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Adventures in Gardening

I thought I’d bring you along on my newest adventure:


It’s something I’ve always wanted to do but this, that, and the other always took a higher priority or had more urgency. (7 babies in 10 years anyone?) Actually I know many women (really, I know them, in real life) who have had babies just as fast and furious as me and huge, healthy, prolific gardens right alongside, but I just couldn’t attain. I comfort myself with knowing that most of them grew up alongside their mom in her garden and that gardening is as simple as the alphabet for them.

I’ve given gardening a halfway try a few times, but never really stuck it out for a whole season. This year, I’m  going to really try. My baby is almost 3, my dog is fully grown and housebroken, and I don’t have any other big projects going on.

I thought it might be fun to blog about it, share what I learn, what mistakes I make…

To be clear: this IS NOT a “How To Garden” blog series, it is a “What I’ve Learned About How To Garden” blog series, or maybe even a “LOL What Was She Thinking?!” blog series 😉


To begin: I ordered seeds from The Seed Guy, because having non-GMO, open-pollinated “heirloom” seeds is important to me, and I really think that’s part of the reason I haven’t taken my previous attempts at gardening too seriously. I always bog down at trying to decide what to plant, and how much of it, so this time I just bought a package. I’ll plant about half of what I bought, and store the rest for next year’s attempt, when I’ve learned a bit more.

Yesterday I borrowed my lovely neighbor’s tiller, and tilled up last year’s garden plot, plus a bit, because there are a LOT of varieties in the package I got and I want to try a new garden layout: irregular beds instead of rows or square foot beds. Thanks to our entire septic tank and drain field being replaced last fall, there was very little grass or weeds for me to contend with (our landlord didn’t think it necessary to plant grass and we straight up couldn’t afford it!)

Then there were the gourds. Last year, we planted a lot of watermelon. A LOT. But, somehow (I blame buying seeds at a dollar store), we grew pumpkins and gourds. By the time I realized what was growing, the rest of the garden was a very lush weed-bed and I just didn’t care. I read a bit about how they dry best right on the vine, so I let them try. We picked up most of them, wondering about bird feeders and ladles and whatnot, but the kids ended up just smashing most of them in their games. (I still haven’t asked WHAT games called for that…) There were several that lay hidden though, and they were just on the safe side of the digging and resulting mudpit of the septic tank debacle. I found them as I was tilling. Just after I burst them and scattered their seeds. So I’m sure quite a bit of my gardening this year will involve plant identification in order to get rid of the gourds before they take over!

Today I sprayed the tilled area with apple cider vinegar. I’m told it will kill any vegetation it is sprayed on, and I want to kill out what little grass and weeds are there before I put my little precious plants and seeds in. I’m not very heavy into the “organic” label, because I know some people who have jumped through the hoops of becoming “certified” and they said it was really just an honor code and it came down to the farmer’s honesty. But I do want things to be as natural and chemical free as possible, which is why I just smile and nod when family and friends give me their recommendations for RoundUp or Se7en or what have you. I realize that they’ll have a better yield than me with my apple cider vinegar, diatomaceous earth and cayenne pepper, but for me gardening would feel pointless if I started using chemicals.

Here is what the grass and weeds that I sprayed with vinegar looked like today. I’ll post pictures of them in a few days to share whether the vinegar really works 🙂

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We’ve got cups and egg cartons full of dirt on a table in our entry, which has one entire side of sliding glass doors facing the south, and that’s where we’re starting our seeds. While they are getting their start, I’ll keep spraying the plot with vinegar every few days and I’ll till it a time or three more to get the dirt nice and soft. I’ll stop with the vinegar about a week before I set out plants, and between now and then I’ll be stringing up a few kinds of fencing: orange webbing discarded from a construction site helped a lot with keeping the deer and rabbits and groundhogs out last year (those 3 completely demolished our attempt at a garden the year before that). I’ll also string some jute twine outside that with pie pans and pinwheels and bars of Irish Spring soap dangling at intervals along it. I saw some of these deer repellent stakes at the feed store last week, and I’m trying to decide if I want to try them. (There are a LOT of deer around here, in case you didn’t know.) I haven’t made up my mind, but if I try them, I’ll let you know what I think of them. Of course, there are so many variables in this little experiment, I may never know what actually worked. But if it keeps the critters from eating my garden, I’ll feel that it was worth it all!

I also have a new-ish “weapon” in my critter-deterrent arsenal:

This fellow!


He’s been hanging around the garden with me, and, um, “marking” it as his territory. Hopefully all the other animals with respect that? (and just because I’m so proud of his size: that’s my daughter’s soccer ball that he was playing with, and yes, he’s available as a stud!)

That’s about all I’ve got as far as a garden so far, besides a head full of dreams and visons and hopes, and ideas about where to get mason jars if I actually grow enough to can! Stay tuned, and either learn alongside me or laugh as I muddle through 🙂 Either way, it’s all fun and good healthy play in the dirt and sunshine!

Am I Counting Calories Right?? (or: What Do You Eat?)

Really- I’m asking: am I doing this right?

I have an app, I put in what food I eat and the amounts, and it calculates how many calories I’ve eaten and what percentage of my food is carbs, fat, protein, and so on. I read a lot of reviews when choosing an app, and this one was one of the top few. I chose it over the other top one because it syncs with my activity tracker.

The reason I’m unsure if I’m doing it right is because, as far as I know, the average amount of calories consumed by an adult in one day is around 2,000. I have a weight loss goal and the number of calories I’m supposed to eat is just over 1,300. But on a pig-out day when I’ve overeaten at every meal, I’m still just around that, and on regular days when I just eat til I’m not hungry I can’t get over 1,000 calories.

If I’m doing something wrong, I’d like to know it so that I can do it right and reach my weight-loss goal. If I’m doing it right, I want to know: what in the world do people who eat over 2,000 calories eat?! I’m not being ugly, just really curious! Is it restaurant food? Does it make that big of a difference? Or is it soft drinks?

For example, today was a piggy day. Here’s what I ate:

Breakfast: english muffin, sausage patty, large egg, cheddar cheese, mayo, 3 cups coffee; 530 calories

Lunch: 17 oz coconut water, 2 slices honey roasted ham lunch meat, 8 cucumber slices; 162 calories

Dinner: southwest rice pilaf, steamed broccoli; 269 calories

snacks through the day:

shot of whiskey: 64 calories

red wine: 300 calories

1 oz colby cheese: 110 calories

That adds up to 1,435 calories but I can’t imagine eating any more than I did today and alcohol adds a LOT of empty calories (I ate more than I wanted and drank more than I should’ve) Yes, I was over my 1.300, but I ate way too much and still not close to 2,000!

So either I’m missing something, or I just have a really tiny stomach and a really slow metabolism.

How about you? What do you eat and how many calories do you eat a day? Am I doing this wrong?

Birthday Cake (aka sugar poisoning!)

Placing each one so carefully & precisely. I hope we survive eating this! Happy Birthday, my princess ❤ ❤


Try THIS Smoothie Recipe This Spring!

With a big family of rapidly growing munchkins, there are discoveries every single day. 

This girl. 

She just invented a smoothie combination I would never have thought of, and it’s GOOD!!

Her ingredients:


Frozen strawberries

Frozen peaches

“a tiny bit of sugar” 


(here’s where she lost me-)

Peppermint extract!

But it’s so good!! 

Regarding Food Allergies

Considering Those with Food Allergies — Life As Mom


     I can’t count the times that a scenario like this has happened:

     We are eating away from home, or having a potluck in our home, with food prepared by others. (I usually don’t expect others to cook around our family’s allergy issues, as they can be quite complicated. I just make enough and then if there are other things there that are “safe”, then it’s a bonus!) Someone will overhear me telling an allergic child “No, you can’t have that, it has _____ in it.” The someone will ask, and I will explain what my child is allergic to. Well-meaning someone will then say “I made this ___ and it doesn’t have any ___ in it.” and then offer a piece/spoonful/helping to my child. The last time it was cookies that didn’t have milk. (and if you’re reading this, it wasn’t you- we were far away and it was someone we’ve never met before or since! (0; ) My child smiled a huge sparkly smile and almost took a bite. I stopped her and asked, truly interested because I’m always on the lookout for new substitutes to use in our allergy-free cooking adventures (for example, using Crisco won’t work for the ones in our family that can’t have corn or soy. I usually use coconut oil.), “What did you use instead of butter?” and the answer was: “Oh! Just butter! That makes the best cookies!” I agree, it makes great cookies! But butter is MILK! When you’re not used to thinking in allergy-mode, you think of milk as the white stuff in a plastic jug. If you didn’t pour white stuff from a plastic jug into your cookie dough, then your cookies don’t have milk. But when you’re thinking in allergy-mode, there can’t be any butter, the chocolate chips can’t have “butterfat” or “whey” or “lactose” listed in the ingredients, and so on.

     I have a friend whose son is VERY allergic to peanuts. To the point that if there are 2 pans of brownies, one with peanut butter, one without, sitting side by side (the sans-peanut butter ones being graciously provided to accommodate his allergies), and someone unwittingly mixes the serving forks, and his non-peanut butter brownie is put on his plate with the peanut butter brownie fork, he gets a fast ride to the ER, and that family’s day of socializing is over.

     When you’re in non-allergy-land, their refusal to eat what you are sure you didn’t pour milk into, or stir peanut butter into (did you know that a lot of pre-made chicken nuggets are fried in peanut oil? Or that fish sticks have milk in them? and that canned tuna has soy?) isn’t about them not trusting you, or not believing you. They’re not trying to be rude. But there are a lot of things that just aren’t worth ending with you saying “I didn’t know”, or finding out that little Johnny or Susie mixed up the serving forks.

     I don’t always accept offers to cook or provide food for our family, because unless I know you are familiar with just how much you have to read the labels and decode the names of the ingredients (did you know that maltodextrin is derived from corn? and that baking powder has cornstarch in it?), sometimes it’s just not worth it. Sometimes I do, especially if I know what you’re making, and I’m familiar with the way you usually think about food, and sometimes I don’t.

     I’m still wondering what to do about the potluck situations like the one we had a while back: It was a crowd of 30-40 people, most of whom were strangers. I planned all “safe” foods for our family, and figured we could walk through the buffet line that was set up, and only take things from our own serving dishes. It would have worked, (I think) except for the sweet old lady who  “helped me out” by adding 2 sticks of butter to both my lima beans and my mashed potatoes, and prebuttered all the bread I had baked with no milk. She really was sweet and trying to help, but we ended up with a few hungry children, and had to leave early to feed them.

     What would you do?? Please, let me know in the comments!

Cake Pops!

Having 7 children makes it easy for each of them to have “their day”, when we do special projects together, talk about things that are on their mind, and just generally connect. I also call it “tomato staking“.

(Not sure how I’ll do things once #8 shows up. I’ve got a little while to figure something out though)

Today was Noah’s day, and we decided to make cake pops. We’ve tried it once before, and while they were yummy, they were ugly. We learned a few things though, and were pretty sure we could correct the mistakes of the last effort.

Sure enough, these (A:) stayed together, (B:) didn’t fall off the stick when dipped, and (C:) hardened properly. Success! Read the rest of this entry

(non)Baking (mis)Adventures

Looking forward to spending the evening with some old friends today.

She’s cooking supper (allergy friendly- hats off to her!), and I’m bringing dessert. After kicking around different ideas for allergy friendly dessert recipes, a lot of which don’t appeal to the palate of one who isn’t restricted by allergies, I finally decided to fall back on an old standby that’s always a crowd pleaser (and it’s a zip to make- that’s a me-pleaser!): No Bake Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies. I made a few modifications for the allergies: coconut oil instead of butter, almond milk instead of milk, and skip the optional peanut butter. I think I’ll make a double-batch, since there’s our 9 and their and their 7 or 8 ( not sure if their baby will have one), and I want to eat quite a few myself! (0;

I got a little risky and adventurous and substituted Rice Krispies for the oatmeal to make it 100% allergy free for even my husband, the Allergy King.

Do I recommend it? Read the rest of this entry

Mmm… Truffles

I think we’re going to make some truffles tomorrow. 2 batches actually: one following the recipe, and one dairy free for my sweeties that can'[t have dairy. I’m not sure how hard I’ll try to not eat the whole batch before the week is over. But I will be freezing some of the dairy free ones to have on hand when we’re in a situation that there is a dessert that has dairy and there are no substitutions available for the ones that can’t eat it. It sort of makes up for missing out on what everyone else is eating when you have something special like that, that no one else *can* have (’cause Mama said so!).

For whoever is interested, here is the (yummalicious) recipe: Read the rest of this entry