Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Beaded Outdoor Mobile

Yep, totally have crafting fever again. I wandered into JoAnn today, and wandered out with the supplies to make THIS:

A beaded mobile for Lily Ruth's Hideaway!!! I used a package of plastic beads, a spool of 20 gauge hot pink copper wire, a pair of pliers, some hemp string and a pre-cut wooden spiral shape.

This is not truly a tutorial, because it's too easy for that. Rather, I shall lightly brag about how I spent my afternoon in a semi-explanatory fashion...

First, I added wire to each bead:

That took the most time. I tried to keep the shapes fairly free-form, but made sure that both ends of every bead had a loop for connecting.

Then I used a small nail to punch 5 holes in my spiral - 4 evenly spaced around the edges and one in the middle. I put a short piece of wire through each hole, and made loops on each side. The loop on the top holds the string, the loop on the underside connects to the beads:

After that, I just had to force my brain to allow for some randomness. I just stood underneath the spiral and made chains:

I love it so much that it may have to live indoors. Wait, maybe I should just make more chains and hang them in the doorways like bead curtains! :-P

Happy Wednesday, friends! Gotta dash.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

We're Finished!

I don't know if we're just on a roll, or if we spent too much money to back out, but we actually completed something as a couple and THE GARDEN IS DONE! There was no fighting, no crankiness, and no whining - and that's just the adults!

Lily Ruth was a champ for the entire weekend as well. She basically looked after herself for two days. We left the doors and windows open (except for the front door), and she happily cycled between watching movies, playing in various rooms and wandering out to check on our progress with very little intervention from us.

I got the seeds planted and mulched Monday morning, and we spent yesterday afternoon doing whatever Lily Ruth wanted as a reward for her amazing self-guided behavior through the whole process. It turns out that what she really wanted was to ride the Brackenridge Park train while eating gummi bears, then have a short visit to the zoo. Completely within our reach :-P

SO! Everything is planted. The bed configuration changed as we actually got them into the space, and I decided against the Thai chilis (I didn't start them as seedlings, so there's a big chance that they wouldn't grow), so here is the revised garden plan:
It's not terribly exciting to look at yet - just a lot of reclaimed wood and dirt...

Just a reminder - we didn't make this stuff up on our own! The instructions for building the beds came from Anything Pretty, and the how-to on getting the soil ready to plant came from Diane's Texas Garden. If we succeed, we will owe them both a debt of deep gratitude!

I made garden markers from wine corks today (googled garden markers diy, and it was one of the first ideas):

Now I just need to buy a new package of bamboo skewers so that I can stick 'em in the beds! Lily Ruth and I also took the markers outside and drew on the front of 'her' bed. My plan is to make that thing so fancy that she starts begging the beans to grow faster. For now, we labeled it 'Lily Ruth's Hideout', and drew flowers and spiders on it.

I have too many ideas in my head! This happens almost every time that I get creative. I end up trying to do way too many projects at one time (remember December?), then I burn out for a while. Right now, I want to make 2 outdoor mobiles - one with wine corks and one with wire and glass beads. Or I could turn off my brain and take my daughter to the library... That's what I'll do. I'm tired of The Runaway Pancake...

Monday, March 26, 2012

Veggie Fever

It's official - the weather is GORGEOUS here! Cool all morning, up to 80 or so after noon and beautiful evenings. I want to live outside. This will change soon...

Thursday, we went to the zoo. Not our usual visit. We had much more quiet time:

We even caused a feeding frenzy:

After petting giant goldfish for a loooooong time (yep - you heard me! The big ones move slow and their eyes are set so far apart that they can't see you coming in until it's too late :-P), we went home and opened up the house. The dog days of summer approacheth, but for now, it's too lovely to miss out on.

Friday, my outdoor lust continued as Fertile Garden Supply delivered 3.5 cubic yards of Light Garden Mix. In case you're wondering, here's what $122 (+ a giant delivery fee :-/) of dirt looks like:

Over the weekend, we finished assembling the beds and added the soil (and other good stuff). The air wafting over my desk smells of promise and hard work to come...

This gardening madness and an overdose of fresh air has left me with a sharp, almost painful yearning to cook with fresh foods. To that end, I am revisiting my Warm Weather Lasagne! This go-round, it is yellow and green - just like spring!

Today's Warm Weather Lasagne
fills one 9" X 13" baking dish
*most measurements are approximated - just go for it!*
olive oil
1/2 head of garlic - coarsely chopped
1 pkg fresh ricotta (mine was approx 14 oz)
1 bunch fresh basil - thinly sliced
3 links Italian sausage - casings removed (I used mild today)
1/2 Lb crimini mushrooms - sliced
1 bunch Swiss chard - coarsely chopped
1 pkg Lasagne noodles
6 fresh mozzarella 'knots'
1/2 Lb broccoli - chopped
1 med. zucchini - chopped
1 med yellow squash - chopped
1 pkg yellow tomatoes - quartered
1 pkg Panela cheese
Parmesan cheese

Combine the olive oil and the garlic (you want LOTS of both) - set aside and let them mingle. I left mine alone for 2 hours before starting to cook. You can also chop all of the other stuff now, or you can scramble around like a headless chicken and try to do it all while stuff cooks - guess which method I usually employ...

Combine the ricotta and the basil. Add a little of the garlic (leave the oil in the dish).

In a large skillet, cook the sausage then set it aside to drain. Drain the grease, then use the same skillet to saute the mushrooms - use a teaspoon (or more) of the garlic and olive oil. When the mushrooms are almost done, add the chard, turn off the heat, and cover. Once the chard is wilted, you're ready to start layering!

Slick up the bottom of your baking dish with some of the garlic-y oil. Cover the bottom of the pan with noodles - I don't boil them first, and I use the flat kind. Carefully (so as not to move the noodles, evenly distribute the sausage and mushrooms. Sprinkle the chopped mozzarella on, then cover the whole layer with the chard:

Add another layer of noodles. Using the same skillet (or a different one if you feel like washing more dishes...), lightly cook the zucchini and squash with some more of the garlic- I also added a tiny bit of water, so mine was actually braised if you wanna be all specific. When the squash are just barely cooked, add the broccoli and cover & cook until it turns bright green. Layer it in:

Cover that layer with the ricotta mixture. Cover that with the tomatoes and any garlic and olive oil that you might have left over:

Add another layer of noodles, and top the whole thing with the Panela cheese. I used Panela because it has a different texture and slightly saltier taste than mozzarella - you could use mozzarella. Cover the pan with foil.

Bake at 400 for 45 minutes to 1 hour - when it's hot all of the way through, it's done. Uncover and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Eat as soon as it's cool enough. This was so good that it was surreal. You should make it now.

NOTE: The noodles need moisture in order to cook, so add in all of the liquids that you encounter in the cooking process - whey from the ricotta, water in the skillet from sauteing and braising, innards from the tomatoes, etc. I also threw in the liquid from the container of fresh mozzarella (approx 1 cup). If it doesn't seem moist enough to you, add in some water or broth. You can also add liquid as it cooks if it seems too dry. If there isn't any condensation on the inside of the foil as it bakes, it's toooooo dang dry!

Happy eating, friends!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Found It!

Well, I turned 39 last month. This is not huge news in and of itself as birthdays happen every year.

Lily Ruth's Daddy took me on a wonderful wine tasting outing to celebrate. It was fantastic! Possibly the best trip we've ever taken together. We simply had a great time the whole time - no sniping, no 'you didn't think this through or make a plan!?' Just relaxed fun. We took our map of the Texas Wine Trail, and headed out.

First stop, Dry Comal Creek. We already love their wines, so stopping there was a no-brainer. We had a great tasting in a completely casual and relaxed atmosphere, and left with several bottles of wine (no, silly, not ALL of those!):

We stopped at Pedernales Cellars next, but they were PACKED, and unprepared for that volume of business. We would have waited 10-20 minutes just to get to the tasting counter, and the next tour of their underground cellar wasn't for another 45 minutes :-( We'll try them again another time...

We debated about our next stop, because we had several options. In the end, Becker Vinyards won out, and I am soooo glad that it did! We had a very large amount of fun at Becker.

When you buy a tasting there, they give you a glass (that you keep) and 6 tickets for wine tasting. Then you stand around their huge rectangular bar and trade in your tickets for the wines of your choice. Not only is their new(ish) tasting room absolutely gorgeous, but their staff is big fun. Also, one thing that drunk people are terrible at is holding onto small pieces of paper. Every time we looked down, there were more tickets on the floor and no owners (apart from us) in sight.

After spending way too long falling in love with the Malbec at Becker, we wandered off to find lunch in Fredricsburg. Mmmmmmm, lunch. I'm not a huge fan of posting pictures of meals, but I was having too much fun not to take this:

After eating ourselves silly, we meandered out to our Bed and Breakfast. My darling husband had made yet another excellent choice. The Walden Plantation was great. Our room was gorgeous:

The staff was fantastic, and our breakfast was deeeeelicious. We are definitely going to visit them again, and we hope to bring lots of friends.

Enough with the recap - on to my point. My point is this: I tend to take stock every year around this time. I think that it's due in equal parts to the new year, the change in seasons and my birthday. Whatever the reasons, around about now, I am looking hard at what is up with me.

This year, I find that I am doing more complaining than fixing. I am unhappy with my weight and my size (not the same thing, ya'll!). I am not thrilled with my energy level. I feel like I'm treading water instead of doing, yet I'm not making any changes. Why is this? Well, this week, I think that I figured it out: Motivation.

I have these vague (and not so vague) dissatisfactions, but I had lost the motivation to do anything about them... until I met the Climber.

The Climber is a new element at the wonderful McKenna Children's Museum (a.k.a - Lily Ruth's new favorite place). I talked it up to Lily Ruth on the drive up there. She was very excited to try something new and to climb. We walked up to the Climber, and she promptly panicked. There was no way she was going to get into that big, scary thing all by herself. Well, I wasn't about to let her miss out because of fear of the unknown, so I pushed down my fear of heights, and squeezed myself into the Climber.

We made our way from color to color. Her eyes gradually returned to their normal size, and her shoulders left her ears and relaxed down her back. We went up to the top:

down, up again (hung out for a while) back down, up yet again (more hanging out), and finally down. Ya'll I am too big and too out of shape for this kind of thing! I was completely wiped out by the time we were done. But somewhere way up high; staring at that big blue Texas sky with my baby, I found my motivation. I will NOT miss out on opportunities like that. I will not let my daughter down by being physically unable to do something. I WILL show her how to be brave and strong and how to take on this world one colorful climb at a time. We will have adventures. We will push limits. We will conquer fear.

So there you have it - motivation found. Who's up for an adventure?

Monday, March 19, 2012

Garden, Round 2

You may or may not remember (or care) that I made a limp-wristed stab at 'gardening' last spring. In short, my mom did the lion's share of work, and I fell apart and was unable to help. Well, here's hoping that I learned a few things vicariously, because this year, we're going to try it on our own.

My husband is an Idea Guy. He is forever coming up with ideas. They range from dinner plans to vacation plans. The only things that they all have in common is that they all come from a place of good intention, and they all very rarely come to fruition because he is so busy and/or tired all of the time that he forgets about them almost as soon as he says it out loud. I have learned over the years not to pin any sort of hope to these ideas until we have spoken of them several times. This is why I was completely unprepared yesterday when he started actually preparing our yard and looking up plans for raised garden beds on the internet.

I'll tell you what, I'm riding this train of garden momentum. I'm going to take him up on it, and follow through. So far, we have seeds and a plan:

That's right - a four foot BEAN TEEPEE that she can crawl into!!!! With PURPLE BEANS!!!
We also have a lot of cut lumber and 1 partially finished bed. That's a lot for one day!

He found instructions for raised beds on a blog called Anything Pretty,  and my dad offered up as much salvaged wood as we need. Don is loving the fact that we're using reclaimed wood. Not only is it saving us money (witch we can now use on more supplies), but we're recycling AND it looks cool! :-P

I found instructions for prepping the beds once they're in place on my mom's friend's blog - Diane's Texas Garden. Now we just have to finish construction, have dirt delivered (!!!), make the soil rich and gorgeous (we should all be so lucky) and THEN it will be time to plant! It's all very exciting, and a teensy bit daunting. The amount of planting that I have planned will be a lot of work.

I'm just so excited about Lily Ruth watching food grow! Not only is it an amazing process, but it's also a good way to foster healthy eating (and curb picky eating)... as an added bonus, it will surely create a plethora of cute photo opportunities. For instance, a gardener in training must dress for success:

 Also, you need a lot of things in order to garden. A kitty, sunglasses, a popsicle...

Oh yeah, the 'grass' that she's standing on is the location of our future garden. Wish us luck - we're gonna need it!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Viruses, Bacteria and Travel - Oh MY!

how long has it been since we spoke? A week? Three weeks? A year?Just two weeks? Well, that's better than I thought. As usual, life has continued around here. NOT as usual, things have been a bit hectic. Alright, FINE - hectic is our usual, but this was even MORE hectic.

I started out by working (don't fall over in shock) at the spa for two days IN A ROW. By the time I was done, I was absolutely beat, and I had (unbeknownst to me at the time) contracted pink eye. For any of you not acquainted with the bacterial awfulness that is Conjunctivitis, bravo to you. For those with intimate knowledge, my deepest sympathies. The rest of the series of events is best summarized by a time line like those seen on police dramas (my favorite? Castle. LOTS of dry erase time lines plus Nathan Fillion). I'll draw one for you:

To sum up:
1) We visited my step-dad and his wife out at their ranch-ita. Had a wonderful time. Great visiting, great playing and giggling, cows (!), step-dad borrowed a patient horse for us to ride (!!!!!) - all around great.

2) PINK EYE!!!! Miserable. Scratch on my eye - miserable. Finding out that I'm allergic to hydrocodone in the process - also miserable.

3) I made a Starbucks-style cup and donut out of felt! Tutorial to follow... I also accidentally dropped the cup in my mama's yard, and it spent the night getting wet.

I made a new one, and it was EVEN BETTER.

4) Lily Ruth has new rain boots and my hopelessly urban kid who refuses to walk through tall grass is newly in love with jumping into puddles!

5) My baby caught Hand Foot and Mouth again. Way to sneak up on us, Coxsackievirus. Well played. Last year's case was mild. This year's case was NOT. Diaper rash, mouth ulcers and lots of tears.

She refuses to take medicine, and was refusing to eat, drink or speak because her mouth hurt so much. It was awful. When she caved and started drinking, we were able to sneak in some Tylenol and it made her more comfortable. She still has a few mouth ulcers, but is improving daily.

6) Even with her virus, she was so distraught about missing her trip to see her grandparents that I ignored my better judgement and packed her into the car. I don't really want to talk about most of the rest of the trip. Thank goodness for wonderful husbands and delightful long-time friends. I will break my silence long enough to tell you about the butterfly exhibit - Amazing. I loved it. Lily Ruth was freaked out that there were literally butterflies everywhere - it was just too much for her. She would try to be a good sport and pose for a picture, but then another butterfly would flit past and she would shriek and flinch. *sigh* Parenting means that you occasionally sprint when you would rather saunter or even stop...

oh, and 7) My friend loved my essay! I finished editing it today, and it will either be published next week or in the middle of next month. I'll let you know when and where as details become available!!!

Kisses and hugs to you all - unless you're not a toucher. If you're not a toucher, then air kisses and waves!