Sunday Coffee – Landscaping Progress (Tier 2)

When you use the words “xeriscape” and “South Texas” together, it conjures images of cactus and rock yards. That’s pretty much the xeriscape norm around here. It makes sense – we live in an area highly prone to drought, and even when we’re not in drought, we’re always under water restrictions. Our weather is volatile and extremely hot. For half the year, temps are up in the 90s and 100s, and the direct sun is brutal. It’s not unusual to see news reports of pavement temps being well over 140 in the sun, 120 in the shade. A plant has to be super hardy to live around here. I grew up thinking that green grass in the winter and brown grass in the summer was normal.

Grass and lawns are not good for my part of the world, not to mention that Jason and I really dislike taking care of that kind of thing. And since our house is on a giant slope filled with many long-established trees, we decided that xeriscaping would be our best bet when we cut the lawn into tiers for erosion control. Neither of us like rock yards or cactus, though, which is where our combined joy of research came in really handy!

As it turns out, there are some fantastic resources for San Antonio gardening. Not only could we get some rebates from the city water company for xeriscaping our yard, but there is detailed information on what plants are perfect for our area: native, low-maintenance, low-water, perennial, tolerant of full sun or full shade, tolerant of terrible soil (ha!), non-invasive, etc. We could easily pick out plants from ground cover to full trees (if we needed more), and could see which ones worked best with each other. And after all our online research was done, we could pop down to the nursery only a few miles away and peruse the possibilities. And to make it even easier, the plants we were looking for – which all qualified for the city water discounts – are specially labeled at the nursery.

I’ve always had a bit of a black thumb, as I’ve said before. I can’t really keep any plants alive. I’ve also never really been interested in gardening. I don’t like touching soil, bugs, and especially grass/leaves/plant material. Standing barefoot on grass is a personal nightmare. But research helped. Knowing the names of plants, experiencing them at the nursery, and of course using gloves when we planted them, helped a lot. Also, choosing plants that are low maintenance and native and can grow in whatever soil/sun/shade/water you give them means that you can turn your black thumb into a green thumb with absolutely no effort at all on your part. Ha!

Our yard is now about 2/3rds xeriscaped. We finished the box around the three trees at the bottom of the lawn, and put in erosion-control turfstone by the driveway, and created a rock-garden with creeping herbs next to that. The top of the lawn, which had already been level, got overhauled from scraggly grass to new xeriscaped plant beds. We installed wooden borders along the sidewalk and down the side of the rock wall (to make mowing easier for our neighbors!). We still have to do some drainage work at the bottom of the driveway, and then Tier 3 will begin. I know I said we were going to wait a bit before we continued work in our yard, but with temps hitting 100 this week, we’re anxious to finish asap!

In the meantime, I’m enjoying our little garden, and I’m not a fan of the outdoors! We’ve already seen massive butterflies flitting around, and that’s very unusual around here. I guess when they say these plants attract butterflies, they mean it! Beyond that, we have this lovely, cool front yard that’s a far cry from the traditional rocks-and-cactus image normally expected in south Texas xeriscaping. I can’t wait until the whole yard is this beautiful!

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Close to Home, by Cara Hunter (audio)

GoodReads summary available here.

The hunt for police procedurals, take 1: Nope.

I’m not going to spend long on this one. The book was well-written. I really enjoyed most of it. For awhile, I thought perhaps it would be the first of a series I could enjoy for a long time. But then came the epilogue, an out-of-nowhere twist, which made the whole thing feel not at all like a procedural but like some kind of genre mash-up instead. That epilogue pretty much ruined the rest of the book experience for me. Crossing this series off my list.

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Wellness Wednesday – Cobbling a Fit-Tracker

As you know, my Fitbit One died at the end of March, and they aren’t making them anymore. It was a month past when it would have been under warranty, so no dice in terms of trying to replace it. Boo. So I got a Fitbit Charge 2, which ended up being such a terrible solution for me that I let Jason have it. For awhile, I wrestled with my One, trying to limp it along, but that just wasn’t going to work. I got a Bellabeat Leaf, and while I loved the versatility and look of the Leaf, it didn’t keep track of steps in any way accurately. I returned it, and went back to the drawing board.

Needs: a pedometer that accurately counts steps and can sit in my pocket. Preferably, it would track elevation and a basic calorie count as well. The Charge 2 failed on all those points, but I started to think – what if I took the Charge off its band and just kept it in my pocket instead? Could I use it as a One even though it’s not a One?

So yes, I stole my own Charge 2 back from Jason (ha! I had his permission) to try this out. And at first, I was confused, because the Charge kept giving me a heart rate all day long, even though it was in my pocket. I did some research and figured out how to turn the heart rate monitor off, because the pocket-measurement was highly inaccurate and skewed both my fit minutes and my daily calories. And after that…it was practically like having a One again! Yay!

There was just one more thing I needed to make the situation perfect – some kind of case or cover to keep the tiny Charge from slipping around and possibly out of my pocket. I didn’t want to lose it! So I did some research, and found a perfect shop on Etsy, Giraffairy Creations, that makes all sorts of Fitbit accessories. I picked out a ClipWrap Slim, chose a fabric, and received my carrier case just days later. It’s pretty and sturdy and a perfect fit, and makes it so I now have exactly what I want in a pedometer/fitness tracker again!

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Sunday Coffee – Crime Procedurals

I mentioned the other day that I’ve been binge-watching a lot of TV. It’s all been crime procedurals like NCIS or SVU. I’ve hardly read a thing since last month’s Readathon, literally only finished one book, and that one a reread (In the Woods – Tana French). Again, another crime procedural. Apparently, this is what I’m in the mood for. Unfortunately, I only really know of two procedural series: French’s series, and the Cormoran Strike series by Robert Galbraith aka JK Rowling. I’d like to listen to something new, however, so I’d love some recommendations, if anyone knows any.

Looking specifically for crime/detective novels rather than thrillers, not too gory but also not too cozy-mystery or formulaic, and well-known enough that I can get copies from my library. If there are audio versions, that’s even better. There are a couple authors I’ve heard about but I’m not sure if any of these would fit the criteria – Janet Evanovich, Louise Penny, Michael Connelly, Elizabeth George, JD Robb, Jane Harper, Cara Hunter. Anyone familiar with any of their series? I’m just not terribly familiar with the genre and thought I’d reach out to my book blogging community for suggestions before I go in blind!

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Personal Yoga Challenge

For the last four years, Yoga With Adriene has put out a month-long daily yoga challenge in January. Each day builds on the previous one, with cohesive themes throughout and a good alternation of stretching, strengthening, and calming days. During the rest of the year, YWA puts out a monthly calendar with previously-published videos slated for each day. There’s a general theme, and new vids every Sunday, but over the last few months, I’ve found less cohesion in these calendars. Often, I end up skipping the recommendations and finding a video that suits me for the day instead, or I just skip yoga altogether. So far this month, I’ve only done six yoga sessions. !!! I just don’t look forward to these calendars the way I do to the cohesive January challenges. Therefore, I’ve put together a personal yoga challenge.

Starting today, I’ll begin the 2015 January yoga challenge from YWA (30 Days of Yoga). Once that’s done, I’ll move on to those from 2016, 2017, and 2018, before incorporating the 2019 January challenge, whatever it turns out to be. Then I’ll do the whole cycle again, trying to get three full cycles of all five challenges done by the end of 2019. There are enough differently-themed challenges to provide plenty of variety, and I’ll still take days off to do the new vids on Sundays, plus break days. But I feel I’ll be more focused and eager to do my yoga practice this way.

Before each 30-day challenge, I’m taking photos of about twenty yoga poses, so that I can chart my personal progress over time. (Pictured: warrior I, chair, toe stand/squat, downward dog, and heart-to-earth) I took the first round of photos yesterday, and MAN I need some real work on some of these. Wish me luck!

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Wellness Wednesday – Cultivate

I won’t lie to y’all – May has been just as tough as I expected. So far, I’ve been coping with the crushing ghost-trauma** by binge-watching TV. While this isn’t the healthiest thing in the world, it’s far better than binge eating or drinking! I’ve also been forcing myself into a bit of exercise, though it’s far less than usual. (The heat – now into the high 90s in the day and already 75 by morning – has a lot to do with that, too.) Other than these two trying-to-stay-afloat action items, I’ve spent a bit of time creating a new life-goals journal, with color-in items meant to help me cultivate a life I love.

I decided to make this a little more artistic than my usual style. My bullet journal is all minimal and simple and list-oriented, but I bought a sketchbook for this one, with nice paper, and have been sketching my way though life goals. I’m not a great artist but I have a tiny bit of skill, and I’m pleased with how most of these came out (click pics to enlarge).

Included in the book are travel goals, health goals, weight loss, fitness, events to attend and places to see, home improvements and reminders to keep trying out new movies or foods or live productions. I might eventually add more as ideas come to me. This is meant to be an ongoing, rolling bucket-list type thing. I have it all indexed like a bullet journal, and the rest of the sketchbook will be used for journaling and sketching my experiences of some of the larger goals (like travel stuff).

So this has become a secondary coping strategy for me, and I’m doing okay. I’m doing about as well as can be expected in May, and I hope that most of the ghost-trauma is behind me now since I’ve passed the halfway point of the month!!

**Ghost-trauma: When the trauma of previous years was so acute that your body stored it in your subconscious and you relive it each year despite not going through any trauma in the present. This is not a medical term. Ha.

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Making the Most of Mother’s Day

So yeah. Yesterday morning was frustrating, waking up to water everywhere and a messed up kitchen ceiling. But I’m tired of days just going to hell because of things outside my control, and decided to do what I could to make this an awesome day. While we waited for our insurance people to send out the cleanup crew, the family went outside to begin the next phase of our landscaping project. The boys hauled rocks, Jason built rock walls, and I troweled up a small ditch along the sidewalk and walls to put in a wood border. My arms/wrist are sore and I have a few blisters, but the result was nice:

Late morning, the insurance people still hadn’t come, so we called back to find out their system was down. They gave us the go-ahead to get someone of our own to clean up and fix the toilet, so we called out our contractor friend James, who had already seen my posts on Facebook and volunteered to come out. It didn’t take him long to get things in order, and by early afternoon, we had a working bathroom again. Now we just wait for the adjuster to come, evaluate, and write up our claim so that we can get the kitchen ceiling and bathroom floor fixed/replaced.

(blooming!)

With that part out of the way, we all settled down to watch Forever My Girl. I’ve wanted to see it since it came out a few months ago, even though I knew that it would make the rational part of me angry. It’s a shame when romantic and rational sides collide, haha! It was a simultaneously cute and infuriating movie!

Afterwards, Jason and the boys took me out to a local restaurant called Pesto’s. We haven’t been there in a few years and hoped it would be just as good as we remembered. It was. First thing we discovered was that they had a Mother’s Day special going on – a free mimosa for moms! It was pretty and delicious:

For dinner, I had Romano-crusted chicken over linguine in a lemon-caper sauce (mmm), and Jason and I shared a slice of tiramisu afterwards while the boys had homemade sorbet. Everything there seems to be made from scratch with real ingredients (the Caesar salads, for instance, had anchovies in the dressing), and it was all 100% amazing. I can’t wait to have the other half of my dinner for lunch today!

In the end, it turned out to be a pretty nice Mother’s Day despite the chaos of the morning. I’m glad we were able to salvage something from the day!!!

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