Monday, January 25, 2010

And then she was 39

Today starts the last year of my thirties! 39 people! It's a BIG number! Not quite as big as 40 but we all know that one's just around the corner waiting to bite me in the ass! It's kind of surreal, really, knowing that I'm a year away from 40. Where in the hell did time go?!? I could swear it was just yesterday that was running around with huge hair, draggin' Main in a '71 Buick LeSabre with all my girlfriends blaring Motley Crue as loudly as we could and tormenting teenage boys!

Truth be told... I still have huge hair! And I still blare Motley Crue but now I headbang with my kids instead of my girlfriends! I rarely taunt boys anymore though, it's usually uptight Texans in gas-guzzling SUV's and Dodge Ram super-cabs! Hmmmm, maybe things haven't changed as much as I thought! ;)

I do have to say, my 30's have been my favorite decade. The teenage years were fun, but also full of angst and uncertainty and growing up in a small town where individuality was a death sentence. For some people those 3 or 4 years in high school were the glory days, but not for me. Relive the teenage years? No thanks, I'll pass.

My twenties were definitely a step up. I fell in love, FOR REAL, and I married him!
I got a good college education. I moved to the Pacific Northwest (which is where I found my soul).
I became a first-time homeowner.
I guess I finally became an adult. Some people might think that would be a downer, but it wasn't. It was good! I finally felt I was coming into my own and learning to how to live in my own skin. I dug my twenties, they were alright! But then came the big 3-0 and EVERYTHING CHANGED.

Five months after my 30th birthday I unexpectedly discovered I was pregnant with my son. Talk about a fine howdy-do! Big Daddy was pretty calm about the situation, I on the other hand, freaked the hell out! I didn't even LIKE kids. How can you have a kid when you don't like them? Seriously, my motto for years was, "Kids, I hate 'em, they stink!" But then again, how was I to know that the moment I laid eyes on him my heart would know a completely different level of love, something I could have never imagined.
As I have stated before, the one thing I thought I never wanted turned out to be the best thing I ever did. It's like those tiny, little fingers unlocked a portion of my heart and my soul that I had never known
and I flourished because of it. Once he arrived I embraced motherhood whole-heartedly. As if parenthood itself wasn't life-changing enough, I left my job and became a stay-at-home mama, a move that I think shocked my friends and family beyond belief. It was a hard decision, but it felt right. Sadly though, with my new stay-at-home-mama status came a sense of loneliness and isolation. My friends didn't have kids and my family was thousands of miles away. In the long run, this led to another life-changing decision, the decision to pack our bags with an infant in tow and move to Texas! So within a year and a half of turning 30, I got pregnant, had a baby, left my job, and moved to Texas. No one can accuse me of ever doing anything little!

Most people might think that moving from Oregon to Texas would have been stifling. I mean lets face it, I'm a tree-hugging, recycling, gay-marriage supporting, agnostic, hippy... what the hell was I thinking moving to the land of big truck driving, gun-toting, rednecks? Well, as with many things in my life, I discovered you can't pre-judge a situation. After all, I wasn't fond of kids, but one little boy changed my attitude really damn quick. The same thing happened in Texas. Much to my surprise, I found an amazing group of friends and a support system that I had never experienced. People who like me for who I am and who support my choices even if they wouldn't have made them. Sometimes you have to just kick back, relax, enjoy the ride and open your mind to the possibilities. Although I found my soul in Oregon, I found "ME" in Texas. I also found the love of my life for a third time!

And I finally, FINALLY learned that it was cool to be me. In my youth, like most, I dreamed of being rich and famous, but I hit 36 and it dawned on me (I know, sometimes I'm slow to catch on), "Crap, looks like this rich and famous shit just ain't gonna happen!" At first it stung a bit, then I realized, what the hell? It is what it is. I am who I am. I am a homeschooling mother of two little kids that I adore beyond belief! I have a husband that I love and that loves me back. I have a nice, little house in the burbs with a happy little victory garden in the back. I am an amateur photographer that needs to get over my chickenshit self and go pro. I'm an outdoor enthusiast, an artist, a blogger, a dork, an ink fanatic, a helluva cook, a dog lover, a loyal friend and all in all, a pretty damn nice person (although I'm told I'm a bit loud and obnoxious on occasion)! I'm not rich, I'm far from famous, I'm not a rockstar, but I am ME. I'm cool with myself, wrinkles, cellulite, saggy boobs and all! I truly love my life and that's so freakin' cool! And for this realization alone I will always cherish my thirties. So here's to 39,
let this year be a great end to a great decade and let my transition into my 40's be smooth. After all, if my thirties were this good, my forties should be a blast!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Green and still growing, even after a freeze!

Can you even stand it? A couple of weeks ago Central Texas had a HARD freeze! There were several days of 20* weather with wind and wind chill, it was awful! OK, I get that it wasn't Michigan, 20" of snow and -19* temps, but for those of us with delicate dispositions, it was mighty uncomfortable. I don't think I felt my feet for 4 days! Needless to say, I was a bit worried for my little garden. I still have seedlings (because of various re-plantings due to ass-clown dogs digging holes) so I was concerned that they may freeze. I was diligent and covered them with frost barriers and hoped for the best. When it was time to remove the barriers I completely expected the garden to be dead, dead, deadski. I was so thrilled to see that it was alive and much to my surprise... THRIVING! The turnips were out of control, the collards were doing well and the lettuce faired fine barring a couple of frost-bitten plants that I had to remove. The onion and garlic stems were a little squished, but they were fine! I have been harvested lettuce on almost a daily basis to make luscious salads and throw into smoothies. I needed to thin the turnips so the bulbs would have room to grow and had quite the bunch of greens to show for it! I'm now looking for a nice recipe and they will accompany brisket and pinto beans this weekend! I LOVE harvest time in the garden. If I could only figure out how to plant so I have a continuous yield of something all year. I just bought a book called "Carrots Love Tomatoes" by Louise Riotte. I am hoping this will answer some of my questions and allow me to get better year-round yields. I will be sure to post a little review of the book and what I learned when I finish. But until then, I am totally and completely in love with my little garden and I want more! It's time to start planning bed #4! Big Daddy is NOT gonna be into that!

Monday, January 11, 2010

What's on the Menu? Rice Pilaf

So for years I bought pre-packaged boxes of rice and preservatives to serve with my chicken or fish. Lucky for me, the brand that I liked bumped their prices through the stratosphere! If anyone thinks I'm going to spend damn near $4 on a box of RICE they are sadly mistaken! I was in a panic, rice is a big deal in our house. And for some reason I thought rice pilaf was just out of my league! I'm not sure why, I just did. I mean obviously if they had to mass produce it and put it in boxes it was just way too complicated for regular folks like me! So I began to research and ended up feeling like a dunce! How was I to know that a basic rice pilaf was nothing more than rice, broth, olive oil and salt?!?! I kept it simple the first couple of times, just to be sure I could get the consistency to come out nice, as it turns out Jasmine rice is MUCH better for pilaf than your average white rice. And honestly pilaf has become one of my favorite recipes to mess around with. I come up with something different every time. So I would just like to share the concoction I ended up with last night to accompany a nice baked roughy.

Rice Pilaf with peppers, mushrooms and spinach

About 1 tbsp. of olive oil
1 1/2 c. Jasmine rice
2 1/4 c. broth and/or water (I generally use vegetable broth, especially when making rice to accompany fish)
1 tsp. salt
Pepper to taste
Onion (about a half of a small one chopped fine)
Bell peppers (I like orange, yellow and reds, the green is a little harsh for this one)
Mushrooms sliced thin
Fresh spinach chopped

Pour olive oil into a hot pan, add rice and begin to saute. After a minute or so add in the onions and bell peppers, continue to saute. Once the rice starts to brown a little, add the mushrooms and saute until the rice is golden brown. Add the broth or water. Salt and pepper and turn the heat down to simmer. Some people cover theirs, I usually don't. Simmer the rice until it reaches that nice soft consistency, but not sticky and mushy. I do have to add a little more water on occasion if it hasn't reached the desired softness, it won't hurt anything if you need to do so, just add a little at a time. Once you reach the desired consistency, turn off the heat, add in the spinach and fluff it with a fork. It will wilt down nicely and viola, you have a lovely pilaf! I would be willing to bet that slivered almonds or pine nuts would be really nice in this dish. Anyway, once you have the basic four ingredients down, you can play with pilaf and come up with all sorts of things. I curry mine, I sometimes add meat and make it a full meal, golden raisins are nice, dried apricots are amazing, the sky is the limit with rice!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

All I wanted was a fucking Snickers bar!

I had a busy day today. I took the Monkey Man to his first basketball game (and he did great), then I asked Big Daddy to drop me off at the offices so I could get them taken care of while he did some re-con work for one of his clients. We didn't eat much lunch because we were running SO late, so by the time I was done with the offices I was STARVING. No problem, we could just swing by Walgreens and I'd run in and grab a Snicker bar! And if you're wondering why Walgreens, it's because they have cheaper prices on candy than say a convenience store. Anyway, I run in and look and look and cannot find a Snickers. They have ALMOND Snickers and Snickers DARK and the mondo, could-feed-3-people sized Snickers bar, but not a regular sized, regular flavored bar. So I'm walking around looking confused when I find the entire stock of Snickers on an end cap ON SALE, HOORAY! So I grab it and head to the register. Of course as I walk up, the lady with a basketful of crap gets in front of me. Sigh. I always pick the wrong line or the wrong time, but the cashier rang her up fast and I had hope. But no... she was paying with food stamps and some sort of check and the register wasn't taking it and she was complaining and managers were getting called and the line was growing behind me and FINALLY the cashier says, "Folks, this may take awhile, you may want to go to the cosmetics counter for quicker service." So I leave the line and start heading to cosmetics, as I WAS the next person in line, and lo and behold this perky,little bitch with a Kate Gosselin reverse mullet and manicured nails cuts me off and steps up to the counter in front of me! The nerve! She dumps like 7 items on the counter while I'm standing there with my one fucking candy bar looking stunned. The cashier rings her items, gives the bitch, I mean, nice, young lady, her total. Miss Perky looks incredulous as she explains how that just couldn't be the price because "this was $2.50 and this was $3.29, and blah, blah, blah..." So of course the cashier has to leave and go find ALL OF THESE FUCKING ITEMS to do a price check! At that point I dropped the candy bar on the counter in front of Little Miss Manicured Mullet and said, "Nevermind, no candy bar is worth this shit." I had such a hard time walking out because all I wanted to do was slap that bitch so hard that her mullet would face the proper direction!

I get disheartened at the lack of common decency and manners in our society. We have become nothing but a bunch of self-serving assholes who don't give jack shit about anyone or anything. Entitlement is the name of the game and it's ghastly. Emily Post would be horrified! I try so hard everyday to teach my children to be polite and attentive but sometimes I wonder if they are going to spend their entire lives getting walked on by hoards of rude, entitled, little crap weasels whose parents had shit for manners too!

And truly... all I wanted was a fucking Snickers bar!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

A New Pho King Restaurant!

It's not often we get new restaurants in our neck of the woods. Things are developing slowly in our area which probably isn't that great for property values, but it makes me happy because I can still see deer, raccoons and coyotes on occasion! But anyway, we noticed this restaurant going in several months ago and it just had its Grand Opening this past weekend so we thought we'd go check it out! We had high hopes that this place was going to be Pho King AWESOME, but sadly it was totally Pho King mediocre. It was a bit of a Pho King let down if you really want to know the truth. The food was just Pho King alright, the service wasn't that Pho King good and the atmosphere was totally Pho King annoying. I am hoping some day we will get a decent Pho King restaurant in our neighborhood. But until then, I guess we'll just have to eat at one of the Pho King chain restaurants instead!

First Harvest of the New Year!

I had to cover up the beds yesterday, with an overnight forecast in the 20's (I think they lied) but anyway, I decided to grab a bowlful of luscious, leafy greens before I tucked them in! This was the first harvest of the year (and of the season) and it made one awesome little salad to accompany our homemade pizza! Hooray for leafy greens in the garden! Now I won't have to buy lettuce again until May or June! And they are so tender and sweet that I'll be able to use them in smoothies and the kids will never know! NICE.

Monday, January 4, 2010

2010... Bring it on!

It's a new year and I find myself reminiscing about 2009 and wondering where the hell time went! It was a jam-packed year and I feel like I hardly had time to sit down and breathe. And although 2009 was a rough year for many people, I honestly can't complain. Of course we have been a bit strapped financially, but who hasn't? We adjusted. And of course there were loads of things I meant to do but never did (Hello, baseboards?? Someday.)

So... what DID I get done in 2009?

1. I once again managed to get two children another year closer to adulthood without thinking of sending them to boarding school even once! (OK, maybe just once.)
2. I continued homeschooling my children and I LOVED it! I was worried after the first year or so that I might not be so gung-ho about it anymore, but the longer we homeschool the more I am sure that this is absolutely the best situation for our family and I couldn't be happier!
3. I TRAVELED! I didn't go anyplace exotic or tropical but I did travel and it was GREAT! We camped, we enjoyed our cabin in Ruidoso and we discovered new and wonderful places in New Mexico and Texas. I'm sure going to Hawaii or Italy would have been cool, but honestly, there is so much to see and do locally, why not take advantage of that (especially if you're on a tight budget!)? Besides, traveling to me is more about who I'm with than where I'm at. I just adore being with my family and it doesn't make a damn bit of difference if we are in Fiji or Ruidoso as long as we're together! (Fiji would be freakin' cool though!)
4. I added on to my garden and continued growing food! I grew luscious lettuce and broccoli in the winter and had a bumper crop of black-eyed peas and okra this past summer. There was an unfortunate mishap with the tomatoes, but that gave way to the most awesome crop of basil Central Texas has ever seen in a single backyard! I then planted my winter garden of lettuce, greens, beets, turnips, onions and garlic which I am tending to at this time. I still love it and I can't imagine life without a garden, now if I could just figure out how to rotate crops in a way that I have a constant yield! Oh well, something to strive for!
5. We worked very hard this year to become less dependent on processed foods. I have not bought a loaf of bread in over a year and I haven't bought flour tortillas in months. I make my own spaghetti and pizza sauces not to mention my own rice pilafs and soups. I think my family is happier and healthier for this change. Now if I could just break my Coke habit!
6. I boycotted most store-bought cleaners. I have done my research and feel confident that most messes can be conquered with nothing more than vinegar, baking soda, lemons, dish soap, borax or hydrogen peroxide. So much easier on the environment AND the pocket book! Win-Win!
7. I took time for myself and went to Las Vegas with Big Daddy! Vegas was certainly not my choice of destinations, but how do you turn down a free trip? And like I mentioned before, it makes no difference where I'm at as long as I'm with the one I love! So we went, we took pics, we saw Carlos Santana AND Elvis and we just hung out, enjoying time together! It rocked.
8. I celebrated 15 years of marriage! We threw a big party with all of our family and friends and got re-married by none other than "Nelvis"! I can't tell you how awesome it is to have friends that will indulge your crazy eccentricities!
9. I took pictures like crazy! I see a portfolio in my near future!

But with all the good in 2009, there was one major downer. After 4-1/2 years with us, our beloved dog Otis passed away suddenly just before the holidays. We miss him every single day. But sometimes out of sadness a seed of hope and joy sprouts. Just before Thanksgiving we adopted two little dogs from the shelter! They are wicked cute and a wicked pain in the ass, but I am thrilled that I was able to give two little hard-knock pups a second chance. They are now warm, well-fed and loved beyond belief and I think Otis would approve!

So what about 2010? Well, as I have stated in years past, I DO NOT DO RESOLUTIONS! I'm just not a big fan of setting myself up to fail, but of course I have some goals for the new year.

1. Since neither 2008 nor 2009 were "The Year of the Baseboard", I really hope I can knock this one out this year. It's really beyond pathetic that we haven't taken care of this yet. But what can I say, it always loses the coin toss. Should I put down baseboards or go to Dallas to take the Monkey Man to see King Tut? Baseboards or Balloon Fiesta? Baseboards or mountain air and cool breezes to escape the scorching Texas heat? See what I mean? Baseboards didn't have a chance!
2. Continue traveling! I am loving taking road trips with my kids! It's such a great time for them to learn and have fun at the same time and I feel fortunate that homeschooling has allowed me the flexibility to do this. We have a road trip to Kentucky in the works for late spring that I am VERY excited about!
3. Conquer corn tortillas and pita and continue to lessen my dependence on processed foods.
4. Spend more time playing!
5. Take the children to more live music and more art venues. Austin is full of these and I haven't utilized them to fullest!
6. LEARN to take advantage of the LIBRARY! It is such a valuable resource unless Mama is a complete dunce when it comes to the Dewey Decimal system! I need a freakin' lesson in library skills!
7. Spend more time with good friends!
8. Train a couple of punk-ass dogs! They are so sweet and so snuggly but they could use some manners!
9. Continue gardening
10. My biggest goal of 2010 is to acquire additional equipment, a studio, and organize a portfolio for my photography. I have been on the brink of going professional for over a year, but I've been too chicken to do it! I need to just relax, admit that I have some talent and allow myself to take that step. After all, what do I really have to lose, right? I love photography and I would love to do it professionally. So like the Nike trademark says... Just do it!

I am looking forward to 2010 with all of its potential and possibilities! I just want to take it one day at a time, trying to make sure that I live every single day to its fullest! And sometimes living that day to the fullest means getting back into bed and sleeping late snuggled up with my baby girl or playing a couple of hours of Rock Band with the hubby and the boy! It's all about living in the now and not obsessing over the future. It hit me a couple of years ago that I was so caught up in the "Once I do this..., when I do that..., when we have "X" amount of $$$" that I completely lost sight of what was happening right under my nose! The fact is, a single afternoon gardening in the backyard with the kids jumping on the trampoline while crazy dogs play in the sun is so much more fun than worrying about what life will be like "if or when". So here's to the simple pleasures of 2010, a year of silly art, hiking, bad knock-knock jokes, dress-up, camping, good books, good food, goofy dogs, family, friends, green slime, awesome music, luscious lettuce, and not regretting a thing! I hope you are able to look fondly back on 2009 and jump into 2010 with a renewed sense of passion and I hope each and every one of you will join me in making this year one to remember!