.You're Doing Something.

Determinate vs. Indeterminate Tomatoes

This year we're trying something new since we are living in a completely different part of the country. The goal? To become the King and Queen of Salsa! I figure, since we have all of this heat and sunshine, we should use it to our advantage and grow something that will do really well here and provide us with plenty of produce to make a variety of salsas.  We can also use the tomatoes to make pasta sauce, stewed tomatoes and a variety of other tomato products that we can home-can and put up in our pantry to last us the entire year.

When researching what varieties we wanted to grow, something to keep in mind was whether or not we would be growing determinate or indeterminate varieties.  So what's the difference? Well, that's what this blog post is all about.  

Determinate Tomatoes:
These tomatoes can also be referred to as a "bush" tomato.   They are compact and usually grow no taller than 3-5 feet.  The plant will stop producing fruit once the plant flowers on one of the top buds and they also will have a crop that ripens all at the same time, or close to the same time. After the plant sets and ripens it's mother-load of fruit, the plant will begin to die back.   This variety is ideal if you aren't interested in having to cage or do much staking with your tomato plants.  They also don't like to be pruned or have the "suckers" removed. Doing so will result in a smaller crop size. If you're growing in containers, determinate tomatoes do well. Just make sure you use a pot that will hold at least 5 gallons of soil.  (We grew ours in 5 gallon buckets!)

Determinate Tomato Varieties:

Indeterminate Tomatoes:
If you're more into training, caging and staking your tomatoes these varieties are more for you. They will produce fruit until the plant is killed by frost and they can grow to heights of up to 10 feet tall.  6-8 feet tall is considered "the norm" however.  Unlike determinate varieties, these will bloom and set new fruit all throughout the growing season providing a harvest that is more spread-out instead of getting your fruit all at once.   These varieties also do well when the "suckers" are removed.  Because of the size of these plants, generally they aren't considered ideal for container gardening but depending on the where your containers are located they might have enough room to spread out as they'll need.

Indeterminate Tomato Varieties:

Through the Storm I Will Be Yours

 The last couple of days we've been experiencing some side storms from the ones that have been rocking the Texas coast.  It's been overcast, lots of rain, and today we had multiple tornado warnings. You'd have laughed if you had seen me throw the baby in the bathtub, grab both dogs and pull us all into the bathroom that is centered in the middle of our house. Yes, for reals I actually did this.  When my cell phone starts beeping & talking to me, telling me to "Take Shelter Now" "Extreme Tornado Warning", I listened! I can giggle about it now, but being in a new home, with lots of weather that is new to our family, I'd rather be safe than sorry I guess.  I bet all the locals who are reading this are giggling hysterically now. Don't worry, I'm laughing at myself too. 
Even though the weather has been cloudy and wet, in-between nature's fury we've found ourselves outside and in the sand. Something about living in Florida, I get major coop-fever just staying indoors for an entire day. I can't do it! Even in weather "less desirable" it still can be pretty out. 
With the storms rolling through off the gulf, it made me think a lot about our family.  A lot about all of the "storms" and trials we've experienced.  It made me stop and think about what if we had given up all those years ago or if one of us would have said "this is too hard".  Realizing that none of this "good stuff" we're experiencing now would have happened if we hadn't of just sucked it up, prepared the best we could, and rode out the storm the way we did.  That's a pretty sobering thought.  
Here we are, living the good life after fighting for our love all those years. Fighting for what we knew was right and what we needed to do.  I gotta tell ya, the thought of where either of us would be if we hadn't of made it through the storm is really sad.   

One of my new favorite quotes is: 

“Life’s like a tackle box, you get out what you put in and you’ll only collect dust if you ever stop fishing” 
~Justin Morgan
 So here we are, living on the beach in gorgeous florida with jobs we love, adorable children, and blessings beyond belief.   Was it worth it? Yes.  Was the struggle real? You can say that twice.  Will another storm come? Probably, most likely so.  I'm okay with that.  I realize that Erick and I are human beings who make mistakes but as long as we remember where we came from, and all of the storms and trials we've overcome and made it though, I know we'll be strong enough to handle just about anything.  
Just remember when you're stuck in the middle of a storm and it hurts, and you're heartbroken, it will pass. Good things will come.  One of the best ways to gain appreciation for the good things we have is to experience less than pleasant things.  Sure it's not ideal, and we never wish for storms to come into our lives but they are definatly put there for a reason and today I'm grateful for the storms Erick and I have gone through.  It's made us incredibly strong and much more in love.  
Through the Storm, I Will Be Yours. 
...& I know we can get through it! 

Teaching Children to Avoid the Pornography Trap

As I sit and begin to write this blog post, my stomach turns a little. Okay, to be honest I'm just about sick.  Erick and I had quite the conversation today and it was about children and pornography.   

Clearly everyone has had some kind of run-in with pornography at some point in their life. Everyone's experiences with pornography are generally the same however, and if there's one thing I've learned it's that those who say there's nothing wrong with it usually know they are lying to themselves and everyone around them.  Plus, I don't buy it.  I just for the life of me can't begin to believe someone when they look me square in the eyes and tell me they don't think there's anything wrong with it and it's fine because "it's not hurting anyone". Yeah. Freaking. Right. 

After our discussion today, between Erick and I, my brain just couldn't shut off.  My heart hurts.  I find myself being sad and heartbroken over knowing that my daughters will be affected by this, most likely in the same way I was, and that just kills me. I can't imagine either of my girls suffering because of something so vial and destructive. I cry because I worry whether or not it will destroy their families, their marriage, the way it did mine.  

I cringe at the thought of any adult parent who believes that children viewing pornography is "normal", "cute" or "acceptable" for their children.  Especially boys.  These boys are the boys who will one day be in relationships with my daughters. These boys, if they are not careful and guard themselves against pornography, are the ones who will break my daughters hearts and tear their families apart.  Please don't be that parent who finds pornography in your child's room and then doesn't confront them because they think "boys will be boys".  I know you can teach your child a better way, and they'll grow up to be a stronger, better man because of it. Plus, the things you are or aren't doing right now in regards to teaching them about pornography will affect their future relationships. So please, don't be passive about this. 

Because I've experienced first hand the harmful effects that pornography can have on families, it's a very gut-wrenching thing to think about, these young children viewing pornography as being okay, normal or even fun.  

Mothers and fathers of young children, I know we can do better. I believe we can teach our children a better way. Pornography has been proven to cause many problems both socially, physically and mentally.  Our children are being fed lie after lie and it's become almost a constant fight or battle to keep them from falling into the trap of pornography.  

Use programs and parental locks on your children's phones, t.v.'s and computers.  Don't assume they are safe because they might not go looking for pornography. These days, it's likely to pop up in the most unlikely of places and it's best to keep them as safe as possible from stumbling across it.  If they ARE searching for it, and you discover it you'll need to discuss with them the importance of avoiding the trap and why it is inappropriate to be viewing pornography. Be constantly on guard. 

I think it's also important to discuss with our children the likely places that pornography could be lurking.  These days it's not just on dirty websites or in R-rated movies. It's plastered on billboards, on magazine covers at the grocery store check-out, regular day time television and more.  

If we don't protect our children and teach them about the harmful effects of pornography, who will? Who will teach our daughters that they are beautiful and perfect the way they are and that they don't need to look or act like any of those women they would see in pornography?  I don't want my daughters to ever feel like that's how a woman should need to act or look like.  Pornography teaches lies. It teaches young boys to fall in love with images that aren't real. It twists their minds into believing that women should be like the ones they are seeing in those images and that's just not the case.   

I want to teach my children that pornography is a drug, and a harmful one at that.  Erick said today during our conversation, "Would you give your children cocaine? Would you ignore them using meth? Of course not, so why ignore the fact they are participating in one of the most powerful drugs known to man. PORNOGRAPHY." It will leave them wanting and needing more until their whole sense of reality is so warped that they will no longer be able to be happy with reality.  Not only will it destroy the lives of these young children, but it will destroy the lives of their loved ones too, and that's just not something I want to be held accountable for.   I'm going to teach my children how to avoid the pornography trap.

...and that's just what it is. A BIG. FAT. LYING. UGLY. TRAP. 

.What You Make Of It.

A Very Merry Florida Christmas

It feels really odd celebrating Christmas here. There can be Christmas music playing, the house can be fully decorated, holiday scented candles can be burning, Christmas treats baking, the tree lit up with presents underneath it but the moment you open the front door or look out a window you suddenly become confused.  

Celebrating winter and Christmas here in Florida is just bizarre! No snow, no chill hits you when you walk out your front door. Instead, we celebrated our "cooler temps" (80 degrees) out with slightly overcast skies. The air was humid and warm, perfect for spending the day at the beach cooling off in the water.  

Erick and I woke up around 6 am, made sure Santa and his elves had packed up and gotten out okay, then we waited for papa to arrive.  Once he was here, the girls were both woke up by the noise of jingle bells echoing through the house.  It must have been Santa and his entourage taking off! 

We spent a lovely morning at the house, exchanging some pretty thoughtful gifts.  I really noticed a difference in our Christmas this year. So much thought and care went into our gift exchange.  I was certainly surprised by the sweet and generous tokens of love everyone exchanged.  Erick gave me a beautiful new teal Kitchen-aid mixer, & lots of really neat kitchen tools and gadgets.  I also got an adorable new picnic basket for the back of my beach cruiser, and a picnic table for the front of our house.  The girls both received lots of new American Girl doll accessories, and new items for their dollhouse.  Becca got hair stuff, her new kayak, books, a sand and waterproof stereo, boots and a fondue fountain.  Noahh received a Tinkerbell power-wheel & got plenty of toys that make lots of noises. (Thanks Grandma and Papa!) Erick made out well in the fishing department. A new rod n' reel, new tackle box, and every fishing "toy" or gadget you could imagine.  Plenty of bait, line and hooks too.  The whole family received new beach cruisers and beach chairs. 

Christmas Eve, morning and afternoon was all magical. So thankful to have had all of my loves with me for Christmas this year as we celebrated it in paradise.  Such a fun new experience for our family and I know we'll always remember our first Christmas in Perdido Key together. 

This 13 year old of ours is growing up so fast! She's by far taller than me now, and she's only an inch or two behind Erick.  Love her so much. 
Noahh cruising for the first time on her new Tinkerbell power-wheel. She just thought she was the coolest thing since ice cream riding it! 
She is obsessed with penguins at the moment, which is why I fell in love with her new nightgown. Plus it says "watch me" which is pretty much perfect for Noahh.  Erick looks so cute in his new camouflage shorts, Santa tee and hat.  What a sport, and an even more amazing daddy. 
Let's get in the water! 

Becca and Noahh rode the kayak while Erick got his line in the water.  
I can't believe we spent Christmas swimming and playing at the beach as a family. Pinch me! 

Thanks Grandma for the new butterfly beach chair! 
I felt less nerdy wearing my tacky Christmas shirt, because I had this handsome guy next to me dressed up like a red-neck Santa.  Love him.  Merry Christmas Sweetheart! I couldn't imagine my life without him.  I've learned more about pure love, compassion, and friendship from this guy than I have from anyone else.  He is simply my very best friend. 

Merry Christmas, friends! We hope you had a blessed and happy day as well. 

Erick, Sari, Becca and Noahh

.Christmas Is a Feeling.

How to De-Stress During the Holidays

Christmas is here, and with this joyous season also can come stress, anxiety, depression and a number of other mental or physical problems.   I've compiled a list of my favorite ways to de-compress and keep the holidays as stress-free as possible. Through the years I've learned what works best for me and I wanted to share that list with you here.
My wish for you is a worry-free, happy, healthy and energized holiday season.

Stick With Your Routines.
A good way to avoid holiday stress is to stick with your daily routines.  You have these routines for a reason, don't lose sight of the things that are important to you just because the holidays are here.
Use Honey.
Feeling low on energy? Burnt out from Christmas shopping or wrapping gifts? Improve your immunity and give yourself a burst of energy with some dark honey. Plus, honey is a good antibacterial and full of antioxidants.  Raw, local honey will contain pollen that is specific to where you live so it will be most beneficial to your body.
 Disappear. Get Out Of The House.
When things are getting hectic or you feel any kind of depression or anxiety sneak up on you just hit the road. Go to a place you enjoy, one that brings you peace.  It can be as simple as the coffee shop down the street or on a nature trail. Just put yourself in a place you love. 

Let Go Of Perfection.
Just. Let. It. Go.  You heard me. Forget about having the house stay perfectly clean, and your surroundings in a perfect state at all times.  Focus more on the people around you and enjoying your time with them.  Stop obsessing over the things that don't truly matter and that no-body will notice or care about anyways.

Ditch The Television.
Aside from watching perhaps a Christmas movie or two with our family, we don't even turn our television on.  Depression and loneliness is linked to binge-television watching, so if you're fighting the holiday blues, steer clear of the t.v.

Go for a Walk.
When I'm experiencing worry, anxiety or even just feeling sad... I know that all I need to do is go for a walk.  It really decreases my anxiety and helps me sleep much better which improves my over-all mood for the next day completely.  There's nothing so relaxing as winding down your day with a walk.

Do Less, Enjoy More.
During the holidays it's easy to focus on everyone else. The kids, your spouse, everyone is in need of your patience, time, and energy or so it seems.  Don't forget to "say no" once in a while, and be careful with your "to-do" lists. Keep things simple, and don't forget to take care of yourself and spoil yourself a little bit.   Don't go overboard on shopping, attending Christmas parties, or card sending. Enjoy the season for what it is and what you really believe it means to you. 

Soak Up The Sun.
Millions of people are suffering from (SAD) or seasonal affective disorder.  To curb the effects of this, make sure you get plenty of sunshine by either spending time outdoors or sitting near a sunny windowsill.

Take a Wiff of Citrus.
I believe that citrus can boost feelings of emotional well-being and bring down your level of stress.  If you're feeling "down" just take a wiff of fresh citrus or use a little lemon or orange essential oil on your clothing near your collar where you can smell it all day.

Eat Breakfast Before You Have Coffee.
Enjoy a hearty breakfast before you chug down your morning coffee.  By doing this you can avoid your blood sugar spiking and you'll have more energy throughout the day.  This one is really hard for me to do sometimes, but I'm definitely working on it and trying to make it a part of my everyday routine, not just during the holidays.

Don't Over-Schedule.
If you ever begin to feel overwhelmed by your agenda, just start marking things off your list. Don't feel obligated to be everywhere with everyone.  Know your limits and don't schedule yourself for more than you can reasonably manage.  Remember you're important, too.

Take a Stay-cation During the Holidays.
Take a few days off work, send your kids to their grandparents house and make some time for yourself.  Maybe take a day trip to a local park or beach.  Let your partner have a turn with "kid-duty" and go somewhere calming where you can re-group, and re-energize.  Stay away 2 hours or 12 hours. Whatever you need. 

Listen to Music.
Whenever I'm feeling anxious during the hustle and bustle I love turning on Christmas music.  It helps me to relax, focus, and slow down.  It not only calms you down but it's good for your heart too because it relaxes your blood vessels and increases blood flow.

Don't Forget to Laugh.
Remember to focus on the things you enjoy, and don't forget to laugh.  Make a conscious decision to stay happy regardless of whatever curve ball the holidays throw your way.  You can do this! 

A New Kayak. Merry Christmas Becca!

Becca got a BIG surprise today when Papa showed up at our doorstep with a brand new kayak strapped to the top of his car. Merry Christmas to Becca! 

 Noahh was loving the idea of having another "boat" to ride around in. 
 In fact, it was almost impossible keeping her out of it.

Papa gave her a few quick safety instructions and briefly told her how to steer the thing and then we set it in the water and she was off! 

This girl is a pro-paddle boarder, so we thought she'd really enjoy a kayak to cruise around the islands on. 

She got the hang of how to move the kayak in shallow water, right next to the dock. Because a storm was on it's way inland, there was nobody around. We had the water all to ourselves which made it the perfect opportunity for her to safely paddle around and get the hang of things without us having to worry about boaters nearby. 

Noahh watched from the shore and said "bon voyage Becca!" It was the cutest. 

Before we knew it, Noahh was on top of the kayak and they were safely just paddling along the shoreline in about 1 1/2 feet of water.  
 They are the cutest. Be still my heart. 

I stole the kayak for a few minutes and cruised over to one of the islands and then over to the beachfront bar and grill. The water was peaceful, warm, and I enjoyed every minute of it. When I returned, Becca took the kayak out into deeper water and kayaked next to the dolphins. Is this really our life now?!  I can't believe we are in the water, playing at the beach at Christmastime! 
Crazy to me still that it's 70 degrees out. Overcast today, but it's still nice and warm out. I can't complain.

So far I think the girls have had a pretty nice Christmas and it isn't even here yet! Tonight is Christmas Eve, Eve and we are busy wrapping a few last minute gifts and I'm making candy and gifts for friends and neighbors.  Christmas music is echoing through the house and we're gearing up for more festiveness!  Happy holidays, friends! 

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