Friday, April 30, 2010

Gan Gan's Meatloaf

I've been in a very baking/cooking mood this week.  I've made both white chocolate and regular chocolate chip cookies, snickerdoodles (which I'll post about later), and on Wednesday night I made one of Bryan's favorites--my Gan Gan's meatloaf!

I was given the recipe as part of a bridal shower gift.  My mom's side of the family compiled a cookbook of favorite recipes for me.  It is one of my favorite gifts!
Gan Gan's recipe calls for:
1 pound of ground round
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup of oatmeal
1/2 cup of ketchup
4 Tablespoons of brown sugar
1/2 an onion, chopped
1 Tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce
an optional 1 teaspoon of wine, vinegar or mustard

I generally leave the optional option out :-).  The very first thing to do is preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Next, I cut the ground round out of its package and dump it in a bowl.  Then I chop a medium sized white onion in half.  I put the smaller half in a ziplock bag and in the fridge, and then proceed to chop the larger half.  I call it "medium chopping" because you don't want the onion pieces big enough to interfere with the cohesiveness of the meatloaf, but you also don't want them to be too small to notice.

Next, I crack the egg into a separate bowl and beat it with a fork.  Then I measure out all the other ingredients and dump everything in the bowl with the meat.  I mix it all together with my hands until thoroughly combined.
After it's all thoroughly mixed, I dump in a bread baking pan and pat it down until it evenly fills the pan.  Stick the pan in the oven for 50 minutes, and once the time has passed you have a delicious main dish!  On Wednesday, I added baby red potatoes (stabbed with a fork and microwaved for 5 minutes) and SteamFresh frozen green beans.  All in all, it was a complete success :-).

Thursday, April 29, 2010

White Chocolate Chip Cookies!

This is one of my favorite recipes!  Bryan isn't all that fond of regular chocolate, and conveniently I like white chocolate more than regular chocolate, so I started substituting white chocolate chips awhile ago.  He loves them, and so do I!

Here's the breakdown of the ingredients:

1/2 cup of shortening
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
6 to 12 oz chocolate pieces

As always, the very first step is to preheat the oven.  For these cookies, the temperature is 375 degrees.  In regards to the recipe, I do make some modifications.  I go ahead and substitute butter for the shortening.  This means using two sticks of butter.  Instead of "softening" them at room temperature, I go ahead and melt both of them in the microwave--it takes about a minute.  I break that minute up into two 30 second segments so that the butter doesn't boil.
While the butter is melting, I put the brown sugar, the granulated sugar and the baking soda in the mixing bowl.  Then I pour the melted butter in, and mix it a low speed until it's properly combined.  Next come the two eggs (I always use AA large eggs) and the teaspoon of the vanilla.  I then mix on a medium-low speed, so that the yolks will break and everything will mix evenly.

The brown sugar I used this time was dark; if you use a light brown sugar the mix picture above will be correspondingly lighter.

Next I add the 2 and 1/2 cups of flour, all at once.  I start the mixer on the lowest setting so that the flour doesn't fly everywhere.  Once the flour is at least partially mixed in, I bump the mixer up to the medium setting so that everything mixes evenly.

After everything is mixed, I generally take a flat icing spatula and scrape the edges of the bowl so that the dough is gathered in the center.
Next, I pour in half to three-quarters of a 12 ounce bag of white chocolate chips!  Really, it depends on how chocolately I want the cookies, while still balancing the need for the dough to set and not fall apart due to too many chocolate chips.  I mix these in on medium speed, and then lower the mixing bowl and turn the speed up to high.  This lets the mixing implement shake off accumulated batter without having to scrape excessively.

After spraying an air-bake cookie sheet with baking Pam, I form the dough into balls approximately one inch in diameter.  The dough is very sticky and moist, and somewhat challenging to form neatly, at least at first.  As it sits, it does firm up.  But then again, neatness isn't necessary...the cookies still turn out yummy!  After placing the balls of dough an inch to two inches apart on the cookie sheet, place them in the oven. 

The recipe calls for a bake time of 8 minutes, but for my oven I bake the cookies for 9 minutes.  Another way to tell when they are done is when the white chocolate chips and the edges of the cookies are just turning brown, but when you use dark brown sugar (like I did this time) you can't really tell if the edges are browning.  I definitely had a batch of trial and error cookies when I was learning to use my oven, and then again when I started using dark brown sugar!

After 9 minutes, take the cookies out, and transfer them over to a cooling tray.  Letting them cool on the baking tray a bit makes it a bit easier to transfer them, but I often use my floppy spatula and just transfer than right away!  Generally, this recipe makes around 60 cookies.  And once they cool, you have delicious white chocolate chip cookies! 

***Regular Chocolate Chip Variation***
After mixing the flour in thoroughly, simply add regular chocolate chip pieces instead of white chocolate chip pieces.  Continue the process, and you get wonderful chocolate chip cookies!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Flowers Flowers Everywhere!

My garden is really doing spectacularly!  I need to weed at some point, and some the plants are still waiting to bloom until later, but I am super excited about how well everything has come back this spring!

First off are my bottle-brush plants.  I know I've spoken of them before, but now they are in full bloom!
 As you can see on the right, my orchid is also doing exceptionally well :-).  The lizard still prefers the orchid, but there are some smaller critters that LOVE the red blossoms on the bottle-brush plants...the bees!
The fortnight lilies have also taken off, and now I am seriously reconsidering my plan to pull some of them up.  Now I'm thinking about trimming down the hawthorn bushes in the front right flowerbed so that they and the lilies can coexist without making the flowerbed look overgrown.  I do want to plant some other flowers though, and right now there's just not room.  Oh well, that's a quandary for later.  Back to my wonderful garden!

The flowering plants I have yet to identify around the side of the house have started putting out buds again!  When they bloom, I'll identify them and then post pictures.  The holly trees are all doing very well (much to Bryan's chagrin lol), and the magnolia is about to bloom!  I can't wait...I absolutely LOVE that smell!

And last but not least, my pride and joy--also known as my orange tree--has put on even more height, and its trunk is starting to "wood up".  I am just so relieved that it survived the freezes this winter and is flourishing in the growing season this spring! 

Saturday, April 24, 2010

The 10 Commandments

Bryan and I went to our friends' Mark and Alicia's rehearsal and rehearsal lunch today.  They're getting married at Butler's Courtyard tomorrow!  I'm so happy and excited for the both of them.

The rehearsal went really well, and we went to T-Bone Tom's for the lunch.  While there, our conversation with Ben and the Amandas and Brandon and Ashley ranged among a whole variety of subjects.  At one point, someone jokingly threatened to kill someone else, and the question of "who says murder is bad?" was thrown out.  I believe it was Ben that said "the 10 commandments".  One of the Amanda's then responded that she didn't really think the 10 Commandments were valid.  Which brings me to the point of this post!

Here are the 10 Commandments as traditionally represented in the Judeo-Christian tradition:

I tend to divide the 10 commandments into two categories:  what I call the "religious" commandments (1-4) and the "moral" commandments (5-10).  The context of the "religious" commandments is obviously the Judeo-Christian tradition, and these were not what we ended up discussing.  Amanda felt that the "moral" commandments were also only valid withing that tradition:  I completely disagree.

The morality found in the 10 Commandments can actually be found throughout history and throughout various cultures.  Commandments 5-10, I would argue, represent the core morality that humans have agreed is necessary to uphold a functioning society.  Commandment 5--"Thou shalt not kill"--makes complete sense, since no society can persist if its members kill each other off.  Commandment 8 makes sense, because if a society's members are constantly stealing from one another, they will probably turn to violence to protect their property, which leads us back to Commandment 5.  And Commandment 10--"Thou shall not covet"--addresses the motivation that is behind theft, and thus can contribute to interpersonal violence, which again is counterproductive to society.

Now, people have learned that, even when you agree on society's code, individuals will still break said code.  When that happens there has to be consequences--i.e. some sort of legal system--so that everyone else will see the need to uphold the code, as well as to punish those who broke with it.  For such a system to work, Commandment 9 is needed, since you can't enforce consequences if you don't make it clear that lying about someone's actions won't be tolerated. 

Another thing necessary for the continuation of any society is family stability.  While family stability is all well and good in and of itself, the true reason it is necessary is financial stability.  This is where cultural definitions in regards to family and marriage and all that cease to matter.  The family unit in any society is the main financial unit as well.  As such, for a society to persist it must protect that unit above all else (again, cultural definitions on family and marriage can vary widely).

Commandment 5--"honor thy father and thy mother"--has a dual purpose, as far as I can see.  First of all, it keeps children in a subservient role in society until they are adults, which allows any work they do to go to the support of the family.  Secondly, once the children are grown, this morality requires them to care for their parents, which again stabilizes the family unit and allows society to continue to benefit from the wisdom of the older members.  The stability of the family is also the reason for Commandment 7--"Thou shall not commit adultery".  Regardless of the definition of marriage, it is a financial contract along with spiritual and emotional.  In fact, for most of human history, marriage was either all or mostly a financial relationship.  Now, if societal members were to break their marriage contract there would be financial repercussions that would endanger social stability.  (This can be seen even in our society today if you look at the financial ramification of divorces).

I've been discussing these moral values as Commandments, though again they are present throughout history and through many societies.  Amanda agreed with me on these points, but brought up the objection that rape and child abuse should have been on there as well.  While I do agree that these are heinous acts, the fact is that in the context of more ancient societies (and sadly a few modern ones) these actions did not actually threaten a society's continued stability.  For rape to be, well, rape, a woman must be able to say "no" and to have the expectation of society accepting her right to refuse.  The term child abuse itself implies that the treatment of children should be subjected to some sort of societal control.  While I do think that both of these viewpoints are morally correct, the fact is that in many ancient societies, women and children were little more than property that served the function of continuing society.  The only people who really had a voice in their society were mostly men.

So while Amanda's objection that the 10 Commandments are too narrow in scope is completely valid from the moral perspective of our culture here today, historically morality's purpose was to preserve society. The moral commandments express the necessary moral code that mankind had observed and experienced that did fulfill that need.

***My friend Brandon pointed out that "Honor thy father and mother" also serves another purpose in that the "elders have seen and experienced dangers that children haven't. This helps to ensure that children survive to adulthood and continue the population."  Good point!***

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Pepperoni Lasagna

In my perpetual quest to become a better cook, I undertook one of my more ambitious projects last week:  the Pepperoni Lasagna!  I had never made a lasagna before, so I was a bit nervous about how all of this would turn out.  I borrowed the basic recipe from The Food Network--Blazy's Pepperoni Studded Lasagna, to be precise.

First step was to go to the store to get the ingredients:
  • 2 pounds lasagna sheets
  • 2 cups hand cut 1/8-inch slices pepperoni
  • 4 cups tomato sauce
  • 1 pound ricotta
  • 16 ounces shredded mozzarella
  • 2 pounds bulk Italian sausage, cooked
  • 3/4 cup grated Parmesan
I tweaked this list a bit to make the whole process a bit less complicated.  I got two packs of pre-sliced pepperoni and two jars of Spaghetti sauce (Three Cheese) instead of Blazy's tomato sauce.

First step was to boil the water to cook the noodles.  I always add just a pinch of salt to the water to help it boil and it was a good thing I did!  I had chosen my largest pot, and even with the salt it took the better part of half an hour to boil.  Once the fire was lit under the pot, I started the oven preheating at 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

While waiting on the water, I went ahead and started browning the Italian sausage.  Once it was cooked, I turned the burner way down and waited for the water to boil.  Once it did, I put in the lasagna noodles and stirred them as the cooked.

I did NOT shock them in an ice bath as the recipe recommends...that seemed like too much work to me!  I also did NOT brown the pepperoni...again, too much work!

As the noodles finished cooking, I put the Italian sausage into a bowl lined with paper towels (to absorb the fat).  I then took the noodle pot of the fire and laid the noodles out one at a time on some more paper towels to dry them a bit (I would be LOST without paper towels while I'm cooking!).

Next I took my pan, the foil kind that you can put in the oven, and spread enough Spaghetti sauce to cover the bottom.

Then I layered some lasagna noodles, overlapping them about half an inch.  Once they covered the bottom, I put a third of the ricotta on top, along with a third of the sausage and mozzarella.  I then sprinkled a generous amount of Parmesan on top of that.  Next was another generous layer of Spaghetti sauce, followed by a layer of pepperoni arranged so that they touched on the edges and covered the sauce.  I forgot to take a picture at each stage of the process, so here's a shot of a "finished product" piece to show all the layers!

And then I started all over!  Of course, this was where I made my first mistake--I did a double layer of noodles.  Once I got back up to the pepperoni level, I covered the whole thing with more noodles.  Next I used the rest of the Spaghetti sauce (plus a half jar of Chunky Garden AND a jar of Hunt's tomato sauce--next time I'll buy 3 jars!) to completely cover the top noodle layer.  I wanted to be SURE they didn't dry out!  I plopped some ricotta on top, along with a lot of mozzarella and a sprinkling of Parmesan.

At this point the oven was more than ready, so I stuck the lasagna in for 50 minutes.  After it was done, I took it out to cool for 15 minutes, and promptly put in the garlic bread.  At about the 10 minute point I also put the SteamFresh frozen green beans that my wonderful husband stopped to pick up on the way home in the microwave.

The lasagna had cooled sufficiently right as the bread came out of the oven, just has the green beans had finished cooking and cooling.  Bryan and I sat down with our wine (with Sprite Zero!) and enjoyed a wonderful dinner!

Bryan had two big helpings, and the boys at Mark's bachelor party ate almost all of it!  I'd consider that a successful first lasagna ever!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Again, Not Me! (Monday)

This blog carnival is so much fun!  This was all started by MckMama, and reading everyone else's posts over at her blog is a hoot!  I found "Not Me Monday" through my friend Arena's blog, The Nerd's Wife.

Overall, today was a much better day than last Monday.

That said, I did *not* oversleep until 6:45 this morning instead of getting up at my proper time of 6:10AM.  NOT ME!  I would *never* have Bryan hit snooze that many times.

And I did *not* drive like a bat out of hell on the freeway to make up the lost time.  NOT ME!

Since I still arrived at school 10 minutes behind schedule, I went straight to the workroom where I did *not* pull out my current reading book instead of preparing for today's lesson.  NOT ME!  I always have my lessons prepared in exact detail and use every minute of my day for work purposes.

Having said that, I obviously did *not* totally wing my lesson in second period.  As a result, I am definitely *not* going to have to reteach the lesson tomorrow to properly prepare those kids for Wednesday's quiz.  NOT ME!

I also did *not* have a cultural discussion over the movie Real Women Have Curves in order to use the class time not taken up by the short grammar lesson.  NOT ME!

During said discussion, we covered that traditionally in Hispanic cultures (especially among the older generations) a woman's value is either found in her a) virginity or b) position as a wife and mother.  And after saying this, I definitely did *not* refer to the character going through menopause as having "dried up".  NOT ME!

To be clear, I *never* use sarcasm to shock and appall my students just for the hell of it, especially *not* about such sensitive issues as "el cambio de vida" (the change of life).  NOT ME!

And since today was good and the lesson (such as it was) went fairly well, I definitely did *not* still spend a good bit of time daydreaming about not being a teacher.  NOT ME!

My current daydreaming definitely does *NOT* revolve around being a stay-at-home wife/mom with a part-time job.  I do *NOT* want to give up a "fulfilling" full-time career in the workforce to focus on being a homemaker/mother while bringing a little money in on the side.  NOT ME!

On a related note, I did *not* spend a great deal of time today calculating ways to pay off my student loans early so that I can stay home in the future.  And I definitely did *not* do this while sitting in a TAKS informational meeting.  NOT ME! 

When I got home today, I definitely did *NOT* decide to skip water aerobics yet again in order to blog, read, and generally relax.  NOT ME!  I would *never* continue such a lazy trend of not working out.

And I was definitely *not* more excited about typing this blog than anything else I've done today.  NOT ME!  I have a far more interesting and engaging life than that :-P.

Until next Monday!

My Quasi-Green Thumb

The recent rain has been very good for my plants and our yard--Bryan says it looks like a jungle lol.  The St. Augustine is finally really waking up, which is exciting to see.  I get no credit for that though--the yard is Bryan's project :-).

I'm really having fun watching my plants grow and learning about them.  That said, as my title indicates, I still have a lot to learn!  First of all, my bougainvillea dropped half its leaves because I put it in a windy place and it got upset.  It is starting to put out more leaves and blooms again though!  Also, I have once again failed at growing an ivy.  My first ivy adventure was back in college, but this time I managed to almost completely kill off the ivy my parents got my for Valentine's Day.

As you can see, there are still a few healthy stems in the pot.  I'm going to leave those be and see how they do.  I did cut out/pull up a few still-healthy stems and place them in clear glasses of water (per my mama's instructions) so that they can start regrowing roots.  I'll give them a few days and once they sprout roots I'll go get a pot that actually drains (which was part of the problem) and fill it with good potting soil.  And THEN I won't over-water (another part of the problem) and make sure they get enough light (the final part of the problem lol).

On to my happier plants--my orchid is blooming!  There are two blooms and at least three buds that will probably bloom in the next day or so.  I love my orchid...I only wish the ones in the back yard were doing as well.  I don't think they get enough sun (due to the huge plant blocking them).  But the one out front is doing amazingly!

Also my bottle brush plants are finally starting to bloom!  There's even doing better than last year, so that makes me super happy.  I love their brilliant red and fuzzy flowers.

I'm starting to compile a spreadsheet of the plants I have, what foods they like, and how to take care of them (when to prune, for example).  Hopefully I'll be able to a)actually finish the spreadsheet, and b)use it to make my plants the healthiest they can be!

And on an exciting note for the next gardening post---my magnolia tree has a TON of blooms getting ready to blossom!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Health: Happy and Frustrating

First, the happy news.  I weighted in early this week, on Thursday.  I was at 158 lbs!  That was fun to find out.  Basically, taking water weight into consideration, this means I am maintaining fairly well via diet alone.  Hopefully the flare I'm in will go DOWN and I'll be able to start going to the gym regularly next week.

The flare brings me to the frustrating part.  Aside from the flare itself, I had my two month appointment yesterday.  Dr. C decided to up my Remicade dose again--to 600.  My highest possible is 700, so now I'm just one jump away.  Hooray.  (note the sarcasm)  He still doesn't like the way my wrist is responding--or not, to be more precise--to treatment.  I think part of the problem is A) I haven't been able to take my methotrexate regularly due to illness and (now) a fever blister and B) the stress of my job is counteracting the drugs.  Stress is a flare-trigger after all.

I also got an X-Ray on my neck, which came back OK, but now Dr. C wants me to get an MRI.  My neck keeps doing this catch-lock-forced to pop free thing, which hurts.  Hopefully it's not anything other than ligaments being stretched out.  We'll see. 

On a more positive note, Dr. C does not think I need surgery on my wrist--just my elbow.  I'll be seeing a orthopedic surgeon on a consult as soon as I make an appointment.  I also need to make an appointment for my annual physical with Dr. Y--Dr. C wants to make sure my cholesterol and such is OK.  Also, my blood work all came back just fine, and my sedimentation rate is down from 23 to 22.

After my appointment and infusion I came home intending to take a nap BUT the house was in such a sad state I started cleaning instead.  After lunch I cleaned the kitchen top to bottom, and then vacuumed AND Swiffered the tile.  I vacuumed all the downstairs carpet--living room and bedroom--and dusted throughout the downstairs.  I cleaned our bathroom and the downstairs guest bathroom, and kept the laundry going (yay clean sheets!).  I'm so thankful that my left wrist and elbow are still NOT flared up!  After all that was done, I started making my very first lasagna (pepperoni at that!).  It went well, but I'll post about that later.

Bryan and I had a wonderful dinner together--green beans, garlic bread, and lasagna with a beer for him and a wine spritzer for me.  We then relaxed together and went to bed a little early.  I was so tired this morning, and today at school was no picnic stress-wise, so now I'm just about spent.  I fully intend on relaxing this evening and sleeping in tomorrow!  Thank goodness its Friday!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Flounder--Not Just a Fish

I've grown up around floundering my whole life.  For those of you who are not familiar with this term, floundering is a method of fishing involving a long pole with a spear on the end, a lantern, (hopefully) low tide, and late late nights.  The fisherman basically walks around flat areas of ocean or bay where the water is anywhere from ankle to knee deep, dragging his feet in the sand and shining his lantern in an arch in front of him.  When he sees the distinctive shape of a flounder, he positions himself, readies his gig, and stabs the fish right behind the eyes.  This process can be fairly short, or it can go for hours in the pitch black.

I have long since decided that the term floundering refers to the actions of the fisherman, rather than to the fish that is his goal.

While it's been years since I've actually gone on a floundering expedition, I feel a similar sensation in my work life right now--stumbling around looking for something that I'll recognize when I see it with only a bit of light to work by.  Embellishing descriptions aside, I am not happy with my job right now.

There are many reasons for this:  the stress, disrespectful students who have no concept of respect,  accountability or responsibility, the broken nature of the system itself, to name a few.  I'm sure there will be future posts about all of these.  Facing my current unhappiness and the reasons mentioned, I have started to consider considering other options, but I truly have no idea where to start.  I either look at jobs for which I am unqualified, or I look at jobs that seem superficially perfect but wind up being far more stressful than even teaching.  I keep hoping that when I see what I want to do, I'll just know it and take steps to make it happen.  But nothing seems to be popping up--thus the floundering.

It is a frustrating, demoralizing, and stressful situation which also has no immediate remedy.  And lately, I've been letting it get the better of me.

So, in an attempt to counteract the effects of this situation, as well as to remind myself of my personal goals and our bigger goals as a family (which, after all,  are the reasons I am working in the first place), I have decided to make a list of 5 goals to focus on:

  • Get back on track with my workout routine
  • Lose another 5-10 lbs
  • Start cooking dinner more often
  • Make extra payments on my loans each month to get them paid off sooner
  • Get a house cleaning schedule back in place

Also, here's a list of the reasons why teaching doesn't absolutely suck.  Sometimes, I need the reminder:

  • The good kids--those who want to learn, who work hard, who are smart and respectful and a joy to be around
  • Sharing knowledge with the younger generation
  • Job security
  • Vacations

That's all I've got for the moment.  If it hadn't been the day that it was, I probably could come up with more.  On that note, having actually stated my goals that I need to be focusing on AND reminded myself of the pros of my job, I'm going to bed.

I hope tomorrow is a better school day, and I hope summer hurries up and gets here.  Most of all though, I hope this exercise helps lessen my feeling of floundering.

My First "Not Me Monday"

My friend Arena over at The Nerd's Wife has been a part of this blog ring, started by MckMama, for awhile, and I LOVE reading her posts!  So today, I'm joining in!  This is only my first attempt, but for more experienced posters go on over to MckMama's blog to read everyone else's "Not Me Monday" posts!  As a preface, let me just say that today was not the best Monday ever for your blogging teacher (that's me).

I did *not* forget to fill up my gas tank last night.  NOT ME! 

I did *not* have to rush to drum up a quiz and have 150 copies made in the 20 minutes before second period.  NOT ME!  I would *never* leave preparing for class until the last minute.

I totally did *not* feel like screaming throughout the day when my students insisted that I did not TELL them there was a quiz today.  NOT ME!!!

It was only announced repeatedly all day Thursday and Friday AND was posted on the board for both of those days as well.

And of course I did *not* make a scathing mental retort to the note one student wrote on her quiz saying that it was unfair that she have to take the quiz because she got the notes Thursday instead of Wednesday.  NOT ME!!!  

She still had FOUR DAYS to study!

I also did *not* lose my temper in front of my 7th period class and yell at another student to get out of my classroom after she had a) talked back to me all period and b) continually threatened that another student would be beaten up after school by her friend because he made fun of her hair.  NOT ME!!!  I would *never* lose my professional calm.

I am totally *not* bailing on water aerobics tonight to enjoy my wine and rice cake snacks and watch TLC/play Crystal Bearers.  NOT ME!!!

I have *not* already started a countdown of the number of days left until summer.  NOT ME!!!

For the record, there's 38.  

And most importantly I want to make it clear that I did *not* daydream about other jobs all day today and I absolutely did *not* Google facts about being a real estate agent.  NOT ME!!!

On the upside, today's school day is done and the weekend is only four more days away!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Garden Sleuth!

I am the Garden Sleuth!

Ok, ok not really.  I am just so excited that I found out the names for two more of my front yard plants!

  These are mini azaleas!  My mom thought she recognized the as such when we had our girls' day, and I verified that through a comparison with my true azaleas and through this wonderful thing called Google!  lol.

These are dietes bicolor, or fortnight lilies!  This one took me quite a bit of time to figure out...I ended up stumbling across a Yahoo! question posted about a year ago by someone else trying to figure out what the heck they are!  I love these plants, but some of them are going to have to go.  The landscapers used individual bulbs of them as filler--which they definitely are NOT.  So, some of the will be replaced with some annuals this summer at some point.

Those are my two new discoveries!  I still need to identify much of the shrubbery, but since a lot of that does not bloom, it will probably take me a bit longer.

In other gardening news, Bouncer and Bryan rented an aerator for the lawns.  We hope that by getting more oxygen down to the root systems, our St. Augustine will finish waking up and then CHOKE OUT all the other weed grass that is currently flourishing in our yard.  With that, I'm off to prop my ankle up...silly system coming through has it all flared.  But hooray for the rain for my plants!


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