Updated: Sep 6, 2019
It seems the older we get, the less opportunities we have to experience something new. Yes, life can get boring, but only if we let it. Since my last post, I’ve tripped across three new experiences that brought some simple joy into what could have been ordinary, monotonous days.
I think oftentimes we feel that fun and excitement must come wrapped up in big packages with larger-than-life pink bows. That’s not necessarily true. Sometimes it comes in cardboard boxes, bottles of paint and little metal buckets!
Nature’s bounty in a cardboard box
Instagram’s Happy Living posted a meme humorously stating, “Who knew that the hardest part of being an adult is figuring out what to cook for dinner every single night for the rest of your life until you die?” How true! While it might not be the hardest part, it’s nudging right up there, toward the top of being the most humdrum household chore!
After making chicken 9,000 ways, preparing hamburger from every grease-stained cookbook I own and concocting vegetarian dishes by the truckload, I caved and tried something adventurous, a meal kit plan.
I had cruised through several options, wavering between Hello Fresh, Home Chef, Plated and several others before happily landing on my first choice, Blue Apron.
Maybe you’re like I was in the beginning — not quite knowing what this “fresh, delivered to your door” craze is all about. I was a skeptic, but a close friend handed me a coupon for several free meals, and I couldn’t resist.
I made my selections and waited for my delivery.
My first box consisted of Seared Cod and Peppers over Creamy Rice, Summer Vegetable Gnocchi, and Prosciutto Fried Rice. Granted, all of this sounds quite complicated, but preparing the recipes wasn’t the least bit difficult.
The box comes with everything (and I mean EVERYTHING) you need to prepare the meals! Need a tablespoon of capers? Done! Need one teaspoon of black and white sesame seeds? Open the knick-knack pack and there it is!
The vegetables were fresh, the meats top quality, refrigerated products adequately iced-down, and the instructions user-friendly. On their websites are accompanying videos in the rare case that you should find yourself in some culinary-prep emergency.
The taste? AMAZING!
Since I believe that variety is the spice of life, I am in cooking heaven! I select the meals carefully, and usually land somewhere in the neighborhood of receiving a “What are these little round things” (quinoa and farro) and a “That was delicious!” response from my hubby. But Lanny’s never disliked anything that came from my latest kitchen adventure enough to say, “Think I’ll just grab a burger.”
For the cost of $59 per week, we get three generously-portioned, healthy meals that serve two people, just like the Summer Vegetable Gnocchi, pictured above. The variety of choices are fabulous, and I can pick from either their Signature or Weight Watchers dishes. It keeps us from eating in restaurants on nights that I can’t decide what to cook and it has actually cut down on food/grocery costs, as well as calorie intake. In addition, it’s most definitely reduced the amount of wasted food because if you need, for example, one poblano pepper, you’re going to get exactly one poblano pepper in your box of goodies.
Where else can you dine on a wholesome, gourmet meal for under $10 per person?
As an added bonus, the prep instructions come with wine pairing suggestions.
While the recipes and ingredients sound exotic — and some are — the taste and ease of preparation is worth every bit of hesitation you might initially have.
Honestly, my first delivery was disappointing, through no fault of the company. My box was damaged in shipping by the carrier and arrived in a heap of upside-down cardboard wetness. I called the Blue Apron and was told to throw away the delivery. They assured me the food would be replaced and gave me extra meals to compensate.
The situation was easily resolved. That was over two months ago, and I’ve never had a problem since. (Customer service for Blue Apron? A+!)
So, before you wreck your brain trying to decide what to make for lunch or dinner AGAIN, don’t discount the option of meal kit prep plans. For me, this method of healthier eating eases the guilt of making a late-night taco run. (Just keepin’ it real…)
Stick figures and abstracts
I don’t have an artistic bone in my body. Creative, yes; artistic, no. During the Pictionary years, I could never even find a partner brave enough to be willing to lose with me! While I’ve always admired any form of artistic talent from a distance, I’ve steered clear of any attempt to create it.
Nope, art was not for me.
But then I surrendered to temptation when I was invited by my very talented, artistic (!!!) friend, Ollie Fife Schiller, to attend her acrylic pouring class. She assured me, “It’ll be fun! You can do this!”
OK. I was going to attempt something “abstract.”
I drug my reluctant self into an art studio filled with what seemed like hundreds of bottles of paint mixture and a room full of incredibly gifted artists. There I was, among some of our community’s most accomplished talent, hoping against hope to make it through the day with some small sense of dignity remaining.
Somewhere along the way, I really got into the idea of being able to create something from nothing. I found comfort and calm in the fluidity of the colors and loved the idea that I could manipulate the designs by simply turning the pieces.
I also found an entire room of new friends who graciously welcomed the gal who can’t draw a decent stick figure and I came away with several pieces that I am very proud of — certainly not because they are worthy pieces of “art.” I can’t even type that with a straight face, but because I forced myself to try something that I never thought I’d try.
I was taught a new form of creative expression — thanks to Ollie's patience and expertise— met some interesting, uber-talented artists and I created a few abstracts that, once framed, I will be quite happy with.
Above are three of the seven I completed. And of course, there has to be some kinda creative name attached to each, right?
Left: "I, of the Storm"
Middle: "Mermaid Madness"
Right: "Fall 'n Snow"
And while I still can’t draw so much as a proper stick figure, I’ve signed up for a November mixed media workshop, simply because I want to continue to learn and grow until I’m pushing up daisies…
And speaking of daisies…
Summer is not my friend. I tend to neglect my plants and hibernate indoors whenever I get the chance. But that didn’t stop me from taking a short road trip with my aunt to visit Country Petals in New Ulm, Texas.
It’s a gardener’s slice of paradise. About an acre of rows and rows of carefully tended flowers, herbs and vegetables paint the scenery with the sights and sounds of vibrant colors and happy bumblebees.
Betsy and her husband of 42 years, Jeff, opened their cut-flower business, Country Petals, in June of 2018. But this is not her first successful floral attempt. After moving from Houston to New Ulm in 1990, she sold a bucket of zinnias from her 10’ x 10’ flower garden to her neighbor for a birthday party. The following weekend ten more women made the drive to New Ulm to buy more zinnias!
That was the beginning of Country Petals #1— a business that thrived for 11 years. During those years, Betsy supplied her Flower Stand with 100-150 bundles weekly. Success was theirs, having been published in over 15 national magazines and a book, and being featured on several PBS-Austin television shows.
Eventually, the couple couldn’t keep up the pace and closed the shop in favor of Betsy continuing her 35-year corporate career as Vice President of Operations in a professional design firm.
In 2015, Betsy resigned and spent the next year and a half “trying to figure out what she wanted to do when [she] grew up.” She says, “It was super hard! I needed to repurpose myself focusing on areas that gave me joy.
After much deliberation, she and Jeff decided to reopen a smaller version of Country Petals. “At our age we needed that. Even ‘simple’ is hard when you are a farmer in August!”
After only one year, Country Petals has grown to having over 700 followers on their Facebook account. And she couldn’t be happier.
Creating not only a place that produces awesome flowers and vegetables, but a place we can look back on and take pride in all the work it took to get it there. Knowing that others that come visit will enjoy what we are creating and find their own sense of tranquility in the company of nature. After all, Mother Nature has its way of showing us all the glory of what can come from the land! Betsy Arriola
One of the most unique things about this little gem of a place is that you can take home beautiful, large bouquets on the honor system for ten dollars! There’s a Flower Stand on the premises that houses metal buckets full of freshly cut zinnias, marigolds, cosmos, sunflowers in every color, and there's a box on the wall for depositing your payment on the honor system.
Flowers are stocked daily, Thursday through Sunday, but Betsy can be contacted so that flowers can be picked up through special arrangement on other days, if needed. It’s the type of simple, charming concept that can only be found in Small Town, USA.
While it might not be as large as Fredericksburg's Wildseed Farms, if you love flowers, you won't be disappointed.
“We have third-generation customers, serving a community that supports us completely. We’ve made lots and lots of new friends through gardening, cutting and bundling flowers — a natural transition, taking me to the root of my soul.”
And Betsy and Jeff are never bored.
Be like Betsy and Jeff —or Thomas
When was the last time you tried something really different? Granted, not everybody can gather enough steam or resources to open a business. And maybe, even though you’re in a rut, you don’t feel like cooking something that might “push the envelope” or accepting the challenge of taking an art class.
But there's nothing stopping you from heading to New Ulm to buy yourself a big bouquet of sunshine!
As for me, I think I’ll continue to live by the principle put forth by an 18th century philosopher, Thomas Carlyle, who said, “I've got a great ambition to die of exhaustion rather than boredom.”
Decide what makes your heart smile and takes you to the “root of your soul.”
Then take that leap…
Until next time, Bloom Where You Are Planted,
NOTE: I have taken no product or money from companies or businesses that were mentioned in this post.
Every now and then a writer will stumble across a song that seems to be the musical score to everything their subject matter is about. That happened to me this morning after scrolling through Facebook. Susan Gibson is a master lyricist, having written many fantastic songs, including Dixie Chicks' Wide Open Spaces.
I had the wonderful opportunity to interview Susan a few years ago in advance of her performance at Bugle Boy. Today, I contacted her to ask for permission to share her new song for this blog. She agreed.
I hope you enjoy Wildflowers in the Weeds from her upcoming album, The Hard Stuff, as much as I do. To hear, click the red arrow in Richard Skance's article, "LSM Song Premier: Wildflowers in the Weeds by Susan Gibson" — published in Lone Star Music Magazine, 9/2/19.
If you're into meaningful lyrics and huge talent, check her out; catch her show if she's in your area. "The clock is ticking / And God is in the second hand."