Blog Hop: April Showers Bring May Flowers

   unexpectedtempationToday’s guest is the awesome Samantha Hunter! Remember to enter the contest at the bottom, too!Blog Hop

April Showers Bring Spring Flowers! by Samantha Hunter

Well, it’s still spitting snow and cold here in Syracuse, but I am dreaming of my gardens,  sorting through my seeds, and reading (and re-reading) my garden magazines, thinking about this year’s vegetables and so forth. But that’s getting ahead of the game. First, there will be the Spring flowers, and the best thing about those is that they come along on their own, with little help from me.DSC00921

Tulips, Daffodils (called Jonquils in the southern US, which I didn’t know until friend Anna Adams informed me) and Hyacinths, but also Crocuses and Grape Hyacinths, and tons of ephemerals that bloom all over our yard, even in the grass, and I’m not always sure of their names. A bit later, the Irises.

ItDSC00909’s impossible for me to choose a favorite, I love them all, perhaps especially so after the long, stark stretch of white. Our White Star Magnolia will bloom, and that’s always a treat (and so fragrant!) though I’ll have to chase away the squirrels who rip the blossoms off and throw the petals like confetti. They also used to eat my tulips – I can’t tell you how many times I would go out to find all of my tulips, on the edge of bloom, completely beheaded! While I try not to use too many sprays or chemicals in the garden, I bought Deer-Off and now I enjoy my flowers every spring.

Which ones are you looking forward to the most? Do you have any pests that get after them, and how do you deal with them?

Sam

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First, the cool news. I was featured on the Another Mother Runner blog today as a “Follow This Mother” mother runner. Since I totally love Sarah and Dimity and their books (Run Like a Mother, Train Like a Mother) and went all fan girl when I got to meet them, I was pretty stoked to be featured. Take a peek if you want to see me suffering through a race, LOL. I talk about how writing and running are so similar. me and Sarah Bowen Shea

Second, a little running thing that I learned from Sarah and Dimity, a lesson I keep on forgetting. I was running last summer and REALLY struggling. It wasn’t just the humidity and heat of Florida that was killing me, it was the run itself. I was just ready to DIE. On one such run, I was listening to their podcast and they talked about low iron levels and how that can affect your run.

It was a DUH moment for me. I’ve always been that girl who barely passed the little drop of blood in the liquid test thing because my iron was so low. Never low enough to make a doctor prescribe something, but low enough to make me tired and drained, particularly during strenuous exercise. Like running. I went out and got some iron, and some Vitamin C (you’re supposed to take them together), and within days felt better. So, for months, I take them faithfully. Then I miss one here, miss one there. I blame it on my breakfast–I normally have cereal or Greek yogurt for breakfast and you can’t take iron with dairy products, so I’d take my other vitamins and set the iron aside for later. Except I’d forget later. Day one turned into two, three, four, five…

And then I had a really crappy run. Like barely be able to run a half a mile without wanting to stop kind of run. I walked about six times during five miles, and seriously thought about quitting about a zillion times. I thought back to when I last felt that horrible during a run.

Duh. Last summer. Just before I started taking iron. I went home, filled up my little daily vitamin dispenser thing, adding the iron, and took some that day. Today’s run?

Incredibly better. Even running into gusts of 27mph, with a steady wind of 15mph, I felt strong and good. My time was a good 30 seconds per mile faster today, and for two miles, more than a minute faster per mile than yesterday. I finished feeling good, which was also totally different from yesterday. So if you’re having trouble with your runs and with energy in general, get your iron levels checked. Maybe it’ll be just the thing to get you running like the wind–or running into the wind like I did today 😉

Shirley

ReRun: The Thanksgiving Plan

I post this one each year, because it pretty much covers how I do Thanksgiving. Why mess with what works? I won’t be making quite this much food this year, since it’ll just be my family, but you can easily adapt this to fit what you want. Also, look for a great post on using those leftovers from author Donna Alward later this week!

>>This has been my Thanksgiving plan for four years in a row, so I thought I’d rerun the tips. I have changed this slightly–in that I bought the brining bags at the store instead of using a pail (Farberware makes them and they were in the aisle with the roasters and kitchen twine, etc.). I have had success every time I use this recipe. Buying a fresh bird makes life ten times easier, but I have in a pinch defrosted a frozen bird and then brined it.

(and as an aside, for those of you who are friends with me on Facebook, on Monday I posted a link to my blog and a friend who is a professional chef shared his tips for brining, so check that out!)

Thanksgiving was a HUGE success in my house. Brining the bird was DA BOMB and I highly recommend it. I mean, HIGHLY recommend it. I have never had a juicier, more delicious turkey–it was beyond simple to cook, and twelve people devoured nearly an entire 21-pound bird. Lots of going back for seconds and thirds that day!

Take notes if you want for next year, because here’s how I did it (and managed to have a LOT of relaxation time on the big day, too):

Wednesday Night: Brine the Bird (in the fridge by 8pm)
Equipment needed: 5-gallon pail from Lowe’s or Home Depot
My version of Alton Brown’s recipe for Brining from I’m Just Here for the Food
(which involves essentially cooking some water, brown sugar, peppercorns, bay leaves and kosher salt, then cooling and adding to the bucket).
Plus: 3 gallons ice water and 1 1/2 cups kosher salt

Thursday Timeline:
7:00 a.m.: Remove bird from Brining Liquid
Preheat oven
Dry bird, stuff with an onion, celery sticks. Brush whole bird with melted butter, then tent with foil, stick a meat thermometer in it, then put the bird in the oven.

8:00 a.m.: Cook sausage for stuffing, chop vegetables for stuffing (celery, carrots and onions), then cook when sausage is done. Add dried cranberries, leave to cool and set aside

8:15 a.m.: Peel 8 pounds of potatoes and start boiling them for mashed potatoes

8:45 a.m.: Start simple syrup for kids’ Floating Island Punch
Put Frozen raspberries, pink lemonade and sugar in bowl to thaw for Poinsettia Punch for grownups :-)

9:30 a.m.: Mash potatoes and put in crock-pot–done till 11:15 a.m. (take a nap, read the ads for Black Friday shopping…I do all my house cleaning on Wednesday, so I’m chilling for these two hours)

11:30 a.m.: remove foil tent from turkey, baste with more butter and turn oven temp up to 425 degrees
Start green beans (I made a healthy version, which I can post later)
Start Citrus-Glazed Carrots

12:15 p.m.: Assemble stuffing

12:30 p.m.: Remove turkey from oven and let set
Put rolls in oven
Put stuffing in oven
Make gravy

1:00 p.m.: Serve and eat 😉

My MIL made the pies, and I had baked cookies on Wednesday night, so all the rest was done ahead of time. I usually make the pies a day or two ahead of time, but this time someone else did them, so I was saved that chore. This turkey was SO SO good, though. I just can’t even tell you 😉

How was your Thanksgiving? Was it a huge success? I do dishes as I go, and run the dishwasher about halfway through so that everyone can eat on real plates. Clean-up is still a lot of work, but it’s not AS bad as it could be.

And if you want to read about my Black Friday adventures, I posted on RTB today about them!

Shirley<<

PS: I’m running a 5k Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving morning. Why? So I can eat more pie, LOL.