Friday, July 31, 2009

The model maker

Kyle has been sculpting his own clay models for years and FINALLY Doug had the brilliant idea of introducing him to boxed model sets. It's been a big hit with Kyle and I just love watching him work so intently to get each piece just right.
He's just got that artists eye...

This model of the lunar lander was chosen due to a special interest in rocketry lately. We went to Space Center Houston and Kyle was fascinated by the exhibits...not by the new technology and futuristic space travel, but by old school Mission Control and Saturn V rockets!

He's even downloaded Apollo 13 to his iPod Nano.

I'm going to enjoy this while it lasts!
Pictures of our trip to come...

Thursday, July 30, 2009

The weed patch formerly known as the garden

Lots of you have emailed inquiring how the garden is growing.
Well, it's growing alright...growing over with weeds!
I just haven't had the time or strength to tend to my garden while working so much and getting the older kids to pitch in is like pulling teeth. I finally had to suck it up and just get out there and tend to the vegetable patch myself.
I decided to leave the sunflowers alone for now. I kind of like the look of the seed heads drying on the stalks. When they're completely done I'll string them up from the branches for the birds to eat - 'cause you know I love my little red birds!

My tomato patch is absolutely pitiful. The plants have slowed their production and some are pretty much spent. The extreme heat and drought conditions have really stressed them out! I think I'll get in there and really prune them back, give them a good feed of compost, and hope for the best. I'm thinking they'll grow back out and give me one more harvest before winter. I have several bags of sauce and salsa in the freezer but I still want more!

I made a goal for myself to weed only four rows a day on my days off. Last weekend I got out there early in the morning and weeded and pulled up the spaghetti squash, yellow squash, zucchini and swiss chard rows. I think I'm going to compost and replant the zucchini and spaghetti squash to get one more harvest and a little more for the freezer.

It's hard work because it's so dang hot here now! Tackling the garden in small manageable chunks instead of all at once makes the task less daunting. Plus, I really do love my little patch of Heaven! It's my therapy and my break from all the chaos of life...weeds and all!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Happy Birthday Kyle!

Happy 12th birthday to my beautiful boy!
I remember your birth like it was just yesterday
and in the blink of an eye you have grown into a wonderful young man.
Have a great day!
We love you so very much!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

It's a GIRL!

Doug, the kids, and I went to Houston on Saturday for a little shopping and lunch. We came home with Abby, a beautiful four month old black lab!
We had gone into Petco and the Palacios Pet Pals were having an adoption drive. She was saved from the pound the day before she was scheduled to be put down.
We think she is just wonderful and the boys adore her.

FINALLY, another girl in the household!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Back to planning

I took the summer off of menu planning so we could eat what the garden gives us each day. The garden is almost spent and since I'm back to working full time, it's just not practical anymore. So I'm back to planning our meals for the week. Since I'm off for three day weekends, I'll get my planning and shopping done on Fridays. I'll put several 'make ahead meals' in the freezer on Saturdays so we'll be set for the week...well, that's my plan anyway!

I'm most definitely a planner and scheduler, it's just the way my brain works, so this fits into my routine pretty well. Plus, planning makes me feel like I still have a little bit of control over the household when I'm away. It definitely saves us money and helps Doug out tremendously. He's trying to run a full time business from home AND take care of kids and household!

Here's what I have in store for this week's meals:

Monday: Meatloaf and mashed potatoes. Will make this Sunday night so Doug can pop it in the oven Monday evening.

Tuesday: Spaghetti squash with homemade sauce. This was made for the freezer weeks ago when we were harvesting so much spaghetti squash and tomatoes! I'll set the freezer bags out to defrost before going to work and Doug can heat them in the oven at dinner time.

Wednesday: IT'S KYLE'S BIRTHDAY! We'll have a picnic lunch on the beach that day and then take our boy out to dinner at his favorite restaurant that night. Plus, I'm off this day so it will be a real treat!

Thursday: Taco Night! I'll precook two pounds of grass fed beef and season it for the freezer along with some soft bread wraps on Saturday. Doug just has to warm it all up and serve with fixings.

Friday: Homemade mac & cheese. I'll be off on Friday and will cook this from scratch. I'll make a double batch so one can go to the freezer for a lunch or meal next week.

Saturday: Roasted chicken and wild rice. Leftovers will go towards chicken salad for my lunches next week.

Sunday: 15 Bean soup with corn bread. Leftovers will also be for my lunches next week.

....and yes, I can eat chicken salad and soup everyday for lunch!
I love the stuff!

I came across a great little blog last week that give tons of ideas for make ahead meals, check it out: 100 Make-Ahead Meals

Friday, July 24, 2009

Stick a fork in me...I'm done.

This was my week to do four 12-hour a row.
I'm beat and my poor dogs are a barkin'!

This weekend I plan on treating them to lots of this...

...and definitely a nap or twelve.

See you Monday!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Clothesline love

I bought a little retractable clothesline last week. It's intended use was only to dry soggy pool towels and bathing suits, but I'm finding more and more wonderful things to hang from it!

They say that sunshine has anti-microbial properties.
And I tell 'ya, not even Bounce or Gain can bottle that smell.

My niece, Cassandra, also had clothesline lurve...
although hers entails brightly colored cloth diapers!

Who wouldn't love that pretty sight hanging in their backyard?
Cassandra won runner-up in the BumGenius summer photo contest with this awesome picture! You can see more of her and her husband's work at

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Afternoon cooking with Dan

Danny is ALL ABOUT the cooking!

Ever since he could stand by himself, he'd be right there standing on the kitchen chairs helping me cook something...anything...he just has to be part of whatever is going on.

And yes, I DO let my four year old wield a knife!

I also let him play outside in lightning storms,
swim immediately after eating, and run with scissors.

Danny has diced so many figs that he's turned it into a little game.
He says, "First I cut their hats off (the stem end of the fig),
then I put their butt up in the air and chop them in half!"

It comes along with sound effects just in case you were wondering.

"Look Mom, FIG GUTS!"

We made homemade Fig Newtons that day...

We have the best times gardening and cooking together. I really look forward to seeing how his love of cooking grows as he does. Who knows, he might be the next Emeril Lagasse...he certainly has the "BAM!" part down pat!

And don't you think a face this cute deserves his own Food Network program?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Wicked weather!

We had some much needed rain storms this weekend.
The cloud formations made excellent photographs and the lightning shows were spectacular!

Monday, July 20, 2009

The PERFECT soft wrap bread

I thought my homemade whole wheat tortillas were the bomb...that is, until I found this wonderful little flatbread recipe! On Saturday I made a double batch of these wraps filled with grilled veggies from the garden. They were absolutely delicious!

I've decided that I'm taking these for lunch everyday this week...maybe next week, too.
I may be in a flat bread coma after that, but I'll let you know.

These are very simple to make. And you must make some NOW!

Recipe courtesy of the King Arthur Flour Baker's Banter Blog:

3 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 1/4 cups boiling water
1/4 cup potato flour OR 1/2 cup potato buds or flakes
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon instant yeast

Place 2 cups of the flour into a bowl or the bucket of a bread machine. Pour the boiling water over the flour, and stir till smooth.
Cover the bowl or bucket and set the mixture aside for 30 minutes.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the potato flour (or flakes or buds) and the remaining 1 cup of flour with the salt, oil and yeast.

Add this to the cooled flour/water mixture, stir, then knead for several minutes (by hand, mixer or bread machine) to form a soft dough. Note: You can allow the dough to go through the entire kneading cycle(s) in the bread machine, but it's not necessary; about a 5-minute knead in the machine, once it gets up to full kneading speed, is fine. The dough should form a ball, but will remain somewhat sticky. Add additional flour only if necessary; if kneading by hand, keep your hands and work surface lightly oiled.

Let the dough rise, covered, for 1 hour.

Divide the dough into 8 pieces and let rest for 15 to 30 minutes.

Roll each piece into a 7"- to 8"-circle, and dry-fry them (fry without oil) over medium heat for about 1 minute per side, until they're puffed and flecked with brown spots. Adjust the heat if they seem to be cooking either too quickly, or too slowly; cooking too quickly means they may be raw in the center, while too slowly will dry them out.

Transfer the cooked breads to a wire rack, stacking them to keep them soft.
Serve immediately, or cool slightly before storing in a plastic bag.

Or you could just eat them immediately slathered in butter!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Thrift finds

Silver plate and stainless serving pieces...

Apothecary bottles of all shapes and sizes...

For little gifts like homemade vanilla
or pepper spice blends from our garden.

So pretty.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Cook once, eat twice

That's become my goal since going back to work full time!
Time is a precious commodity around here, so what better way to manage things than to do some double duty cooking on one day to save me a little time on another.
Here's a perfect example:

It takes absolutely no more effort to boil extra noodles and double the cheese sauce for some homemade mac & cheese. Now I have dinner for one night and lunch for another day.
(And hellza yeah we put crushed up Goldfish crackers on our m&c!
It's awesome...and it was Doug's idea!)

Meatloaf is another easy meal that takes no effort to double. When I make meatloaf I make two loaves. We eat one for dinner and the other I crumble up with some brown rice and stuff into bell peppers from the garden. They go into the freezer and when we need a meal I just toss them into the crock pot with some homemade sauce.

Every Sunday morning I make sausage balls for the boys. Again, just double your recipe and you can pop half the batch into the fridge or freezer for a quick breakfast or snacks later in the week!

It really makes life easier because my boys eat ALL the time!
I want them to remember the good times with mama instead of mama always being in the kitchen.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The spice of life!

We like things spicy around here so every year I plant way more pepper plants than I should! I've pickled and lactofermented just about all I can stand but still have lots of peppers coming. That's the thing about pepper plants - the more you pick, the more they grow! Plus, they LOVE hot Texas summers.

I spend a small fortune on seasoning blends. It finally dawned on me that I can make my own minus all the MSG and other additives...and yeah, it only took me two years to figure that out!
With my surplus of various peppers I added in some onion and herbs and put them in the food dehydrator. After about two days I put everything into the food processor, did a few quick pulses to chop everything finely, and voila - my very own custom made spice blend!

Depending on the flavors you want, you can customize your spice blend by adding a few teaspoons of spices from your pantry or your own dried herbs.

For a smoky Southwest blend add cumin, sweet paprika, and dried cilantro.

For an Asian flavor add some ground ginger and toasted sesame seeds.

An Italian blend can be made by adding oregano, rosemary, and thyme.

And a wonderful Mediterranean spice could be made from crushed fennel seeds, dried mint and dried lemon peel.

Like I said, it would cost a small fortune to buy all of those in the store,
but with one or two pepper plants, an onion, and spices you probably already have, you can make it for just pennies a jar!