Monday, February 21, 2011

Are YOU Guilty of Crape Murder?

Crape Murder (Internet)

Crape Murder (Internet)
Every year it never fails … someone … lots of someones … commit Crape Murder!  One of my biggest pet peeves.  It should be a crime!!!

Apparently it all started when some so called ‘professional landscaper’ and I say this sarcastically because in Georgia you don’t have to be licensed or have any education to call yourself a ‘professional landscaper’ …decided the proper way to prune a Crape Myrtle was to MASSACRE it … literally!  AND homeowners everywhere have followed the trend to murder their beautiful Crape Myrtles … EVERY YEAR.  Monkey See … Monkey Do! 

Crape Murder is when you hack it (prune is too nice of a word to describe it) back down to the main trunks … that’s all that’s left is the main trunks!!!  After years of doing this the tree forms knots which makes committing Crape Murder even easier because then these Crape Murderers just hack it back to the knots every year.

Crape Murder causes several problems: (1) it will produce LESS flowers, (2) produces skinny thin branches, (3) these skinny little branches struggle with the weight of the flowers which will not hold up during a heavy rainfall thus flowering for a shorter period of time, and (4) it stresses out the tree which shortens its life span dramatically.

Well first off folks … pruning your Crape Myrtle isn’t entirely NECESSARY …have you ever seen the really huge old Crape Myrtles planted in rows along interstates or in town squares?  They aren’t pruned and they look exactly like they are supposed to look …BEAUTIFUL and heavy with flowers.  AND Crape Myrtles in the wild do just fine without ever seeing pruning shears or worse yet, loppers, and they are gorgeous …just more bush like.

Why prune then?  To control the form.  You want to maintain a tree form?  You must prune every season to encourage it and maintain it.  If you want it bush like, which they tend to want to be, you leave it alone.  So pruning is really just maintaining its desired shape … that’s all!

Now with that said …FEBRUARY is the month to prune and I like my Crape Myrtles in tree form.  The four Crape Myrtles I have in my yard are only 3 years old … at least that’s how long they’ve been planted in MY yard. BUT I’ve had Crape Myrtles at both of my last two homes  …some huge mature ones.  Depending on the variety, they can grow anywhere from 4 to about 35 foot tall.  Anyway, when I planted the four I have now they were just sticks about 2 foot tall.  Literally just a stick …well a trunk with three/four main branches. 

My pruning consists of trimming off any branches around the base of the main trunk …these are called suckers and can also shoot off from the spreading roots underneath the soil creating babies.  But don’t think its easy to dig up a ‘baby’ and transplant it … I’ve tried … it aint easy!  Usually this has to be done several times during the blooming season because as I’ve already said Crape Myrtles want to be bushes so you’ve got to train them if you want a tree.

Close Up of 2-3 Inch Twigs (My Photo)
Next, I trim off all the skinny branches (branches that are smaller than a pencil) coming off the main branches to encourage main branch growth, otherwise it will put all of its energy into those sprouting baby branches.  Also, remove the 2-3 inch twigs coming off some branches.

Next, for form purposes only, I will trim off bigger branches that are way too low on the tree (not the trunk branches, mind you, but branches coming off one of the main trunks that are too low).

Brown Seed Pods (My Photo)
Finally, I remove the remnants of last season’s flowers …the pretty brown pods that are left behind …cutting off just below the last of the pods. (HINT: cut off some of these pretty brown seed pods in the Fall and you can use them in dried flower arrangements or even spray paint them silver or gold for Christmas décor!)  

That’s it!  A light pruning … that’s all! 

Properly Pruned Crape Myrtle (Internet)
 This year my four Crape Myrtles are now taller than I am.  Now next year, I won’t be able to reach those spent flower pods to prune them off so they will remain. Which is perfectly fine!  You will still get new blooms without removing the pods.  My Crape Myrtles will only reach about 6-8 foot tall (Tonto variety) so they are pretty close now to being full grown … at least as far as height.  Had I been committing Crape Murder every year, I guarantee they wouldn’t be anymore than 3 foot tall and possibly DEAD!

Most likely beginning next year, I will only have to trim back any unwanted branches … and those pesky ones that come up at the base …the suckers …that’s it!  (These photos are also from the internet ... problems downloading my before and after pics ... sorry!)

Tonto Crape Myrtle in Bloom (Internet)
Simple … no murder required … no crime committed!

(NOTE: Don’t just take my word for it.  There are plenty of reputable websites where you can get more detailed information about pruning Crape Myrtles and other information regarding care, growth and flowering, etc.  Don’t just mimic what your neighbors do … educate yourself first!!!  AND if you’ve committed Crape Murder …in most cases, it can be rectified.  Just Google it!!!)

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Wash That Wicker ...

Washing Wicker
LEFT Chair Before Washing ~ RIGHT Chair After

So you have a piece or two of wicker and its gotten dirty and dusty and possibly midewy … you think ‘what to do’ …

Wash it!  Yes you can!  Just take out the ole water hose … NOT a pressure washer oh no no no … a water hose and just spray it down.  Its amazing what a difference a little water can make.  Oh and make sure you do this on a bright sunny day so that afterwards you can leave it in the sun to dry.  AND do not do not do not try to sit on the piece while it is still wet as it will form the shape of your backside LOL … it must dry for at least 24-36 hours before sitting on it again.

I even use a little Clorox Clean Up sprayed here and there in the spots where mildew had set in and the water hose couldn’t quite get it …as long as you don’t let the bleach mixture dry the wicker can handle it … just spray it off immediately with the water hose.

Here I’ve brushed down a clean wicker chair with Tung Oil … its expensive but soooo worth the end result.  Make sure to brush the Tung Oil (or you can Linseed Oil) into every nook and cranny.  Hardens to a beautiful protective finish.

Tung Oil Finish
Chair in Background has been brushed with Tung Oil
Another thing you can do to protect the wicker if you don’t want the oiled down look is to spray or brush on a Polycrylic or Polyurethane both of which come in several different clear finishes.  If your piece is used outside on a COVERED porch you would want to use the Polycrylic since its possible the wicker could be exposed to water.

Don’t be afraid to wash that wicker and add a protective finish … doing so will make it last much much longer!

To keep that fresh clean look you can do several things.

Friday, February 18, 2011

This Thing Called Facebook

Why is it people want to Facebook friend you but NEVER EVER say anything to you?  No writing on your wall, no commenting on your posts …nothing!  The least you could say is “hey Debbie how the heck are you?”  Well I gotta give it to them … sometimes ….they do an occasional ‘like’ of your status!!!  Hitting ‘like’ is easy … man, I could hit ‘like’ all day long and never have to utter a word and yea I’m actually guilty of hitting ‘like’ pretty often, especially when there are no words to say.  But to never ever utter a word on a status or post or write on your wall … its like WTH?  Why did you want to be my friend?

Is it to so you can creep on my profile, check out my pics … just be plain nosey? 

Or are you really interested in knowing me and what I’ve been up to and staying connected to me?  NOT …because if that were the case, I think you would have said ‘something’ by now!!!

Hmmm maybe its because you ‘collect’ friends … gotta get those numbers up …oh yea …for what?  Does having 600 plus FB friends make you special?  NOT!

Or maybe its because you want me involved in your silly games … Farmville, Mafia Wars, Fishy World or whatever the heck its called.  I don’t do GAMES …my time is better spent socializing … sorry Gamer friends!  I do understand you have an addiction … just come on over occasionally and socialize too! 

Now I understand there are many who set up FB accounts and NEVER EVER go on FB again.  EVER.  And there are those who have accounts and occasionally post a status but NEVER EVER comment on anyone elses.  And then there are those that do FB but are only keeping up with everyone else and don’t want anyone keeping up with them.  How sad! 

I’m actually picky when it comes to accepting friend requests …first I have at least got to know you somehow someway.  Just cause I’ve ‘heard’ of you doesn’t make me want to friend you.  And just because we went to the same high school?  That doesn’t mean I knew you or did I?  Come on people at least remind me of who you are … and girls… please … not including your maiden name is just plain stupid.  If I know you but haven’t kept up with your life over the past decades … how in the world would I know you by your married name?  At the very least when you send that friend request send a note with it saying who the heck you are!!!

And … people do change … just cause we knew each other in high school or childhood doesn’t mean I ‘know’ you now …doesn’t mean we even have any common interests or morals … yea that’s a biggy … I don’t want to be friends with people who aren’t morally on the same page as me.  Do you?

When I get a friend request from someone … usually we have quite a few mutual friends …so if I can’t determine who the heck you are and can’t find your lovely face in one of my yearbooks … I private message one or several of those mutual friends and say “who the heck is so and so” and I’m telling you 9 times out of 10 the answer I get is “oh I don’t know but they went to school with us” or “I don’t know but they have mutual friends with me” …or better yet “they’re a friend of mine, they are good people” … WTH?

In this world of identity theft and just plain meanness why wouldn’t I screen my Facebook friends?  I don’t want strangers knowing my business nor do I want strangers keeping up with me … not that I’m a private person … aint got a thing to hide but still …

I’ve had friend requests from friends of friends who were married to so and so and are now friend with my second cousin once removed … well not really but you get my point.  WTH?

Now with all this negative talk about friend requests … let me tell ya … I’ve made some wonderful friends on FB … some I even went to high school with and yea I did know WHO they were in high school but NO I didn’t know them way back when …but because of mutual friends and commenting on our mutual friends posts or statuses we’ve gotten to know each other and found that we have sooooo much in common how could we NOT be friends … heck I’ve gotten to know a quite few of my FB friends this way and wonder … how the heck did I not know them before!!!  Wonderful people …people I’m so glad to have connected with!

I love connecting with new friends like this … want to reconnect with long ago friends …and stay reconnected … that’s the beauty of FB …but I don’t need to have FB friends that have no interest in me or any interest in what I say … I don’t need the ‘friends’ who NEVER EVER comment on what I say … I don’t need the old friends that NEVER EVER comment on a life crisis I’m going through … so I say defriend me … won’t hurt my feelings … well it would if it was one of my dear friends who does ‘talk’ to me on FB …now I’m not talking about the friends who aren’t FBoholics like me and aren’t on FB 24/7 …those I do understand and those do post when they are occasionally on FB …I’m talking about those who NEVER EVER post on anything!!!  The NEVER EVER friends!!!

Lawd have mercy … I may have ‘friends’ dropping me left and right after reading this … that’s if those NEVER EVER friends even read my blog … but that’s okay … you’ve just beaten me to the punch cause I’m getting ready to defriend you!!!

As much pain and heartbreak as I’m going through right now and all the difficult times struggling to stay afloat before that …a time when I need my FRIENDS the most …well as the old saying goes “you find out who your friends are when you’re in time of need”.  With that said … I don’t need you NEVER EVER friends so go ahead defriend me … its painless!

This thing called Facebook, what a wonderful social concept …I’m so glad I have reconnected or connected with so many of you and YOU know who you are!  The TRUE friends!!! 

Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine’s Day and Heart Shaped Trinket Boxes

My Mama loved holidays … ALL holidays.  If she wasn’t decorating for them she was making sure she wore the ‘colors of the day’ … like today she wouldn’t have gone anywhere without wearing her RED!

Growing up, on Valentine’s Day each year, she would buy us kids small gifts or candies.  When we were little it was the Conversation Hearts and back then they came in a heart shaped plastic container remember those?  They had a red base and a clear plastic lid.  I never cared for them, the Conversation Hearts, taste-wise anyway, but they, as they are still today, were pretty cool with their cute little sayings on them.

When Jackie and I were in our teens Mama sometimes bought us heart themed gifts like heart earrings, perfume (not heart shaped but love inspired), heart shaped boxes of candy and heart shaped trinket boxes and always included were the heart shaped red hots … the cinnamon flavored candy.  BUT we always got the heart shaped red hots even if we didn’t get a heart themed gift that year.

I took a special liking to the heart shaped trinket boxes so much so I started a small collection … not a collection of ALL the heart shaped trinket boxes I ran across but beautiful heart shaped trinket boxes.  I only have about a 7 of them now … some got broken over the years, some were not as pretty as my particular taste dictated and then like I said I don’t want to own ALL heart shaped trinket boxes just a few that are special.

I still have the very first heart shaped trinket box Mama ever gave me …on Valentine’s Day … it’s a small, white porcelain heart shaped box with I Love You written in red on the top …its just big enough for a couple rings or some earrings.

Another special one is solid brass …I used my lunch hour from work and met Mama a couple blocks away at an estate sale …she’s the one who spied it …the solid brass heart shaped trinket box …and after confirming I liked it (Mama always said I was picky and hard to buy for LOL) she bought it for me.

My MOST favorite heart shaped trinket box is one of sterling silver.  The story behind it makes it all the more special.  Scott and I were divorced and he had the kids for the summer … ALL three kids for the first time!  Mama was there at the house with me when they left … and the minute they did, I ran into my bedroom, threw myself on my bed and just cried, cried, cried … my heart was torn to pieces.  I think I must have cried for an hour or more while Mama sat there with me!  At some point, Mama talked me into going to the Base (MCLB …specifically the BX) with her.  I didn’t want to go I just wanted to wallow in my heartbreak but I went cause she said it would “do you good to get out”.  So we’re in the BX and Mama spies a heart shaped trinket box and calls me over.  It was a beautiful sterling silver with double hearts interlocked trinket box.  At first I wasn’t sure I wanted it cause I was divorced, I didn’t have my heart intertwined with anyone.  But Mama said “it has two connected hearts, one is your heart and the other heart is your love for your kids” …I just cried.  That is why this one means the most to me!

Mama our hearts will always be intertwined …yours and mine!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Smile for the Birdie

My Daddy was a photographer.  Both as a hobby and during the 21 years he served in Photomapping Squadron in the United States Air Force, their mission: Mapping the World.  Daddy was a Photomapper but more specifically a HIRAN [High Range Navigation Radar] Operator.  He flew most often in the C-130s where they photo mapped from the air.  (Note: Photomappers don’t exist in the U.S.A.F. any longer as technology has taken over those jobs with the use of satellites.)  Daddy loved taking pictures so I’m sure that’s where I got my love of photography. 

I bought my first camera when I was 9 years old at a yard sale for 25 cents … a ‘Real 35 mm’ …at least that’s what I thought.  It was a cute camera.  Looked like a real 35 mm, opened up and had the spools to hold the film and even had slots for a flash bulb (remember those little square flash bulbs with four flashes, one on each side of the square?).  Its body was plastic, lens was plastic and it even had a plastic neck strap.  I’m not talking about the hard durable type plastic that cameras are made with today.  This yard sale FIND was cheap thin plastic, like a toy.  I thought it was awesome!  (The picture on the left was one of the best ones made with my first "35 mm" ... my best friend, Kathy Bissonnette, and me at Forbes AFB in Topeka, KS in 1971)

When I brought it home, I couldn’t wait for my Daddy to see it and “Daddy it only cost 25 cents!”  My Daddy tried to tell me it was just a toy but I didn’t care I wanted to take pictures like my Daddy.  I said “it looks just like your’s Daddy”.  I somehow convinced him to let Mama buy me some film to ‘try it out’.  Once I had film I was told I could only take one picture at a time and only outside on sunny days cause no way were they buying me flash bulbs “to waste”.  Film was expensive and so was processing.

Amazingly, it worked.  It didn’t take great pictures like my Daddy’s did but it worked!  I only took two rolls of film with that camera …one of which I totally wasted by opening up the back and exposing the film …oops!  Later, I was allowed to use my Mama’s 110 Camera …you know the ones with the 110 film cartridge … whenever I wanted to take pictures BUT I could only take pictures of “important stuff”. 

My next camera was a Kodak Disc Camera, remember those?  Took crappy pictures.  Half the time the disc didn’t turn after you took a shot and you’d end up with double or triple exposed pics.

In 1992 I got my first REAL 35 mm … a Minolta Point and Shoot … with my income tax refund.  When it died in 2002, Scott surprised me with a new Minolta 35 mm SLR and basic Zoom Lens for Christmas.  For my Birthday, two days later, he got me a Macro Lens.  I loved that camera.  It took awesome pics.  It took incredible close UP close ups!!!

Well it got to the point that my 35 mm picture taking was getting too expensive sooooo when the really good Point and Shoot Digitals started coming out, Scott let me get one, a Sony Cybershot, FINALLY. (Remember how grainy the pics from the first Digital Cameras were?)  This one was awesome … next best thing to a Digital SLR.  And besides, the Digital SLRs were cost prohibitive running between 5 and 8,000 thousand dollars at that time… I had to wait!

My Sony Cybershot took some great pics, portraits, action shots, decent faraway shots and close ups but not close UP close ups.  But then, out of the blue a couple weeks ago, the Shutter Release Button (the picture takin button for those of you not sure of camera terminology) popped off and it was going to cost a minimum of $141 to repair … even though I had the parts!  (that’s just a little less than half of what I paid for the camera originally)  Sooooo…

A few days ago Scott surprised me again with a new Nikon Digital SLR that came with two lenses and a case.  AND to top it all off … my old Macro Lens will work with my new SLR … Yeah!!! 

Well … its back to REAL picture taking for me!  Maybe now I can get that shot of the Hawk in the tree or the Giant Woodpeckers I see so often (yep Debi Potter Drawdy they do exist, I see them too lol)  … Smile for the birdie!!!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Potatoes, Cannellini & Spinach Italiano Style

(Ingredients are Approximate)
1 lb Baby Red Potatoes, diced
1 lrg Onion, sliced
3 oz Pancetta, cut into small pieces
3 cloves Garlic, minced
2-3 tblsps Basil Infused Extra Virgin Olive Oil
(or EVOO and 2 tblsp dried Basil)
1 can Cannellini Beans, drained and rinsed
1 can Diced Tomatoes, drained
8 oz Fresh Spinach
Sea Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper to Taste

Add Basil Infused EVOO to pan along with Pancetta, Onions, Garlic, Sea Salt (just enough to get onions to sweeten up) and cook over medium heat until Pancetta is almost cooked.   It will not brown like bacon does.

Add diced Potatoes and let simmer over low heat until potatoes are just starting to soften up (about 10-15 mins)~ DO NOT OVERCOOK potatoes.

Add Cannellini Beans, diced Tomatoes, Spinach and Sea Salt and Pepper to taste and continue to cook on simmer until Potatoes are completely done and Spinach is wilted.

NOTE: (1) Pancetta is Italian bacon its very thinly sliced and has a much lighter taste than bacon; however, if you cannot find it, bacon can be substituted.  OR you can make this dish without it.  (2) As for the Basil Infused Extra Virgin Olive Oil, its easy to make your own and a lot less expensive than the fancy bottled ones ~ here’s how: pick about 6-8 Basil leaves, cut into slivers and place in Extra Virgin Olive Oil, let stand at room temp for a few hours.
Deborah Kincaid Carboni

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

New Recipe Ya'll

Hey yall …well I’ve come up with a new recipe but wanted to explain it before I post it along with a pic.  I saw this dish in the frozen food isle and thought “mmmm that sounds good” but when my trusty ‘dietician’ (Alayna) checked out the sodium count she was like “no Mom, you can make this yourself with fresh ingredients and it will be healthier” … sooooo I got the ingredients together and added a little flare of my own and whaalaa …it was sooo good.  It would be a great side dish in the summer months with grilled chicken or fish.  Scott and I ate it tonight as our one-dish-meal which isn’t easy to get him to do as he is a gotta-have-meat-at-every-meal-kinda-man!!!

Now the only thing I did different than I normally would was to use dried Basil since this time of year I don’t have fresh (Basil is an annual herb).  If I had fresh Basil … and I know you can BUY it in the produce isle but I refuse to spend that much for something I can GROW even if I can’t grow it this time of year LOL …anyway, I would have picked it fresh and let it soak in some Extra Virgin Olive Oil for a few hours to infuse.

Also, it’s a great meal for vegetarians like my son, Alexander, so Alex just leave out the Pancetta and its totally vegetarian.

Recipe and pic to follow … just hold on!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Pasta è Fagioli Zuppa (Soup)


Pasta è Fagioli is an Italian dish meaning "Pasta and Beans" and most often is a meatless soup.  There is no true recipe as it varies a bit from region to region but one thing is always the same ... it contains Pasta and Beans and these can vary in type.  The most popular type of pasta used is Ditalini, which is what I use (imported, of course).  There's a lot of ingredients in this recipe but oh is it one awesome soup!!!  This is my own personal version of this Italian soup and once someone has had it they want the recipe!!!  Olive Garden's version does come close, but mine is still better!  Of course, I may be a bit partial LOL  Sometimes, just to have a little green, I add a handful of fresh Spinach, but this is totally optional!

I added Spinach just for some added green veggies but this is totally optional! 

Pasta è Fagioli Zuppa

1 lb Ground Beef
2 Tbsps Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Onion, diced (1 cup)
1 lrg Carrot, julienned (1 cup)
3 stalks Celery, chopped (1 cup)
4 cloves Garlic, peeled and minced
1 can Diced Tomatoes
1 can Red Beans, undrained
1 can Cannellini Beans, undrained
1 can Beef Broth
1 can Tomato Sauce
1 can (12 oz) V-8 Juice
1 Tbsp of Ham Base
1 Tbsp White Vinegar or White Wine Vinegar
1 tsp Sea Salt
1 Tsp Oregano
1 Tsp Basil
½ tsp Freshly Ground Black Pepper
1 tsp Thyme
1 Bay Leaf
1 cup Uncooked Ditalini Pasta

In a large pot, brown the Ground Beef and drain (if needed).  Add Olive Oil to pan together with Onion, Carrot, Celery and Garlic and sauté for 10 minutes.  Add remaining ingredients (except for Pasta) and simmer for 1 hour.  *Cook Pasta in a separate pot as directed on package, drain and rinse with COLD water (DO NOT OVERCOOK THE PASTA).  Add Pasta to soup and simmer for 5-10 minutes.  Serve with freshly grated Parmesan Cheese.  For added flavor add a small heel of fresh Parmesan Cheese in the last 30 minutes of cooking but remove heel before serving.

* Why do I cook the Pasta separately?  Well I have tried adding it uncooked and (1) it swells up waaaaay bigger then it should be and (2) it gets super mushy ... eeeew!  Why do I rinse the Pasta after cooking with COLD water?  Simple, stops the cooking process which helps to keep it from getting mushy once added to the soup.