Boho terra-cotta patio pot

Boho terra-cotta patio pot

I love terra-cotta but in the Texas heat, these pots suck up all the moisture and leave the container plants to dry up quickly. In my experience, you need to water these pots nearly everyday. Not very sustainable.

Recently, a friend dropped off several large terra-cotta pots she didn’t plan to use. I researched options to coat the pots, before planting, in hopes of keeping the soil a little more moist than in the past. Most of the recommendations were to paint the pots inside and out with standard tile sealant. RM happened to have some sealant leftover from another DIY project so I cleaned the pots first with water and soap, allowed them to dry in the sun and then applied two coats of sealant and waited for the pots to dry for a day.

I then macrame a simple fringe and hot glued it around the rim of the pot. Then, I filled the bottom of the pot with small gravel and proceeded to fill with good quality potting soil. I selected plants that love the shade as this pot is destined for my daughters’ shady boho courtyard on Locke.

This pot reflects the carefree, relaxed and sustainable lifestyle we embrace, here on Ashland. Get your DIY on and discover the boho vibe.

Boho terra-cotta pot
Knock off Planter

Knock off Planter

I found this outdoor hanging planter online and thought it was cute.

I wondered if maybe I could DIY one with the items I had on hand for my Sunday Funday after yesterday’s rain activity. Some twine, wooden balls and a pot is all that is needed. Make sure your pot has drainage holes as so many planters don’t and most plants don’t like their roots sitting in water.

I punched three holes in the plastic rim of the pot using RM’s awl. If you don’t have one, I bet a sharp metal skewer would work or better yet, a drill. I strung three wooden balls on each piece of twine and then threaded one of the pieces of twine through each of the three holes and knotted them securely below the rim and again above the balls so they don’t slide around on the twine. Then, I tied the three pieces together equal length at the top for the pot to hang straight.

Then, just fill the planter with potting soil and tuck in your plant. It’s always better to place a free rocks or gravel at the bottom of the pot before adding soil just to ensure proper drainage. Water and find a cozy place in your garden for them to adjust to their new home. Water and fertilize regularly.

How did I do?

Spiking agave

I had two pots so I doubled my Sunday Funday activity.

Purple Dragon Tea

Purple Dragon Tea

A riff on the popular red dragon tea, this refreshing drink features blueberries and pomegranate to boost your antioxidants.

Ingredients: 2 green tea bags, 1 cup of blueberries, 1/2 cup of sugar, 2 cups of pomegranate cherry juice (Pom makes one) and five cups of water.

Direction: steep the tea bags in 2 cups of boiling water. Remove bags. In a separate pan over low heat, add sugar, 2 cup of water and simmer until sugar dissolves. Add a cup of blueberries and heat until the berries soften. Allow to cool. Pulse this mixture in a food processor or with an emulsion blender and then strain through a fine mesh strainer to remove the skin of the berries.

Add the brewed green tea, pomegranate cherry juice, blueberry syrup and one additional cup of water to a pitcher and put in refrigerator to chill.

Go work in the garden pulling weeds for two hours and then come inside for a break. Enjoy an icy glass of purple dragon tea as a reward for your toil and trouble. So refreshing, lightly sweet and tangy. I added a sprig of mint to guild the lily.

I hope I can make this brew with blackberries from our garden this summer. The vines are covered in flowers this week.

Until we meet again or hasta mañana baby.

Until we meet again or hasta mañana baby.

I am leaving my role at Fort Worth Independent School District at the end of the month. This was planned for over two years as I exit on my 59th birthday (the same age my mother was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer) and 10 years after myself surviving breast cancer, twice.

RM, my husband for nearly four decades, had a major medical event this last year, which propelled me even further toward this decision. And then the pandemic hit and after returning from Spain rather chaotically, through O’Hare, god forbid, over Spring Break, I was like, how many more signs must be aligned before you decide you must allow the running of a major industrial compound to others?

These are just some of the amazing FWISD grant leaders

I love to work, I love to roll up my sleeves and give it my all. I love the writing process and learning about new ideas, thoughts and ways of making things better. I love trying to figure out how to make things work. Really work. For real people. For us.

Now.

I want to write for myself. Maybe a novel? I want to grow gigantic crops of tomatoes, beans and herbs. I want to feed my loved ones including my family, friends and community. I will volunteer to read with children and other important nonprofit work. My mother was a social worker, my father an educator. I was programmed from an early age to give back.

I hope to travel to see my immediate family to reconnect to my roots and understand the person I am now, growing more from the experiences we shared together. From family dinners, to play, to artistic expression to love of nature – they encapsulate us.

To my work family, you are precious to me but it is time to open up the gate and let you run as I know you are so ready, like race horses at the gate for the opportunity to lead and to take the CARE funds coming to our area and schools to support our families to grow and become even more vital citizens to our community. We know many of you are without food and necessities and need support.

Here we are, every day working to make dreams come true.

Lead with compassion and patience but also with your eyes looking out for the underdog. We were once them. Grant writers love the underdog, we love something attainable but also a bit scruffy and we love winning when the odds are stacked against us. So get to work, let’s score some grants for the Fort Worth community.

You will find me in the garden behind our little adobe on Ashland. Thanks for so many great friendships and wonderful memories. You are sincerely…All The Best.

LOVE

Love,

T.

A Better Banana Bread

A Better Banana Bread

As Mini-Mixer Baker C3 states, “it’s hard to mess up banana bread” and there are tons of excellent recipes readily available at online resources like King Arthur or America’s Test Kitchen. Below is the master formula used for quick breads at the Marshall house. Recently uncovered during our travel quarantine while reading again the Crust and Crumb James Beard award-winning cookbook by Californian, Peter Reinhart, this banana bread is superior hitting all the right notes of moist, tender, even and flavor blending.

The secret to the recipe is using the creaming method. This recipe makes two large loaves – one for your family to devour and one for a porch drop:

3.5 cups of AP flour or 16 ounces

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 tablespoon baking soda

1 tsp. salt

20 ounces, or about 2.5 cups brown sugar

1 cup, or 8 ounces of butter, shortening or oil at room temperature

4 large eggs, room temperature

2 tsp. vanilla

3-4 very ripe bananas, mashed. We store ours in the freezer and use as needed.

1 cup of buttermilk or plant based milk with a tsp. of vinegar added.

9 ounces of your favorite add-in like pecans, walnuts or chocolate chips

Creaming method: add your dry ingredients and set them aside for later use.

Using an electric mixer, cream the fat choice with brown sugar on medium speed for 2 minutes. Scrap sides of bowl with spatula and mix another minute. Mix in eggs, one at a time. Then add vanilla. Scrape bowl again. Continue beating for 3 minutes. Mixture is super light and fluffy.

Mix in 1/3 of flour mixture, followed by 1/3 buttermilk and 1/3 bananas. Repeat until all is incorporated. Pour in your add-in now and mix a bit. Our house loves vegan chocolate chips!

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Use cooking spray to grease two 4 x 8.5 loaf pans (the ones your mom made meat loaf in) and fill 2/3 full with batter.

Bake for 45 minutes then reduce to 325 degrees for about 15 minutes checking for an internal temp. of 185 degrees in center. The skewer poked in center should come out clean.

Cool in pans for 15 minutes but then get them turned out on a cooling rack so they don’t stick.

This recipe is super versatile as you can substitute the banana with shredded zucchini or carrots, add raisins, blueberries and other nuts for an infinity and beyond number of options.

Happy social distancing and please share.

Spring Gardens Inspire Hope

Spring Gardens Inspire Hope

Both my parents were avid gardeners. They grew vegetables and lovely spring flowers including tulips, daffodils and irises. They both loved roses especially the kind that climbs over trellises and hung above emoting their sweet scent on anyone passing by below.

My mother treasured peonies that grow like wild clumps of weeds in Kansas. She loved herbs too which are some of the plants I first learned to grow as a beginning gardener. If you have never grown a plant outdoors, I recommend starting with herbs. They are forgiving compared to flowers and vegetables. If the soil is not right or if their owner forgets to water for a day or two or puts them in the wrong location in the garden, they usually find a way to limp forward. You can learn from herbs what not to do in the planting and growing process without busting your wallet. Rosemary, lemon thyme and basil are good varieties to begin.

Herbs like to be together so group them in organic shapes in a bed or in containers that nudge up to one another. Plants get to touch now, humans please keep your distance during Covid times.

Here is a sweet black and white picture of my mother and me in her Spring garden before Easter service in 1970. I resemble Scout, from To Kill a Mockingbird, with my pixie cut and the dress that only went on for church. Look behind us at the climbing roses. And breathe deep, we got this!

Happy Easter, family and friends and to sweet memories which is what sustains us during adverse times. Be well.

Rock-a-Bye Baby

Rock-a-Bye Baby

My husband’s family is distantly related to the composer of the iconic song, Rock-a-Bye Baby. Effie Carlton penned the song back in the 1870’s as a teenager while babysitting. Ironically, she never married or had children of her own.

This family history came to our attention several years ago when an attorney from New Mexico reached out to RM’s dad and his aunt informing them of their rights to the patent fees for the song. While the amount they collect is nominal, the legacy is what is important to appreciate.

C1 tracked this history through online searches, reviews of databases and dogged determination.

Below is the obituary notice she unearthed in her research for us to read and learn more about our musical family legacy. Effie died at 81 during the winter of 1940 soon after attending a movie featuring her song. What a sweet ending.

Victory Garden in the Fort

Victory Garden in the Fort

Well, our little victory garden is growing nicely over at Locke. The onions, planted in late February, sprouted with about six shoots per onion. We are expecting over 18 shoots per bulb by maturity in June. They are loving the regular rains along with some sun shining spring days.

Locke Victory Garden

The tomatoes, eggplant and purple basil went in the garden last weekend after we shopped at Archies, carefully following social distancing practices.

Two weeks ago, we planted Swiss chard from seeds purchased from Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello online garden shop along with cucumber for our container garden back on Ashland. Last year, we planted asparagus starts soon after we bought the Locke property in a side bed already established by the prior owners. Since this is just the second year in the ground, we must patiently wait at least one more year before we harvest asparagus spears for our Easter brunch.

Back on Ashland, we are growing garlic, potatoes and blackberries. We planted the blackberries last year, so like asparagus, theses starts take three years to mature to produce fruit with the hopes of providing over a decade of healthy production once established. Gardening requires patience and constant tending.

Ashland garden with garlic, potatoes and blackberries

Gardening is all about nurturing the plants you select to grow. Each step in the process is for the gardener to determine what the little plants need, watching for signs of distress like the cracked earth around their base, mildew spots on yellowing leaves or the encouraging new growth of tiny green leaves and shoots. We must also guard for predators like aphids and mold. And hungry bunnies.

Herbs are growing rampant in pots and beds on Ashland. Rosemary, mint, lemon thyme along with clumps of garlic chive beg for clipping much like our hair after too many weeks away from the tending of our talented dressers. Please stop by with your clippers and trim awhile, free to all who love plants as much as us.

Stay safe and tend your gardens.

Quarantine

Quarantine

Well, we, my middle daughter and I, are about half way through our recommended quarantine by the CDC after spending a week in Barcelona, Spain.  C2 and I are living in my other daughters’ home, while they try to survive with my husband in our family home just six blocks away.

tapas

While we were flying home after the traumatic Trump border closure, our family stocked our homes with eggs, almond milk, t.p, and fresh veg and fruit.  So grateful for their reconnaissance.  We muddled through the health screenings at O’Hare, please be sure we have snacks, health officials. Top priority.  Little concern for how many times I touched the pencils filling out the prescribed paperwork or the dude next to me with the mask half on, half off.  Please commit.  C2 and I ate a cheeseburger from the hotel lounge before jettisoning home to Texas. How did we not get COVID-19? Everyone is doing their best.

img_0349

No fever after 9 days.  We take our temps. twice a day, and it varies from 97 to 99 depending on our activities and the level of heat of the day.  Seems lower in the morning and higher as the day progresses.  We try to walk outside at least 2 miles a day, and then I do yoga and fitness with my dear trainer and her team at Mindful Mule.

I cook and bake sourdough bread, serve up yummy little biscuits and try to offer variety because dinner seems our only common denominator outside of getting sick, getting someone else sick, or just doing nonsensical tasks that are not helping or hurting anyone. Should we wash the dog, or the windows?

salt cellarWe meet virtually for work via Zoom, Skype and FaceTime and we talk and text.  On one of our morning walks, an older women yelled to us from her front yard that we were the first humans she saw in five days. I couldn’t tell if she was happy or sad to see us. I will bet on relieved.

Not sure where we go from here but I am committing to compassion.  Please look out for your neighbor, share your t.p. and don’t forget to prepare for the long haul.  This is a marathon not a sprint.

xxo (kiss) and (hug) to RM.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Notes from Barcelona

Notes from Barcelona

C2 and I traveled to Spain over Spring Break, during the mounting concern over the rapid spread of the corona virus.  The flight over was uneventful except for the medical emergency on the flight from Chicago to Munich.  A older woman from Romania collapsed on the way to the restroom, directly at our feet, as we had opted for the emergency row for expanded leg room.  The crew took excellent care of Nina, hooked her up to oxygen, monitored her vitals, made her as comfortable as possible, even with the language barrier, as C2 and I escaped to alternate seating. Note to self:  always carry a list of meds if you travel with a serious medical condition.

C2 and I walked nearly 50 miles in five days of exploring the streets of Barcelona. Our flat was less than one block off the Ramblas, the walking thoroughfare of the city, dotted with plazas, flower and pastry shops and Gaudi architecture. The streets are immaculate and after several noisy nights outside our flat windows, we learned that trash is picked up every night, roadways or calles de Barcelona are sprayed  with hi- power washers, and hard surfaces swept clean. Noisy, but with the virus ramping up, we appreciated the heightened effort.

Favorite sites were the Park Guell and Sagrada Familia. One side benefit of traveling during the cusp of a pandemic, is no crowds, no annoying tour groups or gaggles of tourists off the cruise ships. No lines, less people, as we slowly explored all aspects of this marvelous city.  The day we strolled the park was idyllic with bright blue skies, a warm sun and cool breezes.   All of foliage budded out, seemingly as we strolled by.  Oleander, succulents and flowering spring bulbs lined the pathways. Parakeets chirped their song.

At the Sagrada Familia,  I blinked back tears at the beauty of Gaudi’s adoration on display in all the minute details of the architecture, the carvings, the color, the stained class and the nod to nature in all aspects of the design of the space. The elevator ride to the top of the towering Passion Tower got my blood pumping as we stepped out on the high platform to look out over the roof of the church and out over the Barcelona cityscape.  There are so many great views in Barcelona, almost like a set designer styled our walks around the city.

My favorite open food market was Santa Catarina in the Born district, noted for its curvy, multi-colored roof.  C2 and I cooked several meals in our flat experimenting with local vegetables and pork sausages purchased from the market.  Artichokes are in season and featured in all the tapas bars. We ate them fried, marinated and roasted. Favorite dishes were sautéed sardines, stuffed calamari, and bombas (a fried potato croquette with aioli and spicy tomato sauce).  Barcelonians love their chorizo, cheese and pastry.  What’s not to love?

Due to Trump’s confusing television address, we didn’t sleep one night as we analyzed, consulted with concerned state-side family,  and rearranged our flight home.  Our airline routed us through Frankfurt versus Munich and then to O’Hare.  We cancelled a day trip to a monastery and local officials halted a guitar concert but we rallied on our last day in town, joining a small cooking class featuring paella, tomato toast and sangria. Our chef, born in Brazil, trained in London, living her best life with her Barcelona-based partner, demonstrated the finer techniques of paella using fresh seafood,bomba rice and smoky and sweet paprika. We met other travelers from London, Russia, New York and San Francisco.  We sliced and diced peppers, cleaned mussels and chopped tomatoes before assembling the paella in orchestrated stages and layers of flavor. After nearly three hours of smelling the delicious flavors of garlic and herbs, we were ready to eat! It fortified us for the long trip home.

Back in Fort Worth, we are on day 6 of a quarantine issued to us after a health screening in Chicago by the CDC.  No symptoms to date just time to reflect on our travels, and renewed appreciation of freedom, surrounded by the virtual support of our family and friends. Weird times.  Below is a list of Barcelona must-do’s when we travel again.

Places to eat: Tantarantana for tapas

El Quim in Boqueria Food Market – best dish was eggs and grilled squid

La Cova Fumada – very small, grandma still runs the kitchen. Try artichokes, sardines and house specialty, la bomba. Good bread.

Shopping: we liked the Born area best, found several espadrille sandal shops, pottery places and a fun gift store called Recordis Barcelona for unique, one of a kind items. Of course, all the attractions feature gift shops for souvenirs. Shop at a local food market or Carrefour for wine, nougat candy and chocolate to bring home.

Classes: Amazing Paella and Sangria by Nanda, find her on Airbnb.