Pansies & Tulips

Remember those pansies with the tulips planted under them? Well, here they are, with the tulips blooming above them. These red tulips are particularly gorgeous, and I love the way the bright red and yellow look together. It looks like this experiment was a success!

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Getting Ready For Spring

It may still be winter, and it is definitely still cold, but there are a few signs of life starting to emerge from the recently frosty ground.

Crocus are one of the first flowers to appear at the end of winter. Here is a bright yellow one, defying the dead brown around it.

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The hyacinths are just starting to sprout out. Before too long, these will show delightfully fragrant deep blue blooms.

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Tulips are starting to show up, too. There are lots of bulbs down there, so hopefully there will be a good spring show.

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Buttercups are always early risers. They are quite cold-hardy, so even if there is more cold weather to come, they should be fine.

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While I can’t deny that a large part of the carpet of leaves covering these flower beds is from my own idleness, it’s not an entirely bad thing. This winter was so cold that it easily could have killed some of the plants back. Fortunately, these hydrangeas were protected somewhat by the leaves covering them. We’ll see if they bloom this year; a really cold winter can wreck their blossoms for a season, even if the plant isn’t killed.

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Here is an experiment: there are tulips planted underneath the pansies in this pot. You can see them peeking out. Hopefully, there will be bright tulips above the pansies soon!

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I  hope you’ve enjoyed seeing the first bits of spring venturing out of the ground. It’s nice to think about the season changing after our unusually cold winter! I’ll be looking forward to showing more plant life when it is really spring!

 

Microwave Stuffed Potato

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When you need something quick to eat, but don’t want a sandwich, leftovers, or takeout, a baked potato can be the perfect solution. You can cook one quickly in the microwave, then add whatever toppings you like to change it up.

Just wash your potato, preferably with a plastic scrubber to make sure you get the dirt off, then poke it with a fork. This keeps the potato from exploding in the microwave. (It is also a good way to take out your pent-up aggression or stress from the day). Wrap it in a paper towel and put it in the microwave. The cook time will vary based on you microwave and the size of the potato. I usually start at about three minutes and add from there if I need to. You can test it by giving it a squeeze to see if it is squishy yet. When it is, wrap it in a piece of aluminum foil. This will keep it hot and keep cooking it until you are ready to eat it.

Next comes the fun part: toppings! My go-tos are butter, sour cream, cheddar cheese, sea salt, pepper, and bacon. This time, I used lower cholesterol butter (butter mixed with canola spread) and Greek yogurt instead of the regular butter and sour cream. I also switched out barbecue for the bacon. We had some left over in the freezer from a butt roast we got from a fundraiser. As long as it’s for charity, right? Besides, it is Tennessee, and we are known for our barbecue, after all. It’s the right thing to do!

I put a little Frank’s RedHot Kickin’ BBQ Sauce on the meat. If you haven’t tried it before, Frank’s Hot Sauce is delicious, and they make varieties for buffalo wings and barbecue that I really like.

If you’d rather enjoy bacon on your stuffed potato, the easiest way to cook it is in the oven with a piece of aluminum foil between it and the sheet, dish, or pan you’re using. That way, your clean up is as simple as dropping the aluminum foil in the trash – no need to battle with bacon grease!

I’ll go ahead and throw this out there: stuffed potatoes are not healthy by nature. However, there are things you can do to make it healthier (or perhaps less unhealthy). For example, I substituted Greek yogurt for the sour cream that is so common. It gives a nice tanginess and moistens the potato, as does the sour cream it replaces. The good news is that the Greek yogurt is healthy, so you can use as much as you want, and not feel bad about the butter and cheese. You can of course leave the meat off, which takes out a lot of the unhealthy parts – it also makes it vegetarian. I actually do that a lot when I make a baked potato. Not only is it better for you, it’s often less trouble! I usually cut way back on the toppings if I’m just having a potato as a side, but when it’s a la carte, it’s delicious to go all out!

The Grapefruit Diet

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My definition of “the grapefruit diet” is pretty simple: When you feel the urge to snack, instead of going for cookies, candy, potato chips, or other unhealthy go-tos, slice a grapefruit in half.

Take your half a grapefruit, put it in a bowl, and dust the top with a little sugar. I have the incredibly helpful grapefruit spoon, which is serrated around the end to help scoop out the grapefruit sections. You can also use a knife to cut out the white core in the center to make it easier to get them out.

Grapefruit really is fulfilling for all of the senses. The deep pink fruit is as appealing to the eyes as the sent and taste are to the nose and mouth, and the thin layer of sugar crunches satisfyingly between the teeth (and adds just enough sweetness to the natural tart flavor to stave off those sweet cravings!).

When you have your first half, you can just wrap the second one in cling wrap and set it aside in the refrigerator for later.

So pick up some grapefruit at the grocery store now, while they’re in season. You won’t regret giving this healthy snack alternative a try!

Snow Day

When you get snow predictions in Tennessee, it’s usually best to take them with a grain of salt. Typically, we get a tiny dusting, with a big snow every few years, like the foot we got a couple of years ago. This is what our snows tend to look like. This is what our snow looked like at about noon yesterday.

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Though most of what I saw was just falling and immediately melting, it was sticking in a few places.

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I thought that was all of the snow I was going to see, but I was wrong. It kept on snowing, and later that afternoon, this is what it looked like:

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Big flakes came down for most of the day. If it had been colder before then, we might have had a foot again! As it was, we got a good show, but it didn’t stay around long. This morning, it was already melting away. Oh well. It was fun while it lasted!

A Visit from Jack Frost

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The weather has been quite the roller coaster ride recently, with temperatures falling down into the teens one day and soaring up to nearly sixty the next. The other morning, I saw this frosty artwork on a car. The patterns that mother nature (or in this case, Jack Frost) produces can be truly stunning.

Midnight Rendevous

As I was lying in my bed, about to go to sleep, I heard a rustling somewhere in my room. I froze, the first thought in my head being, “Oh no, a rat!” I have a great fear of a rat jumping on me in my sleep, despite this never having actually happened, in fact never even coming close to happening. I turned on my light, and the rustling sound stopped. After a moment, I turned the light back off, thinking that it was most likely just some sound from outside, or from the air turning on and moving a sack or something. However, when the light went back off, the sound started up again. I turned the light back on, and it stopped.

After going back and forth with the light on and off for a while, I decided to just work up my courage and investigate. I turned the light on. I cautiously put my feet on the floor and tiptoed over to the corner that the sound was coming from.

I discovered that I wasn’t imagining things, and the sound wasn’t coming from outside.

I saw the culprit.

20131020-221856.jpgSomehow, this frog got into the house and upstairs into my room. He was jumping against the closed door, trying to find a way out. I obliged by opening the door for him, but my presence apparently frightened him, because he ran (or, I suppose, hopped) into the corner. I stood staring at him in confusion for a minute, then recognized the fact that I needed to catch him and put him back outside. At this point, he started running up the wall.

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I tried to shoo him onto a box below him, but then he jumped over to the door! When I tried to catch him over there, he jumped back to the wall.

He managed to run all the way up the door and perch on the top.

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He seemed pretty happy there, so I decided to just leave him to his own devices. It’s not like he was a rat or something.

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