timeout warrants issued

What’s up, Kat? You totally made me cry into my perfect coffee with your post about a memorable lesson and a burnt headlight. Biggest hugs to you, sweet lady. That was beautiful. xoxo Friends, you must go read You Can Fix It. It’s short and so very sweet.

This week Kat wants to know what 10 things
(people, places, whatevv) need a timeout?
Here are my nominations:

  1. The rain. The rain has been a wonderful blessing and has busted all our historic droughts and given us such glorious spring gardens! It’s been magical. But we’re good now, thanks. Still flooded everywhere you look, Oklahoma now sees a nine-day forecast of nothing but more rain. Heavy rain. Storms like what you’d see in the tropics, not the southern Midwest. We are soaked to the bone. The rain needs a timeout.

    Verdant and colorful, yes! I just love it. But we crave more sunny days like in this photo. The plants crave the sun, too.

    Verdant and colorful, yes! I just love it. But we crave more sunny days like in this photo. The plants crave the sun, too.

  2. People who commit body shaming against others, including themselves. This includes people who call others “too fat” as well as people who call others “too skinny” or anything at all. This barely used to bother me, but for some reason lately all the careless adjectives and tones of voice flying around just create a really confusing, hurtful atmosphere. I don’t groove it. Body shamers need a timeout.
  3. Natasha the black barn cat. She has been bullying Fast Woman, who you may remember recently became an indoor cat (on a trial basis at least). Natasha spends lots of time lurking outside the doors and windows, howling and spiking her shoulder fur in Fast Woman’s general direction. It’s aggressive and it needs to stop. Natasha needs a timeout.

    They will stare at each other like this for a solid hour, hissing and thinking terrible things.

    They will stare at each other like this for a solid hour, hissing and thinking terrible things.

  4. People who freely post on social media graphic images of death and violence. Animal abuse, abortion, actual funeral caskets and headstones, and more. I don’t need shock value to help me calibrate my moral compass. Nor do intense visuals like this provide any kind of healing for very real grief. Some people seem to care more about making a splash or getting attention than about how they affect others when they propagate this gut wrenching stuff. They don’t realize that such images can trigger deep trauma and sadness, so they need a timeout.
  5. Chunk-Hi the buffalo for bullying the horses and sleeping on their hay. I mean, come on man. I see you. I know you know what you’re doing. Timeout for the buff.
  6. Liars, rumor spreaders, and gossips. It’s rampant lately, in both private and professional circles, and all of these folks need a timeout.
  7. The excessive alligator snapping turtles showing up on our roads and in our ponds. Nope! No thanks. Timeout.
  8. Spammers. Not necessarily the fine people who manufacture and distribute Spam, the canned meat product; that foodstuff has its place and I am sure those Spammers are great people! In fact I have kind of a heartwarming story about that kind of Spam if you want to hear it someday. But the trolls who work so tirelessly to poison our internet experience? Those spammers. They need a timeout.
  9. People who insist on putting frogs at or near my person, on or around my neck, chest, face, and head. Most of all my sweet, ornery husband. But also practically all the kids we know. And our friend Jeff. And my Dad. All people who think it’s funny to throw frogs at me or even fake like you are doing it, you need a timeout.

    Cute in a photo. Terrifying in 3-D.

    Cute in a photo. Terrifying in 3-D.

  10. The rain. I have to say it twice for emphasis. Take five, rain. Let’s meet up again in late July.

 

Whew! If these ten timeout warrants are actually satisfied, then so shall I be. Life would be ever so much lovelier.

Who or what do you think needs a timeout? Spill it.

XOXOXOXO

marathon monday: what’s your worst outfit?

One day last week I finished up a hectic afternoon of running errands by stopping at that one-mile loop track that’s sort of near the farm. I sprinted for three sweaty, desperate miles, making eye contact with nobody, then hurried back to my Jeep and made a beeline for home. Once there I kissed my husband, who was working on his Camaro and thankfully didn’t need a lot of eye contact, then made a second beeline to the shower and then my closet for fresh clothes. I’m not always in such a hurry to shed my running layers, but on this day my running layers were embarrassing.

I was wearing third-day, baggy yoga pants, full length ones with wide bottom legs that went swish-swash with every stride. Also the kind with a wide elastic flap at your hips that when flipped over reveals a super classy word, etched in sequins. Totally appropriate for a woman my age. Oh, but I tend to wear these pants wrong side out because I hate the way those sequins feel against the small of my back if that flap flips up. Which it often does. So, third-day, baggy, wrong-side-out yoga pants with bell bottoms that could start a campfire.

I was also wearing a lavender-colored stretch cotton pajama top, some ill-fitting Winnie the Pooh number from I cannot fathom what chapter of life (it looks like a maternity top but isn’t), and my husband’s athletic socks. Picture, if you will, the heel contour landing somewhere north of my ankle and near my calf muscle. Not that you could see that. On account of my super classy yoga pants.

I looked less like a runner and more like a person who had just awoken from a coma that had started long ago, while nursing a baby during a Britney Spears video.

My only semblance of normalcy was that pair of new blue and turquoise Brooks that still looked pretty fresh. Those shoes alone carried all the heavy burden of making me look like a legit runner at the track that day. Apparently I care about this now.

shoes

Why such shoddy attire? Because I hadn’t done laundry in several days. So all my workout gear was used up. Nor had I showered very recently.

These were facts of life because our septic tank was near capacity.

This was because Oklahoma has been enjoying a deluge of steady rainfall for weeks now.

Our water table is full. Our well is full. Our pond is full. And so, as things go, is our septic tank. Or at least it was last week, and I was exercising an abundance of caution. Trust me: not showering and not doing laundry is not my thing.

Anyway, the next time you see a badly dressed person at the running track, resist judgement and assume that he or she has a good reason for it. Things happen.

After all, color-coordinated spandex and witty racer back tees are for the drought.

The End.
XOXO

 

 

 

 

yet another kale salad & some recipe reviews

Howdy! And thanks for checking in again! It’s Tuesday, so let’s see what’s up in the Lazy W kitchen.

What we’re eating a lot of these days: EGGS. So many eggs, in so many wonderful incarnations. The hens are laying maniacs this week! Yesterday I collected 22. That’s a lot for us. So we are compelled to find more and more ways to eat our weight in these little nutritious miracles. Fried, hard-boiled, cheesy breakfast sandwiches, mushroom omelettes, Quiche, eggs cooked hot and runny over kale, you name it. Liquid chickens are on the menu! Handsome may or may not be getting tired of this.

Speaking of kale, I am still eating lots of that, too. Although, and maybe you’ve noticed this yourself, the grocery store offerings are starting to taste a little drab and bitter as the season progresses. So I’m relying more heavily on what the raised beds provide. Fresh baby kale to the rescue!! Last night I found a bunch and a half of not great grocery store kale in the refrigerator plus half a bag of languishing clementines. (How long have we had those?) Together these two nearly expired food stuffs comprised a really delicious salad base.

kale citrus 1

kale citrus 2

Try this salad:

As always, just wash the kale, remove the “bones” (do any other veggies have bones?), slice it up really skinny, and massage those kale ruffles with just 2 teaspoons of your fave olive oil. Toss all of that with freshly squeezed clementine juice then some black pepper and sea salt. Add a plain roasted sweet potato and chicken breast if you want. The clementines made it all much sweeter than normal, a great flavor combination with the roasted sweet potato. Do you like those salads with chicken and strawberries? Not at all unlike that deliciousness. And supremely filling.

bowl 1

bowl 2

 

Okay, now on to a few recipe experiments and reviews of each:

Bacon-Cheddar Scones: I made this recipe, with a few minor tweaks, for my Mom for Mother’s Day. She is taking her diabetes and health very seriously, yay Mom! So I feel guilty loading her up with desserts no matter the special occasion. A double-protein treat seemed better. (I used oven-cooked bacon instead of ham, by the way.) She really seemed to liked these, so this recipe is a keeper. Sometimes don’t you crave a dense, buttery scone instead of a more delicate pastry? I do. So on a special brunch day I’ll make it for us here at the farm. Bacon and cheddar scones. Oh, quick tip! Freeze your stick of butter at least partially then grate it into your dry ingredients, and don’t overdo it with the mixing!

Turkey Burgers: I was a huge fan of this recipe, but Handsome was decidedly not. No offense to the recipe itself; the ground turkey is just not a texture he could handle. He barely gagged down half of his, so we won’t be sharing this meal again. Like, ever. But since I have more ground turkey in the freezer, I’ll make a batch of these for myself once in a while, only with less dark mustard next time. Also, in the spirit of use what you have, I added a little shredded mozzarella instead of fancy cheese. Plenty good enough for a weeknight or for a healthy lunch. Turkey Burgers

Roasted Garlic Humus: Okay, this recipe we agreed was wonderful. This is good news, too, because a craving for humus was the main reason I spent $10 on a jar of tahini. (Yikes!) Next time for the sake of my husband’s stomach health I’ll use less (or zero) roasted garlic, and eventually I’ll invest in a food processor. My trusty blender did an okay job of destroying the tender beans, but the finished product was slightly chunkier than I would expect humus to be. Overall, easy and so good! Really good with whole wheat pita bread and celery. Roasted Garlic Humus

Iron Skillet Focaccia: Oh man, friends, I am a sucker for good focaccia. It has got to be the loveliest of all homemade breads, right? Especially with fresh rosemary, some olive oil, maybe a splash of vinegar. Or nothing at all! It’s so good naked, and the whole baking process imparts a cozy sexiness to your home. But sometimes the day is too full and the kitchen counter is too crowded for rolling out the heavy dough, kneading it, allowing it to rise seven million times, etcetera. I mean… Those things are satisfying and worthwhile, just not always possible. Well, I happened upon this recipe last week on just such a day and was thrilled with the results! We don’t eat bread much these days, so when we do I want it to be pretty gangbusters. This was a success. Try it. You will not be sad. Easy No Knead Skillet Bread

focaccia

Okay that’s it for now! I’m reading my way into an appetite for food by Elizabeth David, but that’s for another day. Tell me something you have tried cooking lately. I’d love to hear. Over and out!

“Calvin: Why are you crying mom?
Mom: I’m cutting up an onion.
Calvin: It must be hard to cook if you anthrpomorphisize your vegetables.” *
~Bill Watterson, The Complete Calvin and Hobbes
XOXOXOXO

 

*LOL

happy mother’s day

Happy Mother’s Day, friends! How are you spending today? Are you sleeping late and enjoying a simple but heartfelt breakfast in bed constructed by toddlers? Are you dressing up for a fancy brunch with adults? Are you attending church service with your family, looking forward to hearing the preacher’s message about motherhood and all a good woman’s virtues?

Or are you removed from some of the cultural fanfare, either missing your mother or missing your children? I think of some close friends who lost their Moms years ago, and how even with the passage of time the pain doesn’t stop. This worries me for my husband who lost his Mom just a year and a half ago. I also think of the women in our life who have lost a child, of how no matter who else is in their life, that loss remains a deep, open wound.

This all can be scary, except that I understand how grief can be such a beautiful expression of affection. Love and loss, so closely intertwined.

rp_instagram-roses-after-rain.jpg

I am so lucky. My own life has been generously blessed by an amazing Mom who at a young, tender age decided to give everything to me, and then to my four siblings, and now to our spouses and her grandchildren. Her life all these forty-plus years has been all about us, good and bad, no matter how much it has hurt her. But really she shows us joy. She makes us believe that she has loved every minute of the roller coaster, and each of the five of us would agree that Mom is our biggest fan, our most ardent cheerleader no matter what we are trying to accomplish. We may not always admit it, but making her proud and making her laugh is truly one of life’s biggest pleasures.

Mom has been an example of humility and strength, selflessness, resourcefulness, and good, plain hard work. She has also shown me how to be a good friend to people and how to be a good caretaker. She totally embodies gratitude. She is a wonderful cook, talented at creating delicious things out of whatever she already has, and she grows the most beautiful gardens. Slowly, naturally, patiently. Every year her gardens are more stunning. This is how I want my entire life to look.

mom me 2015

Time will tell whether I become the woman Mom has shown me to be, but for today I am very grateful. I am grateful for the example she continues to set, for the forgiveness she allows when I hurt her, and also for the freedom she gives me to live my own life, to find my own way.

heart shaped rose petals

However you are spending this day on the calendar, I wish you all the Love your soul craves as well as all the strength and openness you need to share the Love you have already been given. I hope your life has been graced by all the best qualities of motherhood so that when someone near you needs it, you can shed that grace all over again. Keep it moving, just like new life. Breath it in and breathe it out.

“Making the decision to have a child- it is momentous.
It is to decide forever to have your heart go
walking around outside your body.”
~Elizabeth Stone
XOXOXOXO

rainy saturday reading links

Happy Saturday! If you are anywhere close to our neck of the woods, then you are probably spending a lot of today indoors. Again. Oklahoma is hunkered down beneath one deluge after another, and we’re not mad. We’re soggy, but we’re not mad. The years-long drought is becoming a distant memory, so it’s okay. In case you’re sitting around open to errant reading material, here is a Literary Saturday offering by yours truly. I hope you enjoy.

full rainbow

I’m not the only woman dealing with body comparison fatigue, and apparently it happens a lot after a tough race. Gina (The Fitnessista) wrote about it here and really has some smart insight. I like how she zeroes in on the negative affects of comparison but also the benefits. Give it a whirl. Monica also touched on the topic here, and if you must know, her feelings are so close to mine about being a runner but not feeling like you look like one. Finally, Lora just ran a really successful Boston Marathon and is glowing! Boston, you guys! And her time was amazing. But still she is struggling with body image/weight loss issues within her own heart, and she shares a lot of that right here. My heart absolutely goes out to this young woman. I tell ya, it all messes with my head, so I’m so grateful for these beautiful ladies exposing their feelings so I feel less alone and maybe reconsider my approach/attitude.

This statue in New Orleans never changes, of course. Every year I look different next to him. LOL Suck it in lady!! haha

This statue in New Orleans never changes, of course. Every year I look different next to him. LOL Suck it in lady!! haha

Along a sunnier vein, here is a sweet, simple article by the Huffington Post about the Keys to Happiness. I also watched a not too long Ted talk this week that was very thought provoking. It asked whether life events can really affect our happiness past about six months. The speaker asserted that the seemingly huge life events we experience, whether we perceive them as amazing or disastrous, only affect our current happiness level for a few months. After that, our happiness is a matter of our own perception or determination of life. Really interesting! What do you think?

It’s Mother’s Day weekend, and Ann Voskamp is doing anything but making it easy for us. Her words are the gritty, nourishing antidote to all the flowers, pedicures, and desserts about to happen. I was shamed to read How to be a Revolutionary Mother, but also deeply inspired. We have seen so many miracles in our family, and I have this feeling that we are about to see more. My faith in God’s goodness and power is really strong, but as a mother I also have my part to play. I’m ready.

Bon Appetit is courting me hard with this article about pesto. This same magazine first suggested the idea a few years ago, that pesto doesn’t have to be just basil and pine nuts; they seduced me with ideas involving carrot tops. Now they are really branching out, and I groove it. I groove it so hard. I even spent $10 on a jar of tahini with big plans to make all the things.

Sandy, The Reluctant (and wonderful!) Entertainer writes something lovely almost every day. But in this particular post, well, she just gets me. “What you think, you become. What you feel, you attract. What you imagine, you create.” YES! This is scary true. And I often get lost just drooling over her party photos and recipes, so be warned. The RE website is brimming with goodness.

Positive-Quotes

This story just popped up on my news feed today, and it’s so refreshing! Read it and see if this young woman, an art director, doesn’t remind you a little of Albert Einstein. I think her message is brilliant. For the record, my daily uniform around the farm is: Skinny jeans with either a tank top or a 3/4 length sleeve top. Messy bun. Bare feet or flip flops. Two necklaces at least.

Okay, now I am signing off to do some book reading and maybe cuddle up with Handsome for movies. There’s only so much time we can spend fawning over the new baby chicks, after all. Wishing you and yours a dry enough and very happy weekend!

XOXOXOXO

 

 

 

 

 

 

friday 5 at the farm: fast woman

We have an indoor cat now and I kind of need to talk about it.

Let’s back up.

Do you know Fast Woman? The cat? Have you met her? Have I ever even mentioned this sweet crazy girl here before? Of all our many animals, Fast Woman has been part of our farm-ily second to the longest. She was born right around the same month we bought this place, actually, and she grew up tall and she grew up right with the Oklahoma cats on an Oklahoma night.

Sorry.

fast woman

Once upon a time Fast Woman gave us twenty thousand litters of perfect little kittens before I finally caught her to go get fixed. (Open laundry baskets and running cars don’t work with cats, FYI. I didn’t know. And she didn’t trust me for a while after that first try.)

Hey don’t you agree that getting an animal “fixed” is actually getting it broken? Whatevv.

All these years she has been an outdoor cat, wilding herself between the barn and the llama sheds, the gardens and the forest. She’s always been happy this way, and we have known this because on the rare occasions that we brought her indoors she would open her eyes to a terrifying wideness and jump straight up in the air, flinging her body against any window or door to escape.

She hated the indoors but ruled the barnyard. We were all at peace with this arrangement.

Then we adopted three more barn cats who regarded her as the interloper, not the princess of the Lazy W she truly is. To avoid being slap-battled and actively hated by Sonya and Natasha especially, Fast Woman wilded herself more deeply into the forest. She stayed gone for days.

Feral, almost. We missed her.

She visited the house sporadically for a while, then less and less, and sometimes her long periods of absence were so prolonged that we worried for her safety. We called for her, tried baiting her with food at the edge of the forest, and did all the magic card tricks and sorcery we knew to bring her home.

She just didn’t appear for a long time.

Then one day she did!

She crept around the south edge of the bonfire yard early one morning while we were Hot Tub Summit-ing, and Handsome carried her to the house, past the bully cats, into safety. This time, finally, she didn’t peel back her eyelids. She didn’t try jumping up and through every pane of glass to escape. Instead, she happily twirled our legs and purred and accepted every single edible treat we offered, which were many. So many. We were all three quite in love. Well, four if you count Pacino. But she does not reciprocate his deep and abiding love even though cats are his favorite next to baby chicks.

Anyway.

So, now Fast Woman is an indoor cat and I am smitten but at some loss. I’ve not lived indoors with a cat since I was about twelve or thirteen years old, and that cat wasn’t really my responsibility. His name was Garfunkle. He had a friend named Simon, in case you want to know.

Anyway, I have a lot to learn about indoor cats. And a lot of questions.

For Friday 5 this week, how about…

Things I Didn’t know About Indoor Cats:

  1. They actually ARE nocturnal! I sort of thought this was an old wive’s tale. Not at all. She sleeps all dang day (on the prettiest, comfiest couch we own) then around the time we head upstairs she’s like party tiiiiime!! The first two nights were like having a newborn, because I didn’t yet grasp the idea that she could be left to her own devices.
  2. Cats snore. Whoa, it’s actually a really adorable cross between snoring and purring, and it’s quite loud. You can hear it from upstairs if you’re quiet enough. I love it.
  3. Cats know the difference between the sound of a can of tuna being opened and a can of, say, tomatoes or cream of mushroom soup being opened. That’s just amazing.
  4. Sudden noises are scary to cats. I was frying an egg this morning and some butter popped and sizzled, and she lost her little cat mind. Back to the eyelid peeling and window pane jumping. Mix into that some cowering beneath the dining room table.
  5. Cats don’t come to you; they beckon you. Every other animal on the farm, with the possible exception of Dulcinea the hormonal llama, will come to you if you call. This includes the barn cats! Fast Woman, on the other hand, cannot be convinced to join us very many places inside the house. She’s just too comfy. She is, however, super happy if I join her on her couch. Which used to be my reading couch. Now it’s her shedding couch.

As I read back over this list I realize these things are perfectly cliche. Obviously I’m noticing exactly the things which comprise all classic cat jokes, which means I am probably well on my way to more cat cliches.

I’m okay with that. She is the best.

“The cat loves fish but hates wet feet.”
~Medieval Proverb
(also true)
XOXOXO

 

french quarter container gardens

Without a doubt, New Orleans has the gardening thing down pat. I am actually convinced that the fine folks down South just scatter magical seeds out on Mardi Gras Eve, water them with gumbo, say some Cajun blessings, and enjoy lush gardens the rest of the season.

The city boasts that historic Garden District, of course, and expansive horticultural palettes grace lawns and causeways everywhere you look. But specifically, the people there have mastered the art of container gardening. And more specifically, I’m talking about the people and the container gardens of my beloved French Quarter. What a great thing, too, because aside from ancient arching trees and a rare municipal lawn here and there, the Quarter is well armored with jagged brick sidewalks and narrow asphalt streets. If a resident or shop owner craves the softening allure of plants, then that person had better get inspired to grow in containers.

First, some eye candy and inspiration…

CG ficus tree

Love this! An actual ficus tree growing in a nest of lush, cloudy asparagus fern.
We fake this so hard in Oklahoma.
What we should be doing is reinterpreting the look with native plants.

CG fig leaf

I like the height of this tree and its giant leaves with just some easy stuff beneath.
Very Zen, right? So simple and perfect for a clean lined patio seating area.

CG formal topiaries

This hotel is on a street corner, and every single window and doorway
on both wrap-around sides is planted in coordinating boxes.
I am smitten! The uniformity is just so charming.
And let’s pay attention to the conical shape of those topiaries and how formal they feel,
mixed with those casual orange blooms and how welcoming they are.
Kind of a genius combo for a fancy hotel, if you ask me.

CG widow box left

Cascading English ivy with a profusion of silly, ruffly color.
Annuals, technically, but I have walked through this neighborhood
in every single season of the year
and this store always has color in their window boxes. Always.
Time to step up our container game, ladies and gents.

CG window box right

Oh the photo above is just an example of how that same fancy hotel
translates their formal-casual design to smaller boxes.
No topiary but still uniform. Still charming.

CG 3 easy pots

If you look closely, you can see that this gorgeous glazed urn
is maybe planted with one large plant
which is then surrounded by a few smaller potted plants.
Still in their plastic pots! It’s in the Big Easy, remember?
I just like this because it shows how you can sometimes
get away with cramming a vessel with fast color to make an big impact.
Beware in Oklahoma of leaving this outdoors too long, though!

CG one plant big

A single, healthy potted tree strung with lights. Kind of my jam, friends. Do this.

CG iron trellis

You just cannot discuss French Quarter container gardens without acknowledging
the famous iron trellises and hanging baskets.
The lacework we all love so much.

CG climbing jasmine

This might be hard to see, but that lower edge there is a bricked in container garden,
long and narrow against the wall.
It is jam-packed with plants! And I love it.
It’s situated adjacent to a small boutique hotel
with a perfect brick drive and iron gate at the entrance.
One day I asked permission from a concierge (dressed in tails and white gloves)
to walk down the private drive to see this garden better and take photos.
Of course he said Yes, dahlin in a syrupy southern accent and bowed as I walked past.
I was transfixed. And those white vining flowers smelled like heaven.

CG solid green wall

This is the wall opposite that first wall, in the same private drive.
I mean!! So much green, right?
It is stunning in person. It reaches almost two stories high.
So simple and yet such a powerful impact.
And I love that the gardener didn’t get lazy at the end,
that he or she used every scrap of earth to grow stuff, more color in this instance.
Well done, sir or madam. Well done.

CG dog planter art

Just some whimsical metal art filled up with plain houseplants, but it is so FUN!

CG pretty patio

The Quarter is connected with a vast network of alleyways like this.
Secret ones, mostly, that you really have to be watching for to enjoy.
And they all lead to places even more beautiful behind the long, narrow buildings,
often tiny concrete pool courtyards. Magical!
Can you imagine this hard-scaped view without the plants?
It would be far less interesting, I think.
The plants here an there just soften all the edges.
They invite you in and help you breathe slowly.
They tell you how comfortable you’ll be
if you come sit and order some coffee and beignets.
Tip some street performers and soak up some live music.
Watch the locals. Inhale the spices.

Ok! Now, a few notes…

Why bother with container gardening? Well, reasons abound, but to my mind, the first is that it could be a problem solver. Maybe your growing footprint is by necessity small or concrete-bound, like in the Quarter. Or perhaps you have a vertical plane in need of camouflage. Also, container gardens are often portable, allowing for relocation seasonally or in inclement weather, and this also makes them great for flexible use if you entertain outdoors. I love moving my potted beauties around for parties! Maybe the most fun reason of all, container gardens are excellent little opportunities to add style and a sense of accessory to your space. They invite a certain freedom that maybe ground planting doesn’t. Strands of white fairy lights, anyone? Painted signs, ornaments, you name it. For some reason, container gardens are natural stages for artistic expression. So many good reasons.

Considering Environment: Where in this beautiful world are you gardening? The Lazy W is in a southern part of Zone 7, but our nine acres seem to offer a little bit of everything, micro-climate wise. Breezeless dry shade, swamp, sand, loam, clay, gusty desert-hot full sun, prairie, woodland, and good ol’ residential patio too. So gardening here can be as challenging as it is fun. Compared to New Orleans, it’s extremely complicated. Anyway, yes, NOLA may have a few environmental advantages over us (kinder, filtered light, high humidity, all that live jazz which apparently is very good for plants), but we can do plenty to imitate or interpret their success:

  • Line your containers. Coconut fiber is classic and popular, and this year I am also trying Rootmaker brand liners. Word is, they cut your watering chores down by at least half. I’ll keep you posted!
  • Use good quality potting soil, not garden soil. The tilth is crucial and having some time-released fertilizer invited to the party isn’t a terrible idea. It’s a small investment up front that you will be so glad you made the rest of the season. Also pay attention to your plants’ space and drainage needs. One weird mistake I sometimes make is cramming little plants together without having faith that they’ll ever grow. So of course they don’t! They die of suffocation I guess. Have faith! Give them some room.
  • Consider location. Lots of Oklahoma sidewalks and patios will get way too hot in the afternoon to bear up lush looking plants. Think about relocating or providing some shade from both the heat and the inevitable straight-line winds.
  • Establish a smart maintenance strategy, including watering for sure but also feeding and pruning. Not once in a while, either; every single day. Something I notice about early mornings in the Quarter is that while shopkeepers and residents are out sweeping their steps and opening their doors for the day, they are also watering and grooming their potted things. It’s a simple daily ritual that I think goes a long way toward a beautiful environment. Oh, this reminds of that wonderful old adage, The best fertilizer is the gardener’s shadow. Love that. This year I plan to design my morning ritual of tidying up the house and feeding the animals to also include tending the container gardens. Again, every day not once in a while. This is something we can do without wearing our sweaty garden clothes and muddy shoes! A lovely domestic thing that will only expand our living spaces.

Okay, that was fun! I have about a thousand more photos of New Orleans gardens, container and otherwise, but I better close up for now and go tend my own. Tell me something you love about container gardens. Post a photo of your own on this blog’s Facebook page! That would be cool to see creative spots from all over. If you have any questions or gardenish things you’d like to discuss I would be all over that too!

EARLY CONT LAZY W

These are a few containers I planted at the farm yesterday,
just as the rain started falling.
This morning, of course, we woke up to a monsoon
and a lake instead of a pond, and we are so grateful!
More color coming for sure.

Remember, your garden is both your masterpiece and your playground.
Work hard but have fun with it.
XOXOXOXO

 

marathon monday: a week later

Hey friends! Thanks for checking in!

We are one week past the 2015 OKC Memorial Marathon, and all I’ve written about it was The Pretzel Story. My wonderful husband and close friends have already had to listen to so much jabbering about that whole day, but for posterity’s sake and for any readers even considering marathon training, I just want to lay down some thoughts and feelings about this year’s experience. It’s taken a week for my thoughts and feelings to settle and clarify a bit, so thank you for indulging me. xoxo

********************

I was kind of a mess last Sunday after what ended as a really difficult, sloppy, not awesome feeling race, at least compared to the year before. The 2015 race will go down in my personal history as “The Crying Games” or “The One When I l Learned a Lot By Doing Everything Wrong” or maybe “Shark Week 26.2.” Okay.

First, let me say that the beginning of the run was great! With just one exception, I felt strong, fast, and happy for the first 18 miles. The one exception was that I was in the middle Shark Week (sorry, errant male readers, that’s just TMI but crucial to the story) and it was necessary to take several porta potty breaks much earlier than I would have liked. Well, naturally those lines were all very long. So I lost not just time but also momentum. Womp-womp.

But I kept running and running, without music for about 12 miles, just listening to the thunderous footfall around me and eavesdropping on all the silly, energetic conversations between running groups. Admiring the firemen for running in full gear while carrying large American flags. Thinking of the reason we run. Allowing swells of pride for my home state. Everyone seemed to feel good! I played celebrity look-alike in my head, trying to catch up to my pace group after breaks. I craved the hills and took them and it felt like flight! Generally I was smiling and happy. My body felt good. I was loving the sparkling clear, warm morning with cool breezes. Such a pleasant contrast to last year’s weather. With that one uncontrollable physical exception, the early part of the race was charmed. Lovely.

Even Lake Hefner was fun this year! I circled the route there while listening to Miranda Lambert and even called my favorite guy to report how strong I felt at the point where last year I was beginning to wonder. He laughed and cheered me on. Anything felt possible.

mile 17

Unfortunately this magic did not last.

Around mile 18 Handsome made one of his wonderful appearances with a sign that both drenched me with love and triggered so many emotions. ALL the feelings. Good, bad, ugly. You name it: I was feeling it. I started crying and couldn’t stop. And by this point in the run I was so annoyed by those inconvenient porta potty breaks that I was stubbornly refusing to accept regular water or Powerade, which would have necessitated more breaks. So I was sweating, crying, and not replenishing fluids. Really smart!

Miles 18-22 were not terrible, but by now my chosen pace group was no where to be seen, and this, plus the crying, had a deteriorating effect on my attitude. Also an older gentleman in a wheelchair passed me and I just about lost my mind. No offense to him, but I’d been running so much faster lately! At the time it was really hard to wrap my dehydrated mind around that little defeat. I did some math in my head (badly) and estimated my pace was about a quarter mile per hour. I was on the verge of an emotional melt down, friends. Not kidding.

Around mile 22, right at the end of the street of my childhood home, I hugged and kissed my family (I love you guys so much!!), and laughed because my husband showed up there in his Batman costume. Ha! This all should have had a much better influence on my feelings than it did. It’s no one else’s fault that I was in such a bummer state of mind! My fault totally.

batman and the fam

Despite everyone’s loving efforts, I then started feeling really bad. I ran south on Classen to eventually collide with my book club girls. They showed up for the second year and melted my heart! Near the gold dome (locals know this area) I just collapsed in their arms. They were all festive and sweet, in celebratory moods and sipping mimosas, probably expecting me to be happy at that point just like last year, but I was a mess. When she saw me up close, Melissa’s face fell noticeably, Oh my, and they all wrapped their arms around me (Eww super sweaty, gross! Sorry!) and asked Are you okay? and Why are you crying? About all I could say in reply was I’m just so sad!! And then I started sobbing. I wasn’t sad exactly; I was dehydrated and completely empty of glycogen and feeling weak mentally because I felt bloated and slow and loser-ish.

book club race hugs

Okay, I was sad.

From there, in that state, three-point-two more miles seemed perfectly impossible. But I kept running. Sloppily, I’m quite sure. I cried a lot as I ran which is weird because usually I am grinning like an idiot when I run. Even at twenty miles I usually feel amazing. I learned this year that sometimes there is a vast difference between twenty miles and twenty six. One lady stopped to check on me. I waved her on but she kept pep-talking me over her shoulder as she sped off at the thin, toned, sparkling speed of light. I loved her and hated her all at once.

As I meandered painfully through that last big, shady neighborhood with lawn parties and sprinklers and generous encouragements, Handsome texted me the most beautiful love note. I looked at it like five times to keep going and also felt completely guilty for having a hard time running. I felt like a complete waste of a person in those last miles.

About nine years later I saw a wide vinyl banner strung across the street that said “Half Mile Aisle” and there might have been a band playing. I was excited because of this thought: Oh good, a half mile left! Just like 4 minutes to go! (Training pace lately had me pumped up beyond realistic marathon pace expectations) Umm, two appropriate responses to myself here: a) That was not my pace that day. At all.  b) Even if 4 minutes to cover a half mile was possible, at that point I was so crazy spent physically and mentally that four minutes was still a lot to give. No longer easy-breezy. No more running hard to catch up whilst playing celebrity look alike in my head. It was an eternity left to run.

About seven months after the Half Mile Aisle, I finally crossed the finish line at a pathetic jog. Not a strong, glorious, Chariots of Fire burst of energy, not even the giggling elation I felt last year. Just, finished. Quietly. And it was enough for me. I walked immediately and stretched my legs then walked some more. Someone hung a finisher’s medal around my neck and said sweet things that made me cry again. Someone else took my picture which turned out looking like I’d gained about twenty pounds. I found water and Powerade (that I still wouldn’t drink). I went for a half banana and the guy said, Hon you look like you need chocolate. WHAT!!! HOW DID HE KNOW?? I accepted the chocolate-almond protein bar and tore into it like a velociraptor.

finish line

The rest of Sunday was blissful, thanks owed completely to Handsome for all of his love and attention throughout the day and into the evening. We went immediately for steak fajitas and salty tortilla chips, at a place near the farm where my sweaty clothes, pronounced limp, and weird mood would not be noticed. Actually, by this point my mood had lightened considerably. Being with my guy again and just being finished was such a relief.

Big thanks are also owed to my wonderful friends and family for their notes, text messages, and sweet social media comments that I read later that night. (My husband had been posting race updates on Facebook in excruciating detail, complete with photos. LOL) But all over again I felt guilty for receiving so much support for such a poor showing. I felt super lame and embarrassed.

********************

Okay, the detailed account could go on and on. Here are some things I learned this year, which I am determined to carry over into my next marathon training, which maybe be Spring 2016 and may be sooner:

  • Dieting for weight loss is not something you should do right before a big race. It’s silly and possibly dangerous. In those middle training months I had been making so much progress with speed and endurance and also making small improvements with body fat loss that I thought, Well, if I just slash all carbs now I will be so skinny on race day! The opposite happened. I gained a little weight (our bodies are smart and know when we are trying to kill them) and had no energy. Terrible result. One pasta meal in the week leading up to 26.2 is not enough glycogen. Lesson learned.
  • Especially in those final eight miles or so, hydration and energy supplements are crucial. I won’t neglect them ever again. Even if you have to pee later, those little sips are worth it. But chances are, really, you won’t. Your body will probably use every ounce of hydration you offer it. Take the water! Take the electrolytes! Eat the sports beans every ten or fifteen minutes! No matter what you consumed yesterday, after a couple of hours you have spent it and need more.
  • Pacing is not a guessing game. I could have done so much better at this, and this coming season I will. Pinky promise.
  • Also, negative splits are good. Running hard at the beginning and then faltering at the end is positive splits, which is actually a running negative. I finally understand the value of running negative splits (saving energy for the end of the race) and plan to practice this a lot.
  • The wall is a real thing. This year I discovered The Wall, and it was about five miles thick. I’ve felt tired before in long practice runs, and last year’s marathon gave me a challenge here and there, but nothing compares to this year! For the first time I hit the wall really hard and was stunned. It’s as real as a runner’s high, and it hurt my feelings. But I’m actually glad to have experienced it. Now I know how it feels and can train against it, not take those happier runs for granted.
  • The mental game is real, too. So real. The more I concentrated on how poorly I (thought I) was doing*, the worse I did. The more I indulged in sad thoughts about loved ones lost or disconnected, the sadder I felt. It was only in those early miles when I chose to focus on the lightness in my legs or the wonderful purpose of the day that running felt glorious.

So that’s it! My 2015 recap. Stories abound, so if you’re ever bored and want to be even more bored, let me know. I am so glad to have this under my belt, even as rough and ugly as it was. I learned a LOT and that’s valuable life stuff, right? Thanks again for checking in, friends! Have such a beautiful day.

XOXOXOXO
~Marie

*Perception: My sloppy running and sloppy head math made me think I was running about a 17 minute mile.
Cue the emotional break down. I actually averaged out to about a 12 minute pace,
which is much slower than I had been training but also not quite so terrible.
I am really excited to set speed goals this coming year!

 

 

coconut pecan pralines

Pecan Pralines. Another favorite straight from the heart of the French Quarter. This little life luxury is one that always seems more extravagant than it really is. They always come together more easily than I expect, and how perfect for something that hails from The Big Easy, right? I know.

Today I made a variation of this old standby recipe as a thank you gift for our friend Dennis. He was nice enough to come check on the farm during our NOLA absence last week. Which leads me to the reason Pralines (along with some fun hot sauce) are the perfect thank you for him: Dennis always insists that what he does for us is no big deal, that it’s easy, no matter that his help gives us tremendous peace of mind. After that fashion, I like that this tasty treat is fast and easy to prepare but should (hopefully) give him tremendous pleasure. I groove this balance.

My variation today was simple and twofold: I just used much smaller pieces of the same amount of toasted pecans (instead of great big pecans halves) plus some chopped up, toasted raw coconut for fun. About three years ago I secretly made out with a big praline like this in New Orleans and just Fell. In. Love. He gave me beads, we hid behind the banana trees, everyone was happy.

Anyway. The gritty, complicated texture of a coconut pecan praline is only matched in wonderfulness by its buttery, beachy, indulgent flavor. Pecans and coconut are so crazy good together. Eating just one of these will give you a nice Southern drawl whether you like it or not.

pralines scooped w sticker

Here’s the low down:

Ingredients:

1 cup packed brown sugar

1 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup evaporated milk (not quite one small can)

4 T butter, chopped up

big splash of vanilla extract

1 1/2 cup chopped and toasted pecans

1 cup flaked raw coconut, also chopped and toasted

Such an Easy Method You Won’t Believe This:

1. In a medium saucepan, melt together the two sugars and evaporated milk. Let it all dissolve and cook into golden brown seduction and stir with a wooden spoon as it goes. Now insert a candy thermometer.

2. You’re now watching for the candy thermometer to reach about 240 degrees. Keep stirring, ok? When you see that mercury rise silently to that temp, turn off the heat and drop the diced up butter on top but do not stir anymore yet. Let it rest.

3. In about one minute, add the vanilla, pecans, and coconut. Now stir some more with that same wooden spoon. Stir your little heart out. Stir until the hot, syrupy mixture looks more like opaque candy and you need some muscle to move that spoon. You’re almost done.

pralines in pot

4. Now use an ice cream scoop (just for uniformity and ease, if you care about that) to make about a dozen big, glossy puddles of chunky praline mixture on your prepared cookie sheets. Oh I forgot to tell you to prepare a couple of cookie sheets! Sorry. Just line two with waxed paper or parchment paper. These babies will cool and harden and eventually pop right off of either of those, then you can add them to some soft old tattered linen.

praline done

See how easy? Just a few dishes to wash. Less than half an hour, plus cooling and hardening time. Very few ingredients, too. I dare say you’ll have this classic recipe memorized after one or two passes. And feel free to get creative! In New Orleans, the candy shops boast all variations of the beloved praline: Coconut (like we made today), chocolate drizzled, chewy, boozy, you name it.

Last but not least, do you like to pronounce it pray-LEEN? Or do you say PRAH-leen? I suspect your answer will tell me whether you drink coffee or hot tea. And therefore whether we can be early morning friends.

Thanks again to our friend Dennis for not letting the buffalo escape and for keeping the chickens fed and the parrot more or less sane. Thanks for making sure the llamas didn’t go on any joy rides in my Jeep and for texting me that adorable video of our animals right when I was getting really homesick. You’re the best. I hope you like your coconut pralines and hot sauce!!

Laissez les bons temps rouler!
XOXOXOXO

 

 

 

marathon monday: the pretzel story

I have in  my own head a million stories from the whole experience yesterday, but I realize most of them may only be interesting to me. What follows is a relatively short anecdote, something that happened around mile 20 maybe? And it pretty well exemplifies my marathon personality. Specifically, my level of awkwardness that I can’t even shake during a big event like this.

dorky runner

Keen on not drinking any more Powerade because it makes me feel weird in mah belly, I approached an aid station and accepted a plastic cup that from a distance seemed to be clear. I assumed it was water, my desired refreshment, and snagged the plastic cup with clumsy thank yous. A few yards away I realized it was actually filled with mini pretzels, which I also didn’t need in mah belly. Sooooo… did I just toss them? Nope. That would have been wasteful. I jogged back to the same aid station volunteer (why??) and tried to return the snack to him. He looked at me like I was off my rocker crazy and said, at least I think this is what he said, because I was listening to music by now, Shakira at that moment, “You don’t want them?” He was truly perplexed.

“No, thanks though! Thanks! I appreciate it but I thought it was water, you can have it back and give it to someone else who wants them.” I rattled the cup as if to demonstrate to the guy that water doesn’t make this sound, mmkay? And I was actually shouting those long, unnecessary sentences because, you know, Shakira. He took a very long time deciding to go ahead and accept it back from me, then there was an awkward moment of eye contact between us. Really weird vibe. I finally shouted again at the poor guy, “I didn’t touch them!” And ran off.

My god. I am embarrassed to be seen with myself.

The End.