Friday, August 31, 2018

What matters most

I really don't intend for my blog to turn into a Sad Fest.  Its mainly just a place for me to journal about our life as a family.  But lately, I feel like Hubby and I are the Lone Rangers at home.  No "kids" to look after.  So we look after ourselves, and lately, I've been trying hard to keep up with looking after my mother from afar.
Yesterday I took a day off from work to visit with her.  My plan was to help run some errands with her and feed her lunch.  We went to the bank, the municipal court building (for her to pay her traffic ticket), and HEB.  We enjoyed a couple of meatball sandwiches for lunch, and I hung out a load of laundry for her. (she refuses to use the dryer)  We searched high and low for a form she misplaced from the insurance company, then found it much later, after errands.  The stacks and piles and scraps of paper, the level of gives me anxiety.  I feel like I am barely able to help her.  Mostly, I just want to spend time with her.  I am trying to focus on the important things like that.
It used to make me cry with guilt and relief when I left her house.  My home and family are so different, and my mother and I are worlds apart in most every way.  But she always looks me in the eye and tells me she loves me.  So I will do whatever I can.  But I worry that the "what I can" will not be sufficient.  I took myself by Saddlehorn on the way home and sat outside and drank a glass of wine - they had just mowed and even in the heat of the day, it smelled heavenly and was a lovely break.
I also decided to stop by the store and get something to actually cook my peeps for dinner - not takeout pizza like I had planned.  (I made bacon wrapped BBQ chicken, a chopped salad, and fresh corn on the cob - yum!)  I saw these funny apple treats and bought a box - they reminded me of when my kids were small and I packed lunches every day.  Someday, they may be in the position I am in.  Will they squabble with each other, or will they do their best, too?  Hopefully, they will remember that we are a family, and that's what matters most.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Weekend re-cap: Perisso's, STW, Pottery Ranch, Bill's, Bent Oak

It doesn't look like I'm going to get better at photo-documenting our weekends anytime soon...But it was a stressful week, so I am giving myself a break.  And this coming weekend I am on call, so I will skip the re-cap.  I'm sure it will involve chores, and possibly going to work.  So.
 We started out by eating at a Mexican restaurant in Liberty Hill.  It wasn't great - $50 later we decided that we could have had a cheap meal and been happy.  We sat outside at Highlands for a while, then tucked ourselves into bed by 10:30 or so to rest up.  Because the next day bright and early was harvest at Perisso's!
 All of us picked 13.1 tons of Tempranillo and Touriga in about 2.5 hours.
 It was actually very fun!  Afterwards they had a grape stomp...
 ...and lunch.  With wine, of course!
As it was also release day at STW, we puttered around to kill time until 1 p.m. when they open.  We have always wanted to check out the pottery and imports store on 281 - The Pottery Ranch.  It was about a billion degrees outside with the humidity, but we managed to kill over an hour admiring the Talavera pottery,
 the rustic farmhouse window art,
 more pottery, handmade furniture, wind chimes, water fountains, a horse (real),
 and so much other stuff.  The inside was packed with jewelry, decorating accents, candles, linens and pillows, leather stuff, art for the walls...omg too much to look at.
 By then we were POOPED to say the least.  We enjoyed our popcorn and beer (the fructum bonum is wonderful) , visited with a couple of friendly gentlemen, played cards and...
 ...enjoyed the miracle of a newly air-conditioned tank room.  (the white object in the upper left hand corner of the photo).  Amazingly, they weren't at all busy, which is unusual for a release day.  We left around 3:30 to nap in our lounge chairs at Highlands.  We grilled some Hatch Chicken with squash, potato, and onion.  I might have dropped off again in my comfortable in the breezy shade.   I missed out Hubby yelling at a possum which was encroaching on the barn.  {#countrycritters}  The next day, I slept in - gotta love Sundays now.  We made an easy breakfast, then left around 1 p.m., intending to enjoy a burger in Marble Falls, and try out a winery next door.  But that winery turned out to be closed, so we made a plan to visit Westcave Cellars.  Sadly, we got turned around and ended up on the opposite side of Lake, another day for Westcave, I guess.  Curse you, Google maps!
Plan C was a winery located in Cedar Park, which we knew nothing about.  Set in an industrial park, it looks like nothing much on the outside.  But we walked inside and it was AMAZING.  A jazz saxophonist was playing, there was soft lighting, scented candles, people clustered around in eclectic seating, obviously having a great time...
The owner was very friendly and the wine was outstanding.  How in the world had we missed this place?  It is literally 10 minutes from our house!  They have a 500 member plus wine club which is wait list only - sign us up for that wait list!  It was an awesome end to our afternoon and I'm sure we will visit again soon.  We headed home and enjoyed a healthy version of tater tot casserole, salad, brownies with ice cream...and early bedtimes.  A very nice ending to a fun weekend and a great start to what is already another stressful week...

Monday, August 27, 2018

Mealplan Monday #208

Monday - Buffalo Chicken Bites, quinoa, seasoned corn
Tuesday - Hot Dogs, potato salad, pickles and carmelized onions
Wednesday - (leftovers) Apple Pork Loin pasta bowls, salad
Thursday - Pizza take-out
Friday - Italian Baked Shrimp (we didn't eat this last week), zucchini
Saturday- YOYO
Sunday - Pork Chop and new potatoes sheet pan dinner, Arkansas green beans*, simple berry cobbler and ice cream

*This is a Plain Chicken blog recipe and my official favorite way to eat green beans!

Friday, August 24, 2018

5 thing Friday - drought, abalone shell, Jenga, pie, worry

The Austin area is having another scorcher of a summer - this one is turning out to be hotter than last summer (which was record-breaking), with over 45 days of 100 plus heat.  So, the drought is still on, and we could sure use more rain.  More than what we got the previous weekend and for a longer period of time.
Last weekend, we mowed the grass at Highlands.  A spark from an overheated engine can set the place ablaze, so it worries me.  We hadn't mowed since right after the bluebonnets died down.
The skies are still blue, the trees are still doing well, but everything else is so yellow.  Even the cacti seems to be struggling.
After a morning spent mowing, who doesn't enjoy Whataburger and a beer?
And we "beered it forward" to some friends we hope will stop by!
I found a treasure under the oaks that we cleared around to put a table for giant Jenga.  I think I will use it as a little dish on my nightstand.  At one point in time, Highlands was a virtual dump. I often joke with Hubby that any day now, we will either find a body, or a bank robber's stash up there.
That table weighs a TON and was already on the property.  It is plenty sturdy for a Jenga game in the shade.  And since the storage box for the games pieces is also heavy, it can live under the table.
Peaches are in season and plentiful, so I made a peach pie last Sunday using of my pie crusts in my freezer stash.  I boiled water to let sit on the peaches a couple of minutes, and the skins slid right off,  Then I sliced them up and added, sugar, a bit of flour, cinnamon, dash salt, and butter.  It was buttery peachy wonderful!
The situation with my mother is still a thing and has my sisters and I worried and at odds over what the solution is.  I took her grocery shopping on Wednesday, and she seemed to do fine.  But later, she showed me her bruises and burst into tears.  This isn't like her, and I know she herself is worried.  She thinks time will heal her wounds, and I'm sure that is true, but I don't think bruises are the only concern.  For now, I hope the three of us can give her some peace and not talk to her about it constantly.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Freezer meals #19

My collection of freezer meals this go-round is mostly tried and true.  I bought the ingredients along with my regular food shopping after work on a Monday and got started assembling them on Tuesday morning.  This time around it took me about an hour to do - but I made a HUGE mess in the kitchen, as you will see...that required some KP afterwards.  Still, I'm pretty pleased with my efforts!
Step One is always getting organized - labeling bags, and setting all of the ingredients and recipes out.  Here we go!
Comfort Chicken - 2 pound boneless chicken thighs, 1 can cream of chicken soup, pinch dried thyme, 1 c water, 1 bouillon cube, 1/2 an onion chopped, 5 carrots peeled and sliced.  I will cook on low in the crockpot 7 hours and served with mashed potatoes.

BBQ Ribs - (this is actually a pork roast because I couldn't find the ribs!) I made a rub with brown sugar, garlic, paprika, cayenne, S&P and coated the roast.  Then added it to the bag with 1/2 c or so of spicy honey BBQ sauce.  Will cook on low in the crockpot probably 8 hours.

Ranch Pork Chops - 6 boneless pork chops with a mixture of homemade HVR dressing mix, 1 can cream of mushroom soup, and 1/2 c milk poured over.  I will cook 7 hours on low in the crockpot.

Shredded Korean Beef for tacos - this is sooo good!!

Taco Chili - 1 pound ground beef cooked and drained, 1 can drained corn, 1 medium chopped onion, 1 c black beans*, 8 oz. tomato sauce, 2 can diced tomatoes,  1 small can diced green chilies,  1 packet taco seasoning mix.  Cook on low 6 hours in the crockpot.

Mrs. Ringle's Brisket Chicken - Couldn't find brisket so I used up some chicken breasts I had!  I cut each one into thirds, coated them with dijon mustard, rolled them in onion soup mix, and placed in the ziploc.  Will cook on low in the crockpot about 6 hours, or in the oven at 375 for about 25 minutes.

Nashville Hot Chicken - we've had this one before and it was a big hit - we eat it on onion hamburger buns.

Buffalo Bites - I cubed a couple of very large chicken breasts into 1 inch pieces and coated them in a mixture of HVR and buffalo sauce.  I will cook them at 375 for about 20 minutes on a sheet pan and serve over quinoa bowls.  Easy peasey.

*I also got the crock going for black beans which I will use in the taco chili, as well as in taco salads and such.
 And here is the mess I made.  Sigh.  I had about 15 minutes to clean it up before I had to get dressed for work!  And believe it or not, when 15 minutes was up, the dishwasher had been unloaded, reloaded, and taco salads for dinner made.
 Boom, baby!  I also took the trash out...just keeping it real here.
For all that work, it takes up so little room.  But that's a few meals to see us through the next 8 Mondays.  That's generally when I plop something in the crockpot so I don't have to shop for groceries until after work...
God Bless the working woman!!

Monday, August 20, 2018

Mealplan Monday #207

Monday - Cranberry Chicken (freezer)*, couscous, green veggie
Tuesday - Beef Taco Salads
Wednesday - Italian Shrimp, rice, zucchini
Thursday - Crockpot Cowboy Beans
Friday - Seasoned Chicken Cutlets, Divine Asparagus
Saturday - yoyo
Sunday - Healthier Tater Tot Casserole, salad
*the last of the freezer meals so I need to plan some new ones!

Friday, August 17, 2018

Today's worry

In recent years, my mother has hurt herself, sometimes gravely.  There was the incident on the railroad tracks in downtown Brenham where she fractured her patella and spent 6 weeks in a full leg cast.  Falling on the wet back deck and splitting her scalp, requiring stitches.  Getting shingles just above her eye. (eyesight is a constant worry for her)  Tripping and falling on one of the numerous chicken holes near the garden and breaking her arm.  Hitting a deer with her truck, causing big damage. Getting an eye infection that threatened the sight in one eye recently. And just a couple of days ago...
 ...failing to yield at a stop sign and getting t-boned, totaling her truck and bruising her ribs, among having other things like lost keys, shock and confusion, and possibly a bruised liver.  Also, she has zero transportation now and all of us are many miles away.
Even Gus is worried.
She's already talking about getting another truck, but even if she were 100% sharp, we think her driving days may be coming to a close...and some hard decisions need to be made.  Because sometimes, insurance companies give side eye to 88 year olds with sight issues that have a totaled truck in an at-fault accident.  And sometimes daughters have to come up with a better plan.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Finally, rain!

Its been at least a month since our last real rain at either Camp Rustown or Highlands.  I know central Texas is a big area, and some parts may have gotten a good pour, but us? No.  My front year is really suffering because Hubby had procrastinated on getting the sprinkler system repaired.  And we won't even talk about the back yard...Plus, Highlands is virtually yellow except for the cedar.
 All day last Sunday we watched dark clouds roll by, thinking that any time now, we would have rain.  We did absolutely nothing but rest all day.  Finally, around 4 we wandered down to sit in our swing and then we noticed - the winds started picking up, it got darker and cooler, thunder started happening, drops started falling...we almost didn't make it back to the barn in time.
The sound of rain on that metal rooftop is deafening.  It was a nice, drenching downpour - exactly what we needed!
We sat and watched it roll over our hill and across - you couldn't see to the other side of the lake from where we sat.  It seemed like the water puddles were gone in a flash - the whole area just soaked it up.
 The grass is so dry - a real fire hazard.  Hopefully it rained some more up there this week.  We are going to Highlands early on Saturday to do some mowing and cut down a dead cedar or two.
It was all over in about an hour and we watched it move away towards the east.  And when we got home, the boys said it had rained pretty hard at Camp Rustown, too.  Thank goodness for finally getting some relief for the yards and trees!

Monday, August 13, 2018

Mealplan Monday #206

Monday - Roast and Gravy (freezer), mashed potatoes, peas
Tuesday - Cheese and Bacon Spread* on toast, chopped salad
Wednesday - Alamo Bowls with leftover chicken taco meat (freezer)
Thursday - Beef Enchiladas (homemade enchilada sauce from freezer), salad
Friday - Cod with parsley lemon breadcrumbs, bacon-y green beans
Saturday - TBD
Sunday - Dr. Martin's Mix, garlic toast, peach pie with ice cream
*My mom made this for us growing up: grate up enough cheddar cheese for the folks you are feeding, cook some bacon (whatever amount you have) and crumble it into the cheese.  If you are feeling fancy, mince some green or purple onion and add that, too.  Mix with enough mayo to make a spread and add in some fresh ground pepper.  Serve on toasted bread.


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