Sunday, May 17, 2015

What We've Been Up To- Spring Gardening, Mother's Day, and Things to do in Middle Tennessee

Warning:  This is a very long and picture-heavy post.  I hope you enjoy. ;-) 

I've been overwhelmed with joy since the weather finally changed from the cold, dreary, rainy days of a Tennessee winter to the warm, sunny, dry days of late spring.  I don't know if I'm imagining things, but it seems as though every winter gets worse and worse around here.  I'm one of those people who gets down and depressed during long periods of gray and cold weather, and I spend every January and February trying to convince my husband that we need to move south, like WAY south.  So far, he's not taken me up on the offer, but I don't give up easily.  Thankfully, though, spring arrived with gusto this year.  It went from rainy and cool to down-right hot and sunny over the course of a week!  (Not that I'm complaining.) As soon as the ground was warm, I was itching to start gardening.  

We removed everything from last year's garden bed and tilled it up really well.  Other than a slight mishap with the irrigation lines (Oopsie!), everything went smoothly.  Charlotte had a blast helping me lay out new landscape fabric and re-spread the mulch.  (A friend has recently introduced me to the ideas of permaculture, and I'm going to do some more research on it.  Maybe I can figure out a way to not need to do so much work next year.)

We worked our tushies off, but we've got a nice little area going.  So far, we've planted herbs and some greens in that bed, plus the beets and carrots that I planted today.  I also have seeds started in containers that will be moving over there in a very short while.  We ordered a bunch of heirloom seeds from Baker Creek this year, and will be growing some neat, unique varieties of vegetables.  Aside from the more tame scarlet kale, lacinto kale, purple teepee beans, and golden sweet peas, we're growing five varieties of tomatoes, red okra, wonder berries, and kamo eggplant.  It's going to be so fun to see how everything turns out this summer.  I hope to have an incredibly colorful garden.  

We also tilled a new spot in the back yard, and I've planted three varieties of heirloom and non-GMO corn, crookneck squash, butternut squash, and sweet peas.  My husband LOVES corn, so I have to keep him happy.

I've planted plenty of lettuce and kale in my raised bed this year.  When we pulled up the old garden, we discovered several tiny purple kale plants that had volunteered to regrow, and we moved them into the raised bed.  I tell ya, this stuff will grow anywhere.  Since that day, I've found more of those tiny plants in the old garden, even after it was tilled and recovered!  And of course, I moved them to be with their friends. ;-) 

Volunteer kale after its move and few weeks of steady watering.

I feel like gardening has become my escape.  I'm at my happiest when I'm out there in the dirt, talking to my plants, and nursing them along.  I may have missed my calling as a farmer.  

The strawberries we planted last year have come back with amazing zeal, also. We've already picked and eaten several, and there are a bunch more waiting to ripen.  Charlotte has been excited to check their progress every day.  She tries to sneak and eat them, but I have to explain that they'll taste better if we wait. The whole "patience is a virtue" thing is lost on a two year old.  

Yes, gardening has taken over our lives in recent weeks, but I absolutely love it.  Being outside in the evenings brings me immense joy, especially when it's spent with my little one, showing her how to grow her own food and care for such delicate items.  Starting things from seeds has been a wonderful lesson for her.  She asks to water them every night when we get home, and she loves to pinch small pieces of lettuce or kale leaves and nibble them.  She's appreciative of fresh food in a way that I didn't think possible at her age.   

Eatin her fresh fruit at a friend's birthday party.

We have managed to fit in a few other activities aside from gardening, though.  We've had birthday parties to attend, and we even visited the Renaissance Festival a couple of weeks ago.  She didn't seemed interested in much besides the castle, where she thought she should live.  

She is a princess, after all.

We've been to farmers markets and eaten at the newest plant-based, health-oriented restaurant in our area, too.  

I had the raw pad Thai with a kale salad and raw cacao mousse for dessert.  Charlotte shared my meal and had the raw apple crisp for dessert.  Everything was delicious. 

Thrive is amazing, if you're ever in the Franklin, TN area.  Pam is a genius.  She offers several raw items, along with gently cooked whole foods.  The restaurant has been so successful, that they'll be expanding soon.  I just love when a business offering healthy food is successful!  

And what would spring be without getting outside for some relaxation?  We've been walking or jogging as often as possible and doing yoga in the back yard whenever we can squeeze it in.  

Charlotte is dying to do head stands and  tries to do everything else she sees me demonstrate, even attempting meditation.  It's pretty entertaining, to say the least. 

As you can see, it's been an awesome spring, so far.  Mother's Day was no exception. 

My husband arranged for his mom, dad, sister, Charlotte, and myself to all tour Cheekwood Botanical Gardens.  I'd been once before, but this time was so much fun.  Watching Charlotte explore was the highlight of my day.  She loved to smell the flowers and touch everything (that she was allowed to touch).  They even had a train exhibit where several trains ran all over a massive wooden "town", some overhead, even.  I bet we spent an hour looking at them.  Train obsessed, this kid is.  

Banana in-hand, always.

The Japanese Tea Garden is my favorite part, but I didn't take my phone in with me.  It definitely brings a sensation of calm over me when I enter.  I could spend all day there.  

At one of the ponds, we met some snapping turtles and bull frogs.  As you can imagine, these were all the rage for a toddler. 

It was such a fun day spent with family.  I can't wait to do it all again.  

Last night, we met some friends at Arrington Vineyards for a raw food potluck, which was a really nice time.  My brother and niece even tagged along.  The kids had a blast chasing each other and digging in a mud puddle they found. The forecast had called for rain, so not many people showed up, but it turned out to be a fantastic night.  The weather was perfect, and we had a prime spot on the hillside overlooking the vines.  No complaints here.

I think we're off to a fantastic start to an amazing summer!  I am excited to see what the next few months bring, and I'll be sure to update you all as things happen.  

Until then, here are a few more pics from our recent fun...

Pics from our photo shoot with the incredible John Meyers Photography

"Werk it gurl!"

Seeing a REAL train at daddy's work.

Saturday morning silly faces.  She's a pro.

Our newest family member, Finn.  He's very friendly and active, two things I never expected from a betta fish.  Aren't animals amazing?

Our other babies, Riley and Abby, basking in the warmth of spring.

State park fun!  We had our photo shoot at Edwin Warner State Park, and I highly recommend checking it out.  Gorgeous place!

More garden fun!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Recipe: Raw Cacao Cardamom Smoothie

This smoothie is one of my absolute favorite afternoon snacks, especially if I'm going to the gym or for a run after work.  It gives me tons of clean energy.  Cacao and cardamom come together for a lovely complex flavor.  The bananas are full of clean-burning carbs, and the hemp seeds are loaded with plant protein, perfect for building muscle.  I hope you enjoy it.

Raw Cacao Cardamom Smoothie

2 tbsp hemp seeds
1 1/2 cup water
3 dates
4 frozen bananas
2 tbsp raw cacao, or cocoa powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp cardamom powder

Add the hemp seeds, dates, and water to a blender.  (Since I mostly make this at work, I used my Nutribullet.). Run the blender until the dates are blended smooth.  You should see them breaking up into smaller and smaller pieces as you blend.  This liquid will be the "hemp milk" base of your smoothie.  Next, add the bananas, cacao, cardamom, and vanilla.  Blend until creamy and smooth, and drink immediately.  

Monday, May 11, 2015

Recipe: Simple Raw Spring Soup

Mother's Day brought along with it some heavier meals than I'm used to, and I was not feeling so great today.  My digestion didn't seem to be on-par, and I was very tired.  When I feel this way, I go back to eating lighter, simpler, raw foods in order to give my body a rest.  With that in mind, I decided to have juice for breakfast, a smoothie and some fruit for lunch, and this delicious green soup for dinner.  It's savory, creamy, and filling without weighing me down.  Made with simple, fresh ingredients found at any grocery store, this one is perfect for everyone and tastes like spring in a bowl.  Give it a shot and see what you think. 

Simple Raw Spring Soup

1 zucchini, peeled if not organic
1/2 yellow bell pepper
3 cups spinach or any other green of choice
1 cup water
1/4 cup fresh dill
2 tbsp red onion
1 garlic clove
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar or coconut vinegar
1/2 lemon, juiced
1/2 avocado
Salt and pepper to taste

Roughly chop the zucchini, bell pepper, and onion, then add to a blender with the water.  Blend until smooth.  Add the greens, garlic, dill, vinegar, lemon, salt and pepper, and blend on high until completely smooth.  Next, add the avocado and blend on low just until creamy.  (Avocado will get frothy if blended too long, so be careful not to over-blend.)  At this point the soup is done.  You could eat it as is, or top with chopped veggies.  I topped mine with diced peppers, red onion, avocado, and radish sprouts that I grew on top of my hydroponic fish tank.  It was pretty awesome, if I do say so myself.  Enjoy!

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Good Morning Sunshine Juice

When I was a kid, if we didn't get up with the alarm clock, my dad would wake us up saying "Good morning, sunshine!" as he sprayed us in the face with a mist of water.  It was a rude awaking, but something that has stuck with me.  In honor of my dad's twisted sense of humor, I've created this bright and cheery, lovely and sweet pick-me-up that will (hopefully) wake you up without a spray of water to the face.

Good Morning Sunshine Juice

1 large golden beet
1 medium zucchini
1 broccoli stalk
1/2 pineapple with core, peeled 
5-10 carrots, depending on size
1 lemon, peeled

Run all ingredients through a juicer.  And enjoy.  No instructions needed here.  Enjoy!