Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Christmas 2011 and Year End Goodbye

Because I hate winter and being out in the cold, my plan for Christmas this year was to hang around the house enjoying each others company, watching movies, eating, playing games, hiking the greenbelt, etc. After two days of cold, rainy weather stuck in the house together I decided that maybe getting out a little wouldn't hurt any of us.

I took the kids to the Jumpoline Park. They had a blast just as I suspected they would. Afterward we did a little shopping.

The next day we took a ride on the Metro Rail into downtown Austin. We checked out some artwork that was displayed in City Hall while we were there.

In short, I fell in love with that mode of traveling around Austin and plan on utilizing it more when they run the train route a couple of miles from my home in the near future.

New Year's Eve was fun this year. We played a little Ghost in the Graveyard and shot off fireworks with my neighbors until Toby arrived home from work just in time to make us all some drinks and and enjoy the midnight firework show. I think this is the first year that I was actually wide awake on a New Year's eve. I even managed to even stay up until 1:30a.m....I'm sure fueled by the late night Mexican Martinis.

I guess the highlight for the week would have to be my date with Toby. Even though Summer is confident enough to stay home alone for short periods of time, I'm not comfortable with leaving her alone at night for extended periods of time so with Lucas being here we had a in-house babysitter.

We left out around 6:00pm and grabbed a bite and a drink at Baby A's downtown. After we ate and enjoyed some uninterrupted conversation we headed to a popular location on 6th Street. Unfortunately, it was so early we were not able to go on the roof like I had wanted to do so we went next door where the roof was open already.

I was having more fun than I've had in a very long time. The view of downtown Austin was beautiful all lit up and the vibrancy of the city and being alone with hubby was making me feel like I had died and gone to heaven.

We had a couple of drinks while we listened to a band play. The band was good and only added to my enjoyment of the evening.

It started to get later so we met up with some of Toby's friends he used to work with when he worked downtown. Luckily I had enough beverage in me to find entertainment more than annoyance by the genre of music that was being played in this particular establishment.

We headed home and were in bed safe and sound by midnight. It was a WONDERFUL evening that reminded me what attracted me to my husband all those years ago.

Oh, and don't think we were talking about the kids and the home while we were out...lol.

Christmas Holiday 2011 highlights:

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Enchanted Rock

There is a reason our day trip of the week is appropriately named Enchanted Rock. The place was certainly enchanting and magnificent to boot!!

Luckily I've been keeping myself in shape or I don't think I would have ever made it to the summit. It was a pretty steep incline to the top and it seemed like the more we climbed the farther away the summit got..lol.

Almost to the summit...

Summer made it to the top way ahead of us and was enjoying the peace and tranquility of it all by the time we caught up with her....

We took a break and had a snack while we took in the scenery and enjoyed the feeling of solitude..

After our break we found a small cave we explored...

A thumbs up place for sure, but I definitely would not visit this rock in the middle of summer or any temps over 65 degrees. I purposely waited to take this day trip on a cooler day (60 degrees) and we still got warm hiking up the rock in the blazing sun.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

What's For Dinner?

Toby asked me this morning if I have been enjoying blogging about food.

Quite honestly, I would much rather be posting on some new or exciting place that I have traveled or explored but instead I find that I have been spending most of my time at home tending my family's needs, cleaning and cooking. The latter two are not really my idea of fun, but I suppose there is nothing I can do but make the best of it and hopefully give somebody some new meal ideas. I know I love to read about what other people put on their tables to eat so hopefully my meal ideas will inspire or at least spawn new ideas.

After all, the blogging world is for sharing in all forms and fashion so I find that I usually share the things that are going on in my life at the moment no matter how mundane they may be.

So here's what was on the menu for today...

For breakfast I made breakfast quesadillas. Okay, I never said all of my cooking was healthy but these are really good, quick and easy.

To make these I cracked an egg in a bowl and threw in some Jimmy Dean sausage crumbles, a tad of milk, and Natures Seasoning and mixed it all good with a fork. Dump the mixture into a hot pan oiled with bacon grease (I keep some stored in the fridge to cook my eggs in) and let it cook in a scrambled like way until done.

Then I spread the cook egg mixture onto one half of a flour tortilla, sprinkle some cheese of your choice on top (I use Mexican blend) and salsa if you choose (I do). Fold over the tortilla and throw it into a greased pan (I just spray my pan with Pam to heat the tortilla) until it is lightly browned and the cheese inside is melted.

I could eat two or three of these and have to really control myself not to make me another one.

Both of my kids have always loved helping me in the kitchen. When my son was young he always wanted to help me cook. Unfortunately my life was too rushed and chaotic back then for me to take the time to let him cook along beside me for more than a second or two. If only I had known then what I know now about those precious moments together that got pushed aside...

Helping in the kitchen is the one thing I never have to force Summer to do. When she sees the cutting board come out she's right there with the knife in her hand prepared to chop...

After breakfast was cleaned up I started on lunch. Yes, this is one of the advantages of having a husband that doesn't go into work until 2:00 p.m. I get to prepare breakfast and lunch back to back which means that on some days I spend a couple of hours in the kitchen. No, my husband does not demand breakfast and lunch, I just feel that is my obligation as a wife and homemaker that I do my job. He works hard for us so I feel I need to be doing my part by keeping his belly full.

For lunch I prepared and old favorite that I sort of made up. I cut up a head of cabbage and put it in a huge pot of water to boil, add some cut up sausage of your choice, sliced red potatoes, the white ends of some green onion and salt and pepper to taste.

I also tried to kill two birds with one stone and go ahead and prepare the next days lunch of Chicken and Rice since I was already slaving in the kitchen.

My Chicken and Rice is basic..cooked chicken, water, a can of cream of chicken soup, a can of cream of celery, cut up celery, rice, and salt and pepper to taste.

After Toby left for work Summer and I sat down to watch the movie.."Riding In Cars With Boys". We drank one of her favorites, a Chocolate Peanut Butter Smoothie while we watched it. Here is how I make them....

Cut up one banana into the blender. Add a packet of Carnation Instant Breakfast, a spoonful of peanut butter, enough milk to cover, a handful of ice cubes and blend.

Well, until next time....

Friday, November 25, 2011

What's For Dinner?

Not much cooking went on last week but I did manage to try one new recipe that I wanted to share. It was really good but very spicy so if you don't like spicy foods this may not be one you want to try. Before I moved to Texas I didn't really have a taste for spicy foods but now that I have been exposed to spicier foods I prefer my food with a little "kick" to it.


2 tbsp olive oil
1 bay leaf
1 cup vidailia onion, minced
2 celery ribs, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tsp Chipotle seasoning
1 cup frozen white corn kernels ( I used canned)
2 cans black beans
2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp ground coriander
1 1/2 tsp cumin
1 (15 oz) can diced tomatoes
1 (8 oz) can tomato sauce
1 (32 oz) carton vegetable stock
1 cup white rice cooked ( I used brown because that's what I had on hand )

Saute bay leaf, onion, celery and garlic in olive oil. Add Chipotle seasoning, then corn and both cans of undrained black beans. Add chili powder, coriander and cumin stirring well. Add tomatoes, tomato sauce and stock. Cover and bring to a boil. Add rice and simmer for about 10 minutes.

Another staple food we keep around is salad. Salad can be as filling or light as you want it to be and it's something we ALL like..including Summer.

Each week I try to change it up. One week I might add broccoli and cauliflower and the next week it may be carrots and radishes. The dressing can range anywhere from buttermilk ranch to olive oil.

I also quit buying the packaged salad mixes. I found that I can buy a head of Romaine lettuce for .88 and chop it myself as opposed to the pre-cut packaged for $2.68 a bag.

This week our salad consisted of Romaine lettuce, cucumber, tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, shredded cheese, bacon bits, and buttermilk ranch...and of course, seasoned croutons.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving Day

No cooking for me today. My oven died last Thanksgiving Day and I have not bothered to resurrect it yet. I try not to use my oven in the warmer months (which is most of the year) because it heats up the house, but I do like to have it in the couple of cold months we do have to help keep the house warm and smell those yummy comfort foods wafting from it.

I guess you could say that even though I miss having my oven at times, having it is obviously not high on my priority list...

Lucas was not able to make it for the holiday so I decided we would go eat at Cracker Barrel and see a movie afterwards.

We got to Cracker Barrel early to beat the crowds and was lucky enough not to have to wait. We were immediately seated and didn't have to wait long to be served our traditional Thanksgiving dish of Turkey and Dressing with all the fixings.

We decided on Puss 'N Boots for our movie. I'm not a big T.V. or movie fan and would much rather have my nose stuck in a book or surfing the net, but for the sake of family togetherness I endured the hour and a half long movie.

The movie was in 3D and I had never personally watched a movie in 3D before. I have to say that I think I was more intrigued with the effects the 3D glasses gave the movie than the movie itself. All in all, it wasn't torture.

Even though I missed having my son, the day was rather pleasant and relaxed.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Outdoor Explorations

The weather has been great the past few weeks so we all have been spending a lot of time outdoors..well, me and Summer anyway. Toby is perfectly satisfied perched on the sofa in front of the T.V. or his Iphone when he's not at work.

One of the things I love most about where I live is that Summer has plenty of space to roam, and that's exactly what she has spent her time doing lately. The one rule is that she has to take a friend or me into the woods with her. I don't allow her to go out into the wild, expansive acreage alone.

Since they plowed the road through it has given us some access to other parts of the greenbelt we never knew existed. We found out there has been a man that has been making walkable trails through the woods for the past few years and I must say he has done a good job.

Summer and I walked some of them yesterday. But first, we stopped off at the swing. My neighbors moved in a month after we did four years ago and he built this swing for the kids. It's still hung out there untouched by nobody but the kids who are allowed to venture that far back into the woods....

Here are the newly-found trails....

While we were walking through the wilderness something white caught my eye in the brush. It startled me at first until I saw that it was one of the many feral cats that lurk around in the woods. This particular cat is my favorite because of her coloring...

While we were out there I wanted to take another look at the gravestones in the historical graveyard. I brought along an old toothbrush and poured a little water from our water bottle on the stones so I could read the names and message.

The Austin Genealogical Society has a project going on now where they are going around trying to preserve names and dates on the old gravestones in the area so I thought I may could help them out with the two in our area.

I also find the gravestones get me caught up in wondering about the people that lived in this area 100 years ago...

Prickly Pear Cactus is very common around here, but Summer spotted this different sort of cactus. I thought the red on it was really pretty.....

Headed back to the house!!!..

Saturday, November 19, 2011

"Dream" House

This is just too odd, random, unusual, and freakish not to share.

I've been known to dream vividly and have always had a tendency to dream about unrecognizable places only for them to show up in my waking world days, weeks, or sometimes years later. I can't tell you how many times I have been driving through a city or an unfamiliar place I have never been and see a house or place that jarred my memory of having been there before in a dream.

I know, it doesn't make logical sense, and probably can be explained away by skeptics and even I, myself think there must be some logical, scientific explanation behind it all...you know, like all that time/space continue um crap.

But recently something happened that blew my mind away.

Here's what happened...

The other night I had a dream about a house. I was standing directly in front of the house looking at it. In my dream it was not the home I live in now, but a home I had just bought and I was really excited about it. I took a camera out of my pocket and took a picture of it and told myself in my dream that I wanted a picture of it so I wouldn't forget what it looked like. I snapped the pic and that was the end of the dream.

I awoke the next morning and went about my day.

That same day I was meeting a friend of mine for some thrift store shopping. On the way an old abandoned, shady looking hotel/bar that sits right on the edge of the Colorado River caught my eye. I have passed this particular place many times before and have always found it intriguing but this particular day I took the time to seek out the name of it so I could do a little research on it.

I slowed down as I passed it and noticed the name to be THE GOLDEN NUGGET.

I drove on and made a mental note to research it when I got home, but as usual daily life took over and the task got forgotten until later on that evening when I finally sat down to my computer. Out of the blue, the name GOLDEN NUGGET popped into my head and I said to myself.."Oh yeah, I was going to look that place up."

I typed in the words GOLDEN NUGGET in Austin, Texas into my Google search bar and clicked on the first link that caught my eye and lo and behold what I saw floored me!!

Staring me in the face was the EXACT same house that I had, just the night before, taken a picture of in my dream. The house I had dreamed about is in an area outside of Austin in a very affluent area called Horseshoe Bay.

As I looked at the picture google pulled up for me I recognized particular details of the house just as I had remembered them from my dream the night before.

I know, it makes absolutely no sense at all and I have spent the last couple of days trying to figure out the rhyme and reason behind it. Certainly something so random, coincidental and odd should have some meaning.

I just have no idea what it may be...

Friday, November 18, 2011

Jack of All Trades

I have always had a creative side to me. As a child I loved to draw, color, paint, or decoupage. I even went through a calligraphy phase as a young teen and I must say was pretty good at. When I was around 11 years old my Aunt Sarah taught me to crochet which I learned with ease and created many small crocheted projects over the years.

My grandmother also did a lot of sewing and quilting. Oddly enough, my grandfather also used to crochet and quilt. I would have loved to have inherited one of their handmade quilts but somehow or another I was left out of the loop when the quilts were being handed out. Luckily, I do have one that my grandmother quilted just for me when I was pregnant with Lucas...23 years ago.

Anyway, last year Summer worked on a group quilt for a 4-H project. It was obvious that I had more fun working on it than she did. That 4-H quilt project lit a fire inside of me for quilting but I didn't really pursue anything until this year when I volunteered Summer-insert scowl from Summer here-for another quilt group project.

In the process of working on the group quilt this year I kept thinking how I would like to sew my own quilt so I took my stashed birthday money my dad so graciously gives me every year and bought me a sewing machine.

All this being said, I never excelled at any of my projects and tend to jump from one "craft" to another.

Here is my latest creative venture, a quilt for Summer.....

Bo obviously likes it because every time I have it on the floor to piece it he plants himself on top of it...

For whatever it's worth I'm enjoying the process. I'm finding sewing to be very relaxing.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

What's For Dinner?

I don't often cook the same main meal twice. Most people cook the same favorite dishes over and over again..or at least my mom used to, and I think I used to years ago when I was a working mom.

Over the years I began to bore with my menu selections. Nowadays I have just a handful of favorites that I cook repeatedly, e.g. spaghetti or chicken and dumplings.

Most of my weekly menu preparation time is spent scouring the Internet, cookbooks and magazines in search of new menu selections to test out.

This practice is probably why I find grocery shopping and menu preparation time consuming and stressful.

Since my new lifestyle change this past year and Toby's recent request for less heavy, healthier foods I have been trying to work in more fresh/whole foods into our diet.

Mind you, as simple as the below recipes look, I was in the kitchen all morning preparing our meal for the day. It takes time to chop fresh herbs and veggies.

I find that I really enjoy cooking if I'm doing it for fun and I'm not pressed for time.

Here is what was on the menu for today.

This is my favorite snack and it's one I prepare almost weekly! My Hispanic neighbors inspired me with this yummy AVOCADO SALAD. I love it because I can eat it as a snack or a meal and it's filling.

5-6 Roma tomatoes chopped
1 large avocado chopped
1/2 cup chopped green onions
chopped jalapenos to taste
chopped cilantro
2 cloves fresh garlic
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp salt
juice from one medium fresh lime
A bag of Totino's Restaurant Style chips for dipping

This one is a new one worth the preparation.

1 zucchini cut into bite size pieces
2 cups tomatoes chopped
1 can garbanzo beans drained (I only added half the can because Toby does not like alot of beans)
2 tsp dry parsley or 2 tbs fresh (I used fresh because I had it on hand)
1/2 tsp basil or 1 tbs fresh basil (I used dry)
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp dill weed
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 green onions, chopped

Mix all ingredients in a bowl. Squeeze the juice from 1 lemon over the mixture. Marinate 30 minutes before serving.

Here is Toby's favorite, AVOCADO SANDWICH..

This one I sort of tweaked on my own off of another recipe and it worked out pretty well.

whole grain bread toasted (I use Mrs. Baird's whole grain sugar free bread)
1 avocado sliced
1 lime for juice squeezed over sliced avocado
a pinch of fresh cilantro
half a cucumber sliced
garlic flavored chili sauce
any other veggie you would like to add...I use whatever I have on hand. Most the time lettuce or tomato.

I also prepared these MARINATED CUCUMBERS for a side or just a snack when I'm wanting just a little something to munch on....

2 tsp sugar
4 tsp red wine or rice vinegar (I used red wine vinegar)
2 tsp olive oil
2 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp soy sauce
tiny pinch of red pepper flakes
1 tsp cilantro

Mix together well until the sugar dissolves.

2 green onions chopped (tops and the white part)
1 large cucumber sliced thin, leave the skin on

Add the green onions and cucumber slices to the marinade mixture and let it sit for at least 30 minutes, stirring frequently.

There! A meal fit for a king!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Memories From The Past - Desoto Caverns

It's been awhile since I have done a "Memories from the past" post but this is one that is warranted. I can't tell you how many times I bring up this story to Toby to reminisce on. It's one of those bad experiences you look back on and laugh.

Here goes..

Toby and I have always loved to camp and took the opportunity quite often when we lived in Alabama. Camping is all about hiking and campfires for us and in Alabama there are no burn bans to put a damper on a camping trip...that I have ever experienced anyway.

Well, one weekend we got an itch to camp so we headed North Alabama to Desoto Cavern Park. It was November so it was cold but we didn't mind, we were going to build a campfire.

Summer was around 3 years old and Lucas had opted to stay behind at home alone....heaven for a 16 year old.

We had prepared for everything but the weather and mileage. This was before we owned Ipods or GPS's. After the 5 hour drive that I had estimated to be only 3 hours, we arrived at our destination under partly cloudy skies and 40 degree temps.

We quickly set up our tent in a random spot then set out to browse the desolate grounds of the Caverns. I wasn't all that impressed initially but I was glad to be at our destination and optimistic about hiking the area and touring the cavern.

The cavern turned out to be just a big underground room with a few stalactites and stalagmites..nothing like the massive caves we have here. After the cavern tour it was late and getting colder so we decided we would wait until the next day to hike the area.

At dusk we built a fire as we watched the clouds slowly roll in and the temps drop. We weren't really all that worried. Summer had passed out in the tent from a long day and we had our bottle of vodka and a roaring fire to keep us warm on the cold November night.

Eventually the events of the day and vodka kicked in and we headed inside the tent to crash. About this same time the rain had began to come down.

I remember thinking how romantic it was going to be hearing the rain come down in the tent snuggled up next to hubby. We also had brought our small space heater to keep us warmer inside the tent during the night.

I eventually fell into a deep slumber when I was awoken in the middle of the night by the sounds of hubby cursing....and the pouring rain!

In my half asleep state I understood that he was somehow getting wet. Mind you, we had a plugged-in space heater in our small tent with us. I only half-responded to his complaints as I settled back in next to Summer.

It didn't seem like it was but just a short time later before he woke up cursing about being wet again. We moved him to a dryer spot and this time I had slept a little of the vodka off and was paying a little more attention to his complaints...or maybe it was because the cursing was a little louder this time.

I was coherent enough to question him at this point. He claimed that he was soaked so I crawled over the check it out and yes, he was laying in a puddle RIGHT NEAR THE PLUGGED IN HEATER.

It was storming like crazy but there wasn't much I could do but make sure that the section Summer was sleeping in was not wet and laid back down and waited for the sun to rise and the raining to hopefully stop.

At daybreak I was awoken again by the sounds of cursing and ultimatums. His exact words I will never forget.."GET UP!!! WE ARE LEAVING NOW!"

It was still pouring and by this time the floor of the whole tent was wet and we were freezing because we had to turn off the heater in the middle of the night when we discovered there was water coming in from somewhere.

We packed up and took down the tent in the rain and loaded everything into the car with sleep still in our eyes.

As we were taking down the tent we did a little investigation and noticed that the tent had a seam along the bottom that was not sealed good. This wouldn't have ordinarily mattered other than the fact that we unknowingly had set the tent up in a small crater that allowed the rain to puddle where our tent sat therefore seeping into the seams.

We didn't want our 5 hour trip to be a total waste so we decided we would try and check out a nearby historic mill, but it was still so rainy that we couldn't even get out to check it out.

As we headed out of town we stopped into a Hardees to grab one of those bowl breakfast's that looked so yummy that we always saw advertised on T.V. Put bluntly, it was nasty, and this is coming from two people that aren't picky eaters.

It certainly was not a fun trip, but for some reason it's one of our most memorable.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Lady Bird Lake Trail

The goal of this day was to get out and enjoy some of the trail around Lady Bird Lake that we have not walked yet.

The day was freezing. Not so much as the temps were all that cold, but the 40mph winds that came along with the 60 degree day that made it feel like it was 30 degrees.

Once we got moving and generated some heat it got a little more tolerable and we were able to enjoy the rest of the afternoon.

Enjoy the view from my camera...