Friday, July 25, 2014

My long-longed-for plant

I have wanted a tea plant for more than five years and I am delighted that I now have one planted in my front yard. I have checked on it every day I was here, expect for the days I have been on vacation. Every time I examine it (for signs of bugs, or disease, or anything) I am so happy that I finally have the plant I have wanted for so long.

It's about waist high and I am excited that it is doing so well. I have struggled to have a plant like this, buying seeds online and even trying to propagate one, TWICE, from springs I received from my friend Angela McRae who owned one already but now has two since she purchased one at at the same time.

It took a new business in town, Southern Roots on Hwy 29 in Newnan and a visit to our Crossroads Garden Club by the owner, Bob Lott, to finally find what I had been looking for so long. Lott and his wife Sherry opened the business last year after retiring, and he specializes in southern plants and plants that do well in our area of the south.

As Lott was speaking about his plants, he mentioned that as far as he knew, he was the only person in the area that had a "tea plant." I haven't seen one for sale locally and had only seen the tea plant or Camellia sinensis at Hills and Dales estate in Lagrange. I had even asked if they could propagate one for me but even though they were gracious enough to take my name, they never contacted me. I guess they had too much work on that large estate, to worry about selling one plant, and I understand that.

The Camellia sinensis originated from China and is grown and exported from many Asian countries. Some tea plantations have their own varieties though all tea comes from the same Camellia sinensis plant. I would imagine that soils might make a difference in the flavor variations, but that is not a scientific supposition, just an opinion of mine because of what I have read. I do know that my favorite black tea comes from the Assam region of India.

The largest tea grower in the United States is located in Charleston, South Carolina, though there are smaller growers in the states of Washington, Alabama, and Hawaii. I don't know if my "tea plant" originated from one of these places but I would guess Alabama or South Carolina. I wish in this case that plants could come with papers to let us know their origin, but they usually don't.

An interesting fact about tea is that black, green, and white tea all come from the same plant, Camellia sinensis, but are processed differently.

Do I plan on making my own tea from my tea leaves? Of course I do. Apparently, springs from a Camellia sinensis should only be harvested when the plant is three years old. I don't know exactly how old my plant is, but it already has seeds should make it old enough for harvesting.

I know that even though I love tea, I have no experience as a taster and might not be able to tell the difference between old leaves and new but I am sure that I will soon be able to harvest. I certainly don't want my tea plant to grow too tall. I have read they get up to 16 feet if not trimmed (or plucked).

I do know that the Camellia sinensis is an acid loving plant and needs plenty of rainfall to produce leaves for tea production so I need to monitor rainfall to make sure my plant is happy enough to produce.

I may even try to grow some plants from seed--I have at least four green ones on the plant. I would love to have my own tea hedge and harvest enough tea for my family.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Beach Morning Glory

For a number of years now, I have seen these lovely pink flowers along the coast. My husband correctly identified them as morning glories but I really didn't think so because of the foliage. 

When I did decide to look it up I found they were indeed beach morning glories.

According to Ralph Mitchell is, Extension Director/Horticulture Agent for Charlotte County UF/IFAS Extension Service it is a beach or railroad morning glory that is used to help prevent beach erosion.

I think it also adds enjoyment to my walks along the beach. I am glad to know what these flowers are and my husband is happy to know he was right.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

A Happy GF Beach Birthday

We always have a birthday party at the beach since my husband birthday falls smack in the middle of July.

It creates a unique problem because there are no gluten-free bakeries where we vacation. Also, I don't think a homemade cake could withstand the trip.

Last year we decided to bake the cake and frost it after getting here.

This year we made our own mix. We put all the dry ingredients in a baggie and on the day of the birthday, just mixed them together and put the cake in the oven. (Purchasing a mix would work, too.)

There were no serving platters at this condo so the cake was baked in a 9 x 13-inch casserole dish. It turned out perfectly, needed less frosting, and was just all-around easier.

It would be better to premix the frosting, if possible. We used a white frosting we made here, and brought pre-made chocolate frosting to decorate.

Writing the birthday greeting and adding a border and candles were the only things we had to do. The cake was pretty and delicious, and it was nice to have only one cake for our whole crowd!

A couple of tips. Hand-mixing works but bringing a hand mixer is better. And, throwing in a decorater bag and tips also helps. It will make the cake look better and these items take up almost no room.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

What happens when babies hate sand?

We have been stumped by a baby who LOVED the beach last year but can't stand even one grain of sand on hands or feet. He loves water, screams when sand is near.

Our solution is to put him in a little boat float filled with a couple if buckets of water and give him beach toys. We looked for a little pool but this float could be used as a pool and a float.

Happy toddler, happy parents, happy me. This happiness only cost me $4.27!

Monday, July 14, 2014

A healing herb

What is this lovely flower? It traditionally has been used as a healing herb. The flower petals are used in wound healing and treating skin ailments.

I started my calendulas from seed this spring and they are just now beginning to bloom. Finally!  Here is some info.

Calendula officinalis (Pot Marigold or English Garden Marigold) a member if the daisy family. A half-hardy annual or tender perennial. Good for early- and late-season color but performs badly in hot weather. Flower petals are sometimes used in medicine. 

Calendula shouldn't be confused with the marigold, Tagetes erecta (African Marigold). T. patula (French Marigold). This is a different plant altogether.

Though it is considered a tender perennial I am hopeful that I can transplant to my new herb bed this fall. I know the flower petals are edible and I think it is prettier than I expected.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Turning $5 into summer relaxation

A couple of weeks ago, I went to a nearby neighbor's yard sale and bought a couple of wicker chairs and a wicker table for just $5.

But I will be the first to admit that I didn't really know if it was a great purchase, or not. The seats were sagging, some of the wicker was barely hanging on, and they were a sorry shade of gray. They were dirty and mildewed, but as I reached in my purse to get the $5, I found myself giving a pep talk--to me. I was telling myself that if I had to take these chairs to the dump, I would only be out $5. I had wasted $5 before and this could really fill a need we had.

The back story is that during an ice storm this past winter, a large pine had fallen on our deck, destroying our entire patio set. Thankfully our deck receive only minor damage but we had nothing to sit out on in the evenings when our deck was shady. Also, we had to replace three sets of doors that open onto the deck, so our budget wouldn't stretch for a new patio set. Not this year.

That all worked together to make the very sad-looking wicker set look more attractive to me. When I got them home, my husband was skeptical that I could repair and restore the set for use at all, though $5 wasn't so much to waste. He said I was on my own in this one.

I knew I didn't want to spend too mush on restoration and I didn't even take a before photo because the set just looked too bad.

To fix it up, I bought some high tack wood glue and made some repairs with glue. I then reinforced the seat bottoms with wire. I knew that paint would most likely cover the wire and I was right. I bought some spray paint and sprayed the chairs and then added a coat of leftover white enamel exterior paint, leftover from the painting the doors. This I added with a brush.

When I was finished, I was pleased, but my husband was elated. He just couldn't believe they looked so much better.

We purchased cushions for about $10 each and we are very happy with the results. If this furniture will last until next year when we will probably be able to replace it with a new set, we will feel that the $5, plus supplies and cushions will have been worth the price and the effort.

The only chore we have left now is to paint the deck and we can have our morning coffee in our new chairs and we can also sit out while watching the grill with a glass of mint tea. It doesn't get much better or much cheaper!

Monday, June 30, 2014

Saturday at the Carnegie

Saturday was a very big event for us. We were at the Carnegie Library in downtown Newnan, Ga. presenting our story and giving tips for gluten-free baking and cooking. The photos are courtesy of Katie Brady who was an incredible hostess for this event.

We certainly appreciate the Newnan Carnegie Library Foundation and Katie Brady who invited us to speak and present our gluten-free tips, and also serve some of our baked goodies to the attendees. We had about fifty who came out on a beautiful Saturday morning to hear us speak and I must say, the audience was so attentive and encouraging. We felt we were really helping those who are struggling to provide a gluten-free lifestyle in a world that is obsessed with wheat!

They provided encouragement and also some very good tips, too. I think it is amazing how much you can learn from a group of like-minded people.

We told everyone about our story and how we came to this point--blogging, authoring a book, and trying to keep things going with busy lives, careers and families.

We showed them the flours and ingredients we use and gave them tips that included, keep positive, how to turn your mistakes into something good--like croutons from a failed bread recipe, and making a trifle from a cake that fell. We also demonstrated how mixing wasn't such a bad thing and gave away one of the mixes we created.

 After we spoke, we invited everyone to try our our goodies and the brownies were the crowd favorite. The Lemon Blueberry Cake which was my favorite, and a very close second with the crowd.

Later, we had a book signing (here I am making change from my purse!).

I can only say how welcomed we felt and appreciate so much the Newnan Carnegie Foundation, Katie Brady, Carol Zoeller, Carolyn Sears, and Anita Headley. They helped us so much. We are definitely fans of the Newnan Carnegie. Thanks so much!