Tag Archives: family

One Skillet Cheesy Yellow Squash Casserole

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Ingredients:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
4 medium yellow summer squash, sliced in 1 inch cubes
1 yellow onion, chopped
3 celery stalks, chopped
Slap Ya Mama Cajun Seasoning or salt and pepper to taste
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon onion powder
½ cup grated parmesan cheese
1 ½ cups shredded sharp cheddar
½ cup sour cream
½ cup of good salsa
1 sleeve Ritz crackers, crushed medium to fine

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Heat the oil and butter in a large cast iron skillet over medium heat.  Saute the squash, onion, celery and dry seasoning ingredients until soft.  When done, remove from heat and stir in the parmesan, 1 cup of the cheddar, sour cream and salsa. Taste and add more seasoning if needed.
Mix cracker crumbs and the remaining ½ cup of cheddar together and sprinkle evenly over the top. Bake for 15 minutes or until the top is golden and bubbly.11081142158776871108114425877666

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Tonight You Belong To Me (Cover)

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Something to make you smile. 🙂

Loving father Benjamin J. Ames singing with his 4 year old daughter, hot pink ukulele and all. “She thought she kept hearing fireworks and couldn’t sleep, so we sang to keep her mind preoccupied. In the end, nothing competes with fireworks.”

Middle Age Manifesto: The Winter of My Discontent

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How many times in our lives do we think we deserve more than we were given?  We are settling for Joe, when Johan is out there waiting for us.  You see, Joe and Johan are not the same.

http://ispot.tv/a/7LJd

What happened to all the fun?  Youthful smoke mellowed days of partying with friends and letting the sun bake your skin to a deep golden bronze while blasting Zeppelin at ear-piercing decibels.  Reckless and carefree without the slightest thought of future skin cancer, potential liver damage or permanent hearing loss.  Living with no rules, no regard and no regrets.  Thinking only of yourself.21854_103015253054260_541415_n

And by the way, what happen to my fairy tale?  The one where I find the perfect Mr. Right, we make our fortune, live in a beautiful home and have the perfect life.  Where is my piece of the pie?  Are the times to Carpe Diem really over? Is this all I get?

I struggled with publishing this post, feeling apprehensive about showing this negative side of myself.  Then I realized feeling discontented with life is no new thing.  From the Bible to Shakespeare to Steinbeck to the Hollywood big screen, many have lamented over the cards they have been dealt.  In the movie The Family Man, Nicolas Cage plays Jack Campbell, a successful Wall Street Executive bachelor who gets to see what his life might have been like had he given up his perfect life and stayed with his old sweetheart.  Much like George Bailey in It’s A Wonderful Life, Jack encounters an angel on Christmas Eve who offers him the opportunity to see life from another path.  After a shocking wake up call on Christmas morning in middle class suburbia, wearing Walmart sweat pants and surrounded by all the other mediocre trappings of normal family life, Jack flees back to the city only to discover his former perfect life is nonexistent.

Upon returning to his bland middle class life, he encounters his now wife Kate who rips into him for leaving his family on Christmas day, letting him know how frantic she has searched for him.   Jack replies “Look, you don’t understand.  I woke up this morning here.  And this is very strange because… this isn’t my house…   And those aren’t my kids…  I’m not Dad…  You’re not  my wife.”

Sometimes I look at my own life and think what happened to me?  As I am surrounded by the cracking plaster on the 80 year old walls of our country home.  The badly patched hole in the ceiling, the unfinished crown molding and the wood floor that still lacks a threshold.  The leftover casualties of the countless DIY projects my husband eagerly starts, but never seems to finish.  I look at the lines on my 50 year old face, the gray in my hair and I do not recognize my own reflection in the mirror.  Who is that person looking back at me?  I look at my daughters, now in their twenties, and think that’s who I am.  I should be out living it up! I’m not this older woman looking back at me.  Frazzled and twenty pounds overweight, trying to manage my household while working and caring for my own elderly parents.

As I am dealing with my parent’s multiple medical issues, doctor’s appointments, bills that need to be paid and trying to determine how to handle the next ball I’ve been given to juggle; I see my family go about their daily lives and I want to scream “I need to be taken care of!”  “I’m hanging on by a thread here!”  “Dear God, please give me another life!”

Then a somber reality hits me like a ton of bricks and just like George Bailey and Jack Campbell, I realize I would be nothing without them.  An empty shell.  A dried husk.  A tumbleweed blowing in the wind.  They are my roots.  My anchor in the storm and my nourishment after the rain.  They are my Zuzu’s petals.  My reality and my reason for being.  They are my destiny.

So I shamefully fall to my knees and ask forgiveness for being so selfish.  Then say a prayer of thanksgiving for all that I have.  I get up, wash my face, then wash the 8,968th load of laundry and smile as I ask “What are you hungry for tonight?”  Because the simple fact is I am blessed beyond measure and cherish the life I’ve been given.  When it’s all said and done, I still choose us and it is a wonderful life…

Hill Country Sonata

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Sunfire sparkling on the Pedernales River

Soaring a red-tailed hawk on the wing

Cedar and Cypress perfume dance on the water

Bull frog on the bank calling out to his love

Fireflies flicker in the wildflower valley

Cicada chorus singing their lullaby song

Whippoorwill lamenting a nightbird’s serenade

Hill Country Sonata playing my memory’s tune

Bending my heartstrings like a sweet lover’s touch

And calling me back to those hills that I love

The Incredible Edible Egg and Putting the Chic in the Chicken Coop

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When my family moved to our country home in 1995, we were eager to embrace all the wonderful opportunities that country living had to offer.  We mended the old fence and barn and soon added our share of farm animals to complete our little country haven.  Our animal menagerie included a flock of laying hens and a rooster to give us fresh eggs, but over the years our flock decreased and eventually our fresh egg production came to an end.

Recently, after purchasing a $4.00 carton of organic cage free eggs, I discovered all the eggs were disgustingly runny and obviously inedible.  Having this less than satisfactory experience with store-bought eggs, and being aware of the absolute horrors chickens have to endure in the commercial egg production industry, we decided to rebuild our chicken coop and start enjoying our own farm fresh eggs again.

My husband spent all weekend building the new coop and we went to our local feed supplier and bought 4 baby turkeys, 10 chicks and 1 rooster   Like our Rat Terrier, I too find watching the baby chicks completely spellbinding and I have begun to named them based on their personalities.

My favorite is the largest Black Spanish turkey that I have named Hey Zeus.  He is just a baby, but he’s already trying to strut his stuff.  I don’t think the girls are impressed, judging by the expressions on their faces.

Now for my contribution to the new chicken coop; the decor.  My husband is quite the handy man and we always have wood scraps leftover from past DIY projects.  I found these weathered wood scraps and thought they would work out great for making some homemade signs.

Next I gathered up my acrylic paint, paint brushes and paint sponges.  Then I painted the wood a solid color and outlined the edge with a contrasting color, creating a framed effect.

Then I purchased two different stencils.  One was a cursive type and one was block type letters

Using a sharp pencil, I traced out the word Farm Fresh on the wood using the cursive letters and the word EGGS using the block letters.

Then I highlighted the word Farm Fresh in a bright yellow and painted white eggs around the word EGGS.

Next I carefully painted in the words. You will need a steady hand and a very small detail paint brush.

And here’s the finished product.  Add some eye hooks and a chain to hang it and throw on a couple of coats of clear polyurethane to weatherproof and it’s ready for the coop.  Now to decide what to put on the other two signs.

The coop will only be used to protect the babies while they are growing.  As soon as they are big enough, the door to the coop will be left open and they will have free access to the yard and pasture, as nature intended.  If you would like to help support current legislative efforts in banning the barbaric and cruel practice of battery caged chickens in the US egg industry; please visit the Humane Society of the United States website by clicking on this link:  Help Improve the Lives of Laying Hens

The following information was taken from the Penn State Live website.  You can click on the heading below to see the full article.

Research shows eggs from pastured chickens may be more nutritious

The study compared the eggs of the pastured hens to those of hens fed a commercial diet.

“Compared to eggs of the commercial hens, eggs from pastured hens eggs had twice as much vitamin E and long-chain omega-3 fats, more than double the total omega-3 fatty acids, and less than half the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids,” she said. “Vitamin A concentration was 38 percent higher in the pastured hens’ eggs than in the commercial hens’ eggs, but total vitamin A per egg did not differ.”

 “Eggs of the hens that foraged grasses had 23 percent more vitamin E than eggs of hens that foraged clover. “Results suggest that grass pastures may enhance vitamin E in eggs of pastured hens more than clover,” she said.”

Memorial Day Honor, Duty and Sacrifice

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“Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.”
~ President John F. Kennedy

Freedom is never free.  This Memorial Day I want to say thank you to all the men and women who have fought and died, giving the ultimate sacrifice to ensure our country remains free.  And to all the of the soldiers, past and present, thank you for your service, your dedication and the sacrifices you and your families have made on behalf of us, our country and for Freedom.  It’s a day to cherish family and give thanks for the wonderful privilege of living in such a great country. It’s about the honor, duty and sacrifice of so many American families, just like mine.

The year was 1953, the world was still reeling from the end of  World War II, Dwight D. Eisenhower was the newly elected President and the Korean War was being fought.  All young men of that time period were required to register for the military Selective Service; so upon his eighteenth birthday my father dutifully completed his registration card.  Around that same time he also met my mother and they fell in love.  Following a year-long courtship, they were married in February of 1953.  My mother had just turned seventeen and my father was two weeks shy of his nineteenth birthday.

After their first year of marriage they were eager to begin their family and tried desperately to have children.  But that greatly desired child never came.  They continued to hope and pray for a family of their own, but after the third year of trying, they lost hope and decided they were destined to be childless.

In the early part of 1956, my father received his Order to Report for Induction; he had been drafted.  He was to report to the Fort Ord U.S. Army post in Monterey Bay, California for basic training.  My mother was heartbroken.  How was she going to make it without him?  So they did what all young couples in love do when faced with an unwanted separation, they made the best of it.  They spent as much time together as they could until the day came for my father to depart for basic training.  My mother wrote him every day and missed him terribly, so terribly she began to get ill.  It seemed everything she ate made her immediately nauseous.  This went on for a couple of weeks until her family suggested she might be pregnant.  What?  Could this be possible?

A trip to the Doctor confirmed her families suspicions and gave my mother the blessed news; she was in fact pregnant.  Excitedly, she contacted my father in California to relay the news.  They were both overjoyed!  Then reality set in.  She would have to carry and birth this child alone.  The plans they had made for her to come out to California and live in the on-base family housing were dashed.  She was too sick to travel.  Summer turned to fall and my father completed his basic training.  Then he received his orders; he would be deployed to Germany.

Somehow, he was allowed a short leave for Christmas.  My mother was overjoyed to see him one last time before he was shipped out and they spent a glorious Christmas holiday together.  Shortly after Christmas, my father had to returned to his military duty.  The Army allowed him to stay Stateside until my brother Monte was born on January 15, 1957.  My father learned of my brother’s birth via telegram and the next day he was on a plane to New York.  Once he arrived in New York, he boarded a ship and began his trip overseas.

My father was a good soldier and soon was promoted to the position of Military Police or MP.  He and my mother carried on their relationship via mail.  They wrote to each other almost daily.  My father got to know his first born son by reading letters and looking at photographs.  While serving his country, my father missed all of my brothers milestones.  When my brother got his first haircut, my mother tuck a lock of his hair in with the photo and letter she sent to dad.  My brother’s first tooth, first Christmas, first steps and first birthday passed while my father was on patrol in snowy Würzburg, Germany.

My father honorably completed his military assignment and finally returned home to my mother and oldest brother Monte in the Spring of 1958… Nine months later my brother Randy was born.  And a few years later, I came along.

Although my parents made great sacrifices during this difficult time, God poured out his blessings upon their lives.  What seemed like tragedy was actually a gift.  My mother thought she could never have children, but was blessed with three.  And while my father was serving his country, my mother had my oldest brother to love, care for and keep her company.

After 59 years of marriage, my parents are still madly in love with each other.  Our roles are reversed and I now have the honor of caring for them, just as they have cared for me all these years.  I am so thankful my life is at a point where I am able to devote my time to them and truly enjoy our time together.  They are the best parents a child could ever have and I love them dearly!

Fun at the Renaissance Fair

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My husband, youngest daughter and I traveled back in time to the 16th Century this weekend with a visit to the Scarborough Renaissance Festival, which is held in Waxahachie Texas weekends each Spring from April until Memorial Day.

1  King Henry and Anne Boleyn.

The festival includes a 35 acre village consisting of artisans that create one-of-a-kind works of art and quaint shops featuring unique handmade jewelry, clothing, leather goods and other fun items.  I couldn’t resist buying a spicy scented bar of handmade organic soap.  Here’s our daughter Caitlin (or Cake as we affectionately call her) with a Gandalf looking Wizard in his sterling jewelery shoppe.

The artists, peddlers and performers all dress and speak in character.  Performance acts include jousting competitions, comedy routines, music, dance and many other unique entertainers on 22 different stages.  All the performances are included in the admission price.

After shopping and checking out a few of the acts we had to stop for some yummy fried festival food.  My husband Scott chose a healthy baked potato (no bacon), but Caitlin and I went for the fried mushrooms and onion rings.

It was a lovely Texas afternoon with clear skies, a light Southern breeze and temperatures in the mid 80’s.

We couldn’t resist a cheesy photo-op as the King and Queen.

Cake fit right in with the Renaissance characters.  Here she is with a couple of Ogres.

This guy is lucky he didn’t get my husbands size 11 boot up his you-know-what after calling out to Cake “Hey, come here horny girl!”  As penance I made him pose for a photo.

We finished the day off by checking out some of the beautiful performing animals.

Majestic birds of prey and obliging elephants.

I felt a little sorry for this long eye-lashed beauty as she patiently carried kid after kid around and around.

What better way to end a perfect day than with a poem inspired by Cake and the Renaissance?

Absinthe eyes

Dancing fairy sprite

  Cast not thy gaze my way

Bewitch another

His heart enslave

And corpse the birds to pick