Tuesday, August 20, 2013


This past week we've had plenty of rain and I uncovered several different kind of melons on the vines. Summer is winding down nicely. It appears I have watermelon, cantaloupe, cucumbers and a gourd growing. Just in time for fall!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Still Hungry?

Eight months ago I changed what I eat dramatically. I had tried, unsuccessfully, to make these very changes before on numerous occasions. Maybe it was the resolution of a new year or I was just fed up with the pain, but this time I did it. I cut all diary, added sugars and high glycemic foods from my diet and I haven't looked back.

* I still mention ice cream, cheese and butter online and in this blog; however its all vegan products these days (I still eat meat though).

I have fought the acne battle for nearly two decades and as I approached my thirties I decided enough was enough. Surely, God didn't create my body to withstand red, irritated and painful skin lesions. I had tried this before when I had heard there was a diary > acne connection, but was never able to make any lasting changes. Enter this gem of a book, Feed Your Face by Dr. Jessica Wu.

Dr Wu explains the connection between food and acne and how the old saying "You are what you eat" is true. While their isn't much research available to explain why certain bodies react to certain foods, Dr. Wu gave several excellent hypothesis as to why they might. Since everything she suggested is healthy, and frankly better for my body than what I was feeding it; I used her recommendations to give this diet another try.

I discovered that my regular diet was working against me in so many ways. I tend to eat high glycemic foods (white rice, potatoes, cookies, french fries, pretzels, chips, instant oatmeal, cake, cornflakes, etc) often and then wonder why I was hungry again an hour later. By switching out my high glycemic foods for the low glycemic kind (quinoa, beans, brown rice, chickpeas, lentils, nuts, oranges, etc) I found I was able to stay fuller longer which helped end the 2pm sugar crash. Also, by reading labels I began to select foods with a lower sugar content (read the portion size too) which eliminated the cravings for more sugar and actually amplified the natural flavors in other foods. For example, an orange or a tangerine is now more of a desert food since its super sweet compared to what I normally eat.

I still snack in between meals, but the portion sizes are much smaller and tend to be a handful of almonds or some crackers & homemade hummus. Since I no longer eat diary, I now take those Viactiv vitamins. They are chock full of sugar, but I still need the vitamins and haven't found a sugar-less alternative yet.

My skin is completely clear these days and the scarring from old acne is fading. No more pain or red, irritated skin. Also, I've discovered other results along the way.

An added bonus -

  • I've lost 20 lbs and I'm back to my pre-wedding weight. 
  • Since nothing really fits anymore, I was forced to buy a new wardrobe. Oh, the agony!
  • I have more energy and while I enjoy coffee, I don't actually need it to survive like I use too. 
  • I save money on my grocery bill. Since most of these foods have to be bought whole and prepared (dry beans, chickpeas, lentils, whole wheat flour)
  • My cooking and baking abilities have improved greatly. Again, since most foods are bought whole I had to learn how to prepare them which has been alot of fun. 
  • I've saved lunch money. Since most restuarants and fast food places don't offer alot of options that fit my dietary needs, I prepare my lunches at home and take them with me. 
  • I was pretty heart healthy before, but my cholesterol was slightly higher than it needed to be. I haven't been checked since (I don't like needles & blood work), but I know those levels will be lower at my next appointment. 

While this may not be right for everyone (diary is still good for those bodies that can handle it). I highly recommend trying some of the changes above to improve your overall health. It can be as simple as swapping your white rice out for quinoa or brown rice at lunchtime and not having that 2pm Snickers Bar. I like to add quinoa & sliced almonds to my chicken salad sandwiches. Just one sandwich will last me three hours before I need a small snack.

Also, if you suffer from acne (regardless of age) its worth it to make the dietary changes above. The results are better than what you would get with over the counter medication.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Tomato Slices

Top - Lake Tomato
Bottom - Cherokee Purple (small one)

With a slice of onion and a dash of salt they make the best tomato sandwiches.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Common Ground

I recently joined a writer's critique group in the North Richland Hills area and on my way to the first meeting, I stumbled across a community garden named Common Ground. Since DFW is a fairly large metroplex, I assumed we had community gardens. I have just never actually seen a community garden in person before. I was so impressed!
I stopped by on my way home to look around and hopefully speak with a gardener or two. Since it was 12:45pm and nice 102 outside there wasn't a gardener in sight. So, I grabbed my phone and took a lot of pictures instead.
I discovered that peppers, okra, cantaloupes, watermelon, beans and squash are really popular with other gardeners right now. It was neat to learn that Bell Peppers grow nicely in this heat, especially since I haven't grown them assuming otherwise. I already knew that okra grows amazingly in our summers, but I had no idea how well. Some of the okra plants were the size of large bushes. Also, there was cabbage growing too. 
Every other plot had its own water spigot and check out these water barrels on the back side of the potting shed. Cute! There was a composting area, larger than I've seen before. In fact, the composting area appears to be as large as my yard. I really enjoyed all of the gardening signs and row addresses too.


Later I found Common Ground's website and that they are accepting applications for 2014.
So very tempting.
I realize I have a backyard and plenty of space to garden at home, but I imagine there is this sense of kinship at a community garden that you don't get all by yourself in your backyard. Plus, there is still so much I can learn from other gardeners, new and experienced. If I thought I could drive to NRH once a week, I would sign up now.
Perhaps I'll look for a place closer to home.

Friday, August 9, 2013


We have a bunny living under our grill named Pete. Pete might actually be a lady, with a baby, since we've noticed a mini-Pete from time to time in my beans.
 Pete is afraid of no one. This is him (or her) lounging on my cucumber/melon/gourd patch less than 10 feet from me. He/She typically only moves once your within five feet of him and typically only completes a fake out run where he jumps up, moves a few feet and watches you closely like your not really a threat, but don't get too close.
Your probably thinking we named him after Peter Rabbit, but we actually named him after Pete Wisdom, one of my husband's favorite X-Men.
What cute critters are living in your garden?

Saturday, August 3, 2013

August has arrived.

And with it, the 100 degree temperatures. Not for long though, as they should begin their regular descent to the 90s this month by into the 80s by late September. Yay for Fall!
But not so fast. I've had a great summer with plenty of flowers in bloom, including tomato blossoms (which usually stop mid-June). In fact, I've had enough tomatoes this year to make three gallon size bags of tomato sauce. The last time I bought a jar of Ragu was in May! This summer has truly been a blessing and I've enjoyed actually having tomatoes in the summer....not December. Although, I 'm sure I will still have December tomatoes too.
I've also developed a fond love for my grill, using it for just about every meal I possible can. I've gotten into the habit of preparing pizza crust and side items like beans and rice on the weekends to free up dinner time by throwing something on the grill and heating up the side dishes.

The Cucumber/Melon/Gourd patch is growing quite nicely in this heat. Last month, I came home to discover a nice cucumber that had grown after our week of rain. I picked it a little too early, as most of the inside was not yet developed. The part that was still made a nice cucumber sandwich though.

I recently tried my hand at making hummus and it was delicious. Sadly, I didn't grow any chickpeas this year, so mine where store bought. I'm not sure how homemade hummus connected with pesto in my mind, but it did. My basil took off after all the rain we recently had and its been growing by leaps and bounds ever since. Which is how I arrived at Pesto. I purchased some pine nuts early this week and plan to make my own non-dairy pesto this weekend. I'll let you know how it goes.
Still hoping to get more Zucchini and an actual pumpkin this year. Both plants have taken a beaten from the heat in the past two weeks. I purchase some more Cotton Seed Compost for nutrients and a couple bails of straw to keep them weed free and hold in the moisture.
How is your summer garden growing?

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Garden Bed #4 Update

This bed has done really well this year. It has produced a variety of tomatoes, basil, chives and plenty of weeds. As I was looking back on my blog I realized that many of the plants I said I was going to grow in this bed, didn't actually happen. I had really good intentions, I even made a map of what I had planted. But somehow, I managed to end up with different plants.

All of the plants in this bed are seedlings I grew from seed in my kitchen last January. Starting from the top left we have Chocolate Cherry Tomato, Lake Tomato, Roma Tomato. Bottom: Chocolate Cherry Tomato, Basil, Chives, Cherokee Purple Tomato.

I was attempting to have a more organized and easily identifiable garden this year, however it is always fun to have mix ups and surprises.

Speaking of which, look what popped up in my compost bed (which also hasn't been weeded) -

It looks like some type of squash.

Monday, July 22, 2013

More Sauce

After the rain we got last week, I noticed that some of my tomatoes were beginning to split. So, I harvested all of my Cherokee Purples, Roma, Chocolate Cherry's and what I believe is a Lake Tomato. Also, I had plenty of basil so of course I made some more red sauce. Yum!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Rainy Week

This past week we had what seemed like non-stop rain from Sunday through Thursday, then the sun came back out on my Friday off. All of this rain was great for the garden, the Texas drought situation and it brought temperatures down considerably.
I'm guessing we got at least two inches of rainfall, although it may be much higher than that. As you can see below, we saw quite a bit of rain.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Non-Stop Rain

In North Texas, rain is not common and non-stop rain is a rare, special treat. I realize its only Monday, but it has pretty much been non-stop raining since early Sunday morning and it looks like it could keep going for another day or so.

The temperatures have cooled off, I haven't had to water my garden .... its been nice. This summer is turning out just great.

How has the summer been for you so far ?

Saturday, July 6, 2013

What Kind of Tomato is this ?

I'm attempting to figure out what kind of tomato this is. I haven't grown them before, so I believe its one of the new varieties I purchased this year. I believe they may be Cherokee Purple since they have the dark green shoulders with the deep blush color growing from beneath. Only time will tell and I'm excited to see what they turn out to be.

Thursday, July 4, 2013


Today I spotted my first tomato hornworm of the summer. Judging from his size I think he has been there for a couple of weeks. Now to find his friends....


Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Tomaoto Harvest

I harvested just over 3lbs of Tomatoes this evening. I've already made a tomato sandwich and started some red sauce, the recipe I got from Skippy's Vegetable Garden (scroll to September 22nd). I really enjoy summer.


Thursday, June 27, 2013

Composted Cotton Burrs - RESULTS

Its been less than a month since I applied composted cotton burrs to my tomatoes on the recommendation of a gardening friend and it works!

I've never purchased this type of compost before, but the results are impressive. I was hoping that my tomatoes would double in size by July. They did more than that, they tripled in size.

May 20th 2013 - Standing next to my raised bed the tomatoes reached my knees.

Somewhere in between - Mid Thigh

Somewhere in between - Still growing

June 20th 2013 - The tallest variety now reaches my eyes. 

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

First Tomatoes

I enjoyed my first tomato of the season last Thursday! Finally, a tomato in the summer - this is a garden first for me!!!

A friend of mine had text me a picture of her first tomato on Tuesday, it looked like a pineapple I had shared with her earlier this spring. Due to the lack of time I've had to spend in the garden, I didn't realize that I had my first tomato just waiting for me.

What makes it even more special is that I grew this variety from seed and it beat the early girl variety that I purchased when I thought I might have missed my window. There is plenty more growing and I expect a big harvest over the next couple of weeks.

How are your tomatoes growing? I want to hear from you - what has worked in your garden....what hasn't ?