Saturday, July 24, 2010

Over the Hill

Kevin turned 40. We took the opportunity to remind him just how old he is. :)

There was plenty of black, and maybe a reminder or two (dozen) about being over the hill...

But I think he enjoyed it.

The boys certainly did. :)

Connor especially enjoyed his first ever canoe ride out on the lake. Only bribery convinced him to give up his hold on the boat and set foot on dry land again.

Others enjoyed the lake as well.
I think Cameron was as reluctant as Connor to have to get out.

While waiting for their turn on board or waiting for the pool to re-open from the distant thunder the kids played on playground.

Though once the pool opened back up people flocked inside. The adults to visit and supervise from the comfort of the arm chairs.

And the kids and kids at heart to enjoy the the pool all to ourselves.

Eventually we rounded everyone up to dry off and enjoy some cake.

But not before we plied the kids with blowers.

Uncle Randy helped Ryan and Connor figure out to how use theirs.

After finally locating a lighter we manged to light the candles, sing happy birthday, and enjoy some cake.

Right before the storm blew in with crackling lightening and booming thunder.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Finger Lickin' Good

I got industrious again this weekend. Or I suppose technically it started Thursday night when I popped an almost 9lb Boston butt into a giant ziploc bag to brine overnight. First thing Friday I threw it in the oven, set the temperature probe for 200 degrees (yes, 200), and went on about the day. When I opened the door I was met with the mouth watering aroma of a perfectly tender, rested, and ready to be pulled and inhaled pulled pork. And it was DELICIOUS. Especially with a little extra sprinkling of the dry rub and some brown sugar.

Then, speaking of sugar, on Saturday morning I made a new recipe for monkey bread in my favorite heart bundt pan.

Despite only putting in about half of the biscuits that it called for it still pouffed up and leaked over the side of the pan. The drippings of course proceeded to burn on the bottom of oven and send smoke wafting out the door. Thank goodness I don't have a smoke detector in the kitchen...

Connor devoured his helping, calling it "cake" and insistently asking for more. Ryan on the other hand ate a few bites, and pronounced it too sweet with a shudder. Kevin had 3rds.

Not to be outdone, on Sunday I took my brand spanking new double waffle maker for a spin. I love it! The waffles were super easy to make, and oh so light and fluffy. I think I will try a different recipe next time, but I can't wait to make them again.

And come Sunday night as if we hadn't been gluttonous enough lately I cooked a rack of ribs. And they came out falling off the bone, finger lickin good.

And the best part? They were done from start to finish in about 45 minutes. I washed them, cut them up, seasoned them with a dry rub, braised them then threw them in the pressure cooker with some of my favorite home made BBQ thanks to the Kunkels, and a coke. 20 minutes later I depressurized the pot, pulled them out, bushed them with BBQ sauce and stuck them under the broiler for about 7 minutes to crisp up the outside. They were mmm, mmm, good!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Luau Day

Friday was Luau day at school. I picked up leis for the kids at the dollar store. Unfortunately all they had left were the multi colored floral ones. They wore them for all of about 10 seconds. Which was 9 more than I expected. Well, Connor did, anyways. Ryan acted like it was a personal affront.

And when I picked them up from school? They begged to wear the leis they had gotten at school. To the car, and in the car. And around the house when we got home...

Friday, July 9, 2010

Be careful what you say...

... because you never know when you are going to hear it again.

We took the boys to the mall food court for a quick dinner a few days ago when we were out running some errand or another. They ended up splitting some bourbon chicken with broccoli and green beans with me (meaning of course that I ate the chicken and they ate the veggies.) Connor devoured every last bite of chicken, broccoli and green beans that landed on his plate. Ryan ate his weight in green beans, but refused to eat something or other else on his plate – the chicken probably. Throughout the meal they had been amazingly well behaved sitting in big boy chairs, using forks, and using the indoor voices - the whole 9 yards. So as a reward I scoped out the dessert options.

Cinnabon – too cinnamoney, Cookie Company – not enough icing, and finally gelato. Perfect gelato. I sampled a lemon that melted in my mouth and a violet which is actually made from the flowers and nothing at all like I expected. There were several people in front of me in line. I sampled while they were making up their minds. I had been gone for a while so I glanced back in the direction of our table. Kevin was standing up, so were the kids. I looked again while a family was ordering. Kevin was looking impatient. I looked a 3rd time after silently willing the people in front of me to “JUST HURRY UP!!” and he gave me the “What are you DOING!?!? GET OVER HERE” look. I had just placed my order when I turned to see Kevin walking towards me with a kid sideways under each arm giving me the “I’ve had it. It is time to home look.” I practically threw my credit card at the clerk tossing a “I’ll be right back” over my shoulder as I went to meet them. I took Connor and came back to get my receipt.

When we got back to the table as Connor and I enjoyed our lemon, and raspberry gelato Kevin recounted what had happened. Apparently not long after I left Connor started asking where I went. He eventually stood up in his chair to get a better view, and monkey see, monkey do. They were both standing up. Kevin tried repeatedly to get them to sit down and as Kevin was getting aggravated with them Ryan blurted out “I am going to bust your butt.” They both began to chant it. Increasing in volume. While standing on their podiums. I can only picture it, but I am sure they were having a great time. And Kevin? Kevin probably wished he could crawl under the table.

Life? Well, it's never boring with two, 2 year olds. :)

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The rest of the story...

So while I was outside taking a "before" picture of our mailbox I could hear claps of thunder booming, threatening rain. A second after one such clap my car started honking. For half a second I thought that the thunder had set it off. I thought that it was odd as the thunder hadn't been all that loud. But the car continued to honk. While constant I realized that it wasn't exactly on rhythm and in that instant I knew. I knew that one of the kids had the keys to the car.

I shouted "Ryan Austin!!" from the street in front of the house. And in between fits of laughter Kevin told me it wasn't fair to blame him before I even knew which one of them it was. As I opened the door to the house sure enough I could see Ryan, standing by the couch, holding the car keys in his hand and pushing like mad.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


Irony is having to buy and install a new, larger mailbox when all I really want is to never receive another piece of mail. The only things ever waiting for me in the mailbox are either a bills or junk. Just more things to clutter my table, bar, and butler's pantry until there is an avalanche or I just can't stand it anymore.

But alas I was tired of soggy junk mail. And letters from the home owners association complaining about the fact that our old mailbox was missing its door.

So how long do you think it will be until I get a new letter from the HOA about the fact that our mailbox doesn't match the old one? The one mailbox they don't make anymore...

Monday, July 5, 2010


I was headed to the grocery store. For the second time, today. Kevin was putting helmets on the boys and finding missing shoes to go for a bike ride. "In the rain?" I asked. I had looked up only moments before to see some big fat blobs land on the kitchen window. He said it wasn't raining.

The boys were lining up at the door, helmets on, ready to get in the wagon. I insisted they wait until I was out of the drive way.

I went on to the store. And picked up Old Bay seasoning, lemon juice, and some vegetables to steam to go along with the tilapia I intended to cook for dinner. I remembered at the last minute to pick up the biscuits and pie filling to try an easy cobbler recipe. When I got back to the checkout I could see straight out the door. It was raining. No. It was pouring. The kind of pouring where you drive a fraction of the speed limit with your wipers on high and you still can't see the road.

And my heart dropped. The boys. In the rain. They wouldn't melt I knew. Wasn't I the one who had just days earlier picked them up one at a time to run out in the downpour to feel the rain? To look up at the sky and try to catch raindrops on our tongue?

Yet I darted out into the pouring rain to get the to car. I had to stop and take my now slippery shoes off to be able to run to the car before I was completely soaked. I didn't make it. I was drenched. I could only imagine the boys having been out in it from the onset.

As the streets filled with water coming down too fast to drain off all I could think about was that I hoped they had waited long enough that it started raining before they left. As the lightening flashed and the thunder boomed so loud it would have rattled windows I hoped that if they had gotten off that they hadn't gotten far and would have made it home before long. As I drove with the windshield wipers on high and could barely see the road I scanned the sidewalk afraid that I would find them huddled under a tree seeking shelter. As I turned the street to our house I saw the bright yellow of the wagon up near our front door. I sighed in relief that they were at home, but worried about how long they had been out in it. I made a second jaunt in the rain past the wagon to get inside.

The sight that greeted me wasn't comforting. The rug was soaked. There were water puddles all over the tile in the entry. Shoes were tossed willy nilly. And there wasn't a person in sight. As I called for the boys I saw movement near the laundry room. Two little drowned rats, naked except for their diapers. Kevin drying off in a towel. The boys, hesitant and crying. They came running, only to point out that I was wet even if they weren't anymore. I grabbed towels off the table nearby and wrapped them up in them to hold them close.

I listened as Kevin told the story of how they had only made it to the entry of our neighborhood when the downpour had started. The boys had laughed at first. But as the rain had gotten harder and continued to blow in on them and they became soaked they no longer thought it was funny. And how they had pulled the wagon all the way up to the front porch seeking shelter only to discover that with the table there wasn't room so they were in the pouring rain waiting to be unstrapped.

As it was already bath night I went ahead and took them upstairs to give them baths after changing my own clothes. And by the time we came back down the puddles and chaos had been cleaned up like it never happened. The tilapia had long since been forgotten. I fixed the boys nuggets with streamed veggies instead. And a special treat of strawberries, bananas, apples, and two kinds of grapes. Though Connor only got a few bites as he refused to so much as take a bite of his broccoli or cauliflower.

Fabulous French Toast

How good was it?

Connor didn't even touch his "strawbabies" until every single piece was gone.

And when it was all gone they asked for seconds. Not of the strawberries, but of the french toast.

It was that good.

And easy.

And we will be making it again. I recommend you make some, too.

Fabulous French Toast

1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup milk
1 pinch salt
3 eggs
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon white sugar
8 slices of bread

Measure flour into a large mixing bowl. Slowly whisk in the milk. Whisk in the salt, eggs, cinnamon, vanilla extract and sugar until smooth.
Heat a lightly buttered skillet over medium heat.
Soak bread slices in mixture until saturated. Cook bread on each side until golden brown. Re-wisk mixture in between batches.
Sprinkle with powdered sugar just prior to serving.
Make enough for seconds. Or thirds.

Sunday, July 4, 2010


Though we have no pictures to prove it - we did manage to watch the fireworks. It was quite an adventure. We rushed, and rushed, then sat and waited. And waited some more. The boys were amazingly good. They treked, they waited, and they stayed put. The show didn't start until 9:30. And only then did we realize that our spot was directly behind some trees. We packed everything up and trecked again and finally got to where we we could see the fireworks. Ryan watched with interest for a while until it was just more of the same. And Connor could have cared less. He just wanted to dance to the music coming from a nearby car.

The fireworks were over in half the time it took us to trek from the car and we were once again trekking back. The boys passed out in their seats probably even before the car made it into gear. Thankfully after a lucky turn we managed to get out of the worst of the traffic and made our way down backroads all the way home. The boys barely even stirred as we changed diapers and put them to bed.

Scenes from the 4th

Scenes from the 4th

The boys made various patriotic themed art at school over the past couple of weeks. These fireworks were one of my favorites. The boys saw and heard some fireworks when we were coming home on Saturday. We told them they were firecrackers. Ryan proceeded to call them "FireTractors" keeping with his typical car theme. We tried to sort out the tractor/cracker thing and only managed to get him to tack on "but not the kind you eat" every time he continued to say "Fire Tractors."

"Ready to go!"

"All Decked out"

and yes... Kevin put Ryan's swimsuit on backwards. At least his shoes are on the right feet.

Enjoying some snacks after the swim.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Lost Pines: The Last Day

We were sad to see our stay at Lost Pines coming to and end, but we were really looking forward to our last day. We had signed up for a kayaking trip for the morning of our last day.

We signed our lives away, and caught a shuttle with 3 guides and 7 other kayakers. We drove a short ways to a long and steep boat ramp. At the bottom there were a dozen kayaks waiting for us along with lifejackets and paddles. After covering some basic information and some safety warnings regarding the perils of getting too close to the shore we picked out our boats and were off to tackle the aforementioned "Class 0 rapids." :)

We stayed together as a group with a guide in the front, one in the rear and one roving in the middle. The current was surprisingly swift to the point where the only paddling we actually had to do was what was required to steer and to keep us going straight.

Along the way we saw patches of star flower beds sticking up above the top of the water. It's foliage with tiny little yellow flowers were visible from quite a distance off and looked like shallow sand bars at first. As we got close to one our guide said they were a popular place for the resident fish to hang out like carp and gars.

The guide also told us that most of the land along the river was undeveloped land belonging to ranchers so while we did see signs of civilization here and there it was mostly forested with lots of trees having low hanging branches hanging out over or into the water.

The area is also a natural habitat for various birds. As we were talking about the herons who spend time in the more shallow and sedate waters we saw a bald eagle fly from one tree to another then give a repeat performance going further down river and crossing the river in front of us.

It is actually a whole different experience kayaking in a crowd. Especially a crowd with such a different range of capabilities. And a relatively narrow area in which to paddle. Though everyone seemed to be handling it with aplomb.

I floated to the back of the group to get out of the crowd from time to time and after a while would paddle back up to the front in just a few sort strokes as the pack stayed relatively close together. On a long, straight, and wide-open stretch of the river I had asked the guide up front if we could pick up the pace a little for a short while. We paddled leisurely, but continuously for most of the rest of the trip.

We were sad to see parts of the disc golf course come into view as it meant that we were back to the resort and that our landing dock would be coming into view far too soon. I knew we would get out at the resort, but I hadn't thought much about how that would really work. My only glimpses of the dock had been from a distance, but I didn't recall a ramp of any sort. I asked the guide and she said there wasn't a ramp that we would get out at the deck. Uh, huh. Sure we will... And how many of us will be taking a dip in the river during this process??

As it turned out there was a ladder, with rungs actually BELOW the level of the boat making it easy with the guide securing the end of the boat to step out onto the later and then climb on up the rest of the way. It wasn't nearly as bad as other dock entries or exits I had tried in the past.

With our kayaking trip behind us with a few hours still left before our late check-out we decided to make one more trip to the pool.
One more spin around the lazy river.
And a few more jaunts down the water slide.

It was a beautiful day and we had managed to find lounge chairs with a table and umbrella right next to the slide. We ordered sandwiches and fries from the pool side restaurant and enjoyed our lunch pool side watching people come and go on the lazy river and all the kids and kids at heart zoom down the slide. We swam once more before heading back to the room to gather up our stuff and checkout.

Though our trip had come to and end we were excited to head back home and see the boys. Though I don't doubt we had missed them more than they had missed us.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Lost Pines: Day 2

Saturday morning just before we departed for the Grand Hike we enjoyed a ride on the horse drawn carriage. I was secretly hoping that the carriage ride just might take us to the same place the wagon ride had the night before, you know, right next to the park entry so we wouldn’t have to hike there. For the record it was not being lazy, just having the foresight to try to conserve as much energy as possible for the actual hike. Little did I know at the time just how much I would need it...

We did however enjoy the ride that took us on a short circuit around the resort itself. Throughout the trip our guide on the back of the wagon told us interesting facts about the horses - how they came to spend part of their time at Hyatt, and about their roommates Ribeye and T-bone (the longhorns). Their particular breed, though I have long since forgotten the name, is a larger than an average horse and they passed around the weighty, oversized horse shoes to prove it while we played a guessing game about their weight. A young boy guessed 700lbs. A woman guessed 2000. Remembering the car sized bulls at the rodeo I threw out a guess of 3200lbs. To which Kevin laughed and mocked that that’s as much as a car! Turns out they weighed in around 2200lbs. I was only off by ½ a ton or so.

We also heard how the horses came to be at Hyatt, one leading a charmed life of a show horse trained in dancing and other talent acts. The other having been a former work horse – part of a pair that pulled a plow. The horse drawn carriage rides had once been a special holiday treat, but had morphed into a full time job. Their handlers had traded in jobs in HR and engineering at Hyatt to settle in the country 30 miles away for half of the week, and bring the animals in on Thursday night for the weekend’s activities.

We also learned about the longhorns. Despite their size they were only 3 years old, and were actually siblings. They shared the same father, but had different mothers and were reported to each take after their respective mothers. Their life expectancy was a surprisingly long time – about 20 years. Their father was reported to have had over 26 wives and at least 186 children if I recall correctly. A fact which elicited some laughs and witty remarks from some of the passengers. The trainer also mentioned how surprised she was with their intelligence. For example she said after just one trip through the resort on the very next trip they knew exactly which way to go.

We saw the longhorn pair again later in the day on our way to the pool. They were taking a walk through the property much like dogs on a leash out for a little walk to stretch their legs.

We spent several hours of the afternoon at the pool mostly cruising the lazy river in between quick jaunts down the big slide.

The slide was a blast. After watching Kevin go down at a nice sedate pace on his back just splash out gently into the pool below I took my first turn down the slide. I chose to sit instead of lie down and I was propelled down by the rushing water at a far faster clip that I imagined and practically drowned as I came off the end with all the grace of a cannon ball taking flight and sending waves and spray everywhere including up my nose. And yet it was so much fun we immediately raced back to do it all over again just like the kids. As we stood at the end of the short line the staffer at the top of the ride called several children by name, introducing them to one another, and asking new comers their names and a little about themselves. He chatted with them easily obviously enjoying his job. Like of most of the resort staff I was surprised at just how friendly, helpful, and pleasant they were making the stay all that much more enjoyable.

Finally shriveled up like prunes we dragged ourselves out of the water and after a quick stop by the room for a change of clothes went off in search of discs for disc golf. We started out at the tee box for the first hole in search of the basket. The tee was at resort level and between us and the basket we finally located down at the river level was a whole lot of dense forest growth. Not willing to lose our hard to acquire discs (what do you mean they are closed?) we decided to create our own starting point. We played several holes. Badly… Unless of course they were meant to be Par 4s. I did make one spectacular shot that I couldn’t repeat again if my life depended on it - splitting two trees no more than a couple of feet apart and landing practically within spitting distance of the basket. I might or might not have done a little celebration dance… Though with the on again off again sprinkles there weren’t many folks around to have seen anything one way or another.

The rain was actually refreshing. It helped cool things off a bit. It was also an interesting shower that shows just how cool nature can be. It was raining in the tree’d area for a while, but not out in the open area where we happened to be standing. We could see the wall of water were the rain just stopped. It eventually advanced covering us as well, but not before we had plenty of time to marvel at the fact that it could be raining 10 feet away, but not on us.

After our 2nd buffet in as many days – this time with a Seafood theme (did I mention how absolutely delicious the penne with crawfish and mushrooms with spicy marinara was??) we once again made smores before deciding to hit the pool a second time. It was our first trip to the pool after dark and I can’t begin to describe how perfect it was. The water actually felt warm against the cooler air left after the rain. And the landscape lighting all around the lazy river provided beautiful lighting to the whole area. The glimpses of the full moon we could see at various points in the river only added to the beauty. We were incredibly sad when we were kicked out of the pool when it closed at 10pm or were more accurately chased out of the pool by overzealous staff. As we headed back towards our room we stopped at the now abandoned campfire area that was still blazing merrily. We sat for a while enjoying our last night with the flickering flames, moonlight, and blessed lack of bugs.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Lost Pines: The Grand Hike

We decided to take a short hike Saturday morning. The LCRA (also known Lower Colorado River Authority) park McKinney Roughs backs up to the Lost Pines property. We had seen the trail head sign posts during our wagon ride the previous night and had picked up a trail map from the recreation desk. The trail head we were told was 3/4 a mile either down the same dirt path the wagon had taken us, or a smaller jogging path that wended along side the river. After looking the trail map we had decided to do the Pecan Bottom to Deep Sandy or Coyote Road loop in order to see the largest Pecan Tree in the park - estimated to be over 200 years old and more than 12 feet in circumference.

We put on our hiking books (aka tennis shoes), dabbed on the sunscreen, grabbed Kevin's GPS, a couple of bottles of water and headed out. We arrived at the trail head and followed the great signage down the wide and well maintained paths. It was actually quite a good thing that the paths were so well marked as the GPS Kevin brought wouldn't even turn on when we gave it a try at the trail head.

As it turns out all the paths along our journey (both planned and not...) were also equestrian trails and indeed we actually passed two separate sets of riders going in the opposite direction along our way. For the vast majority of the trip the large trees, undergrowth, and vines kept the path thankfully well shaded as the temperatures were rising and the direct sunlight was blisteringly hot even before noon.

The biggest surprise along the way (other than the 2nd set of riders whose lead horse almost flattened me as they came around a blind fork in the road) was the sheer number of butterflies.

The first of which we didn't actually see directly at first, but instead saw the large shadow it cast as it fluttered gracefully overhead before finally landing in some nearby brush.

We ended up seeing at least 6 or 8 different varieties of butterflies on our trek. Surprisingly, almost every time we came along a new butterfly it was a new and different variety than the ones we had seen previously.

It was amazing that there so many of so many different varieties all in one place. Though it quickly became apparent that some were more inclined to sit and pose for a picture than others who constantly flitted around barely if ever pausing in one spot making it a maddeningly difficult to actually get a picture of them. And I thought the boys were hard to capture... :)

In no time at all we came across the giant pecan tree. It was indeed a large tree, though it didn't hold a candle to the giant trees in places like the redwood forest.

Buoyed by the shorter than expected journey and the up to that point flat terrain we decided to add on another stop along our journey - the scenic outlook off the branch in the Road Runner path and depending on how tough that was either come back the way we had gone or all the way on around the loop to Coyote Road.

We carefully looked at the elevation changes the view from the topographical map afforded us and decided that it didn't look too bad. Those will be famous last words someday. They will probably be etched on my tombstone. :)

The Buckeye path was actually probably some of the prettiest trails along the way with its up and down hills and beautiful tree cover. Some areas however were fairly sleep climbs for two out of shape city folks accustomed to flat and air conditioned terrain. It was also about this time as my water was nearing the halfway mark that I realized when I had told Kevin to grab 2 bottles of water (for me) he had grabbed two total - one for him and one for me. And did I mentioned that was HOT outside??

There were plenty of distractions along the way including a variety of flowers in bloom, and along with the bee who happened into my picture a whole drove of horseflies intent on keeping us moving lest we stop and be viciously attacked. I have a whole new level of empathy for horses who spend all day swatting at the beasts. It really hurts when they bite!

As we crested the Buckeye Trail and turned on the Road Runner trail huffing and puffing (okay so I was huffing and puffing from the final steep assent and the ridiculous heat of the hottest day of the weekend - just my luck...) the trail turned into almost a prairie like path with mostly scrubby brush and few scattered trees with the sun out in full force mocking us for having decided that was a remotely good idea.

By the time we reached the cut-off I was about ready to give up and turn around and had already decided that I was going into the pool the second we got back clothes and all regardless of how many people were there and what they would think. :) Luckily as I stopped in one of the few shaded areas along the path a brisk breeze was blowing which helped cool things off tremendously. And just when I had cooled off enough and worked myself up to finishing the rest of the path come what may we were there.

I am fairly certain I uttered something like "This is IT???" just before collapsing on the shaded picnic table at the top. I was eventually revived by the shade and breeze long enough to sit up and look around and appreciate the scenic views of the Colorado River off in the distance below.

As I chugged part of my water and my face cooled from boiling lobster red to a more normal shade I recovered enough to eventually even stand back up and snap a few pictures from the top.

Almost restored back to my original good spirits by the shady break with the much appreciated breeze we decided to take the rest of the loop back towards the river. Before long, despite the lack of shade it was clear that there was a reason that everyone we passed was heading in the opposite direction choosing to take the gradual sloped path up and the crazy hilly path down. We did eventually make our way back to the trail head and I think were were both relieved to see the sign pointing out the Hyatt Resort exit.

As we took the river path back towards the hotel with Kevin dreaming about the buffet lunch he would devour and me fantasizing about either the pool or an ice cold shower we saw a squirrel - only the second animal we had actually seen along the journey. I had spotted a camera shy armadillo out of the corner of my eye just before we took the path back towards the hotel. Neither paid us terribly much attention seemingly accustomed to the wild pointing and and frequent visitors.
We did eventually make it back to the hotel and I got my nice ice cold shower - the perfect way to top off a 4.5 mile journey in the heat and humidity of a Texas summer. And like icing on the cake I savored my way through a giant, delicious angus burger topped with a thick slice of real cheddar cheese and a basket of perfectly crunchy and salted french fries.


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