I love life!

Hi, I am Jo and this is my blog about my life. Here you will find entries on cooking, gardening, food safety and the interesting things happening in my search for an inexpensive and healthy way of living. My home is located in North Florida and I am relearning how to take care of myself at almost 50. This is the deep South so my garden and season may be a bit different than yours. I look forward to seeing what you have to say as time passes. Read on and have a beautiful day!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Fruits of the Garden!!!

Today the barbadoes cherry tree was awash in red and after a brief rainfall I went out and picked all that I could reach. Now I have a couple of pounds of fresh cherries.

Soon to be cherry jam! YUM!

Limes are a gift from the gods great for marinades, a slice in a beer or a base for a margarita.

Avocado's to be ripened and made into a buttery chunky guacamole laced with the aforementioned limes and some cilantro. Heavenly.

Between that and the 20 or so small plants I transplanted into larger pots we are set for a while.

Have a lovely day!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Simply say "NO"

I know I have not been blogging a lot this month. Things have been hectic between traveling for vacation, traveling for work, and the bare basics that need to be done here at home I have been feeling a bit stretched.
O.k. a lot stretched. There is always something that needs to be done...groceries, dishes, dinner, laundry. Not to mention work and family.

So today I am home on the couch - again. The usual sinus infection and asthma. I really have to learn to step back and take better care of myself.  I can take care of everyone around me but have not learned to say 'no" before I get so run down I can barely function. I am doing better now. Really...I don't go to work sick at all anymore. Before I took this job I would go to work sick all the time and most likely made a lot of other people sick.  Now I am not allowed in food service areas when I am sick- Yippee!! I can actually stay home. Resting, however, is really hard for me unless I am running a high fever.

That now finds me on the couch, a diet soda at my side watching old re-runs of  "In the Heat of the Night." A chicken is cooking in the crock pot so at least we will have a good dinner tonight. I can sleep easily this afternoon without worrying about much.

Now I need to remember that the word "no" is an option and I can use it to make life easier. I can tell my coworkers to contact our boss sometimes and let them make their own mistakes instead of spending my time doing some of their work for them. I could have been home early yesterday but I did not use "no" even though  I was exhausted with a screaming headache. Instead I helped someone else finish their work.

I just had a chance to put this into action. A co-worker called and asked me a question I would have had to look up on my work computer. My work laptop is not even on right now so it would have taken a minimum of  15 minutes and I would have had to get up and try to find the answer for him. I simply told him I was sick and asked him to call our boss. My coworker is a great guy so he told me to feel better and had no problems with my "no".  Too bad I can't do that more often.

Maybe some of us believe that if we say no we are 'less than" or we don't measure up. Or maybe we have been been taught that saying "no" is a weakness. Society and the big ad companies tell us every day that we can do anything and be anything if we buy the right products or take the right medicines. Thus we are told we can be all things, to all people, at all times. With the right drug or the right time saving device we can do more and be more than we were ever intended to do or be.   Even if the ads don't say it specifically  they go out of thier way show  people boating, biking, running, gardening, and generally being happy in beautifully landscaped exteriors and impeccably decorated interiors.

All of this is coming at us fast and furious. With all this pressure how then is someone to maintain any degree of balance in their lives? I guess sating "no" when necessary is a start.

I am off to the doctor and am saying "yes" to myself.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

A New Kitchen... Almost

My apologies for not posting sooner. I was out of town for work for all of the last week. I did not think the State would approve of me blogging on their time with their computer so I simply waited til I got home.

As I type my amazing hubby is installing the garbage disposal and new sink (new to us) in our "new" kitchen.
He has been working very hard this week to finish up the project that we had begun a little over a year ago. Why so long you ask? Well, we decided that when we did the kitchen it would be best to do it in bits and pieces as we could afford it in both money and time.
Phase one: Cabinets still in place

Unused dead space.

Unused dead space

The countertops we got for free off of Craig's list a couple of years ago. Large sheets of granite that had been pulled out of someones home because they did not like them.  Go figure, thousands of dollars of free granite. Rob had to figure out how to cut it and fit it but it is lovely! The cabinets we purchased pre-made and Rob installed them. One set of our old cabinets were salvageable and we painted them white. The other cabinets were too far gone to be salvaged. They had actually rotted out at the bottom from water damage somewhere down the line.  The sink is a cast iron Kohler with a Moen sprayer faucet and that came from Craig's List for $150.00.
Added Cabinets in dead space.

Cabinets over sink removed. Old lighting still in place and cabinets still "pink".

We tried out different configurations through an online software program and decided that with our skills it would be best to simply stay with the current layout. We did eliminate 1 bank of cabinets over the sink area and we added counter space and cabinets on the end of the kitchen in an area that had been dead space.
Lighting was purchased on clearance and we used the good ole military discount at Lowe's (when we remembered to take it along) on other items along the way. Thus far we have spent  just over $1,000.00.

We have not purchased new appliances but have been looking online and at Lowe's today to get some ideas. Our old appliances were a gift from my parents when they replaced theirs a few years ago. We were glad to get them as ours were in bad shape.  I would like something a little more energy efficient thus would like to get a new fridge ASAP. Rob would like a new stove and microwave first.  Either way they are a great expense and we can be patient and wait until we can afford them. Maybe even buy them one at a time - as long as they are the same color I do not care about the brand....o.k. I do want the Maytag energy efficient fridge :).

Next week or later this week  I'll post pictures of the completed kitchen. There is just too much crap all over right now. It would not do justice to all of Robs hard work.

Until then have a lovely week!!!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

What matters most?

How often do we sit down and take stock of where we are in life and what really matters to us? Not superficial items like our new car or getting my hair done. I am talking about what really matters most to us in our lives. Maybe the car is it yet I think for most of us there is so much more to spend our time and effort on in an attempt to find happiness in life.

Every once in while I can't sleep and I stumble out of bed into the kitchen for a glass of water then into the living room where I flinch turning on the light while collapsing heavily onto the couch. Wide awake at 3 am, my head is swimming with the stresses of the day or week. Unable to get back to sleep I will pull out my journal and start listing exactly why I am unable to rest easily. Then if that fails to relax me I will start listing everything that I am grateful to have in my life. I always start with Rob. My amazing husband. From there my pen just flows across the paper and before I know it I have a list several pages long of what I am grateful to have surrounding me. Amazingly, after my gratitude list I can usually sleep a rich, deep, slumber. I wake up rested and ready to go.

If gratitude can do that why then does it take a bout of insomnia to make me grateful for the joys in my life?
As we move through our day to day interactions it is easy to become disconnected with what we believe in or appreciate in our lives. At times I get so tangled up in the job I do or in helping my coworkers that not only do I forget to stop and eat. I also forget that they are not the most important focus of my life. I work to help provide for my family and for the service it provides to the community at large. Since I work for the state we know that I am not working for large amounts of money.

We are so distracted in our lives. We have t.v., XM radio, computers and cell phones. We have advertising campaigns telling us what we want and need. We have people all around us buying bigger and better everything. State of the art is not an option it is a requirement.
Now with all of this swimming around in our heads we have the addition of a government that just can't get it together. Either party.  Wars in two countries. A recession. High unemployment. On top of everything else  we have the 9-11 anniversary tomorrow. Another level of sadness to pull us away from our center. How can you have a calm quiet place inside with all of this chaos surrounding you? How can you even know what to be grateful for?

Simply- stop. My 3 am list is able to be written because at 3 am the world is silent. I am alone and there is nobody to distract me and little to do that won't wake up my slumbering husband. At 3 am I can find that quiet, gentle, forgiving side of myself  that can't exist between work, trips to the store and cooking dinner. At 3 am I can find that soft place to land that is even hard to get to in yoga and meditation sometimes because in the middle of the night my world has come to a standstill. In yoga class I can still get caught up in thinking about what to make for dinner or the laundry that needs done.

I found this place on vacation this year sitting on our rented cabin porch and looking at a shimmering spider web. It was sunny and the air was abuzz with the sound of insects and I was at peace. I found it again hiking with my husband on the trails near our cabin. No outside noises, no cell phones- nothing to interrupt our time together under the canopy of green as we moved along the narrow trails. We could talk and laugh easily without the pressures of our day to day lives.

We can access the calm place and really think about what is important. For me it is not about the home I live in or the car I drive. It is about the love of the people around me and the support and security they provide. It is also about what I can do for them as well.  I have a deep sense of gratitude for all the richness of my life.
So here is a little from my last list.

I am grateful for:
My amazing husband
My Family- sons, daughters in law grandbabies, parents and brothers and my entire extended clan.
My health
The security of our home and food on the table
The time I had with my grandparents and aunts who are no longer with us
The ability to learn
The beauty that surrounds me
And so on....

My list calms me and helps me to focus on what really needs to happen and what can fall by the wayside.My gratitude list highlights my priorities.  If something in my life interferes with my priorities then I need to really look at that interference and evaluate it's necessity in my life.

So here is to hoping you have your gratitude list and are able to find that elusive calm quiet place in your world.


Monday, September 5, 2011

Settling In after Vacation

Having just come back from vacation there is so much that seems to need to be done around the house. I couldn't get the garden in before we left due to weather and there is always more to be finished as well.

Vacation was absolutely beautiful! We stayed at Cumberland Falls State Park in Kentucky after my hubby finished the Ironman in Louisville. Yes- I said Ironman- 2 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride and 26.2 mile run. In that order. It scared the living beejesus out of me but he finished and lived to tell about it. Hopefully, I will not be such a freakin' mess if he does another one. I was  really ready for a vacation after that and so was Rob.

Luckily it was quiet at our cabin compared to the day to day noise surrounding us at home and the choas of the Ironman. An added bonus was that cell phone service was intermittent at best thus we had minimal interruptions during our semi-secluded week in the woods. The falls were stunningly beautiful with rainbows glimmering gently in the mist. We spent a good deal of time hiking near the falls. Each day we would pack a lunch and head out to spend the day on the trails.  At times it seemed like we had the entire park to ourselves as we walked through the woods hearing only the sounds of the wildlife with no human interruption. Lovely!

So after a week of relaxation and bliss we came home to reality. The first reality was we needing groceries followed closely by laundry. Though I have to admit Rob did laundry one day while I napped. After all those tri clothes would have stunk by the time we got home. Today has become a day of cleaning and organizing.

I did get the seeds planted in pots for tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and a wide variety of herbs. This year I am using a seed starting medium made from coconut fiber. It was discussed in depth on on Garden Web so I ordered 200 of the pellets to get me started. I figured they would last forever and at roughly two plantings a year I could burn through them pretty quickly. I ordered the incorrect size on the pellets and now have to use 2 of them to fill the pots I have on hand. Oh, well if I do it again I will order larger pellets. Until then I'll just use 2 per pot. I realize I can use the soil in my beds to start seeds, however, the issue in FL is that there are lots of harmful pathogens in the soil.  You have to bake it to get rid of all of them. I need to do a lot of little starts thus baking is not an option for me.

The freezer also got defrosted yesterday. Not fun but in this heat it sure did not take long. It also helped me to figure out what we really had in there. I had a stock pot going before the defrost excitement and added to it from the freezer. We ended up with 3 qts of stock and a fully cleaned out freezer. A little more organized but the pantry is still a wreck.

Today will be laundry, putting in lettuce and beans then babysitting one of the grands. Life is good. Tomorrow is back to work- sigh.

Hope everyone enjoys their labor day!!!!    


Friday, September 2, 2011


I am on vacation with my husband in KY. WE should be back in Florida tomorrow and I should be able to post once we get settled. Thanks for your patience while I have been out.