The Majestic Marigold

Welcome to my garden. Like other city dwellers, I have a very small space to work. Consequently when plants die, it’s a great loss. Last fall I planted marigolds. My mom is a terrific gardener and told me they are easy to grow. I agree. However, the stems become woody and their fresh green leaves fade after awhile.

Since Florida experiences a year round growing season, I replace my flowers every few months. But something different happened this spring. During March we had a few cold snaps. I didn’t want to replant my garden, so I let it go. By the time I took a closer look, I noticed the weeds were taking over. “Wait a minute,” I thought. “Those aren’t weeds. The leaves look like marigold plants.” The dead blooms from the parent plants fell to the ground and new marigold seedlings were starting to grow. I ran in the house to tell my husband, “Honey, we have a second generation of flowers out here!”

IMG_E3321

Check out these interesting facts about marigolds:

Marigolds are versatile.  They like full sun and hot days. They need little care. Water them twice a week and they’ll do great. Dead head the spent blossoms and the plant will produce more blooms. You can save the spent blossoms and replant your next crop. They are perfect for Florida gardeners who replant often.

Marigolds are good companion plants.  I don’t mean for people, I mean for other plants. They actually repel pests like beetles and snails. (And I’ve fought many battles with snails.) If planted as a border for your garden, their aroma discourages rabbits and deer from eating vegetables.

Marigolds are edible.  This was new information for me. Hybrid varieties can be added to salads, teas, stir fries, soups, and any dish that needs color.  If you have ever tasted one, let me know. I’m a little hesitant.

Marigolds can be used to make dye for cloth.

Marigolds were named after the Virgin Mary. Native to the Americas, the plant was treasured by Aztecs for its medicinal value. Spanish explorers brought them back to Europe and referred to them as “Mary’s Gold.”

I didn’t know marigolds were so valuable. Long live marigolds! I spread more of the seeds from the parent plants on the soil in my garden and they took root. As they grew I removed some of the parents and replaced them with seedlings.  Now there are only three parent plants. They rest of the bed is new growth. Have you ever stumbled onto an exciting discovery by accident? Leave a comment and let me know.

One Beagle’s Battle with Degenerative Disk Disease

If you’ve followed my blog during the past year, you know I like to travel.  This month my main trips have been to the veterinarian’s office.  The four-footed furry member of our team, experienced a set back in his health, forcing him to be on medical leave.

On our most recent camping trip, Buddy, our beagle, couldn’t seem to get comfortable. He paced, shivered, and whined. Buddy suffers with degenerative disk disease. On occasion he struggles with pain in his back. We phoned our vet, who advised us how to handle the present emergency. Fortunately, we brought along some medication to relieve his pain. Can you believe we actually carry a first aid kit for our dog? We administered the medication, but decided to come home early in case his condition worsened.

The next day Buddy improved. The combination of pain medication and steroids halted what might have been another terrible event.  In 2013, one of Buddy’s disks ruptured, resulting in paralysis of his hind legs. Click on the “buddy’s world” tab above for details.

We scheduled a follow-up appointment for Buddy with Dr. Enrique Duprey of the Corrine Drive Animal Hospital. The two of them have an understanding. Buddy strikes a cute pose and stares at Dr. Duprey. Few can resist Buddy’s beguiling brown eyes. Buddy knows his cuteness pays off in treats. On this visit Dr. Duprey offered more than treats. He offered laser treatments.

Low-level laser therapy is a relatively new concept being used to treat dogs with arthritis and degenerative disk disease. This illness is fairly common in long-bodied dogs. The treatments use light to stimulate cell regeneration, reduce inflamation, and increase blood circulation. For almost four years after his surgery and recovery, Buddy got along very well. His recent pain episode indicates the disease is still present.

A typical treatment session lasts ten to fifteen minutes. Buddy wears special dark goggles to protect his eyes. I’ve been told the laser feels good to the dogs. Buddy hasn’t complained. If laser therapy reduces his need for medication and prevents another ruptured back disk, we’re all for it. Right now he’s receiving two treatments a week. If he continues to do well, the treatments will be decreased to once a month. He’s had eight treatments so far. Buddy enjoys all the special attention he receives from the technicians at the animal hospital. He’s the coolest beagle in Orlando.

IMG_4443 (2)

Looking back, we’re not sorry we share our home and our lives with Buddy. Beagles give more than they take. Buddy is charming and congenial.  He’s a great companion. Relatively calm, Buddy’s not a nuisance barker, but he’ll let us know if cats or other visitors are near. Then he omits a loud baying sound heard for blocks. Out on a hike Buddy is attuned to the smells and sounds of the woods, a part of his hunting heritage.

IMG_9524

IMG_4628

 

If you’ve experienced medical issues with a pet, or if you are simply crazy about beagles, leave a comment. I’d like to hear your story.

 

 

The Case of the Green Bean Casserole Revisited

Thanksgiving is just around the corner. Will green bean casserole appear at your feast  this year? Some families are divided over politics, but ours is divided over green bean casserole. See my previous post on this topic from November of 2016.

How did green bean casserole become a Thanksgiving mainstay? I don’t think the Pilgrims hiked to their local Publix for a can of mushroom soup. And what do FRENCH fried onion rings have to do with our all-American holiday?

I discovered the original green bean casserole was created by none other than the Campbell Soup Company in 1955. During the 1950’s casseroles ruled in most suburban American kitchens. Campbell’s was inspired to create a quick and easy recipe around two ingredients that most Americans had on hand, greens beans and mushroom soup. Dorcas Reilly, a home economist who worked for Campbell’s, added the French fried onions for a festive touch. GBC became the “go to” for everyone’s Thanksgiving feast. Today, sixty-two years later, we still celebrate Dorcas Reilly’s achievement.

I decided to make things easy on myself this year and place an order for our Thanksgiving feast with my local Publix. For the record, green bean casserole can be purchased from the deli. And for those who need an alternative side, sweet potato casserole is also available. I am thankful.

 

 

The Attack of the Killer Snails

Recently I planted twenty pretty pink vincas.  Since the summer rains returned to Orlando, I thought my new flowers would do well. Little did I know the rain activated a hungry army of garden snails. When my trowel scraped through the soft soil it was like a dinner bell announcing, “Come and get it. Dinner is served.”

IMG_9704

Snails like to feast on plants during the dark of night. When morning arrives they take cover under the soil. The day after I planted the flowers I noticed some sawed off leaves lying near the base of several stems.  Oh no, I thought.  How can I stop the snails from destroying my garden?

I remember the snail war of 2015. That year I introduced a successful tactical weapon.  SNAIL BAIT!  I don’t like to use snail bait because of our beagle. Although the label on the package explained the product was safe for pets, Buddy nibbled on some of the pellets and became ill. At the time I was so scared I made an appointment for Buddy to be examined by our vet.  Upon receiving the results of his blood test, the doctor informed me Buddy was alright. However, he suggested I discontinue the use of snail bait in my garden.

Back to the battle at hand. My mom suggested I put broken eggshells around each plant. The snails hate walking on the sharp edges, and leave. I ate two eggs for lunch to build up my artillery.  Still, two eggshells couldn’t begin to defend twenty plants.  An avid gardener herself, Mom sympathized and donated a few more eggshells to the war cause.

My brother offered another idea. “How about fireplace ashes? I heard they keep slugs away, maybe they’ll work for snails.” I liked his idea because I still had some ashes in our patio fireplace that we burned last winter.   Besides, I didn’t really want to eat more eggs. I carefully ringed each plant with ashes to build up my fortifications before another nighttime attack would ensue.

The next morning I rushed out to the patio to check on my plants. Let’s put it this way. If I was keeping score it would be Snails: three / Debra: seventeen. (Remember, I started with twenty.) Sadly, I carried three vinca casualties off the battlefield.

Desperate, I sought advice from the internet. When I searched “snails” a number of links came up. I watched a YouTube video which explained how to harvest garden snails and eat them. Yuck! In the video a man gathered the snails and boiled them in beer. Then he removed the shells and sautéed them in garlic butter. I want to kill my enemies, but I don’t want to eat them.

During my research I learned snails breathe air. If sealed in a zip lock bag the snails will suffocate. That’s a good plan as long as a person can get up early enough to pick the slimy pests off the plants before they retreat into their underground tunnels for the day.

I’d also heard of setting out little saucers of beer to drown the snails. That idea seemed hit or miss. With my luck the snails would feast on the flowers before they belly up to the bar! All of these methods took too much time.  I wanted a solution now.

Yep, you guessed it. I chose the nuclear option. I drove to Home Depot for a box of snail bait and quickly placed the pellets around each suffering vinca before nightfall. The box was labeled non toxic and safe for wildlife. The snails eat the bait, stop feeding on the plants, and crawl away to die.

But what about Buddy?  Suddenly  I realized  I could keep our dog away by fencing the area.  I used our patio furniture to build a fence around the bed and filled in the openings with pots. Someone once said, “necessity is the mother of invention.”

IMG_9728

This morning I surveyed my brave vinca troops. Snails: zero /  Debra: seventeen.

 

BOGO Banter

I like BOGOs.  Every Thursday morning I drop by my neighborhood Publix grocery and pick up their ad.  After lunch  I plan my weekly menu around their special promotions.  Then I check through my coupons to see if something matches a BOGO. On my shopping list, I star those items.  Before leaving for the store, I check my pantry to make sure I don’t already have two or three of any items on my list. This is a very important step. I don’t want to buy two more jars of pickle relish if I have four.  (I had to learn this the hard way!)

Once inside the store, I read the expiration dates on the BOGOs I might not use quickly. For example, mayonnaise isn’t much of a fast mover at our house. On the other hand, cookies disappear quickly.  Meats like chicken, bacon, and hot dogs can be frozen for later use. Canned goods have a long shelf life.  One product I know I will always use is Multi-Grain Cheerios. It’s a healthy, low-calorie cereal that is almost always on sale. I’m ecstatic if dog food is a BOGO. Might as well stock up for the family pet.

BOGOs encourage me to experiment with new foods. Sometimes it’s kind of scary to purchase two of something you’ve never tasted. This year I’ve been introduced to Califia Farms creamers, and Good Thins crackers. If this is a ploy to interest customers in new products, they caught me. Only once did I buy something I didn’t like, and my brother was happy to take it off my hands. In addition, some Publix brand products taste comparable to name brands. Recently I discovered the store brand healthy request soups taste comparable to Campbells.

I reached a shopping zenith during the week of Memorial Day. Between BOGOs and coupons I saved $81.09. I was absolutely giddy as I inserted my credit card into the payment kiosk.  On my way out the door I flaunted my receipt to the assistant manager. He looked surprised, but smiled and congratulated me. He probably thought I was bordering fanaticism.

I’ll admit I don’t always save as much as I did on May 28,  but I’m succeeding to hold my own as food prices rise. Some people say they pay less for food elsewhere, but do they enjoy the experience of shopping as much?  Is the store clean? Is customer service offered?  I appreciate someone ringing up and bagging my groceries. I enjoy chatting with the young people who help me load the car.  Forgive me if I sound like a commercial, but Publix has spoiled me. It’s the store where “shopping is a pleasure.”

 

 

Maybe Less Really is More

Somehow I convinced myself I needed a new chair. Did it matter we already have fifteen chairs in the house? Not at all. None of them seemed to suit me anymore. I wanted an easy chair which would give me more back support. I also wanted to be able to elevate my feet. I’m short, and the two big recliners in our family room do not fit me well.

I discussed my dilemma with my husband, Herb. He understood and agreed, but with one condition. Herb wanted me to be “sure” I found the chair comfortable before  the purchase was made.  After all, I was “sure” about the recliners we purchased two years ago.

That’s hard  to determine. How can I know about a chair unless I sit in it for awhile? I wondered how the furniture sales people would react if I brought a book and sat in their showroom for an afternoon.

“I’m just going to look around,” I said as I grabbed my purse and drove off to the nearest Memorial  Day home sale. Believe it or not the store had what I wanted. A comfy easy chair and ottoman which coordinated with the style of our sofa. I called Herb and asked him to meet me in the showroom with a pillow from our sofa so we could match the colors. The salesman informed us we would need to special order the set since we wanted a color change. The order would take about four weeks to fill. With additional charges for a fabric protector and delivery, Herb and I knew we were looking at a major purchase. And did I mention the chair was not on sale?

When I looked at Herb’s face something told me to wait.  I remembered the mistake we almost made about the purchase of our camper. I politely told the salesman I needed more time to think.

The next day our son came to visit. I told him I thought I needed a chair. He looked around the room and said, “I think you have too much furniture in here now. Why don’t you get rid of the coffee table?” The funny thing is I agreed with him. After we carried the table out to the garage, I rearranged the remaining furniture. Now I could place the ottoman from our existing recliner near the sofa. Did I mention I’ve always been comfortable sitting on the sofa? Shazaam! Now I can sit on the sofa and elevate my feet! My furniture dilemma was solved.

I can’t help but get philosophical about this. How many other times have I thought I needed something and ran out to buy it without really thinking? I am not a minimalist, by any means, but I want to be more deliberate about the purchases I make.  I recently watched a documentary about minimalism.  Minimalists rid themselves of excess possessions in order to focus on what’s important. I didn’t need another chair. I needed a different way of arranging my furniture.

Rearranging the furniture also opened possibilities for other changes in the room. I found an accent table, a candle holder, and a picture in an upstairs bedroom.  Voila! I created a new look out of things I already owned.

Anyone need a coffee table?

The Case of the Green Bean Casserole

img_8118How did green bean casserole become part of our traditional Thanksgiving feast? I’m pretty sure the Pilgrims and Indians didn’t have it on their table. And what do French fried onion rings have to do with an all-American holiday?

I don’t really like green bean casserole. In the past I’ve tried to swap it out with a different vegetable dish. After all, I’m the menu planner, shopper, and cook at our house. I have rights, too. During the month of November grocery ads feature new recipes to make the perfect holiday meal. I’m usually pretty adventurous about trying new recipes, but hesitate to risk springing something new on my critics. Still, I discussed the possibility of change with my son.

“Why is green bean casserole on the chopping block?” he cried. “Can’t you get rid of something else?”

I relented. After all, the thought of disappointing my family on Thanksgiving Day over- ruled my own needs. Still, there was the additional matter of another ingredient in this dish, the mushroom soup.

My daughter hates mushrooms. For the past two Thanksgivings I modified the casserole by making it with cream of chicken soup, cheese, water chestnuts, and of course the onion rings. I did it to make her happy. Everybody had a spoonful to be polite, but as a leftover, it simply never disappeared.  I decided to call my daughter.

“Honey, the green bean casserole with mushroom soup is in high demand over here. We need to make some trade-offs this year.  Can I prepare sweet potato casserole with mini marshmallows for you?”

“Sure Mom,” she responded. “How about throwing in one of your cheese balls as an appetizer?”

“OK, no problem. See you soon.” After I hung up the phone I felt like I had just brokered a peace agreement between two countries.

My menu was taking shape. Although I purchased the turkey the week before, I still had to buy the sides. I made my list. At the top I wrote in big letters:

REMEMBER TO MAKE THINGS EASY ON YOURSELF!

After cooking thirty-five Thanksgiving meals, I know how stressful this holiday can be. I suffer from my own past successes. Achievers always feel the need to at least live up to their own expectations. Still, I am starting to tire of myself.

Before I walked out the door to Publix, my brother called.

“Anything I can do to help with the meal this year?” he asked.

“How about bringing some pre-made mashed potatoes?” I responded. “And a can of cranberry sauce.”

“You got it,” he replied.

I smiled to myself. That’s the change. I will not stand at the sink peeling potatoes this year. I am thankful for microwaves.

As we gathered around our Thanksgiving table, we gave thanks to God for our many blessings, including the green bean casserole.

img_7814-2