Friday, March 30, 2018

Easter 2018

I am so looking forward to Easter - and yet I can hardly believe it is here.  It has been a year of great change for all of us, and great challenges. {and yet we have managed to make it to April!}  Although we do not plan to attend church, we will take time on Sunday to count all of our blessings and be humbled in their grace.  For one day, we will delight in each others' company, spending our time laughing and loving.  Then Monday will dawn, and we will then carry on about the business of life.  
That's just the way of Easter, no?
"The joyful news that He is risen does not change the contemporary world.  Still before us lie work, discipline, sacrifice.  But the fact of Easter gives us the spiritual power to do the work, accept the discipline, and make the sacrifice."  ~Henry Knox Sherrill
Onward, 2018

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Weekend re-cap - McReynold's, Iron Wolf, and Spicewood Vineyards

Last weekend, Hubby and I agreed we would stick close to home on Saturday and get a number of odds and ends chores done.  For me that included raking up at least a dozen lawn bags of leaves in advance of some rainy weather we were going to have, and cleaning up the back patio.  I also got some Easter shopping done, ran to the grocery store, did some laundry...all those things I hadn't had time for during the week.  Hubby filed the taxes.  Fix my bathroom sink.  Secured a toilet.  Mow and sprinkle weed and feed on the backyard. You know, manly things. (:
All that raking...then the oaks dropped their pollen buds...
 We went to Whole Foods and enjoyed some oysters and beer, then impulsively decided to run up to Highlands for the night.  The next morning we slept in and had a big breakfast just outside of the barn - had we done nothing else for the day, it would have been a great weekend.  But we decided to go exploring!  I don't even have a photo of the first place we went - a winery that was apparently up for sale and literally on its last bottle of wine.  I don't have a lot to say about that place that's positive - go here to read about them, but imagine banjos playing in the background...
 We paddled up to Spicewood, Texas and visited Iron Wolf Ranch Distillery.
 They had a large deck overlooking the hill country, with fire pits and playscapes and seating areas.
And you could do a tasting of their spirits, but they weren't allowed to sell you a bottle on Sunday, so we might as well enjoy a cocktail.  {And apparently, they had live music the night before and a food truck, so we will have to go back sometime!}
Both of us had some sort of citrus-y drink with fresh fruit and spiced spirits.  Mine had Hotscotch, which was whiskey with flavors of  butterscotch and peppers, and Hubby's had sweet and spicy whiskey with flavors of cinnamon and pepper.  Both were delish.  We saw someone getting a Bloddy Mary that looked good - with horseradish infused vodka!
Just three miles down the road is a winery - Spicewood Vineyards.  So of course, we had to check it out!  We had a tasting, then bought a bottle of very good tempranillo to enjoy with our picnic lunch.
It's a large winery with loads of covered patio space and a pretty water feature bubbling gently in the background.  I didn't take loads of pictures - it was just so relaxing and the wine was wonderful and we were busy snackin'.
We enjoyed some smoked mackerel, crackers, and cheddar with stout - Hubby's choices from Trader Joe's.  We packed it all in around 4 p.m. and headed home to enjoy dinner with the fam.  And that happy weekend feeling is still with me today!

Monday, March 26, 2018

Mealplan Monday #186

I can't believe how fast the year seems to be flying by...
Monday - Pulled Pork on buns, chips
Tuesday - Soft tacos with all the fixin's
Wednesday - (freezer meal) Leftover Beef Soup, garlic toast
Thursday - Beefy Pasta, leftover Arkansas Green Beans
Friday - Crockpot Chicken, rice, peas
Saturday - Pizza, salad
Sunday - Easter:  Olive Cheese Spread starter with mini crackers, celery, carrots.   Pork Tenderloin, Brussels sprouts or asparagus,  Cheesey Potato Casserole, rolls, Luby's Lemon Pie with fresh berries, pink and white cookies.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Making my house more beautiful on a regular basis

We're not in our dream home, but pretty close since we love it and have raised a family here.  When we first bought it we could barely believe our good fortune.  Bigger, nicer neighborhood, new everything. That was 21 years ago, and soon (maybe?) it will be time for us to build at Highlands.  Though there is a whole list of things I want to be different in our next home, there are some things here I can do to make this one more beautiful while we are here.  {you'll notice all of these "rules" sort of blend together...}
Keeping it neat - Rule #1 for me is keeping things neat and de-cluttered.  No matter if I don't keep up with the latest home decor trends, the surfaces can be cleared off and clutter dealt with.  I follow a little schedule of sorts so I don't get overwhelmed:  Monday groceries, Tuesday laundry and sheets, Wednesday floors and ironing, Thursday bathrooms, Friday bills and catch up groceries/odds and ends.  Every day I try to stay on top of the kitchen and that makes a world of difference.
 Windows that look out into the yard - I love the natural light and the window seat free of 1000 pillows and stacks of things.  "Clean the windows" is on my short list for Spring cleaning. I spend so much time in this kitchen, so keeping it clean is a must.
Wide open spaces.  I like how easy the floors are to clean without rugs - so I'm probably not going to jump in on the rug trend at this house.  The laminate floors we put in 13 years ago still look great.  Rugs are pretty, but Rule #2 for me is Don't Add More Stuff You Don't Need.  Even if you can get a great deal on it.  Even if its some new decorating trend.  Even if your favorite blog says "looks what I did, and you can too!"  I'm trying to live with what we have here - I don't want to move a mountain to Highlands.
This bathroom wallpaper was horrifying to me all those years ago.  I so wanted to change it!  But wallpaper, and the labor to install it, costs a fortune.  So we only replaced the flooring in here and let the rest be.  It's a clean and functional space and the colors actually appeal to me.  Rule #3 - If it Ain't Broke, Don't Fix It.  Work around it as best you can with colors and furnishings.  Keep it clean and neat.
 Would I love a new comforter and dust ruffle on this bed?  Yes and yes.  But I haven't found anything I love yet and for now, a simple warm blanket will suffice.  (not sayin' I won't, though...) Dusting it, vacuuming it, changing the sheets is all I do in here for now.  Years ago I painted this room a soft mushroom color and I still love it.  This room fits Rule #4 - Keep It Clean.  A clean bed to fall into at the end of the day, no clothes draped on the chairs.  And who wants to make their bed every day with 1000 pillows?  I'm doing good not to have it piled with laundry, so not me. 
Lastly.  For me, a beautiful home is all about the smells.  When my peeps walk in the door at the end of the day, yes I would love for them to smell a home cooked meal...and sometimes that happens.  But mostly I want for them not to smell old cooking odors and musty house that no one has been in all day.  So I use wax tart burners in cozy scents in a couple of places around the house, because Rule #5 is make sure it smells nice.  If the bathroom smells like PineSol, that's OK.  Our home should smell as relaxing and beautiful for us at the end of a long day as it looks.  
And I hope to incorporate all of those things in our new home.  Someday...

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Weekend re-cap - Marble Falls, Hamilton, Burnet

It's usually Wednesday before the weekend wears off for me - whether good or bad. (mostly good)  It seems like we're in the thick of it by Wednesday, so it wanes a little after that...but weekends help get us through the week, so...maybe I should do a regular re-cap of them.
Johnny Lee
I was off last Friday, rushing around getting things done - laundry, raking, cleaning carpets, getting an oil change.  Feeling generous, I ordered Bubbie and his gf a couple of pizzas for lunch.  Then as I was rushing out of the door to pick them up, he announced to me she was going to be very late for lunch as she was in line at DPS and they were skipping lunch and going kayaking.  GRRRRR.  TEENAGERS!! So when Hubby got home, I shoved that pizza into the fridge and we LEFT the house.  We headed to Marble Falls for dinner at this fun place where we enjoyed oysters, crawfish, catfish, and live music.  We ended the day gazing at the stars at Highlands, totally pooped.
 Hubby is a silly man on weekends!
The next day we headed out to Red Wing Dove Winery in Hamilton.  Its such a low key, friendly place - they don't do a wine club.  Instead they plan out fun stuff for everyone to enjoy - I really like that.  This particular Saturday they had a table spread of green deviled eggs, guacamole, Shepherd's Pie, and cupcakes, among other green foods.  We played cards, ladder golf, and washers and enjoyed watching a thunderstorm roll in.  We had picked up some brats to grill, so we headed to Highlands to build our campfire - still dry there.
The next day we enjoyed a Mexican breakfast at our fav place in Burnet, picked up some stuff we needed at Wal-Mart, then putseyed around Highlands for the day.  I didn't think to take pics of the projects, but it included putting those decals on the trailer, along with other small odd jobs.  At 2:30 p.m. we took a break to enjoy the sun and a bottle of wine before another thunderstorm rolled through, right around 5 p.m.  Those two days went pretty fast but we had a lot of fun and downtime.  And this weekend, we will be there again, but just for Sunday Funday - no chores to be done!

Monday, March 19, 2018

Mealplan Monday #185

Monday - Turkey and Havarti Sammies, low salt kettle chips
Tuesday - BBQ Beef and Beans*, garlic toast
Wednesday - Parmesan Chicken Whip Up, cabbage and carrots
Thursday - Dr. Martin's Mix, mixed veggies
Friday - Turkey Pesto Meatballs over pasta, zucchini
Saturday - yoyo
Sunday - Orange Chicken, rice, Arkansas Green Beans
*This really isn't a recipe, just something I have fixed my family for years.  Cook a few slices of bacon and drain.  Brown a pound of ground beef and drain.  Mix bacon and beef with two cans of pork and beans and 1 can diced tomatoes, both un-drained.  Add a little BBQ sauce, season it up, and let it simmer while you make garlic toast.  When my peeps were small, they gobbled this up - still do, come to think of it.  (:

Friday, March 16, 2018

5 thing Friday - a mixed drink, pretty pot, chicken pot pie, decals, Spring

Hubby and I enjoy a mixed drink now and again...
Last week, we used up the last of some tequila by mixing it with Central Market's Italian Sicilian Lemon soda and half a squeezed lime over lots of ice.  It sure hit the spot.  I'll call it the Sicilian Sombrero!
 Years ago, my Brownie girl decorated this terra cotta pot for me, but I could never get anything to live in it for long...I finally gave up and purchased a $1 succulent from Dollar Tree.  Now my pretty pot sits in the kitchen reminding me of my sweet girlie.  I think I can keep this one alive.
Chicken pot pie with leftover cubed chicken chunks, cream of poblano soup, leftover veggies, and homemade crust.  Oh, man.
I ordered some giant decals for the new-to-us trailer up at Highlands.  We have the smaller version on our vehicles.  Fun!
Spring is here!  Maybe it's not official, but don't tell that to my fig tree who is budding out.  Once my heel gets all healed (ha!) it will be time to work on the yards and rebuild the back deck at Camp Rustown.  Why does Spring make you want to get busy?  Maybe because nature is, too!

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

More gore

No apologies for this one.  You were warned in the title...
Mostly good stuff happens up on our happy little hill we call Highlands.  And most weekends are a good mix of relaxation and hard work.  But last weekend we might have overdone it a little bit on the hard work part.  We pulled on our snake boots Saturday and got to town, moving big trash (like rolls of steel fencing and steel poles sunk in concrete chunks) and chopping through cactus (like prickly pear and stick cactus).  Hubby mowed, I moved rocks and all was well until about 2 p.m. when we quit for the day and I noticed my heel was very tender.  Fast forward to Sunday and I could not walk in my boots the pain was so bad, so I ended up working in my moccasins. (we still have a lot of trash to collect, but its looking so much better up there!)
 On Monday, I put a blister bandage on it and padded it up for work.  It still hurt pretty bad, but I made it through my shift, but when I pulled the bandage off, the top layer of skin came with it.  Cue sad music.  After work yesterday I bought bigger bandages and antibiotic ointment, then when I got home, I sprayed it with hydrogen peroxide spray.  NOTE TO SELF:  never do that again.  I think my heel might fall off.  It hurts so bad I am stuck at home today, shoe-less.  Hubby and I are still pretty tired and sore, still picking stickers out of my hands (even with wearing leather gloves all weekend), and still having to readjust to the time change. It promises to be a loooong rest of the week...

Monday, March 12, 2018

Mealplan Monday #184

Time for another "leftovers" week - I need to clear out the freezer and get ready for Spring dinners, including Easter.  And my grocery budget could use a break!
Monday - Meatloaf Sammie on Texas Garlic Toast with muenster, curly fries
Tuesday - Chicken and Veggie Pot Pie
Wednesday - Hamburger Helper*, Salad
Thursday - Crockpot Chicken, mashed sweet potatoes, rice
Friday - Beef Lo Mein
Saturday and Sunday are TBD
I don't know why I feel like its a cop-out to serve Hamburger Helper - there is never a scrap of it left.  Its hot, filling, and easy enough to put together, plus I usually have a pound of ground beef in the freezer, and can store a few boxes of it in the pantry.  Working women gotta do what they gotta do.  No apologies for having this on my menus!

Friday, March 9, 2018

Aztec quiche

I've had this particular quiche recipe for years - given to me by a sweet friend, Bunni.  {Yes, that is her real name - she was born on Easter!}  I remember she was pretty jazzed about a cookbook written by someone who advocating making several meals at once, to freeze for later.  What a concept!  That was 1986, shortly after I began working with her.  She was kind enough to share the recipes with me.  It's funny how the make-ahead meal prep is all over Pinterest and blogs now!
 Aztec Quiche

1 1/2 c. shredded monterrey jack cheese
1 c .mild grated cheddar (didn't have any cheddar this time around)
1 package chorizo (optional)
9" pie shell (I used one of my freezer crusts since I just made a new batch)
4 oz. can chopped mild green chilies
1 c. half and half
3 eggs
1/2 t. salt
1/8 t. cumin

I peeled the chorizo (they are encased in clear plastic) and fried them up in a skillet on medium heat.  I guess it took 5 minutes or so.  Meanwhile, I parboiled some small potatoes to make skillet potatoes as a side.  You will need to drain the chorizo well - it makes a LOT of grease.  Set aside to cool.  Pre-heat oven to 325.
I love that I have those frozen crusts - I thawed this one, rolled it out on a floured section of counter, then patted it into my favorite quiche dish. 
Then I put the grated cheese into the crust and set it into the fridge while I got the rest ready.  I find that if I leave the excess flour on the counter and grate the cheese there, the flour helps me get every scrap of cheese easily off the counter without it sticking.
Combine the eggs, half and half, cooked and cooled chorizo, chilies, and seasonings and stir gently, then pour into crust.
 Bake for 40-50 minutes or until set.  While that was happening, I cut up the potatoes and cooked in a little fat with chopped onion and red bell pepper, until all were nicely browned and cooked through.
Then I cooled that and put it into the fridge for my peeps to heat up later.  (I prep it, they heat it up)  And I went on my merry way to work.
It was a super delish dinner and there were ZERO leftovers!
Thank you, Bunni.  I still think of you each time I make this for my family!

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Fun winery and patio

On Sunday, Hubby and I hit the road to visit this winery.  We had a very reasonably priced tasting (5 for $5) and settled on a bottle of a red blend to enjoy on the patio.  I told the som it reminded me of a red we enjoyed here.  And wouldn't you know it, the owners of both wineries are brothers and the wineries are at opposite ends of a large vineyard that they share.
That's when we had an aha moment and remembered the other winery telling us the same thing, about a year ago!  Ha!  We had forgotten they were just across the way...anyhoo, we sat out on their horse pen turned patio and enjoyed a snack of seasoned goldfish...
 ...which were delightful and I need to google a few recipes for that.
And though the patio was in sort of a winter mess, we thought the design of it was fun.  She told us that in the summer, they let folks walk through the vineyard to visit the other winery.
That thing in the middle is a wood-fired pizza oven.  Wouldn't this structure be fun up at Highlands?  Plenty of space to shelter from rain or blazing sun, an open roof to admire the stars.  Wood burning chimineas all around. Except for sweeping now and again and weeding that round gravel area once or twice a year, I think this one is creative and fun! 


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