June 2013

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I promised about two years ago that I would eventually write up a post about our wonderful yard here. But at that point, the weeds were out of control, I had a new baby, we were travelling all the time that summer for weddings and reunions and whatnot . . . well, it didn’t happen. And then it was winter and the yard wasn’t pretty. And for some reason, I never got around to it last spring/summer either.

Well, I finally remembered to bring the camera outside to take pictures, so here we go! I think I’ll divide it up into three shortish posts rather than one monster one. This one will focus on our front yard because that’s the first part of the yard that I got looking good.

 

Front yard

One thing I think is interesting about gardening is how quickly things change. This picture was taken about two weeks ago, and already things look different: the roses have finished blooming, but the snapdragons and marigolds have started. But yeah, that’s our house. As you can see, there are two rather large flower beds right in front of it that people pass on their way to our front door.

When we moved in, the one on the left was completely covered in morning glory. There was almost no visible dirt. Well, eight months pregnant, I went out there and pulled all the morning glory over the course of about a week or two. I was so proud of myself! Until it started coming back. I’d pull the little baby morning glory plants as they came up, but I found I was spending at least 15 minutes a day fighting it. Something else had to be done. I was going to have a baby soon, and I just didn’t have time for this!

I bought a few bags of mulch and spread it out over the flower beds. That should help keep the weeds under control, I thought. (As if.) It quickly became apparent that the 11 bags of mulch I had bought were nowhere near enough to adequately cover the weeds to even slow them a little. I was out close to $50 of my birthday money and still pulling morning glory every day.

When El Guapo was born, my mom came out to help. I can’t remember why, but we decided going to a few garage sales was a good idea, and at one of them, we found two partial rolls of groundcover cloth. She did most of the work, along with my soon-to-be sister-in-law and some other family members helping, but we got those flowerbeds covered with the cloth and then with mulch. It was a grueling process involving cutting holes in the cloth for existing plants, but it looked pretty darn great when we were done, and, best of all, it mostly controlled the morning glory problem. I still get a few weeds creeping through holes in the cloth where the plants are, but it’s not unmanageable. I did have to buy a few more bags of mulch this year to cover some bare patches of cloth.

After all the mulch, I only had a few dollars to buy some snapdragons and marigolds, and my neighbor across the way gave me some extra dahlias she had. The gardens were weed-free but not all that pretty.

That winter was extremely mild, though, so the snapdragons and dahlias survived it. The next summer, the snapdragons especially were absolutely gorgeous. Some of those snapdragons died in our much colder winter this year, but some didn’t, and they are just lovely. I think there’s one dahlia plant trying to make it despite earwigs eating holes in its leaves. We’ll see what happens.

This year, my mom gave me $25 to spend at a garden center (does she know me well or what?). I bought impatiens, marigolds, and more snapdragons to beautify that garden and a spot in the back yard. Once the unsightly daffodil leaves are gone (they’re folded over and wrapped up, but some strands are escaping, and they’re half brown and half green), I think it’ll look quite pretty indeed.

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I don’t love these roses. Apparently our landlord tried to dig out the roses that were there when she bought the house, but some of the roots survived, and now they’re “wild.” Oh well. Wild roses are better than an empty flowerbed in my book.

There are also two other flowerbeds in the front yard, one just off the driveway and one underneath a tree. Until this spring, both were generally full of weeds because I just didn’t have time to weed the flowerbeds by our front door, the rocks and flowerbeds in the back yard, and the garden in addition to two flowerbeds that were usually blocked from view by the vehicles of our downstairs neighbors anyway. But this spring, everything else was more under control than ever, so I had time. It’s nice to not have weeds anywhere, and it turns out there’s periwinkle and California poppies growing (just a few, to be fair) under the tree and three peony plants and an Easter lily I’ve never seen before in the flowerbed off the driveway. Who knew weeding would reveal such treasures?

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This enormous honeysuckle vine grows over the fence by the driveway flowerbed. It smells amazing.

There are also some beautiful rosebushes along the side of the house:

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Too bad there are also plentiful weeds and Virginia creeper, which until this year, have largely obscured the rosebushes. I finally got around to pruning all of them last fall and this spring, so they look better than ever this year. This picture really doesn’t do them justice.

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I am finding that, despite my missteps, I’m getting better at gardening every year and finding more fulfillment in it. It’s fun to have a yard I can take care of and plant things in. I can see myself becoming a full-fledged gardening buff someday. It’s fun to take a yard full of weeds and turn it into something beautiful.

 

 

 

I keep looking at Duplo and can’t believe how big he looks. He’s got a strong, healthy boy’s body, often crazy hair, a farmer’s tan, and usually filthy feet from playing outside. His eyes are transitioning to a grayish green with just a hint of blue, and he has a totally infectious smile. A couple of his front teeth (one on the top and one on the bottom) are loose, but just barely.

Lately, he and Lego have been playing a lot together because Lego’s out of school for the summer. The first week or two were a little rough, with more fighting than usual, but it seems we’ve settled into a routine and they’re doing really well.

One of the cool things they’ve been playing lately is Ruvern and Rexern. It started with them creating a little Lego person by mixing and matching body parts from other Lego people, and they named him Ruvern. But then Ruvern needed a brother so he could have someone to make silly stuff with and go through portals with and talk to and whatnot, so Rexern was created. It’s fun to listen to them playing and inventing together.

Duplo can read short words and sometimes longer ones if he can get clues from context. He is super excited about kindergarten after hearing Lego talk about school for two years. He’s kind of in a second finicky/picky stage where things that were his absolute favorite foods will be rejected for a meal or three before he realizes he likes them again.

He’s still snuggly and sensitive and silly, and we love him lots. Happy belated birthday, Duplo!

In other news, this conversation happened tonight:

El Guapo: (Showing Jonathon’s brother his wrist) Owwie!
Jonathon’s brother: Yeah, that’s an owwie. How’d you get it?
El Guapo: Mommy’s hand.

Lest you think I am abusing my toddler, here’s what really happened to cause the scrape on his wrist.

We went on a hike a few days ago, and it was slightly steep on the way up. On the way back down, El Guapo wanted to run, but I kept telling him to slow down and hold my hand. He refused, and this resulted in him tripping on rocks and totally biffing it about three times. Even after falling and being comforted, he’d take off running and refuse to let me hold his hand.

So yeah. He got hurt because he wouldn’t hold Mommy’s hand. At least he learned his lesson (I think?).

Apparently I’m on a roll with making up recipes. I think the fact that both these and the popsicles involve heavy whipping cream betrays the secret to my success. You really can’t go wrong with cream, right?

So tonight I knew I wanted chicken, but I was either missing ingredients or not feeling like any of my standard chicken recipes. I didn’t feel like scouring the internet for a recipe that I might or might not have ingredients for, so I improvised.

I still had some heavy whipping cream, and I thought, “maybe a light cream sauce would be nice.” What would make it lighter? Well, maybe using mostly chicken broth with just a tiny bit of cream. Parsley would give it a summery flavor, so I tossed plenty in. I wanted something to give it a brightness/tang, but if I put lemon juice or vinegar in, would it curdle the cream? I wasn’t sure. So I went with a few drops of Worcestershire sauce. Some black pepper and garlic powder rounded it off.

I just browned the chicken in a little oil in a frying pan, mixed the sauce ingredients separately, and poured them in. It was so fast that I hadn’t gotten the rice started by that point, so I just let it simmer for 20 minutes with the rice.

The sauce reduced in that time so that there wasn’t much of it left, but the result was delicious, tender chicken. The boys couldn’t tell me enough times how delicious it was. I asked them what we should call it, when I made it again. Lego’s suggestion was “Tender Chicken,” and nobody could think of anything better, so I guess that’s it. If you think of something better, like, “Chicken in a garlic parsley cream sauce,” you’re free to use that instead.

I’m writing the recipe down so I don’t forget it and so you can try it too. The sauce was really good on rice, but there wasn’t much of it once it all reduced, so next time, I might double it.

Tender Chicken

1.5 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts

1/2 cup chicken broth

2 Tbsp. heavy whipping cream

1–2 tsp. parsley (I used dried, but you could use fresh. If you do, add the parsley at the end instead.)

3 drops Worcestershire sauce

dash garlic powder

1/8 tsp. black pepper

a little oil to fry the chicken in

salt and pepper to taste

 

Lightly season chicken breasts. Brown on both sides in oil. In separate bowl, combine broth, cream, parsley, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, and pepper. Once chicken is browned, pour sauce into pan. Simmer 20 minutes or so over medium low heat, turning chicken occasionally.

 

 

We have a popsicle mold, but until this year, we haven’t really done much with it. Lego and Duplo are suddenly into it, though, so we’ve been trying pudding pops, frozen chocolate milk, and frozen juice in it. Note: frozen chocolate milk isn’t actually all that good.

Yesterday we tried these ones because Lego loves banana and I was letting him choose. I don’t love the texture of frozen instant pudding, so on a whim I whipped up some heavy whipping cream (unsweetened) and added it to the vanilla pudding, about 1 part whipped cream to 2 parts pudding. I figured it would make that part taste creamier, since the goal was a popsicle that tastes like banana cream pie and this was the “cream” layer.

And oh man. The difference was unbelievable. My only regret was that I hadn’t added whipped cream to the banana pudding as well. The vanilla layer was smooth, creamy, just soft enough and melty enough but still firm. The banana layer was icy and hard and inconsistent by contrast. My immediate thought was that the texture and flavor of the vanilla layer reminded me of Creamies bar, which you should totally try if you haven’t yet.

I’m now dying to freeze the rest of the banana pudding, mixed with whipped cream, as soon as the popsicle mold is clean again. I’m also wondering about adding peppermint extract to the vanilla/cream mixture and dipping it in melted chocolate. Or just trying chocolate pudding and cream. Since orange instant pudding isn’t available, I’ve been trying to think of a way to make knockoff orange “Creamies.”

Maybe I should just bite the bullet and go buy some Creamies already. They’re probably less fattening than my version.

Do any of you have creative ideas to try?