Category Archives: Uncategorized

Hardy Souls Can Still Garden in July

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Florida summer gardening is intense. You have to be out early in the morning or late in the evening to escape some of the heat. Afternoon showers can help cool the air a bit, but my summer gardening is quite small this year.

The “hardy souls” of the title doesn’t really apply to me this season. There are a few bright spots, though.

Black eyed Susans are a bright spot of color- mine need to be deadheaded.

Pink zinnia

The zinnias are lovely.

Eggplants take the heat with glee.

Isn’t that one pretty? ‘Rosa Bianca’ is such a elegant variety.

Matt's Wild Cherry Tomato

I planted some Matt’s Wild Cherry tomatoes, and the first ones are ripening. Their flavor is amazing- a really rich tomato flavor.

Cherry tomatoes can go through the summer better than beefsteak or Roma tomatoes, or at least that has been the case for me.

Malabar spinach pictureMalabar spinach is new to me this year. I’m waiting for it to really grow; it’s supposed to do well in summer.

Mint is reaching out for the sunshine. I like it in Mint Iced Tea.

Compost pile with flowers

Summer is a great time to compost. Grass clippings are wonderful for heating up your compost pile and helping you stock up for a fall garden.

I really have not done as much in the garden as I did last year. My okra was a bust.

I’ve been canning though, and figs will hopefully be my next project. 

I’ve been doing a little cake decorating too, and hope to share some advice for using Russian icing tips soon. 

How’s your garden? Growing anything new?

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From Train Wreck to Horror Movie: The Saga of My Face

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WARNING: If you cannot handle pictures of gross peeling skin, you should not read this post nor consider a medical career.

At first, people asked me if I got a sunburn or if I was having an allergic reaction. There was also the classic, “What happened to your face?!” This question was often accompanied by varying looks of horror and amazement.

Days 14 and 15 ( the last day and the first day of healing) I had some stinging and irritation. A friend mentioned coconut oil to me.

I am not a coconut oil fanatic, but I did have a bit languishing in the back of my pantry. I tried a bit on my chin first and felt almost instant relief. I spread it all over my face and was so grateful for the reprieve.

Days 18 and 19 were the worst. Day 18 I woke up to a face that was really stiff. It hurt to eat, talk, laugh. Those two days I struggled with fatigue and discouragement.

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Day 19 was the worst day of all. I woke up to a very scary face that was extraordinarily stiff, dry, cracking, peeling, and painful.

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I globbed petroleum jelly on it. That made it feel better, but it looked really gross as you can see in the above picture.

I took some acetaminophen. The skin softened and it didn’t hurt so much, until it did. I took another about 4 hours later.

Now my face hurt when I talked and was shiny with either petroleum jelly(for stiffness) or coconut oil(for itching or irritation). I was tired too. Opening my mouth to eat was painful, as was chewing.

Day 19 was the day I cried.

I felt guilty for feeling sorry for myself, knowing that there are so many others who have it far worse, are dealing with more serious conditions, and so there was crying and then guilt for crying.

I had been able to handle the hideousness of it, was prepared for the looks and tactless comments, but that day especially was rough.

I took pictures, but didn’t know if I would ever share them. My face was gross. I looked diseased.

I regretted every beach trip, every car wash without sunscreen; this was what my vanity had gotten me. I had nobody to blame but myself. My mom had warned me, my fair-skinned aunt had encouraged me to care of my skin, sunscreen had been available to me, but I had stubbornly persisted in my quest for a tan.

My dermatologist’s nurse called me back on Day 19. She reassured me that the brown drying skin was normal, the pain was normal, and that she would put some face cream samples(Biafine) at the front desk for me.

I was started to gently rub off the petroleum jelly-softened skin. I’m not sure if I was supposed to do that, but taking a soft warm wet washcloth and very softly rubbing off some of the nastiness felt so good to my face.

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I was careful to remove what came off easily, and I started feeling relief from the stiffness. I looked marginally better too. I think that as the dead areas dried, they stiffened, causing additional discomfort and itching.

Once the brown crusty skin was being removed, the new red skin underneath was seen.  Now I was going back to looking like a sunburned person, rather than a quarantine candidate.

Day 20 was better, and I began to see improvement. I wasn’t waking up and and wondering what new horrors I was going to see; I was eager to see what improvement had occurred during the night.

If I have to do the fluorouracil treatment again, this is what I want to remember:

Use Coconut oil for itching and irritation, Vaseline for stiffness and dryness.

Use Coconut oil for itching and irritation, Vaseline for stiffness and dryness.

Use Coconut oil for itching and irritation, Vaseline for stiffness and dryness.

I alternated those two during the healing phase, depending on my most pressing discomfort. I added the Biafine the last few days, sometimes dabbing it on because rubbing it in on some parts just hurt too much. The Biafine seemed to help my face stay soft through the night too.

I’m no fashionista, but I do have some cosmetic tips for the treatment and healing phases. 🙂

  1. Always wear a shade of lipstick darker that your spots.
  2. You can wear some powder at the beginning to extend your “normal” appearance.
  3. Mascara, eyeliner, and eye shadow may draw some attention from your face. Be sure to gently powder under your eyes so your mascara doesn’t get dissolved by whatever you’re using to soften your face.
  4. Avoid wearing pink or red near your face, as that seems to draw more attention to the redness.
  5. No matter what you do, people will look and stare and utter tactless comments. Remember you will not always look this way. I knew these types of comments would come and that I would look pretty bad, so the comments didn’t really bother me.

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The healing is almost complete now.

I applied the cream for 14 days, and it took about 14 days to return to looking human again. The original 4 spots that concerned me are still a bit pink to me, but they are the same texture as the rest of my skin, not rough and sensitive as they had been. I think they were thicker than the other spots, and so the new skin is deeper and newer.

I share my story and experience so that if I have to do this treatment again, I can look back at what worked for me, what was normal, and to give myself hope that I will recover.

I also know that many of my readers may need to visit a dermatologist. I figured I would have to go at some point, but I didn’t think I had been out in the sun enough to cause much damage, but if I had, I figured I wouldn’t have problems for another 20 years. It was my makeup that sent me to a dermatologist; maybe my story will be what turns your nagging suspicions into reluctant action.

If you have rough sensitive pink spots, please go. It is my dermatologist’s hope (and mine!) that doing this treatment has prevented those spots from turning into something worse.

Waiting will not make the answer better.

I am still going to enjoy my garden, and work on reclaiming it from the neglect of the past few weeks, but this time I will be much more cognizant of my sun exposure. If I’m not working in the shade, I need to be wearing SPF 30 or higher and a hat.

I’ll let you in on some of my summer garden plans soon, but for now I’m enjoying getting my face back.

DISCLAIMER: I am not a medical professional at all, so follow the advice of your doctor or dermatologist, not the advice of some random lady you found on the internet(me)!

Sneaking out to the Garden

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Let’s look at something besides my face, shall we?

It still hurts pretty bad from the Fluorouricil cream and its effects, but I can’t complain. I have a friend currently having treatment for melanoma.

There’s a difference between a face that hurts when it smiles and a smile that is hurting.

I have had a great year with my zucchini already. Usually I get about 4 squash, then the squash vine borers arrive to kill the plants. I planted black zucchini (I still think they look green) and they have done so well.

The cherry tomatoes are starting to ripen, and I have been pleased with the ‘Tendergreen’ beans. They’re one of my new favorites.

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In  North Florida, the blackberries are ripe! I been foraging twice and have made some jam. You should go look for some too. I saw a 12 oz package of blackberries for $5.99 yesterday!!

Granted, the ones I found are much smaller, but you can’t beat the price!

I’ve had to do my picking and gardening in the shade because of the treatment for my pre-skin cancer spots, but I feel so much better some time in the garden.

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I think today might be a good day to make some chocolate zucchini bread.

I have some more gardening tips and ideas for you, especially if your daikon radishes are still bolting. If the seedpods have already dried, you can save the seeds like a ninja! I have harvested my potatoes, so also look for a post on how to harvest a small crop of potatoes.

Congratulations to all the graduates out there- I made a homemade chocolate cake with mocha frosting and coral peonies- pictures of that coming soon too.

I hope you get to go outside and do some gardening, but please wear a hat and sunscreen!

 

My Face is Like a Train Wreck…

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You just. can’t. stop. looking. at. it.

You know it’s bad when your dermatologist jumps and says “Whoa!” when she comes in to see you.DSCN7642

It has been an eye-opener (literally and figuratively) to see how much damage I have.

For those of you who may be wondering how my follow-up appointment went, my dermatologist recovered from her initial shock, told me that the treatment had gone well, and that hopefully treating the precancer spots now will prevent them from turning into something worse later.

Many have been supportive, sharing stories of when they or somebody they knew had to do this treatment.

There have been others caught staring.

“What are you looking at?”

“It’s just scary,” said my dear husband.

“Scary?!”

He clarified, “It’s just scary that all that has been there and we didn’t even know it.”

Nice save, dear. Nice save.

Seriously though, he has been very supportive and it has actually got him thinking about getting checked. If you’re reading this, and you have pink patches that just won’t go away, or spots that are concerning you, I hope you get an appointment. It probably won’t cost as much as you think, and it may help prevent something worse.

I love to garden, but my gardening hat has not been used nearly as much as it should. I am so much more conscious of sun damage now, and I hope sharing my experience will help others.

To read more about how I decided to go to the dermatologist, you can read How my Makeup Sent Me to the Dermatolgist and Turned Me into a Vampire.

Florida sun is harsh. Wear a hat!

This is Why You Grow Fresh Herbs

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Per pound, fresh herbs are some of the most expensive items in a produce department. However, what would spaghetti be without basil and oregano? Salsa without cilantro? Refrigerator pickles without dill?

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If you have ever had one of those with fresh herbs, I’m sure you recognized the difference immediately. Once I enjoyed fresh parsley over classic spaghetti and meatballs, I found it hard to go without it the next time.

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Ahh…fresh herbed dipping oil. Gotta love the smell of sun-warmed basil.

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It’s handy to step outside for fresh chives to sprinkle over a simple baked potato.

Of course, we look forward to the taste of the first homemade pickles of the year, perhaps even more than we so for those first tomatoes.

If you have never made pickles, you have got to try this recipe for Amazing Refrigerator Pickles!! If you can make potato salad, you can make these pickles.

What’s your favorite herb to grow?

 

I think I’m allergic to Mondays.

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How was your Monday? Awesome, I’m sure. Aren’t all Mondays?

I’ve actually been sneezing since this morning, despite allergy meds.

I played outside anyway, sneezing and sniffing.

I had this idea for my blog title today, “The Last Radishes  the First Tomato Flower” and it was going to be about how my garden was transitioning from fall/winter yada yada yada…

It looks like an even worse idea in print.

Plus, my radish pictures are garbage.

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Oh, and that tomato flower? It’s sadly out of focus. It was a great idea, but…

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On the bright side, the bolting turnips are so energetic and friendly.

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Ah, finally. A decent shot. It’s a baby cucumber! I am so eager to make some more Amazing Refrigerator Dill Pickles!.

if I had to choose between growing tomatoes or cucumbers, I’d pick cucumbers just because of those pickles.

It’s hard to be glooomy in a garden. It’s not my garden that was having a Monday, it was me. Actually, it was my camera skills. They are…hmm. Not quite sure how to describe them.

I do have some decent jam pictures. The photos from my Blueberry Peach jam Recipe are pretty good, for me at least.

So, day is done and I am thankful for my family to love, strength to putter in the garden, and sunshine to chase away the gray.

Thankful that Monday is not every day.

 

Puttering Around in the Garden

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The daikon radishes have gone to seed, but I don’t mind. Looking up from weeding and peering at the corner of my garden through this veil of blossoms doesn’t bother me one bit. I may not get any radishes, but these flowers are not a disappointment. I hope to be saving seed from them soon.

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The pac choi is bolting too, in a blazing yellow haze. I hope that they will draw many early pollinators to my garden. I am hoping for great things from my black zucchini.

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Tomatoes can be a bit of a booger to grow in North Florida, but that doesn’t keep me from hoping. This year I’m growing Roma, ‘Super Sweet 100’, red beefsteak, and yellow grape.

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My alyssum that I started from seed has finally started to bloom. These are blooming among what I think are kohlrabi in my flower bed. I’m hoping to save seed from these and my Johhny Jump Ups.

Cosmos are popping up from seeds scattered last year, and cleome should be making its appearance soon.

It is a wonderful time of growth.

If you are thinking of planting some seeds, dividing perennials, or redoing your landscaping, this is a great time!

Who has a good kumquat recipe?

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I took an extra loop on my walk the other day, and it yielded an unexpected benefit. I noticed that a neighbor had loaded kumquat trees! I wondered if she was interested in exchanging some kumquats for some kumquat marmalade.

When I went back to ask for some, she was so excited that she offered to help me pick them!

Within a few minutes we had harvested about two gallons of the perfectly ripe fresh kumquats.

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I have had kumquats and strawberries in various stages of cooking, soaking, and macerating over the past few days. I can eat maybe 5 plain at a time. They are delicious, but not something that I can just sit and eat in one sitting, like say, grapes. I need serving suggestions.

Here’s what I’ve got so far.

1. Kumquat Marmalade

2. Strawberry Kumquat Marmalade

3. Candied Kumquats

4. Cinnamon Kumquats from the Ball book

5. A strawberry kumquat-ade type drink(definitely need a better name for it!)

6. Kumquat Preserves

How do you like to eat kumquats? What we would do you do with so many kumquats? I may go take her up on her offer to go back and get more, but I want to make good use of what I have, and not waste these delicious little fruits.

I know I have some creative and resourceful readers- what are your ideas?

Crisis averted, everybody! I’m reading about chickens this week.

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I really wanted goats last week. I read about their milk production, thought about inexpensive milk, cheese, butter… and went a bit crazy.

Thankfully, I have some level-headed readers who tactfully brought up some of the drawbacks to having goats.

1. Escaping. Ha! That’s just what I need, a dog and two goats roaming the neighborhood. I can just imagine me driving around, ” Excuse me, have you seen a yellow Lab and two goats wandering around here?” Nope. Just can’t do it.

2. Noise. Apparently if you only have one or two they might make lots of noise. No, not for me. I have enough noise, thank you.

3. Space. We have a pretty big backyard; but fitting my gardens, dogs, humans, and (hopefully chickens!) as well as goats would be a bit much.

Thank you to all of you who gently but firmly reined me in from turning my backyard into a mini farm. You gave me enough of the good characteristics of goats that I have not ruled them out forever, but I am not actively searching Craigslist for goat listings anymore. 🙂

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I’ve been reading about chickens. This book has some pretty neat coops.

Also, reading about using a broody hen to raise mail-order or feed store chicks has been interesting. I’m eyeing my dog’s kennel with a repurposing eye now.

Anyway, I’ll show you how to strain your homemade yogurt soon, and also share a woodland themed baby shower cake I decorated. No goats will be in either of those posts! 🙂

Now I Want a Goat. Well, Maybe 2 Goats.

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I thought I was going to need a cow for my family.

Then I read that a cow can produce 10 gallons of milk a day. We like milk, but that is a bit much.
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So I got this book from the library, and learned that apparently a goat can produce 200 gallons a year. Still a lot of milk, to be sure, but we easily go through 2 gallons a week, and that doesn’t include other milk products such as butter, cheese, yogurt(I’ve just started making my own!), and ice cream.

I also read that goat milk tastes like cow’s milk, which is a definite plus.

Drawbacks:
1. You’re supposed to have 2 so they can keep each other company.

2. They need to be bred to keep up milk production, and with that of course comes a time when you should let her rest from making milk and then feed her kid(s). Oh, and I’d will have to find a buck to borrow, since I don’t think I could convince my husband to get three goats. Actually, he probably won’t even go for two, especially since we live in a neighborhood… Anyway, back to dreaming. I guess that makes #3.

3. We live in a neighborhood. Chickens might be stretching it.

So I think Nigerian dwarf goats would be nice, they’re rather small (50 lbs) and probably would produce about as much milk as we need, plus we could use surplus for butter ( which I could freeze) and yogurt. I would be fun to also try my hand at making cheese.

I wonder if I could have them in my backyard. Probably not. It would probably violate some zoning law.

Maybe we should move to the country so I can have some goats.

And chickens.

Hmmm. Maybe I should just start with chickens, but the book estimates that i could have milk for about $1.70 a gallon, and that’s after factoring in feed costs!

Do any of you have goats? What have been your experiences?

Are they noisy? Smelly? Worth the feed and work? Are they good with human kids? Does goat milk really taste like cow’s milk?

Do you think the neighbors would notice??? I have a privacy fence… Maybe they would like some fresh feta cheese??

Somebody talk some sense into me.

Tell me they really stink and that the neighbors will surely complain. Tell me I don’t have room and that the human kids will have nowhere to play. Tell me to start off with three chickens like a normal person and see how I like that.

But fresh milk!!!!!