Jet-Lag

We made it home from Israel on Sunday.  It was a fantastic trip!  It’s going to be hard to put into words all the feelings and emotions that we experienced in the last 10 days. It was eye-opening and I think Greg will agree with me when I say we have a new perspective on life.  It’s funny how being away from our everyday norm for 10 days can make so many things seem so silly.  For instance, the 2 days I’ve been back home and driven in my car, I’ve actually just turned the radio off.  All the songs just sound so dumb to me right now, and I’ve actually just enjoyed riding around in the peace and quiet of my own thoughts rather than the noise of the radio.  That’s just an example I’ve noticed lately.

Just today I started editing some of the pictures we took on the trip.  There are 728 to be exact, so it may take me a while to get things posted to the blog.  But that’s mainly because I will be working almost every night for the rest of this week.  Our census is really high at work right now.  I’m honestly surprised we haven’t gone into mandatory overtime, but we have been strongly encouraged by management to pick up extra shifts to help out.  So, since I’ve just been gone for 10 days, and I’m taking vacation again next week for a Boggs’ family trip, I figured I better pick up some slack this week.  So I promise there will be several blogs to come with lots of pictures from Israel, you’ll just have to be patient with me.

The jet-lag hit me hard today or I would have made more progress in blogging.  Israel is 8 hours ahead of Birmingham time.  So the trip over there wasn’t too bad.  We had flights all day (with long layovers) and then flew all night to Israel, so by the time we got to Israel, we had just enough time to drive 2 hours to our hotel, eat dinner and then go to bed.  But coming home to Alabama, we flew all night again, got into JFK airport in New York at 5am, then Atlanta at 10:30am, and finally Birmingham by 2pm.  However, our body clock on Israel time felt like 10pm.  Luckily both our families wanted to come over to our house to visit and hear about the trip as soon as we got home, so that helped keep us awake.  But as soon as we ate dinner, I fell asleep on the couch at 7pm, and then around 8:45pm Greg woke me up and we were both in bed asleep by 9pm.  And surprisingly Monday I felt ok.  Slept a good 12 hours, was up by 10am knocking out laundry, took care of housework that needed to be done, and ran some errands.  I was glad that I didn’t seem to have anymore jet-lag….until today.  Oh man, today was rough.  Slept most of the day (of course the raging thunderstorms outside all day made that pretty easy).  Got up long enough to take care of some work stuff and start editing pictures, and then by 4pm I started feeling nauseatingly tired again, so I went back to bed until I had to get ready for work.

So I’m hoping a full day of sleep tomorrow will get me back in the swing of things.  I originally thought working night shift with Israel would help out with my jet-lag (since my body clock would be 8hours ahead), but now I’m not so sure.  My body is seriously confused on what time it really is, and working all night long actually doesn’t seem to be helping.  But I’ll get through it.  And a week from now I’ll be enjoying the sunny skies of the Bahamas. 🙂

So keep checking back for my Israel posts!  I’ll hopefully get at least 1 written by the end of the week.  But to hold you over until then here’s a little sneak peek…

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Dill Pickles from the Farm Girl

With all the cucumbers accumulating in our kitchen, I decided it was time to make pickles.  Last year I only made sweet pickles (which everyone in my family loves!).  But Greg didn’t like them too much.  He’s more of a dill kinda guy.  So, I found 2 dill pickle recipes that I thought I would give a try.  One came from my handy-dandy Better Homes and Gardens cookbook (I figured I couldn’t go wrong there).  The other came from another blogger that I just adore…Sherelle Christensen.  I’ve tried several of her recipes and so far they’ve never failed me.  So I figured her pickle recipe must be pretty good too.

I started with Sherelle’s version first, which you can find here. I don’t really know how many pounds of cucumbers I had, but there were about 20-25 cucumbers to work with.  I split and did half with Sherelle’s recipe and saved half to do with the Better Homes and Gardens one.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 4c. white vinegar (I actually used apple cider vinegar, cause that’s why my tried and true BHG recipe book said is best for pickles…let’s hope they’re right)
  • 1c. pickling salt
  • 12c. water
  • 16 cloves of garlic, halved
  • 8 sprigs of dill (or dried weed)
  • 8 heads of dill (or dried dill seed)

Ok, I had to do a little research here (and I’m still not 100% on this, so if you are more familiar feel free to leave a comment and help a girl out!).  If you buy fresh dill, the sprigs are the little twiggy leaves on the main stem.  The head is the end part that creates seeds.  I was very disappointed when Publix didn’t carry fresh dill in their produce section, so I had to settle for the dried versions from the spice section.  So if you know where I can buy fresh dill locally, let me know! 🙂

So the deal with dried spices is (again, had to do some research), 1 tsp of dried spice is typically equivalent to 1 Tbsp. of fresh (that’s the general rule of thumb).  There are 3 teaspoons in a tablespoon, so it’s a 3:1 ratio.  The dried versions are much more concentrated, so you use less.  1 sprig of fresh dill will give you approximately 1 tsp of dill weed.  So, if you are using dry spices, you’ll need 1/3 tsp dill weed.  Whew, did that make sense?  Believe me, my brain hurt after trying to figure all this out, and I’m still sceptical whether I did my math right.  Clearly the easy answer is FIND FRESH DILL.  haha

And if that’s not confusing enough, a sprig of dill= dill weed; a head of dill= dill seed.  So you still have to buy 2 different types of spices.  I didn’t make this connection until after I got home from Publix, so I just used dill weed.  Lord, help me, I hope these pickles turn out right!!!

DIRECTIONS:

OK, back to the recipe.  The first step is to clean the cucumbers and scrub them with a brush to get all the prickly spurs off.  I think I will be purchasing a vegetable brush in the near future.  My basic kitchen sink brush was a little weak for the job 😉  Next you’ll slice them up how you like.  I decided to cut some of them into spears and some into slices.

July6-DillPickles (11) July6-DillPickles (12)July6-DillPickles (9)July6-DillPickles (8)As you cut them, place them into a large bowl and when you finish, sprinkle with pickling salt (approx 1/3c.) and give them a good toss.  Place the bowl into the fridge for about 2 hours.  This will drain some of the fluid out of the cucumbers and allow the pickling salt to it’s magic.

When you are ready for the canning process, begin sterilizing your jars by bring the water in the canner to a boil and placing jars into the canner.  Also, place your lids in a small pot on low heat to allow them to simmer.

Remove pickles from the fridge and drain the water (but save the water and use it in the brine for canning).

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In a large pot, combine vinegar, water (part of which will be the water you drained), and 2/3c. pickling salt and bring the brine to a boil.

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In each jar (I used quarts), drop 1 clove of garlic (cut in halves) and a head of dill (or 1/3tsp dill weed).

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Fill the jar with your pickles, and place a sprig of dill (I just sprinkled a tiny bit more dill weed) and 2 more garlic halves.  Pour hot brine into the jar, leaving a half-inch headspace. 

Seal and process the water bath for 10 mins.  Allow pickles to sit for approx. 2 weeks prior to eating for optimal flavor 🙂July6-DillPickles (1)

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Watching the Garden Grow

I’ve realized I’ve done a terrible job with garden updates this year!  But hold onto your seats, cause if you’ll stick with me, I’m gonna catch you up!  (and please excuse my poor excuse for photography.  It seems I only take photos with my phone these days).  Ready?  Here goes…

This summer has been crazy busy and it’s flying by!  But the garden actually got a pretty slow start in the beginning with all the cool weather we had around here in the early summer months.  Progress seemed to drag it’s feet a little.

But before I could even plant anything, there was a LOT of hard work I had to do to get the garden ready for sowing.  There were so many weeds that had sprung up in the early spring weeks, and once they start they were viscous!

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I mostly planted everything in late April (thinking I’d get a head start and hopefully we’d eat watermelon and cantaloupe earlier this year!).  But that cool weather just halted any early growth, so a lot of things just kinda sat dormant for a few weeks.  The onions I actually planted in early/mid April, because they can be planted within a few weeks prior to the last frost.  You can read all about that post here: Gardening Kickoff.  About a week later is when I bought most of my seedlings.Apr13-garden (28)

seedlingsSome things I bought the same as last year- like the tomatoes, bell peppers, cucumber, watermelon and cantaloupe (although I did buy a different variety of watermelon this year, and I made sure to buy “pickling” and “bush variety” cucumbers since the ones last year were SO HUGE).  They were great, but I thought I would try a smaller variety this year.  I also branched out and bought banana peppers and jalapeno peppers (since they will go in my salsa recipe).  And the onions were new this year.  I got all these plants into the ground by late April.veggiebabiesmelonsMom and Dwayne gave me some seedlings they grew themselves from seeds.  They are Sweet 100 cherry tomatoes and Rudgers heirloom tomatoes. I had to be very gentle with them in the beginning.  They were so delicate and easily damaged by hash sun and rain, I had to keep them in smaller pots on the porch until they grew bigger and stronger to tolerate being out in the garden.April25Here are the bell peppers and Roma tomatoes in the garden bed behind the house, and in the background you can see the little cucumber and zucchini seedlings I planted in front of some wood trellises (so the vines can have vertical space to grow this year!).  And the grapes (that I planted last year) had started to fruit by early May.April29You still with me?? You’re doing great 🙂

Everything just slowly started to grow through the month of May.  My strawberries from last year just went dormant through the winter then came back this spring.  So during the months of May and June I was able to pick some strawberries.  They still don’t impress me that much.  There was certainly more fruit on the plants this year than last year, but they are still pretty small.  And they don’t last very long.  We figured out if you don’t eat them the day you pick them they pretty much just turn to mush.  Maybe strawberries aren’t my specialty.  But they are nice to have in the garden for snacking on.strawberries1 strawberries2Here’s how everything looked at the end of May.  The top left picture are the seedlings from Dwayne that were growing big and sturdy.  I transplanted them into the raised garden bed shortly after this picture was taken.  The grapes were still pretty tiny at this point.  The pear tree had just started to fruit, and the cucumbers and melons were starting to stretch their vines.May25-garden11May25-garden (10) May25-garden (8)

As June flew by, the garden just continued to grow.  Besides the onions, nothing really produced anything significant enough to harvest.  I was able to pick 1 jalapeno pepper around mid-June, which I used in some salsa that I canned.  (I had to go buy tomatoes though cause none of mine were ready for picking yet.)  The cucumber vines were getting pretty big though!  And I had tons of green tomatoes on some of the plants.  The 2 tomato plants I bought from Lowe’s had lots of green tomatoes on them, but the Rutgers and Cherries have yet to bloom (since they were started from seeds at home, they have some catching up to do with the big box-store seedlings).  And the melon vines are stretching farther and farther by the day!June15-garden (4)June15-garden (8) June15-garden (6)June15-garden (9) June15-garden (12)June15-garden (3) June15-garden (14)

I harvested about half of the onions around the 3rd week of June.  (I’ll do a detailed post on that process later!)  I laid them out to start curing on the swing on our porch.  Once they dried for another week or so, I strung those babies up!  I have to admit, I was pretty proud of myself 🙂  And the best part is, we went on our mountain trip right after I had harvested all those onions, and our friend that vacationed with us gave us an awesome potato/onion storage unit that he built and brought to us!!  It’s perfect and now I have a great place to store all my onions (and potatoes!).

June17 (3)June24-garden (3)We’re almost there!

Around the last week of June, I noticed we had some hefty cucumbers on the vines!  Those suckers grow fast once they get going.  I mean, a week can make a huge difference with this guys.  I was able to pick about 15 cucumbers that week. Since I was leaving for our girls’ beach trip that weekend, I gave a few away to a friend.  cukesBut when I got back from that trip and checked on the garden, I had about 8 more cucumbers I could pick, and I noticed the hot peppers were making some progress! And the melons in the garden are seriously getting out of control now. They are running out of room!cukesandpeppersJuly4-garden (6)July7-gardenAnd that brings us up to speed on the garden for this year!! Whew, did you make it to the end?  That was a marathon of a post!  Thanks for being a trooper!  Stay tuned for some new recipes and how-to’s of pickling.  I couldn’t let all those cucumbers go to waste! 😉

Girlfriends Beach Reunion

Last weekend my girlfriends and I took a beach trip like the good ole’ days.  Our friend Brit grew up in Orange Beach and we’ve been doing girls beach weekends almost every year since college.  The group has changed here and there over the years, but it’s a tradition we’ve tried to keep up and we’ve done pretty well with it considering it’s been 5 years since we all graduated college!  And don’t even get me started on the fact that we have known each other for almost 10 years now!!!  Most of us met freshman year of college and the rest of us have tagged along since sophomore year.  I mean, 10 years???  Crazy.

Aaaaanyways.  We have pretty much cemented our group now amongst the 10 of us, all Samford graduates, all different in our own ways but friends just the same.  Unfortunately, all 10 of us couldn’t make it for this trip.  It’s hard getting 10 people that don’t all live in the same city anymore or have the same jobs to coordinate schedules.  But we do the best we can.

It was a fun weekend.  It rained a good bit, but we still got some time in the sun.  It’s funny how different our beach weekends have gotten as we’ve gotten older.  We realized at the end of the trip we literally only took 2 photos the whole weekend.  We used to take photos of every little thing we did.  Photos on the boat, photos on the pier, photos jumping in the water, photos at dinner….we’ve gotten pretty chill as we’ve grown, I suppose.  We also did not consume anywhere near the amount of alcohol we have put away in the past.  We’re a bunch of old lazy bums now with 11pm bedtimes 😉  hahaha!

One of the girls who couldn’t make it was our dear friend Christina.  She actually was supposed to fly into Birmingham and then drive down with some of us for the weekend, but the day before her flight she got really sick and couldn’t make it.  We were so bummed cause she’d been talking about the trip and how excited she was to see everyone again! (She lives back home in Texas now, so we don’t get to see her often.)  But while we were at the beach we decided to pack her a box of goodies and letters, and we shipped it to her in TX!  Dana even whipped up this ADORABLE little drawing of us all.  I totally love it!  It captures characteristics we all have, and I love that she made me a farmer 🙂  I might just frame it 🙂

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Here’s our only two pictures from the weekend, one of which we took to show our love for Teensy!June29-OB (2) June29-OB

And to give you an idea of how far back our friendships go….here’s a little sample of our fun times over the past several years!  Love these ladies so much!!!GregAmy_Wedding_475June1-VagueWedding rehearsal (3)friends13 friends2friends14 friends1friends9friends15 friends5friends3 friends12 friends4friends11friends6 friends10friends8friends17 friends7

Mountain Adventures

Two weekends ago Greg and I traveled to the Ellijay, GA in the Blue Ridge mountains in GA for a little vacation with one of his best friends Jonathan and his wife Lindsay.  We love them!  Greg knew Jonathan from undergrad at Samford, and we met Lindsay a few years ago when they started dating.  John and Lindsay grew up as childhood friends together.  Lindsay is great.  The two of us actually have a lot in common and she’s so easy to talk to (which is good for me!).  I’m pretty introverted, so to find someone I can connect with and talk to easily is not always a small feat.  Anyways, they live in Kentucky where they grew up.

For Christmas last year, Greg’s boss gave us vouchers for cabin rentals in the Blue Ridge mountains.  AWESOME GIFT!  So, we decided to invite our friends who we don’t get to see as much and take a little getaway vacation together.  They are also our friends who just had a baby a few months ago (and we drove up to KY for the birth!), so we were certainly excited to see sweet little Hudson again!ellijay21Greg and I (along with Lily and Jack) headed out Thursday afternoon and decided to stop in Chattanooga for dinner.  Greg found this great little pub right next to the Chattanooga choo-choo train station.  It’s the Terminal Brewhouse. The food was great, the atmosphere was great, and we got to eat on a rooftop patio.  It was fun!ellijay22After dinner we continued on to the mountains.  As we neared our destination we took the scenic route and wound our way up and back down a mountain.  Along the way we saw 3 deer scampering about along the side of the road 🙂

The cabin we chose to rent was great!  I wish I’d thought to take some pictures of it.  It was 1 level, 2 bed, 2 bath, had a great lower deck area with hot tub and darts.  There was also a fire-pit area to the side!  And you couldn’t see any neighboring houses around you, and it had a beautiful backporch view!  It was perfect.ellijay18ellijay19We spent most of the mornings cooking breakfast, relaxing at the cabin and enjoying the company.  Friday afternoon we decided to pack a picnic lunch and drive to the state park nearby which had a waterfall we could go explore.  Come to find out this is the largest waterfall east of the Mississippi river!  You had to hike along a dirt trail for a little while, then there were about 150 steps that took you to the big falls.

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The falls were beautiful!!  I commented that I was pretty sure this was the biggest waterfall I had ever seen (then that’s when Greg told me it was the biggest in the southeast!).  haha  It was big guys.  These pictures don’t even portray that as well.

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Beyond this point there was the option to continue climbing steps up the side of the mountain to reach the very top of the waterfall.  I had to do some major convincing to get Greg to do it with me, but he did it and if you ask me, it was worth it 😉  He may not agree!  We had already climbed 175 steps to the to the falls, and it was another 425 steps to the tip top!  But we did it, and the dogs came with us!  Lindsay, John and Hudson stayed behind and just explored the lower portion of the falls.

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Once we caught our breath and enjoyed the views, we walked back down the 600 steps to meet up with the Broughs again.  Then we all enjoyed our picnic lunch while the dogs ran around loving the outdoors.

Ellijay1How crazily twin-like are these two!  The light brown pup is our dog Lily and the darker brown pup is John and Lindsay’s girl Carmen.  Seriously, these two could be from the same liter.  But ironically are mixed breed dogs with no official breed history.

Ellijay2Then there’s this little cutie 🙂  Sweet baby Hudson!  He’s such a great baby!

ellijay3Friday night we grilled hamburgers and played some games late into the night. Saturday the boys went tubing down the river while me, Lindsay and Hudson did some antique shopping 🙂  I found some great little goodies, like an old chicken egg farm basket (which now resides in the new bathroom for holding the toilet paper supply), and a vintage picnic tablecloth.  Oh how I love vintage items!

So all in all it was a great trip!  Good times with our friends and dogs, as usual.  We definitely plan to return in the future 🙂 🙂