Thursday, December 31

Out With The Old ...

Ok, I've got a few resolutions for my 2010. Ready?

1. I want to continue doing better with my house. The last few weeks have been awesome, I've been working (with lots of help from John) on some new systems that have made a huge difference. Let's see if I can keep that momentum going.

2. I want to do better with my household budget. Cause, y'know. Debt = awesome. Or not. Also, we plan to be 100% debt-free (except for the larger house note) by October, or the end of the year at the latest.

3. I want 75% of my food to originate 100 miles or less from my house. It's become A Thing with me, one I'll elaborate on more in the coming weeks.

4. I want to post on my blog 3 times each week, with pics twice a month.

5. I want to visit three states this year, layovers not included. :) I'm thinking Ohio, somewhere as of yet not determined, and call me crazy but I'd love to road-trip to Iowa and visit someone's farm. I have yet to inform that last person that I want to come visit her. I should probably check first.

6. I want to finish my book this year. Even if no one ever reads it, I just want to prove to myself that I can.

Do you have any resolutions? Let's talk about them!!

Notes unrelated to my resolutions: I'm almost 28 weeks pregnant!! Had an ultrasound a few weeks ago, and everything looks wonderful. Baby is measuring right within range, I've finally started to gain weight, and I feel very ... pregnant. The whole 'bending over' thing is getting somewhat difficult.

Christmas, at my mom's house this year, was awesome. Sarah got me my absolute fav gift, and John bought me the coolest set of butterfly-shaped flights for my much-needed new set of darts. They probably cost all of $3, and I'm completely in love with them.

I am the only well person in my house right now. Everyone else has the cold that's going around the church, the one from which I recovered three weeks ago. Way to stay ahead of the curve, family!!!

It's 25 minutes from the New Year, and I'm thinking I'll be asleep by then. John's at work, and hopefully he'll be home before 1. So ... Happy New Year!!

Monday, December 14

that Mom Of The Year award probably got lost in the mail, right?

My kids are all sitting at the table right now doing their schoolwork. David is destroying eating playing with play dough, and Evelyn and Samuel are doing math facts. Here's what I hear:

*cue humming* *cue VERY earnest singing*

Evie: Mama, just killed a man ... put a gun against his head, pulled my trigger now he's dead ... *singing trails off* Hey Sam, why do you think he killed the guy?

Sam: I dunno. Maybe the man made him wear those white pants.


E: Yeah, those were really bad pants.

*cue more singing*

David: I see a little silhouette of a mouse.

E: No, David, that's not how it goes ...

*and the conversation goes downhill from there*

That's right, my kids are discussing Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody. I have officially arrived as a parent.

Also, if you haven't seen that video in a while ... or ever ... your life is lacking some pure awesomeness. Go now and watch it. G'head!! Go!!!

Saturday, October 24

Mexican Hot Chocolate

I unveiled this new (to me) drink at today's book club, and it was a huge hit. We met at my house, and since it's October and our book was originally written in Spanish, I decided to go with a Dia de los Muertos (day of the dead) theme. It's a Central American/Mexican tradition that, unlike Halloween, isn't all about the creepy and the gouls and the ghosts. It's about celebrating the lives of your loved ones who have passed away.

There are several traditional foods that are served on Dia del los Muertos, and I'll be posting the ones I made in the next few days. The first one I'm posting is because of popular demand. Seriously, everyone who was here today wanted the recipe, so ... Sonia, Melanie, Elli, Lisa, and Esther, this is for y'all!!

Mexican Hot Chocolate

2 c boiling water
1 chile pepper, stem and seeds removed (or 1 t cayenne pepper)
4 c milk
1 c cream*
1 vanilla bean, split**
1-2 cinnamon sticks, halved
8 oz bittersweet chocolate***
2 T sugar
whipped cream****

In a small saucepan, add chile or pepper to water and reduce to a quick simmer. Reduce to 1 cup of liquid and strain and discard the solids, reserving the liquid.

Over low heat in a larger saucepan, combine the milk and cream, vanilla bean, and cinnamon sticks, stirring frequently for 20 minutes. DO NOT BOIL!! Add the chocolate and cinnamon, stirring with a whisk until the chocolate has completely melted. Remove the cinnamon and vanilla and turn off the heat. Add the chile-infused water little by little, according to taste.

Serve immediately (this drink separates and settles very quickly) with whipped cream on top. Enjoy!

*I use 5 cups of 2% milk. I mean, seriously, it's already a pretty rich drink without the cream.
**If you cheat like me and use a high-quality liquid vanilla (mine comes in a wine bottle-sized bottle from Mexico), don't add it until you stir in the chile water. Vanilla becomes bitter if you leave it in the heat for too long.
***I found a dark chocolate that was in between semi-sweet and bitter sweet. I think it had 64% cocoa? Anyway, it tasted great, and I didn't have to add any of the sugar. And let's talk chocolate for a minute. If you buy a cheapo chocolate, your drink will taste like it has a cheapo chocolate in it. For a recipe like this, splurge, and buy the good stuff. You'll thank me, I promise.
****Don't make me come over there and slap you because you decided to use nasty-ass faux horrid whipped cream from a can, or even worse, Cool Whip. I will come after you and show you the error of your ways. You don't want that. Make the real stuff.


Thursday, October 22

conversations with John

Random conversation that took place yesterday morning when I got off the phone with a friend of mine ...

Brea: Hey, when my fabulous and beautiful friend Liz gets a high-paying job in New York, can I go visit her and her husband Alex if she buys me a plane ticket? In like a year?

John: Hey, how come I'm never invited on these imaginary and/or hypothetical trips? Maybe I'd like to get a break from the kids and everything, too. Did you ever think of that?

B: No, actually. I didn't. You've never said one kind thing about New York, and you always make that scoffing noise when I bring up most places I'd one day like to visit.

J: Well, I'd at least like to be considered in your plans.

B: I do consider you when making imaginary plans. Someone has to stay with the kids.

J: You just thought to yourself that you consider me the babysitter, didn't you?

B: NO! I did not use the word babysitter in my head.

J: You're lying. But I don't care. And since when is Liz considering a job in New York?

B: Well, I don't think she actually is. It's been a bunch of talk so far. Then she calls me, and we make imaginary plans. Hey! Did I mention that she and another friend and I are going to Italy to celebrate our 35th birthdays? In like 2017?

J: Again I'm not invited?

B: On the Italy trip? Definitely not. It's a girls weekend.

J: How long of a girls weekend?

B: Um ... a two-week long one?

J: And I'm staying with the kids?

B: Uh huh. But tell you what. If Liz gets a high-paying job in New York and decide to spring for plane tickets for you and me, and I can get our moms to watch the kids, would you want to come with me to visit Liz and Alex?

J: I don't know. I don't think I could just let someone else buy me a plane ticket.


B: It's cool, it's imaginary plans anyway. But your ass still isn't coming to Italy in 8 years, so deal with that now.

Tuesday, October 20

Monday Meal Plan

(Yeah, I know it's Tuesday. So sue me.)

Tuesday: John is off. Yay! Leftovers for lunch, and stir-fry for supper.

Wednesday: John opens. Chicken sandwiches for lunch, pot roast for supper.

Thursday: John is off. Roast beef sandwiches for lunch, spaghetti for supper.

Friday: John closes, and we'll be doing massive getting-ready for book club on Saturday. Pizza for lunch, leftovers for supper, plus fun stuff from the market.

Saturday: John closes. Dia de los Muertos meal for lunch book club, and enchiladas with rice for supper.

Sunday: John closes. Leftovers for lunch, and sandwiches for supper.

Kind of boring week until Saturday. I'm ok with that. :) What are you eating this week? Got a good recipe to share with me? I'm always on the look out for new things!

Friday, October 16

my sad story

about my mouth. Remember I thought I was working on a sinus infection? Notsomuch. I had a tooth that had gone over to the Dark Side, and very long story short, I had one of my wisdom teeth pulled on Wednesday. Starting Sunday evening, I was pretty much curled up on the couch/in bed with pain. It sucked.

By the way ... having a tooth pulled? While you're pregnant and don't have access to the really fun pain meds?

Not cool.

At least they revised the whole you can only take Tylenol when we're done decision.

Probably because I looked like I was going to stab someone if they stuck with that for too long.

So that's where I've been. I've got some food musings coming tomorrow, and John is starting a three day weekend (over a real weekend. What the hell?) tomorrow. Hopefully, we'll get out to Cameron and buy some new chicks. We'll see.

And my garden started coming up today. Lots of teeny-tiny little fuzzy green things. Woohoo!

Tuesday, October 13

The Simple Woman's Daybook

Outside my window... it's foggy and muggy, and I still can't get over how GREEN everything is right now.

I am thinking... that I have limited garden space, and how I can best use it.

I am thankful for... an amazing husband who comes home from working an 11-hour-day and immediately sends me to bed because of my tooth, and takes care of everything for the rest of the evening. Seriously, that man is awesome.

I am wearing... my favorite Petrol jeans and a dirty t-shirt (I've been tilling, and I'm taking a break before I head back out with the kids to start planting).

I am remembering... life before children as I watch them finish their school for the day. (It wasn't that great, for the record!)

I am going... to finish my winter garden before lunch, and run up to the Book Basket this afternoon to order World War Z. And maybe get a (decaf, of course) Pumpkin Spice Latte.

I am reading... Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. Again. You need to read this, people!

I am hoping... to not be a whining baby for the rest of the week, because the dentist can't see me until Monday, and I can't really take any medicine other than the occasional Tylenol.

I am creating... a person. In my belly.

On my mind... I wish I lived closer to Sarah (or she lived closer to me), I am blessed with awesome friends and family, and God is so very, very good to me.

From the learning rooms... today, it's gardening! What is a winter vegetable here in Texas? Why do we try to grow lots of our own food? Why do we plant more than we can eat? (Because it's not worth having things if you can't share them!)

Noticing that... the more simple I make my life, the happier I tend to be.

Pondering these words..."Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it." Faith isn't always easy as an adult. Sometimes, I do wish I could be more like my kids.

From the kitchen... leftover potato soup from yesterday, making bread this afternoon, and smoothies for our morning snack.

Around the house... finishing the laundry, unpacking the bags from last week (I haven't had the energy to get to them yet!), and trying to make some sense of the upstairs.

One of my favorite things... feeling content. Right now, I'm there. :)

Monday, October 12

Potato Soup

Potato Soup
by Brea Stewart

This very basic potato soup is a favorite around our house, because you can dress it up in so many ways, and it's CHEAP!! It's simple to make, and if you're just making it for 2, then halve the recipe and enjoy leftovers for lunch the next day.

1 large baked Russet potato
2 large raw Russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 small white or yellow onion, cubed
1 quart chicken stock
1 cup cream (or half and half, or whole milk)
1 T fresh thyme (or 3/4 t dried thyme)
salt and pepper to taste

In a food processor or blender, pulse raw potato chunks until finely minced. Repeat with the onion. Add both to the chicken broth, with 1t each salt and pepper and the thyme, in a large stockpot. Cook just below a simmer for 1 1/2-2 hours, stirring frequently. Slowly stir in cream, and add chunks of baked potato (leave the skin on for a more rustic taste). Test the taste and add salt or pepper as needed. Cook for 10 more minutes, ladle into deep bowls, and garnish as desired and serve immediately.

*cheddar cheese, fresh bacon bits, sour cream, chives, diced broccoli, diced peppers, shredded chicken, or anything else that sounds good!

**For an interesting twist, puree 1 cup roasted red peppers with 3 T roasted garlic and add about halfway through the cooking process. Mmmmmm ...

***Amazing and hearty on a cold day. Goes great with a side of salad and/or some toasted french bread.

some random ramblings

I just finished my book club book for this month, Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. It was amazing; I loved it and thought it was a perfect October book. Written in 2002 (maybe?) and translated into English in the last few years, it's set in Barcelona in the 1950's. A ten-year-old named Daniel discovers a book by the author Julian Carax. When he sets out to find other works by the author, he discovers that someone is destroying every copy of Julian Carax's work to be found. Daniel decides to learn more about the author's life, and the story he learns is very sad and at times very dangerous. Seriously, you can get it on amazon for under $3.00. What have you got to lose?

The kids and I just spent almost a week in Katy with my family. It was a ton of fun, and I got to take the kids to the Rice Harvest Festival. I haven't been in at least ten years, and I loved going back! Ran into several people I know, and got to hang out with some old friends afterward at my mom's house. I'll be posting pics on Facebook later today.

I think I have a sinus infection. I've spent about 1/4 of my time the last new days praying for death.

John and I have become completely and irrevocably obsessed with Dexter. It's amazing. And fortunately, blood doesn't bother me, so I can tell John what happened after a particularly gruesome scene.

I'm making my awesome potato soup today. It's wonderful. Even the crazy people I know who are flirting with the idea of being vegetarians like Sarah, can make this. You just can't add bacon. I'll post the recipe later when I dig it out of whatever hole in which it's chosen to hide.

I believe life is not worth living without bacon.

Just ordered a new recipe card organizer to try and start wrangling the chaos that is My Kitchen. I can't wait for it to get here!!

I had to have the radiator replaced on my POS truck while we were in Katy. Long story. At one point, I ran out of bad words and had to start making up new ones. Not kidding. So I now have $482 fewer dollars ... but a truck that runs. Tell me again why I like the damn thing so much?

We got to hear the baby's heartbeat last week. It was awesome. I've gained 4 pounds in 16 weeks, and all looks well so far. Woohoo!!


Thursday, October 1

it's a very sad birthday

But a happy one, too. My sweet little brother, the youngest one, the baby of the family, turns eighteen today.

And also, he's not little anymore. He's, like, 8' 13" or something. (Not really, but he's crazy tall.) He's towered over all 5' 2" of me for years. He drives a car now. Sometimes, he talks about girls (EEEEEEEEWWWWWWWW!!). Is a senior in high school. Went to Europe last summer. Tells me about books he's read.

None of these things are supposed to happen, because he's my little baby brother. So, to sum it up, I'm not ok with him turning eighteen today. He's a freakin' grown-up.

How is he celebrating? He and a bunch of friends are skipping school ... and going to MFAH, the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston. Which is, admittedly, a pretty cool thing to do. I kinda used to do it all the time when I was in school ... but that's a whole 'nother post.

Back to my brother. I love him to death. We're really, really close. Last night on the way home from book club, he made me laugh so hard that I couldn't breathe and had tears streaming down my face.

So happy birthday to my ginormous little brother. And no, this does NOT mean that I'm acknowledging that he could take me down. I will continue to tell him on a regular basis to watch his back, lest I decided to come and kick his ass just to take him down a notch or seven.

Cause that's what good big sisters do, right?

Tuesday, September 29

Chuck Norris can divide by zero

I'll be playing with the layout over the next few weeks, so don't be surprised if it's different every time you visit. :)

In other news ... We didn't get the belt changed today because of some technical difficulties, but I did get three of the hoses replaced on my own. After making a trip to the parts store to replace something that broke. So, step one to taking over the world: learning how to replace engine hoses. CHECK!!!!

Edited to add: Any final new layout will be approved by SaRaH, the one with me in the picture up top. Because she is high maintenance. And also, she is the boss of me.

Monday, September 28

My Truck, or The Story of a Total POS

I have a truck. After going for almost two years with only one vehicle, we bought my truck. Found it on Craigslist, didn't pay much for it. John says we overpaid, and I say that you can't put a price on (my) happiness.

It's a complete piece of crap.

And I love it with an unfounded, makes-no-sense kind of passion.

John hates it, in a fire-of-a-thousand-suns kind of way.

She's a '94 F150, (mostly) white, two-door with a full backseat. Which means we all fit with legroom and no jump seats. Yay!! Used to belong to the City of Austin, and she was one of their paint crew trucks. She has paint ALL OVER HER. John says it makes her look really ugly. I say it gives her character. 4.9, V6 engine, so I can pull stuff if I want to, but she doesn't eat gas like a V8 would. Both kayaks fit in the back at the same time. Her name is Shirley Mae. Because she's a good 'ole country truck.

Except ...

She keeps breaking. And so, John hates her.

Here's the thing. I was talking with John one day, and he laughingly told me that I'm missing a pink gene from somewhere in my DNA. And I've decided that it's true. Don't get me wrong, I love to cook, and being a mom and wife totally rocks. However, I like a lot of decidedly un-pink things. I love guns. I like having dirt under my nails after working outside. Clearing underbrush by hand is not only enjoyable, it burns lots of calories.

My dream is to one day buy an old, non-working '69 Stingray and rebuild the whole thing. And in this dream, fantasy harshly collides with reality. I know absolutely NOTHING about cars. Or trucks. Or engines. Whatever.

My new goal in life is to learn lots of mechanical stuff. My first step? Tomorrow, I'm going to be replacing the main belt in my truck, along with several hoses. I'll have some help, but I want to be the one who really does it.

Wish me luck, and I'll let you know how much skin I lose off my knuckles in the process.

Might even post a pic or two. We'll see.

Saturday, September 26

Adventures in Parenting

This happened while I was pecking out my last post, and if I don't put it down now, I'm going to forget it. :)

Drama Mama comes running into the house, crying buckets of tears.

"Evie, what's wrong, hon?"

"David said he was going to catch a cottonmouth and throw it at my head!!!!!"

"Wait, wait. Is there a cottonmouth outside right now?"

(**we did have on by the deck last week, and we killed it, but David is kind of obsessed**)

"No, but he says he's going to find one and pick it up and throw it at my head!!!!!!!"

(Seriously, that was how she was speaking to me. Italics and bold and all.)

"Ok, Evie. Let's talk for a minute. I have some news for you. If David tries to pick up a snake and throw it at your head, it's going to bite him. And it's going to hurt him really bad. And he's going to drop it, so don't worry. He won't be able to throw a snake at your head or any other part of your body."

"Oh. Ok."

"And Evie, what's the snake rule?"


"Exactly. Remind your Danger Boy brother for me, will you?"

"Sure, Mom!"

It's conversations like this that make me feel very secure in the fact that my Parent of the Year award is on its way to my house right now.

**There are four basic types of venomous snakes in Texas: CCCR, the coral snake, the copperhead, the cottonmouth, and the rattlesnake. As of last week with the death of a cottonmouth we temporarily named Tom, all four have been killed within a hundred feet of my house. And .... um ... this isn't news for my FB friends, but we kind of have an escaped coral snake somewhere in the house. We've named him George.

All that to say, my kids are very, very, VERY good about snake safety. I am fairly certain that David wouldn't go find a cottonmouth and pick it up and throw it at Evie's head.

But I think I'll go have a chat with him, just to make sure ...

Adventures In Parenting

So I'm trying to get some rest during the kids' nap time this afternoon.

(Translation: I'm praying that they keep it down long enough for me to get three winks so I don't pass out from exhaustion later.)

I hear a tapping on one of the downstairs windows. I investigate. Nothing there. My dog is asleep, and all the doors are still locked, so I know it wasn't one of my creatures. Neighbor's dog, maybe? Really stupid humming bird? It's happened before, just not repeatedly like that. I go back to bed.

More tapping.

Upon investigation, more nothing. Starting to get a little frustrated here, so I decide to camp out in the chair beside the window and see if my poltergeist feels the urge to take a visible form.

A few minutes later, I look up from my book and see something. Hmm, a piece of paper with about ten paperclips just fell to the ground. What the hell?

Then I find my answer. A rope with a magnet tied on the end is lowered, and it picks up the paper with paperclips. Before the rope completely clears the window, a small car falls to the ground. The rope reappears a few minutes later, paper-free, and tries to get the car. No success.

At this point, the Good Parent Gene kicks in, and I decide to stop my child or children from leaning out the window, which (because of a very tall foundation on that side of the house) is about two and a half stories up.

I high-tail it up the stairs and into the boys' room. To my not-in-the-least-bit surprise, Drama Mama Evelyn is directing this shindig, Eldest Sam is the one with hands on the rope, and Danger Boy David is the one chucking stuff out the window. I whistle (after making sure David had pulled his entire body back inside) and all three whirl around. I give them The Stare.

They give me the who me? I wasn't doing anything remiss look. They are such punks. And they totally know it.

The results: I took away the rope. And the car. And the paperclips. And the chair below the window. And promised to beat them all with a big stick and make them sleep outside for a week in the rain if they ever do that again.

And I'm guessing it will be less than 24 hours before my mom figures out that a) I'm posting again, and b) calls to tell me that the babies shouldn't be hanging out the window. On this point, of course, she will be completely right.

Friday, September 25

one way to make sure your day starts off well ...

After your husband makes a totally valid point, and does so in a very loving way, get defensive.

When you turn to stomp off, he'll ask, "Are we going to have breakfast together?"

Lie and say, "I was planning on it, but then you started being an asshole, and I'm not hungry anyway."

This works out especially well if you a) are freaking starving, b) have yet to finish your first cupof coffee, and c) are completely wrong and refuse to admit it, even to yourself.

The End

**This post is brought to you by the letter L, the number 14, and a myriad of CRAZY HORMONES.

**I have apologized, and John and I are friends once again. Just in case you were wondering.

Thursday, September 24

does anyone remember me?

So. Lookie here. I may be back! Yeah, I know my last post was a while ago. Like a few weeks. Or, maybe ... y'know, over four months.

Sorry, Sarah. I still love you, I promise!

But I think I just might be back. For real. Life has been over-the-top, completely stinkin' crazy, but I'm starting to get a handle on it now.

Or not. Maybe I'm just good at lying. :)

But here's what new:

I'm pregnant, which was a surprise to absolutely NO ONE except me. Long story, but after spending about an hour in tears, I got excited. Really excited. I'm 13 weeks, and due at the very end of March.

Samuel, the Eldest, turned seven in June. I'm not ok with that. Evelyn, my amazing little Drama Mama, turned six in August. I'm slightly more ok with that, but only because she has promised not to turn eight. And David, my perpetual Danger Boy, will be three in a few weeks. We're not even going there in terms of what I think of that.

I'm writing a book. It's fiction, and a lot of fun, and Sarah is going to wait until it comes out on the best seller list to read it, because she has too many other things to read right now.

I spend too much time on Facebook, so please come and be my friend! I use the term 'punk ass' a lot, and it makes my mother very upset, and the longest she has waited to call me and ask me not to say it anymore was three hours. Look, it's how I talk in day-to-day conversation. Just keeping it real, mmmk?

After MUCH prayer, and TOO MANY conversations, blessed talks with my mentor, and lots of other factors, we decided to keep the kids at home again this year. And what do you know, it's going wonderfully!!! The older two are in first grade, and we're using a modified A Beka course, and I'm surprised at how much I'm loving it.

Not only did I stop blogging, I also stopped reading other people's blogs. I've missed lots of people, especially Jessica. I'll be back to doing that, also.

After the second hottest summer on record, and the driest ever in our county, it's raining. Praise God!! People, we had 68 days of 100 or higher weather. But today, the third day of fall? I don't think it's going to reach 70. I get to wear a sweater!!!!!!!!!!!

That's about it. I'll be back soon with completely unimportant ramblings and some new recipes and funny kids stories and some updated pictures. For today, go and make some bread, then for supper have some amazing soup and cornbread, and top it off with apple spice cake.


Wednesday, May 13

just for Sarah

Hello Sarah! It may already be Wednesday at your house up in stinkin' Yankee-land Ohio, but it's still Tuesday down here in Texas. So I don't have to hand over my password yet. :)

Well, it's official. We have the pox. I've been trying to expose my kids to the chicken pox for about four years now, and it was getting a little frustrating. None of them has had it yet. And after our second round of exposure to the same family (yay, big families with lots of kids and a huge exposure window!!!), Evelyn started breaking out last night, and Samuel this afternoon. I'm so excited, and just praying that Danger Boy David will break out in the next few days. We've been under quarantine for the last ... oh ... um ... 29 days. Not that I've been counting or anything. So, soon, we'll be able to go out into the world of our friends and our church again. You have no idea how much I'm looking forward to it.

And now for something completely different:

A man with three buttocks.

Just kidding. And points to you if you know to what that joke is a reference.

Anyway. My guilty pleasure of the week: the Twilight soundtrack. Seriously. It rocks. The movie? Notsomuch. It completely sucked, even if you aren't utterly obsessed with the books like me like other people I know. I've been listening to it nonstop for the last three weeks. Love it!!

And now, I think Sam has fallen back asleep (a bad dream woke him up a while ago, and he's had a little trouble calming down), and John should be home in about an hour, and I plan to be back asleep when he gets here.

New recipe coming before the end of the week, I promise, Sarah!

Tuesday, April 28


Evan has written another chapter in Adventures in Ardenhail. It's an interesting read, so if you want, click on the link and start at chapter one.

Sarah's husband, Scott, called me last night to let me know he had read some of my Conversations with Sarah. At first I was concerned that he was mad at me, but my fears were quickly turned aside when I realized how hard he was laughing. He reminded me of a few old conversations which will be appearing in the next few weeks, much to the chagrin of my dearest friend, I'm sure. Washington Monument, here we come!!

I love you, Sarah!!

The dewberries are starting to turn, so I predict many, many cuts and stains on my hands in the upcoming weeks. I can't wait to make more jam and cobbler and syrup, just like we made last year. It was so much fun, and we just ran out of the syrup about a month ago. This year, I know that I need to make twice as much of everything, especially since the last freeze we had killed off most of the Hill Country peaches for the season. (Insert Brea sobbing hysterically upon hearing the news)

My gardens are doing really well; I love watching the way everything grows. We've had so much rain in the last month or two that the whole county is wigging out. Not enough rain to bring us out of the drought, but at least enough that I'm far less concerned than normal about my house burning to the ground.

And we're still waiting for the kids to come down with the chicken pox. It should be any day now; David even has a few suspicious spots on his belly that I'm watching very closely. Yay!!

And now for something completely different:

I'm off to take a bath. In the middle of the day. Because John is reading The Hobbit to the kids. And because I can.

So there.

Monday, April 27

Conversations with Sarah

(phone rings)

Brea: Hi Sarah!

Sarah: Hey, can I have some of the dandelion wine you're going to make?

B: How'd you know about that?

S: I read it on (cute drummer from high school)'s wall on FaceBook.

B: Oh. Yeah, I'm making it sometime soon, and I'll mail you a bottle when it's ready in 6 months.

S: How do you make dandelion wine anyway?

B: You take the blossoms, and ...

S: Wait, you make it from the flowers? Like, real dandelions? But that's a plant!

B: Yeah, Sarah. It's a plant. Regular wine is made from grapes. Guess what those are.

S: Um, plants.

B: And those peppers you put in your soup?

S: Plants.

B: And wheat for flour for bread? Guess what wheat is.

S: Yeah, it's a plant. Ok, ok, I get it.

B: I could go on.

S: I know. I said I get it.

B: Ok, then. Just trying to help you out here.


Tuesday, April 14

Amazing Pizza

I got this recipe from Debbie King. Anything that goes over well with 10 kids, enough to make an appearance on the table each week, immediately is ok in my book. I modified it a bit, because I seem to be utterly incapable of following a recipe as its written ... We have this pizza at least once a week, usually on Friday Pizza and Movie Night, but it also doubles really, really well and we have it often when company with kids comes over. Involve the whole family, and get ready for a fun, tasty, and healthy night!

by Brea, modified from Debbie King

makes one extra-large pizza, or two medium pizzas

4 c white whole wheat flour
4 t yeast
1 1/2 t gluten*
2 T brown sugar
1 t salt
1 3/4 c warm water
garlic, basil, oregano, parsley, Parmesan cheese, and/or whatever pizza-y flavors you like**
olive oil
sauce, cheese, and toppings

Preheat oven to its lowest setting, usually 170 or 150. Toss everything in your mixer with your dough hook attachment, and start mixing. When the dough starts to pull in the flour, but there's still some left at the bottom of the bowl, start adding the olive oil one T at a time, until it's all incorporated and slightly sticky, but can still be kneaded with the dough hook without making a huge mess. Knead in the bowl with the hook for a few more minutes, then take off the bowl and drizzle more olive oil on the dough, turning to coat. Cover with a dish towel, and put it in the warm oven for about 20 minutes.

Let it rise, then take it out, turn your oven to 400 (if you have a convection, turn on that function), dump the dough on the counter, knead two or three times, and start rolling it out. When the dough starts to stick, start tossing small handfuls of cornmeal on the dough and counter to keep it from sticking and tearing. Slide it onto your pizza pan, fold the crust at the edges should you be so inclined, and poke the bottom all over with a fork so it doesn't have huge air bubbles when you pre-bake it. Please trust me on this step.

Put it back in your oven at 400 until the crust just starts to change color, and isn't doughy anymore. Take it out, top with anything you like to use***, and put it back in the oven until the cheese is melted and bubbly. (Start out using less cheese than you think you're going to need.) Slice it and enjoy with a cold beer or glass of lemonade, and a fresh-picked green salad!

*If you don't have gluten available like SOME PEOPLE I KNOW WHO LIVE IN OHIO, you can reduce the whole-wheat flour by 1/2 c, and add 1/2 c bread flour.

**I usually add, in an ever-so-precise manner, a few shakes of garlic powder and several shakes of basil. I like to keep it simple.

***Some topping suggestions: green pepper, red peppers, roasted red peppers, banana peppers (are we starting to see a pepper-obsessed trend at Brea's house?), pineapples, pepperoni, portabella mushrooms, sliced grilled chicken, black olives, fresh sliced tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes, fresh basil, spinach, bell peppers, bacon, ham, anchovies, peanut butter ... whatever you like. That's the great thing about homemade pizza ... it's full of endless possibilities!

Saturday, April 11

it's bad ... it's really bad

What do you get when you push a piano down a mine shaft?

(I'm so sorry about this.)

A-flat minor.

(Get it??? HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!! Ohhhhh, I loves me some really bad jokes. Seriously.)

Still Alive ...

I'm still here. Just been a tad busy.

We were talking at Bible Study the other morning, and a friend made the comment that Satan is awfully subtle, and one of his sneakiest tricks (in our humble opinion) is isolation. Especially for a woman. Especially for a mom.

I've been working on the isolation thing. No so much with myself; I'm a fairly social person, and loneliness isn't one (of the many things) I tend to have consistent struggles with. But I know other who do, and who are struggling right now. Interweb peeps, you can't grow if you don't let people in your lives. It might be painful and honestly, quite scary, to confide your struggles, but it's so very, very important. Try it. You'll be amazed what happens. God is so very, very good.

Christ told us repeatedly to get over ourselves and put others first. (And yeah, in case you're wondering, that was a paraphrase. I don't know that Jesus ever said, 'Get over yourself,' verbatim.) One of the best ways we can show His love is not through saying how much we love others, although that is a great thing to do. The best way to show His love is to show His love. Helping others. Taking a meal to a tired family, helping an incredibly overwhelmed friend unpack, watching a few extra kids, being an open ear with open arms. Letting someone borrow your Twilight books to help them have an escape for a little while.

So that's where I've been. Getting over myself, trying to learn that life really isn't about me, learning that I ought not talk quite so much about myself, and getting out there.

So. I'll leave you with three things, and the promise of (hopefully) slightly more frequent posts.

1) Every. single. one. of. you. needs to go out and buy Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. Trust me on this one. Would I lead you astray when it comes to a book? I think not.

2) Check out Evan's blog. He's the son of a friend at church, and he's also a friend. He loves lit almost as much as moi, so I do like him quite a bit (even if he is going to A&M this fall. Gasp!!). His blog is new, so there's not much on there yet, but it's worth taking a visit. Tell him you came from over here if you leave him a comment.

3) HAPPY EASTER!!!!!!!!! I hope everyone has a wonderful and blessed day filled with reverent celebration, good food, and lots of family and friends. (And pray for me. At last count, we're expecting around 20 people including us, and the weather is supposed to be crap. Where am I going to put everyone?? Oh, well, I'll figure it out somehow ...)

Friday, March 27

Basic Hearty Quiche

So, we have a million (18) chickens, and we get a billion (3-4 dozen) eggs each week, so we love getting creative with egg dishes. Like quiche! It's one of my favorites, we eat it at least once a week. Everyone in my family chows on it, and I've had several requests lately for the recipe. Here's my basic recipe, and I'll explain at the end how I modify it. This recipe feeds my family of five until we're stuffed, with just enough leftover for me to have it for breakfast the next morning.

Basic Hearty Quiche
by Brea!

9 eggs
3/4 c dairy (I usually go with 1/2 c milk, 1/4 c cream or half and half)
1 pk frozen spinach, defrosted, liquid squeezed out, and chopped
1/2 yellow onion, diced
olive oil, pepper, salt, other herbs and spices
1/2 c shredded cheddar cheese
pie crust (optional)

Heat oven to 350. If using a pie crust, fit it to the bottom of a 9x13 baking pan and pre-bake for 20 minutes.

Beat eggs, dairy, herbs, and a pinch of salt and pepper in bowl and set aside. In a small skillet, sweat the onion in olive oil until they just start to turn brown. Turn heat off and let the onion start to cool.

By small pinches, spread the spinach evenly over the bottom of the pan (or on the crust). Spoon the onion and oil evenly over the spinach, and sprinkle the cheese over that. Slowly pour the egg and dairy mix over everything, and use your finger or the back of a spoon to poke as much of the spinach and cheese back under the liquid.

Put it in the oven and back for 20-30 minutes, or until the center of the quiche is no longer liquid. Enjoy!!

I am extremely lazy, and I usually don't make a crust. So just spray your pan with non-stick spray before you add the spinach.

I almost always add bacon: Dice up three uncooked slices and start them in the small skillet just before onions. Cook 2-3 minutes over medium heat, then add onion and oil and follow directions from there.

I also love to add pepper, red, green (when John isn't going to eat it), yellow, orange, whatever. Add and cook with the onions.

Becky and Alex added leftover roasted veggies, layering them with the spinach, and said it turned out very well. My mom likes to add broccoli.

Use more or less cheese and veggies by taste. If you like a thicker, heartier quiche, add a few more eggs or use a little less milk. If you like a lighter quiche, use more milk or less eggs. Play with this recipe and make it your own, and most of all, have fun and enjoy it!!

Monday, March 23

Oh. My. Goodness!

We're finally a two-vehicle household again! After a year and a half with only one vehicle, we bought a truck on Saturday!!! YAY!!!!!!

But there is a slight problem. Here it is: I love my new truck. Love it. LOVE IT. If I had to choose between my new truck, and John, I would probably choose John. But I'd really have to think about it for a while.

What's that? Yes, of course I'll tell you more about my truck. I'm so glad you asked! It's a '94 F150, v6 (something surprisingly difficult to find), it holds all of us comfortably, and it's loud. And big. And mostly white. And has a killer toolbox. With relatively low mileage, considering it's 15 years old. And have I mentioned yet that I LOVE it? Because I do. I really, really do. All I need it a gun rack and a big dog in the back, and possibly a pair of upside down work boots behind the toolbox, and transformation as a backwoods redneck country mama will be complete.

So if I don't post much for a while (something I'm trying to be better about, sorry Sarah!), it's because the kids and I (and maybe John, if he can be nice) are out driving in my awesome truck.

I really love my truck. (But not as much as I love Sarah!!)

Friday, March 20

Things I Do When My Kids Aren't Here

Sorry for the lack of posts. I'm still here, still kicking. It's Spring, and we try to avoid being in the house as much as possible. I have no laptop (Brea pouts), so that kind of equates to no blogging.

Anyway. My kids are in Katy this weekend with my mom. I'm totally doing my happy dance. John is working tonight and tomorrow night, so we get to hang out together during the day (we'll be in Austin tomorrow, looking at trucks and going on a lunch date) and I get to watch Girl Movies while he's not home to make fun of me. YYAAAYYYYY!!

Things I do when my kids are with my mother and John is at work:

Watch Girl Movies whenever I want to. If I feel the need to start my movie at 6:30, I can. Just because.

Eat cookie dough. And not have to justify or share it.

Take a bath. Or three.

Read on my front porch for an hour.

Walk down the trail through the back of our property. For no apparent reason.

Read in the tree house (really just a glorified yet wonderfully placed platform) for an hour.

Have a beer without worrying that the beer-stealing baby is going to get it if I leave it on the coffee table.

Change clothes, realize the shirt I want is in the laundry room, and walk across the house in jeans and a bra to get it.

Clean out my daughter's room and throw lots of things away without worrying that she'll see something and shriek, 'But that one is my favorite!!!!!!!!!!' even though it's something that's been hidden in the back of her closet since the day we moved into this house.

Obsessively check my email.

Go back and read the archives on my all-time favorite guilty pleasure website, Go Fug Yourself, for an hour.

Make bread without any interruptions.

Make XanGo calls without having to say, 'Would you mind holding on for a sec while I get my kids some juice?' a single time.

Did I mention the part about unlimited Girl Movies? This evening, it's P. S., I Love You (for the 28th time) and The Holiday (for the first time). Tomorrow, Garden State (for the 98th time), and Before Sunset (for the 2nd time). I know what I like, ok? And I trust my dear Sarah's movie recommendations.

Go to bed early, should the mood strike me.

Stay up late, should the mood strike me.

Have a third rum & coke, should the mood strike me, because I can sleep late in the morning. Wait, who said that? I wouldn't do something like that.

Ok, yes I would. Third rum & coke, here I come!

Have my quiet time, and know that, since my phone is on vibrate, it will actually be quiet time for one!



Mop with no footprints other than my own on the floor afterwards.

Seriously, is this how the other half lives? This is a nice break. But I know by Sunday morning, I'll be very excited to have the kids back. We've been planning this for over a month, so I've been looking forward to it, but I'll be glad to have them back.



Monday, March 9

rain, and something to think about

I don't think I ever wrote about our wildfire a week and a half ago, but it was really bad. Over 1300 acres, that kind of bad. My family was very very blessed, because while the fire was extremely close to us, distance-wise, the 25- to 30-mph winds were blowing away from us. Had the winds shifted, we would have been evacuated, and our house (more than likely) wouldn't be here right now. We've had fires closer than this (my next door neighbor burned down 10 acres a few summers ago, but it was on the other side of her property from us) several times, but I don't know that any have been this scary.

My part of Texas is the driest area in the country right now. I can totally prove it:

See that big, dark brown bubble? I live right smack-dab in the middle of it. Texas is the only state out of 50 that had the dark brown right now. If we don't get rain soon ... well, things sure aren't going to get any better. And they're not so good right now, know what I mean? (The US Drought Map can be found here.)

The kids and I are about to sit down at the table and get our indoor seeds started. I'd love to direct sow everything right now, but I just know we've got one more freeze lurking somewhere around the corner. It won't kill me to wait a week or two. I never did get my onions and potatoes in ... I didn't want to water them. And everyone at the Farmers' Market will have them, so I don't feel too bad. :)

So. Back to the fire. It really got me thinking. God forbid something were to happen and you were evacuated from your house, do you know what you would take? If you had five minutes to get out, what would make it with you in the car? If you had an hour, what would you take?

We have a three-tiered list.

the Stewart Bug-Out List
Stage One (aka, stage 'holy crap, the backyard is on fire!!')
*BOBs (bug-out bags, we have two, and each has a change of clothes and jammies for each of us, some cash that is NEVER allowed to be touched, munchies like granola bars and raisins, a few new goodies for the kids, and copies of insurance papers and vital numbers. These bags live where they can always be easliy reached, and are ready to go at all times.)
*cell phones
*computer hard drive and cameras, if time allows (we monthly back up all pics, music, etc to CDs, and the CDs live at Chili's, so if we lose the computer, we don't lose everything)

Stage Two (aka, stage 'the backyard isn't on fire yet, but we see the firemen knocking on doors up the street headed our way')
*all of theStage One stuff
*my jewelrey box (I'm a vain person, ok? I like my stuff)
*photo albums
*comfort stuff for the kids (stuffed animals or blankets)
*heirloom stuff (I've got some very sentimentally valuable old quilts, etc)
*our guns and any ammo on hand (no because I think we'd need it on the road, I just like my guns and would rather not replace them if I have a chance to grab them)

Stage Three (aka, stage 'we're gettting word that we need to leave if the winds don't die down soon, but the fire or whatever disaster is still a ways off)
*all Stage One and Two stuff
*a few more bags of clothes
*anything the kids have time to grab, if reasonable
*my seed collection
*special books
*whatever else we feel we safely have time for

Now, that being said ... there is nothing in this house worth risking my life. If we need to get out, we're out. Period. We have insurance, and frankly, it's all just stuff. Yes, some of it is stuff I really like, but still. Stuff.

I know some of my list might seem silly to you, like the seeds and books in stage three. But I love my seeds, especially now that I've started collecting my own. And we have some books that almost can't be replaced. And I know that I don't need a change of clothes, because I can always buy another set of jammies, but if I'm being evacuated from my house, and I'm going to have to sleep in a strange bed (even if it's at a friend or relative's house), I want my own jammies. So there. :)

Anyway. I just wanted to give you something to think about. What would you do if you had to leave at a moment's notice, not just because of fire danger? Do you have at least two evacuation routes? What if it's something far less complex than that; do your kids and husband know where to meet if there's a fire in your house? Do they know not to go back in any burning building? I pray that I will never need to use any of this information, but seriously, people. Does it hurt so much to plan ahead?

And please pray that we get some of the rain they're forecasting this weekend, and that this will be a totally moot post. :)

Monday, March 2




OH MY GOOD HEAVENS!!!! I just love the interweb!

Just think. You can wake up on a lovely Monday, make your coffee, drink 16 cups while you're reading the Bible and waiting for the rest of your family to wake up, feed everyone breakfast, start some laundry, feel mildly accomplished, because, ya know, you just love Mondays. You are that freak of nature who doesn't really like the weekends, but absolutely thinks Monday is the greatest day of the week.

You've come to grips with your strangeness. It's ok with you now. It's who you are, and you embrace it.

You have lunch. Make some more coffee. Get your husband's clothes ready for work. Do other stuff, accomplish other things. Put the kids down for a nap. Kiss above-mentioned husband goodbye for the evening as he leaves for work.

It's been a good day.

So you decide to reward yourself with a 86th cup of coffee, and a little bit of web surfing.

Next thing you know, you're a super hero.

Yeah, you read that correctly. Confused? Let me show you what I mean:

Oh, yeah. I made me into a super hero. Now, my hair would be much longer (it's almost down to my waist, despite the 4 inches we took off last month), my boots would have some major heels on them, and (sorry, Mom, I have to say it) well, I've had three kids. My rack just isn't that great. And I don't consider myself lumbering, even if I am fairly incredible.

However, I'm all for hitting people with a club. Honestly. Anyone can shoot anyone else. Me included. I have and love guns. But it takes real finesse to beat someone down with a club. I'm just saying.
But that wasn't enough for me. No. I was not finished.

'What more could there be?' you ask. 'This chick is already such a freak. What more could she find?'

Everyone knows you can't fight crime, with a club, alone.

You had to have seen that one coming. It looks JUST LIKE JOHN. He's even ancient!! Doesn't that picture look just like Leonidas from 300? It totally does, doesn't it? I know!! People at work call him Leonidas. This looks JUST LIKE HIM. I'm not kidding.

Well, his head's not that small compared to his body. And he told me one time when we were talking about super heroes (because we don't have three kids and land and chickens and things to do. We have all the time in the world to debate DC v Marvel, and who would win in a fight between hero A and hero B, and then he tells me I can't make up super heroes, and I think I can. He's wrong. But I digress.) that even if he was a super hero, he would never wear tights. But he sometimes looks like he wants to hit people with a big, wooden club.

Don't tell him I told you that. Wouldn't want him to take out the clubby anger on me. Because did you SEE me? I could totally kick his ass.

But seriously! We have matching capes!!! How freaking awesome is that? We're like the hottest crime fighting husband-and-wife duo ever. I wonder what cool powers our kids will inherit from us? (No, David, falling down is not a super power. You do recover surprisingly quickly, though. I'll have to think about that one. "Look, in the sky! It's ... Healing Boy!" Nah. Just doesn't have that ring to it. Sorry.)

So I love the internet. Because you can go to the website The Hero Factory. And suddenly, your average nice day becomes utterly amazing and fantastic, because know you know that when someone messes with you on the phone, or cuts you off in traffic, or is really rude to you in the line at the HEB, you're just being benevolent by not responding. Because you're a super hero.

They'd best learn to respect, if they know what's good for them. I'm just saying.

Because you could totally kick their ass.

The Simple Woman's Daybook

My Daybook ~ March 2, 2009


Outside my window ... the sun is shining, the sky is clear, the trees are putting on their leaves, and wildflower are popping up, despite the frightening lack of rain this winter.


I am thinking ... how thankful I am that the fire in our county, which burned almost 1300 acres, didn't head our direction. We weren't too far from it, but the wind was in our favor. And that I wish Sarah didn't live so stinkin' far away from me.


I am thankful for ... my church, the retreat from which I just came home, the God who forgives me no matter how many times I royally mess up everything, and good friends and family who always love me.


From the learning rooms ... who knows. Lots of life lessons today, probably not a lot of hard-core formal school.


From the kitchen ... bread (if I can get John to get me honey from the store), beignets, and Mexican Rice Casserole for lunch.


I am wearing ... one of John's old sweaters, old comfy holey jeans, and flip-flops.


I am creating ... a pleasant atmosphere in my home, theoretically. Well, I'm working on it, at least.


I am reading ... Oliver Twist, The Shaping of a Christian Family, and Jane Eyre. And headed to the bookstore later this morning.


I am hoping ... to learn 'What Wondrous Love Is This' by this afternoon. I'm getting there, slowly but surely ... I think.


I am hearing ... Over The Rhine's Snow Angel on my computer, Sam chasing the dog outside, lots of birds in the trees, and an angry rooster who is getting his ass kicked by an even more angry hen.


Around the house ... I really need to mop my floors, but beignets sound more fun. We've got the upstairs under control, things are fairly well organized downstairs, and the kitchen doesn't frighten me at the moment. My yard, however ... Yeah. Gotta get that done today.


One of my favorite things ... holding Baby Lewis at church yesterday, and learning that Kristie told my husband that I'm a baby hog. Well, yeah. Helloooooo! Have you not met me?? :)


A few plans for the rest of the week ... lots of XanGo call backs and follow-ups, need to get more chicken scratch, library and bookstore, hanging out with the family, and George Washington Day at Camp Winchester on Saturday.

Happy Monday!!

Sunday, March 1

"this one's my favorite!"

We had our annual Ladies' Retreat this weekend at Camp Tejas. My dear friend Kristie's sister, Kim, came up to do the music. Kim is a hard person to be around. Not because she's not awesome. She's too awesome! She has beautiful dark eyes, and lovely thick long dark hair, and she's got curves in all the right places, and she has this voice. Oh, does she have a voice. I positively despise her.

Well, except for the fact that I totally wish she was my little sister. And ... she's younger than I. So I wasn't the youngest person at the retreat, and that was a first.

Ok. I love Kim. I admit it. But all that is a digression. What I'm getting at is this. Kim did a wonderful job with the music. She and Kristie and our speaker coordinated on lovely songs with beautiful lyrics that dovetailed with the message. And Melissa, who was sitting beside me the whole time, could not stop laughing at me. Because every time Kristie or Kim announced the next song, I would just about start bouncing out of my chair, loudly whispering to Melissa, 'This one's my favorite!!'

But it's true. I cannot pick a favorite hymn, anymore than I can pick a favorite child. I love them all so much. I love the different styles of music. I love the lyrics. I love finding out who wrote each, and why and when it was written. I love old hymns (Martin Luther wrote 'A Mighty Fortress is Our God') and I love the new Maranatha hymns like 'Father, I Adore You.' (And, that last one is a round. And I loves me a good round.)

Today, our Communion hymn was 'What Wondrous Love Is This,' (that link is totally kid safe, btw) one that I've heard before, but I always forget how much I love it. I was sad for a second that Melissa didn't sit by me in church, because at this point John is immune to, 'Hey baby, guess what! This one's my favorite!!'

I'm not a great piano player, but with lots of practice, I can master a song. I take it measure by measure, over and over again, and I eventually get it. I can play the theme to Forrest Gump, and the opening lines of Moonlight Sonata. My hands are small (I can stretch to have an ovtice plus on reach), so Claire de Lune has been frustrating me for a while, but I'm slowly but surely getting there. Stupid crazy-ass Debussey chords. What was that man thinking? Mere mortals have a tough time when they have small hands. I need a mini-piano, that's what I need.

Sorry. I digress, yet again.

At the retreat, we sang 'Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing,' one of my favorites. I can play that one from beginning to end and have all the words memorized. 'Be Thou My Vision,' another favorite. I'm learning this one. 'Open Our Eyes, Lord,' can't play is but I do love it.

My favorite Christmas hymns are ... all of them, except 'It Came Upon a Midnight Clear.' I just don't like that one.

We sang 'O Love That Will Not Let Me Go' a few weeks ago, and by Tuesday evening I could play it without completely butchering it, quite a feat for me. I can play 'There's Something About the Name of Jesus,' and 'In My Life, Lord.' I do seem to be drawn to the slightly slower and more melancholy songs, but maybe that's just because I know there's no hope that I have the talent to play the Hallelujah Chorus. After John's grandfather's funeral, I learned to play 'How Great Thou Art,' which I used to this was just ok, but it's also a favorite now.

But really, the music is secondary to the lyrics in my mind. I really didn't like 'O Love That Will Not Let Me Go' the first few times we sang it. But then one Sunday, the third verse really sank in.

'O joy that seekest me through pain,
I cannot close my eyes to Thee;
I trace the rainbow through the rain,
And feel the promise is not vain
That morn shall tearless be.'

I think anyone who has gone through times of suffering or sorrow, and has turned to the Lord for comfort, can understand that stanza. The promise of a tearless morning ... the thought that joy actually seeks us, though we often try to hide from it in our pain and suffering ... it's a powerful thing, the love of God.

There are so many hymns I hear that take me back to my childhood. I grew up in a music lovin' alcohol shunnin' can I get an AMEN? goog ole' Southern Baptist church. And boy, did we love to sing. I'm still known to wander around our house singing 'This Is the Day (That the Lord has Made' in a rather loud voice, far too early n the morning.

What? Stop looking at me like that. I have to wake up my family somehow, don't I? Better than an alarm clock ...

Music just makes me happy. And not just hymns, though they seem to be ... well, my favorite. I love Led Zeppelin. I listen to the old classics of the Big Band Era. Hey, Benny Goodman! Glen Miller, how ya' doing? I love Metallica. I love love love bluegrass music. I'm a huge fan of punk, old school and new school alike. When I start feeling too much like a mom, and worry that I'm losing that crazy, wild side of me that I used to love and sometimes forget about, I always put on The Offspring or some Less Than Jake. Yay, ska!! Loves me some bubblegum pop, too. And let's not forget my extreme and embarrassing love for bad music. Oh, man. Me and bad music? We're, like, thisclose. Brea + bad music = BFF. One might even say, BF4E. Seriously!

So there you have it. The ramblings that have been running around in my head for the last few days. What about you? Do you have a favorite song? What about a favorite hymn, should you be so inclined? What kind of music makes you happy? What do you listen to when you're blue?

Which one is your favorite?

Thursday, February 26

what every new mother should know

I'm not posting pics on this subject, because then there would be solid evidence that I'm telling the truth. :)

David turned two in October. He is my most outwardly-loving child, and will run at you and wrap his arms around your legs for no reason whatsoever. He has a great sense of humor, laughs almost nonstop, and would live on Campbell's Creamy Tomato Soup if given the chance.

He also has no fear. Of anything. At all. We ever-so-fondly refer to him as Danger Baby. If you say, 'Hey David, are you a Danger Baby?' he says, 'YES!!' If you say, 'David, where's Danger Baby?' he just grins a blindingly happy smile and points to his belly. His head might be more apt, but I'll explain that in a minute ...

He gains a new scar each week. He falls off things. He's the only one we've had to take to the ER with an injury-related emergency. I highly doubt it was our last trip with him. He jumps off things. He climbs. He thinks he knows how to ride a bike without training wheels. (For the record, he doesn't.)

I'm looking at him right now, and here's what I'm seeing: A scar from the seven stitches on his forehead. A scab on top of the scar where he fell when I was in Ohio. Three bruises in various stages of healing on different places on his forehead. A swollen top lip. His nose is still slightly swollen, although only his parents would notice, from the ever-so-fun bloody nose he got the other night. A bite mark that's healing, on his cheek, from where the dog bit him. (He decided to bite the puppy when she was asleep. THAT worked out well, let me tell you.) Scratches under his left eye from running into a tree in the wooded part of our property. Scratches near his right ear from another argument with some scrub brush on a different day.

And people, that's just his head. You don't even want to know what his knees and elbows look like.

I am amazed that he still has all his teeth.

The crazy thing is, he's really not clumsy. I might even say that he's the most graceful of all my children at this age, but it's just that he has no fear of anything. AT ALL!! A fence? Great, let's climb it. Something hidden at the top of the pantry? No problem, I can scale it. The big kids are climbing trees? Bring it on. Sam can ride a bike? Well, I'm not getting left behind!

'Anything you can do, I can do better. I can do anything better than you ...'

I had been in Ohio for all of about two or three hours when John sent a picture to my phone. I took one look at it and started laughing. Laughing really, really, really hard. Why? Because I'm a very bad and totally unsympathetic mom, that's why. Sarah took one look at the picture and started to hyperventilate. David looked like he had been in a bar brawl with a bunch of Hell's Angels. And was grinning from ear to ear.

She stared at me and said, 'Why aren't you freaking out? You're his mom! I'm not even related to the kid and I'm totally freaking out! Is he ok?'

Once I stopped laughing (and it took a minute or two), I explained to her. 'Sarah, first off, that's just David. I'm happy to see all his teeth in place and both ears still attached. Secondly, if John had to take any of the kids to the ER, he would totally call me before he figured out how to use the camera on his phone. Trust me.'

That's just the way John and I are as parents. Kids will get hurt. They will have scars. We try to teach them how to properly jump, and fall, so as to minimize damage. We keep a far closer eye on Danger Baby than we did the others at this age. We don't coddle them when they get hurt. A common response to 'I'm bleeding!!' is 'How's that working out for you?'

My kids know how to clean out a scratch, a cut, and a scrape. They know what's appropriate to come crying to me about, and when they need to suck it up. Band-aids are rarely seen, despite the number of flesh wounds that occur in the abounding chaos of our lives. We don't let them whine, and as a result, we don't have whiny kids. Whiny kids bother me, and I decided when I was pregnant with Sam that I didn't want any. So there! :)

I got to thinking about all this earlier this morning, when OHmommy, the stiletto ho over at Classy Chaos, did a post called "What Every New Mother Should Know." I'm sure every mom has her own advice to give, but mine would be (and is) this: when you have kids, life changes for ever. Having a plan is nice, but you have GOT to learn to be flexible, because kids are not predictable. They drop the quiche you were making for bible study on the floor, and the dish shatters and you can't even throw the food to the chickens because of the shards of glass. They find the Sharpie you hid and color on your walls. Or worse, your couch. The fall down and get blood on your favorite shirt of all time that you've had for 7 years, and you have to throw it away. They have a bad dream at 3 in the morning on the one night you really need to get some extra sleep.

So learn to roll with the punches, and teach your kids to do the same. They'll be much more well-adjusted for it, and they just might thank you for it one day. (Hey, Mom. Thanks for being such an awesome mom to me and Kevin and Wes. And it's ok. I promise I won't ever tell them that you totally love me the most!!)

Also, it doesn't hurt to have a working knowledge of basic first aid.

So ... what's your number one tip that every new mom should know?

Wednesday, February 25

so ... I'm an idiot

Ok, peeps. You are going to love this.

So I'm notorious with our book club for being rather last minute. I very rarely arrive on time (although, in my defense, I usually have to wait until John gets home then drive over an hour to whomever's house where we're meeting), and I almost never get my book until a few days before we meet. Then I have to speed through it, most often finishing it the day of book club. The first time I came, I was invited by Melanie on a Tuesday afternoon, I went to the library that evening, found a copy of Rebecca by Daphne DeMaurier, and joined the ladies I'd soon come to know and love the following evening after reading the whole book. I read fast, ok?

This month, I decided to break out of my pattern, and do things totally differently. I went to the library two days after January's meeting and got my book. I took my time to read through it. It was depressing, and sucked my will to live right out of my soul (it seems a lot of our books have been really happy and uplifting depressing as hell lately), but I finished it anyway. Even John noticed, and told me he was impressed. :) I was so proud of myself! I was going to be prepared! With witty and insightful things to say!! Even though the book sucked my will to live!!!

Book club is tonight. I was on the phone with Melanie (the precious gal who not only started our book club, but also helped me buy the lovely house where I live) yesterday afternoon, and we were talking about our book, The Girls. I asked her if any of the books on our list for the year were happy ones, and she said, 'I know! What's with all the sad lit lately?' We kept talking for a while. She said, '...and then I saw that thing on conjoined twins the other morning on the Today Show. What a coincidence!'

I thought, 'Huh. That's nice. I think one of the characters in the book had cousins that were twins, but they were only mentioned in passing. Were they even conjoined? Maybe that part really stuck with her.'

Then she said, 'Yeah, I have a hard time reading anything where someone dies horribly in a car crash, because of my mom and everything.'

Again I thought, 'Huh. Did I skip over a whole part about a car crash? I mean, I remember when she killed her husband, and it turned out that all her friends had slept with him at one point or another, and that one friend had cancer, but I really don't remember a wreck.'

We talked and wondered if our book club was going to be able to keep up much conversation about the book, and whether we'd all have to drink the Kool-Aid afterward to escape the depression we'd all be going through, because of how non-uplifting this book was.

Then she brought up conjoined twins again. I had to stop her. 'Melanie, I'm sorry, but I don't remember any twins. Who were the twins?'

There was a long pause.

'BREA! For the love of Xenu, what book did you read?'

'Well, I read The Girls. The one where those five girls grow up together, and then one of them kills her husband after they'd all lost touch, and everyone came back to their hometown for his funeral, and no one else realized what a total asshat the guy was, and how awful he had been ...'

'BREA! Stop! That's not the book we're reading. Did you get the title right?'

'Well ... I think so. It said "the girls" in big blue letters on the front cover, so I assumed that was the title ...'

'Brea, our book is a novel about the oldest living conjoined twins; they're attached at the head, and they decide to write their memoirs.'

'Really? I didn't read that book.'

... I READ THE WRONG BOOK!!!! Apparently, there are TWO horribly depressing books called The Girls, and I didn't check the author when I got the book from my library; I just checked out the only book they had called The Girls.

And I have no car until John gets home, when I leave for book club. He didn't get home until after 8:30 last night, or I totally would have made a really late trip to one of the book stores in Austin to buy the book. I already have a complex about book club; all the gals there are smart and pretty and professional, and I feel so much younger than all of them (ok, I am so much younger than some of them, but that's besides the point), and they drink wine (I can't stand wine, and it makes me feel like such a little kid), and I worry that I'm constantly on the edge of doing something totally embarrassing, like making my drink come out my nose, or having to tell them I'm knocked up again, or spitting food, or falling down as I am fairly prone to do from time to time.


The end.

Wednesday, February 18

A Few of My Favorite Things

I'm going to do my favorite sounds today. I have so many of then, I'm such a sensory-aware person, that's it's hard to only pick 7. But here I go.

7. The dull (and sometimes not-so-dull) roar of children at my house. We end up with a crowd over here more often than not, seeing how with three children, we're the smallest family we know. Sweet Becky has 4, ages 2-14, dear Kristie has 5, ages 2-10, and Debbie has 10, ages 2-24. But only 7 are still at home. :) I thrive on chaos, I love noise and insanity, I would care less if people track dirt on my floors or accidentally breaking something (what's the use of having it, whatever it is, if you aren't going to use it? Accidents happen!), and I know how to patch up any wound just short of someone needing stitches, so I'm emotionally well-equipped to have large crowds at my place. I love hearing the yells and laughter of several families with all their kids, dads consulting each other around the grill, moms chatting and laughing in the kitchen, older kids drifting between becoming adults and still wanting to be silly with the younger kids. It's a precious thing to hear.

6. The sound of my husband's deep, even breaths as he sleeps beside me. I have a very hard time falling to sleep at night. I'm incredibly afraid of the dark, which a fun thing to admit when you're 26. I pray and I sing to myself, and that helps, but the thing that calms me the most is listening to John, who is maddeningly able to fall asleep in 43.7 seconds flat each night. It's also the reason he finds me passed out on the couch on nights that he closes, because he's not there, and I hate going to bed alone more than anything else in life, even if it is just for a few hours.

5. The sound of my feet crunching through the leaves and pine needles in the back half of my property. We have a great trail that winds all the way to our back fence, and I love to walk down there by myself sometimes just to see what nature has been up to, and see what birds I'm able to spot. And my footsteps, while not very loud like my kids' or my husband's (a few drops of the Cherokee must have made it through the generations, I guess), are music to my ears.

4. The sound of my kids playing sweetly with each other. They really can be incredibly kind when they set their minds to it, and it's great to hear everyone being polite. Sometimes I get to hear sentences like, 'Evie, make sure you hold David's hand so he doesn't fall while I put this rope around his waist.' No, really, I got to hear that one through one of my back windows a few afternoons ago.

3. The sound of my coffee maker making those weird hissing noises. Because that means that my coffee is ready, and I can pour my first of 35 cups of the day.

2. The sound of quiet and stillness in the late night and early morning from my rocking chair on the front porch. We don't have traffic by our house then, and we're too far from the main road to hear any of that noise. You can find me outside every morning, vice-like grip on my cup of coffee, come hell or high water. Even if it's only for two or three minutes, or sometimes I read for an hour before my kids get up if weather permits, I would live on my porch if it was feasible.

And my most favorite of all my favorite sounds in my life ..

1. The sound of my husband's laugh. I don't hear it often enough, and I can't get enough of it. John isn't one prone to emotional outbursts (Ha! I think I do enough of that for both of us!!), so while he's quick to smile, his laugh is like an addictive substance for me. It makes my day brighter and my heart beat quicker, and it is the one reason above all others that I thank God for my (incredibly good) hearing.

What's your favorite sound?

Monday, February 16

The Simple Woman's Daybook

My Daybook ~ 16 February

Outside My Window ... low clouds are starting to burn off, and it'll probably be in the 70's again today. I'm ready for the GREEN to come back.

I am thinking ... how much I enjoy coffee, and how much I miss Sarah and Scott, because my trip to Ohio was freakin' awesome. Also, I hate sentences that end with a preposition. Yeah, I've got issues. TELL me about it!

I am thankful for ... the organizational kick on which John and I have both been, because it's really feeling nice around here these days!

From the learning rooms ... reading lesson, money lesson, and we start learning about levers and such today.

From the kitchen ... John's making fajitas later, and the kids and I are going to make bread and maybe some cookies, if I can drag myself inside long enough. Huh. Probably not cookies, cause the sun just broke through.

I am wearing ... my favorite blue jeans, a gray t-shirt, my most wonderful and soft green hoodie, and a sparkley pink hair thing. I stole it from Evelyn, because I couldn't find any of my own.

I am creating ... a fresh garden today, and hopefully a fence to go around it so the bleeping chickens won't eat my deeds at they being to sprout again. And creating some fun memories with the kids, hopefully.

I am going ... to will myself out of whatever mood I've been in the last few days. And I'm going to take a nap later this afternoon, because I haven't been sleeping well.

I am reading ... something too embarrassing to put into words. I think I feel a Friday Confession coming soon. And I'm also reading Daphne DeMaurier, and Kipling's Captains Courageous, and The Summer of 1787, and I think I got something my Melville that I'll start tomorrow. I cannot function if I'm only reading one thing at a time, an I read too fast anyway.

I am hoping ... my tiller is still working, although I don't know why it wouldn't be working, and that summer will come early, because I just don't do well for these few short months of 'winter.' It's probably good that I don't live any farther north.

I am hearing... John bringing me laundry to fold (he's so sweet like that!), and the kids playing sweetly upstairs, and the dog snoring under my chair, and the woodpecker on my kitchen tree, and the cardinals up front on the feeder.

Around the house ... chaos abounds (at least it's starting to feel like orderly chaos, I guess), and it's really the only way I function. I'm not Type B, I'm more along the lines of Type J or something. Seriously. I love it.

One of my favorite things ...the smell of tomato vines, and the taste of a green bean I snagged while weeding the ground beneath it, the feel of dirt on my hands, and the greenness of the beginning of summer.

A few plans for the rest of the week ... John is off today, Tuesday, and Thursday, so we have a ton of projects to finish, and school, and Bastrop Gardens, my favorite nursery, opens today, so I imagine we'll be there at least once, since the owner tracked me down to let me know it was expected that I show my face. :) And talking to Sarah, because did I mention tha I HATE that she lives in Ohio, and I miss her far more than I thought I would, especially after having her to myself for five days straight.

So apparently, this weather has been getting to me more than I realize, and I'm really needing some time outside to get dirty and revel in God's wonderful, beautiful, and mysteriously fantastic creation.

For more Daybooks, click here. Thanks again to Jessica for inspiring me to do this!

Monday, February 2

Conversations with John

"Hey, baby, do you want to be an organ donor?"

(glances suspiciously at me) "Why?"

"Oh, I dunno. I read an article about it the other day."

"I don't like it when you read. You start getting ideas. Next thing I know, you're going to be wanting to vote! And drive!"

"Yeah, I know. A woman's place is barefoot in the kitchen, not reading the newspaper. Sorry about that. Anyway, I want to be an organ donor. And I was wondering if you want to be one, too."

"Well, I guess. As long as I'm dead first."

leaving on a jet plane ...

Don't know when I'll be back again ...

Just kidding! I totally know when I'm coming back. I leave my house at 5 on Thursday morning, and I'll be hugging Sarah by just after noon, and I'll be getting back to the Austin airport around 11 Monday night. That's right, FIVE day away from my family. I'm very excited, and somewhat nervous (I absolutely hate to fly!), and I just can't wait to see Sarah. Because she's awesome. And I love her. And miss her. And ... I won't have to hear the (bleeping) roosters crow for 5 days! Yay!!

And this trip does have another great aspect to it. If I hadn't had the miscarriage, I probably would have been having a baby this weekend. My due date was February 10, and my kids have all come a little early. I'm ok with what happened, I really am. God has been so good, and has blessed me in ways I couldn't possibly imagine over the last 6 months. But it'll be good for me to not be at home, and to not be around my kids, because I'm telling you, David is so stinking cute that if I hold him for too long, I can feel my ovaries start twitching. I'm not trying to forget what happened, and I'm not dwelling or wallowing. But I'm glad for the distraction.

So please pray for me, for safe travels, and for my family, that no one would have any head wounds while I'm gone, and that we all would just have fun. And that I wouldn't be too stressed before I leave! I've got so much to do, but I've made a list and broken it all down by day, so it's not too bad.

I mean, it is. I have SO MUCH TO DO.

But luckily, I'm not stressing.

No, really! I'm not at all stressed.

(Yes, I am. I lied.)

Thursday, January 29

bad influences abound

It's not good when your 2-year-old drops a toy and says, 'Oh, shit.' In a very calm voice, just like a certain parent.

Also not great when your 5-year-old is having trouble working through the tangles in her hair, quietly puts the brush down, studies herself in the mirror for a moment, and says, 'Hell.' In an eerily similar tone to the above-mentioned parent.

They probably learned that from their father.

Not from their mother, who curses like a sailor.

Yeah, they definitely got that from John.

Saturday, January 17

Baby Food ... how we did it

I've always made my own baby food for the kids. It started out because my husband has been know to be a Scrooge-esque skinflint with money a thrifty person, and saw the prices on jar baby food, and said, 'No way!' He forced me encouraged me to learn how to make our own baby food, and once I started, I fell in love with it for the price and the ease, and haven't looked back ever since.

It's evolved from child to child. With Sam, I made special baby food for him. With David ... not so much. Here's how I did it. This may work for you, it may not, or you might be Sarah, reading this and thinking, 'This is boring.' That's ok.

The first food for Sam (after oatmeal cereal) was bananas. If you have a banana and a fork, you can make banana baby food. Bananas are currently $.49/pound. Last time I checked (like 6 years ago), a jar of banana baby food was around $.75. For the love of all things holy, if you make no other baby food but this, please make your own smooshy bananas!! Here's how you do it:

Peel the banana. Put it in a bowl. Smash it up with a fork. If you don't own any forks, a spoon works just as well, but might take 47 extra seconds. Add some oatmeal cereal to make it a little less slippery. Feed it to your baby. Look! You just fed your kid homemade baby food!! Yay, you!!

Let me throw in a note about baby cereal. I think rice cereal is stupid. It has no nutritional value except for what is added to it. I've always started out with oatmeal cereal, and even that I only did for about a week before just feeding the baby oatmeal.

If you don't have a small food processor, that's ok, but having one is really helpful. For example, after I figured out that the oatmeal cereal didn't make my kids break out into hives or go into shock (no allergies), I just fed them oatmeal. Here's how. Make oatmeal, but make a serving more than your family currently eats. Take out the baby's serving. Put it in the food processor with some breast milk or formula or whatever you are using. Or water, that works fine, too. Pulse the oat/liquid mix until it's as smooth and runny as you can get it. You don't want it to be too thick at first. I made mine thin enough to drip from the spoon, but not completely watery. Cool it down and feed it to the baby. Viola! More baby food!! Refrigerate the unused portion (which will be most of it at first), and warm up small batches over the next few days to use whenever you need it.

For the first few months, we added oatmeal to everything the kids ate. Fruit, veggies, everything. Our rule was this: at breakfast, we did fruit and grain. At lunch, veggie and grain. At supper, fruit, veggie, and grain. So for breakfast, just add a few spoons of banana or applesauce or pureed strawberries.

With Sam, I made baby food in big batches. I would take a whole bag of baby carrots, steam them until they were super soft, and puree the whole thing (using the water they were cooked with to get the consistency I wanted). I would cool the batch completely, then freeze small portions (1 cup) in flattened Ziplock bags. Anytime I wanted to feed Sam carrots, I would pull the bag out, thaw it in hot water, and let 'er rip.

Always make sure you introduce each new food individually. It's really important to watch for allergies and things like that. And just because they don't want to eat it first doesn't mean that they don't (or won't) like it! It's just new, and they're a baby, and not sure what to do. So they automatically spit everything out.

It's easy to puree and freeze combinations, too. Some ideas: carrots and broccoli. Squash and green beans (the only food I ever strained, because of the strings). Carrots, broccoli, and squash. Sweet potatoes and whatever. Spinach and whatever.

Regular potatoes don't freeze well. Just trust me on this one before you add potatoes to three different batches of food and find all of it unusable later.

I found it much easier to not freeze fruit. Just whip up a small batch and use it within two or three days. Fruit is fun. Bananas, strawberries, blueberries, apples, pears, kiwi, star fruit, peaches, plumbs, apricots, pluots, the list is endless! Step outside the box and use your imagination. You can use frozen fruit, too. Put it in a covered bowl or plastic bag in the fridge overnight, and smoosh it up in the morning.

Also, with the exception of sugar and salt, don't hide flavors from your kids! My kids had cinnamon (from the applesauce) at 6 months. I added very small amounts of herbs and spices at 8 months, and they were eating everything we ate by 12 or 13 months.

With Evie, we transitioned her to table food by about 10 months, and I didn't freeze as much for her. I did more of it on the spot.

David is obviously a Third Child in many ways, one of which is this: I never made him baby food past 7 months. And I never froze anything for him. I gave him what we ate, except that sometimes I would give it a quick spin in the food processor, or I would cook his a little bit longer. His first food was avocado. High in fat, not normally one that causes allergies. And if you get one that's pretty ripe, you don't even have to squish it (I never smooshed David's bananas, either). Just scoop out a tiny bit on a fork, and put it in the baby's mouth.

I didn't start my kids on baby food until close to 6 months. They don't need it before then. Sometimes I'd give them a few (plain) Cheerios to keep them busy ... and because it's really funny. The first time you see your little one try to eat a Cheerio, you'll understand. No milk until 12 months, and we tried not to do too much cheese before 10 months. And we never did meat until 14 or 15 months, but that was a personal preferance. I think the 'experts' say 9 months for meat. I say that's stupid. Babies don't need meat, and have a hard time digesting it. (And it makes for some really, really, really nasty diapers. Trust me!!)

The only time I used baby food in a jar was when the kids were under 8 months, and we were traveling more than 2 hours away for more than one meal. Unless you're willing to take a cooler with ice (I did this occasionally), it's not safe.

Have I ever mentioned that I married a restaurant manager who is, by profession, a total food safety Nazi? Yeah, you won't be seeing any mold, botulism, or food poisoning over at our house.

I say that, and we'll probably all get sick because I was so prideful. Oy.

So that's how we did baby food. John helped a lot and made a bunch of it, too. I loved it, and if we have anymore kids, I'll be not buying jar baby food for them, too. If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments (I've changed it back so anyone can comment) or email me at brea.mangosteen(at)gmail(dot)com.

Coming next: How I Taught My 10-Month-Olds To Have Excellent Table Manners.