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So, I’ve become a little bit of an urban gardener this summer. Thanks to the creative genius of my father and the financial inspiration of both him and my mother, I now have a large self-watering planter, 4 hanging baskets, two shelves on the wall for some pots and containers, and the beginnings of my very first vegetable garden. You see, you have to be real careful about the ideas you mention to a man like my dad and you better be sure you are serious about it because he WILL make it happen. Not only did he take my little dream of having a backyard garden and make it come to life, he did it in a matter of a couple of weekends! Bam! Instant responsibility!

Doesn’t it look pretty?!

Needless to say, I’m feeling a lot of pressure to keep these plants alive and to produce some amazing fresh veggies! I’m out there every day watering, pruning, spraying, cutting, killing bugs, crying…I literally have no idea what I am doing but I am learning as I go. The great thing about this whole process is that I can find the answers to ALL of my gardening questions right here on the internet.  I think I spend just as much time surfing the internet for answers to my garden woes as I do actually IN my garden. What is eating my basil leaves? What is the best way to get rid of slugs? Why is my zucchini plant flowering so much but there aren’t any zucchini growing? Are leaf miners going to destroy any hope of a tomato crop? Oh crap! Something just ate all of my radish tops, what’s going on?!

It’s a lot of work, but I really am having a lot of fun. There is something really satisfying about watching something come to life right in front of you and something equally heartbreaking about seeing it fail. Like my little seedlings I started a couple of weeks ago, just some lettuce and fresh herbs I wanted to get started. My dad bought me a whole seed starting system from Burpee and my little seeds did so well! They sprouted almost immediately and I was so excited! But then I got nervous that they needed to get more sunlight in order to really thrive, so I transferred the kit outside with the rest of my garden. Yeah, well, not my best idea. When I went out this morning to water before I went to work, I peeked inside the box to find them all DEAD! Wilted and sad from the hot sun. That, my friends, is what we call a learning curve.

But I am celebrating little victories along the way! I had a really great spurt of cilantro early on which smelled amazing and we were able to use it in a few batches of salsa and guacamole. My mint WAS growing out of control at one point and I thought I would never find enough ways to use it all. Plus, my basil is awesome and still thriving! Yay! I made THE most amazing homemade pesto this week with all of my basil. Oh my gosh! Wait, I have to tell you about it really quick because that was the original inspiration for this post (I am CLEARLY easily distracted)!

I had a good bunch of basil that I had to cut from the plant in order to continue to encourage new growth (that’s right, I learned that on the internet!) I didn’t want it to go to waste, so pesto was the perfect solution. I learned how to do pesto from my rock star, foodie friend Samantha but there is no real recipe involved. She sounded a bit like this, “You use a whole lot of basil, pine nuts, plenty of garlic, a good amount of olive oil, and you can never have too much parmesan cheese.” Then, just keep tasting it and adding things until it is perfect. This time, however, I didn’t use my food processor. I hand-chopped! I found this recipe online called “How to Make Pesto Like an Italian Grandmother” which said it would never be thrown in a machine. So I tried it, adding a little bit of each ingredient as I went. The result was truly amazing! It took a little extra time and a really good, sharp knife but even Eddie agreed that it was my best pesto EVER! Another victory for the urban gardener!

This whole process made my kitchen smell AMAZING!

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We have all heard the saying, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” Well, just a few weeks ago I found something in the “trash” that has CHANGED MY LIFE!

I found a Crockpot! An actual, stainless steel and black, practically new, and still working CROCKPOT! In the TRASH! I know, right?! Someone had put it out by the trashcans in my apartment complex. I let it sit out for a couple of days after I first saw it, just to make sure someone was actually trying to get rid of it and that I wasn’t stealing someone’s stuff. When it was still there after those two days, I figured I was safe and I grabbed it and took it upstairs. It was a little dusty but there was no real damage. After a good wipe down, it looked like it had never even been used! I plugged it in to see if it still worked, thinking maybe it was in the trash because it was broken, but nope! It absolutely worked!

My trashcan treasure!

I was so excited because I have always wanted a Crockpot but could never quite justify spending the extra money on something I wasn’t sure I would even use very much. Problem solved! Lifelong dream fulfilled…and for FREE! I am so in love with this crockpot right now! I have used it 3 times so far and each time was a HUGE success. The last time I used it, I made boneless pork ribs. I had just gone to the grocery store and was running late for work. So, I got home and dumped the ribs into my crockpot with some homemade BBQ sauce that was left over from the weekend. It literally took me 2 minutes! I put it to cook on high and left for work. When I got home, 5 hours later, the meat was perfectly cooked and melt-in-your-mouth delicious. I served that up with some fresh asparagus and brown rice (the 5 minute, boil-in-a-bag kind) and I had a complete and yummy dinner ready with very little effort! Perfect!

As usual, I ended up feeding a couple extra mouths that night, so it was a good thing I cooked ALL the ribs. It’s like I always say, “If you cook it, they will come!” Needless to say, I am very happy with my Crockpot and I am not ashamed to admit to anyone where I found it! I look forward to sharing some of my favorite crock pot recipes with you in the near future. Although, at this point, the recipes consist of “throw some meat of choice in the Crockpot with some kind of yummy sauce and cook until ready!”

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