Tuesday, April 28, 2009


Those of you that know me or followed along with me at 30-something are well aware of the fact that I HATE my backyard! Ever since we moved here it has been nothing more than a fire ant infested dog shitter! Granted, last year I added the two raised beds for a veggie garden and some herb boxes and that made me feel a little better, but this year I am on a mission to reclaim that part of our property!

We had to start with the maple, it was dying, so we finally had to suck it up and saw it down. That was hard, I've never taken down a tree in my life, seems counter-intuitive to my whole "Green Earth" vibe! But it was DYING, so we just helped it along. Now there is a well-placed trampoline where it used to be and it's great! I can see the kids from the kitchen window and know if they're playing nice or beating the crap out of each other!

Then it was time to clear out the nasty ligustrums. I have always disliked these particular bushes and dreamt of replacing them with a lovely yellow jasmine vine or a Rose of Sharon. This should happen within the next week or so! Here I am getting all "She-Rah Princess of Power" on these damn things!
After clearing out the tree and the bushes it was time to build two new raised beds and layout where the other two will be. When it's all said and done, I will have four 8' x 4' beds teeming with luscious organic veggies! Neener, neener, neener! (And no little comments from Auntie J over at "With Guidance from Gaia" or Redneck Mother, who have like mondo gardens AND chicken coops, ya big show offs!) ;)

Although making a raised bed is pretty simple, all you need is some landscape timbers, re-bar and a drill, filling it with dirt is another story! A super generous friend took the time to dump some heavenly black earth onto my driveway, but alas... I had to get it to the backyard! Luckily, I have homeschooled tweenagers that live next door and a very helpful Monkey Man who were most willing to help with my dilemma! Hooray for child labor! Seriously, those kids were kicking my butt! If only I felt half that energetic at any given time! But with the four of us, we busted it out in an hour flat. We so ROCK!

Workin' hard!

Taking pride in a job well done!

There's still LOADS to do, but things are now moving in the right direction. I had to clear out the old to make room for more beautiful and productive things! Eventually I hope to have an entire bed under the kitchen window for herbs and edible flowers and even a tree or two, and maybe, just maybe a decent fence at some point! I'm keepin' my fingers crossed!

Just a little behind!

I apologize for my lack of posts over the last few days. We have had family in town, we attempted to have a garage sale and all sorts of other stuff! I have some wonderful stuff to post, just looking for the time and energy to get it done! More soon, I promise!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

One of those days!

I love homeschooling my kids! I really do LOVE homeschooling my kids, but some times we just have one of THOSE days. Do you think my son is trying to tell me something about his Language Arts curriculum?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

A luna moth sailed quietly through the night...

And the cricket enjoyed the stillness. --Eric Carle

I was greeted Saturday afternoon with a most wonderful surprise, our luna moth had emerged! This was the first time I had ever seen one up close and I can't even begin to tell you how unbelievably beautiful this thing was! Soft green wings, a soft fuzzy body, feather-like antennae and the sweetest eyes! I was immediately, totally and completely in love with her! The Monkey Man was entirely amazed and in love as well. He held her and stared at her and just couldn't get enough of her!

To be honest, I didn't even realize she had emerged at first, the green of her wings had her so well camoflauged against the background of the butterfly enclosure, it was the cocoon that I noticed. It had these little tufts of white silk sticking out that it didn't have before.

I couldn't believe that something so big had come out of an opening so small! We dissected the cocoon and found the remnants of the chrysalid inside. SO COOL!

We took her up to the Monkey Man's room for observation. She was very docile and mellow and didn't seem to mind being handled at all. She was SO soft and fuzzy!

We just couldn't help but be completely enamored by this little being. The Piggy refused to hold her, but the Monkey Man was all over it!

She had the most amazing face! Big black eyes and feathery antennae, like a sweet little flying teddy bear! And by all means, click on the photo to enlarge it, you too will be taken in by the sweetness of that face!

I feel so lucky that the children and I were able to spent a hour or so with such a fantastic little creature! We finally decided it was time to let her go, so we took her out front. She immediately started crawling up the side of our house. I figured she might have needed to rest after being handled. No sooner had she started climbing up the wall, a large gecko appeared. The Monkey Man flipped out! He was none to happy at the prospect of watching a "survival of the fittest" moment in such an up close and personal way! I ran to get a stick and a flashlight, in hopes of dissuading the gecko from making a meal out of our newly emerged moth. By the time I came back, the gecko was busy dealing with a territory dispute with another gecko and our luna moth had sailed quietly into the night! It is comforting to know such a beautiful thing is gracing my night sky! Good luck little luna, we hope you have a wonderful life and find another luna soon!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

It's a crappy job, but somebody's got to do it!

The Monkey Man has been bugging us for about a month to receive an allowance. He wants some spending money, which I get, cause technically, I want some too! Anyway, Big Daddy and I have been discussing the possibilities. I have a hard time with allowances because I think a child should be willing to help clean up the house and whatnot just because he or she is a part of this family. After all, I've been cleaning this house for years and no one has ever given me an allowance! We all live here, we all make messes and therefore we should ALL do our part. But I do respect that he's 7 now and wants to make a little money to buy a Bionicle on occasion. It could be a good lesson in the value of a dollar and what it means to work hard for it.

After much discussion, we decided that normal household chores would not be included in the allowance. He needed to do a job that I normally did, so it would be helpful to ME! Well, he stinks at laundry and folding (it would take him 20 years to fold one load), putting dishes away worries me because he would have to climb on a chair to put breakable things in the upper cabinets, an accident just WAITING to happen. He's not old enough or big enough to mow the lawn, so we finally settled on... POOP SCOOPIN'! Yep, poop scoopin'! It is a job that I abhor (and not because poop is gross, but because it KILLS my back to stoop like that), and we have a tendency to let it go for long periods and yadda, yadda. Poop scooping is always the last thing on my list of to-do's, so it seemed an obvious answer to our problem. At first The Monkey Man wasn't too thrilled about it, but when I explained that we would get him an appropriate shovel and rake AND pay him $5 a week, he seemed much more amicable! So, he has agreed that he will scoop twice a week for a $5 allowance. He started his job yesterday and did great! He busied himself, never complaining and searched the yard high and low for canine landmines! Afterwards he even helped me put branches and twigs into the recycling bags. He told me, "Mom, I'm here to help! If you ever need anything... I'M YOUR MAN!" And he truly is, I'm very proud of him and the job that he did! If he keeps this up, he'll have a new Bionicle in 3 weeks! SWEET!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Beetling around the garden

It's spring for Pete's sake and my front garden bed looked pathetic! The only color was coming from the lovely salvia that I planted last year. I "heart" my salvia! So I just couldn't help myself when I went to the nursery to release the butterfly, I HAD to get some plants! I totally dig our nursery, Green 'n Growing in Pflugerville, it's a nice little Mom and Pop shop and they always have a great selection of flowers and veggies and much of it is organic! Anyway, I have been going there for years, so they know me and they always look at me like I'm a little crazy as my sense of landscape design must be lacking! I pick and choose based solely on emotion. Granted, I make sure to get drought-tolerant, heat-tolerant, full-sun varieties, I'm not so silly as to plant hostas in full Texas sun, but seriously folks, NO design sense whatsoever! If it has a pretty little flower or interesting leaves and isn't in everyone else's garden, it's likely you'll find it in mine! I don't go with any color scheme because I feel that nature is nature, it ALL matches! The more color the better!

Gomphrena or Globe Amaranth. I had bright pink ones last year, but I fell in love with this purple!

"Passionate Blush" Gaura. I was just taken in by the dark green leaves and red stems, not to mention the sweet pink flowers!

"Henna" coleus. OK seriously, what is not to like about this awesome plant! Cool serrated leaves with vibrant burgundy and chartreuse! This thing is wicked! Note, this is NOT one of the full sun varieties, I have them tucked away under a small tree where they get very patchy late sun.

"Profusion Fire" zinnia. The Monkey Man picked these out, he's all about the bright reddish oranges!

All I can say is it was a very good day! I got my hands and fingernails dirty, I breathed in the fresh air and spent time with my kids! Gardening is good! However, I could have lived without the tick I found attached to my belly later that night... YUCK!

Butterfly, butterfly, fly away home!

Much to our great joy, we welcomed Spicebush Swallowtail Numero Uno into the world on Monday! Being a sneaky little thing, it emerged right here in the same room with me in a period of about 30 minutes! I walked by it after making tea and came to blog a bit and a half an hour later when I was walking back into the kitchen to put my cup in the sink, there it was!

What an amazing little face!

I called the kiddos and we took it upstairs to the Monkey Man's room so we could observe it for a bit. It was still very sluggish and allowed us to handle it with care. What an absolutely beautiful little being, so delicate and sweet! It's little feet tickled our skin! It stretched its wings and practiced flying for a bit, then sat in the windowsill, soaking up some sunshine. The Monkey Man adored it, holding it and looking at it from every angle. The Piggy on the other hand was interested in looking at from afar, but had NO desire to hold it. In fact, I could only coax her into getting about a foot away from it! It's strange to me how fearful she is of bugs, mostly since NO ONE in this house has an issue with bugs. We catch them, we handle them, we just LOVE bugs! But she is, and I respect that and let her explore to her comfort level.


We kept it for the rest of the day and over night, giving it oranges and sugar water to feed on, then we packed it up on Tuesday and took it to our local nursery and let it go amid all the beautiful spring flowers! As soon as we opened the car door and got the enclosure out, that butterfly started going crazy in the enclosure and we certainly didn't have to tell it twice once the flap was opened. It was out like a flash and gone in an instant, almost like it disappeared into thin air! We sent it off with love and with hopes that it has a good little butterfly life! We were so lucky to have been a part of its re-birth into the world!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Easter, Easter, Bunny Keester!

What do you call a line of rabbits walking backwards?
---A receding HAREline! Hee!Hee!

Sorry, I couldn't resist, it was the best bunny joke I've heard this season! So anyway... we were pretty worried that our Easter Egg Hunt was going to get rained out. The forecasters spread doom and gloom for days, but as it turns out we had a light shower Sunday morning followed by clear blue skies and unlimited sunshine! A perfect recipe for a wonderful afternoon with the family!

As usual, that sneaky Easter Bunny did his thing while we were hustling and bustling, trying to get showered and dolled up to take some spring photos. We grabbed the camera and headed out the front door to find baskets of goodies on the porch and a yard full of colorful eggs! The kids went nuts! They were running all over the yard like a pair of crazed squirrels trying to find acorns! The Monkey Man quickly realized that there were 3 types of eggs, ones that made "shaky-shaky" sounds had confetti, ones that went "thunk thunk" had candy, and ones that went "jingle jingle" had coins! Needless to say, if they didn't jingle, he didn't bother! But that was alright because the Piggy was much more interested in the "thunk thunk" eggs with the chocolate! Mama's girl fer sure!

After hunting and looting and stuffing their faces with Peeps and Butterfinger eggs (SO GOOD by the way!) it was time to break out the cascarones, literally! Last year the Piggy wasn't a big fan of confetti eggs, I was hoping she would be more open-minded this year! I was preparing for the utter mayhem that usually accompanies confetti egg fights, but was taken by surprise when my two decided to carefully crack the eggs and just sprinkle confetti on each other! Then they would gently remove the shells from each other's hair. They looked like a pair of monkeys grooming each other!

Shake it off Monkey!

The confetti actually stained her head! She still has pink spots on her scalp after 2 washes!

The remnants of a Happy Easter!

Here I am, surveying the aftermath, soaking up the luxurious sun and feeling utterly content in my little part of the world! How could I not be? I had a fantastic day with my family, watching my children revel in the simple things in life like sunshine, light breezes, blue skies, confetti eggs, sugar covered marshmallows and loads of hugs and kisses! I'm hoping each and every one of you also had a glorious day! In closing, I would like to thank my Big Daddy for some of the great shots in this entry! He doesn't get to shoot very often, but when he does, it's AWESOME!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

An EGG-cellent day to dye!

One of my favorite things about Easter is egg-dying. How can you not enjoy turning eggs into miniature pieces of art? I wish we could dye 6 dozen eggs every year, but alas, hard-boiled eggs do NOT top my list of culinary delights (although, I do make mean-ass deviled eggs!). So every year, I agree to one dozen eggs... enough to have fun with, but few enough to actually eat!

So last night, I whipped out the cups and the dyes and the vinegar and LOTS of newspaper. I made the kids put on their trashed out "art shirts", gave them each a wire dipper and let 'em have at it! Of course Mama had to partake just a bit! Too bad I was the first to drop an egg and crush it! Doh!

Here's the Piggy with her first egg! She had to hold it and look at it and smell it, all in an attempt to divine what color the egg wanted to be. Turns out it was yellow!

Waiting patiently...

And the "Mad Scientist" lurking in his lab, monitoring all of his precious eggs!

The end result... our very Bohemian eggs!

Proud artists admiring their fine work! An egg-cellent job even if I do say so myself!

Friday, April 10, 2009

What's on the menu? Leafy greens and Warm Potato Salad

Thanks to my rockin' little garden, I was able to serve a luscious salad with various types of lettuce and spinach for dinner last night! I was also able to make my warm potato salad with scallions and parsley straight from the garden! Feeding the family nutritious and beautiful produce from my own backyard just makes me all giddy!

Warm Potato Salad

1-lb little red potatoes
4 tbsp. white wine vinegar
2 tbsp. Dijon or spicy mustard
1/2 c. olive oil
2 scallions
fresh parsley
Salt and pepper

Slice potatoes into circles. Boil until tender, but not mushy. While potatoes are boiling, whisk together olive oil, vinegar, and mustard, add salt and pepper to taste. Once thoroughly mixed add scallions and about 2-3 tbsp. of fresh parsley. Drain potatoes, drizzle with dressing, garnish with parsley, serve warm. Yum!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Love Monster

One of my best girlfriends is getting married in May, so several of us threw her a bridal shower. The Monkey Man felt compelled to make her a card and well, doesn't this just say it all?

My best shot--Dallas Trip

Mile Marker 357

When in Dallas...

It was one of those wonderful, cosmic, karmic, whatever you want to call it, string of events that led us to Dallas on Monday. A long-lost friend visiting from Michigan, a mom-in-law going to market at the Dallas World Trade Center and an open calendar! We made a quick stop on the way out of town to pick up some Round Rock Donuts, my bunch just CAN'T travel without donuts! Yes, I can hear the gasping, but it only happens on road trips! Moderation folks. Moderation. The drive was actually quite lovely. Springtime along the I-35 corridor is amazing. Amidst heavy traffic, orange barrels and concrete barriers, wildflowers bloomed with wild abandon, absolutely blanketing the sides of the freeway! I noted a particularly lovely patch right outside of West near mile marker 357, something to hit on the way home!

I spent the afternoon getting re-acquainted with one of my best friends and watching our children become new friends! One of those strange moments, regretting that we let time, miscommunication, and anger get in the way of something so special. I hope we can continue and move forward. We grew up together and became who we are together, now if we can just grasp this second opportunity so we can grow old together, friends forever.

Now, I don't know about everyone else, but my family CANNOT go to Dallas and not visit the Dallas World Aquarium! What a cool place! And it would have been truly awesome had we not been joined by approximately 8 schoolbuses full of NOISY elementary kids! What is up with that? I could have had a more peaceful time at a Pantera concert! But of course the animals were amazing... sloths, giant South American river otters, manatees, tamarins, Orinoco crocodiles, I get all tingly just thinking about it! Here is a picture of a hammerhead shark cruising over the tunnel. NEAT-O!

And as if the aquarium wasn't quite enough excitement for one day, the kids and I headed to the Dallas Museum of Art to see King Tut! Well, OK, we didn't really see King Tut himself, just a lot of the treasures that were found in his tomb and in the tombs of some of his relatives. The Monkey Man and I have been discussing Ancient Egypt for some time now and ironically we had just spent the last two weeks covering Tut and his father Akhenaten. It really couldn't have been better timing! I cringed at the $50 entrance fee, but by the time we walked into the second room, I realized I would have paid $150 when I saw the look in my son's eyes! To have something read to you out of a book is one thing, to have history staring you in the face is quite another! To see carvings of the gods on coffins and jewelry, to see statues of pharaohs, and to see everyday items such as chairs, mirrors, and games, to finally understand that these people lived, loved, worked, played and died. The Monkey Man looked at every artifact, read every plaque and listened to every bit of the audio tour. And much to my amazement and great joy, he began to point out all of the things he had learned during our studies. "Look Mommy! That's Thoth... the god of wisdom, and Ooo! Anubis and look, the Eye of Ra! Hey, that one has a falcon's head, that must be Horus!" We could have spent another 2 hours in that exhibit if it weren't for a sleepy, crabby toddler!

You would think that much adventure would have not only worn out the Piggy, but the Monkey Man too! No such luck! I was relentlessly nagged until I finally agreed to take him swimming while the Piggy napped. I was so pooped out! Then Nana treated us to a lovely seafood dinner in which the Monkey and I shared a Cedar Plank Salmon with asparagus and garlic mashed potatoes, YUM! What a great day for one really lucky and really happy little boy!

On the way home we stopped by to visit Big Daddy's grandmother and learned about all of her latest dumpster diving excursions. I personally think she should get the "Green Award" for most adamant about reusing and recycling discarded objects. Her house is LOADED with second hand treasures. I narrowly escaped with just one doll for the Piggy and a bag full of toiletry items that have questionable origin and are neatly stowed in a biohazard bag! Any takers? And yes, we did stop at mile marker 357 on the way home and I was able to snap a couple of shots before the Piggy had a major meltdown. Spring in Central Texas is gorgeous!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

On the wings of butterflies...

We have a little science co-op for our kids and as I've stated before, homeschoolers can't just read a book or research on the internet, we get INTO it. We get our hands dirty and make sure that science or history or math comes to life! Because of this philosophy, I still have two very fat tadpoles lurking under Roman columns in the Monkey Man's room!

As if tadpoles weren't quite enough, our group is going to be studying the life cycle of moths and butterflies soon. So of course, I had to send off for cocoons! Now those of you that followed my 30-Something blog might remember the days of "Ernie" the tomato hornworm that the Monkey Man and I raised to become a five-spotted hawkmoth. It was such an amazing experience and we thought it would be nice to share that experience with the rest of our co-op. I contacted a wonderful silkworm breeder in Canada who helped me do right by Ernie the tomato hornworm. And now we have luna moth, polyphemus moth and spicebush swallowtail butterfly cocoons! The kids and I are SO excited! We received the box on Thursday and what a trip! The box felt like it was filled with Mexican jumping beans! Those little caterpillars were definitely agitated from the rough trip from New Hampshire! But they have now been passed out to their families, who are waiting eagerly, yet patiently for their transformation. You just can't rush Mother Nature, especially in such delicate matters!

Spicebush swallowtail butterfly cocoons, aren't they cool?

Luna and Polyphemus cocoons, they are as big as my thumb!

If you are interested in ordering cocoons or expanding your knowledge of Saturniidae and Sphingidae moths, please visit Bill Oehlke's site! He's a great resource!

Crickets, geckos and freshly mowed grass

It's been a long day of cleaning house, mowing the lawn, doing laundry, baking bread and cookies, and preparing for a baby shower and a road trip. It's been an even longer day because I had to do all this solo while Big Daddy rehearsed then headed out for a big gig. But now things have calmed a bit, the kids are watching a movie and being nice to each other, I am catching up on a few of my favorite blogs, I have the windows wide open, breathing cool fresh air, smelling the freshly mowed grass and listening to the crickets sing! Every once in awhile I see little gecko streak across the window in search of tasty buggies! A glass of wine in hand and it's good to be me!

Peace and quiet

It's odd to wake up early in the morning, before the sun is up or the birds are awake. To just lie in bed and listen to the stillness. Part of you thinking you should get up and do something productive while children, spouse and dog are blissfully sleeping, part of you wanting to just stay put, under the warmth of the covers, enjoying that brief moment where time stands still, toddler tucked neatly in the small of your back, making little sleepy, snuffling noises, wrapped in a blanket of love.

And then you have to pee!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Takin' them out for a test run!

It's that time folks. Time for a little Piggy to venture into the potty realm. I have to be completely honest here, I HATE potty training (or potty-learning if I want to be PC about it)! I know there are folks out there that have potty trained their little angels in one weekend. I also know of kids that just decided they were done with diapers and potty trained themselves. No such luck here! When it was time for the Monkey Man to leave diapers behind, it was a 3 month battle of wills, with him ending up victorious in most instances! Granted, we eventually got through it and I'm happy to report my son will NOT go to college in Pull-Ups! But it was a struggle and it seemed as though every minute of every day revolved around the toilet and bodily functions!

Now it's the Piggy's turn! She shows interest in the potty itself, but not so much in doing the "DEED" in the potty. Her bears and dollies are quite adept at using the potty, but not the Piggy. However, I recently discovered that she longs for "Big Girl" undies, so I decided to buy a pack to see if I could well... bribe her to use the potty. I got them washed and she tried them on yesterday. She LOVED them! And I have to give her credit, she wore them for almost 3 hours, asked to use the potty 5 or 6 times (only once was productive, but hey) and stayed dry the whole time. I think we will have Evening Undie Time for a couple of weeks and then see if we can expand from there. All you mamas out there, please send good potty vibes my way, I'm gonna need 'em!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

What's on the menu? Elusive stuffed shells!

Many of you may be wondering why I am referring to these as "elusive" stuffed shells, well, here's the low-down. I was all set to make this lovely dish on Sunday night. I poured water in the pan to boil for the pasta and began to gather ingredients when I became aware that I was terribly short on parmesan cheese, kind of a major component of the stuffing! So, shells went on the back burner and we had some sort of impromptu dinner instead. Monday I went to the store to get the parmesan, came home with every intention of making luscious stuffed shells for dinner. Again, I set the water to boiling and much to my dismay and COMPLETE frustration, I could NOT find the shells ANYWHERE!!! I know I bought the damn things, in fact I specifically remember looking on the box to make sure of the amount of ricotta I needed. So I don't know what happened, the bagger neglected to put them in my bag, they fell out in the parking lot, leprechauns stole them from the pantry, who knows, but they were nowhere to be found. (Cue ranting, raving, cussing, kicking and a smidge of crying.) We ended up eating out that night, go figure. So I checked my ingredient list twice before going back to the store yet again to get SHELLS this time. Lucky for everyone in this house, I finally managed to get all my crap together to make this meal. And as a happy ending, it was GREAT! I have enough leftovers to feed us for at least one more dinner and lunch! Sweet. So, I am here to pass along this great dish, just remember, check your pantry EARLY to make sure you have all the goods!

Stuffed Shells with Cheese and Veggies

The goods:
12 oz. package of Jumbo shells, uncooked. You could use manicotti if you prefer.
4 cups or 32 oz of ricotta cheese
8 oz shredded mozzarella
1/2 cup parmesan
2 eggs
chopped fresh parsley
chopped fresh spinach
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
dash of nutmeg
shredded veggies
1 jar (approx. 28 oz) spaghetti sauce

Now most of you that know me, know I'm not a fan of processed foods. I usually make my own spaghetti sauce, but with this particular recipe, the rest of the process is enough of a time suck that I do settle for a nice organic store-bought sauce, just to save some time.

The shells:
Boil water and cook shells as directed. It's OK if they're done before you finish with the stuffing as they should cool off a few before handling them!

The veggies:
Shred one good sized carrot, one zucchini, some onion, a little bit of red bell pepper and mushrooms if you have them. Saute them lightly in olive oil, it doesn't take long when most of it is shredded or diced very small.

The "cheese goop" (as named by the Monkey Man):
Add all the cheeses, the eggs, and the spices. Add chopped spinach about 1/2- 1 cup and about a tablespoon or so of chopped parsley. Mix well. Then add the sauteed veggies, mix well.

Once the cheese mixture is ready, start stuffing the shells. I put a heaping teaspoon of cheese goop into each shell. And don't worry if some of the shells split apart, cheese goop works as glue and besides this will all get covered with sauce, so no one will know!

The Assembly Line: You need to cover the bottom of the pan with a thin layer of the spaghetti sauce. Then it's shell, goop, pan... shell, goop, pan...

Before the sauce...

Then cover the shells with the rest of the spaghetti sauce, you can thin it out a bit, and then bake for 30 minutes in a 350* oven. After it's out of the oven, sprinkle a little mozzarella on top (cause you really NEED more cheese in this recipe) and there you have it... yummy shells, packed with veggies and loved by children. Well, at least loved by MY children!