The Garden on Mother’s Day

Happy Mother’s Day!

We’re just back from a camping trip with a group of our friends- 12 adults and 16 kids out in Junction, TX. I broke my fishing pole but landed the fish that broke it. And the campsite one over from us had a 4′ rattlesnake that had to be relocated by the park ranger- our girls and their cousin were the ones that found it. Two out of our 3 children refused to wear shoes. And we took a canoe trip with most of the group and all of the toddlers.

There was a toddler overboard moment (wear your life jackets, folks. he was fine.) and a couple or four crying toddlers (ours was one of those.) Though I asked her the next day and she said she loved the boats, sooo… don’t let it stop you from doing stuff like that with them. Toddlers are resilient and selectively forgetful.) Packs of children running around like indians. Campfire coffee and smoke and hammocks and fun. All capped off with an hour-too-long sunburned drive home. But it was awesome and the setting of a river among arid hills is my very, very favorite.

While we were away, the tomatoes are growing like gangbusters:

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Sweet 100

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Sungold

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Sungold wins for the first set of the season!

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HM 1823- And, a tomato setting on this one too!

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Bobcat- stocky and looking good!

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The older new garden. Triangle garden? Office window garden? Am I going to have to name these things?

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View down on the Mexican Olive Tree in the middle of the bronze fennel

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Mexican Hat along the new fence

Spring

A blog you say? I have one, do I?

The Tile:

So spring has sprung and what that means is that I’m less apt to sit here on the weekends and more likely to be found gardening or cleaning. (It’s a “yay” response to that statement. I know that seems unlikely, but it’s true.) A few weeks ago I hand scrubbed 40 square feet of white subway tile from a stepladder on my counter.

I’d always hated that tile. It runs from our stove all the way to the 12’/ 16’/ “I should really measure this one day” ceiling. And it sounds like I shouldn’t have hated it. It, in fact, sounds right up my alley. But oh how it wasn’t. The people who flipped our house (aka Those Jackasses) did a pisspoor job on everything. Painting. Floors. Exterior Painting. Installing Cabinets. Wired in fire alarms that were wired wrong so THEY were a fire hazard. Jesus don’t get me started on the incorrectly installed french door that’s molding or the bathrooms that are going to have to be a complete tear out. So the Jackasses installed this huge counter to ceiling swatch of subway tile in the kitchen, and thanks to the open concept of our house there it was, staring me in the face every time I sat on the couch, ate dinner, cooked dinner, or peed with the bathroom door open when no one else was home.

And what was the problem with the tile? Well, as I mentioned it’s really hard to reach. Which explains why they never properly scrubbed the grout off. There was a mattifying haze of it left all over the top 4 feet. And just a badly cleaned job on the areas that were reachable. My husband and I had installed tile at our last house. We knew how to do it correctly. This was not.

And I CLEANED it before, don’t get me wrong. The thing got half assed wiped down a few times in the 2 years we’ve been here, we’re not monsters. But one recent random Saturday I just grabbed a bucket and a scrub pad and I LAID into those tiles. It honestly took hard scrubbing EVERY damn tile, all the way to the ceiling. And almost working by feel- you can feel the tile turn from gritty to smooth. I grabbed a butter knife for some excessively gritty corners. And I have NO idea how long it took to do. An hour? Two? Shorter than the two years I’d been hating it though.

And what do you know, I like that tile now. It no longer is a testament/monument to “you live in someone else’s house/ they did this” and made it ours. I felt that same feeling at the last house too- it took touching and changing literally every surface before it felt “us.” This is the same, just a dauntingly bigger place, and the beginning started out hugely pregnant and then dealing with an infant so we had no choice but to let it lie for a while. But now? We’re on a roll.

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SOOO carefully cropped to not show dirty counters…

And that has been what these past weeks have felt like. We’ve reorganized our bedroom. I cleaned out and organized my closet. We’ve gardened and gardened and gardened. We’ve put up a fence.

And now, there the tile sits, way up there. Gleaming. And I smile at it, because it is mine.

The Garden:

And… that felt like the end of the blog post actually. Bt the gardening… I just want to say we’ve gotten the side garden/ Japanese maple garden rocking these days. The husband and I got each other Japanese maples for our 14 year anniversary this week- brings the total to 8. We’re close to running out of space in the perfect high dappled shade of the pecan trees over there- but if conditions allowed the entire yard would be Japanese maples.

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We hang out here a lot talking about how nice it is. Might be why the neighbors sold there house and moved. It’s better looking in real life.  *bare patch in the front left is a Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow shrub that we cut to the ground when we transplanted it in the fall. It’s coming back. (Yes, that actually is it’s name)

A few weeks ago we dug up the entirety of this awkward triangle section of yard between the carport slab and house and made a garden of it- antique rose, white mistflower shrub, dinner plate dahlias, pineapple sage, coreopsis transplanted from the wildflower area, rosemary, a different colored may night salvia (not the standard pink or two shades of purple. This one’s fuchsia with flower stalks twice their normal size)…

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Put up or shut up about the May Night Salvia, I know, I know.

native monarda, spirea, a Mexican Olive Tree, Mexican Mint Marigolds (aka Texas Tarragon aka not related to any plant in it’s common names…), and bronze fennel (my FAVORITE ornamental herb). The husband has a gift for rocks, so there is a cool stone border and a nice walkway through it. It’s a very “us” garden… what predominates is it better not have any of the standard garden center bedding plants we see around here. We like the unusual or old fashioned, or at least unusual for TEXAS (sure other regions do NOT consider pineapple sage or may night salvia unusual… I get it. They make the cut ’round these here parts though).

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Did I oversell it? Because I feel like I oversold it…

But having worked in a garden center for a while, I HATE all the plants that are on the market for no reason other than that they’ll flower in six packs. Plants should do well in the GARDEN not on the shelf… I am very anti-standard plant offerings- if there was some kind of a walkout or march, or plant hat to crochet I totally would- this is an issue that speaks to me, dig? What I’m saying is if you EVER find a petunia or salvia greggii in my garden it’s because I’m DEAD and the next wife has no idea what she’s doing, the whore.

In the backyard this weekend the husband planted a new pomegranate tree, the needle palm we’ve had in a pot for years, and a vitex tree. They were big pots. They were HUGE holes. The toddler fell in one and almost couldn’t get out, if that conveys the concept… And I dug up a three foot by twelve foot section of the yard to put in tomatoes. I don’t think writing that out quite conveys the hours and hours we spent yesterday fighting the hard ground to accomplish those tasks… it was way more difficult than it sounds, promise.

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Is that a 6′ T post driven into the middle of that 4′ tomato cage? You bet your ass it is. Sweet 100 cherry tomato is a BEAST. The T post still won’t be enough… grow my pretty, GROW!

Weirdly the section I dug up for tomatoes was super sandy (still rock hard? Not sure how that works, but it was). I feel like maybe it was the floor for some old pigeon coop that had been torn down or a sand floored shed. There are a couple of cut off to ground level cedar posts close by to give credence to that theory. And I unearthed a 70s astroturf doormat while digging. WEIRD to think there we were, mowing over a welcome mat buried 2 inches down this whole time. But again, it’s the same feeling: we’re slowly making it ours through blood, sweat, tears and the occasional demolished lower back. And FINALLY we can see the shape of the garden coming together… we’re well on our way.

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Picture of front porch pots for no reason related to narrative whatsoever. Mint, Italian Parsley, and a tuberous begonia

Linked up with Samantha @ Fake Fabulous HERE!

Caramelized Onion and Jack Cheese Chicken Breasts

Okay, see, I’m starting to wonder if I shouldn’t be giving these recipes more obscure names. Like, should I call this Arroyo Ojo Chicken and have you think it’s something I ate in an exotic location in the Southwest? Because the truth is this is one where I started yet another late afternoon staring into a fridge and coming up with something; in this instance it was 2 chicken breasts, some leftover jack cheese from another meal, and a whole heap of onions because I forgot I had bought a bag and then bought ANOTHER bag two days later.

So let’s give it a shot here and say I’m typing this next to an adobe hacienda, sitting in the shaded courtyard, eating this chicken, drinking a michilada and staring across at the Arroyo Ojo. There’s… cactus. Some lizards maybe? Sierra Nevada’s in the distance. And I, your ever vigilant author, am thinking I should adapt such an exquisite meal for my loyal readers once my husband and I are back from our three week vacation.

Yeah. That’s the ticket.

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Looking at it right now. Swear.

Cooking time: neighborhood of 45 minutes

2 boneless skinless chicken breasts, pounded to ½ inch and cut into 4 pieces, total
1 and a half onions, sliced thinly
Jack cheese, either thin sliced or shredded
Cumin
Adobo seasoning (if you have it)
Mexican oregano
Salt
Pepper
Olive Oil

Serve with sour cream, lime, and sliced avocado

Slice the onions and add to a pan with 2 glugs (about 3 tablespoons) of olive oil over medium heat. You’re going to want to cook these, without burning them, for 10 to 15 minutes. The good news here is that you don’t need to stir them constantly, just stir occasionally and make sure they’re getting brown, not black. Once they’re caramelized remove them to a bowl, wipe out the pan, and return it to the stove, turning the heat up to medium high. Pound the chicken while the onions are caramelizing to ½ inch thick. It will plump back up a bit as it shrinks during cooking, so really wail on it. Cut each breast in half to make a total of four pieces. Season liberally (how much? Free college and outlawing assault rifles liberal) on both sides with cumin, adobo seasoning (If you have it), Mexican oregano, and salt and pepper. Add another couple of glugs of olive oil to the pan as it heats, and once hot add the chicken in batches. Cook for 4 minutes (plus/minus) per side, flipping a couple more times if needed to cook through.

Remove chicken to a cookie sheet, arrange onions liberally on top, then cover in cheese. Place cookie sheet in oven under broiler to melt cheese for just a minute or two- make sure you watch this step LIKE A HAWK! Serve with sliced avocado and dob with sour cream, then squeeze a lime on top.

Impress your spouse! Impress your mother in law! Boggle the minds of your friends! And your kids will eat it in spite of the vast amount of onions!

Major League Gun Control

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“Politicians… I go to you. I stick up for you. And you no help me now… I say fuck you Politicians. I do it myself.”

 

Here is to voting out EVERY goddamn worthless politician that fights harder to save embryos than our children. Who thinks outlawing the means of death for one will stop it but outlawing the other isn’t even worth trying.

Here is to ANYONE that can spend the infrastructure money to make our goddamn schools fortresses so I don’t have to glance sideways to just double check that a crazed gunman isn’t stalking up the elementary school steps where my 8 year old goes EVERY. FUCKING. TIME. I. DRIVE. BY. IT. Just you know, let’s at LEAST do that while we talk about fixing the problem itself.

Right to bear arms was instituted when we had muzzle loading guns- so go back to that. Everyone can have a muzzle loader. AR fucking 15s… not so mother fucking much.

And I am SORRY- we have pussy hat marches… and yet this keeps happening in our country?! Our marches should be bigger for this issue. What would those hats look like? Can you crochet a head wound?

My government doesn’t protect my children. They don’t protect your children. They. Don’t. Protect. Children.

What stone can I throw, what effort can I make, what horn can I blow…I guess lets recall that the walls of Jericho were felled by a horn (In that made up story) so maybe, if we blow the horn often enough and harder…

And so I say fuck you Jobu. I do it myself.

Mussels in Wine Sauce Recipe

My, how I love me some mussels; and not JUST because you don’t pay for just a TON of shell when you buy them like you can with other shellfish! Can we talk about this issue for a second? I love clams. Love them. But when I go to buy them they, as are the lovely mussels in this recipe, are sold in the shell, by the pound. And that’s all well and good, but clams have extremely thick and heavy shells… so I feel like you’re paying a LOT for the packaging. Alright, here’s an analogy. You know when you go to buy software (you internets pirates wouldn’t understand…) and it’s in a box almost the size of a cereal box? And then you open it and it’s just a normal sized CD? Why so much packaging?! That’s your clam right there. And then you know how old school incandescent light bulbs are packaged in just thin sleeves of cardboard? One of the most fragile objects and it’s in this insanely thin, lightweight, and easy to open package? That’s your black mussels right there. So clams are QuickBooks and mussels are light bulbs.

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Look you jerks, I need that space in the recycling bin for beer bottles!

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I have a bright idea…

I made these mussels for years in just the wine, garlic, and butter sauce- and oh my are they good like that. But the addition of the diced tomatoes, basil, and parsley really takes this recipe to the next level. Crusty bread for sopping up sauce a must.

3 Tbsp butter
3 cloves garlic
¼ cup finely diced onions (shallots if you want to get all uppity about it)
2 cups white wine
2 diced tomatoes
2.5 lbs black mussels
small handful mixed fresh parsley and basil, chopped

In a high sided sauté pan, melt butter over medium heat. Add garlic and onions to melted butter and sauté until aromatic. Add wine, bring to a simmer. Add mussels and diced tomatoes and cover pan. The mussels are cooked when they open- don’t overcook till they’re rubbery BUT WOE BE TO THEE WHO UNDERCOOKS so like, walk that knife edge, okay? Serve over pasta of your choice or just in a bowl by themselves with crusty bread on the side. Garnish with a generous amount of fresh parsley and basil.

Don’t eat the unopened mussels or risk… unpleasantness. I’d have put ACTUAL pictures of mussels in this post, but I’m writing this while still recovering from the stomach bug I wrote about in the last post and thought that a google image search of shellfish was probably bad idea in my current state.

On Meditation and Lettuce

“Pick a mantra that feels right to you” the meditation app says.

And I don’t even know the name of the app I’m using (but of course now I just HAD to check. It’s Meditation Studio) but it isn’t important. What is is that I was trying to follow a six minute Releasing Self Doubt meditation because I’d kinda felt like I’d been missing the mark, parenthood-wise lately. And I wanted to move past self recrimination to actually being a better parent and maybe self doubt factored in there and what the hell, I had six minutes to solve all my problems, sure.

Continue reading “On Meditation and Lettuce”

Turmeric Chicken Breasts

Turmeric is not one of those spices you get in the prepackaged 10 count spice racks, but don’t be afraid of it. It is readily available and not expensive. I bought my 1 oz jar for a little under $3 at my regular grocery store (not even the good one on the hill!), and in the spice world one ounce goes a long way.  Besides, it’s the next big thing in 2017, just like coconut oil was in 2014. Google it if you want to see a bunch of millennials smearing it on their faces and then claiming it’s the reason their skin is so good. (Newsflash: it’s because you’re 23, idiot)

This dish is easy, quick, and the chicken turns a beautiful yellow color. And then with the blackened bits from the griddle pan, Mmmm! This one is differently flavorful, but not so different as to require work to get to a point of appreciation. It’s not smelly cheese or sardines or anything, is what I’m saying. My kids loved it the first time they ever had it. Try it, you’ll see.

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How is it we all ended up with those tongs in our first apartments? Did any of us ever buy them or did they just show up somehow? Forget the Kennedy assassination conspiracy theory… I want to talk about the red handled shitty tongs conspiracy.   -Image by Sky_24

(20 minutes to prep, 2 hours to marinate, 20 minutes to cook)
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts, pounded thin
¼ cup coconut milk
3 Tbsp. Asian fish sauce
Juice of 1 lime
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp. local honey
½ tsp. ground turmeric

(Chili powder or any asian hot sauce aside for Sriracha is a good addition to the marinade if you want this with a kick. What do I have against the cliche of a hot sauce that is Sriracha? Well for one thing the spelling annoys me. And two, it’s very one note on the palette and not worth the hype. And three… I like being contrary, if I’m honest about it.)

Pound chicken to about 1/2 inch thick and cut into smaller pieces to get them to a more manageable, deck-of-cards-esque size. Combine all other ingredients in a storage container and whisk briskly to make the marinade. Add chicken to the marinade, making sure all pieces are coated. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Heat griddle pan (or skillet, if you don’t have a griddle pan) over medium high heat. Add chicken in batches, being sure not to crowd, and cook until done. The thickness that I pound mine and the temperature of the griddle pan means mine are cooked in about 3-4 minutes a side. But cooking time will vary depending on temperature of your stove, the pan you use, size of the chicken, air pressure (not sure about that), ambient temperature (even less sure about that), and other factors (seems likely and a good way to cover my ass here). Make sure you’re getting some nice and dark browned bits on the chicken as you cook- don’t be flipping too soon, is what I’m saying.

Would be good with rice, a spring greens salad, and a sauce made out of plain yogurt, lemon juice, and herbs. Or with roasted broccoli and couscous topped with some hot sauce and maybe cilantro…

*Full disclosure: your recipe writing food blogger over here just ate cold pizza for lunch after a “breakfast” of two cups of black coffee. Do as I say, not as I…