Thursday, August 30, 2012

A Toast!

For my mother on the anniversary of her birth:

To the one who taught me that learning to laugh and dance and sing is just as important as learning to walk.

The one who showed me to eat because food is good and to cook because food can be love.

The one who drummed into me that it's important to show up on time and ready to work, but still made it clear that you should shed pantyhose and bras into the back seat the instant you get into your car to leave.

The one who gave me the strength to leave the nest and in doing so, showed me how to build my own.

To the woman I always assumed I'd turned into - I'm still pretty surprised that I didn't.

I love you, Mama!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Too Much To Process

Oh my GOODNESS! There have been a lot of goings-on around these parts! There were things that I couldn't talk about until they settled out / were made formal. There were just busy things like trying to stay active without over heating in 108 degree heat. And, as always, there was OKRA...

That's my second batch. I have an entire bowl in the fridge right now just waiting for me to take action... I am still in love with the pickles, bit I am TIRED of picking okra. The trees are so tall that my arms are covered in itchy spines by the time I'm done picking. I can't seem to make myself pull them up, though since they are FOOD and still producing. :-/

Well, in other news, we settled the insurance for Don's car. Luckily, we still carry full comprehensive and collision coverage even though the car was paid off. Listen up, folks - this is my big advice: ALWAYS carry full coverage on your car. If you think that you cannot afford full coverage, let me tell you what you really cannot afford - a new car. Without the insurance money, we would be down to one car right now. In a town this size, that means one of you is S.O.L.

Oh, in other GIANT SIZED news, Don quit his job. :-O He is officially going into business with another attorney in just two short weeks. It is totally scary to jump like this without a safety net (a.k.a.: a savings account), but in his previous position, there was no way for us to build a safety net... so we jump. I am completely on board with this decision. I trust my husband to make well-thought-out decisions that will ultimately benefit our family. Also, the planner in me is scared out of her mind. I loathe not having any absolutes. I take that back - the only absolute that I have is that this is really happening... GAH!

*sigh* Well, at least there's this:

and this:

and thanks to (you guessed it) Pinterest, and this pin:

Source: via Rachel on Pinterest

we have the beginnings of an underwater theatre:

I'll post more pictures when we're done, but we're very excited! All of the animals will receive googly eyes and various other embellishments tomorrow (after they dry). Then we will craft their aquarium!

And just in case you were worried about me, I have had some down time in all of this :-) We spent last weekend on the Dry Frio in ranch house heaven. Just me and 13 of my closest family members...

If you're not from Texas, this might not look like heaven to you. If it does not, then we are no longer friends :-P Trust me - it's awesome. We walked down the river while in the river, then I slept all afternoon. No lie.

I'm trying to break the rest of my update into actual blog posts, but I will tell you now that I am in full-on Fall Garden Planning Mode. It may be epic... or it may just be a garden...

Oops! Must dash - time to head over to my Mama's house to try and put a dent in the leftovers from last weekend! Besos!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Okra, Okra, Oh-KRA!

You guys, my okra plants are out of control. Granted, the beds are raised, but each of the 5 plants is taller than my head. I harvest between 5 & 8 pods per day, and the pods are GIGANTIC. We love us some okra in this house, but we've finally grown weary of every-other-day consumption.

okra with purple beans ready to bake
It was time to bring in reinforcements in the form of my colleague/inspiration, Nora. Nora is a fellow massage therapist and an all-around great soul. She has a soothing energy, great hands, an incredible laugh... I could go on all day. She also gardens and has much more experience than I. When I told her about my chronic, shallow over watering issue, she stopped, smiled and said 'you're a caregiver, Rachel. You were just taking care of them.'

When Nora posted recently about pickling some of her okra, my ears pricked up immediately. I adore pickled okra. When I say 'adore', I mean 'I can eat a jar in one sitting'. My tummy might hurt afterward, but that will not stop me from doing it in the first place.

This week, the okra harvest reached the level of 'ridiculous', so Lily Ruth and I wandered over to Miss Nora's house to see her chickens and get her recipe. I also had a chance to sample some of her already made okra pickles, and I almost melted into the floor with delight.

I am completely jumping the gun here because my batch is barely out of it's boiling water bath, but I'm going to post the recipe anyway knowing that even if I managed to personally mess it up (which I won't know until it's time to open a jar), the recipe itself is good :-P

Nonna's Pickled Okra
    courtesy of Nora Pullin

For 3 pint jars:

2 cups water
1 cup white vinegar
2 Tbsp canning salt

1 1/2 Lbs fresh okra
3 dried red chili peppers
3 tsp dried dill
3/8 tsp Pickle Crisp granules (Calcium Chloride)
** I also added 1 whole garlic clove and 1/2 tsp whole dried corriander seeds to each jar**

First, boil your jars, lids and bands for 10 minutes to sterilize them. Take them out of the water & set them aside (do NOT wipe them off with a dirty kitchen towel :-P). Keep the water hot - you'll need it again in a minute.

Combine the water, vinegar and canning salt in a saucepan and bring to a rolling boil

To each jar, add 1 dried chili, 1 tsp dill and 1/8 tsp Pickle Crisp (and garlic & corriander if you're feeling saucy). Divide the okra between the jars. Add the brine (a.k.a: water, vinegar & salt) then tighten the lids onto the jars.

Return the jars to the water bath, and boil for 10 minutes. CAREFULLY remove jars and set aside to cool completely (approx 6-8 hours).

Pickles are ready to eat as soon as the jars are cool, but will get spicier as they cure... if they last that long...

Refrigerate after opening.

1) This recipe easily doubles, triples, etc. I made 6 wide-mouth pint jars using just my large pasta pot and a medium saucepan.
2) Canning lids (the round, flat disk with the rubber gasket) can only be used ONCE, but the jars & the bands for the lids can be reused.
3) Ball jars do not automatically come with labeling stickers - I am bummed, but I guess this just gives me an opportunity to make something fun...
4) My daughter is especially patient today. I gave her some soap and free rein at the bathroom sink. This kept her occupied for most of the writing of this post...

*edit: DANG, these pickles are guuuuuuuuud! I managed to wait approximately 7 hours after removing them from their water bath before opening the first jar, and I am hooked! SO tasty! So crunchy! The garlic and corriander are permanent additions to my version of the recipe! I also ended up with enough okra to make a second batch of 7 jars just one week later! The okra is out of control!!!!*

Friday, August 3, 2012

Sometimes, Life's a Total Wreck

Lily Ruth and I slept in yesterday. By slept in, I mean that it was after 10 o'clock when we woke up. We both needed the sleep. Between my insomnia and her nonstop approach to life, we were a bit overtired.

Once we decided to wake up, we smiled sleepily at each other, and she started babbling happy morning nonsense. I grabbed my phone to check the time, and saw a text from Lily Ruth's Daddy - it was over an hour old. 'Good morning!' It greeted me cheerfully.

"I'm going to call Daddy and tell him good morning."
"O.k., I'm going to go in the living room!" She slid off the bed feet first and padded off.

I can hear lots of highway noise as he answers. Not a surprise as he was driving to Houston for a deposition.

"Hi! Where are you guys?" His voice was loud and overly cheery.
"At home - why?" I answered cautiously.
"Good. I need you two to jump in the car and head for Seguin to pick me up. I just totaled the car."

I was completely confused. His tone was all Hail Fellow,Well Met but the message conveyed was terrifying. I started scrambling for clothes as questions fought for space in my mouth.

"Are you o.k.?"
"I'm fine. I just need for you to come pick me up. The officers should be done with me by the time you get here."
"Oh. Um. We'll be right there..." Not strictly true as the drive alone is over thirty minutes, and I still had to get us both ready, but he took it in the spirit it was intended. "Great!"

It took me almost twenty minutes to leave the house. I was at a total loss. What would we need? How long would we be gone? Would we have to take him to the hospital? I spent an inordinate amount of time trying to find a bra, but I left Lily Ruth's hair wild and uncombed. I threw ridiculous combinations of blankets, pillows, bathing suits (swim lesson at 4 - mustn't forget!), art supplies, toys and snacks into the car in case we ended up needing to occupy our time someplace awful. By the time we left, I was milliseconds away from tears, and I desperately wanted to throw up. But I did neither - I had a child in the backseat, and if I fell apart... well, it wouldn't be fair to her, and it wouldn't do any good.

As instructed, I called him when we hit I-10. The cheerful tone continued: "Good! We're just about done here, and the officer is going to drop me off at the Home Depot a few exits away. I don't want you or Lily Ruth to see the car." That almost did it. I almost threw up again.

We found him in the parking lot surrounded by the detritus of a totaled car. Leather satchels, legal notebooks, sport coats... He was talking on the phone and pacing (as he always does). I pulled up next to him and jumped out - I just needed to touch him. Without breaking off his conversation, he hugged me with one arm and began loading his things into the car. I don't think he had any idea that he was shaking like a leaf.

Lily Ruth begins her interrogation from her carseat. "DADDY - did you have an accident in your car?" He hangs up the phone and gives her his full attention: "Yes I did, Boo. My car hit another car, but I am fine." She plugs her thumb into her mouth and twirls her hair tightly. I realized much later that to her, 'accident' means not making it to the potty in time. The news that something had happened to daddy AND his car was a surprise to her and the information was highly confusing.

He wouldn't show me pictures of the car until after we got home. He made the right choice.

We spent the rest of the day doing mainly accident-related stuff. A trip to the minor emergency clinic for a check up. Calls to the insurance company. Picking up a rental car and his prescriptions. I finally dropped Lily Ruth off with some friends around 5 o'clock. "I just need a minute to fall apart" I told them. I had kept it together the entire day because every time I even mentioned the accident, my tiny shadow would plug in that thumb and go a bit purple under the eyes.

I just hugged him for a while and sobbed. "This is probably harder for you than for me" he said. "I didn't have time to be scared, and by the time it was over, I knew that I was fine." I, on the other hand, had spent all day worrying about him. I just wanted to crawl into his body and check it out bit by bit. How could they know if he's o.k.? Shouldn't someone have come along shouting about a need for full body scans or something? Like some sort of lunatic, I just kept asking him if he was really all right or not.

I eventually pulled it together and went to collect our daughter. She spent the rest of the evening glued to us and nervously staring at our faces hoping for some kind of clue as to what was going on. We finally got her to talk to us about why she was scared, and it was mainly because she had no idea what had actually happened... and (like me) she was unconvinced that daddy was truly fine. Luckily, when you are three, mama and daddy can usually convince you that all is right in your world with fairly little effort. She fell asleep easily, and we settled in to our own bed to unwind.

As he always does, Don drifted off long before I did. I'm sure the pain pill helped. I stared at his silhouette in the dark, and listened for his breath. For once, I was thankful for the snoring.


Thank you, Lord for your presence in our lives. Thank you for keeping your hand on my husband. You kept him calm and saved his life. Thank you, thank you, thank you.