Happy Birthday Topher, we love you! You ARE our SuperTopher!!
8 Things about Me!
1. Macaroni and Cheese is my favorite. I like it the way my mom makes it.
2. I love yellow. It makes me happy.
3. The Yankees are my favorite baseball team.
4. The Longhorns are my favorite football team. I like those big horns.
5. I miss living in Connecticut because I miss having a snow fort and visiting my cousins.
6. I like living in Texas because I really like my school and I can play outside a lot.
7. I like cowboys and I want to be one when I grow up. I already have a hat, and boots and a cool cowboy belt.
8. I really love my whole family.
Sunday, September 21
Tuesday, August 12
I really like to make things myself. I make my own bread. I make the boys' Halloween costumes. I cook from scratch and I make things like yogurt, barbecue sauce, and taco seasoning ( just to name a few of the most recent.)
I also make some other household items myself. Most recently I started making my own deodorant. I really got sick of all my white shirts turning yellow and all my dark shirts turning white in the armpits. My store bought deodorant actually started bleaching my dark shirts! That kind of scared me.
I live in Texas and I sweat. Not very lady like but it's true. I need something that will work and the natural deodorants I've tried don't work. My homemade deodorant does not keep me completely dry but it does keep me from stinking. That is all I'm asking for. To stay dry, I just dust with a little plain baking soda.
There are several similar recipes out there for homemade deodorant. This is the one that I use which is adapted from a few that I found. I chose the essential oils that I did because I like the way they smell and because of the benefits they provide. I haven't had any problems with my skin discoloring which I understand can happen with certain oils.
Maybe it's "H is for Hippie"!
1/4 c shea butter
3 Tbls baking soda
2 Tbls corn starch
1/4 tsp vitamin E oil
15 drops tea tree oil
15 drops rosemary oil
25 drops lavender oil
Melt the shea butter and then stir in the remaining ingredients. Pour in to a suitable container and place in the fridge to set up.
This is pretty firm so you could make some sort of a stick deodorant if you wanted. I just rub it on with my fingers.
I'm picking up where I left off with this project.
Monday, August 11
We made it to the farmer's market this week! There weren't smiles all around but after last week, I wasn't letting anyone off the hook.
It's been very hot so okra is really plentiful right now. Farmer Jack said that the hotter the better for okra. Good to know. I think I'll have to try planting some next year.
We bought okra, yellow squash (lots of it, too. My parents are coming this week and my dad really likes it), green beans, Roma tomatoes, sweet banana peppers, and peaches.
We also bought some oatmeal cookies but we ate those on the way home.
Thursday, August 7
I make my own yogurt. Yep. I do.
I don't like all the unnecessary sugar (and other things) in store bought flavored yogurt and Chaz doesn't like yogurt that is not smooth so I started buying plain yogurt and flavoring it myself. Then Chris, the gadget guy, bought me a little yogurt maker. It took me a while to really get into it but once I did - there's no going back! Homemade yogurt is so very easy, so good and pretty economical, too. (and guess what - you don't even need a yogurt maker!)
I have 2 different recipes for yogurt. They are both good. Chris, however, has a little trouble with dairy sometimes so I switched to the first recipe and he is much happier.
3 3/4 c water
1 2/3 c powdered milk
1/4 c plain yogurt with active live cultures
Heat the water to 110º. Stir in the powdered milk and then the yogurt.
4 c milk (any kind, cow, soy, goat)
1/3 c powdered milk *
1/4 c plain yogurt with active live cultures
*if you use whole milk, you can leave the powdered milk out. If you use no-fat or low-fat milk the powdered milk adds a little richness and creaminess
Heat the milk to 175º and then cool to 110º. Stir in the powdered milk and then the yogurt.
This is the yogurt maker I have. I just put the mixture in and let it go for my desired* amount of time.
You can, however, make yogurt in the oven or even a crock pot.
In the oven:
Heat the oven to 110º and then turn it off. You may need to set the oven a bit higher and then let it cool back down a little. Place your yogurt mixture in to canning jars, cover with the lids and place on a pan in the warm oven. You can wrap them in a warm towel to help hold in the heat. Let it go for the desired* amount of time checking the oven temperature periodically. It should stay around 100º.
In the crock pot:
If you have a warm setting, use that. If not, heat some water on low and check the temperature. You don't want it to get too hot (about 110º is perfect). Place the yogurt mixture in caning jars and put the tops on. Place in to the warm crock pot with enough water to come about half way up the jar. Cover with a folded towel to hold the heat in and let it go for the desired* amount of time.
* How long? You can let it go anywhere from 5-10 hours. It's pretty forgiving. The longer it "cooks" the tangier it will be. I've let it go for as long as 12 and then it made some pretty good sour cream. You just need to experiment to figure out how long you like it. I usually average about 8.
When it is done, immedietly take out 1/4 cup for your next batch and set it aside in the fridge (if you don't and you're like me, you'll forget and eat it all. Then you'll have to go buy more yogurt just to make yogurt). Chill the rest of the yogurt. Homemade yogurt is not exactly like store bought. There's no added gelatins or pectins to make it really thick. I don't like it too runny so if my yogurt is a little thinner than I like (check after it cools, it thickens as it cools) I thicken it up a bit by straining it. I put it in to a strainer with a thin flour sack towel and drain it for 5 minutes. If you strain it longer, you can make a really great yogurt cheese. I also save the liquid that I drain off and use it when I make bread or soups.
Today's breakfast: homemade yogurt with strawberries, nectarines and chopped almonds.
Tuesday, August 5
Oh how I love beans!
And this summer I've discovered the joy that is fresh beans (or Southern Peas) from my farmer's market. This recipe is one that I make on a regular basis. It's so good and so easily adaptable.
Use whatever kind of beans you like. This time it was pinto beans. Sometimes I use pink-eyed peas. It doesn't really matter.
We had it topped with a little cheese, a fried egg and some corn relish with sweet potato fries on the side the last time I made them. These beans go with everything though.
1 lb of fresh beans or 2 cups of dried beans
1 bottle beer
1/2 Tbls olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
3-4 peppers, chopped (use what you like, bell, sweet banana, chiles, etc)
1/2 tsp cumin
2 tomatoes, diced
If you are using dried beans, soak them and cook them according to your preferred method. If you are using fresh beans, drop them in to a pot of boiling water and cook for 5-10 minutes depending on the size. (small beans 5 min, large beans 10 minutes)
In a large skillet, heat the olive oil. Add the chopped peppers, onion and garlic and saute until translucent. Add the drained beans, 1/2 the bottle of beer and the cumin. The beans should be just slightly soupy. Add more beer as needed or turn the heat up to cook some of the liquid off. Cook on medium for about 10 minutes.
Add the chopped tomatoes and cover. Cook another 5 minutes.
Test for doneness and seasoning. I like my beans cooked through but still a little firm. Squeeze a little lime juice over the top before serving.
Monday, August 4
My market basket is empty this week. Edmund had a leadership training meeting to go to on Saturday so Chris was gone all morning with him and a certain small person was having one of those mornings. I really missed going and I will miss it all week with each meal I prepare.
BUT I do have a recipe to share using some of my favorite farmer's market finds.
This is probably my absolute favorite sandwich. I can't begin to describe how good it is! Just try it for yourself - then you'll know.
Farmer's Market Pan Bagnat
2 medium eggplant, sliced in to 1/4 inch rounds
1/2 lb green beans trimmed
1/2 c roasted red peppers cut in to wide strips
1/2 lb fresh mozzarella sliced in to 1/4 inch rounds
3 Tbls olive tapenade
1 ciabatta loaf halved lengthwise
1/4 c olive oil
2 Tbls red wine vinegar
1 Tbls fresh parsley minced
1 1/2 tsp shallots minced
1/2 tsp dijon mustard
1/2 tsp sugar
Preheat oven to 350º. Coat a baking pan with cooking spray. Lay eggplant on sheet in a single layer and coat with cooking spray. Season with salt and pepper. Bake 10 min, turn and bake another 10 min (or you can just grill the slices) until brown and tender.
Cook green beans in a large pot of boiling water for 5 min. Drain and rinse under cold water. Pat dry.
Mix together vinaigrette until smooth.
Spread bottom half of the bread with the tapenade. Brush with vinaigrette. Spread green beans over the tapenade and press firmly. Lay pepper slices followed by the cheese and then the eggplant.
Brush the top of the bread generously with the vinaigrette and place on top of the eggplant. Press the sandwich together and chill 1-4 hours. Slice in half and then each half in half again on a diagonal.
- If you wrap it really tight, it travels well for a picnic, too.
Friday, August 1
I can't believe it's August already! The Summer is whizzing by just a little too fast.
I had hoped to post every day during the month of July but, well, other things happened. I did, however, manage to take a self portrait every day. After seeing so many wonderful and creative self portraits, I decided to join the 365 Days challenge. (a self portrait a day for 365 days) I am hoping that it will help me learn a little more about photography and my camera. I am planning to document the everyday moments in my every day life which should be interesting since many of my days look like the day before!
I'm not sure what August will be like here on the blog. School starts at the end of the month so we need to get back in to some sort of a routine. We also are expecting some out of town guests this month (Grandmom and Grandpa are coming!) I DO have some recipes to share so watch for those. Other than that, I'll be here when I can!
Thursday, July 31
With Edmund being sick and then an extreme heat wave (temps. over 105!), this is how we have been spending our days - lot's of reading and a few board games.
I love it when I find Chaz and Topher snuggled up together reading to one another. No matter the weather, they always curl up under lots of blankets to read. They are so peaceful, no fighting no arguing. Chaz reads while Topher listens so attentively. Such special moments.
Edmund is feeling much better and is eating again which really helps his mood. When it's too hot to go out, they've been playing board games - sometimes playing by the rules and sometimes making up rules of their own. It might not be too exciting but they are nice little moments none the less.
Tuesday, July 29
In addition to a new hobby, Edmund brought something else home from camp. It started as a sore throat which turned in to congestion and then a cough. At first it seemed like allergies or possibly a Summer cold (apparently it was cold at night and hot hot hot during the day at camp)
However, when the cough just wouldn't stop and he was constantly coughing "stuff" up, we knew it was time to visit the doctor. He insisted he was getting better but over the weekend he developed a very odd rash over his body.
Yesterday morning we were off to the doctor. It turns out he has Strep and an upper respiratory infection and it was this infection moving though his system that caused the (harmless) rash.
Luckily I had been giving him the right OTC medication which made me feel so much better and now he is also on antibiotics. 24 hours later and I can already see an improvement.
We laid low last week and it looks like we will be laying low again this week.
Monday, July 28
This week I went to the farmer's market alone. I really like making a family outing of it but it's also nice to go alone sometimes. I got to linger a little longer and chat a little more. We've definitely become regulars - a couple of people asked where the rest of the family was.
My basket was full of:
Sweet Banana Peppers
Friday, July 25
Edmund came home from camp with what could very well be a new hobby for him. Since he is a "first year" scout, his merit badge classes at camp were chosen for him (he gets to pick his own next year). He was signed up for leatherwork, basketry, art and swimming. He was a little unsure about the basket making but in the end, he really enjoyed it.
He made a small stool, a square based basket and brought home the kit for a round based basket. This week he made his little basket and explained the process to me. He did a great job and he's already asking if we can look for more kits. I asked him he'd like to make me a laundry basket but he's still thinking smaller baskets are better - for now.
Monday, July 21
We got to the farmer's market a little late this week. We really need to make sure we get there pretty early but sometimes it's hard to get going. Certain things just go so fast, though.
This week we bought:
- yellow squash
- sweet banana peppers,
- Japanese eggplant
- fresh pinto beans
- fresh purple hull peas
- coconut lime soap (Topher picked this)
I'm really excited about the pinto beans. I love pinto beans and I've never had fresh before. They look so different than the dried beans - so much prettier! Topher is excited about the eggplant. He and I are the only ones that like it so I'll have to make something special with it. If you've got any recipe suggestions (for anything we bought), I'd love to hear them!
Sunday, July 20
"Look! I lost a tooth!"
This is what woke me up this morning. Topher came running to me clutching a little tooth in his fist and his mouth wide open.
"I pulled it out myself! And it's not even bleeding!"
He's so proud of himself. Feeling so big right now. He's been waiting for this moment for quite some time. It's one step closer to being a "big kid".
He's growing up.
Saturday, July 19
Edmund survived summer camp! He had a great time and is full of stories to tell us. For now though, he is going to lay low. In addition to a ton of laundry, he also brought home (what I am hoping is) a summer cold. His throat is sore and he is pretty congested.
He's glad to be home and we're happy to have him back.
Friday, July 18
Thursday, July 17
Wednesday, July 16
Tuesday, July 15
"Yum!" by Chaz, age 9
Farmer's Market July 12, 2008
"Eggplant's Butt" by Chaz, age 9
Farmer's Market July 12, 2008
"Summer Watermelons" by Chaz, age 9
Farmer's Market July 12, 2008
"Watermelon Music" by Chaz, age 9
Farmer's Market July 12, 2008
"Edmund is strong" by Chaz, age 9
Farmer's Market July 12, 2008
Chaz is getting quite good with the camera. He loves to get in real close for his shots and he's starting to learn how close is too close. He will often occupy himself with the camera while I pick out produce at the market.
The watermelon series is my favorite.
Monday, July 14
This week we bought:
watermelon (he charged me $2 less than the stated price)
lady cream peas
green beans (he didn't charge me for these)
peanut butter cookies
Every week we shop from the same farmer. His produce is always very good and so are his prices. He's very friendly and remembers us from week to week. Sometimes he'll offer a few berries to the boys and he often slips extra beans or a squash in to my basket. Loyalty has it's rewards.
Sunday, July 13
Oh those boys of mine - they are growing up!
Edmund got on a bus with 80+ other boys today and headed off to Boy Scout Camp. It's his first time and he couldn't have been more excited. And me? I'm excited for him. I know he'll have a wonderful time. But I can't help but feel a little nervous too. He's so far away. In another state. One that seems to get more tornados than we do. Then there is the wondering. What is doing? What is he eating? Will he remember his sunscreen? Will he drink plenty of water? Will he use his toothbrush? It's hard being a mom.
But he'll be back at the end of the week with stories to tell and laundry to wash. His brothers will enjoy their time away from him but will be thrilled to have him home again. We all will.
Friday, July 11
I've started two new projects this month. The first is 365 Days - a year long photography project. It's such a big commitment but I think it will be ok. (I hope!) I've done the Self Portrait Challenge in the past but I couldn't always get in to the themes. There are so many wonderful and creative self portraits in the 365 pool that have really inspired me to jump right in. I'm hoping it will help with my photography a little as well as help me be a little more comfortable in front of the camera. I plan to just capture every day moments which I'm sure will eventually pose a bit of a challenge since so many days look just like the one before!
My second project is more artistic in nature. I've been meaning to take out my watercolors and paint but I don't seem to make the time for it as often as I would like. I found echoes and loved the idea of it and they created a group so the rest of us can join the fun. I jumped right in! I think doing a little painting and daily journalling will help get the creative juices flowing again.
It was hot and the sun was bright so we did the only logical thing - we cooled off at the pool!
Today we noticed:
~ The boys are becoming quite the little fish.
~ Topher is now able to touch the bottom of the lazy river and is almost tall enough for the slide.
~ The blue tube slide is much better than the green open slide, according to the boys. You go so much faster!
~ Bringing a cooler of cold drinks is preferable but if you are desperate and have some cash, there is a snack bar fully stocked with things I try to avoid (but kids love!)
~ Middle school girls wear tiny bathing suits and spend a lot of time giggling in the locker room.
~ Many moms don't watch their small children relying too heavily on the lifeguards.
~ The pool deck gets very hot!
~ Life is so much better after a few hours in the pool!
Wednesday, July 9
Our local theater has $1 movies for kids on Wednesday mornings during the summer. Today the boys and I went to see Alvin and the Chipmunks. (not nearly as annoying as I thought). The theater fills pretty quickly for these movies so we go early to get good seats.
This morning while we were hanging out, Edmund wanted to try taking a few pictures. It was dark enough that neither one of us realized what Chaz was up to until we got home and downloaded the photos from my camera.
It's not the best quality photo - it's really hard taking pictures in a dark theater with out the flash! But I just love this one. Chaz is such a character!
Tuesday, July 8
We have garbage pick up once a week. This week, for our family of 5, we had only one 13 gallon bag in our bin! If it weren't so hot, I might have skipped this week's pickup. There has been less and less in our bin each week. Even the little recycling bin was barely half full this week.
I find it very curious that so many of my neighbors have such full bins each week. One neighbor is often putting some of her garbage over flow into other bins because hers is too full! There are others who have 2 or even 3 garbage bins. These are all families of less than 5.
We have made big efforts to reduce our consumption and also our waste. We are reusing what we can and recycling what we can't reuse. We compost our kitchen scraps, buy in bulk to eliminate packaging, and try to use very few disposable items.
On garbage day, I am reminded that these simple things can make a difference.
Monday, July 7
I got to the farmer's market nice and early this weekend. As a matter of fact, I left and came back before the rest of the family woke up. I really enjoy it when we all go to the market, but it was kind of nice to go alone, too.
Eggplant and okra made it to the market this week. There were also white cucumbers and lemon squash, both of which I have never had before. Last week's corn was so good I had to buy more. I also got some plums and nectarines as well as a few of my "standards" - zucchini, tomatoes and green beans.
Saturday, July 5
Friday, July 4
Our morning was spent at the town's 4th of July Parade. Edmund and his Boy Scout Troop led the parade which was very exciting. The parade was followed by a town picnic with a band. It was really loads of fun but so very hot (100º)! We ended up leaving early because there just wasn't any shade to be found.
The rest of the day was spent with some friends and their pool. There was a lot of swimming and splashing. Plenty of grilling and a few Mai Tai's.
Our night was filled with fireworks! The sky was clear and warm so the fireworks were just brilliant.
It was a wonderful way to spend the 4th. It was also a great way to celebrate 1 full year in Texas! One year ago today we arrived in Texas ready for a new and exciting adventure in our lives. It's been a good year and I'm looking forward to lot's more.
Thursday, July 3
I always have a couple of envelopes of taco seasoning in my pantry - at least I used to. They are a little too salty for me and the low sodium version is not always easy to find. I say I used to keep them because one day I took a look at the ingredient list to see exactly what I was seasoning my food with. I was really surprised at what I saw!
Now I keep a jar of my own in the pantry. It's so easy to mix up and I can control the salt, the heat and the flavor.
Tonight it's chicken tacos and pinto beans - flavored with our own taco seasoning!
1/2 c chili powder
2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp onion powder
2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
2 tsp dried oregano
1 1/2 Tbls paprika
2 Tbls cumin
2 Tbls coarse salt
3 Tbls black pepper
Mix and store in an airtight container. 2 Tbls = 1 packet
Adjust the seasonings to your own taste. Enjoy!
Wednesday, July 2
Awhile back, we planted a few container gardens. Tomatoes, peppers and eggplant. Oh and some cucumbers, too. We had high hopes for ... well anything! Our harvest thus far has been meager, to say the least. The tomatoes, especially, are looking pretty sad. The pumpkins, however are growing like gangbusters. We didn't plant them. One of last year's jack o'lanterns that never got carved was left in a corner of the side yard and this spring the seeds sprouted. We let the vines go, they seem to really like it there.
Last night I bought some new tomato plants. I'm going to put them in along the fence behind the pumpkins. I figure that the pumpkins are happy there so maybe tomatoes will be too. It's tough work. It's all clay out there. Thick sticky clay. I tossed some worm castings in to the holes and now I am hoping for the best.
As for the scraggly tomatoes in the pots? I'm not sure what I am going to do. Leave them in the pots and give them a good dose of organic fertilizer? Transplant them to the compost and see what happens? Put them behind the pumpkins with the others?
I'm still dreaming of baskets full of tomatoes from my own yard.