wanted to hang out with this silly boy of mine and that was great for them.

    g9

    So, last weekend they stretched out a long weekend here and I was able to get a few things done outside. The primary job I wanted to accomplish was to weed and mulch the vegetable garden. A few months ago we’d gotten it all prettied up but the wet spring meant a plethora of weeds and many things needed to be remulched. And then of course we had the floods and the garden was overall a disaster. It wasn’t on par with last summer but it was heading there if there was no intervention.

    g8

    I weeded and mom helped. We went out for bulk mulch and I got a yard in the back of Chris’ truck while we were out doing other errands (getting a sandbox and a stop to REI’s garage sale) and I moved mulch as I got a bed or two weeded. Dad served as primary toddler wrangler but he also helped me weedeat one of days. While I love our yard it is definitely a big task to take care of when there’s a kid involved. I’ve definitely thought many times how much easier it would be to have a new construction house in a generic neighborhood with a small yard.

    g7

    By the time my parents left on Monday morning I had all of the six main beds weeded and mulched, leaving me with the perimeter beds to complete during the work-week, which I did manage to finish. The last bed we did was the carrot bed. We should have pulled the carrots in early May but we kept procrastinating. I pulled some about two weeks ago and those yielded about a gallon and a half bag worth but there were many times I found rotting carrots. Mom and I got the rest of the carrots last Sunday afternoon and when I finally washed those I got another nearly two gallon bags worth. Not the yield we had last year (oh wow, we pulled those late March! oops!) and the carrots are generally much smaller, but at least we have some carrots. Chris said he’d blanch and freeze them when he got back so I will hold him to that! I may pickle a few jars just to have something different around here.

    g6

    As I’ve been working in that garden I’ve noticed a few things. The first is that we have a really good population of earthworms. Pull a weed and an earthworm usually comes with it. Dig up a little bit more and there’s a whole bunch of ’em slinking through the soil. This is good news!

    g5

    The second thing I’ve noticed is that the garden is fairly resilient. Sure a few things bit the dust in the flood but most plants survived the submersion and wet feet. Honestly, I thought the squash and zucchini would have rotted by now but here they are, still hanging in there. My asparagus, the most dainty and smallest plants in the garden, are thriving. While we won’t have the tomato harvest of previous years, I’m hoping to limp them along through the summer and get a fall harvest. Maybe plant a few small plants in a few weeks to supplement…I don’t know.

    g4

    The third thing I’ve noticed is that while we have had a primarily dry week and a half in this part of Houston, the beds, particulary the hugelkultur-esque perimeter beds, are holding moisture very, very well. And that’s one of the primary reasons for building these beds, their capabilities of retaining water for extended periods and working for less need to water as often. Hopefully this will serve us well as we move to a drier time of year.

    g3

    Next up is to get more things planted. I started a few nights ago with various beans, okra, and loofah but need to get more winter squash, pumpkins, and some herbs going. I’m not sure if we’re going to try sweet potatoes again or not but if we do we need to get slips from somewhere. The bed we’ve used for sweet potatoes in previous years always has a lingering potato or two that sends up vegetation and that’s already started. I left it because the leaves are edible and I may use them for smoothies this summer.

    g2

    I’ve been very pleased with the cucumbers this summer. They’ve produced a manageable amount of fruit to pickle. Every few days I go out and get anywhere from 2-5 fruit and it makes it easier to make a few jars versus the plethora we had back when we were at the community garden and planted two beds full of them! Whew, that was a lot of pickles! And too much canning.

    g1

    Right now I am only making pickles for the fridge and have yet to get the canner out. I will probably start canning them soon. The pepperoncinis near the top of the post here have also been cut up and pickled once. Now, I have always turned up my nose to these because I couldn’t fathom eating a pickled pepper but I conquered my fear and distaste and am now a convert. At least with my own pickling brine! I’m not sure if I’ll gather up the guts to try mainstream versions. The smaller peppers above are fish peppers, which are hot peppers. I did a jar of those pickled with some onions and we’ll see how those are. I took the seeds out of most of those but I know some were still in there. I hope they aren’t too hot!

    Next up is to tackle the flower beds. They were pleasantly weeded and mulched months ago but the weeds have invaded again! Time to tackle that over the next few weeks. Maybe I’ll get out and get some photos of those soon!

    I put together a short video of the second flood last week. For some reason I didn’t take a video of the front yard with the good camera, just my phone apparently, but I put some photos of the front yard in there at the end.

    Chris and I walked the neighborhood yesterday morning. Pretty much every house north of us along the creek had flood damage of some sort, mild to horrific. We are very lucky.

    13

    I thought about doing a second post titled ‘500 Year Flood Part II’ because that’s what we had Friday afternoon, but I decided I’d rather show pretty pictures of the garden a week ago and just tell a short story about the second epic flood in less than 24 hours.

    12

    When we woke up Friday morning and as I had written the post about the night before, the water was still in the yard but slowly receding. The front yard always takes forever to drain and well, patches of it haven’t drained for about two months because it has been so damn wet this spring. I’m half tempted to start putting wetland plants in it because that’s what those areas really are, wetlands. I did get to mow one of the wetter areas when it dried up enough a few weeks ago but for the most part those areas have been tall all spring. So, the front yard was going to take awhile to drain and that wasn’t disconcerting really.

    11

    Work was closed, daycare was open but we kept Forest with us. Chris ended up having to do some work for a few hours from home and in the midst of all of this flooding stuff we were trying to get packed for camping for the Memorial Day weekend in which we were meeting my family halfway between here and Dallas. While Chris was working I took Forest to drop by daycare and pick up his napmat, run into Walgreens to get a few things, and pick up lunch at Sonic. There was a rain shower south of us and as I turned back around and made for home I could tell there was rain coming from the west. It was noon or so by the time I got home and it had started sprinkling.

    10

    We ate lunch and the thunder rolled. Forest and I settled in for a nap while Chris was going to wrap up whatever work he had and the bottom fell out. And fell and fell and fell. I had the door shut and couldn’t see outside but the power went off. I heard the rain quite clearly and knew that the pond, which had become a pond again earlier that morning, was going to be in the yard. Sure enough when Forest and I woke up around 3:30 it looked just about how it looked the previous night.

    9

    Meanwhile the power came back on for about thirty minutes and we got some cell signal for a bit. We had been having trouble even using the data from our phones to get on the internet to watch the radar or even send texts out. And it just kept on raining and raining and raining. Once we got online we saw that the front had stalled over us and the storms were just building right over us and sitting there. Then the power went off again.

    8

    Let me tell you how fun it is to entertain a toddler who a: likes going outside and b: has been cooped up already and just wants to watch some tv when the power has gone out. Our downstairs doesn’t have enough windows on the south side so it can get kind of dark, especially when it is cloudy outside. I had to go upstairs for awhile and open all of the blinds up there to let what light in we could to play for awhile there.

    7

    At some point though I switched out with Chris so I could take some photos and videos with my camera and get outside for a few minutes.

    6

    The rain slowly started to taper off after 5pm when the front slowly slid south. The power was still out by 5:30 and we were trying to figure out how to make dinner. Chris had the camp stove but had to dig around for fuel as he thought we were totally out. He ended up finding fuel buried somewhere in the shed and had gathered up everything to cook when the power flickered back on. Of course.

    5

    We quickly got everything together inside and made dinner, cleaned up, and hoped that the power wouldn’t flicker off once again.

    4

    Slowly the water started going down once again despite rumblings of thunder a few times. The sky lightened to the west and we got a few glimpses of a colorful sunset somewhere on the horizon.

    3

    We woke up the next morning quite early and hit the road for a planned camping trip with my family. The sky was bright and there was no rain, hopefully, on the horizon for the rest of the weekend.

    2

    Before we left we made a mental note of which backroads over to I-45 might still have water over them and made an effort to avoid them. The road we ended up choosing was open but as we crossed over a bridge over a creek we saw that just a few hours previously we wouldn’t have made it across. The water was rapidly flowing maybe a foot below the bridge. On I-45 the San Jacinto River was well out of its banks and spreading out across the floodplain, access road, and into a community adjacent to the river. We ended up having a great weekend camping, albeit a little hot and humid and with a cranky toddler, but at least we got out of the house.

    So far the yard damage appears to be a small post oak that fell over, losing a nifty wood bench Chris had made for the fire pit, one of the plumerias on the dock went into the water and sat there all weekend because Chris wasn’t able to retrieve it before then—it may end up rotting, a peach tree is wilting—we’ll see if it pulls through, it looks like the tomatoes are toast—at least most of them, as well as a few other plants in the vegetable garden. We’ll just have to see how the rest fare in a few days and if they are able to dry their feet out. I suspect we’ll end up losing the Mexican/Texas olive because it has been on life support a few times already and really hates wet feet.

    Our neighbors did get water in their house. On Friday morning they had pulled a lot of items out of the house and garage to assess the damage from the night before but the Friday afternoon storms just came suddenly and they left without getting anything back in before it flooded again. They lost most of their chickens, the coop, and I’m sure their vegetable garden looks even worse than ours, as well as having the damage in their house. I know their neighbors also had some water in their house and I need to touch base with them again to make sure they don’t need any help ripping carpet up.

    We’ve had these few days to dry out but it looks like more rain is in store for the latter part of the week with rumors of the system stalling once again. I just know that this portion of Texas and along the Brazos cannot handle that happening again. It needs to stall elsewhere.

    If you’ve been reading here for any amount of time you probably remember the first few weeks we were living here and it flooded. We’ve had a few simliar floods and smaller floods since then, including at least two or three others this spring. The most recent was the Tax Day Flood so it is very fresh in everyone’s memory. After that flood I remembered that back in 2012 someone had mentioned a massive flood in 1994 in Houston and that was recalled again so of course looked it up and was definitely worried about that ever happening again so I rechecked the floodplain maps for our county and was relieved that for the most part all of the buildings on our property were high and dry even in that 500 year floodplain. The line definitely traipsed the edges of our shed and man-cave buildings but the house sat good. That was reassuring…but still, a little worrying.

    Yesterday afternoon at work the sky got dark and I checked the weather and saw Bryan/College Station was taking a pounding with a tornado and flooding. We were on the edge of the system and didn’t seem to be affected too horribly at that time. That is until we got home from work. It was Chris’ turn to pick up Forest from daycare so I started dinner. When they arrived home I rushed out with an umbrella to get Forest out and we had a good dinner. It was raining hard but didn’t seem like it was going to be horrible. Of course we weren’t watching the radar heavily at that moment. From the span of 6pm to about 6:45 the pond went from being a pond to coming into the yard up to the fire pit. By the time I started getting Forest to bed at 7pm Chris said he was going to go and just check the yard for things that might float away. It didn’t seem as daunting as it was going to get at that point.

    Meanwhile I’m sitting in the dark in Forest’s room, rocking him to sleep, and Chris is sending texts throughout that the water is as high as the Tax Day flood and then nope, getting higher. Then he tells me water is now flowing between the man-cave and our neighbor’s house. Not long after he’s telling me the water is 4″ from the bottom of my neighbors house which is on pier and beam. And soon after he texts that the neighbor’s family, who also lives in the neighborhood, has come to get them in a canoe and they paddle off down the street! Needless to say I’m freaking out by this time. The toddler senses my anxiety and takes for-ev-er to get to sleep and when I finally escape I am stunned to see what it looks like outside. These are all Chris’ photos but it was even higher just after sunset but the photos wouldn’t have come out. I wish we had a video to show how fast the flow was between the houses; it was crazy!

    I ended up calling some of our older neighbors two doors down who are much closer to the creek and while they did end up with a little water in the house they thought with the break that it would recede enough to compensate for any more rain and didn’t want us to come down in the canoe to get them at that point.

    Luckily we got a break in the storms after around 11pm with a few smaller storms through the night and one bigger one closer to dawn. The water is down now in the yard but the area roads are still flooded near creek crossings. Chris ventured out to see about getting breakfast tacos for us and to scout out the neighborhood. He said there were cars submerged and it was pretty awful. I know based on social media and the news that there was an interesting corridor of flooding in a line along the Montgomery County/Harris County line along with other flooding in areas near Bryan/College Station as well as 16″ of rain in Brenham. It appears portions of the Austin area have had flooding too.

    Hey, and guess what happened last year on Memorial Day weekend? Flooding in Houston and Austin. Yep.

    And Chris just tells me, after he’s been moving debris from the yard, that the neighbors did get water in their house as well as their vehicles. Bummer.

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    This is between the shed and the house. The water came up more from this photo to the those containers you see.

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    Chris moved his truck further up from here because the water came up even higher on the driveway. The kayaks were out from a fishing trip he took a few weekends ago and those were moved further up as well.

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    Looking to the neighbors house from our carport.

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    This is usually a ‘high and dry’ kind of spot. But also part of the 500 year floodplain.

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    Those wood pieces were later submerged.

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    From the side door/laundry room of the house looking to the carport.

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    I’ve never seen water under Forest’s swing. It’s at the lower end of the mounded slope which leads to the house.

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    From the driveway near the man-cave looking to the neighbors driveway. There are azaleas planted by that pine tree but they were submerged in the photo.

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    Driveway, veg garden, and front yard submerged.

    Around 11pm I heard the pipes gurgle and then a few other sporadic times throughout the night and got very nervous about the septic backing up into the house. Thankfully that did not happen. When we knew the water was coming up towards the septic we stopped using the plumbing. I thankfully opted to shower before toddler bedtime, mostly thinking about a power outage, but it was a well timed idea. Dishes and diaper washing did not get done last night!

    So, I’m ok with having a fairly dry summer after this entirely too-wet spring.

    IMG_3790

    It’s taken awhile but I am slowly feeling like I can begin doing my old kitchen experiments once again. I may not be getting wild hairs on a Friday night at 8pm to make homemade pasta (done it!) but I feel like I can tackle some small projects in the kitchen once again. Suffice to say, the last 15 months have been hard, the first 9-12 months of that the roughest. An adjustment period. Some of the more curated blogs and social media sites are very great about depicting the ability for a new mother to keep up with her old ways, or even a mother with a new baby and several other small kids at home, but the messy side is hardly ever shown. The tears, the feeling of being rushed to accomplish some big goal, instead of being able to enjoy it, the frustrations, and the feeling of losing oneself…you don’t see that.

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    Chris, thankfully, stepped into the role of chef for most of these last 15 months. This was mostly due to Forest’s need to nurse as soon as we got home from daycare each evening. For months and months, until he was probably almost 9 months, he would take forever to nurse and then he would fall asleep as, usually, would I. Chris would make dinner and then after I would do the dishes. I don’t mind doing dishes, I honestly almost enjoy the satisfaction of getting the dishes washed and either loaded into the dishwasher or put into the other side of the sink to wait for loading. But, Chris’ chef hat was getting worn down and so I’ve been pitching in here and there when I can. I still opt for easy because there’s no time for frou-frou stuff at the moment, aside from weekends. And weekends, well, half the time we’re off doing something and still come home needing something easy.

    IMG_3794
    I planted a lot of radish seeds back in October and most were beyond ready to harvest. I’m not a huge fan of eating radishes raw but I thought it would be fun to pickle them. Several years ago when we were still childless and had gotten back into gardening after being long distance backpackers/field workers without a home for awhile, we were canningaholics and canned so many pickles and jars of tomatoes that we never ate all of the stuff we canned. I even canned peppers…that went into the compost later. Yeah, we had a problem.

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    So, I had the radishes and shredded them up with some onions and carrots—those from the store—and pickled them in the brine that was my grandmother’s recipe. No sweet pickles for me, which is what many radish pickle recipes on the internet call for. After that, I had a hair to make lemon curd. We’d recently recieved a few lemons from two different people and weren’t going to be doing anything with them anytime soon. I’ve been putting store bought lemon curd in my morning oatmeal on occassion and thought that it would be a nice treat. Also, it seemed easy. Something exotic but attainable.

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    Best of all, I found a recipe that used honey. I put to use some of the honey from our hive.

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    Five egg yolks, half a cup of honey, a stick of butter, and some lemon juice later, I ended up with lemon curd. Kind of. It certainly didn’t set like it was supposed to, though the blog recipe I followed suggested it might be runnier than a typical lemon curd made with sugar.

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    It did end up setting a little more in the fridge and I’ll likely have to freeze the extra to use at a later date, because that’s a lot of lemon curd!

    The moral of this story is…life gets in the way sometimes but things start to come back. The urge to be how you used to be returns. While the wild ways you might have lived pre-child might not be there, for awhile at least, you’ll get glimpses of it. You might need the help of a cartoon or three, but you’ll get there in between all of the toddler maneuvering.

    Coming up on my wild kitchen experiments for 2016: I got a bread making book for Christmas AND a mead making kit!! Bread and wine, y’all.

    PS: Episode 3 of the podcast is out!

    +In My Head

    Another year is just about over. I’m looking forward to 2016 and moving on from 2015. 2015 was a good year but the first half felt quite heavy. I’m not sure what’s going to happen in 2016 but I do know my parent’s 40th anniversary is in June and my dad turns 60 in September, so those are two milestones to be looking foward to.

    I had planned to try to work with Forest on potty training/elimination communication harder during this Christmas break but he came down with RSV and has been extra clingy, sleeping like crap, and lost his appetite, so working with him on that has been thrown out the window. I hope to revisit it sometime in January and get daycare to work with me on it, too.

    +Watching

    Homeland has wrapped up for the year, with a somber end note. #SaveQuinn just didn’t happen to work…I don’t think. It’s tv, somehow they are going to either really kill him off or through miraculous and fantasmal television workings, get him to live from his sarin gas ordeal. Next on deck is Downton Abbey at the beginning of the year. I happened to see a spoiler the other day after spending all of this fall avoiding spoilers as the final season aired in the UK. Let’s just say it was a pretty big spoiler, too. But, a good one that gives me hope for this final season!

    Also, watching far too much Wonder Pets while we’re off for the Christmas break. We can only wrangle a toddler so long before we need some downtime, and Wonder Pets solves that for us.

    +Outside My Window

    Mid-spring temperatures paired with the beginning of winter foliage/lack thereof…it’s tricked a few things into blooming early. Looks like we’re going to have a pretty strong front come through in a day or two and get back to business as usual around here. I’m not sure how long that will last, though. I really don’t mind having mild winter temperatures…after all, 8 year in Florida will do that to you.

    +In The Art Studio

    I haven’t done much in the way of my studio this month. I meant to but I spent time in the evenings upstairs enjoying the Christmas tree this month. I’d like to get back over there and get caught up on my scrapbook. I’ve also had a hankering to do a pastel drawing. Maybe I will make a goal for a small drawing a month for the new year? I’m hesitant to even set goals for art because I never follow through on them.

    +In The Garden

    Trying to get caught up on weeding here and there in the garden. We really need to tackle all of the fire ant mounds that are popping up, as they do when we aren’t vigilant. The other day we went for a walk in the neighborhood, something we haven’t done in a few months, and laughed at the amount of high mounds in a small pasture. It really looked like a scene from the zoo in the anteater exhibit! I’ve also noticed the leaf cutter ants have gotten out of control in our neighborhood, too. We don’t have any mounds in our yard but the mounds we’ve found are quite extensive.

    Chris has been working on modifying the fences that protect the trees, making them a little smaller and nicer, while still being effective at preventing the der from destryoing our trees. Down at the pond, the beavers have made a dent, literally, in a few of the sweetgum trees. Chris has put mesh around the trees he wants to protect and left one for the beavers, a sickly sweetgum that needs to come down anyway.

    The warm weather has bok choy trying to bolt so I think I am going to pull the majority of it and freeze it for green smoothies. I froze some two years ago and it worked really well to break off chunks of it for my smoothies. We planted onions and peas in the last week, too. A little weeding here and there is probably all I can hope to do for the next few weeks.

    +Reading

    In the last week I read Called Again by Jennifer Pharr Davis, about her 46 day supported thru-hike record in 2011. Scott Jurek broke that record this past summer by 3 hours. As I read her book and remembered that she only broke the previous record by a day, I really believe that it will be awhile before someone else breaks Jurek’s record. The stars really have to align for everything to go well and have that record be broken. Overall, this book was much better than her first. I saw some people criticizing this book for being very general in the description about the trail but the book wasn’t about that. It probably helps that I’ve hiked the trail so I could get a good feel in my head already for where she was at any given moment. There were times I was annoyed with her attitude but honestly, she was probably right to be feeling some of those things, re: her unorganized husband, too chipper friends, hiking mentors pushing too hard. We all have our own mental battles, and feeling how we feel and her expressing the truth, well, I can’t fault her for that, especially in her particular situation. The one thing that did stand out was her mother. I just couldn’t get over the fact how her mother did not support her at all on any of her hikes. It seemed a little selfish, frankly. Sure, her mom finally showed up when she summited Springer Mountain at the end of the 2011 hike but it wasn’t without side comments.

    I picked up The Gift of Imperfection once again. I need to work my way through a bunch of books I’ve already started, however a comment that Elizabeth and I talked about on the most recent recording of our Dragonfly in Amber read-along has me wanting to pick up the Anne of Green Gables series and read through the entire series, something I haven’t done in years.

    +Drinking

    Angry Orchard hard cider and Ruta Maya coffee, plus some Kona blend coffee that I got for Christmas.

    +Loving

    Almost two weeks off of work! It wasn’t supposed to be this long but I ended up taking two sick days earlier in the week because Forest was sick, and we were also given from Christmas Even through New Years off of work. I’m also loving this mild and warm weather, though it appears it will be changing soon as a front is supposed to blow through.

    What’s up in your world?

    +In My Head
    I need to get back on the workout wagon this coming month. November ended up being a wash since I spent so much of it with vertigo. I still have the vertigo but it seems to be mostly when I’m laying down or when I’m dealing with a lot of action in front of me that has me needing to try to absorb and focus on a lot of things. We went to Moody Gardens aquarium in Galveston over the weekend and some of their tanks had me reeling.

    Christmas is around the corner and I am still in awe that we’ve come a full year from last Christmas. I’m looking forward to getting our tree and spending every evening upstairs enjoying the lights and ambience. Last Christmas I had a little kiddo who would sleep on the Boppy while I was up there. This Christmas he should be in his crib for most of it, but I think we’ll play upstairs a lot so he can enjoy it, too. The big fun will be keeping him off the ornaments!

    +Watching
    Big Bang Theory and Homeland! A lot of people didn’t like last season’s Homeland because there was no Brody but I did enjoy that season. This season is even more different but I am completely shocked (as are others) at just how similar the season is panning out to current events, particuarly everything to do with Syria and the refugee crisis. From what I understand the show runners are being very adamant to state that this is a fictional show and it has nothing to do with current events, but damn, the writers did their research and must have used a fortune teller! It’s a very good season!

    +Outside My Window
    Typical winter in Texas: wet and cold. It looks pretty, though! I think we got peak leaf color a bit later than normal this year.

    +In The Art Studio
    I hung Christmas lights in the studio a few weeks ago and it has really changed the dynamics in there! I’ve been doing some scrapbooking but not as much this month. I’d like to get back over there a few nights every week in December.

    +In The Garden
    The vegetable garden is flourishing and I need to get back on top of the weeds. They aren’t too bad, yet, but the cool season weeds like chickweed and Carolina geranium are making their appe

    +Reading
    Not much! Trying to play catch up on a stack of magazines and get back into a few books.

    +Drinking
    I just finished a blend from the Sprouts grocery store that was flavored and am now going through the Starbucks Thanksgiving blend.

    +Loving
    I’m kind of flummoxed at the moment because there’s not a lot on my list! November was a bit of a bummer, like I said. It went quickly, I had vertigo, went to the dentist for the first time in *cough cough* six years. There’s really no excuse for the last four years. I had insurance the entire time. I just got lazy. So, the dentist turned into a lovely affair of cavity city. Now I’m going through the multiple sessions of deep cleanings and fillings. It’s so ironic because I’m the best teeth brusher in the house *and* I drink a ton of water. I also went my first 29 years without a single cavity. And here I am at 35 with a bazillion of them. Damn that aging thing.

    Well, that was a downer of a first paragraph of a ‘loving’ post, right? SO…what do I love right now???

    A walking toddler!!! He’s so awesome and it is fun to watch him figure it all out!
    Christmas music!!
    Leftovers from Thanksgiving! mmmmm!
    A big project I’m working on that I’ll be debuting tomorrow! 🙂
    My studio! I cleaned it up a bit and put Christmas lights up and now it is my little happy place!

    Alright, what’s up with you lately?

    +In My Head

    FINALLY! The weather has cooled off, the sun has changed positions…it’s FALL! Ok, so, there might have been some mid 90* days in the last few weeks but in general it feels like Fall! That said, I’m now wondering where this year went. It seems like once July hit that the accelerator was pushed to the floor! It’s going to be bam!—Halloween—bam!—Thanksgiving—bam!—Christmas! I’m not sure I’m ready yet for a new year.

    Forest has had many ear infections over this last year and this last one from September that never quite went away had our pediatrician finally decide to send us to an ear, nose, and throat specialist. Upon her recommendation we’re now moving forward with having ear tubes placed in his ears. It’s definitely nerve wracking for me and Chris but we know in the end it will be better for him in that hopefully there will be less infections and that his hearing won’t be jeopardized. I have ear problems and can barely tolerate a light wind even if it is 70* out, muchless anything colder with a wind.

    More on the toddler front is that sleeping and walking is changing around here. In early September I started losing my mind with bedtime and it was just time to move him out of our room and into his room full-time. That meant that I started a new routine in his room at bedtime as well as deciding to sleep downstairs for awhile since his routine after 10pm was to wake up every 2 hours. I wasn’t interested in going downstairs every few hours, bleary-eyed, to put the kid back to sleep.

    In the last week nursing to sleep had stopped working so well and so I finally started moving on to something else that I hadn’t been able to do before…nurse for awhile, give the kid his pacifier and then stick him in the crib to put himself to sleep. Now, mind you, I can’t leave the room while he does this quite yet. I have to stand over his crib and let him know I’m there, and towards the end I can sit down in the rocking chair. This is definitely progress. On a good night the routine is about twenty minutes whereas on a bad night it can be an hour. So, in response to all of this, his being able to get himself to sleep, is that he’s sleeping longer stretches at night. Sometimes he wakes up at 12:30 and then around 3 or 4, other times it’s 2 and then 4 or 4:30. I’ll get him back down in the crib after the first wake-up but so far after the second I just carry him over to the guest bedroom and we snooze until it is time to get up. The upside is that I’m back in my own bed again *and* sleeping longer without interruption. Someday I’d like these wake-ups to be just once and eventually for that ever fantastical thing called “sleeping through the night” to occur. Slowly, slowly. Patience is key for gentle sleep training…that and just general developmental changes!

    +Watching

    Homeland is back! Only three episodes in but I’m loving this season so far. Gah, I love Clare Danes!

    I’m also watching on Netflix a show called Peaky Blinders. It’s a mob drama set in 1919 Birmingham, England. Very dark but has great acting. I’m not sure how I like the meshing of modern music with the period visuals, but it’s good so far.

    +Outside My Window
    Leaves are falling off of the trees. It’s looking gorgeous outside now with the bright blue Fall skies! Chris and Forest have been going down to the pond to fish after dinner most nights lately which lets me finish dishes and get ready for Forest’s bedtime. Sometimes I pop out there and sit with them for a few minutes. Sally duck is back but has joined the domesticated duck herd our neighbor let loose. Now that she’s going to get free food I wonder if she will ever leave in the summer again?! We’ve also got a pair of Egyptian geese flying around lately; not sure where they came from.

    It’s just a great time of year!

    +In The Art Studio
    I haven’t done much in the last few weeks. I need to wrap up the scrapbooking photos I was working on so I can order another round. I’m thinking of doing some crochet cat and dog blankets for my friend’s Marc and Eliana at their business Project Pet Snip. She said they would be beneficial to use after a spay or neutering to keep the animals warm and cozy—and I have a ton of acrylic yarn that I have no idea what to do with. Sounds like a good tv watching thing to do this winter!

    +In The Garden
    I planted a lot of cool season crops over the last few days. Most of it was greens but I also threw in some radishes and will be planting carrots soon, too.

    I’ve decided I need to spend one or two days a week during lunch to do some gardening since I’m losing my time in the evenings now. I’ll be pairing that with my workouts during the week. The flower garden is in a weedy state once again and some things are trying to go dormant, such as the banana trees. That means leaves are falling off and there’s just a general need to clean up the garden once again.

    +Reading
    I wrote my book report earlier this month. I haven’t done much reading since, other than get caught up on Dragonfly in Amber. I did buy Big Magic because I couldn’t resist after hearing Elizabeth Gilbert on so many podcasts recently. I have opened it up and flipped through the first page or two and it looks like a very easy read. Hopefully it is also thought provoking!

    +Drinking
    I’m back on the Ruta Maya coffee once again. Really, you can’t beat the price I can get it for at H-E-B. 2lbs for $15!!

    +Loving

    • How much Forest is changing on a daily basis! Light bulbs just go off daily for him! He’s in a pointing phase now where he points to things and we tell him what they are!
    • Getting in the garden once again. I love this time of year and I have loved feeling more like my old self again. I’m never going to be who I was before Forest but at least I don’t feel as out of sorts as I did earlier this year.
    • When we were in Austin a few weekends ago and visiting the Natural Gardener I bought a few small, very small, pots for my office at work. I ordered some succulents off of Etsy and they are now potted up and in my window at work. This was spurred because Chris has got himself a mini conservatory going on over at his desk at work! We don’t really have a space for plants indoors at home so making some space at work offers a chance to grow a few things we couldn’t otherwise.
    • Working out! I found a gym very close to my office and joined it about a month ago. Since then I started lifting weights three times a week and I have noticed a considerable gain in muscles both in strength and in shape! I’m very happy about this! I have two months left in this program I am using and after that I need to figure out another three month plan. But yeah, already noticing more changes!
    • Thred Up! I wrote about it last June with my first order. Since then I have ordered two more times; once for two pairs of workout shorts and more recently in order to spruce up my cool weather wardrobe. My cool weather wardrobe is in pitiful shape. Living in Florida for so long did not require much in the way of warm clothing and I just never built up anything once I returned to Texas. It isn’t *that* cold during the winter where I live here in the greater Houston area but it is not nearly as warm as south Florida! I’m slowly going through and making a donate pile of winter clothes I won’t/don’t wear and trying to build up clothes that are more my style now. This recent order was mostly a hit, though I did send three shirts back that didn’t quite fit. I’ll get store credit and reorder when that transaction is completed. If you are interested here’s a link for you to get $20 towards your first order.
    • Ok, I’m not totally loving this because we’re in third place now, but I really need y’all to go vote daily for the next two weeks so the Florida Trail can win a grant for $25K towards rebuilding trail in St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge. We were winning quite well until early October when votes were taken away from us and the set-up changed in which you need to verify your email address once so that the rest of your votes can count. It sounds like someone was doing some fraudulent voting. Really peeved! I don’t think we can beat the Ice Age Trail, which is currently in first place, but we are within enough votes that we might be able to pull back into 2nd place and secure one of the two grants. So, please go here to vote and be sure to check your email to verify it so that you can continue voting through the end of October. Forward the link to your friends and on social media, too!

    I guess that’s about it!

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