Thursday, March 31, 2011

A Project for Audrey

Despite all my preparations prior to Baby Brother's due date, I am still finding things around the house that feel pressing and important to accomplish before We Three become Four.

Recently, I was struck with the conviction that Audrey should have something homemade and sweet to keep near while we are at the hospital. After thinking through several ideas, I settled on making her a book about becoming a big sister, starring (who else?) Audrey. I'm about halfway finished with it right now, and will hopefully finish it today. It seems foolish to start a project as time-consuming as this one right now, me being so overdue and all, but it feels like I have all the time in the world. So here's to Audrey's memento of gaining a baby brother, and to a keepsake that will hopefully last for quite a while.

Monday, March 28, 2011


My outdoor-kind-of-girl got to spend a lot of time outside this weekend. Doting relatives with the patience of saints let her drag them from the tips of the tops to the very bottoms of our backyard, and in the process she got to have her fill of sun, flowers, grass, dirt, birds, and best of all, bugs...

Photos taken by Aunt KK

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Early Bluebonnets

In Texas, there is a time of year when bluebonnets blanket all un-mowed areas, and the fields and medians take on the look of being covered with a breezy blue carpet. The transformation can begin as early as late February, but it usually takes a month or so for the flower patches to spread out, thicken up, and really live up to the Texas bluebonnet reputation. 

It is an exciting time for a little girl who is just awakening to the many different kinds of flowers that come with early spring, and we couldn't resist beginning the obligatory photo shoots a little early this year. Now, when we drive down the road, she points out every patch of "bah-loo bonnet flah-wers!"

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


This morning has been busy with various errands here and there, a few of which took us out and about. On the way home, the beautiful weather beckoned to us, and we ended up detouring to our neighborhood park for a good romp before lunch. Much to a little girl's delight, we had the park all to ourselves, and her budding sense of independence pushed her to play on the equipment all by herself this time (with only a few requests for Mama's hands here and there). It was amazing for this Mama to watch as she climbed like a monkey all over the playground, when only a few months earlier she wouldn't take a step without a parental shadow. Our little girl is growing up!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Best Almost-Healthy Oatmeal Cookies

OK, I know this isn't a food blog, nor would I pretend I could maintain one, but every once-in-a-while I like to share one of my fav recipes... especially if it's requested AND in the almost-healthy category. This recipe is based on my mom's oatmeal cookie recipe, but it's tweaked to be softer, have less sugar, more whole grain, and goodies like semi-sweet chocolate chips, walnuts, and/or coconut. So without further adieu, please enjoy...

The BEST Almost-Healthy Oatmeal Cookies
1/3 C white sugar
1/3 C brown sugar
1/2 C Crisco shortening
1 large egg
1 tsp. vanilla
1/8 tsp. almond extract
1/2 C whole wheat flour
3/4 C unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2 C quick-cooking oatmeal
1/4 C water
1/4 cup each mini-chocolate chips, walnuts, and/or unsweetened shredded coconut

Cream shortening with sugars. Add egg and extracts and beat until fluffy. Separately, combine dry ingredients (not including chocolate chips, nuts, or coconut). Add dry to wet while mixing on low speed. Slowly add water until dough is slightly sticky (you may need less than 1/4 cup).

Meanwhile, toast coconut and nuts (if using), cool completely, and add to cookie dough along with chocolate chips (if using).

Spoon on to greased or parchment paper-covered trays and bake at 350 for 15-18 minutes.

Makes 18-20 cookies.

Note: I glazed this batch to help them stay moist longer. If you want to glaze yours, mix powdered sugar, maple syrup, and a pinch of salt together with water to a slightly thickened consistency, dip each cookie, and let set before stacking or storing.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Potager Evolution

My energy and time and enthusiasm have all been poured into the potager during the last month or so. It helps that it's been unseasonably warm and that I've had lots of help this year, too, all culminating in the production of a winter-long re-design brainstorm. There were times when I'd step back and look at what had to be done and feel totally overwhelmed and like there was no end in sight, but it's a good thing I'm stubborn...

Let's take a look at the evolution of the thing, shall we? We all remember what it looked like last year...

So quaint...

The problem was that my four 4x4 foot raised beds weren't big enough to accommodate everything I wanted to plant. I ended up spreading things out around the yard, past the reach of the hose, and out of the regular monitoring range that the raised beds benefited from. I realized pretty quickly that it was a mistake to have, say, zucchini and pumpkins at the back of the yard with no amended soil, water, or pest control. It got my gears turning- what if I expanded the beds north and south to make room for my squash, gourds, and melons? That way, everything could be monitored and watered and perhaps would then stand a better chance for producing... well, anything. Hmmm. I sketched it out and started planning. 

In the meantime, the mud that I'd used to hold together the walls of the raised beds had weathered, shrunk, and washed away. I realized I should have used mortar from the beginning, and had made a labor-intensive mistake. Lucky for me, I have a crafty hubby and father-in-law who were able to solve the problem of my crumbling walls in a single afternoon. 

 A little dirt relocation, some sand and mortar, and voila! The base four squares were ready for another season. Thanks, guys!

Now we just had to implement my expansion designs and work through the late winter to get everything in order for spring! I was very insistent that procrastination not get the better of me this year, as last year I waited way, way too long to put seeds and plants in the ground, and I shorted myself quite a bit of veggie production due to the heat. So, this year, we started the rototiller in mid-February (and by we, I mean the hubs to the rescue, yet again). 

Don't feel sorry for the hubby, he had a great helper

Damp, hard clay and weeds tilled up and baking in the warm Texas February sunshine

With more help from the in-laws, the hard clay lumps and weeds were raked out of the newly tilled spaces, hauled to the back of the yard, and used to fill in holes that had been doggie escape hatches throughout the winter. Once that fun job was finished, it was time to start defining the new beds with stones.

This wasn't the best part the first time I did it, and it certainly wasn't my favorite part this time around, either, but we got it finished! I am so thankful for the free supply of stones from the front yard. What a huge bonus in our garden designs!

Don't feel sorry for me, either, as I also had an awesome helper

Things slowly started to shape up and fill in...

After multiple afternoons of toil and troubles, loads and loads of topsoil and compost, and many a muscle ache, my garden visions finally manifested themselves, and they now stand ready to receive their precious charges...

The trellis Bill made for me, based on a method for growing a "tomato wall" which I am super excited to try this season!

I finally decided to annex the tree and use it to support climbing cucumbers

As if my persistence, stubbornness, and particular directions weren't hard enough to work around, the hubs and the father-in-law also had to work around seeds I started planting in late February in the original 4 raised beds. They worked faithfully, though, and completed some of the hardest parts of the garden renovation for me without me having to lift a finger. This project was truly a community affair, and when our plants start to produce their springtime and summer treasures, we will feast in their honor and enjoy every bit of it!

This season, we will be growing:
Radishes (scarlet globe and icicle)
Sweet yellow onions
Lettuces (several varieties)
Green beans (green bush, purple bush, and pole)
Yellow squash
Tomatoes (roma, big boy, and celebrity)
Peppers (bell and hot)
Sugar pie pumpkins
Sugarbaby watermelons
Chives (standard and garlic)
 Red basil
Lots and lots of flowers

Friday, March 18, 2011

Gah-ween Coooooo-kies

This moment, this special, one-child-to-focus-on moment, to be captured and savored and shared... Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Terrible back lighting, I know...

Monday, March 14, 2011

A Year Ago...

One year ago, so much was different, while so much is still the same... in another year, how much more will be changed, and what will remain familiar? Thinking back while looking forward...

Saturday, March 12, 2011


We have officially embraced spring. Granted, the official first day may not be for another week or so, but the grass is turning green, the trees are budding, the breeze is warm, and the birds seem to think winter's gone, too! How could we resist opening the windows to air out the house? Or doing a little spring cleaning, organizing, and purging? Or getting back out in the warming soil to dig and plant and watch with wonder as our seeds turn in to sprouts? Though the calendar still declares one more week of winter, we have moved forward to embrace spring!

Oh, the grand plans we have for our outdoor spaces this season! The adventures... the picnics... the digging and exploring! Can't you feel that fresh springtime energy?

Fuzzy Head checking on the Aud-tree

Beautiful girl in beautiful afternoon sunshine

Inspecting radish and onion sprouts

May the next few weeks bring you something new, fresh, and wonderful! Happy (almost) spring!