Monday, March 31

Oven Brisket

I had my book club here on Saturday, and originally, John was going to make us fajitas and then take the kids and get out go have some playtime with them. This ended up not working out, so I had to do lunch on my own. I've made Ree's brisket before, and I love it, because it's so stinking easy! I've modified it a little, so here's the new recipe. (Click on the link above for the original, and scroll down until you find the brisket)

Oven Brisket
by Ree, modified by Brea

2 cans beef consume
1 c soy sauce (I use the low-sodium kind)
1 bottle Shiner Bock
1/2 c lemon juice (juice of two large lemons)
5 cloves garlic, minced
2 T liquid smoke
1 brisket*

Mix the first 6 ingredients together in a large roasting pan (I love using those huge disposable ones, because cleanup is great!), then add your brisket, fat side up. Spoon some of the liquid over the top, then cover tightly with foil. Stick it in the fridge, and marinate at least 12 hours, up to 48 hours.

Turn your oven to 300, and put the whole pan as-is in the oven, and cook 45-50 minutes per pound of brisket. Or maybe more. It takes a while.** The goal is this: when you pull the foil up the check the brisket (being very, very careful about the steam and all that hot liquid, of course), you should be able to take a fork or tongs and easily pull a piece of meat off. This is the most tender recipe I've ever made, if you cook it long enough.

When it's done (and this is best made a day before your event), pull it out and let it cool on the counter for a few hours. Put it in the fridge overnight. Please don't attempt to cut this while it's hot, or even warm, because it'll just fall apart. Wait till it's cold, and then cut that big hunk of fat off the top. At that point, you can either slice it into thin slices, put it into a smaller baking dish, add lots of the jus, cover with foil, and heat it back up in the oven. Or, you could chop it up really fine, add some good b-b-q sauce, and make about a zillion chopped beef sandwiches. Or do a little of both. It all freezes really well, too.

*Let's talk brisket. There are four basic kinds you can buy, from what I've observed at my HEB. 1) A small one, completely trimmed. Don't buy that one. You want the big hunk o' fat. 2) A smaller, somewhat trimmed one. I usually buy this one, because I have a small oven, and it gets pretty tricky to get a big brisket in there. These are usually 5-8 pounds each. 3) A bigger, less trimmed one. These are good for cooking on the grill, and good for the oven, too, if you can fit the brisket in the oven. I can't without quite a bit of difficulty. See above. These are 10-15 pounds. Mmm ... 4) A big ole' whopping untrimmed brisket. Fabulous for the grill. It's got fat all around it. Not good for this recipe.

**Please read this section three times, until you understand it very clearly. You do not want too much of the liquid in your pan. Brisket produces a lot of its own juices, so the liquid level will rise as you cook it. If it spills over the sides of the pan, the first thing to spill will be the liquefied fat. Then, you'll think to yourself, 'I'm going to wait until my oven is cool after this brisket is done, and then I'll spray that cleaner stuff in there and get all that gross stuff out.' Except that you'll forget, and then try to back a pizza three days later. Which has to be cooked at 450. Which is hot enough, apparently, to ignite all that once-liquefied and then solidified and now liquefied again fat. And you'll end up with a big fire in your oven. And your 5-year-old will be the one to notice it. And then he'll scare the crap out of his sister. And the very least of your problems will be when your husband calls and says, 'Hon, what's that noise in the background?' And because you're all stressed, what with the fire and all, you'll snap back at him and say, 'It's the smoke detector. I can't talk right now. Bye!' And he'll get really worried and call back a few minutes later and you'll be much calmer (from what he can tell, anyway) and be able to tell him everything is ok, but could he please just pick up at chicken on the way home from work, because the pizza thing isn't happening tonight. And to add insult to injury, this all will happen when it's about 38 degrees outside, and you have to open ever single window in the house to get the ridiculous amount of smoke out, and you'll just end up cold and hungry until your husband gets home. And as everyone knows, you hate being cold.

Ahem. Sorry. I got a little carried away there with that totally true purely hypothetical story. The moral is, if you start off with a lot of liquid in the pan, be sure to check it every few hours to make sure it doesn't overflow. Enjoy your yummy brisket!

The end.

Friday, March 28

Friday Confessions

Well, here we go. You should probably run away while you can. Leave your retinas in tact. Leave me my dignity, people. Why I have these compulsions, to unload my innermost soul and frighten away share crazy details with the people I'm lucky enough to be able to call internet friends, I'll never know. Maybe you can help me, and shed some light on that issue. Who knows.

I've mentioned my love of music before. It's all my mother's fault influence, really. Here's a story I like. Just before John moved to Austin, he and I drove up from Houston to look at apartments. (Little did he know that I would come visit and then never go home. That was 8 years ago. He had no idea what he was getting into, really.) I didn't know it at the time, but he had the ultimate test, in his mind, for the stay-ability of girlfriends. When on a road trip with them, he would put in some of his music, like Yes. Well, Yes was no stranger to moi. At the tender age of ... well, I don't exactly remember. I was young, anyway. Anyway, I had been introduced to Yes as a youngster by my mom, so I started singing along with the song that John turned on (it happened to be one of my favs, Roundabout), and John nearly swerved off the road. He was blown away that, not only had I heard of Yes, but I knew them well enough to know words. To more than one song. Because next came my absolute favorite Yes song, All Good People, and I sang that one, too.

John later told me that's when he knew I was a keeper, because apparently, Yes had scared off many other girls, with their long songs, key and meter changes, strange lyrics, and flat-out weirdness. Then he found out that I adore The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and Zeppelin. He had no choice but to marry me, and let me have lots of his little music-loving babies.

Well, that might not be exactly how it happened, but it's close. And the whole part about Yes is totally true.

But that's not what we're here to talk about today. I just wanted to show you that I have a love for all kinds of music.


It's not all good music. I'm not talking morally, either, although the morals of many bands I love can raaawther easily be questioned. No, I'm talking bad, embarrassing, listen to alone in the car and sing off key music.

Kelly Clarkson. Mandy Moore. Jessica Simpson. Jennifer Lopez, for crying out loud!

And let's not forget this crazy train-wreck of a person.

I adore her music. Please never tell anyone about this.

I love old bad music, too. The 80's, man! The 80's!! What could go wrong?

Well, a lot of things, I guess. Here's the thing, though. I LOVE BON JOVI. For real. And Guns N' Roses. And Metallica. Oh, do I ever love Metallica. And I don't think they sold out when they cut their hair. They were growing, and changing, and maturing not only as a band, but as musicians and individuals.

I'm really sorry I said all that. I'm even more sorry that I know it, believe me.

Anyway. Hair bands. Love 'em!!


Then there were the 70's. Nothing can top the 70's, really, because even though they didn't have AquaNet yet, they did have something better: POLYESTER!! Oh, did they ever have polyester!

The jumpsuits!! The bellbottoms! The tight pants!!! The gold!

The eyeshadow!!!

Yeah, baby!!

And let's not forget this lovely gem:

There are no words that could justify that piece of fabric, so I'm not even going to attempt it.

Ahem. Sorry. This soul-baring experience post is about music, so let's not get distracted by the fashion (or lack thereof), ok?

Now, some truly great stuff did come out of the 70's, as far as music is concerned. The Clash. (I love The Clash ever so much. Brilliant!) Stairway to Heaven. Free Bird. Pink Floyd. The Rolling Stones. The Beatles. KISS. Queen. Black Sabbath. Love it all.


Then there were other groups. You know what I'm talking about.

Disco. Oh, dear. (Hello, Bee Gees. Long time, no see. Maybe y'all should stop tanning for a while, mmkay? You might think it's working for you, but you all look a tad like orange aliens. I'm just saying. The sun isn't always your friend. I'll introduce you to something wonderful later called Chest-Hair Wax. Lovely little invention. But we won't get into that now.)

And, well, here's my confession. I know it took me a while to get to it, but I had to work up to it, you see? It's so bad I couldn't just come out and say it.

I like bad 70's music.

(Please stop throwing rocks at me. It's not polite.)

I understand if we can't be friends anymore. At least with the other confessions, you could think to yourself, 'Yeah, that guy really is hot!,' or, 'Mmm, those do look good.' Not so with this one. I know, I know. Like I said, I understand if you don't send me a birthday card this year.

I've always known this Thing was lurking in my soul, a deep and dark secret. I guess it all came to the surface a few weeks ago, when I was in the car and a song came on. And I knew most of the words. And I loved it, and sang loudly. Then I wept, for I beheld it, and was plunged into much sorrow.

Yes, kids, it's them. Captain and Tennille. Oh, how can I even live with myself?

I mean, just look at them!

Well, she does look happy, and she's got great teeth. I'll give her that. But was this really necessary?

I mean, really? I could have lived for a long, long, long time without ever seeing that, I don't think my life would have been any less for it. I'm just saying.

So now you know. And if we see each other at Starbucks, I understand if you won't let your children talk to me. Know that I love them anyway.

And for the love of all things good and sacred in this world, please don't tell John. He already thinks I'm weird enough as it is ... Seriously.

I'm just saying.

Thursday, March 27

Mellow Orange Cake, and Cream Cheese Frosting

I've really been in a sweet mood lately. Not speaking 100% about my disposition, but about my baking mood. I've been all about the sweet tooth! Here's my latest find. It came from a cookbook my husband gave me a year ago at Christmas; a family cookbook of one of his employees, and it's had some wonderful recipes in it!

Mellow Orange Cake
by Lisa Whitt

2 3/4 c cake flour or 2 1/2 c flour (I used white whole wheat, of course!)*
1 1/2 c sugar
1 1/2 t soda
3/4 t salt
1 1/2 c buttermilk
1/2 c softened butter
1/2 c shortening**
3 eggs
1 1/2 t vanilla
1/2 c finely chopped nuts (I used walnuts)
1 T grated orange peel

Measure all ingredients into large mixer bowl. Blend on low about 30 seconds, the beat 3 minutes on high. Pour into greased and floured pan(s), 1 (9x13) or 2 (9-inch round) layers. Bake 45-50 minutes for oblong pans, 30-35 minutes for layers.*** Frost when cool; see recipe below.

*Could someone explain the difference between cake flour and regular flour? I know what bread flour is. Help me!!

**I used all butter. It turned out fine. And yummy.

***No bake temperature was given, so I started at 350, but it was taking too long to cook (I made the round layers), so I turned it up to 375. But keep in mind that my oven is hateful and cooks wonky. Most cakes are baked at 350 or 375, so try the lower, and if it's taking too long, turn it up. I'm all for improvising.

Food Processor Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting

6 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips*
4 oz butter (1 stick, I think)
1 1/2 c powdered sugar
8 oz cream cheese, softened
1 T grated orange peel

Use the metal blade to chop chocolate fine, about 45 seconds. Melt butter and, with motor running, pour through feed tube and process one minuets. Add remaining ingredients and process until smooth. Scraping down, work bowl as necessary, 30-45 seconds. (You'll need to scrape the bowl often.)

*I used Nestle Tollhouse chips, so trust me when I tell you to shell out the money for quality chips. Seriously.

You could easily do this without a food processor, just make sure you chop the chocolate fine, get the butter really melted (read: hot), the cream cheese super soft, and have a good stiff whisk. This recipe was more than enough to frost the two-layer cake above.

And if you didn't want to use any of the orange, or the walnuts, this would be a great basic cake recipe.


Wednesday, March 26

Works-for-me Wednesday

Good morning, Blogland!! Here's another tip from my scattered little brain, but hey! It works for me! Thanks to Shannon at Rocks in my Dryer for putting this whole thing together ...

As some of you may know, I hate, loathe, despise, and abominate am not too crazy about laundry. I've written about this before. But I've started doing something in the last few months that's really made a difference in my attitude about laundry. Specifically, getting the clothes actually folded. (I'm great at washing and drying clothes. Just don't ask me to do anything beyond that!)

So here's what I now do:

First off, I check John's schedule, and see what days he's closing for the week. For those who don't know, John is a manager at Chili's, and has a pretty crazy schedule. I try to pick out two days when he's either closing, or has something that night, like a church meeting.

Then I wash clothes. Lots and lots of clothes. And I don't really even separate colors, which drives my mother utterly insane. For real. She gets raaawther upset with me when I do laundry at her house, because I forget to separate the colors, and it's this thing ... I digress. Anyway. I wash lots of clothes. And if I'm able to, I dry them on my clothesline, which I love, and then stick 'em in the dryer for 5 minutes to de-crunch.

And then (and here's the key to the whole thing), I bring my dried clothes to one of two huge laundry bins in my bedroom. And I put them there. And I leave them there, until the appointed evening when John is hopefully working, as mentioned above. And I keep bringing the clothes in. And the two baskets get full, and usually look (combined) like a small mountain of clothes. Then, when Laundry Night comes, I put on my headphones, start up a lecture, and start folding. (You could also put in a movie, or watch the news, if you wanted to. I get too distracted if I try to watch something, which is why I go with the mp3 player.) I wait till the kids are in bed, so I'm totally uninterrupted, and I have as much time as I need. I usually fold about 8-10 loads of laundry, including towels, John's work stuff, sheets, etc.

I get it done so fast!! It always surprises me. And doing laundry like this takes a huge burden off my shoulders. When I walk into my room and see a (well-contained) pile of laundry, I don't freak out because it's just another thing I feel like I'm not going to get done. I know it has a set time to be finished, and I can really forget about it until then.

And when I'm finished folding, I put away everything I can, and the kids stuff stays in piles on the coffee table until the next morning. The smaller Stewarts are really good about putting laundry away, because they know I won't feed them we can't properly start our morning until the clothes are done.

They are usually the ones (David included!) who empty the dryer and take the clothes back to my baskets, and occasionally, I'll dig through the baskets and pull out a large armful of towels, rags, and diapers, and they fold all of them and put them away.

It's a wonderful little method that works for me. Maybe it'll help you, and relieve some stress and worry. If you struggle with laundry, and getting it done, I completely understand and sympathize ...

So, would this work for you? What does work for you when it comes to laundry?

Tuesday, March 25

Have I Mentioned ...

Have I mentioned the lovely Mrs Fussypants? She's so cool. One might even say that she's too cool for school, seeing how she homeschools her four boys. (Get it? Too cool for school ... her kids aren't a school because it's not cool ... get it?? I know, I know. I just crack myself up sometimes. Don't be jealous.) Anyway ... She's got four fairly young boys, with another on the way, and she's just about the funniest thing I've ever read. I've decided that she and I would be simply fabulous friends, and have long chats (serious and girly ones) over good cups of coffee, and that all our friends would get along wonderfully. Of course, it would help if she knew I existed ... or if we lived within three states of each other ... y'know, little details like that.

I love stalking her reading her blog each morning, because she's a good little blogger, and posts funny things every day. She's addicted to Lost, and does a really bad recap the day or two after each new episode. She watches Oprah and loves Dr Oz. She fights the frump every Friday, which is wonderful for moms with kids. As opposed to moms without kids, I guess. Hmm. She lets readers think of funny captions for ridiculous pictures she finds, and makes lovely and cool jewelry.

So go check her out, and give her some love. She rules.

Sunday, March 23

Older and Wiser ... I think ...

Sorry, peeps. My Friday Confession is going to wait until next Friday. Life happens, I got supa-busy, my internet is crappy, and I haven't really been on the computer.

But let's talk about my kids. I feel like I'm gaining a little bit a wisdom with each child I have. As many of you know, I love the Pearls. They're in my links on the sidebar, under No Greater Joy. Love them! Can't say I agree 100% with everything they say, but I do agree with ... say ... 97% of it. (If you're against all kinds of physical discipline [spanking, switching, whatever you want to call it], please don't click on the link.)

I will be forever indebted to my aunt, because when I was a stupid little girl a young woman, pregnant at 18 with my first little angel, Sam, she gave me a small book called To Train Up A Child. I can honestly say that this book changed my life. As described on the website:

From successful parents, learn how to train up your children rather than discipline them up. With humor and real-life examples this book shows you how to train your children before the need to discipline arises. Be done with corrective discipline; make them allies rather than adversaries. The stress will be gone and your obedient children will praise you and bring joy and peace into your home.

I can attest that this is true. Having children should be a joyful experience! You shouldn't dread waking up each and every day; you should be rejoicing that God has chosen to bless you, a fallen and sinning human, with the lives of your dear ones; to teach, and train these innocent souls to walk in Christ.

Disclaimer: my children are not perfect. They bring me to tears of frustration. They are turning my hair gray, I'm just sure of it, even though I haven't found any gray hairs yet. They don't always behave when it really matters and we're in public or around people that don't like the idea of homeschooling sometimes. They fidget at church. They break stuff, and throw stuff, and ruin stuff, and probably wouldn't flush the toilet even if their lives depended on it.

However, my children are wonderful. The older they get, the more wonderful they get. I can't think of a single time that I've dreaded the morning (although I'm human and seem to have a deficit of patience, so I'm sure it's happened). By the way, I there are two verses every mom should memorize, and then post in 97 different places at eye-level around the house.

Psalm 30:5b Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.

Galatians 6:9 And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.

The NKJV says 'And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.'

How easy it is to weep at night, because we have lost heart. It's easy to grow weary. Your son is grating on your last nerve. Your daughter threw a fit in the grocery store again. Your baby won't stop throwing her food on the floor. (All of these are totally hypothetical, of course. I'm just saying, I've heard other moms talk about these things.) It's hard to be a mom! If you don't believe me, just ask yours. I'm sure she'll share some of her favorite tricks from when you were a young'en. Seriously.

But guess what? God gives us a new day! Every single day!! And chance to start over, with new attitudes, actions, and thoughts, every 24 hours!!! And joy seems to be the default emotion, if we accept what He gives us each day!

Evie is my hair-puller. Every parent seems to have at least one. And I don't mean a child that pulls hair, although I'm sure some of you have been blessed with one of those, too. I'm talking about a child that makes you want to pull your, and sometimes their, hair out at least once an hour on a fairly regular basis. She tries my limited patience, and pushes boundaries I didn't even know existed. If I ever call my mom (or Kristie or Lyndsey or Sarah or Margaret or Pace ...) in tears threatening to run off to Tijuana, it's usually Evie-induced. Her personality is wonderful, and she's full of life, and the most precious person you'd ever come into contact with. She is full of passion, but there is a flip-side to that. Ear-splitting screams of rage. Fits of anger where she flies off the handle. Crying because Sam looked at her funny. I can see pieces of her personality that we thought were so cute when she was little, and let slide. This child has serious self control issues, and that is something that in some ways, we've taught her. You don't have to teach your kids not to have self control.

We've made a lot of progress lately, after crying, praying, and changing some of our techniques. There's less tears (hers and mine, lol) and more hugs; less anger and more joy. God is good. We've got quite a ways to go, but we're making progress, and sometimes that's all you can ask for. We've had nights where I put her to bed, and she's exhausted and I'm exhausted from the stress of it all, but when we say her prayers, we thank God for the next morning, because we know there will be joy in it. We trust that He is faithful to His Word, and that if He says 'joy comes in the morning,' well then by golly! There's going to be joy! I write this to hopefully encourage you moms with young'ens. Everyone's kids have issues, and sometimes in the blogosphere, we get the impression that someone has perfect kids, and a perfect husband, and a perfect house, and a perfect life.

Here's something that might be a shock to you 'newer' moms, that you more experienced moms can attest to: you're never going to completely train your children to be perfect. You can use every 'perfect' training method. You can read them all the 'right' books. You can put them in the clothes that are the 'most appropriate' for your life style. You can go to the 'right' church. You can homeschool, lovingly using the 'right' method. But guess what? You'll never get there. You are human. Your kids are human. We live in a fallen world.

This can seem really disheartening, I know. But it's actually very freeing! You don't have the pressure of trying to produce perfect children. Yes, you strive to do your best. You have joy in the morning. You teach your kids about God's love, and about His Son who died for each one of them (Happy Easter, by the way!!). You try to live what you teach, leading by example. But there are going to be those days. But don't 'grow weary,' for you are 'doing good'!! Some seasons in life are harder than others, and some days are worse than the one before, but lots of them are better, too.

Regardless of your kids' personalities, it is possible to have joy in your home. Under any circumstances.

I know you struggle sometimes. I do, too. My struggles may be different than yours, because ... well, I'm not you! But don't be afraid to reach out when you're struggling. You might be having a bad day, wondering if you'll ever see the fruits of your training in your kids, and then you'll come across a post like this one. And it'll lift your spirit!

Thursday, March 20

still here ... just outside quite a bit

I promise, I haven't gone anywhere. I've just been super busy. John has a cold and is acting like he had a limb amputated and he might die has been a little cranky, we've had family issues (nothing bad, just family, lol!), it's go time outside, and we've got people coming in this weekend for Easter. Oh, and the whole school, housework, cleaning, taking care of everyone, normal stuff on top of it.

We've started some new things with the kids for school, and that's been going really well. We're in the middle of Prince Caspian (I heart CS Lewis!!), and I've been reading the Charlotte Mason Companion. Why has no one thrown this book at me before?? (Kristie, thanks for bringing this book over and politely telling me I had to read it. I love you. Sometimes, I just need someone to tell me what to do.) I have been so inspired by what the author writes, and John has been pretty interested, too, so he's been letting me talk till I'm blue in the face without duct taping my mouth shut and locking me in a closet just to make the noise stop tuning out. :)

I've planted a bunch of my Cherokee Trail of Tears pole beans, most of the tomatoes are ready to go in the ground tomorrow, and if I can stop and get the soil I need on the way home today, I think I can get the rest of my beans and most of my herbs in. Except I forgot to mention a freakin' hilarious thing that happened a few weeks ago. I put my seed tray with all my cute little teeny-tiny plants out in the sun, to help them grow. I came outside about an hour later, and my bleeping cat that I don't even like to begin with was laying down ... on top of all my little seedlings!!! I seriously cried. I sat down and cried. Then I started throwing things at the cat. For real.

On the upside, I had already taken out most of my tomatoes, and a few basil plants. But that's it. I lost over 50 seedlings, because said cat started rolling in the seed tray when she saw me. So I'll be able to put in about 5 tomato plants, and a few basil plants. And most of my other seeds that you start in the ground.

John's been working on putting in the flower beds (we're reversed in that sense ... I love veg gardens, and all things edible. I'm more than happy to let him take over the flowers, and as long as I plant tomatoes, he's content to have me in charge of anything that ends up on the supper table. I'll never be able to put that much time and effort into something that I'm not going to eat one day ...), and he's doing a really great job. Everything he's been working on looks so nice.

The kids and I are fixing to go over to Kristie's, because the kids are going to play together, and she and I are going to have a work morning, and get some of her outside beds cleared out so she can put in some more veggies.

Mom and Wes are coming up Saturday for Easter, and John's dad is meeting us at church ... even though John will be at work. I think Nan (my mom's mom) is coming out to visit Saturday, and I'm excited about that, too.

Hoping to have a new confession up tomorrow, but no promises. I know all two of my readers just hang on my every word, but try not to get yourself too worked up. This one will be fun for me, though, and more than a little embarrassing.

Here's a nice little hint. Can you guess who these supa-fly people are?

No? Well, I guess you'll have to tune back in tomorrow afternoon. Same bat time, same bat channel!!

Saturday, March 15

A Few Ramblings

Soooo ... here's what's new in my slow country existence exciting, thrill-packed, adventurous life.

The pine trees have all exploded. Anyone who has ever lived anywhere near pine trees knows what I'm talking about. You think cedar gives off a lot of pollen? You have no idea. Pine trees are insane! Everything around here is yellow. (Luckily, though, pine isn't a high allergen like cedar or ragweed.) When you leave town (Bastrop) to drive out to my place, you enter a long stretch of very pretty highway. It's divided most of the way, with huge, lovely lob lolly pines towering on both sides, and the center, of the road. When you first start on this road, you pass the state park (which is filled with said pines) and come down a little hill. The past four days, when you go over this hill and look to the road ahead, it looks foggy. Or smoggy. It's a little disheartening, because we don't have smog out here, until you realize that the fog/smog is yellow. Bright yellow. You can see clouds of pollen, swirling around like smoke. It's almost beautiful in some ways ... until you walk outside in the morning and see your footprints behind you on the ground.

Everything is yellow right now!! My car is very dark blue, but you probably couldn't tell from a distance. It's yellow. My porch? Yellow. My outside tables? Yellow. My black cat? Yellow. My ... well, you get the picture. It's suppose to be very windy tomorrow, and then we've got a good chance of rain Monday and Tuesday, so hopefully the wind will knock most of the remaining pollen down, and the rain will wash it away.

I can't believe I wrote two full paragraphs about pollen. I'm so sorry. And slightly embarrassed. I mean, not this embarrassed, or this much, but still. I apologize none the less.

Spring is here! And by spring, I actually mean summer. Seriously. It was 96 degrees yesterday. Broke a record for the entire month of March. The early wildflowers, like bluebonnets and paintbrushes, are coming out everywhere, and the dew berries are going nuts. We've got vines and those funny white flowers all over the place, and that's making the bees very, very happy. I've taken some really good pictures in the last few days; I'll try to get them up on Monday.

Speaking of my kids Ok, I've got something wonderful to share with y'all. I had a dentist appointment yesterday morning. No, that's not the wonderful part. I had to be there at 8, which means leaving my house at 6:50. John closed on Thursday, and didn't get home until after 2. (I knew it was going to be late, but I had no idea it would be that late!) I had sat Sam and Evie down on Thursday evening and told them that I was going to the dentist early Friday morning, and that it was important to let Dad get some extra sleep. I told them I would have breakfast ready for them (we made milk cake together the day before, and it's a great breakfast treat), and told Sam I would have David's milk already poured, and ready for Sam to heat up. I had them get out a few of their fav books and put them on the coffee table (it's a huge treat for them to eat in the living room), and that I would have the TV turned to PBS, so whenever Sam came downstairs, he could turn Sesame Street on (also a huge treat).

They knew that John would be one room away, so it's not like I left them alone. We have worked very hard to teach the kids what to do in various situations, and what warrants coming to a grown-up for, and when in doubt, they know to get a grown-up. I was hoping John would get to sleep until 8, because I love that man more than life itself, but I don't always like him when he's severely lacking on sleep. I'm just saying.

I got out of my appointment (which went great) at 10, walked over to Half-Priced Books (how do I love thee? Let me count the ways ...), and called John before I went in. Keep in mind that this was around 10:15. Sam answered the phone, and took the phone to John when I asked him to. Here's the awesome part (and sorry it took me so long to get to it):

John was still asleep!! The kids got up around 7:30, and David got up sometime between 8:30 and 9 (Clifford was still on, and that's how the kids were able to tell me when he got up), and they behaved themselves the whole time! No one yelled or screamed or broke anything or set anything on fire or killed the cats or went swimming with Squishy the Goldfish in the pond or anything!!!!

They all ate their breakfasts, had their milk (Sam heated up David's for him), cleared their places, and quietly talked, colored, read books, and watched TV until some idiot I called and woke up John.

I was soooooo proud of them!!!!! Yay for training my kids ... and the training actually working!!! I'm so happy!!!!!

Anyway. I've really got nothing else to report. John's dad is meeting us at church tomorrow. He says he really doesn't believe in organized religion, but always goes to church every year on Palm Sunday and Easter. I was slightly confused my the Palm Sunday thing, and don't even get me started on people who don't believe in organized religion. I could go on for a long time. But I won't.

We've got a Sip'n'See (a baby shower, post-baby being born) for one of the gals after church, and it's going to be a luncheon. I'm on the shower committee. That feels strange to say. But there it is. Her baby is so cute. His name is Luke. I want to eat him. My ovaries twitch when I hold him. Sorry, probably too much information. I want a baby!!

Huh? What? Who said that?


Hope everyone has a blessed weekend and a great week!!

Wednesday, March 12

Works-for-me Wednesday

Good morning all!! I'm back with another Works-for-me Wednesday. Last week, I talked about how I have a really, really hard time keeping my floors mopped. It doesn't help that I hate to mop. And that even after I mop, my floors still look dirty.

Let me show you real quick why I consider mopping my entire house at one fell swoop to be utterly pointless:

Yes, that would be an entire plate-full of seasoned flour, on my dishwasher and floor. And it didn't even click to me to take the picture until after I had cleaned up the broken plate and raw meat. And then John was cleaning out the fireplace, and as soon as he turned around, the baby (he's 17 months old ... when am I going to stop calling him 'the baby'? Eh, probably when there's another baby to take his status away, lol) grabbed the bag of ashes, dumped it upside down, and sat in it. Then he started scooting around on his butt, and made it halfway around the couch before John even noticed ... it was actually pretty funny.

I digress. Sorry.

Ok, ok!! I'll get on with my tip for this week. I thought it would be appropriate because it had to do with floors. So here's what works for me:

That's Sam, under the table, with the dust buster. No, I don't make him get under the table. He was just in a really silly mood last night. He's a goose. Every evening after supper, we all work together to clear the table (even David, who helps take things like salad dressing or ketchup, or anything that isn't liquid without a lid), and then John or I starts on the dishes. The older kids do their own dishes most of the time, too, we just do ours and the big stuff. At night, Sam is responsible for the floors. He's getting pretty good at it, too, and I usually don't even have to beat him into obeying me tell him to do it. But he goes and grabs the dust buster, and just starts getting the bigger stuff, or really anything he can get in there.

Of course, sometimes he gets distracted. And can we just talk about the baby David for a second? This is a child who was in the negative third percentile for weight when he was younger. He now has back rolls. Horizontal cleavage on his ribs. Love handles!!! He really porked up!! I'm just saying.

Anyway. Sometimes, when you're five years old and the best big brother ever, it's easy to neglect your task for a few minutes to chase around a very fat baby toddler with the dust buster.

And when he's done with the floor (or sometimes before), he starts on the table:

David is trying his hardest to help, and hitting Sam on the arm with the Swiffer. I mean, that little one really wants to help. Someone, just let the boy help!!!

I then grab a rag and wipe down anything that's left, then empty out the dust buster, so Sam can plug it back in. Evie does the same routine after lunch, and I start the day off by sweeping after breakfast.

Now, here's the cool part about all this: it teaches the kids, all three of them, that they are valued and needed members of my family. We can go read, or play outside, or whatever, after everything is done, but that includes moi being finished. The more efficient they are, the more quickly I can finish, and the faster we're all out of the kitchen, running around like Indians outside, or reading on the couch.

And since it's an everyday routine, they don't even question it anymore, let alone fight me on it. The groundwork is being set in place with the baby David, too. He's been responsible for taking his plate or bowl to the kitchen (even if he was holding holding the plate while we were carrying him, lol) since he was about a year old. He's so used to it now that he'll just stand beside his chair if we forget to hand him his plate or bowl. What a fun thing, to not have to remind one of your kids to clear their place!! It is good for kids to work, and even better for them to learn to enjoy work.

So that's what works for me!!! What works for you?

Monday, March 10


Ohhhh ... it's raining today! I love rainy days! But there's supposed to be some strong storms with this system, so I'm (very, very sadly) saying goodbye to my computer today. Pardon me while I cry. I have so much to get done today, I'm sure I won't even miss the internet too much.

Yeah, right.

See y'all tomorrow!!

Friday, March 7

Tell All Your Homeschooling Friends!!!!

This ain't good, people. I was just at the Jeub's website, and here's what I read:

Homeschooling Ruled Illegal in California
by Chris Jeub

We kid you not. A recent decision by a judge in a controversial juvenile court published a decision a week ago that states:

“It is clear to us that enrollment and attendance in a public full-time day school is required by California law for minor children unless (1) the child is enrolled in a private full-time day school and actually attends that private school, (2) the child is tutored by a person holding a valid state teaching credential for the grad being taught, or (3) one of the few statutory exemptions to compulsory public school attendance applies to the child.”

So, essentially, thousands of homeschool parents in the state of California are in violation of the law. The Home School Legal Defense Association plans to appeal this to the California Supreme Court. It amazes me how, when it comes to educating children, folks like this judge rely on government’s flawed system over that of families. The Jeubs will be keeping HSLDA in our prayers as they fight this ignorant decision.

To read up on this, visit the Christian Examiner here or a San Diego paper here. A petition is also being taken by HSLDA that they will use as leverage in their arguments (click here to sign the HSLDA petition).

Please pass this on to anyone you know who homeschools, or who knows anyone who homeschools. This is frightening, people!

Friday Confessions

Well, after a one-week break from baring my soul and scaring you all, I'm back with a new confession. One that will give you a peek into my warped soul life. Please still love me after you read this.

A little bit about moi. I homeschool. I stay at home. We are very conservative Christians. I now have babies at home, I breastfed David until he was 14 months old, and use cloth diapers. I buy groceries in bulk. I have gardens and chickens. I mostly wear skirts because I think they are more modest, more feminine, and honestly, more comfortable. I'm not this gal:
(and I'm sure she's a wonderful person), but I do try to dress on the conservative side. I've even been known to wear a head covering.

Not me:

But it's possible that I do own this skirt:

However, I have a dream. Not this kind of dream (although it might make more sense after I tell you what I'm about to tell you).

Here's my alter ego:

That's right. In my 'other life,' I'm Rachel Bilson. I have a studio loft in downtown Austin. (I'm single, so I can do that.) I work at the fabulous little store (Anthropologie, maybe?) for my day job, and I have a few variations on my night job. Sometimes I'm the know-it-all host of some snooty high-end, exclusive restaurant. Sometimes I'm the awesome bartender that's kind of mysterious, but totally hot, and makes lots of tips while never letting anyone know anything about her.

I don't have all the physical tell-tales of having children, like 4,982 stretch marks. And saggy boobs. And spider veins she showed up when I was 18 years old and pregnant with Sam. I mean, what? Huh? What were we talking about?

Oh, my alter ego. Right. I can pull off outfits like this:

And this:

And let's not forget this:

Sometimes, instead of being Snooty Host Girl or Awesome Bar Gal, I'm the ultimate ... Rock Star Girl!!

(Ok, I think even my alter ego wouldn't actually wear this, but you know what I mean.)

My band is cool, and local, and a little indie, but a little hippie, too. I vacillate between being the bassist or drummer, but I'm totally cool, no matter what I do. Seriously. I even have writing credits on our album.

Sometimes, I'm also Kate Hudson, minus the blonde hair and famous mom. I like my mom, and she's still my alter ego's mom. She comes to all the shows she can make, and shops at my boutique, and gets the best seat in my restaurant on Friday nights without having to make a reservation. I wouldn't do that for Goldie Hawn. My mom is waaay cooler than that. I'm just saying.

Anyway, that's me sometimes.

And for the record, here in real life, I do have a couple of quirks. I've been known to dye streaks of my hair purple (and not just when I was younger). I still really want to get my nose pierced but my husband won't let me. I own a killer pair of rock star cowboy boots, and I look great when I wear them with my rock star-esque jeans. I used to have piercings that had to be removed when I started breastfeeding, and I just never put back in. What? Who said that?

(My mom is totally going to kill me for saying that last one, but she's out of town right now. Maybe she won't notice. Right? It's not like she's not the most observant person I've ever met, so I'm sure it will pass right by her ... right? Please?)

It probably sounds like I spend way too much time in fantasy land thinking about this. I really don't. It's taken me years to refine this alter ego, because I spend so little time thinking about her. I love my life. My husband is amazing beyond all words. My kids have me wrapped around their little fingers, and know it, and they mean the world to me. I would never, ever, for a single second trade my real life for my alter ego's life. Ever.

But sometimes ... my kids drive me crazy. Sometimes, I know I love them, but I wonder how much I like them at that exact moment in time. Ditto the great husband. (As it turns out, he and I are both human, so we butt heads and act like buttheads to each other. Luckily, this happens few and far between, and we might get into a spat about once a month. If that.) Sometimes, the housework gets to me (did you know I have mopping issues?), and I think how lucky my alter ego is, because she lives in a small, minimalist studio loft and has a very naturally clean personality. Clutter bothers her, so there's not so much of it around. Lucky her. I mean, me. Wait, is she me? It's all very confusing.

But she's sad, and doesn't know why. Her life is full, but not complete. When she drives through the country (on her way to another gig, of course!!), she wistfully looks out the window and sighs. Poor thing.

But sometimes, I just want a martini. I'm just saying.

No, I don't. Just kidding.

But not really.

No, seriously. I don't want a martini. Really.

Because I actually want a white russian.


No, I'm not. Well, I kind of am.

I'm just saying.

Wednesday, March 5

Works-for-me Wednesday

Rocks In My Dryer has been doing this for a long time, and I think I'm going to jump on the blog carnival every now and Wednesday. It's called Works-For-Me Wednesday (read more about it here), and basically each Wednesday, you post a little something that has made your life a little easier.

However, today is Works-for-me Wednesday: Backwards Edition. You ask a question, and see if people can help you with something that's worked for them in the past.

So, here's my question:

MY FLOORS!?!?! How in the name of all things sacred and holy do you people keep your floors clean? I sweep my entire downstairs once a day (sometimes more if I'm cooking a lot or we're all tramping in and out of the house all day), but I cannot get the mopping done for the life of me! I'm not even going to tell you how often I mop, because you'd never come over again for fear of catching some disease and ending up in the hospital and having to sue me for all your medical costs but I don't have any money so that wouldn't work anyway it'd be way too embarrassing.

This wasn't a problem when I had no kids, or just Sam and Evie, and they were both younger. I could just wait for nap time, and knock the whole thing out in 15 or 20 minutes. Oh, wait. I also liven in an apartment that had a total of 3-square-feet of hard floors that needed to be mopped. Now I have a house. And lots of very dark hard floors that show every single speck of everything. And dirt outside. Lots and lots of dirt. And we pretty much live barefoot outside when it's not raining or snowing. And it doesn't snow here.

But I digress. How often do you mop? When do you do it? How many kids do you have, and how does all of that work?

Please, I'm begging you. Come out of lurking, and help this tired, busy mama!!! :)

Tuesday, March 4

Go Vote!!

Today is primary voting here in Texas, and we've been up for a while now. I don't know if I told y'all, but John is the precinct chairman for the the Republican Party out here. (Believe me, no one is more surprised than we are!) Our friend Albert Ellison in the County Chairman for the Reps, and he was able to get John to help in this way.

This means that John is in charge of the Rep voting for our precinct, and we've been getting ready for that for the last few days. Yesterday, we had to scope out the church where the voting is taking place (right up the street, about 10 minutes away), and pick up all the voting material from the courthouse. Oy, there was a lot of it! And it was really cold and windy yesterday, too. But we got it all home, got everything ready, and everyone went to bed early last night. We knew that we'd be up around 5 this morning, leaving here in time to be at the polling place at 6 (polls opened up at 7).

So of course, my sweet baby, who has been sleeping through the night since he was a whopping 4 weeks old, decided to wake up around 2:30 this morning. And cry. And cry. And then cry some more. He didn't want anything to eat, didn't need a diaper change, he just wanted to be held. So I brought him to bed with us, and he fell right back to sleep about 4.3 seconds after his head hit my the pillow. I was not pleased with the way this situation was turning out loved having him there to snuggle with me and keep my shoulder sweaty warm. Much power to people that do the family bed thing, but we are not that family. David was out of my bed when he was about 3 nights old.

I was glad he was able to go back to sleep, but it took me forever to fall into dreamland. And the dreams I had, when I was actually able to sleep! They were awful!! So I got up with John at 5, waking David up again (what else would happen?), and started getting ready. Got everyone else up and going, got the baby's milk, took John to the church, helped unload all our crap voting materials (I even helped the Dem before her workers got there ... look at me!!), went to HEB for the meals I'm taking up there later, got breakfast tacos for everyone, took said tacos back to the church, found out I'm going to be getting paid for today, being the fabulous and cute helper that I am (woohoo!!), and came home. Fed children, cats, chickens, and fishes, made more coffee, swept downstairs, put in a load of laundry, got the lunches ready so I don't have to rush later when I forget and am running late to take it up there, and put the now-sleepy and cranky baby down for a very early and much-needed nap.

And it's all of 8:14 now. I think I need a nap!!

And let's talk voting ... I know many people, Republicans, who are voting for The Hillary today. Not because they like the robot her, but because they think she'll be easier to beat than Barack Obama. Me? I'm all for Ron Paul when it comes to the primaries. He has some serious issues that bother me, and if he was a true contender for the presidency, I don't think I could in good conscious vote for him. His stance on national security scares me a little, to be quite honest.

Now, I know there are a lot of Reps out there that just can't stand John McCain, or at least aren't crazy about him, but I'm not one of them. I love John McCain, and would vote for him any and every single day of the week. Yeah, there's some stuff that he believes that I'm not loving, but I really think that, overall, he's the best equipped to get the job done, and will do what he believes is best, not what the Party is telling him to do. He's been labeled a maverick, but I like that. The man speaks him mind as much as he can, and does what he feels is the right thing to do. Mad respect for the man!! John and I are both very excited that he'll be the one getting the nomination.

On that note, I'm kicking the older kids outside, and taking a nap on the couch. Hope everyone has a lovely day. And, if you're here in the utterly fabulous state of Texas, do me a favor, if you haven't already ...


Monday, March 3

spring rain!

Yay! Spring rains!! I was getting a little nervous, because a few wildflowers (mostly Indian Paintbrushes) have been popping up here and there, and it's been really dry lately. We didn't have a great wildflower season last year, because all that rain we got came just after the flowers. But last spring was our first wet spring since we've lived here, and it was amazing!! I can't wait to post pictures of my property and all my gardens (there's three four at last count, but I seem to be adding a new one every few weeks!) in about a month. The trees are all starting to bud, and my swiss chard, spinach, peas, and lettuces are growing like crazy. We don't mow our back yard each year until about June because of all the wildflowers that come up. We are a traditional yard-lover's nightmare, because we love all the 'weeds' that are so beautiful ... especially the dandelions!!

I got my first little bit of sun the other day, because I was wearing a tank top while tilling (again!) and moving the 600 pounds of top soil I bought.

Can I change the subject for a minute? I mean, I'm sure you're all snoring away riveted to the screen, bored to tears enthralled, reading about my love of wildflowers, weeds, and my garden. Exciting stuff, I know! But did you ever see Finding Nemo? That Disney/Pixar movie about the clown fish (Nemo) who is captured, and his dad has to go out and save him? Ok, if you haven't seen it, go rent it and watch it. I'm not big on most kids movies, but this one is just really cute, and great. Anyway, there's a few scenes with some seagulls, and since it's a movie, what they're screeching is translated into English. As it turns out, they're just sitting there yelling, 'MINE,' over and over again. 'MINE, MINE, MINE, MINE, MINE, MINE!!' It's really, really funny.

Who knew my baby was a seagull? He's learned to say, 'mine,' and it's his favorite phrase ... especially when his older siblings are involved. He and the others are cleaning the loft behind me while I work at the computer right now. He just looooooooves to grab something out of Sam's hand, turn around, and run off, all the while saying, 'MINE! MINE! MINE! MINE!' at the top of his lungs. God help the person who tries to take something away from him. It's amazing at what a young age you can see the human sin nature start emerging from such a tiny, innocent little soul. (And I'm not saying it takes all the way until 17 months for it to emerge ... it's there way earlier!!)

On that note, everyone has made their way downstairs, and are now working on the dishwasher. I just heard all three start screaming 'DADDY! DADDY! DADDY!' so I'm guessing John is awake now. I promise, I'll try to write something marginally interesting the next time I sit down on the computer. Or maybe not. My life is pretty boring, and I love it like that! :) Have a blessed day!!!

Saturday, March 1


... is crazy, as usual. Sorry, no Friday Confession this week. I've embarrassed myself enough by letting you peer into my disturbed unconventional mind, with the educational pastime, the crush, the fav health food, and one of the many lovely things I did to my younger brother. Really, do you want to know more?

I can barely use my hands and arms this morning. I've spent the last two days covered in more dirt than I knew could possible be caked to my pasty-white hands, feet, and arms (although if I keep spending this much time outside, that's all going to change, and I'll actually have a tan!). I've been running the tiller again, and planting things, and weeding things, and transplanting things, and chasing my chickens (the nine of them have a combined IQ of about 14, but they are masters at tunneling, and I spend a ridiculous amount of time shoring up the chicken yard), and chasing the baby (he loves to be outside more than anything else in the whole world, apparently), and digging, and clearing the bleeping yaupon, and moving the compost pile, and getting attacked by the bleeping fire ants that moved into my compost pile, and it's finally been warm and dry enough to use my much-loved clothesline (I'm not being sarcastic, I really do love my clothesline!), so I've been doing a lot of that, and trying very unsuccessfully to keep my house resembling a clean person's house, and feeding my hungry family, and I bought and moved (three times!) 600 pounds of filler top soil (I am such a rock star!), and listening to Dr Clough's lectures so I'm not just working with my hands, I'm working out my brain, too, and I'm so tired this morning that I can't even break my thoughts into sentences!!!!!

And then in a few minutes, I'm going to wake John up, so he can get ready for work. We'll all pile in the car, drive up to the Round Rock Chili's to pick something up, and then drop him off at his Chili's. Did I mention that Round Rock is just over an hour's drive, one way? No? Well, it is. Ahh, the joys of being a one-car family.

Then we've got a birthday party this afternoon for a friend of Evie's, which I'm totally looking forward to, for two reasons. 1) I'll get to see a friend from the retreat I went to last month, and 2) Becky is making margaritas. :)

We'll get home from that, have supper, get ready for church, and then pick John up around 9:30 or 10. Woohoo!!

Actually, I'm in an amazing mood. I've accomplished so much this week, it's not even funny. I had my book club Wednesday evening (Hi, Mon!!), I've been having my quiet times, school has been getting done, and (except for last night) I've been getting almost enough sleep!

Sometimes I wake up, and I'm so happy that I almost don't believe it. I mean, is it possible to be this happy? How much God has blessed me ...