Thursday, December 20, 2012

Snapshots of December

12th Man Day (12-12-12)
"Saw varsity's horns off"
Refusing to listen to the War Hymn at 12:12 on 12-12-12

Johnson City Courthouse

Carriage ride around Johnson City

Papa got all the kids head lamps just for fun, and Max rarely takes his off.

playing "Silent Night" at the nursing home

I have developed a growth.
Which reminds me of a song:
"Oh you can't pack a bag with a kid on your feet...
But you can be happy if you've a mind to."
Or something like that.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

What's your secret?

Hey there, readers. I'm doing a little research for a writing project I'm thinking about taking on, and I need your help. What I want to know is this: What do you consider to be the secret(s) to a happy marriage? I don't care if you're young or old, male or female. And I don't care if you've been married 80 years or if you've never been married. I'm willing to bet everyone out there has some thoughts about this. Your answers can be silly or serious, have a story to go with them or just stand alone. Comment here on the blog, or on my Facebook page, but please comment. The more secrets I can collect, the better.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Family Talk

I was recently shopping and came across some Family Talk conversation starter cards on the super-clearance shelf. (It happened to be the Family Talk 2 set, but I wasn't picky). I picked them up on a whim, thinking it might be kind of fun sometime when there wasn't much to talk about at dinner. Well, it turns out it's the best $4 I've ever spent. The kids LOVE them! They want me to share our "table topic" before everyone can even get their little tukuses in a chair. And they get almost giddy looking forward to the next one. They were really bummed today at lunch that Jeff was going to miss it, since he had a meeting in Houston. I was touched by this and texted Jeff to let him know we were thinking about him. He immediately called and requested to be put on speaker phone, and then we all chimed in with our thoughts on space travel. Our family is close, and we always seem to have something to talk about, but I love these little cards and the fun, new element they've added to our mealtime conversations, whether we stay strictly on-topic, or whether we veer off in another direction. Some of them seem like they are more for older kids, but we haven't had any trouble making each topic work for our group. If you're looking for something to spark the conversation around your table or on an upcoming road trip, I highly recommend these. It would also be fun to do with extended family over the holidays.

Sunday, December 16, 2012


At breakfast this morning, I announced that it was "donation day." I gave everyone a large trash bag and told them their only goal for the day was to fill the bag with toys and clothes to be donated. It was interesting to watch how the rest of the day progressed under the influence of such different personalities. Weston finished his breakfast and immediately made a bee-line for his room, bag in hand. He got a quick start on filling the bag, and then kind of stalled out. But when I told him he couldn't play outside until the bag was filled, he managed to complete the task in a relatively short time. Ruth lingered at the table and leisurely made her way to her room. She then proceeded to empty every drawer, bin, box and closet and spread her possessions out in the middle of the floor. She slowly filled her bag, while simultaneously playing with  and admiring everything she owns and picking out some items that she wanted to wrap up to give to loved ones as Christmas gifts. That distraction seemed to bring the bag filling to a screeching halt, when the bag was only half full. While the gift giving was generous and thoughtful and sort of in line with what we were trying to accomplish, I insisted that she stick to the original goal of filling the bag. She was not happy to continue this work, but she did do it. Max refused to get up from the breakfast table. He just sat there. For-Ev-Er. And then, when I finally forced him to get up, he bawled and squalled and declared he wasn't going to give any of his things away. His bag sat empty on his bedroom floor for the better part of the day, while he alternately sat on his bed or on the floor just staring at it. If Jeff or I checked in with him, he began the bawling again. He finally found it in himself to put one item in the bag. When told that wasn't going to cut it, he went into hysterics once more. There were bribes, threats, appeals to compassion and competition, and leading by example. And finally, at the end of the day, when my vision for this project was wearing thin, I declared I would just do it myself, leaving him no choice in which toys would be donated. (In fact, I had been secretly slipping things into the bag while his back was turned). This, and the fact that he finally decided he was ready to go outside and jump on the trampoline, motivated him to add a few more things to the bag, filling it to an acceptable level. It was so amusing to see all the different personalities at work (or not at work, as the case may be).  

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

5K before breakfast

Sorry I've been absent from the blog for a while. But between my more-than-full-time (unpaid) day job, my actual paying job and the multitude of holiday parties, well, "ain't nobody got time for that." But, today, I have big news! Back in January, Jeff and I started a running program to fulfill one of our New Year's resolutions. (Couch to 5K, if you're interested.) I'm no runner, so the thought of running a 5K seemed pretty fantastical to me. In fact, at that time, I could barely run for one minute without huffing and puffing and feeling like I was going to die. But, we kept it up, and eventually, I improved. By mid-summer, I could run for about 20 minutes at 5 miles an hour. I wasn't ready for a 5K, but I was feeling pretty good about myself and the progress I was making. Then, I had an intimate encounter with the concrete, and my running program came to a screeching halt. For two months, the pain and the fear and the advice of the doctors kept me off the treadmill, except for the occasional slow-paced walk. When I was finally given the o.k. to go back to running, I was definitely not where I had been. But, at least I wasn't completely back to square one. I have been running pretty consistently every other day since then, usually at 5 miles an hour. And today, I finally ran my 5K! There were no cheering fans or free t-shirts, but I certainly felt like a winner! And for any of you out there who may be considering starting something that seems impossible or beyond what you think you are capable of, I would just like to encourage you to go ahead and get started, and keep at it, even if you have to move slowly. Because nothing feels quite like doing something you didn't think you could do!

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Holiday Festive

So, we homeschool. And, we work from home. And, at the risk of opening up the stereotypical argument about "socialization," let me just say we haven't had a whole heck of a lot of opportunities for non-family holiday parties in the last few years. This year is different. We have a slew of parties to attend. One of the invitations requested that we wear "holiday festive" attire. Y'all. I didn't even know what holiday festive attire was, and I certainly didn't own any. But, that was easy enough to remedy with a little Internet searching and a swipe of the plastic. The real struggle is that I'm just not very good at people. (Seriously, the kids are "socialized" just fine, but I'm another story altogether). I can write words all day long and put them together in a way that sounds fairly decent, but when the mode of delivery is my mouth, all bets are off. Just knowing this about myself makes me uptight and awkward, and I tend to withdraw. The life of the party I'm not. But, I am determined to improve myself in the interpersonal department. It's one of my New Year's resolutions that I'm trying get a jump on. And this is one of those that only comes through practice, so there's nothing to do but just do it. The first party of the season was tonight. I was not amazing by any stretch of the imagination. But, I did have my "holiday festive" on, and Jeff said I didn't embarrass him, so we'll call that a baby step in the right direction. I will continue to practice, and we'll see how it goes. I'm open to suggestions, so feel free to share your tips and tricks for being party perfect.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

The Beginning

Fifteen years ago today, Jeff and I got engaged, and it seems like the right time to share the beginning of our story, for those of you who have joined us a little later in the journey. 

We met the summer before our Senior year of high school at Student Council camp in San Angelo. I say "met," but that's not quite right. We noticed each other from a distance but never had a face-to-face conversation. On the last day of camp, as I attempted to carry all my earthly possessions to the school van in one trip, with my right hand bound up in an Ace Bandage because of a surgery I had had the week before, the door closed in my face. Jeff happened to be on the other side and stepped up to open it. I knew him only as Jeffy Weffy at that time, from a silly incident earlier in the week, and I remembered he was from Wink, only because it was a funny sounding name for a town. We had no other interaction at camp, but I remembered his smile and his kindness long after I got home. 

In some crazy, alter-ego experience (because this is not who I was, nor is it who I am) I decided to look him up in the camp directory and write him a letter a few weeks later. It was a ridiculous letter, filled with silly high school girl nonsense. And I slipped in a photo because I was sure he wouldn't know me by name, but I thought he might remember me if he saw the picture. Turns out I was completely wrong about that, because he had no recollection of our brief encounter at the door. But, fortunately, he thought I was pretty, so he wrote back. And, that's when we became "pen pals." Because this was back in the day before rampant teenage cell phone usage and certainly before texting was even a thing. And, I'm so thankful for that, because over the next year we were able to develop a sweet friendship, in plain English (not text-speak) and in my comfort zone of communication, that has laid a firm foundation for our entire relationship. 

About nine months after that first letter, we had an opportunity to meet each other face-to-face. It was just a couple of hours, in a mall in Austin, but it was a blast. And, we were both elated to know that there was another Student Council event coming up in just a few weeks, that we would both be attending. And, it was probably at that next event that we fell in love, without even knowing it. What we did know was that we laughed (a lot) and talked about everything under the sun and that we had a tremendous amount in common and enough not in common to make it interesting. 

In the fall, Jeff went off to Rice and I headed to Texas A&M, and the letters (and newly added phone calls) continued. I invited Jeff up for a football game, and we had what we call our first date. And, then we were hooked, and I guess we started to consider ourselves a couple. Jeff transferred to A&M after the spring semester. 

After almost a year, we called it quits and decided to "date other people," even though neither of us did much dating of other people. We remained friends, and after a few few months decided we wanted to give our romantic relationship another go. It was a few awkward months of each of us trying to decide (separately) if we wanted this to be a permanent thing. 

And then, following the Thanksgiving break of our Junior year, Jeff stopped by my parents' house to talk to them about asking me to marry him. With their blessing, he then concocted a great engagement plan. He asked me to drive down to Houston with him on the 5th, to visit his old roommate and have a nice little date before finals. I went along, unsuspecting. When we got to his former roommate's place, Jeff unloaded a pile of packages, which I thought were for Jamison. As it turned out, it was my fancy black formal and all the accessories, which he had had my roommate smuggle out of my apartment for him. He said he just wanted to treat me to a really special night before I got stressed with finals. I believed him, because he had done this kind of thing before. We went to a South American restaurant we had visited when he was attending Rice. There were roses waiting for me, which was also not completely out of the ordinary. After dinner, we decided to drive down to Galveston, repeating another date from his days at Rice. We walked on the beach for a while, even though it was freezing. And, just as I was about to demand we go back to the car and crank up the heater, he stopped and said he had something for me. He asked me to close my eyes, and when I opened them, he was down on his knee in the sand, extending the most beautiful ring to me and asking me if I would marry him. 

And the rest, as they say, is history.  It's one of my favorite stories of all time.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Meanwhile, back at the ranch...

new toys

Kings and Queen of the Hill

posing with Mimi

"I'm 7 and you're not"

setting traps with Grandpa

Tiny Hunter 
Speed Racer takes on the ranch

the best catch of the trip

half-birthday girl

bundled up and ready to roll

sack race

Sound asleep in the back of the truck.
What you can't see are the two dead coons just under his elbow.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Weston, Weston:

Unbelievably, you are seven! I'm not quite sure where the last year went, but I do know it has been fun watching you learn and grow. You are maturing in many ways, and Dad and I are so very proud of you!  

You have (to my Aggie chagrin) become obsessed with the University of Texas this year. You wear the burnt orange with pride, and you follow the football team with rapt attention. Dad and I gave you tickets to a game for your birthday, and it may have been the best day of your life, so far. In the absence of a UT game to watch, you will watch most any football game, on TV or live. You love to keep up with the stats and rankings of high school teams, college teams and pro teams. You got your first taste of playing on a football team this fall, when you played flag football for Marble Falls. Your plan for the future now includes playing football for UT and then moving on to play for the Green Bay Packers or the Dallas Cowboys. Football has ignited a passion inside you that we have not seen before, and it is so fun to to watch you embrace that. 

Dad and I gave you a watch for your birthday last year, and you wore it every single day until it fell apart. So, we gave you another watch this year, because you really like to keep a schedule. You like to know what time things are happening and when they are supposed to happen. And you like to keep us all on track. You are also always noticing interesting things about the time, like if the numbers add up or can be the same forward or backward. This tickles you to no end. 

You and Max are big buddies and have so many adventures together. I love to watch you two, and I appreciate what a wonderful big brother you are, not only to Max, but also to Clay. You are sweet and kind and gentle, when appropriate, but you also have a rough-and-tumble side. You appreciate beautiful things, but you are happiest when you are filthy dirty. You are sensitive but strong, which makes you a very special person indeed. 

You love to play games, and your favorites are Forty-Two, War, Crazy Eights and Parcheesi. You also really enjoy the Angry Birds video games and are quite good at them. 

You are a whiz at memorizing things, which has really been helpful this year in CC. You continue to amaze us with your mathematical abilities, and you are also a really strong reader, though you aren't usually inclined to spend your free time reading. You have been enjoying the Amelia Bedelia and Wind in the Willows books recently, and you also like reading biographies and other non-fiction books, as well. And, you can often be found reading books to your younger brothers. You are a very smart boy, and your mind is always working away. 

Food is still a great passion for you. You love to think about it, and talk about it, and cook it and eat it. You like to eat at home or go out. You love Long John Silvers and Chicken Express. You are also fond of Italian food. At home, your favorites are Impossible Cheeseburger Pie and John Wayne Casserole. You are able to out-eat me at almost every meal, and I often wonder how it will be when you are a teenager. Even when I double and triple recipes, I find that food doesn't last too long around our house. 

Weston, you are an absolute delight, and I feel so fortunate to have the opportunity to be your mom! You have a big body and an even bigger heart. I hope that this next year holds many blessings for you and that you continue to develop into a quality young man. I love you "too much," as you would say. Happy Seventh Birthday!


Sunday, November 25, 2012


After our wonderful Thanksgiving meal, Jeff and I sent the kids to the ranch with his parents and then pointed our van in the direction of College Station. We haven't really spent any significant time there since we graduated from A & M, so we were thrilled to have the opportunity to spend the weekend there, revisiting our past and making new memories. We went to a couple of wonderful movies (Skyfall and Lincoln), drove by our first apartment, ate at some of our favorite, nostalgic restaurants (including the Outback Steakhouse where we had our very first date!), did a little Black Friday shopping (which we had never done before), attended Midnight Yell, visited a popular local winery, wandered around on campus, watched the Fightin' Texas Aggies deliver a walloping to Mizzou, stayed up way too late, planned another (slightly longer) get-away, and generally, just had a blast! It definitely won't be so long before our next visit to Aggieland!

Midnight Yell

Marooned Out

Our old stompin' grounds

The Fightin' Texas Aggie Band

Messina Hof Winery

Thursday, November 22, 2012


We enjoyed having so much of our extended family over on Thanksgiving Day. We are truly blessed beyond words!

Thankful, indeed!

The bird 
An abundant feast 
Reading off what everyone is thankful for 
Mandi's side of the family

Jeff's side of the family

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Angry Birdsday

Today was birthday party day. Our theme was Angry Birds, and we had a blast hunting for golden eggs, whacking at the black bird pinata, eating fun themed snacks and shooting a giant slingshot.

Happy Day!

working the theme

cheese disguised as the red bird

black bird pinata 

Piggy Tower

taking aim

favor bags

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Grammar Adds Up

Today, in Weston's Grammar class, we were learning about action verbs. As part of the lesson, I read off a list of action verbs from the book, and Weston was supposed to see how many of them he could remember and say back to me. When I finished reading and asked him if he could remember any, he looked me straight in the eye and said, "I don't know what any of the words were, but there were forty of them." I was not expecting that response, so I stopped to count. There were 39. And, then I added "count" to Rain Man's little verb list.

Monday, November 12, 2012

True Story

It's 2:00 am. I am sound asleep and am hosting a fabulous birthday party for Katie's son out at our family's ranch in west Texas. We are just about to cut the cake, when, suddenly, a child is crying. Really, more like wailing. I look around at the other mothers but then realize that it is my child. He is crying loudly, but isn't getting closer like I would expect. I can't see him, but I know he's there, screaming hysterically just beyond my line of vision. And, now, everyone is leaving the party, because no one wants to listen to this kid going crazy in the dark. Well, the mostly dark. My eyes are open now, and I can see light slipping under the door to our bedroom. The clock tells me it's 2:00 am. But, the crying is real, so I get myself moving in the direction of the light. Every light (of which there are many) in the dining room and kitchen are ablaze. Max is sitting at the dining room table with a glass of milk, bawling his brains out. I am finally able to discern that he (thinks he) saw a spider in the kitchen while preparing his breakfast, which stopped him dead in his tracks. The spider blocks his path to my room, and he can't very well stay in the kitchen with the thing, so there is nothing left to do but sit at the table and blubber until help arrives.

"Max, look at the clock. What does it say?"

"Two," he proclaims, without realizing what that means.

"2:00 in the morning. Basically, the middle of the night. Not a good time for breakfast. Let's go back to bed."

With a new burst of crying vigor: "But my sheets are all wet, and I already took them to the laundry room!" (This seems ridiculously productive and responsible for a four-year-old at 2:00 in the morning)!

"It's o.k. I can get you some new sheets. Or better yet, how 'bout if you sleep in the sleeping bag tonight?!" (I did not suggest this because I'm one of those "fun moms," but rather because it was much easier to get a sleeping bag unrolled than to find and situate a set of sheets)!

He finds this more than acceptable, and after a quick trip to the bathroom, falls right to sleep, as if all the drama never even happened. He didn't really remember getting up to have breakfast at that crazy hour of the morning, but he did remember the spider (which I looked for and never found).

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Hook 'Em

 As an Aggie, that is not a blog title I thought I would ever write. But, alas, my oldest son is completely obsessed with the Longhorns, so what can I do. For his birthday, Jeff and I gave him two tickets to the UT/Iowa State game, which was today. I dare say a better birthday gift has never been given. Weston was absolutely thrilled! He counted down the days with enthusiasm. Besides the game itself, he was also looking forward to tailgating. The game was to begin at 11:00, but he wanted to arrived at the earliest possible time. So, he and Jeff left the house at 6:00 this morning, with doughnuts, cinnamons rolls, Yoohoo drinks and camping chairs in tow. They also stopped and picked up breakfast tacos along the way. Weston was in heaven. He loved every minute, and has thanked us over and over for giving him such a great birthday present. He even made mention of his thankfulness in his bedtime prayers tonight. As a parent, it feels good to finally get something so right!

Upon opening the tickets

Proudly wearing the orange and white

Friday, November 09, 2012

Friday Night Fun

For us, Fridays have always represented fun. It's the end of the work/school week, and we can relax the rules a little. We can stay up late and eat junk food and just have a good time. Tonight's fun time was a little outside the box, and I read somewhere recently that you should always record the really fun times so you have something to draw on when the fun swing sweeps the other direction. Because we are Watts, you won't be surprised that our fun night centered on food. We went to all the chicken places in town (which equals three) and ordered chicken tenders and fried okra so we could have a blind taste test and decide for sure which place is our favorite. We also picked up every variety of Root Beer sold at the local HEB so we could taste test those as well. Finally, we set up an ice cream bar, with two flavors of ice cream, all the toppings and even waffle cones. It was a blast! We giggled  and laughed and snickered and were surprised sometimes by what our favorites turned out to be. And, we had chicken aplenty leftover for future meals.

Which root beer is the favorite? 

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Broken Home

We are raising our children in a broken home. In fact, it is because of them that it is broken. I absolutely believe that my children are trying to make my head explode, with their constant destructive behavior. You remember (an are still probably horrified by) the potato peeler-on-the-kitchen-drawers episode. Well, last week, someone stuck a tree limb in the door lock of the van and broke it off in there. And, then, today, after running a couple of errands, I was met at the door with an accusation that someone (else, of course) had broken a cabinet door in the kitchen. This turned out to be more appallingly true than I'd even allowed myself to imagine upon hearing the words. It isn't just one kid, either, though some seem to be more destructively inclined than others. They all seem to be in on the action, working sometimes as teams and sometimes as individuals. We've been in our house only just over a year, and I can already see its ruin spelled out in the ominous handwriting on the wall garage door.

I do not hear other people talk about this kind of all-out destructiveness from their kiddos, and I do not remember it from my own childhood (though my mom may have clearer memories of that than I do). Is anyone else out there experiencing this kind of thing? If so, what are you doing to curb the destructive tendencies? Perhaps one of you has lived through it and is now willing to tell me all your parenting survival secrets? I feel like I'm beating my head against an already damaged wall over here, and short of running away or locking the children up for the next 17 years, I'm not really sure what to do. I will take any advice, commiseration, encouragement or bottles of alcoholic beverages you can give.

Monday, November 05, 2012

1 1/2

Getting so big!

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Best. Meal. Ever.

I was told that what I made for dinner last night was "the best complete meal [I] have ever put together." Thank you very much, Internet! Anyway, when you get comments like that, they must be preserved for posterity (and for a quick reference when you are trying to impress the family on another occasion)! So, since this now seems to be almost exclusively a recipe site, here's what I made (click on the titles for links to original recipes):

Lemon Angel Hair Pasta

Servings: Serves 4–6

  • 8 ounces angel hair pasta
  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup parsley, chopped
  • 4 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 cup fresh Parmesan, cubed
  • 1 scallion, finely chopped
  • 4 tsp. lemon zest, for garnish
  • Cracked black pepper, to taste
  • Finishing salt
  • or truffle salt (optional)
  • chives (optional)
  • 1 Tbsp. Walnuts for garnish, toasted or roasted and chopped

Boil the angel hair in 2 quarts of salted water for approximately 3 to 4 minutes or according to package cooking instructions. Pull out of the pot with tongs (do not strain) and place into a bowl. Save the extra pasta water in case the pasta gets too dry.

Add the butter, olive oil, parsley and lemon juice into the pasta and mix. Serve in small bowls. Garnish with a sprinkle of chives or scallion, Parmesan cheese (place the cubed Parmesan cheese in a food processor and pulse until cheese is pea-size or a bit smaller), finishing salt, cracked pepper and lemon zest.

Tip: Before transferring the pasta into serving bowl, swirl some of the hot pasta water in the bowl to warm it. Dump excess water from the bowl. This helps the pasta stay warm longer.

Inactive prep time: 0 minutes
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 5 minutes

Mandi's notes: I doubled the recipe, because, you know, I'm feeding Weston. I also made a little marinade out of our fancy schmancy blood orange olive oil and coconut white balsamic vinegar from Grapevine Olive Oil company and cooked some chicken in that to put into the pasta.

Super Fast Cheesy Garlic Breadsticks

1 1/2 cup warm water
2 Tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon yeast (I use 1 little square package)
3 1/2 cups flour

1/3 cup soft butter
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1/4 cup mozzarella cheese, grated
1/4 cup Monterrey jack cheese, grated (or just use all mozzarella)
1-2 tsp minced fresh or bottled garlic
Parsley flakes

1. Mix water, sugar, salt, and yeast in a large bowl.  Rest 5 minutes.  Add flour and mix well.  Rest 15-20 minutes.  

2. In a separate bowl, make the breadstick topping by combining butter, mayonnaise, Parmesan cheese, mozzarella, Monterrey jack, and garlic.  Set aside.

3. Remove dough and place on floured covered surface and knead until smooth and not sticky.

4. Coat a big cookie sheet with butter (or cooking spray).  Place dough on sheet and spread out with fingers to edges.

6. Spread breadstick topping over dough.  Sprinkle with parsley flakes.  Let dough sit for 15-20 minutes or until dough has risen a little.

7. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 18-25 minutes, or until golden brown on the bottom.  Cut in to squares or rectangles.  (Tip--use your pizza cutter for this step--makes it a ton easier!)

(I actually made mine cheese sticks, rather than balls, but it's just a matter of how you cut them)

String Cheese cut into balls (or just cut in half--or not cut at all if have a serious case of recipe rebellion), dipped in milk and then in Italian bread crumbs. Bake at 425 for 8-10 minutes. Serve with your favorite store bought or homemade spaghetti sauce.

And, there you have it. My best meal ever. (And, I'm sure the fact that it was the only homemade meal we had all week has nothing to do with the rave reviews)!

Friday, November 02, 2012

hot and steamy up in here

The big kids enjoying our new toy

Wednesday, October 31, 2012


doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. 
~Albert Einstein 

And, that, my friends, is why you have never met a sane parent of young children. Because all we ever do is tell the same people the same things over and over, expecting some change in their behaviors or actions. And that is why our voices sometimes reach feverish pitches, and our eyes look wild, and it seems like our heads might explode at any minute. We are all completely insane. And, frankly, we would welcome the opportunity to be locked up for a while (provided there were no voices in our heads to keep us from enjoying the quiet)--for our own good, and for the good of all those around us. Many people probably think Einstein was trying to encourage people to look at things a different way or try out-of-the-box approaches to problem solving. Personally, I think he was only stating a fact, gleaned from his own journey through parenthood.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Fun and Games. And, of course, food.

We began our weekend on Friday with a reading poster celebration for Max, which included picking up dinner from McDonald's and eating it in the living room, while watching the 1967 version of Dr. Doolittle. 

Early Saturday afternoon we made our way to Bulverde for Weston's last football game of the season, which was followed by an end-of-year party and the passing out of trophies. This has been such a fun experience for us all!

Shortly after we returned home, we had some lovely house guests show up:  three sweet Baylor students, two of whom we've known since they were probably around Ruth's age. We had a blast cooking for them, playing capture the flag, staying up late and just hanging out. We tried out a few new recipes and definitely found some keepers, which I will share here:

Crock-Pot Pumpkin Bread

I'll admit, I didn't even know you could make something like this in the crock pot. I only use mine sparingly, and usually only for things like soup or roast, even though when I come across crock pot recipes, they always seem like a good idea. I just don't plan ahead enough. So, anyway, I really had my doubts about this actually working, but I thought it was worth a try, since I had a number of people to feed breakfast to before church this morning. Well, it not only worked, it may well be the best breakfast-type bread I have ever made! It cooked so evenly and was incredibly moist. And, it was SUPER easy! The old crock pot will definitely be getting more counter time in the future. So without further ado, here's the recipe:

  • 1/2 cup of oil
  • 1/2 cup of sugar
  • 1/2 cup of packed brown sugar
  • 2 eggs (beaten)
  • 1 can of pumpkin
  • 1 1/2 cup of flour (sifted)
  • 1/4 tsp. of salt
  • 1/2 tsp. of cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. of nutmeg
  • 1 tsp. of baking soda
  1. Blend the oil and both of the sugars into a large bowl.
  2. Then, stir in the beaten eggs and canned pumpkin. Add the remaining dry ingredients and mix thoroughly.
  3. Pour the batter into a greased or oiled bread pan. (I used a canola oil spray that worked just fine).
  4. Now add two cups of water to your crock pot and place the bread pan inside.
  5. Cover the top of the crockpot with eight-ten paper towels. This is to trap condensation and keep the bread from becoming mushy.
  6. Place the crock pot lid on top of the crockpot (I tried to make sure the paper towels were trapped around the lid so they didn’t slip) and bake on high 2 1/2 to 3 hours.
Mandi's note: I doubled the recipe and put it all in a Bundt pan, which fit perfectly inside my large round crock pot. A regular bread pan would only work if you had an oblong crock pot. I probably put closer to three cups of water in the bottom, and I cooked it on low overnight.

Both of the girls who were staying with us asked for a copy of this recipe. It's just ooey gooey happiness in a pan. I made a double recipe and only have four little brownies left. They could be quite dangerous if I didn't have a crowd around to share with!


  • 1 box (18.5 Ounce) German Chocolate Cake Mix (I Used Duncan Hines)
  • 1 cup Finely Chopped Pecans
  • 1/3 cup Evaporated Milk
  • 1/2 cup Evaporated Milk (additional)
  • 1/2 cup Butter, Melted
  • 60 whole Caramels, Unwrapped
  • 1/3 cup Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
  • 1/4 cup Powdered Sugar

Preparation Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a large bowl, mix together cake mix, chopped pecans, 1/3 cup evaporated milk, and melted butter. Stir together until totally combined. Mixture will be very thick.
Press half the mixture into a well-greased 9 x 9 inch square baking pan. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes. Remove pan from oven and set aside.
In a double boiler (or a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of boiling water) melt caramels with additional 1/2 cup evaporated milk. When melted and combined, pour over brownie base. Sprinkle chocolate chips as evenly as you can over the caramel.
Turn out remaining brownie dough on work surface. Use your hands to press it into a large square a little smaller than the pan. Use a spatula to remove it from the surface, then set it on top of the caramel and chocolate chips.
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from pan and allow to cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate for several hours. When ready to serve, generously sift powdered sugar over the surface of the brownies. Cut into either nine or twelve helpings, and carefully remove from the pan.

Nicole's Corn Chowder

This is more in line with my usual crock pot usage. It was a perfect lunch for a chilly fall day, especially when combined with some fancy schmancy grilled cheese sandwiches.

4 potatoes (peeled and diced)
1 can of cream corn
1 can whole kernal corn
2 cups chicken broth
8 ounces diced ham
1 cup of diced onions
1/4 cup butter
2 cups of half and half


Step One

Place potatoes, both cans of corn, chicken broth, ham and onions into the slow cooker.

Step Two
Cook on low for 7-8 hours

Step Three
Mash the mixture to your desired consistency, and then add the butter and half and half.

Step Four
Cook for an additional 30 minutes on high, and you are set!

Grilled Cheese Reinvented
the best thing since grilled cheese sandwiches…
is a grilled cheese sandwich made on sourdough bread.
with pepper jack cheese.
and apple slices.
yes, apple slices.
i am obsessed.
(Couldn't have said it better myself)!
I hope you all had a wonderful weekend as well! Feel free to share a new "keeper" recipe you've tried recently.

*For links to original recipes (with pictures!), just click on the titles of the recipes.