30 April 2012

Another One!


Jack has celebrated another birthday!  I take heart every time he blows out some candles because his age catches up to mine, lagging behind only a year.  He still jokes that I robbed the cradle.  I tell him he simply likes an older woman.
He actually tried to walk out the door wearing this to work, thinking it matched!  Gotta love his sense of humor.
I've know Jack since he was a scrawny fifteen year old with a 'fro that robins could have nested in.  One year for my birthday, he took me to the barber and got a clean cut because that's what I'd quipped to his mother that I wanted.  Now he lets me cut his hair to save us a bit of money and he doesn't even complain that much when I make a mistake...
Six months after giving birth to Claire, I'd reached my slender weight goal with strict diet regimen and frequent trips to run along the bike trail with the girls tucked in their double jogging stroller.  I was feeling awesome about myself until I started doing push ups.  In an age where magazines tout how quickly women bounce back from pregnancy by having said mothers posing in bikinis on the cover (I think a tummy tuck, a little laser treatment and gobs of photoshopping is part of the magic), I was mortified by the wrinkled, saggy udder that hung down from my otherwise svelte body during pushups.  I tried my best not to cry and after the girls were in bed, I confessed my frustration to Jack.  He got a funny smirk on his face, went and got a pen and drew a face on my stomach.  Weird yes, but we proceeded to laugh for at least half an hour.  That loose skin eventually tightened up (au naturale too!) but regardless, Jack has never had anything but compliments for my self-conscious self, pregnant, chubby or fit or soft and saggy.
Just about everybody loves Jack even though he can be incredibly blunt and has shoved his size 13 foot into his mouth a time or two.  It's been a fantastic journey watching him step up to the role as patriarch of our little family, being a wonderful father to the girls, always treating me like a lady and his best friend, working hard to support our desire for us to stay at home with our children and volunteering numerous hours in service to others all while fixing up our house and attending school full-time, maintaining an impressive GPA.  If I'm gloating, I'm sorry.  I do feel incredibly blessed.
We'll be celebrating with barbecue, blueberry cheesecake and a new three-piece suit (Evie already made sure to tell him the day it arrived, not that he couldn't divine what my gifts to him usually are).  He still had to work and had a phone interview for a permanent position, but the girls and I are hoping to make it a little special and out of the ordinary for our guy.
Happy Birthday Jack!

Citrus Berry Smoothie

Smoothie season is upon us!  This is a great way to cool off while still being healthy (and luckily, kids love it).

Ingredients:

1 cup plain yogurt
1/4 cup sugar or sweetner
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 to 1 cup berries, fresh or frozen
1/2 orange or 1 Tablespoon orange juice concentrate
1 ripe banana, fresh or frozen
1/4 cup milk
1 cup ice cubes
Dump the ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth. If you like larger ice chunks, dump them in at the end until broken up.
Enjoy!

29 April 2012

Fresh Lettuce

A mixed bowl of lettuce: romaine and iceberg.
I cringe whenever I see the bagged lettuce prices and always opt to get the cheaper heads of lettuce right next to the pre-washed, pre-bagged stuff.  The challenge then is keeping the lettuce from wilting and getting soggy before we can eat it.

After trial and error, I've had the most success chopping the lettuce, rinsing it really well in a strainer and letting it drip dry.  After about an hour of air drying, I fold several paper towels in half and place them on one side of a Ziplock bag.  Place the lettuce inside and squeeze as much air out as possible before sealing shut.  Keep in the fridge, replacing the paper towels every few days or when they become damp.  For a fraction of the cost of salad mixtures, we have fresh lettuce for several weeks.

The Scarborough Renaissance Festival

 
My mother commented how we always do something so exciting on the weekends since we're not tied to home improvements at our property in Iowa.  True.  That house is about all the adventure we can handle some weeks.  But while we're here in an apartment and we hardly see Jack during the week, Saturdays have become the family/date/fun day.























After last week's visit to Hamilton Pools in Austin, we decided to do something a little different and attend the Scarborough Renaissance Festival.  It wasn't far from Waco but by the time we arrived, it was pretty obvious it's a popular destination.  Traffic was backed up a mile onto the interstate and a sheriff had taken to directing traffic.  The last few miles took about fifteen minutes to find our way to the parking lot.
It was a strange sensation feeling like we were in the minority for not dressing like princesses, vikings, Scottish lords or scantily clad women.  It was quite amazing how much work attendees put into their outfits, making the scene even more entertaining.
This wasn't the only guy that dressed like he was going to steal your children in the middle of the night.
We did what people traditionally do at Renaissance Festivals.  There were numerous acts from knife throwing to comedy to turtle races to guys balancing pretzels on their face:
We got stopped by a parade, to which Evelyn and Claire waved faithfully:























They were rewarded for their enthusiasm with showers of candy and jewelry:
We of course ate a turkey leg:
Evie rode a man-powered swing:
Love the face she gave the guy.
























And tried on lots of masks, garlands, crowns and princess caps:






































Since I've never ridden an elephant, much less touched one, Evie and I decided to hop aboard:
The fastest ten bucks I've ever spent but now I can say I've been on an elephant!
Being sunburned, tired and out of cash (Robin Hood was nowhere to be seen to protect guests as they were being robbed at every turn) it was time for us to head home.  Judging by the thousands of people in attendance, the festival easily rakes in millions of dollars during the short two months its open.
We had loads of fun and experienced lots of things we never had before.  Maybe next time I'll whip us up some costumes and join the ranks of renaissance festival die-hards.

28 April 2012

Chicken Wraps

This recipe is really nice for days you're running behind on dinner or it's just too darn hot to turn on the oven.  Plus, it's packed with lots of veggies and legumes so you'll get a dose of colorful, healthy foods.  Make it with light sour cream and cream cheese and you'll knock off a few calories too.

Ingredients:

3 oz cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup sour cream
1/2 teaspoon chili powder or taco seasoning
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 to 1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 can chicken or 1 chicken breast cooked and shredded (if you want to avoid turning on the oven, put the chicken breast in a microwave safe dish with an inch of water, microwave for seven to ten minutes and shred with two forks when finished)
1/2 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup shredded cheddar
1 can tomatoes with chilies (like RoTel)
2 green onions, diced
Lettuce
8 tortillas

Combine the cream cheese, sour cream, chili powder/taco seasoning, cumin, pepper and salt until smooth.  Stir in the garlic.
Dump in the chicken, beans, cheese, tomatoes and green onions.  Mix well.
Warm the tortillas and spread the mixture inside.  Cover with lettuce, wrap and eat!
***For a little variation, try it with whole wheat tortillas, over a bed of lettuce or eat it like my girls who had it as a topping for their nachos***
 Recipe adapted from Real Mom Kitchen. Head over there for other great recipes.

The Birthday Boy

He's got to take a big breath to blow out all those candles!
Today, Stoney turns seventeen.  I'm a bit sad that I'm not able to celebrate (not that it makes much difference to him) but there are lots of people who adore the big guy and will dote on him, filling his enormous belly with carrots, apples and sugar cubes.

Okay, I'm really sad.
Stoney is, in many ways, the fulfillment of my dreams.  How many little girls plead with their parents to get a horse of their own and never see their begging come to fruition?  Not only did my incessant whining result in a gorgeous horse, I've witnessed miracles that have allowed him to stay in my life.  Over the years he matured to the point that he is wonderful with my own children who have been blessed with a life right alongside the handsome beast.  Together, we've had dozens of our own little adventures from galloping through cross country courses (which in the first few times ended with me on the ground and him hightailing away until we got the hang of it), triumphantly winning blue ribbons in our dressage classes, riding through the buttes and prairies of Fort Robinson State Park, floating weightlessly on his back as he swam in the lake after a morning trail ride . . . he continues to delight me as well as any child or horse-lover that comes into contact with him.
Because of him, I've had the awesome experience of living in the country.  As a youngster, he was terrified of poultry, strollers, cows and people giving each other piggy-back rides.  Having lived on our farm where chickens run free, he can study the neighbor's cows just across the road and strollers now mean mealtime, there's not much that weirds him out.
Though I missed this birthday, I'm hoping to see my buddy into his thirties, giving me plenty of time to teach my children how to ride on him, yet another dream of mine.

Happy Birthday Keystone Special!

27 April 2012

Sour Cream Blueberry Muffins

Who doesn't love a good homemade muffin recipe?  Here's a good one!


Ingredients:

2 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1 1/2 cup sugar
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 1/4 cup sour cream (I used light sour cream and it was still yummy)
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries

1.  Preheat the oven to 350F.  Grease or line with paper liners a muffin tin.  Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together.

2.  Whisk the egg and sugar in a bowl until light and fluffy.  Add the melted butter and whisk well.  Add the sour cream, mixing until just combined.  Carefully fold in the blueberries.
3.  Add the dry ingredients and combine carefully (the batter will be thick but be sure not to overmix).
4.  Spoon batter into muffin tins.  Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, turning the pan halfway through to ensure even cooking.  Once a toothpick or knife inserted in the center comes out clean, they're finished.  Remove to a cooling rack for five minutes before serving.  Store in an airtight container at room temperature.
Enjoy!
Recipe adapted from the Brown Eyed Baker

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