My First Garden-Part 1

This post is for my Dad.  This is the first garden that I’ll plant and grow myself in my new home.  For part of my birthday gift, my parents let me go rather crazy with the seed catalogs… and I ordered a bunch of stuff from Burgess Seed & Plant Co.  A starter pack of vegetables and a starter pack of herbs, plus asparagus, a set of 4 dwarf fruit trees, a blueberry bush, as well as butterfly and bee flower garden sheets–all this will keep me busy for some time.  I’m sure I’m forgetting something.

I also ordered two sets of raised garden bed boxes from Amazon on the recommendation of a coworker, and one of the early start tent enclosures to go with the boxes.

Assembly of the boxes was quite easy; the sides slot together and are held in place with plastic clips.  They seem like they’ll hold up.  They can be stacked, so I actually have two stacked sets for deeper planting and two single depth beds.

Raised bed boxes and tent enclosure.

I sorted my seeds into a few groups: the things that needed an early, indoor, or hot start (which I planted this weekend), the things that would need to grow in hills, and the seeds that plant in rows.  I picked up starter trays from my local Lidl (yes, it’s a grocery store) and potting soil from Lowe’s.

The boxes have not been filled yet–that’s a project for after the Spring 2018 term ends and I have more free time to DIG.  I have a huge amount of mulch and rich, peaty composted soil/leaf matter.

As far as vegetables go, I got the tomatoes seeded, along with peas, garden beans, and mixed lettuces.

Most of the herbs went into containers; many of them (basil, thyme, oregano) will grow well in pots and even did well in the apartment I lived in before.  I also had a very limited number of starting trays, since I bought the last pack.  You work with what you have!  I started the dill in the trays, and the rosemary will need replanting later.  I killed 3 rosemary plants in my apartment, so I’m hoping the seeds start well.  It grows wonderfully here–many people have giant bushes of the stuff in their backyards, with no idea of the treasure they have.  I love the smell of rosemary.

Starter trays with peas, beans, tomatoes, mixed lettuces, bell peppers, and dill. Pots contain sweet & thai basil, thyme, oregano, and rosemary.

I decided a bit later to start the mints as well, because summertime = mojitos.  The mints went into a long planter box:

Peppermint, Spearmint, Lemon Balm

Right now, one of the recipes that I’m mentally drooling over is a lentil salad with tomato and dill that will use some of the tomatoes, dill, and basil.  Fresh herbs make all the difference on that, and it’s one of my favorite summertime recipes!  I can’t wait to make it with my own home-grown goodies.

Starting plants in the tent enclosure box


My 9 best moments from 2016

I’ve seen this a lot on my friends’ feeds, and figured I maybe should participate (if late).  2016 was not a kind year for many of us, and I had difficulty identifying three things that went well in the year.  I started reviewing photos, and found 6 more!  Here goes my list:

  1. April 2016: Won the BigBlue Healthy Kitchen Wars cooking competition at ODU with the Faculty/Staff team.
  2. May 2016: I got to take my Mom to the Norfolk Botanical Gardens for the LanternAsia exhibit for Mother’s Day (it’s rare for her to be in my area).
  3. May 2016: I got to go to Seattle, WA and give a presentation at the annual Immunology conference!  I’d been wanting to do a talk (rather than just a poster) for a few years.  I’ve also always dreamt of Seattle; I’m a pluviophile, and the city just captured my imagination.  While there, aside from the conference, I got to visit a friend and see the Seattle Japanese Garden which was gorgeous, the Space Needle (so geeky) and the quite stunning Chihuly Garden and Glass exhibit, the EMP museum, and the Museum of Flight (loved the space exhibits).  It was a great trip filled with amazing food, fantastic scenery, and a lot of really good experiences that I’m glad I had.
  4. July 2016: I got to visit friends and family over the summer; in particular, I went to see Luray Caverns with my best friend.  I’d never been.  It was spectacular.  I have literally hundreds of photos and videos from that (and filled up my phone completely).  They even played the stalactite organ while we were there. We also did the garden maze (and I think we chanted “get through the Labyrinth? Get through the labyrinth?! … movie reference) and the rope adventure park.  You know, for someone who doesn’t like heights, I certainly got some altitude this year!
  5. December 2016: I was a co-author on another manuscript, accepted for publication and published online! Not primary author or senior author, but I’m very happy that some of my data was useful.
  6. September 2016: My 20th high school reunion.  Yikes!  Has it been that long!?
  7. October 2016: Survived Hurricane Matthew (not a highlight) and had a great visit with a friend I haven’t seen in years!
  8. October 2016: Halloween is always a highlight.  I did the Corpse Countess this year and utterly delighted in my costume!
  9. December 2016: I got to visit with my friend, and although the Santa Claus Shuffle did NOT qualify as a highlight, our tour through the Norfolk Botanical Garden of Lights show did!

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Thanksgiving 2016

Being sick on a holiday is never fun.  This year was no exception.  Mostly, it was just a cold with a lot of sinus drainage.

I always watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade!  This year we tried CBS, but we ended up switching back to NBC about an hour in.  Their coverage was just better–and so was their position/view of the performances in front of Macy’s!  I did have a distraction while watching, though…

#Thanksgiving is fun for kitties too!

A video posted by Jolie (@machatonjolie) on

Have I mentioned that Jolie likes to CHEW on everything?!

We scaled back Thanksgiving this year and did a turkey breast, green beans, mini-croissants (store bought), cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie, and deviled eggs.  Yes, that was our scaled-back version.  I had never done a boneless turkey breast before so hunted for instructions, and I settled on the ideas from Claire Robinson via Food Network here.
Unfortunately, having a cold meant that I really couldn’t taste much.  Mostly just salty, sweet, and tangy-tart.  The leftovers tasted better though, so I’m assuming the dinner itself was good, too.

Thanksgiving Prep 2016

After dinner?  The predictable cleanup.  After that? PIE.  Yum.  I strongly prefer to make my pies totally from scratch, but we didn’t get any pumpkins this year–and the outcome was noticeably different in the final product.  I tend to add more spices to mine than is traditional.

My final activity for the day was to have a mug of Theraflu and a hot bath.  My father always advocated hot baths when you’re feeling sick, and it’s a habit I’ve fully adopted as an adult.  Lobster-skin hot baths where you’re reeling when you get out of the tub.  I fall asleep almost immediately after.  This time, I treated myself to a new experience and tried a pumpkin-shaped bath bomb from Fragrant Jewels… and then I went to bed!

A Month of Projects

Sometimes, I undertake too many things at once. I have this feeling that December is going to be a typical month of that for me. I currently find myself working on several simultaneous projects, so here’s the short list:

Adobe Generation Pro: Digital Imaging

Yes, I enrolled in another MOOC to improve my digital imaging skills.  This class is different from Digital Creativity, and it’s going to force me to learn more about Lightroom and Photoshop.  Mostly, I’m hoping this helps me make better pictures for my blog!  We’re currently in Week 3/5, so this class should wrap up this month, but the final deadline for submitting course materials is in January 2016.  Right now, I’m trying to figure out how to paint a butterfly with light and put it on my kitten’s nose (I think that’s my Week 2 assignment).

30-Day Blogging Challenge

This one began today and this is my first official post.  I keep planning and intending to write more; this gives me something to do after classes wrap up for the term and a way to help me find my blogging voice!  I have NO idea what I’m going to write about every day for 30 days.  Content will vary.  I found this group thanks to a friend online (shoutout to my friend HodgePodgePam from, who is also participating in this challenge) and anyone can join through the Facebook page.

Healthy Moments December Challenge

Speaking of my friend Pam, I’m also participating in her month-long Healthy Moments challenge!  Although this is a closed group on Facebook, one of the participants actually suggested that I blog about my challenge experience, which sounds like it might be an interesting way to go.


I’ve only got a bit less than a month left to meet some of my Resolution goals for 2015.  I have yet to win my race and beat my time; I haven’t yet run a 10-minute mile (though I’m practicing), and I’m having to adjust my goal weight.  I’m close to winning the DietBet I’m participating in, and I have to stay on track through the holidays.  Okay, in all honesty, I have to get back ON track, (slight Thanksgiving derailment) and then stay on the track.  This came across my Instagram feed a few times and I sort of jumped in blind and joined at  I hate meal plans and my body aches.  Today is day 2/28.

Actually, many of the “challenges” that I’ve undertaken this year have been partial successes, and most have resulted in at least some changes for the better.  It’s with this introspection and reflection on my goals for the year that I continue to try to push myself toward achieving my goals.  However, I learned one very important thing in my Digital Video Production course and it also shows up in the FitGirlGuide challenge:

Progress, not Perfection.

That’s essentially going to be my mantra this month,


AGP: Digital Video Production Review

AGP-VideoProductionI originally intended to blog my way through the course.  That didn’t happen (obviously).  However, I successfully completed and passed the class (yay)!

I learned a fair amount from working on this class.  First and foremost, equipment isn’t your biggest concern; planning and execution are.  You can do a lot with a phone camera too.  That said, having better equipment can give you better control over your content.  I learned to embrace “progress, not perfection” more in this course: for several projects, I had ideas that I really wanted to execute.  I also learned to embrace the idea of telling a story, even if that story is a very simple vlog.

Our Week 2 project was supposed to involve the theme “numbers” and we were supposed to storyboard, plan, and then do a shot scavenger hunt using a tripod.  I ordered 2 tripods that work with phones (or small handheld cameras).  They took weeks to arrive.  Nature did not cooperate.  Despite taking regular walks, I never found a scene that I felt fit what I wanted to see or do for that video.  I finally admitted defeat and just took a bunch of shots when I was out for a walk after a rainstorm.  I ended up calling it “the soggy walk” video.  It wasn’t what I wanted it to be and the perfectionist in me wasn’t happy, but I accomplished the basics of what needed to be done.  I initially labeled my shots and uploaded, but I subsequently revised this video, so I’ll only show the final version.

For Week 3, we were supposed to create a music video.  This assignment caused me to feel instantly stressed because I have no idea how to do such a thing.  I mean, I know how to add music to a video and make it fade in and fade out, but I had no idea how to express a piece of music in video form.  As it turns out, I didn’t need to (whew).  My initial idea for this video was to use a suggestion from our “recommended reading textbook” that suggested having people at an event each shoot clips that they found important or interesting, then find a piece of music of the same length as the sum of the clips.  The problem is the lack of “events” in my life. Ultimately, I ended up abandoning that idea and adding music to the soggy walk video.

Week 4’s assignment had us create an educational video.  Finally, an assignment that didn’t make me feel stressed!  I hand-animated the video (employing skills I acquired in Digital Creativity) and again added music.  Although less stressful, this assignment was still several hours’ worth of work.  I ended up doing a quick title in Adobe AfterEffects (I actually finished this video last) and recording audio separately and adding it in.  Editing non-synchronized audio narration and animation sequences was a PAIN but it got done.  I also added music.

The final week (week 5) had us use Adobe After Effects to create a title sequence.  For this I went back to my Soggy Walk video and created a title sequence.  I figured out how to add rain.  I wanted the text to look like drops falling into a puddle.  I found an awesome set of stock art images that I wanted to use and went to purchase them but found out that my subscription “credits” didn’t even begin to cover the cost of a single image, unlike most where 1 credit=1 image.  Then I tried my best to make the text look like rain was distorting or splashing the font.  It was imperfect, but it looks better than many things I’ve done.  Some of what my computer showed didn’t render the way I thought it would, but I was out of time and again embraced “progress, not perfection.”

Don’t look for more videos on my Vimeo account.  It was encouraged for the use of this course, but I’m probably sticking with YouTube since I’m not (ever going to be) a pro.

What’s next?

The Adobe Generation Professional Digital Imaging course.  It’s already in progress!

From Here to Eternity (5k race)

The sign that started it all...
The sign that started it all…

Earlier this year (in the summer), I realized that my running shoes were getting seriously worn out.  I finally decided to go get new ones.  Ironically, that same day, I saw signs for a 5k race event that was absolutely perfect for me: a 5k run through the Elmwood Cemetery, at twilight, a week before Halloween.  I signed up that night.

Shortly after, I started practicing for that 5k. I know the technical term is training, but I’m not an athlete and “training” seems too serious for a non-runner (me).  Finally, on October 24, 2015, it was race day.  I did opt to run in Steampunk costume. Laughably, nobody thought to get a picture of me BEFORE I was all race-sweaty, so you’ll have to wait to see my Halloween pictures (coming soon).

The run through the Elmwood Cemetery in Norfolk, VA (Oct 24, 2015). Image route from my Microsoft Band; blue = slowest, red = fastest.
The run through the Elmwood Cemetery in Norfolk, VA (Oct 24, 2015). Image route from my Microsoft Band; blue = slowest, red = fastest.

Honestly, it was harder going than I expected, partly due to the clothing and partly due to the irregular surface (gravel path and grass).  Despite that, I set a reasonably good pace, but I did end up walking some to catch my breath.

However, my boyfriend and my Mom were there to cheer me on (thanks!) and my boyfriend got video of me crossing the finish line:

My final official finishing time was 39:56.  That was 20th in my age group (30-39), right about in the middle.  I was 5 seconds short of setting a personal record! Although that’s immensely frustrating, I have another race coming up in December to fulfill my New Year’s Resolution goal.  On the plus side, it’s my first race medal!

Finisher's medal and race bib
Finisher’s medal and race bib