Friday, November 26, 2010

Sneaky Weasel

There must be some sort of developmental milestone that makes all four year-olds go crazy and start stalking their mothers and fathers and siblings and even their poor, unsuspecting dogs!  For the past four days there has been a sneaky little girl hiding behind doors or under the bed or behind the couch.  Every time I am pre-occupied with work or laundry or dishes, I catch a glimpse of the little weasel slinking out from under the dining room table, trying as hard as she might not to giggle and draw attention to herself.  Once she feels sure that she's reached an optimal range, she shoots up, grabs me by the leg, and hollers like a banshee, "RRRRRRAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHRRRRRRRR!"

 Then she sulks off dejected because I didn't jump out of my skin, only to come back 6 minutes later to try again!  You would think she'd just get tired and give it up, but she persists.  I am beginning to wonder if all this cloak and dagger stuff would just fade away if I gave her what she wanted, that one good, blood-curdling scream to make her think she's succeeded.  But something tells me it would only fuel the fire!  So for now, she keeps shrieking and I continue to assure her that she was CLOSE to scaring me.  We'll see how long it lasts, but I seem to remember the Monkey Man stalking me for months!  It's a good thing I'm not terribly jumpy or my life would be really sucky right about now!  ;)

Thursday, November 25, 2010

10 Things

These are the 10 things I'm thankful for this Thanksgiving.

1.  I know it's probably a given, but I am so thankful for my little turkeys!  My kids amaze me, they make me laugh every single day and they absolutely make me want to be the strongest, healthiest, most awesome "me" that I can be!

2.  I am thankful for my Big Daddy.  He is my soul mate and my best friend, truly the rhyme to my reason!  My kids couldn't ask for a better Daddy and I couldn't ask for a better partner in this crazy journey through parenthood!

3.  I am thankful for my home.  It may not be the dream home on 5 acres with a studio over the garage, but it's warm, it's safe and it's ours.  And in a world where so many people don't have a home, I am eternally grateful for mine!

4.  I can't believe I'm saying this, but yes... I am thankful for two little crapweasel dogs!  They are small, obnoxious, barky and occasionally they pee on the carpet, but they are awesome companions and loyal, little lap-warmers and I'm so happy we were able to give these two little sad-sack dogs a second chance at the good life!

5.  I am thankful that my husband has a good job with benefits!  Do I really need to say anymore?

6.  I am unbelievably thankful that I have found something I love to do and I'm getting the opportunity to go for it!

7.  I am thankful for my family, both near and far.

8.  I am thankful for amazing friends!  Each and everyone of you bring something special to my life!

9.  Again, I know it's cliche', but I'm thankful for my health.  All I want to do is spend a long, healthy, happy life in the presence of my beautiful family and friends!

10.  And last but not least...  I am thankful for sweat pants and flip-flops!  Life would be so uncomfortable without them!  ;)

Happy Thanksgiving to you all!  I hope you are spending a wonderful day, eating yummy food and spending time with those you love!  Gobble, gobble!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

How to make a platypus

Or at least a fairly decent version of one!  So here's the story... we have a little friend who is about to celebrate his 6th birthday.  He LOVES Australia and REALLY loves platypuses (or is it platypi?)  He is having a big Australian Adventure party and we wanted to stick with the theme.  We shopped around for a nice platypus but had no luck.  Ty makes a platypus Beanie Baby, but it's pink and doesn't really look like a platypus.  So the kids and I put our heads together and brainstormed.  The Monkey Man suggested that since I make costumes and I, not too long ago, made them monsters, why couldn't I make a platypus?  So I dug through my Halloween stash of polar fleece and lo and behold tan and brown for the perfect platypus!  Now I will warn you ahead of time, this was not intended to be a serious replica of a platypus, I was wanting him to have to whimsy and silliness.  So without further ado,  here is how you make a platypus!

Step 1.  Make a pattern.  I used leftover posterboard from Halloween and made a ridiculous sketch of said platypus, minus the beak and flippers that would be fashioned later.  I sewed around the body, leaving the head open to add stuffing.
 Step 2.  Stuff him!  I used regular Poly-Fil for stuffing.  I had an old pair of chopsticks that I used to poke the stuffing into the necessary spaces.  There was a great deal of poking and patting and whacking.  The kids thought I was a little weird!
Step 3.  Once you're done stuffing him, stitch the hole in the head and cut out flippers and a beak.  I sewed two pieces of fleece for each flipper and the beak.  I doubled the fleece on the flippers just for thickness, I left the edges raw.  I did put a small amount of stuffing in the beak.

Step 4.  Attach beak and flippers.  I hand-sewed all of these.  I wanted to make sure they were super strong and secure.  Look!  He's beginning to look like a platypus!
Step 5.  Pick out and attach eyes.  The kids wanted button eyes.  They thought he would be much sillier if they were different colors.  So there you have it!  The finished product made us giggle!  Step 6.  Have children give the platypus a good squeeze so he'll be full of love for his little boy!


We wrapped him in a raffia bow and I penned a little poem for the occasion... (names changed to protect the innocent!)

There once was a boy named Bobby
Who loved animals and critters and such
He especially loved Australia
And its majestic PLATYPUS

We searched high and low for a creature
That was soft and fuzzy and plush
But much to our sadness and sorrow
There was no majestic PLATYPUS

So we came up with a plan and a pattern
And with fleece and thread and fuss
We worked very hard to make you
This majestic PLATYPUS

We hope that you'll love him and keep him
And he'll be a special friend to trust
Because after all there's no creature as loyal
As the great and majestic PLATYPUS!

I would like to wish a fine Happy Birthday to our wonderful, little friend and we hope that he enjoys this platypus and he has as much fun playing with him as we had making him!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Westcave Preserve

On Monday, the kids and I met up with our Campfire group for a guided tour of Westcave Preserve.  I have been in Austin almost 8 years and have heard of this place, but we have never made it out there, so I was excited to finally see it.  I can tell you, I was NOT disappointed!  What a beautiful place!  The Monkey Man had asked on the way out if the preserve actually had a cave, but I told him that I was pretty sure it was just a name since the preserve is west of Bee Cave.  I was wrong!  There is actually a cave!  We were so excited!

The hike itself was lovely.  The trail was thin and rough and steep at times, we had to go single file much of the way.  This would NOT be a hike for someone with mobility issues as it is not paved and definitely not wheelchair or stroller accessible.  However, the trail was completely under the canopy and on a warm November day you just couldn't have asked for a more pleasant hike!

We started our tour with a talk about the watershed and conservation followed by a game about local wildlife.  The kids had loads of fun with this one!  I was a bobcat!

Then we had a quick picnic and gathered to start our hike.  While we were gearing up some of the kids noticed this little Texas Spiny Lizard!  Isn't it cute?
Then we were off down the trail.  First stop was a lookout point where we could see the Pedernales River.
And of course, I came across a cool, dead tree!  :)
As we got a little further into the canyon the scenery began to change from live oaks and scrub brush to delicate ferns and moss.
Then we came to the waterfall.  Granted, since there has been very little rain over the past few months the waterfall itself was nothing more than a trickle, but it was really pretty!
We were able to walk up behind the falls to look out and the kids were able to see evidence that this part of the world had once been under the sea as there were seashells in rock above our heads along with layers of limestone and shale.
Then we got to enter the cave!  OK, so we're not talking Carlsbad Caverns here, it was just a small, primitive cave that was VERY damp and drippy!  The tour guide called the water droplets that landed on our heads "cave kisses".  :)  Here is a shot of a small group of stalagmites.
Honestly, this picture makes me think of the Bog of Eternal stench in the Jim Henson movie "Labyrinth"!  Hee-hee!  There were quite a few baby stalactites, they were pretty much still "soda straws".  The tour guide mentioned that this particular cave had a lot of green algae present and if you looked close you could see algae at the end of the stalactites, which we could (sorry though, it did not translate into decent pics).  She asked if we could see what was different about the stalactites with algae and I noted that they were curved and she said, "Yes, they are curved because of the algae fighting to face toward the light at the entrance of the cave."  OK, so that was one of those mind-blowing, super-awesome discoveries!  I geeked out about that all afternoon!  There was a group of nice columns
and here is a view looking out of the cave entrance.  Notice all of the algae on the formation.
I managed one last shot of the waterfall area on the way back out.  Stunning isn't it?
It was a great hike, I highly recommend it!  This place is a preserve, so you are not allowed to just hike around willy-nilly.  They offer weekday guided tours for youth groups and few guided tours on the weekend with a maximum of 30 people per tour.  The tour guides are very motivated, friendly and knowledgeable.  They say this time of the year is pretty slow and the groups stay small.  But because of them only offering guided tours a certain number of times every week, humans have not impacted this area as much as most of the state parks.  There was no litter, just a beautiful, clean preserve with clear water and big cypress trees!  So if you haven't been, take the trip and go explore!  It is well worth the hour and fifteen minute drive out there!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Jack-O-Lanterns!

I LOVE HALLOWEEN!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Brazos Bend State Park--Trip Log

Yes, finally, the long awaited Brazos Bend Trip Log!  Sorry for the delay, but that's what happens when you come home with the flu!  I am feeling much better now and I'm ready to take you through my adventures at one the coolest parks I've been to!

We arrived on Friday afternoon with our car loaded to the max with camping gear, kids and dogs!  And as soon as I saw the sign, I knew this was gonna be a GREAT weekend!  We headed into the Ranger's station, selected our campsite and made our way through the park.  Sadly, when we claimed our spot, some old geezer from Houston came by and informed us that his church group had already reserved that spot.  But with a call to the front offices we were able to clarify that the spot was ours and life was good and we immediately started to set up camp!

Ah, Home Sweet Home!  We found a spot for the doggies.  "Sit boys, sit!  Good Doggies!"
By the time we were situated, it was time to get a fire going and cook dinner!  We had steaks cooked over the fire, a green salad, baked beans and some sourdough french bread!  Yum!  I don't kid around with camp food, we eat GOOD when we camp!  Once the fire settled a little,  it was time to bust out the marshmallows!  Nothing beats S'mores on a camping trip!  I've got to tell you, just sitting there, snuggled in a blanket with my kids, enjoying the fire and the noises of the night, it was heaven.  Seriously.

At one point, Big Daddy went to the facilities and came back with a trio of teenagers who were nice enough to show us a GARGANTUAN bullfrog they had pulled out of the swamp!  That thing was probably about 18" from head to toe!  And like an idiot I was so mesmerized by this thing and I was enjoying watching the kids so much that I totally forgot to get a camera.  I guess sometimes I need to realize that I can't snap a shot of EVERY thing we do or see!

One of the more interesting things I noticed about this park was the sheer number a certain type of spider.  These things were huge, at least 3-4" long with webs that went between the trees.  This little lovely was located about 15 feet up in the trees above our tent!
I would like to take a moment to acknowledge a guest photographer on my blog.   Several of the photos, including the one above, were taken by the Monkey Man himself!  I couldn't be prouder!

We eventually headed off to bed, enjoying all of the sounds around us, the croaking of the bullfrogs, the hoots of the owls and very late at night I heard coyotes and they were CLOSE.  It made me reach out and make sure all kids and doggies were safe and snug within the confines of the tent!  We woke up to crisp, chilly morning air and discovered that SOMEONE had tried to get into our cooler that night!
Pesky raccoons!  Oh well, they tried, but because we were smart and wedged it under the bench of the picnic table they weren't able to crack it open!  After a hearty breakfast of scrambled eggs and sausage, we got dressed, got our camera gear and headed out to explore the park.  One of the first things we saw was this sign...
and all I could think of was, "Ummmm, OK?!!"  It was quite apparent that this was some seriously swampy terrain.
I was completely enamored by the Spanish moss in the trees.  This shot made me think of a scene from "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil"!
And we all know my infatuation with old, dead trees.  This one was scrawny, but so cool nonetheless!
This shot was taken early in the morning and I was just amazed at how breathtaking this portion of the swamp was!  I'm so glad we stopped at the watering station for a drink!
As you can tell, the scenery was breathtaking, but what amazed me even more was the wealth of wildlife here.  And I mean in your face wildlife!  There were no fences, no enclosures, just paths and nature.  So let me show you some of the awesome critters we found in the span of just one afternoon!

Turtles!

 Hawks!
 Whistling ducks!
Yellow-crowned night heron
 Amazing dragonflies were everywhere, but hard as hell to photograph!
 Egrets that flew silently through the morning fog.
 White ibises
 The above, particularly cool and interesting shot was taken by the Monkey Man, there is no photo editing on this shot.  It reminds me more of a painting than a photo.  Click on it to get a better look!  SO cool!
 And of course one of the biggies of this park, is the Golden Silk Spider and it rules the whole place.  There are webs EVERYWHERE!  And the webs are HUGE!  What an incredible arachnid!
 But the one we all came to see was the American Alligator and did we ever see a few!  We saw Mama Gators,
and baby gators, (this one was a little over a foot long, so about a yearling)
 and BIG, DADDY GATORS!  He was probably about 12 feet long and all hauled out on the shore sunning himself!
And did I mention there are no fences or enclosures?  I had to keep a short leash on dogs and kids both!  After spending a good deal of time hiking, I took the kids over to the Nature Center to learn more about the animals we had seen that day.  It was small, but what it lacked in size it made up for it with well-informed, very friendly docents who discussed the local wildlife.  We were even treated to some up-close, hands-on experiences!

Here's a Mexican Milk Snake.
This particular snake is NOT native to the park, but they keep him on hand as a way to educate people on the coral snakes that ARE native to the park.  Next we got to pet this girl...
She was all shiny and soft since she just shed her exoskeleton about 3 days before!  And last but not least, BABY GATOR!!!
This little twerp was about 2 months old.  From what I understand, they try to catch a lot of them after they hatch.  They raise them for about a year until they are a little over a foot long, then they release them back into the wild to give them a little better chance for survival.  It had a wonderful scaly little back and the SOFTEST little underbelly!  I don't generally think reptiles can be classified as cute, but this little stinker was CUTE!

We headed back to camp for Piggy naptime and Big Daddy took off to get in line for tickets to the observatory for the Saturday Night viewing.  We had a nice dinner of Chicken Tortellini Pasta Salad and then we packed up the kids and the dogs and headed over to the observatory.
 Poor, little pipsqueak dogs had to hang out in the car.  Luckily as the sun was going down the temps were lovely and the breezes were blowing, besides, after all the hiking that day, these dogs were POOPED and all they wanted to do was sleep!  It was still light enough to get a decent pic of two of the telescopes.
As it got dark, a large group of amateur astonomers began to set up.  They each focused on different things and allowed the public to come and look through their telescopes.  They were more than happy to discuss things with the kids.  They pointed out some of the major constellations and one guy had his scope trained on the bottom of the Northern Cross which was so incredible.  It was actually two stars, one blue and one yellow and I had to go back 3 times to look because it was so cool!  After having nice chats with all of the amateur astronomers, it was time for our orientation, then up to the platform to wait our turn for the big scopes.  We started with the 36" telescope where they had it trained on the M-15 cluster.  The Piggy, being the shortest was allowed to go first as they raise the floor and drop it according to height!  Afterwards we headed to the smaller scopes,  which are 14" and 18", where we were treated to we the M-16 cluster and Jupiter with 4 of its moons!  The kids liked this the best!  You could actually see a dark black band which was a storm.  Totally awesome!

And that my friends, concludes our Brazos Bend adventure (at least the exciting, blog-able stuff).  The rest of the time was spent playing games, roasting marshmallows, having glo-stick dance contests and just having a wonderful time together as a family!  If you are wondering whether I would recommend this park, I absolutely would, UNLESS you have problems with spiders, snakes and large reptiles!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Who-hooooooos on my chimney??

A wonderful thing happens at my house when the weather starts getting chilly at night, we get OWLS!  The past few nights we've heard their calls in the distance, probably over in the field across from our neighborhood.  They have steadily gotten closer.  On Friday night we were treated to the telltale hoots coming down our chimney.  So, armed with a spotlighter, we all headed out to see what we could see and lo and behold, one of our great horned owls!  It seemed a little smaller than the ones we normally see and quieter too.  I'm thinking it may have been a young one.  But either way, I sent Big Daddy in to retrieve the camera!  Great horned owls are cool!  They are even more cool when they hang out on your chimney, undisturbed by your light and let you take pictures!  Thanks little owl!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Great Anticipation

We are two sleeps away from our big camping trip!  We found all the gear, checked to see if everything was in good order, went to the store to make sure we have plenty of batteries and plenty of water.  I have been excited about this trip for WEEKS!  And just where are we heading?  Brazos Bend State Park!  I have been wanting to go to this particular park for a couple of years now.  It boasts a large array of critters such as North American River Otters, gray fox, spoonbills and of course a large population of American Alligators!!!  (Needless to say, children will be monitored closely and pipsqueak dogs will be leashed or tethered in full view at ALL times!)  Another big perk is the George Observatory.   It opens every Saturday night for viewing through the 36", 14" and 18" telescopes!  The Monkey Man is really looking forward to stargazing!  In fact, the kids can hardly contain their excitement about this trip!  The park sounds amazing, the weather is going to be phenomenal and I can't imagine a better way to spent my weekend!  You can keep the swanky hotels in Vegas, just give me a tent, a campfire, some marshmallows and big blanket in which to snuggle with my munchkins and I will be in paradise!!  Needless to say, cameras are charged and packed and ready for action.  I can't wait to get out there and "shoot" something!!!  ;)  The Monkey Man will be in charge of one camera as it will be his "assignment" to take photos and write a journal about what we see and what we do on the trip so when we get home, he and Big Daddy can compile the official "Brazos Bend Trip Journal"!  I can't wait to see things through his eyes!  So we bid a fond farewell to Austin and the ACL Fest, you all enjoy the madness!  I will be enjoying the crackle of the campfire and the croaking of the bullfrogs!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

A Garden Beauty

I was in a pretty piss-poor mood when I went out to clean my car.  The world was seeming like a pretty ugly place.  Then I happened to look over and see this little lovely hanging out in my bulbine and all of a sudden life seemed a little softer and nicer!  Sometimes it's the little things.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

What's on the menu? Aunt C's Chicken Supreme

Just an FYI, if you don't have a problem with canned condensed soups then this will be a great recipe for you! If you have issues with canned soup, just stop reading now!  As many of you know, this is my first month of hardcore budgeting and menu preparation. After the first two weeks, I was struggling, trying to find some interesting meals to make as I'm not in the same mindset as my son who could seriously eat meatloaf every week! I was flipping through cookbooks and my handy-dandy recipe notebook and came across a recipe that was given to me almost a year ago by our wonderful Aunt C. formerly of Amarillo, TX and now residing in the DFW metroplex. She served it to us while we were stopping over on the way home from New Mexico and it was AWESOME!! So I thought, what the heck, let's see if I can pull this off. So here goes...


Chicken Supreme

1/2 stick margarine
1-1/4c brown rice
1 can cream mushroom soup
1 can cream chicken soup
1 can cream celery soup
1 can beef consumme (as you can see, I didn't lie about the soup!!)
1/2 soup can of water
1/2 c slivered or sliced almonds
6-10 chicken breasts (I actually used 4 large breasts that I cut into pieces and pounded down a bit)
Parmesan cheese

Melt margarine in large roasting pan. Spread uncooked rice on the bottom of pan, stir in the almonds, then lay chicken on top of rice. Heat soups and the 1/2 can water in a pan, then pour over the chicken and rice. I jiggled the pan a little to make sure it dispersed throughout. Sprinkle the top with parmesan cheese and bake uncovered in a 275*F oven for 3 hours. Then... ENJOY!!  Oh yeah, there was totally enough to have for dinner the next night!!