Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Weekend re-cap - home chores, 4th tap, Deckhands, patio

This past weekend I was on call, so we planned to stay at home and get a few things done.  One of them being "clean the gutters".  I realize that's a spring project...but procrastination is also a spring project.  I figured I was going to "help out", but it turned into a full-fledged project requiring my active participation in 90 something degree heat and humidity.  UGH.
To effectively clean the gutters we had to trim the oaks out back - some of the low hanging branches were scraping the roof.  So ladders were involved.  {Side note: we are getting too old for this} Hubby and I worked for HOURS in the heat - I don't know why we can't seem to stop doing that.  Absolutely brutal.  We made a gigantic mess of the backyard and many more bad words were said at top volume.  I'm sure the new neighbors were impressed.
Bubbie helped us bundle up what we trimmed and we managed to get it by the curb, all ready for brush collection today.  We filled several lawn bags that will go out, too.  And we also took out a shrub that was dying:
That giant empty spot is where it lived.  There are big empty spaces there, in general, that I need to do something about.  I will wait til the Fall, though.  {I need some suggestions for how to proceed if you happen to have a green thumb!} Anyhoo, around 4:30 or so, we called it a day, showered, and headed to 4th Tap around 6 p.m.
You wouldn't know by Hubby's smiling face the level of exhaustion.  We both felt like beer would make us feel better.  We were right.  They had a big air-conditioned space with cold beer and games to play - a nice place to wind down. We stayed there a while playing cards until we decided dinner out would be just the thing.
 So we headed to a favorite seafood place to enjoy fried clams,
Shrimp Pad Thai, and catfish stuffed with pico de gallo, bacon, and monterrey jack cheese.   It was all so good!  It was all we could do to eat, drive home, and collapse.  The next day we did a whole lot of nothing - I made a donut run, stitched, read, made cookie dough, did minor housework putseying, ordered pizza for lunch.  Hubby got dressed and declared he was not doing any chores whatsoever.  We did nothing to take a pic of or write about - just spent a nice day at home.
In the evening we sat on our newly cleaned patio, iced down some wine, and played more cards.  It was 96 out there, but the breezes through the patio are so nice and we barely noticed the heat.  I put a new chicken dish into the oven, sauteed some squash with red bell pepper and onion, baked some potatoes.  Hubby and I ate dinner on the patio as the sun went down, and slept like babies that night. 
I never got called in, so that was nice.  We have several 100 plus degree days ahead of us, so we aren't working that hard this coming weekend.  If at all.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Mealplan Monday #202

Monday - Pork Ribs in Crockpot, freezer veggie
Tuesday - Rotisserie Chicken Salads, Rock Island Tea
Wednesday - Leftovers or Pizza
Thursday - Crazy Beef Pasta*, salad or veggie
Friday - Lemon Garlic Tilapia, Broccoli Rice Casserole
Saturday - TBD (but I will fix the party rolls in advance so Sunday dinner will be EASY)
Sunday - Ham and Cheese Party Rolls, melon, chips

*I am making this one up with dibs and dabs of mismatched pasta, some marinara and a pound of ground beef I found in the freezer, along with plenty of grated mozzarella!

P.S.  How is July already half over?!

Friday, July 13, 2018

Five thing Friday - rainbow, plumbing, snack mix, easy summer meals, My CPA

Last Saturday it rained while the sun was still out - very freaky when that happens.  Our reward was a gigantic rainbow. Not to mention the rain itself!
At one point it was a double rainbow.  I had parked at HEB in just enough time to snap a pic of it, and people were coming out of the store to do the same.
Hubby and I worked on getting water to the inside of the barn last weekend.  We really have got to stop trying to do these types of things in this heat.  It was brutal.  But soon we will have a sink in there and a faucet closer to Mabels' door.
I made taco snack mix on Tuesday night.  I don't know what possessed me to be so industrious - I was super tired.  But the boys will all enjoy snacking on it.  And I feel like I barely make them treats anymore.
I also made Ham Salad for dinner one night - it was so good chilled and served on warm toast. This is a little different than the batch I made before - I added chopped poblano pepper, red onion and pickle relish, along with chopped celery.  So crunchy and delish!
Please excuse the blurry pic of The Girl's new profile for her job - she has passed all of her CPA exams and the ethics class so she is a full-fledged CPA!    She sent a note with this that said  "Look what we did!".  I cried with happiness for her and her(our) monumental achievement - she has always made me so proud.  I knew my girlie would do whatever she set out to do!

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Weekend re-cap - Historical Road Rally losers

*Technically, this happened during the week, and it so happens we didn't do much the following weekend, so I'm counting it for my re-cap...*
One of the wineries we enjoy visiting had an event planned for July 4th that sounded like fun to me.  I convinced Hubby to go, since the boys were going to be otherwise occupied.  In hindsight, I realize how flawed the whole plan was...
 We started out early so we could stop halfway and eat breakfast.
In Lampasas we ate at the Country Kitchen - a diner style restaurant serving basic breakfast grub.  It wasn't super cheap, but there was a LOT of food and we left thinking we could probably make it to lunch, putting it mildly.  The service was distracted and haphazard - we will likely not eat here again.
 Chicken fried steak is my latest craving.  And grits with butter cannot be beat!
 The trip to Hamilton from Lampasas is about an hour through some pretty Texas countryside.
 And we arrived at the winery early, but it gave us time to review the plan:
Get a map.  Plan on the drive time to be around 2 hours.  The rally will start at Red Wing Dove, continue to Fiesta Winery where you get a 15 minute pitstop and must buy a glass of wine for the navigator.  Find and document historical markers and sites along the way.  When you return to Red Wing Dove, grilled burgers and a glass of wine will be served.  You need one driver, one navigator, and photo proof that you found all of the sites (9).  The winner gets a bottle of wine and the title of Road Rally Champion.
We hung out at RWD for a little while, working on a puzzle until all the participants arrived and were assigned a departure time.  We were the first there, so first to leave.  We had Google map going and were figuring out the clue map along the way - it wasn't labeled, so you had to figure out what blue dot on the map represented what landmark and find it. That should have been the first clue that this was going to be challenging.
First stop - a cemetery.  A bad omen...
 San Saba Peak marker, Dam and Well marker in Goldtwaite.
We found every one of them, though we were sorely tempted to give up before we were done. We have zero knowledge of the area highways and byways, giving us a distinct disadvantage.  
At Fiesta, we ran into a road rally couple who had decided to just quit and were leisurely enjoying their wine, instead of gulping it in 15 minutes like we did.  In hindsight, I wish we had done the same. {and not just because that was an expensive winery}
The skies were looking ominous, but we were only halfway done and it was getting to be past the 2 hour time estimate.  We only got turned around once, for about 10 minutes - but it felt like we had entered a time warp.  I blinked, looked a the clock again, and it was 3 p.m. And we had three more sites to find...
The Shive, Texas marker and the Atherton School marker. 
We were so focused on getting the photo proof that we didn't get to read a single sign or learn anything of historical value.  It became a race to find that marker, get the pic, jump into the truck, and race off to the next.  Many bad words were said.
Schoelten Railroad marker
We didn't arrive back at the winery until 4:10 p.m.  We were the last ones to make it back.  No one even asked to see our pics so who could know whether we found every marker or not.  We ate a hastily (read: rare) grilled burger, paid our tab, and drove back 2 hours without stopping so we could be home in time to fix grilled hotdogs* for Scout, Dutch, and Firstborn. It was raining by then which was just as well - no one was in the mood to fight crowds to see fireworks.  And although it was no one's fault but our own, we decided not to revisit Hamilton for a while - the whole road rally thing was a good idea on paper, but I wish we had done something different with our holiday. 

*Our July 4th menu: Grilled Dogs, crockpot carmelized onions, Ranch Bacon Pasta Salad, chips, melon, and sangria!  I had most of it fixed in advance.  Thank goodness.  (:

Monday, July 9, 2018

Mealplan Monday #201

Monday - Crockpot Buffalo Chicken, mashed potatoes, leftover sauteed cabbage
Tuesday - Ham Salad on Texas Toast, melon
Wednesday - 3 Ingredient Beef Tacos*, seasoned beans, taco fixins'
Thursday - Green Chile Chicken Enchiladas, salad
Friday - Stuffed Sole Filets, Divine Asparagus
Saturday - YOYO
Sunday - Honey Soy Baked Chicken Thighs, small baked potatoes, yellow squash
This week I am making Peanut Butter Frito Cookies and Taco Snack Mix - more oven use than I wanted, but oh well.
*Ground beef, taco seasoning, Rotel - can't get any easier!

Friday, July 6, 2018

One Pot Spaghetti

I remember when I first ran across this recipe for spaghetti and meatsauce - I was skeptical.  But the photo of it looked good, and who doesn't love a one pot meal?  Plus, it was cheap to make, and I had everything on hand.  I had to try it.
It's one of our favorite meals, now!  You would never know it has such humble ingredients.  It can be adjusted to feed a bigger crowd and it freezes well, too. An all-round winner.

One Pot Spaghetti
1 # ground chuck
1 small onion, diced
29 oz chicken or beef broth (make your own and keep it in the freezer.  Or, use bouillon cubes and water - whatever you normally do for stock)
1 can tomato paste
1/2 t. salt
1/2 oregano
1/4 t. garlic powder and 1/4 t. black pepper
7 oz uncooked spaghetti

 You can change up the spices if you like - there have been many times I used fresh garlic, and this time I used Italian seasoning, for example.
 Brown the beef and chopped onion in a little olive oil on medium heat.
Oh, and by the way, I can never find those small packages of spaghetti, so I just use half of a large package, which might be a smidge more than 7 ounces, but it always works out.  You could also sub in a different kind of pasta - it all works.  I have a container for odds and ends of pasta in my pantry - it all gets used up!
 Drain the meat, add it back to the pan, and add everything but the pasta.  Bring it to a gentle boil.
Lower the heat, put the pasta in - its in there, under the broth.  Looks like soup...stay with me.  Set a timer for 15 minutes.
 Wait a couple minutes, then stir every now and again so your spaghetti doesn't cook in a clump. Keep the pot uncovered.
 Keep start to see the sauce thicken up.
 It's like magic!
 I put ours into a glass dish, topped it with parmesan - that will make leftovers easy to store.  We had ours with garlic toast and green beans and it was an easy weeknight meal.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Weekend re-cap - Brenham, Liberty Hill, Burnet, San Saba

We hit the road on Saturday, heading to Brenham to visit my mother.  We enjoyed some kolaches and a nice drive with little traffic.  There is a lot of growth along 290 which translates into more traffic lights and more cars.  290 isn't known for being a sweet little hour and a half jaunt into Brenham anymore.
While we were there, I worked on some kitchen cleaning, washed a couple of loads of laundry to hang out, and found a couple of eggs the chickens were hiding.  Hubby put new batteries in the thermostat, helped turn her mattress, bought her a fan, and fixed her vacuum cleaner.  We enjoyed some Marmalade Chicken Salad sammies, chips, and blood orange beer.  Mother gifted me a quilt and some eggs and onions.  We left around 3 p.m., sweaty and tired, but it was a good visit.
 I worry about her yard - looks like it needs a haircut, and the chicken holes are merely disguised by grass now - its a landmine trap of uneven ground just waiting for her to fall again...maybe that will be a Fall project.  Its way too hot right now - we are already into 100 degree days.
 We stopped by a nearby winery along the way - Windy Winery.  It looked cute from the outside, but there was a wine bus parked outside - a wine trail is in full swing and this was one of the stops.  Bad sign.
Visiting a winery when a wine trail or wine club pick-up is happening does not usually make for a great first impression.  A lot of smaller wineries just can't handle the influx of people in a graceful way.  You don't get much in the way of tasting notes from the person pouring - there are just too many customers to too few wine stewards.  And the bus usually gets priority since they are on a schedule.
 We found this one to have somewhat overpriced and marginal wines.  They grow two grapes - the same ones that Saddlehorn grows - but the wine was not as good and couple of them were just different versions of the same grape.  It had a pleasant patio that we didn't linger on.  We probably won't go back and that's a shame as the owner took pains to make sure my tasting wasn't lost in the crowd of bodies from the wine tour.
We hit the road again, taking back roads to skirt around Austin and head towards Burnet.  But it had been a looong time since lunch.  And I wanted to try this place in Liberty Hill for dinner.
From the street it looks like not much.  But in the back is a LOT of parking and a giant backyard, full of shady oaks and tables and a band playing country tunes.  None of those guys could have been younger than 80 and it was delightful.
They had a separate little building serving cold drinks you could order while you waited for your table. It was warm out there, but not terrible - they had misters going and so much shade from the trees.
 Kids were running around everywhere - a very family friendly place.  We enjoyed the tunes and a couple of beers.
We ended up getting seated inside and dinner was ridiculously good - chicken fried steak with jalapeno cream gravy, crisp-tender green beans, fried okra, homemade roll.  I didn't get a picture of it because I was busy shoving it into my mouth.  I haven't had a meal that good in a long time!  We sat outside a little while longer, then headed homeward.
 {Warning - graphic picture of decapitated rattlesnake!}
We arrived back at Highlands at dusk just in time to have a run-in with a rattlesnake.  We won. But it wasn't a fun after dinner activity, so we unwound at the firepit with a nice bottle of red and called it a day! Thankfully, I didn't dream about snakes.
The next morning we fried up some bacon and enjoyed some of the eggs from Brenham.  We didn't have any chores to do, so we generally kicked back.  Hubby hosed off the truck.  I walked around a little, hearing a cow mooing some ways over that sounded like a mama looking for a calf.  Other than that, no more wildlife encounters.  We sunned for a bit until it got too hot. 
{Looking up Highlands' driveway and out to the road.}
We left around 1 p.m. to do a little exploring in San Saba - there is a winery there that is also opening a tasting room in Burnet.  So we had to check it out.
Along the way we ate in Buchanan Dam.  It's a typical grill, serving burgers and such.  Very fresh, friendly people, but closing at 2 p.m., like most places out this way on a Sunday.  And yes, I had the Big Dam Burger - served with onion rings - so good.
San Saba is just a hop, skip, and jump away through winding highways of scenic Texas ranch land.  It's a cute little town - looks like they are trying to revitalize the downtown area.  Lots of places were closed (because of their 2 p.m. hard stop on Sundays) but the tasting room was cool and inviting.
We were the only ones there, so we had the steward's full attention.  She was very knowledgeable and friendly, the wine was all very good, and before you know it, we had joined their wine club!  The owners came in and introduced themselves - turns out they are friends with TNL and Perisso's owners, too.  They are cooking up collaborative events that sound like fun.  It will be great to have them in Burnet!
Small town Texas is very charming!  The tasting room was in a restored old building downtown.  We left for home at 4:30 p.m. and sat down to dinner by 8 p.m. with Scout, Dutch, and Bubbie.  We learned a new board game (Castle Panic) and ended the weekend exhausted and happy around 10 p.m.  This week is an easy one - work two days, off one, work two, then another weekend.  Happy Independence Day!  We are in Hamilton today having a road rally adventure - more about that later!


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