Monday, June 30, 2008

Working in the garden today

Lots to do in the garden today! Our corn is spent and Ryan got out there and pulled it all up for me (ok, I *bribed* him to do it) so we can plant our pumpkin patch!

We have three varieties of pumpkins to plant this year, Big Max, Prizewinner Hybrid, and Jack-O-Lantern. Danny and JP are so excited to get out there and plant! Prizewinner Hybrid and Big Max are the super huge exhibition variety with fruits getting as big 300 pounds! JP is determined to grow a monster pumpkin this year...we'll see how it goes! I spent the better part of the morning pulling up small weeds and hand tilling the soil to get it ready.
I also pulled up my cucumber plants. They were mostly spent and we were getting some really scrawny cukes. So up they came, trellis and all, and I think I'll make a second planting of them.
Cukes grow super fast during the hot summers, so I think I'll be able to get another harvest by late August.
All this plant debris is going to be great for my compost pile!
By next spring I'll have quite a bit of organic matter to put right back into the garden! It really is amazing how quickly this stuff breaks down!
We also did some harvesting of figs this weekend. My figs are ready and my globe-trotting sister is away in Israel! Who's going to help me process all this fruit?
I didn't quite have enough for strawberry-fig preserves (like my mom used to make!) so I decided to make some fig kolaches instead! We live in a heavily populated Czech community and I absolutely love fruit kolaches! I'm going to have to buddy up with little old ladies from the church so they can show me their secrets! I used this recipe for the dough and then just cooked the figs with a couple of tablespoons of raw sugar and the zest and juice of one lemon.
They turned out really good, even the kids ate them! If you end up using the recipe be sure to flatten out the dough quite a bit, these guys have enormous oven spring!
Then there are the peppers. I have hot peppers coming out my ears so I'm off to Walmart for pickling salts to put up some pints today.
Please, somebody remind me next year that I do not need six jalapeno pepper plants...two will do just fine!
I love working in my garden, I really do! But after all of this I'm kinda looking forward to going to work at the hospital for the next two days....Seriously!

My new favorite blog!

If you love gardening, you must go check out Urban Ministry Garden Blog
Here's an excerpt from their "About Our Community Garden" page:

"Our garden is a garden first, and other things second. It exists to serve the neighbors (as we call those who come to us seeking help, rather than label them “homeless” or “clients” or some such thing. As in “love your neighbor as yourself”). Probably, the most important benefit is the chance for people, homed and not, to work side-by-side, talking person to person. Yes, we also harvest some delicious organic food - and it makes a huge difference that we grew it ourselves. And we are always learning. Some people may well learn enough here to begin doing horticultural work as a livelihood. But, above all, this is our garden, a safe place for healing, reflection, laughter, beauty, work and a “ministry of presence”."

I just smile as I read each blog entry! It gives me hope to do something like this in my own community. This year I really wanted to do something like this for our neighborhood. Just a small garden for folks to come work and talk. I thought about how fun it would be for all the neighborhood kids to join in and learn about organic gardening and help them develop a good work ethic. Even though we live in a small neighborhood (about 20 houses) we still don't know a lot of our neighbors! I think this would be a wonderful project for people to come together and learn about each other as well as harvest some good food! I'm seriously going to contemplate this for next spring. There is no reason this wouldn't also work at our church. We have lots of land surrounding it and lots of able bodied persons to help out.
I just love this blog and it gives me hope and encouragement to do the same thing in our community! Check it out!

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Road Trip!

We took a late afternoon trip to the beach yesterday. We just packed up some snacks and towels and hit the road. Matagorda beach is only 45 minutes away and it's a great (and cheap!) day trip. By leaving so late in the day, we practically had the place to ourselves. Plus, the sunsets on Matagorda are spectacular!

I'll be spending my Saturday washing sandy beach towels and bathing suits, but that's ok, we had a great afternoon!

Friday, June 27, 2008

Whole wheat flour tortillas


DE-LI-CIOUS!

I found this recipe online and it is so simple and tasty that I don't think we'll buy store brands ever again! I doubled this recipe for our family of six:

1 3/4 cup whole wheat flour (or sprouted flour)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder (aluminum free if you can find it!)
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup water



Preheat electric skillet to 350°F or a cast iron or non-stick griddle over medium heat. Do not oil griddle or skillet.

Combine whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder and salt. Stir in oil until mixture is crumbly; add the water to form soft dough. Knead by hand for 5 minutes. Cover; let dough rest 30 minutes.

Divide dough into 12 equal pieces. Flatten and roll each ball of dough on well floured surface until paper thin, turning frequently. Roll from the center outward until tortillas are 8-inches in diameter.

Cook tortillas 45 seconds to 1 minute on each side, until light brown specks appear. Do not overcook. A well made tortilla puffs as it is cooking. Remove from griddle or skillet and wrap in clean towel to keep warm. Serve warm or use in your favorite recipe.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Thrift store find


I saw these beautiful vintage glass canisters WEEKS ago at our local thrift store. I didn't buy them because they were listed for $25. I also figured that someone would snatch them up quickly so you can imagine my surprise when I went in today and they were sitting there marked down to this:


I absolutely love thrift store finds but I get absolutely giddy when I can get something marked down even more! These were a steal at $25! They are vintage, super heavy and the most beautiful emerald green I have ever seen. I literally gasped when I saw them sitting on the store shelf! I quickly grabbed them for fear that some little old lady would tap me on the shoulder and say that she saw them first!


...and trust me, I'd fight an old lady for these!
;-P

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Happy Birthday Doug!



Happy birthday Doug! Praying for at least another 46 wonderful and happy years surrounded by your loving family and friends. Also praying that I'm around to share every minute of them with you! Sorry today was a little anti-climactic, but hey, at least the cake was good (thanks Mrs. C!)

Monday, June 23, 2008

Tomato Sauce

I thought I'd try my hand at making some homemade tomato sauce. I scoured the internet for recipes and finally figured that the simplest ingredients probably made the best sauce.
So I assembled my cast of characters:

Fresh tomatoes from the garden that were blanched and skins removed, bell peppers from the garden cored and seeded, garlic, onion, fresh basil from the herb garden, dried oregano, salt and pepper to taste, and some good olive oil.
Since my kids won't eat a sauce with chunks of vegetables in it, I blended all the ingredients (except the oregano and basil) in the food processor until smooth. I'll add the herbs at the end of the cooking time so that they keep their fresh taste and color. Cooking them all day would just turn them brown. I thought cooking low and slow in the crock pot was the way to go. One, it wouldn't heat up the kitchen, and two, we could enjoy the smell of it simmering alllll day long!

Instead of canning it, I'll probably just put it in quart sized freezer bags since we'll be using it up pretty quickly. Can't wait to taste this on pizza margarita or hot pasta!

Sunflower seeds

The sunflowers that John Paul and Daniel planted have finally grown and started producing seeds! I cut this flower head off yesterday (much to the kid's amazement!)

I was going to just let the seed head dry naturally in the sunshine on our little patio table, but then I spied the squirrel (who daily raids the bird feeders) eying it like a brunch buffet!

It really is amazing to look at!
John Paul: "Are these going to taste like the seeds we get at the ballfield?"
Me: "Nope, they'll taste better!"
John Paul: "Are you going to put salt on them?"
Me: "Probably not."
John Paul: "Hmmm...I won't eat them unless they have lots of salt. I'll stick with popcorn!"

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Home at last!

After a VERY long road trip, I am pleased to report that Ryan successfully graduated from Texas CAP Encampment! I think I was a nervous as he was driving up! When we got there the cadets were already lined up in their flight groups and preparing for the ceremony.

We found our way to the bleachers and tried to spot Ryan in the sea of identically dressed cadets. We found Ryan's flight easily but didn't actually spot him until he processed right in front of us:


Let me tell you he was walking tall and looking sharp! He didn't look like the scared little boy who had left our home a week ago. He was tall, proud, and confident, he was a man now! My heart absolutely swelled with joy and pride...so did my eyes with tears.
After the ceremony, we walked across the field for a big bear hug. Ryan couldn't wait to tell us everything but first he wanted us to meet his TAC Officer:

She is a SAINT in my eyes! She, along with senior members of Ryan's flight, were able to help Ryan through his rough patch and got him back on track. They didn't yell or belittle him. They were compassionate and caring and took great care of my son when we couldn't be there to help him. We are forever grateful for their leadership!
Ryan and his flight were quickly discharged and we loaded up the van for the long trip home. The first thing Ryan wanted was REAL FOOD! So we stopped in Longview for his favorite - mexican food.

We were just about thirty minutes from the place where Doug grew up, so we made the detour to Marshall for a quick trip down memory lane. We visited the beautiful church where Doug was baptized. We saw his grandmother's home and the home he grew up in. We took a tour of the town square and saw where his grandfather used to work. Then we drove into this place:

It was a little shack no bigger than our living room and Doug claimed it had the best BBQ sandwich on earth! Well, we got two pounds of "brown pig" to go and headed home.
We weren't five minutes out of Marshall when this happened:

...and he stayed that way the entire trip home!

Another reason to grow your own!

A very interesting article on why not to buy organic.
I HATE going to the grocery store these days and examples mentioned in the article are reasons why! We are so blessed to be able to have the space to grow our own food. I thank God each time I pick a tomato because I know I'm not feeding my family pesticides or bacteria laden foods. We are not organic, whole foods Nazis by any stretch of the imagination, but I would like to be able to control the quality of the food that gets to our table.
I am seriously planning our year round garden. There is no reason for this to just be a seasonal thing for us. Texas gardens are sustainable year round since our winters are so mild. I do know that this week our corn patch is getting pulled up and put into the compost pile to make way for a pumpkin patch. I'm also going to plant another row or two of new tomato plants and may replant some squash seeds. Fall garden seeds get their early start in August, and I'm ordering extra varieties NOW!
I'm off to the library today after Mass to research year round gardening! I might as well pick up some books on preserving food (canning), too, since all I know how to preserve is pickles and salsa!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Just a bunch of melon heads!

We've had a bumper crop of cantaloupes recently! I love, love, LOVE cantaloupes and the variety we planted this year is exceptionally good. This year I tried just the plain Burpee Hybrid and Burpee Sweet and Early Hybrid. I got them at the Walmart seed display and I am more pleased with their production and flavor than I was with my heirloom varieties from last year!
Here's what I picked this morning:

The aroma in the kitchen is heavenly! Vine ripened melons smell as good as cut flowers in a room! Since we are going out of town soon, I needed to use this stuff up so I got online and found a neat little recipe for cantaloupe bread:

It doesn't taste like cantaloupe, per se, but it is extremely moist and tastes almost like cake! To make it a little healthier, I substituted half the white flour for whole wheat, added 1/3 cup ground flax seeds, and used raw sugar and honey. We also omitted the glaze for the top, you just don't need it, the bread is good as is!
We also made some melon pops. Just puree cantaloupe with a little bit of raw honey and freeze in an ice cube tray.

Actually, the puree tastes wonderful on it's own! I think if I added a ripe banana, some protein powder and milk that it would be an incredible smoothie!
And speaking of melons, we are now on watermelon watch '08! I planted my watermelons a little late this year but now we finally have some babies to tend to!

We planted three varieties. This one is a crimson sweet
and we cannot wait til he is full grown! I have the best memories of last summer when the kids sat out on the back porch eating watermelon and spitting seeds. I just love this time of year!

I saw him again and this time he's SMILING!

I check the Texas Cadet website every day (ok, five or six times a day!) for updates and today I saw another picture of Ryan on the ropes course...the boy is actually smiling! He's also apparently joking around with the kid next to him who is making the "bunny ears".
Ryan is the kid on the left holding the rope, click on the image for a larger view....and he really IS smiling!

You don't know how much good this picture does my heart! I look at it and I just smile too. We are going to go up on Saturday to surprise Ryan for his graduation. He doesn't know we are coming and I've been feeding him a load of hooey about us not being able to afford the gas and not being able to leave the other kids, yada, yada, yada...
I can not wait to see the look on his face when we get there! You can bet I'm going to be the loudest mama up there when he walks across that platform. We'll have six hours to catch up on the way home. I figure he'll either pass out and sleep from all the exhaustion, or talk our ear off the whole time! I don't care which! I'm just glad he finally came around and is having fun and that we are going to be able to go get him soon.
Thanks to everyone for the prayers! God is so good and merciful!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

LOL!

Just a little funny from LOL Dogs:

dog
see more dog pictures

Monday, June 16, 2008

I saw him! I saw him!

This is a picture off of the Texas Cadet website. They are supposed to be providing day by day summaries of the encampment (heck, they're ONLY three days late!) Anyway, I see this picture today and there is Ryan! See the white pillar in the back middle of the picture? He is the kid to the left of it with his hand up by his mouth (undoubtedly chewing on his pen cap!) I know what you're thinking...all those kids look the same with their military haircuts and identical BDU's...but trust me, a mother KNOWS!
I have been in constant prayer all day for Ryan. He is having such a hard time. I guess it's all my fault. He has never been away from us and the time we finally do send him away, it's to a military camp with people yelling at him one inch from his face! I feel like I've just thrown him into the fire. I'm a bad mother....I'll take the blame (and the cost) for the eventual therapy he'll be going to.
I want to call so bad, yet I am so scared! I want to hear that he's had a total turn around and is now participating and having a great time, but I know that's not the case. I feel like I can feel his hurt and it's killing me that I can't comfort him. At least he's not alone in feeling so homesick. The second lieutenant said that EVERY kid there has cried at least once since they've been there (yeah, like THAT'S supposed to make me feel better?)
Doug is out on a photo shoot on Matagorda beach, otherwise I'd make him call! I just want to hear his voice again and know that he has the strength to make it through this week. Please say a prayer for him....please.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Please pray!

Please pray for our Ryan. We were able to talk to him tonight and he is very, very homesick. He is also ill. Now we don't know if it is a stomach virus or if he's making himself ill due to being so upset. Either way, my boy is hurting and he needs your prayers.
Thank you.

Father's Day 2008

Happy Father's Day to my wonderful husband. He is an awesome dad! He changes diapers, bathes kids, plays games and jokes on them, prays FOR them and WITH them every.single.day!
Here's Doug and Ryan when Ryan was one day old. All of our babies occupied that spot until they could crawl away on their own! And speaking of babies, today is day #3 of missing our Ryan at camp. Just had to throw that in!
I'm sure Ryan is missing his daddy on this special day as well.
And for my own daddy,
Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and may Perpetual Light always shine upon him. May he rest in peace.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Tomatoes, missing Ryan, and a baby shower

A while back I discovered plucking "suckers" from your tomato plants and decided to do a little expirament. I diligently pruned the suckers off of a little more than half of my total tomato plants and here are the results:
Plucking suckers DOES increase tomato size!
Here is a picture to demonstrate:

The tomato on the right is from a sucker free plant. It's bigger and nicer than his little friend on the left. Now that doesn't matter so much when you're making salsa or tomato sauce, but it IS nice to slice a big juicy tomato on a sandwich or burger! It is interesting that plucking suckers did not affect size or quality on my Roma variety. They are exactly the same on plants I pruned and those I did not. So take all that information for what it's worth, it was an interesting little expirament!

Day 2 of Ryan's encampment...missing him like crazy and praying he's doing ok. They don't get to call home and I think that's what's killing me. I just want to hear his voice and know he's hanging in there. Karen passed along this great C.A.P cadet website. Check it out if you have time, and say a prayer for my baby!

On a lighter note, we are traveling to Houston today to for a baby shower for Cassandra & Sal (my dear niece and her husband!) and their precious baby Avalea Madison-Jo. I haven't seen my family in quite some time and I am really looking forward to the party and catching up on all the latest news! My sister, Sonya, is hosting the shower at her lovely home. Bringing lots of pickles and salsa for you, girl! We told the kids we were going to Aunt Sonya's for a baby shower today and John Paul says, "I am NOT getting in the shower with no baby!"

Friday, June 13, 2008

In the blink of an eye...

This seems like just yesterday to me:

Then I blinked my eyes, and in a second, this young man stands before me:


When did he grow up? And when in the hell did he start shaving!?
Ryan left for C.A.P. encampment this morning and I have to admit I'm a bit of a mess today.
I've really been looking forward to him going. I was looking forward to the peace and quiet (he is tormenter numero uno to his brothers!) and looking forward to sending him off on this adventure that I'm sure will help strengthen his mind and body. This is a wonderful experience for Ryan! He is going to be immersed in the military lifestyle and that is going to help make him a stronger, more self-disciplined young man...but when he walked out the door this morning, I cried. All I could see was that tiny little baby in the first picture!
I secretly wanted him to run out of the car and come hug me and tell me he didn't want to go! We've never been away from him. We are with our kids 24/7 (one of the nice things about homeschooling!) but here I am shipping my baby to live with strangers for eight days!
He called me at various points along his six hour trip to camp. I could tell he was nervous and scared, but he was brave. He wants so much to grow up and be a leader in C.A.P.
I'm sending off a nervous and scared young boy, but I think I'm going to get back a strong and confident young man! All I know is that I miss my baby...and if you've managed to read this far, please say a quick prayer for him. Please pray for his safety, his peace of mind while away from us, and that this camp experience helps him grow in strength and knowledge.
And if you have a spare moment, pray for me and Doug. I don't like this "children growing up and becoming all independent" thing! I think I'm going to be hugging and kissing the other boys a little too much over the following week!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Best thing since....air-popped popcorn!

Doug has been on a health kick lately. He purchased an air popcorn popper a couple of weeks ago and the kids went totally nuts! They think it's the neatest thing since, well, air popped popcorn! John begs to make it daily, and we let him do everything except plug in the machine and pour the sea salt:

Oh, the anticipation!


"Look, Mom, your seeds are popping!"


Soooo gooood!

We are really enjoying the air popped popcorn much better than the bagged microwave stuff. We control the ingredients (just a small spray of olive oil and sea salt) and we can make TONS of the stuff compared to the price of the microwave kind.
Movie anyone?

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Daniel vs. Sharpie

Sharpie won...


Our House is Blessed!


Our house is blessed...literally!

Our dear parish priest, Father Heyer, was kind enough to come to our home and celebrate the Holy Mass and bless our home. The Mass was absolutely beautiful and was offered for the souls of our lost children, Michael and Dominic. Mass was followed by a blessing of water and salt (Old school style using the Missale Romanum!) and then blessing of our home. Father blessed the doorways with chalk and holy water and then proceeded to bless each room of our house.
After the celebration, we sat down to dinner and Father entertained us with stories of his travels to Rome and the Holy Land. For such a young priest he has been greatly blessed with such opportunities to visit the places of our Lord and His apostles. Even the kids loved listening to his stories! We feel so honored and humbled for this wonderful experience.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Welcome to my world!

This video is hilarious! When I saw it I thought to myself, "Hmmm....that monkey is just like John Paul and those tigers are Ryan and Kyle!"

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Mama Cardinal


I was watering my Mary garden and discovered a bird's nest in one of the trellises. A sweet little cardinal has made it her home! I think she is sitting on eggs because she rarely leaves. I've made sure that the bird feeders stay full and that the kids leave her alone. We watch her from our kitchen window and I hope she stays here to raise her baby birds!

Anyway, I think it's pretty appropriate that a "cardinal" should make her nest in a "Mary Garden" and I think we should call her "DiNarda" (after Cardinal DiNardo of Galveston-Houston!)...yeah, Kyle rolled his eyes at that too! But the name is staying!


I just hope she decides to leave Greenie alone!