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Success!

2009-07-17-garden_0010When you go from being a serial plant killer to actually producing edible vegetables, it is quite an amazing transformation. The sense of accomplishment makes you feel giddy inside and yet it seems almost ridiculous to feel so proud for the simple act of putting seeds into soil and adding water and sunshine.

Yet there I was, proud as could be, when I found actual produce in my yard yesterday. A small harvest, yes, but signs of success. The JavaKids and JavaDad joined in the jubilation as we have all eagerly anticipated the fruits of our labor.

2009-07-17-garden_0004We gathered two cherry tomatoes, several green beans, and a large zucchini we nearly missed seeing. We have several tomatoes growing very well, just not ripened yet, and lots of vines (pumpkin, zucchini, cucumber, and watermelon) growing and sprawling with the promise of providing more to harvest. I’m not sure our peppers are going to do well, but we will see, and we never got the corn planted after all.

The garden isn’t well planned and isn’t pretty, but it’s working and we’ve learned a lot about what works in our yard and what we can do better next year. And I’ve finally learned that I am not the grim reaper of the plant kingdom after all.

When Life Gives You Basil… Make Lemonade!

purplebasil2I have a LOT of basil.

I mean a LOT. My mother brought me a sprig of purple basil from my great-grandmother’s garden a few years ago and it has turned into a hedge of basil, I kid you not. It is a wonderful bounty, and I love to share it — I gave each child in my son’s preschool class a plant to start in their own gardens and I’m always offering it to passing neighbors, strangers, the A/C repair guy…

But this year’s bounty far exceeds any previous year’s and I’m at a loss as to how to use it. I’m looking for additional recipes!

I’ve made some different pestos, and so far I like the version from Andrea’s Recipes — although I have to ask — do most people toast their pine nuts first or not?

I’ve made this creamy basil pesto three times now, with a few variations on the cheese, and we like it. (The original recipe is for shrimp, but I’ve made just the sauce, and put it over rigatoni or ziti with chicken or ham and peas.)

I’ve made this lemonade and it had a nice flavor — an added complexity to lemonade you would never expect. This is the blessing of a bumper crop — it makes you try new things!

I have not yet made this version of syrup for lemonade/gimlets, but plan to eventually. (I am not a big drinker, but I’ll try a gimlet, just to try one — we have these gorgeous martini glasses we got as wedding gifts and I don’t think we’ve ever had a reason to use them!)

And I’ve made this basil chicken with rice dish, which was very good.

I would love to hear from you about your favorite basil recipes, especially if it uses large quantities of basil!

And what is YOUR bumper crop this summer?

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Learn more about how my crop started from this DC Metro Mom’s post.

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So Much to Be Thankful For!

This particular Thanksgiving week has been a time of reflection for me, because this time last year I was curled up in pain with a never-ending migraine and bizarre facial pain that was set off by the most gentle of touches.

It turned out to be something called trigeminal neuralgia, which has the lovely nickname of “the suicide disease” because the pain can be so excrutiating people sometimes kill themselves to escape the pain — sometimes they go from doctor to doctor looking for a diagnosis and sucumb to the pain before they get a diagnosis and treatment.

I, however, was fortunate.  I went to a meeting I was really trying to get out of because of how awful I felt, and when a friend of mine there overhead my symptoms, she told me it sounded exactly like what her cousin had, and voila — through the beauty of the Internet and having the right term to search on — I was able to go into my doctor with what I was sure it was.  I had been searching the Internet for days prior to that, trying to find something that accurately described the kind of headache and pain it was — knowing it was far, far different from my “typical” migraine and I hadn’t found anything.  (As a friend would say, it was a “God moment” — had I missed the meeting, I would’ve missed out on that friend’s insight!)

My doctor agreed with me that I seemed to have found the right diagnosis and off the neurologist I went.  I had the added scare of a “suspicious mass” in my CT scan — discovered the Wed. before Thanksgiving — which fortunately turned out to be nothing — but that “nothing” gave me plenty to worry about for a few weeks until I had an MRI done.    

As for the trigeminal neuralgia it was a long journey of pills (at one time — four anticonvulsants a day) and discussions of brain surgery, and those pills made me sick and loopy and really interfered with my life as a mother.  At times I lost my ability to select the right words when speaking or writing, sometimes I couldn’t even handwrite because I couldn’t get my hand to coordinate with my mind correctly — I felt brain damaged a lot of the time and it frustrated me.  The pain still remained — it was duller, but still there.  I felt like an old person in a younger woman’s body.  I felt robbed of my life and wondered if this was going to be the best quality of life I was going to face — and if so, was this really the quality of life I could live with.  Thank God I have kids — they are who and what kept me going through the worst of it all.  I tried to hide my struggles from them — still taking them to everything, still trying to be supermom — but I couldn’t hide the fact that I was exhausted by 4pm and that I cringed everytime they tried to touch my right cheek.

And finally, through a change of doctors and perseverance of the right doctor, we found the right medication — for me, just one high-dose Topamax pill a day does the trick.  No more dopiness.  Some pain, but not curling up in a ball, hiding from the world pain.  I don’t flinch every time my children come up to kiss my cheek.

I have my life back.  I am back to being a vibrant mother to my kids, a wife to my husband.  Last year I remember having to cede part of the Thanksgiving cooking over to my mother because the pain became so great I could no longer stand, but this Thanksgiving, I cooked up a storm, played Wii, and even had time to run out for some Thanksgiving evening shopping!

The evening news is filled with lots of doom and gloom and of course I’m concerned about our economy and the world around us, but this year I am thrilled to be back to my old self.  I have a long list of things to be thankful for — our beautiful family, my husband’s job, our home, but frankly, this year, at the top of the list is being so much better than I was last year.  I still have TN, and brain surgery isn’t entirely off the table, but at least I am doing so much better than this time last year.

Happy Thanksgiving, Happy Advent — may  you find time to count your own blessings today!