Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Jan 2012

Guess who has working internet after 6 months with none! Thanks Beth, Promise, and Ryan for helping us dig a trench and bury 450 feet of ethernet cable in the dark!  We’re running a line from our neighbor’s house to ours until the local provider can give us our own service.  They are maxed out right now, and probably will be for the next year or so, until they improve the local towers or add more towers.

A week into January I hosted a lovely wine and chocolate girl’s night while the men went camping. We got so carried away with conversation that we never even made it to our chick flick.  The guys came home from camping with lots of stories, including how they saved a baby goat!  They named him Cedric and carried him to the rangers. How awesome is that! 

Jon's back and sciatica pain are back to normal now, thank the Lord.  We got a memory foam mattress topper and a contoured pillow. Those, plus the stretching, plus the chiropractor, helped little by little.

Not long into January we got back to normal life.  No visitors, no trips, no holidays, no more crippling back and sciatica pain; just normal life.  We got busy and back into the motion of homeschooling, house cleaning, exercising, cooking, and working. And we finally got into full swing on the weekends. Jon was working on finishing the kids loft beds and their room.  I’ve been keeping busy on the weekends cleaning out, organizing, and purging even more of our belongings.  Now every time I walk into my bedroom, I breathe a deep breath of relief, because there are no longer piles of boxes lining every wall.  And every time I walk into the kids’ room I smile to see their cute new beds!  Their room finally looks like a real room.  Not a work in progress with mattresses on the floor.  We are happily tired.  It feels so good to be making visible progress.

The boys had so much fun sleeping in their new beds the first week! I'm really glad Ben didn't fall off; he's such a wiggly sleeper. He ends up in all kinds of positions. Even with the guard rail, I was kind of worried.  Xena now has to deal with being handled more, which is so not her preference.  We lift her up to put her on the top bunk with the kids at night and lift her down in the mornings.  We alternate who she sleeps with each night.  She loves sleeping with the kids, but she hates being “handled.”

Every morning I get Caleb started with his math lesson.  Then I sit on the couch with Ben for his reading, phonics, and language arts lessons.  The instant it’s Ben’s turn to read something to me, he has to arrange, rearrange, and yet again, rearrange his pillows to maximum comfort.  Then he remembers he doesn’t have his special blue blanket, so he gets up to get it.  Then he has to get comfortable again.  Then the stretchies come.  Oh boy, does he get the stretchies!  Then the yawns start in.  Then a page or two might get read before it all starts again.  It’s maddening and hilarious, all at the same time.  I finally wised up and now I give him a few minutes before we start to get it all out of his system.  This drastically cuts down on all the wiggles, stretchies, and yawns!

Caleb is getting more comfortable with math.  He was struggling for awhile there.  But it’s clicking now.  Yea!  Ben is flying with reading.  It was just at the beginning of kindergarten this school year that he was even introduced to a majority of the letter names and sounds.  He’s got all those down and is reading through beginner reader books easily.  It amazes me how different the reading experience has been for both of my boys.  Caleb took much longer to comprehend the abstract ideas, which is what words are.  Ben just soaks it all in and it sticks so quickly and easily for him.  Caleb always excelled at building, 3D thinking, and concrete ideas.  It is so enjoyable to watch my boys grow and develop!

We are having a lot of new experiences here in Texas.  One morning, I woke up to an intense storm, a scared Ben, and tornado warnings. Poor Ben was scared because his PBS cartoons kept getting interrupted by the emergency broadcasting system with tornado warnings. So I got out of bed and we turned on the weather channel which kept saying, if you live in a trailer, get out and find shelter now, over and over. The electricity kept flickering in and out. And the voices on the television kept going into slow motion, all deep and creepy. Crazy! I began packing to go to a neighbor who lives in a real house and not a trailer like us, when the worst of the storm passed by.  While packing, I was thinking that I should probably be panicking or something, but I wasn’t. I remember thinking that I really hoped we didn’t get caught by the tornado because I took the few minutes to brush my teeth and make my coffee to put into my travel coffee cup. I’ve wised up and won’t take any extra minutes for extra’s next time.  I understand the danger level.

The storm passed through pretty quickly though. I am very thankful I didn't have to haul myself, my kiddos, and my dog through the storm on foot since our car battery died that morning. I’m also thankful the tornadoes didn't come into our area after all.  Jon jumped the car battery when he got home from work.  It’s kind of funny that of all the days for the car battery to die, it does so on tornado day.  After the intensity of the storm passed, the boys ran around outside with their rain boots and umbrellas.  They loved it!  I heard excitement and laughter with each flash of lightening and boom of thunder!  

I found myself a little happy spot one weekend, the Brazos County Master Gardeners Agrilife Extension site with demonstration gardens. It has a decent sized demonstration garden with lots of different raised planter beds, a butterfly garden, a rose garden, a composting teaching area, and lots of trees. Another day I chatted with another shopper at the local produce market, the Farm Patch.  She is a professional gardener who is on a local radio gardening program.  She gave me so many tips about gardening in this climate and so much more!  I am just that much more excited to get my garden going here.  So far, I’ve planted a variety pepper seeds in my kitchen window. I had ordered some fun varieties in the mail. I was trying to figure out which species was the yellow chili I found easily in California, that I can’t buy in grocery stores here in Texas. Apparently they're not just called yellow chilies. I deduced it must be the Santa Fe Grande Pepper. My pepper garden will also have Antohi Romanian, anaheim, jalapeno, long slim red cayenne, ancho, & Hungarian wax. So I have about 2 months while these seeds germinate to build my raised garden beds outside & fence them off to somewhat animal proof the garden area. I'm excited!

Our new espresso machine arrived and is working great!  I’ve decided to only use it on the weekends to watch my calorie intake.  Then I’ll have a yummy latte to look forward to on our busy working weekends.  Getting the bathroom in the extra little trailer house in better repair is next on the list for our working weekends. We are looking forward to getting rental income.  It won’t be much, but it will really help!

I’ve been a busy girl in the kitchen.  I really enjoying trying new things; it keeps me interested.  I got my pasta roller attachment for my Kitchenaid.  It was so fun to use.  I’ve made homemade ravioli with two kinds of pasta dough and two kinds of filling. It was all yummy, but some was better than the rest. I love my new kitchenaid pasta roller!  I love discovering how to make meals we love and recipes that I deem “keeper recipes.”

I attempted to recreate my favorite breakfast dish from Ruby's Diner, Huevos Rancheros.  My version is Huevos Rancheros sans Huevos. I would always order it without egg and with turkey sausage instead. And I intentionally use the French for "without" and Spanish for the rest. That's the way I say it.  It turned out delicious!  I think what most excited me about the recipe was how I made ground turkey into tasty breakfast sausage. Yum!

I also attempted a knock-off Cinnabon recipe.  It turned out unbelievably delicious!  Here's the recipe http://allrecipes.com/recipe/clone-of-a-cinnabon/.  I did a few things different and made a few mistakes.  I must have been distracted that night.  I think my "mistakes" made it even better! It was amazing!   I (intentionally) used a packet of regular yeast (not bread machine yeast), which is 1/4 less tsp than you're supposes to have, but it was fine. I put the warm milk, sugar, & yeast in bread machine & let sit for 10 minutes so the yeast was all foamy. Then I added the rest of the wet dough ingredients, then the dry. I used butter instead of margarine. I accidentally added the 2 1/2 tablespoons of cinnamon & 1/3 cup of softened butter to the dough mix, not realizing that it was supposed to be for the filling. Of course I still made the filling. Definitely double the frosting!!!  That night I also made chicken fried steak, bacon, and eggs. Evilly delicious! I ate very small portions, but Jon gave himself a food coma.

Another evening I attempted making Chuy's Chicka Chicka Boom Boom enchiladas. This is my favorite meal from a restaurant we discovered here in Texas.  I couldn't believe I found the actual recipe online, http://treschicorganizing.blogspot.com/2009/02/boom-boom-recipe.html. I did a little research and watched the YouTube of the restaurant's chef making it to learn that they use jack cheese inside and on top of the enchilada. The green chilies refer to New Mexican green chilies. I couldn't find any, so I used poblano chilies. The recipe is written in ounces, so 1 ounce is approx 6 teaspoons, which helps if you’re like me and don't have a kitchen scale.  I made some enchiladas with corn tortillas and some with flour tortillas, thinking we would prefer flour. We all very much preferred the corn tortillas, like the recipe calls for.  It turned out soooo good and I recommend it to you!

In case you were wondering, Jon’s beer making was a big success!  He is enjoying his homebrewed double stout beer.  Now we have to get some to Aaron since he spent the day with Jon brewing it up.

Random Ben Antic:

Ben was dramatically "being dizzy" in the living room one morning. I couldn't help but think that it looked very much like a dance Mia Michaels would have choreographed on So You Think You Can Dance. Seriously.