Monday, December 31, 2007

Post Christmas Musings and a Few Pictures to Boot

I realize it's been approximately 5 days and 10 hours since I last posted, but let me tell has taken approximately that long for me to recover from one of the single most horrendous Christmas's I have ever experienced.

I kid you not.

All was not bad, but I can assure y'all that a significant portion of our holiday was nothing short can I say this....Hellish.

Yes. Yes, I believe that describes it quite well. However, I am choosing not to share that aspect of our holiday. Trust me, it's for your own well being. So, I will share the good parts. Because they were...well...really good.

Christmas morning with our children was simply wonderful and I can't say enough good things about that aspect of the holiday. I even surprised Monk by buying him Dallas Stars hockey tickets and a Voddie Baucham, Jr. book that he'd been wanting, amongst many other items of interest. And in return, he bought me an MP3 player, a PINK Texas Longhorns hoodie, 2 more Gooseberry Patch cookbooks, and the handy dandy One Touch Can Opener to replace the Pampered Chef one that has caused much wailing and gnashing of teeth lately.

And some pictures to share:

The Boy doing his dead level best to look like a dork. He succeeded, I think.

Baby Girl playing with a few stocking stuffers. Made in China, of course. Because we care enough to buy the very best.

Mad Girl opening her hard back copy of To Kill A Mockingbird. It also included the movie with Gregory Peck. She is a classic literature lover she is.

Can anyone say Littlest Pet Shop?

Sis with her new American Girl Molly Art Studio and Cookbook. It's a keeper.

Me with incredibly bad Christmas morning hair and my new MP3 player which currently holds some Andrea Boccelli.

Baby Girl loving her new gift from Aunt T.

The Aftermath

And that concludes our brief look at Christmas morning a la Castle Monk. Hopefully, I will share some more aspects later, but right now it's time to do some shoppin' for our rockin' New Year's Eve Party tonight. Church people are so fun to party with! I see some Apples to Apples in my future!!

See y'all next year!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas

The gifts have been unwrapped and the excitement has settled. The children are tucked in their beds and sleeping almost as soundly as the cat lying next to me on the couch.

It's been a good day.

Merry Christmas to you all.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

A Fresh Look At Homeschooling

And some of you thought we were weirdos! This family could be our best friends!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

All is Merry and Bright...almost.

As you may or may not have noticed, my posting has been sporadic at best. I promise I have not given up on entertaining the throngs who read here with my uncanny wit, ancient wisdom and superior photography skills my feeble attempts at blogging.

I'm just busy.

You see, I, the highly unorganized one, have volunteered to not only host my Monk's side of the family for Christmas Eve at our home, but I've also offered to host Christmas Day with my side of the family. I am nothing if not a glutton for punishment, y'all.

However, the way I see it, I will clean once to host twice. It's a two-fer. Besides, through my hubby's series at church on hospitality a while back, I have become seriously convicted on the subject. I can no longer use excuses of half painted rooms and holes in the wall the size of a small child as my reasoning for not following a biblical command. And so, here I am.

As I was sitting at my table this morning, I looked upon one of my kitchen counters and was pleasantly surprised that it was, for the most part, clean. I am making progress people. So, for your viewing pleasure, my counter top.

All I have to do is put the dishes away and I'm done. Impressive, eh?

May I point out a few things of interest?

1. The clock. It reads 7:50 am. I'm taking pictures for my blog before 8 am. Does that count as pathetic?

2. The small Pampered Chef batter bowl sitting on my cutting board. This would contain starter for Amish Friendship Bread. I have kept that one for myself and also have 3 gallon size bags with starter in it on the opposite counter. Have I no friends upon which to bless with these bags of starter?, my printer is not working properly for me to print the instructions as how to finish the starter, so for now...I'm stuck like Chuck (just who is Chuck anyway?). Friends? Anyone want some starter minus the instructions?

3.The large Pampered Chef batter bowl with some golden liquid inside. This would be leftover chicken grease my friends. Nectar of the gods. My mother informs me that this will be used to "flavor" our green beans on Christmas Day. Have mercy, life is good.

4.The large container of golden liquid in the floor. This would be a vast amount of peanut oil. This fried the chicken last night, which led to the golden liquid mentioned above. This is liquid gold my friends.

5. The Wal-Mart shopping bag lying next to the gallon of liquid gold. This is potato scraps. Wha?? Yes, I'm blogging about potato scraps. They are going into my much neglected compost pile that I have resurrected over the past few weeks. Why? Because people! My uncle gave me his tiller (to keep - it's ALL MINE!) so I will be able to put in a garden this year! Are strains from Green Acres filling your ears?

And there you have it.

I am still going to post the last of the vacation trip home. I will just need a fairly sizable amount of time to blog it though. And time, my friends, is of the essence right now. There are things that need cleanin' and meals that need to be planned and a baby that is calling my name as I type.

Until next time...

Friday, December 14, 2007

For Your Blogging Pleasure....A recipe and pictures of pie!

While I don't often post about my culinary adventures, I really do love to cook. And interestingly enough, I never really liked baking very much until just recently. I don't know why it took me so long to like it and I have no idea why all of the sudden I started liking it. All I know is that sometime after the birth of Baby Girl, something just clicked.

Call it The 5th Child Baking Hormone if you like, but just know this...I really like to bake now.

I have made so many Banana Chocolate Chip muffins and Pumpkin Chocolate Chip muffins over the last five months I'm sure I have kept the Nestle Company afloat. And currently I am fermenting the batter for some Amish Friendship bread. It's puzzling to me that something so horribly stinky can end up being so delectably good. At any rate, I'm on day 8 of 10 and I am so excited about day 10!

Me? Excited about baking?

Miracles shall never cease.

And now on to the meat of my post.

I am a huge fan of Gooseberry Patch. Especially their cookbooks. They have normal, everyday recipes for normal, everyday people. Yes, I know I said normal, but for some reason I can still use them. Nothing in those cookbooks about Haricovert (pronounced hair-ee-co-vare with a snooty French accent, of course). Which is nothing more than a skinny green bean, y'all.

Anyhoo, I've been finding these cookbooks at Sam's Club and have grabbed a few there. Cracker Barrel sells them also. And just the other day I found some Christmas ones at Costco. I love the fact that they have "special" ones for certain times of the year. Which FINALLY leads me to my point.

I purchased their Autumn In the Country cookbook while on the way home from our trip to Michigan.

FOR HALF PRICE, YALL! This was big to me. Can you tell? Seriously, I read the thing from cover to cover. No joke. It was all that kept me sane while confined to the back seat with an unhappy infant.

See. Me staying sane while reading my cookbook. Bad hair, but good reading. You can't have it all.

Well, something that stuck out to me was a recipe for Homemade Apple Pie Filling. Cannned, Homemade Apple Pie Filling. Yes, I said canned. There were instructions for canning 6 quarts of apple pie filling.

Now, I have a confession to make. With all the cooking that I've done and all the baking that I've done...I've never made a pie. Nope. Not ever. I was pie shy. I had pie-aphobia. I was afraid to make pie. I was sure nothing short of an intervention and a 12 step program was going to cure me of my pie avoidance.

I was wrong. This recipe piqued my interest enough (or at least for the filling) to give it a shot.

However, since I've written the title of this post Monk has informed me that to give you all the recipe on my blog would be a copyright violation of epic proportions. And I wouldn't want the good folks over The Gooseberry Patch comin' after me. Or worse yet. Banning me from their cookbooks.

So. I'm not gonna give you the recipe. I'm sorry.

But don't you fret , for apparently either someone over at had the same recipe OR they have violated some sort of copyright infringement. Because if you want the recipe for Homemade Apple Pie Filling then go here. Ain't I sneaky? It's the same, exact recipe just minus a few intricate details. If you want to ask me questions then ask away and I will tell you. Just don't tell anyone you heard the details here or I might have to cyber-technically sabotage your computer or something else really mean and technical sounding.

Me and my techno-savvy terminology and all. I bet y'all are scared, huh?

Viola! The finished product!

5 jars of canned deliciousness. Why 5 and not 6? Because the bottom of
the sixth jar broke off as I was putting it into the canner. A slimy mess followed. Along with a few choice words.

Look! Apple pie goodness everyone! I did it! I made pie! It should have baked it an eensy bit longer, but overall it turned out well.
And the filling? Serendipity baby!
Now for those Martha Stewart types out there, let me just say that no, the crust was not from scratch. The fine folks at Pillsbury helped me out tremendously.

Baby steps, y'all. Baby steps.

And there you have it! My first adventures in homemade canned apple pie filling AND my first pie! It was a two-fer! What more can blogdom ask for? Uhh...content?

p.s. The final pictures of "The Trip" are coming. There's only so much posting one can do on the same subject before feeling like one might have to scream. Not me, of course. I'm just sayin'.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Value of Family

My thoughts exactly.

May I say that Voddie Baucham, Jr. has a whole slew of good stuff out there. This CD (click the link to see) has convicted me in ways I didn't know possible. Good stuff, people. Good stuff.

Monday, December 10, 2007

And FINALLY! The rest of my trip pictures...almost.

So, did y'all think something horribly tragic must have happened with my lengthy absence and all?

I didn't think so.

Honestly, it's Christmas time and life just seems to get a hundred times more difficult for a few days in December. We have something on our calender EVERY night this week! Ugh. But next week? Next week we got nuthin'! Woo-hoo!

Anyway, a few updates before the boring vacation pictures take over...again.


No really. He's a good driver and I'm happy for him. Well, mostly happy for me because now I can say to him, "Boy (and I do call him boy), go to the store and get some milk for your momma". Or how 'bout "Boy, go to the store and get Momma some medicine (medicine = chocolate around here). Anyway, it is nice to have another licensed driver in the house. Even if his insurance is an ever-lovin' fortune!

Alrighty then, on to the show.

Baby Girl learned to roll right before we left for Michigan. And that's pretty much what she did at Aunt T.'s house. She rolled
. Here, she's lamenting over the fact that her hair just will NOT lay down.

And this would pretty much be what Monk and my brother-in-law did most of the time. Sat in dual recliners with dual laptops. Should they be listening to "Dueling Banjos"? Okay, it's late and that was just stupid.
Somebody stop those wild and c
razy guys!

And this lovely shot would hav
e been taken on Thanksgiving morning when we awoke to freshly fallen snow. It looks as if we dragged our children from their warm beds and threw them out into the cold for some lame photo opportunity, huh? Well...we did. Just kidding! They are just Texas children and the thought of zipping their coats when it was only a mere 17 degrees outside just didn't occur to them.

And had we been playing charades, this would have been Baby Girl's imitation of baby Jesus lying in a manger.

Have you ever seen such
thunderous thighs in your life? And how about her cankles? (calves + ankles = cankles. It means there is not definition...they are one...can't tell them apart).

Only the single funnest game I
have ever played! We laughed until our sides hurt! This is a must have for your next party! Or family get together! Or family game night!

It is on sale at Target this week for only $17.99! It is normally $24.99! Quick, go there and get one!

Oh yeah. Monk also slept in the recliner. A lot.
But he was snuggling with his baby girl so it was totally allowed!
And just so you child does not have some weird hiney deformity. She wears cloth diapers and would appear that she has some major "junk in the trunk"!

And you couldn't find two sisters who loved each other more. They are truly a blessing!

And that would conclude day THREE of our trip pictures. But I did save the best for last. Yep. The trip home was certainly the best. Why, you ask? Because I was totally delirious and took some of the most insane pictures ever. I took more pictures of the trip home than I did the entire time we were actually in Michigan.

So, microwave the popcorn, pour an ice cold Coca-Cola and gather the children 'round, cause day FOUR is gonna be a hootin', hollerin' good time!

Or not.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Works For Me Wednesday - Quick Fixes

So Shannon over at Rocks In My Dryer has changed up Works For Me Wednesday a bit this week. This week would be the Quick Fix Edition.

In other words, what do we fix for dinner when time is scarce and/or the cupboards are scarcer (is that really a word? I don't think so, but let's pretend just this once, okay?).

My first inclination was to say, um...order takeout. But in the spirit of things this is not always the best option. Especially for a family of 7. Okay, technically 6 because the Baby Girl really only eats, well, But we are a bigger family and it is not very frugal to eat out very often at our size. Especially when one has a 16yo boy that can eat his weight in tacos.

Interestingly enough, I had to use one of my "go-to" meals tonight. I'm really rather ashamed that I didn't photograph the whole thing, but I forgot that this week was a special week and before I knew it I actually let my my family eat before photographing their dinner. I'll be sure not to let that happen again. Eating before photographing? What was I thinking?

So, without further adieu, here is one of my best "go-to" meals when pinched for time or a budget.

Bean and Cheese Quesadillas:

-Flour tortillas
-1 can of refried beans
-grated cheese
-butter or margarine (depending on whether you like things a la natural or if you prefer eating something that is like one molecule away from being considered plastic. I'm just sayin' is all)

Now I have one of them fancy Quesadilla Makers that I never would have purchased full price, but my mother-in-love bought it for me second hand at the Goodwill for like 3 bucks. Sorry, can't beat free, y'all. I use my Quesadilla Maker for mine, but when I was PQM (Pre-Quesadilla-Maker) I just used a pan on the stove.

Lightly butter 1 flour tortilla and set aside(use your own discretion here - as we all well know that I love the buttah!). Spread refried beans over the other tortilla. Place a small amount of butter in a preheated pan. After it has melted place the bean laden tortilla in the pan (bean side up, of course). Sprinkle with a little or a lot of cheese (it is, afterall, your arteries). Then place the buttered tortilla on top with THE BUTTERED SIDE UP (I'm not yelling, just emphasizing). After the first side is lightly browned then flip the tortilla with a spatula and cook the other side until golden.

The large flour tortillas can be used for this as well, but you would do it a little differently. You would use only ONE tortilla. Spread beans over half of tortilla, then sprinkle with cheese. Place whole tortilla in lightly buttered pan and fold over the beanless side -- like a taco. When first side is golden simply flip and cook until the other side is golden as well.

Two of my children are of the anti-bean camp and so they simply receive a cheese quesadillas. This suits me just fine as it leaves more beans for me. The question we have to ask ourselves is, "is that really a good thing?".

At any rate, that's what I got for my quick, cheap, "go-to" meal. It works for me! Go visit Shannon for a heapin' helpin' of other Quick Fixes! Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Me and My Evil Plan to Rip Off Wal-Mart

Okay, not really. But it was how they made me feel.

Monk and I went grocery shopping on Saturday, December 1st (this is important, really.) at our great, low price leader. I usually try and NOT go on Saturday, but due to our trip North and 157 other things going on last week, alas, it was the only day to go.

(I had planned on shopping Friday, November 30th, still important, but things went amok and that is why Saturday it was.)

So, on the way to the store I was sorting out all of my coupons that I had gathered together a few days prior to our shopping extravaganza. One of the reasons I don't like shopping on Saturday is because of using coupons. I know they hold up the line, so I really do try to be at least a little organized and courteous of the other shoppers. Another reason I didn't want to go this particular Saturday was because it was going to be a humdinger of a shopping trip simply because we had n-o-t-h-i-n-g to eat after being gone for so long.

Anyway, I am nothing if not completely meticulous (read: neurotic) in the checkout line concerning how I load my groceries on the belt (all cold items together, all canned goods together, etc... Why oh why can I not be this neurotic meticulous concerning my house?). This too, helps speed things along and is convenient for the checker.

After the lady rang my groceries I handed her my neat pile of coupons. I had two particular transactions that called for a buy a particular item and get a particular item free. I saved these for last so she wouldn't have to go digging through the receipt. I am the picture of courtesy while grocery shopping, am I not? So, she struggled through the first buy one get one and then right as she finished the second one, all of the sudden she exclaims, "This one's expired!".

Oh? It had expired the day before. November 30th. The day I was supposed to go grocery shopping. I had neglected to take it out of the pile because I just plain forgot.

She thrust the coupon back at me. I apologized and looked at Monk and said, "I was supposed to have come yesterday and I forgot to take this one out." He nodded. She frantically began pushing buttons to take off the now not-so-free box of Kandoo wipes. Even though they weren't free, out of courtesy, I still kept them.

Next thing I know she thrusts another one at me. "This one is expired too!" November 30th again. Again, I apologize. She then finds one more. Blast you Cascade Dishwasher Soap and Swiss Miss Pudding!

By this time I'm shifting on my feet because this woman is making me feel like I am a con artist of epic proportions. I had casually tried to explain about meaning to shop the day before, but uh-uh. Nope. She was gonna have NONE of that.

My eyes darted back and forth because I just knew the Wal-Mart Coupon Police would be there to arrest me at any time. I was sweating profusely as she continued through the pile, hoping and praying that I hadn't left any other offending coupons in there.

Thankfully, I was clean.

Okay y'all, let me just mention the total amount for which I was made to feel like a thief over.....


That's it. I was going to break Wal-Mart with $3.45.

I'll try not to mention the fact that I spent, including groceries and Christmas shopping, over $300.

Needless to say, Wal-Mart is on my not-so-nice list right now. Oh alright, I'd rather gouge my eye out with a hot fire poker than go there on a Saturday again!

Because as we all know....I might just have to take them for $3.50 the next time. Me and my evil ways, y'all. Me and my evil ways.