On spring and gardening in Indiana

Daffodil flowers.

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Ahh…spring in Indiana…the forsythia gracefully swaying in the breeze, the stately magnolias braving the possibility of a freeze, the cheerful daffodils bobbing brightly in the sun, sweetly scented hyacinths sending forth their perfume, curly leaves of tulips forming the bowl from which the riotous flowers will spring.  The colors, the scents, the textures…no artist can paint a more beautiful picture.

As I was walking today, I was able to experience the full spectrum of all that spring has to offer, including sleet and snow!  What in the world?!  It is almost April…high time to put winter weather behind us. At least when we get snow now, we know it won’t last long.  Today was no exception…no accumulation and now the sun is shining and reminding us that spring truly is upon us.

With spring comes the urge to garden.  Today I decided to spend a few minutes looking at the seeds I have and planning what else I need to buy (Yes, I know the perfect time for this is in January…just didn’t manage to get anything done in January…no time like the present).

I like to grow several varieties of lettuce in the spring and early summer.  And now is the right time to get spinach and radishes planted too.  Tomatoes and peppers need to be started so they’re a decent size to set out once the danger of frost is past (I usually push this by planting some in pots that I can bring inside if I have to).  Today I planted one planter of mixed lettuce and radishes as well as two types of tomatoes (Roma and Big Boy).  I also planted three types of peppers (bell pepper, jalapeno and my favorite, a four-way hybrid from Burpee). 

I will very likely buy seedlings from farmers at my city’s farmers’ market.  I’ve managed to find several heirloom varieties that way…some I liked and some, well, not so much.  When you garden, you never know exactly what you’ll get.  Sometimes the weather works against you.  Last year was a great year with my peppers, but the tomatoes didn’t really produce as I’d hoped they would.  Whatever happens, it’s a joy to get outside and play a part in feeding yourself all the produce that’s just bursting with flavor.  It won’t be long before we can be taking a bite out of a big juicy tomato fresh from the vine.  That makes today’s snow a little more bearable.

Dancing with the (not quite) stars

A ballroom dancing couple. Illustration by Dav...

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I love to dance…have always loved to dance.  To watch me, you might question that, but I don’t think how well (or not) you do something necessarily has any bearing on the enjoyment you derive from an activity.  I know I’m not any great shakes on the dance floor, but it still makes me happy to have upbeat music playing and to just move to it.

I’ve watched Dancing With the Stars from season one.  I’ve always imagined myself as one of the “stars”.  You know, coming in not really knowing anything about the different dances, but working hard and improving every week until my partner (Maks…yum) and I would win that world-famous mirror ball trophy!   Of course, I would love to look like those professional dancers in those revealing outfits, but that’s not a huge part of the fantasy (okay…yes, it is..looking like that has always been part of most of my fantasies, but I would settle for just being able to dance like they dance).

I know dancing is great exercise.  When I’ve worked really hard to get in shape, dance was always a huge part of my workout routine.  Dancing improves your cardiovascular fitness, your posture, your energy level, your strength and flexibility.  And it’s a lot of fun. 

I’ve just got to dance.  I may not ever appear on Dancing With the Stars, but I can sure get my groove on  in my kitchen!

What can you do with over ripe bananas?

A bunch of Bananas.

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I had some bananas sitting on my kitchen counter for several days.  Every time I noticed them, I thought I should do something with them…but I didn’t. Usually I’ll just peel them, break them up and freeze them so they’re ready to throw into a smoothie.  I guess I must have been lazy last week.  The bananas just kept sitting there, looking worse and worse.  Finally, this morning, I decided I was going to do something with them…went online and started looking at recipes (yes, I have a huge collection of cookbooks…love the Gooseberry Patch ones….but it’s so much easier to just do a search).  Wow…there’s a lot you can do with those icky looking, mushy bananas.  Cakes and cookies…dessert  bars and pies..and about a million recipes for banana bread.

I finally decided to go with banana bread, making one loaf of bread and a dozen muffins.  I like to freeze the muffins so I can keep them fresh, pulling one out of the freezer to take to work whenever the mood strikes me.  I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m not the best recipe follower in the world…I’m always replacing things, adding things, whatever.  This particular recipe (http://www.bettycrocker.com/recipes/banana-bread/51427396-6764-4b0a-a73a-78c683c703d2/?p=1) called for 2.5 cups of regular old white flour.  I decided to try to make the recipe a little healthier by replacing some of the white flour with whole wheat flour and reducing the amount of salt by about half.  I thought about adding some applesauce in place of some of the butter, but didn’t have any applesauce (what?  better add that to my shopping list), so used a stick of I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter in place of the regular butter…then totally negated the whole healthier thing by adding a handful of mini chocolate chips

Have you ever noticed that quick breads or muffins don’t really look like much before they’re baked?  And honestly, who in the world first decided to use rotten…I mean, over ripe… bananas in anything that they wanted to eat?  How does that thought process come about?  Did they say to themselves, “Hey, I’m really hungry and all I have left is this bunch of rotten bananas and some flour and eggs…what can I do?  I know, I’ll mash the bananas up and make kind of a cakey bready thing.”  Well, however and whoever, it worked.

They look good and taste good…these will be a great morning snack for work over the next few weeks…and a few chocolate chips never hurt anything.

Successful Kroger shopping trip today

Kroger - 1938 West Gray

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I had to do some grocery shopping today and I was determined to buy healthier foods this week.  I spent about an hour going over the ad and my coupons so I could get the best deals.  I planned what to take to work for my lunches for the week, sort of planned what to have for dinner (smoothies here, soup there…a little more flexible with my dinner).  I printed out my list and my plan to get the multiple $5 off each 10 items in the Mega type sale they had going on at Kroger.

I stopped in the produce section first…holy moly…have you seen how expensive produce is now?  I planned to buy a bell pepper to cut into strips to put on my sandwich for lunch, but decided that $1.39 was more than I was willing to pay.  Ended up buying Romaine lettuce, cucumber, bananas and strawberries.  I had printed out a coupon for the strawberries, but for the life of me, I couldn’t find it anywhere…must be a coupon thief running around somewhere…

I picked up the next few things on my list (including diet Pepsi…yes, I still bought diet Pepsi, even though I know I shouldn’t drink it…one of these days I’ll kick that habit, just not going to be today).  When I got to the pasta aisle, I was a little (okay, a lot) disappointed.  The Ronzoni pasta that I was really going to stock up on was almost completely wiped out.  I had coupons that would have made the pasta free when combined with the sale, so that kind of threw a wrench in my planning.  I was able to get six boxes today, but it made me have to re-think some of my other purchases.  This is what I ended up with…

I ended up picking up the tuna to get my total purchase of the mega sale items up to a multiple of 10 (and therefore get the additional $5 off my total purchase)…and the tuna is something that I can take to work some day when I’m running behind and didn’t prepare my meal the evening before.

I was pretty thrilled to score some freebies

The pasta and tomatoes were free when I combined the sale price with coupons (and I really wanted to get a lot more of the pasta to donate to the food pantry).  The peanuts and Country Crock were my winnings on the Kroger website’s March to Savings game.  The Purex Crystals I won in a giveaway on the Sweeties Freebies blog.

I found some items marked down that I’ll be able to put to good use this summer when I can some pickles.

Both mixes were under fifty cents each, so check it out if you think you might be interested in doing a little canning of your own.

My goal is always to come in under $50 a week…I was just a little over that today.  However, the Lysol cleaner isn’t officially in my grocery budget (I put that in my household, health and beauty budget), so I actually came in a little under $50 for groceries.

Spent $53.26 and saved $57.71, a savings of 52%…no wonder I was consistently spending over $100 a week on groceries before I started couponing.  Now if I can just break the diet Pepsi habit…

I just found out today that the farmers’ market starts next weekend…thank goodness…looking forward to some fresh, locally grown produce…and maybe some lower prices too!

People are sometimes offended when you try to be considerate

Smile 12 a

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Wow…who knew that trying to be nice could cause some people to take offense?  I read something the other day…a person in line waiting to check out overheard the cashier talking to the elderly lady at the front of the line.  Apparently the cashier called the older woman “sweetie” and the person behind the elderly lady took offense at that.  Really?  I mean, honestly, how did the person who found this to be so offensive know whether or not the two knew one another?  Could be the older woman shopped at this store frequently and was a favorite of this cashier.  Why are people so eager to jump to conclusions?  And usually negative ones at that.

I’ve heard so many people complain about someone wishing them a nice day.  Seriously.  How can it possibly be offensive to have someone wish you well?  Okay, so that cashier at the grocery store doesn’t personally know you, but does that necessarily mean she can’t hope you have a nice day?  It’s not like she’s commanding it, she’s simply hoping the rest of your day is pleasant.  Take it in the spirit in which it’s given.  When there are so many awful things happening in the world each day, let someone’s genuine well wishes put a little brightness in your day. 

 And how nice would it be if we’d all treat one another with kindness and respect?  Can you imagine how much easier each day could be?  A simple smile and a pleasant word or two might be all that someone needs to make it through a terrible day.  Every person we come in contact with has a story, or multiple stories.  We may only see a sentence or two of that story, but we can make sure that our little part in another person’s story is positive.  My mom always said you should treat people as you’d like to be treated.  I think that’s something we need in our world now more than ever. 

Smiles are contagious. 

And now, for “the women” I work with who gave me the adorable pink purse…sorry I didn’t mention your names.  I did think about it and was concerned that you all might not want to see your names in my blog.  But now that I know differently, expect  to see yourselves mentioned frequently… Susie, Jean Ann and Diane!!  Be careful what you ask for, girls…I’m always looking for blog topics…

I’m fortunate to work with friends

Birthday

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Today was another work day…a lot to do and not enough people to get it all done.  Stress, headache, feeling like I’ll never get caught up.  Then my whole day got better…three of the women I work with came in to the office just as I was preparing for a conference call.  I couldn’t really figure out what they wanted until I saw the gift bag one of them was holding.  Oh my, how could I have forgotten that tomorrow is my birthday? And how very sweet that they remembered.  They’d gone together to get this for me…

Isn’t it a blessing to work with people who are such good friends that they know exactly what you like?  That they knew I would love this pink purse…love it because it’s pink and because it’s small (I don’t like large purses, never have).  Isn’t it wonderful to work with people who are more than co-workers?  People who are also friends?  I’m blessed in so many ways and so very grateful to work with such sweet, thoughtful people.  Life is good!

The Live Well challenge…day one

Pedometer omron HJ-112 user review

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Had a pretty good start to the Live Well challenge that my company is sponsoring.  Today was the first day…I worked out this morning before I went to work, rode the exercise bike and did core strength training.  Didn’t put my pedometer on until I was leaving for work…managed to get in the 10,000+ steps I needed for the day.  They’re giving away weekly prizes, you get one entry for every day you get in at least 10,000 steps.  There are over 1,600 teams competing in this challenge.  When I entered my steps for the day, our team was in 41st place…I’m hoping the other people I work with remember to record their activities.

Now I’m off to help my health and fitness efforts…I’m actually going to go to bed early tonight.  I’ve had entirely too little sleep the past three nights.  I know I need at least 7 hours of sleep a night to feel good and I’ve only been getting about 5 hours a night.  I’m working hard to regain my fitness and sleep is a big part of that.  I know I can do this!

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