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Monday, June 26, 2017

Hello, Again!

Getting to the point...I've been gone for longer than I ever intended, but life got in the way.  I got cancer - twice.  I changed grade levels at school, and a stray cat who turned out to be pregnant adopted me.  Lucky me.  Really!  Lucky me.  

First, I went from teaching 6th grade to teaching 8th graders.  I had actually started my teaching career 19th years ago with 8th graders so it didn't take me long to get back in the groove, and I had a really wonderful 8th grade veteran teacher to help me and listen to me vent from time to time.  Without her, it would have definitely been a bad year because that was the year I found out about the cancer.

Next, meet Groucho.  In the picture, he is about 3 months old.  He is too curious and has a little stubbie for a tail.  His momma turned up in June of 2015 and was just a sweetheart.  She'd been hanging around the house for about a week when she got bit on her paw.  It started swelling up so I took her to my vet.  It got better, and then we noticed she was getting fat.  She had 7 kittens a month later.   Five of them managed to find great homes, but Groucho was mine from the minute he grew a personality.  We couldn't find a home for his brother, Snowball, so he stayed as well.

Then one Friday night, after a long week at school, I had a pain in my right side.  The next morning, it was worse, so we made a trip to my local Urgent Care thinking that it couldn't be anything serious.  They sent me to a nearby ER center for a cat scan, and they found a tumor on my liver.  After a transfer to a hospital and a biopsy, the diagnosis was Intrahepatic bile duct carcinoma.  

So there you are, almost caught up.  More to come later, but yes, lucky!  I'm still here.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Pretty in Blue!

Meet the Plumbago, another Texas favorite. It's an evergreen shrub native to South Africa, and its hardiness makes it perfect for zones 9 through 11. It will bloom almost all year ‘round and is easy to grow. It likes sandy soil and soils that drain well. However, it can and will take over an area if you don’t prune, but on the plus if you prune regularly, this encourages more blooms.

This past winter we had some mighty cold temperatures, at least from Texas standards, and I thought the plumbago had died. A lot of my plants suffered, but the plumbago really took a beating.  It looked like a rambling of dried vines.  But when I began to replace this dead plant in early spring, I could see that the roots had survived and little shoots were coming up from the ground.  This is when I discovered that this is also a great plant for zones 7 and 8.

When we moved to our new home in Texas, we decided on a corner lot which had the bonus feature of having a bigger yard.  However, being a corner lot meant we also inherited a stop sign and a fire hydrant on the curve. The soil wasn’t the best with lots of clay and rock, but I wanted something pretty for the corner to take the focus away from the sign and hydrant. The corner had full-sun all day, and whatever I planted there couldn’t grow too big or at least be tolerable to pruning because of the sign and hydrant. A plumbago was the perfect answer. 

The plumbago is a favorite of mine because it loves full sun and once it is established, it only needs to be watered when it’s completely dry. So if you’re looking for a drought-resistant plant for your yard, this one is moderately drought-tolerant and so very pretty too.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Too Many Tomatillos!

Gardening can be fun.  When we started our first Texas garden, we went the safe route with tomatoes and peppers.  As we got more comfortable, we tried zucchini and onions and garlic.  Then we expanded to peas and butternut squash and tomatillos .

The tomatillo plant is  can be found in a lot of Texas gardens and is native to Mexico. Maybe you've heard of the husk tomato or a jamberry or the Mexican green tomato? Those are other names for the tomatillo. 

The tomatillo pictured above has not fully ripened yet. The fruit itself grows within a paper-like husk and as the fruit grows to about the size of a really large cherry tomato, the papery husk will get dry and turn brownish. Most of the time you will know the fruit is ripe when it starts to break its husk, but not always.

The tomatillo itself is a bit meatier than a tomato and will be white inside. It can be utilized in many ways.  It is commonly fried, steamed, or boiled. In Mexico, people will add it to guacamole sometimes or use them in making "green sauce" because there is a slight citrus-type of aftertaste.

This year our tomatillo plants have really been productive.  So we've been on a path of trying to find new recipes to use them in. 

The best way we've found so far is in making our own salsa.  We started with chopped tomatoes and onions which we've grown ourselves. Then we raided the pepper garden. We used a mix of serrano peppers and habanero. We chopped these finely and added them to the mix. Then we harvested a few cilantro stems (again fresh from our garden) and finely chopped these as well to add to the mix.

Lastly, we add chopped-up tomatillos to our salsa mix, it added texture and flavor. It is ready to eat, but if you can wait a couple of hours, refrigerate to let the flavors marinate together.  

Yummy!  It was perfect with our favorite brand of tortilla chips!