Adventures in the Dirt – 2022 Edition

So, you may have noticed that there were no gardening posts last year – or you may not have. Either way, this year will be different. Last year a thing called COVID happened to me just as spring and gardening time were upon me. I managed to squeeze in a few herbs by the time I was up and around, but overall I had no garden last year. I’m really hoping to make up for it this year by starting early and strong!

Veggie bed covered in deer netting

This is my cinder block raised bed. I planted Broccoli, Spinach, Kale, and Rutabaga from seed. We have a bit of a squirrel problem, so my husband and I constructed these covers out of PVC pipe and deer netting. They’re easily removed and work really well.

Below is a picture of another raised bed. You can’t see it real well in the picture, but it’s surrounded by a tall version of the cover above. Even this one, I can remove and put back myself because it’s so lightweight. In this bed I have; lettuce, carrots, spinach, and turnips. In a bit, there will be cucumbers at the end climbing up that trellis that you can see a little bit of. This picture was taken in the late afternoon/early evening. It gets full sun the rest of the day.

Veggie bed in the late afternoon.

I’m adding a few fun, decorative touches this year as well. Like this trellis with our initial in it for the jasmine, and Mr. Rabbit standing guard.

“L” for Lenz
Mr. Rabbit

I am not, by any means, an expert gardener. I mostly put things in the ground and see what happens. I do try to make sure that the things I plant together are good companions. I’m not afraid to try doing things a little differently from year-to-year.

For instance, the bed that Mr. Rabbit is in is usually reserved for herbs. I have some perennials in there that are working on coming back right now. This year, however, I got brave. I found the aforementioned jasmine and decided it would look lovely at the head of my herb garden. I researched companion plants for it, but didn’t find a lot of information, so I decided to give it a go.

Pink Jasmine that reminds me of home.

Right next to the Jasmine, or pretty close anyway, I decided to place a Texas Bluebonnet that I found at the nursery. I tried planting these from seed once, but they didn’t take. They’re a wildflower that doesn’t really bloom for very long so I didn’t think it would hurt to put it in there. It seems fairly happy so far.

Texas Bluebonnet – state flower and symbol of our new home . . . for the past 15 years.

In addition to these beds, I also have some tubs that I’ve used for years and had wonderful success with. One of them got a new installation of peppermint and two others have Swiss chard, and shallots and onions. I’m reserving the fourth for tomatoes.

Peppermint tub

I am obsessed with chocolate mint. Yes, my friends, CHOCOLATE mint! And it’s as wonderful as it sounds. I have always had trouble finding it, but this year I found it at Home Depot online. Strange, I know, but my normal seed vendors didn’t have it. So, here it is in all it’s glory and I have three pots of it! I don’t grow mint in the ground because it is incredibly invasive and would take over the yard.

One of three chocolate mint plants.

I haven’t even begun to mention all my potted plants on the deck; chocolate mint coleus (I told you I was obsessed with chocolate mint), holy basil, Jerusalem sage, purple fountain grass, cinnamon basil, columbine, purple basil (I’m a little obsessed with Basil as well), snapdragons, cosmos, and a creeping Jenny. I’ll post pics of those when they’re done recovering from winter, and when the seedlings are a little bigger.

I am really hoping for the best garden yet this year. Texas is really a great place for gardening because the growing season is so long. There are even crops that can be grown through winter and are even better once they’ve gone through a frost. I’m having fun no matter what and just like every other year, it’ll be an adventure and we’ll see what happens!

Happy growing! 👩🏻‍🌾

French Press Fancier

I looked up from my coffee making this morning and realized that I have been using my French press for months now while my single-cup coffee maker has been relegated to the occasional K-cup when I’m feeling lazy, and tea making. Curious!

It seems I have gone from being a non-coffee drinker to a bit of a snob. I actually didn’t start drinking coffee until I was in my 50’s when I discovered lattes. I still don’t drink black coffee – yuck! I’m not even sure how I got into using a French press, but I do know that I prefer the beverage that results from it. I should probably mention that I also grind my own beans now. So, maybe the combination of fresh ground beans and a French press is the magic.

My actual press next to my “hot water dispenser”.

All I know is that when I do that I feel like I get a fresher and smoother tasting latte. Another thing I do that contributes to the smoother taste, I think, is that I add about a quarter teaspoon of baking soda to the grounds in the press. It cuts the acidity and takes away some of the bitterness. I like things sweet and the baking soda caters to that.

Peet’s has a nice tutorial on how to brew with a press. Click on the link for a video and written tips on French pressing. If you’re a coffee drinker who has never tried using a French press, I would highly recommend giving it a go. If you’re not a coffee drinker at all or have never even tried it, well, I’ll leave that choice up to you. Coffee is good medicine when consumed wisely, but too much of even a good thing can be bad. I drink one latte a day with unsweetened vanilla almond milk and Stevia. Sometimes I add some unsweetened cocoa powder to my mug and/or a collagen creamer.

There are endless coffee recipes on the internet and I’m pretty sure that just about anyone could find a way to enjoy it. As for me, I’m really enjoying what comes out of my French press. K-cups don’t even come close. So, I’m afraid my poor coffee maker is now a hot water dispenser for tea, which is not a bad thing. Tea is good stuff too and I drink my fair share of that as well. Did you know that you can even use a French press for loose leaf tea? Another day perhaps. I need to get back to my coffee before it gets cold.

Happy sipping!

Poached Eggs and Discovery+

I did something last night that I have never done before! I poached eggs! Crazy, right? A 60-year old foodie who has never attempted to poach an egg! I attempted it last night though, and it was good! I’m still experimenting with the timing to get the yolks just the way I like them, but last night was a great start! Even Joshua liked them, and he’s the picky one.

And then, I did it again this morning because now I’m obsessed with poaching eggs! The whites come out so silky and yummy, it’s kinda magical! So, now you may ask, “what inspired you to try your hand at poaching eggs?” Well, that leads me to the second part of the title of this post – Discovery+. The new internet channel that everyone’s buzzing about.

My morning poach!

Some of the buzz is good, some not so good. Some people are resenting that their favorite shows are leaving cable and now they’ll have to pay extra to watch them. Personally, I haven’t had cable in years. We’ve been streaming for quite awhile now. Discovery+ is $4.99/month right now with a 7-day free trial and from my perspective, that’s a steal. If you like HGTV or Food Network – this is your Nirvana! I signed up for the free trial yesterday and have already gotten poached eggs out of the deal!

Every cooking show you’ve ever known (except Paula Deen) and some you never knew are on Discovery +’s Food Network. I have been curious about Amy Schumer’s show and decided to check that out. First off I have to say that she is not my favorite celebrity. She goes a little too far with transparency and plops herself right into the realm of TMI. Her husband the chef, on the other hand, is adorable. And, he taught me how to poach an egg! So, I’d say I definitely got my $4.99’s worth this month!

Also, just to clarify, there are many more channels on Discovery+ besides HGTV and Food Network. Those are just two of my favorites. They do not, however, have Hallmark. So there’s that. This was also not meant to be a plug for Discovery+, but rather a plug for poached eggs, which I now love! If you’re an old pro at this type of egg preparation, kudos to you! If not, I highly recommend giving it a go. It’s super easy! Boil some water, turn off the fire, add a splash of vinegar or lemon juice, drop your eggs in, cover and let sit anywhere from 4-9 minutes depending on how you like your yolk. Remove from the water with a slotted spoon, season, and enjoy! Fun, fun, fun!


Adventures in the Dirt

Spring 2020 As I mentioned in my last “Adventures in the Dirt” post, I’m giving the gardening thing another go. I’m all in this year, planting as much as possible and trying several new things. I’d love to share how my garden is growing with you! Pictured above is a Marigold. I’ve never grown them before, so when it started coming up I wondered if it was a weed (we have some pretty weeds in central Texas). As it grew bigger I decided it wasn’t like any weed I’d ever seen, so I took my plant identifying app to it, and sure enough – it was a Marigold! Yay! A couple of other new flowers I’m attempting to grow are Sunflowers and Nasturtium. Flowers are a little more of a challenge for me. The Nasturtium is struggling a little as you can see in this picture. I’m attempting to resolve it’s issues.
The sunflowers are doing fairly well. I think it’s about time to stake them. I planted two seeds in each space and they all sprouted. I attempted to transplant one and so far, it’s not doing great. I’m waiting to see if it bounces back before I move any of the others.

I’m also attempting tomatoes in pots with Basil as a companion. The Basil is looking beautiful!
The netting over the top is part of a squirrel guard my sweetie made for me. Squirrels are a huge problem in my yard. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to replant because of those little buggers! So, my ever creative husband built these “squirrel guards” out of PVC pipe, deer netting, and zip ties. The smaller one in the background is wood. He originally made two like that for the smaller containers a couple of years ago. The big one below was just made a few days ago. I love them! They’re all super light and easy to move around. Best of all, they keep the squirrels out of my plants!

There’s another tomato and Basil pot at the other end. The black containers are; beans and peas, carrots and onion, Beefsteak tomato, and Spinach and strawberries. Strawberries are very difficult to grow from seed, so I’ve ordered some plants just in case. Spinach is a cool weather plant. Since things are starting to heat up around here already, the spinach may not get very far. The raised bed in the background is a cinder block one that hasn’t been used in a couple of years. At the time of the above picture, it just had weeds in it. Yesterday, however, we turned it into this:
I had Arugula, lettuce, and Swiss Chard growing in pots and decided to give them a little more room and see how they do. The pot on the ledge is a pepper plant and I’m hoping to put him in the ground pretty soon too.

I have another raised bed where the Nasturtium and Marigold live with some lettuce, a failed attempt at turnips, and some newly planted cucumber. My hubby is just starting to build a combination squirrel guard/cucumber trellis. The netting on this one will have a Velcro closure that I can open and close when I need to work in there instead of having to lift it off. That wouldn’t work so well for the cucumbers.
The little guard sitting in the bed right now is protecting my cucumbers which have just started to pop!
I’ve had great success with cucumbers in the past. I’m hoping this year will be successful as well. Cucumbers are one of my sweetie’s favorites.

I have several other things growing in pots; Chrysanthemums in bloom,

some Sweet Basil and Peppermint (2 peppermint plants),

more Italian Basil (we love Basil),

some English Thyme,

a little Calendula just starting,

and this surprise planter. I put several flowers and herbs in here. Then, a cute little squirrel came and dug a bunch of it up. I have no idea what was left and now that Rich put another of his guards on it, I’ll have a chance to find out!

One of my most exciting additions to the garden (two actually) is a Lilac bush and a Gardenia! Gardenias are my absolute favorite flower and Lilacs are a close second! I’ve wanted to grow them for years, but was always too intimidated. This year I decided to go for it. They have both rewarded me with one little bloom.

It will be a few years before they bloom seriously, but this was very exciting for me. I’m planning to ask Rich to make guards for them too.

A couple more pics before you go:
A little visitor to our backyard, and the new raised bed that we’re hoping to finish once we can get dirt to fill it.
The original plan was to have a co-op garden with my daughter, son-in-law, and grandkids. This stage of construction on the raised bed is as far as we got before the world went crazy and “stay-at-home” orders were issued. I’m hoping maybe we can make this a fall garden bed.

Phew! That was a lot! I guess I’m feeling a little ambitious this year! Not to mention having plenty of time on my hands. I hope you are all staying safe and find plenty of things to fill your life with joy despite current events. May the peace of Christ reign in your hearts!


First Sweet Potatoes

So, I said I would keep you posted on my sweet potato experiment and this is the outcome. Eight tiny sweet potatoes that I was actually able to use. I cured them and they all emerged edible. A small win – literally. 😂

I started out by planting two whole, sprouting sweet potatoes. I then did some research and learned that you’re supposed to cut the sprouts with a bit of the sweet potato off and plant those. So, I dug up the original sweet potatoes (which were growing leaves like crazy), sliced off the sprouts, and replanted them. I had no idea how it would go.

I left them in the ground until after our first freeze, then pulled everything up and found the eight little guys pictured up top. I consider the experiment a success because it actually yielded something and because I learned a little bit about growing sweet potatoes. Next year I’ll plant them somewhere where they’ll have more room and hopefully see a bigger yield.

I love the experimental aspect of gardening. If you mess up, try to learn from the experience and just try again. Try different plants in different locations, and keep notes. That’s something I neglected to do in the beginning. It was a huge mistake because I couldn’t remember what I had done with what plant. Hard to learn that way. 😉. I can’t wait to try some new things in the spring. It’s an adventure!

P.S. I used my baby sweet potatoes in my sweet potato casserole for thanksgiving. 😋

Until next spring!

Monday Mug Shot

This week’s mug is really more of a tea cup. I don’t think I’ve ever used it for coffee. It just has that delicate teacup feel to me so, tea is what I use it for.

I got it at one of the coolest places I’ve ever stayed! The Homestead Resort in Midway, Utah.

My husband, two young sons and I were traveling to Colorado to pick up our youngest daughter and we spent a night at this lovely resort. It’s located near hot springs and boasts the Homestead Crater where you can swim. The indoor pool is like swimming in a pleasantly warm bath. It was winter and I remember floating in that heavenly pool with a breathtaking view of snow-capped mountains.

Our room was luxurious and cozy all at the same time. The on-site restaurant was wonderful! The grounds were beautiful.

It was an unforgettable stay and I would go back in a heartbeat! There’s so much to see and do there and we barely scratched the surface. But, I have my mug to remind me of the wonderful time we had and that I’d like to go back someday. The mugs are all about the memories!


Adventures in the Dirt

I love to garden, but since moving to Texas and attempting several summer gardens with minimal success, I gave up. I realized that I was failing because I don’t like to go outside during a typical Texas summer. It’s my hibernation season. Inside with the air conditioning is where you’ll find me. I come out of my cave at the first sign of fall. Fall, winter, and early spring are when I do my vacationing, daytripping, and anything else I can find to do outside. Including fall gardening.

Things have changed in the past year, however. Due to health issues, I can no longer pursue some of the indoor hobbies I enjoyed during the summer months like crocheting and scrapbooking. I discovered I COULD still do the gardening thing. So, I decided to brave the heat and give it another go. I go out early in the morning, and I mean just after daybreak as much as possible. I don’t spend anymore than thirty minutes at a time (even though the temp. isn’t too high this time of day the humidity often is) and I focus on just one or two chores. So far it’s been manageable and fall is just around the corner. I think I’ll make it.

I actually only planted two summer crops. Baby steps and all. The first was green beans. I had some issues with them in the beginning. The leaves weren’t looking healthy and the beans would show up then immediately dry up and turn brown on the plant. After some research I realized the plant was lacking nitrogen. I cut all the unhealthy leaves off and cut the plant back quite a bit. I’ve been fertilizing it for several weeks now and this is what it looks like today.

The summers are long here in Central Texas and even though it’s September it’s basically still summer. I’m hoping for at least a small yield before it’s all said and done.
I also planted some cucumbers, a little late, so not sure what’s going to happen there. My garden this year is basically one big experiment. Next to the cucumbers I have some sweet potatoes. These were actually a couple of potatoes that were sprouting in my kitchen. Just for fun, I stuck them in the ground to see what would happen.

The other day I went digging around to see what was going on. One potato was just sprouting more leaves, buuut the second one had little baby sweet potatoes on the ends of some of the roots that had sprouted. I stuck them back in the dirt and the picture directly above this paragraph is where we are right now. I also planted some Kale seeds for the winter garden and they’re doing well so far (pictured below).

I haven’t done a whole lot of flowers in the past. Mostly herbs and veggies. I have a little seating area on my back deck that I thought could benefit from a little color though. I prefer perennials and wanted some color that would carry through at least the beginning of fall. I chose several different colors of mums and put them in pots around the deck.

Along with my already present asparagus fern, I also added a Coneflower.

I have two of these Asparagus ferns and two Fountain Grass plants on the deck as well.

As much as I love putting things in the ground and watching them flourish, my knowledge is very limited. I think that’s going to change now that gardening has taken a priority on my list of hobbies. Who knows, maybe next summer I’ll actually have enough of something to put some up for winter! Stay tuned. If I get any kind of yield from what I presently have planted, I’ll post pics. Until then, happy gardening!


Monday Mug Shot

This week’s mug is one I’ve mentioned before. It’s the original Lake Tahoe mug. The one I’ve already highlighted was acquired in 2018. Today’s mug was bought on a trip taken in 2005. The year before we moved to Texas. In the picture, you can see the little chip I mentioned in a previous blog. Not sure how it happened, but I suspect it has something to do with boys doing dishes. 😏

My youngest sister and brother-in-law, along with my nephew, came to visit us that summer. It was the first time that my brother-in-law had ever visited us in Cali. My nephew was actually born in California as was my sister. That was a fun summer! We took them all over our neck of the woods; Yosemite, Sonoma, fishing at Martinez Marina . . . Lake Tahoe. My brother-in-law fell in love with Tahoe (as do most people who visit there) and decided he might like to retire there. He has a few years to go, so we’ll see if that actually happens.

I believe my sister ended up with a bigger version of this same mug. Think soup mug. It’s the perfect size for a cup of tea or a plain cup of coffee. I don’t use it for my latte’s, but it’s one of my hubby’s favorites for tea. This little guy invokes memories of one of our favorite places, visited with some of our favorite people. It’s also one of the first of my collection and therefore has a certain extra sentimental value.


Monday Mug Shot

We’re baack! I halted Monday Mug Shot for awhile as I adjusted to my new normal with Cervical Dystonia. I’m still adjusting a little, but decided it was time to continue the mug shots. I thought it might be getting boring, but I’ve been told by a few that they enjoyed it. So, for those lovely souls who actually like my little stories – the return of Monday Mug Shot.

Our story continues with a new acquisition. This one, again, is from Branson. My hubs and I took a week- long trip this past April for our 25th wedding anniversary. We spent a few days on our own and a few days with our besties. On one of our solo days we found a beautiful shop called the Crystal Fish. On our first visit, I spotted a ceramic collection that included some unique and beautiful mugs that caught my eye. I resisted, however, reminding myself that I have plenty of mugs at the moment and we didn’t need to spend the money even though we could.

The next day my love decided that he wanted another of the candles that we had purchased the previous day so as to have a matching set. So, back we went to the Crystal Fish. This time we visited with the owners for quite awhile and the ceramic collection called to me again. The owner of the shop gave us a little history into the artist and her work. My hubby and I were both convinced – this mug was coming home with us.

We actually fell in love with the entire collection, but that would have been more than a pretty penny and just a little crazy. That was several months ago and this one has become a favorite to both of us. I love the design and my sweetie loves the functionality and how comfortably the handle fits his hand. Not to mention that it doesn’t get the least bit hot to the touch in the microwave. Beautiful and functional. What more could you want?

I love this mug for so many reasons; the unique and beautiful design, the fact that someone created this by hand, it’s big enough for a latte’ . . . but, more importantly than all of that. This mug reminds me of a beautiful time spent with the love of my life, celebrating 25-years of making amazing memories together by making more wonderful memories! I am a very blessed woman!

💍 2️⃣5️⃣🎊🥂😊💕

New Kitchen Toy

My husband recently gifted me with a new toy for my kitchen that he found on Brad’s Deals.  An 8-qt. pressure cooker that he got for $50!  WooHoo!  Isn’t it pretty?!


One of the first things I made in it was a super cheesy Mac n’ Cheese, from scratch, in about 20 minutes!  It was awesome and really tasty!

Since then I’ve cooked a roast from frozen to fabulous in about 90 minutes, Egg Roll Bowls in less than 10 minutes start to finish.  I’ve made Curry Chicken, Lentil Stew, and even yogurt!  I am loving this thing!

The kitchen is a more challenging place for me since my diagnosis and as a result, we’ve been eating out more, which isn’t good.  It takes me longer to prepare things and there is a level of frustration that causes me to get a little discouraged and take even longer, or give up altogether.  Then, there’s the whole, “I forgot to thaw the meat!” thing.  With this new pressure cooker, both of those challenges are alleviated.  Even if it takes me longer to do the prep, the cooking time is cut so short that it balances out.  We dont end up eating at 8:00 (which I hate) because I’m a slow poke in the kitchen now, or abandoning the prospect of cooking dinner altogether because I forgot to thaw the meat out.  It’s a win-win!

I’ve only begun to learn all the things I can do with this time-saver.  I’m very excited to try new things in it.  I’m especially excited that I can make my own yogurt again via a much easier process than the crockpot or stovetop, not to mention it’s quicker.  I’m also excited that we got such a great deal!  These things aren’t cheap.  If you’ve never heard of Brad’s Deals you might want to check it out.  Not that this is a plug for them, it’s not.  If you’re in the market for a pressure cooker, that just might be another place to keep an eye out for a deal.  Either way, I’d say a pressure cooker is a good investment for any kitchen!