Monday, June 30, 2008

Menu Plan Monday #28

Last week's menu didn't go as planned. The boys and I were so busy some days, I just didn't feel like cooking a lot in the evening. And as it turned out, Billy wanted to have sandwiches a few nights since he hadn't had any for the month he was gone.

We ended up with chili-cheese corn dogs on Tuesday; scrambled eggs, biscuits, and bacon on Wednesday; and fried rice and egg rolls on Thursday. Oh, and we went out to Posada's for supper Saturday night.

That works out great for this week, though, because I don't have too much planning to do.

Monday: homemade pizza

Tuesday: crock pot steak (or chicken) with mushroom gravy, mashed potatoes, stewed squash and onions, salad, crescent rolls

Wednesday: leftovers

Thursday: sandwiches and fresh fruit

4th of July weekend: BBQ and all the fixin's

Sunday: sandwiches

For more weekly meal plans, check out Heavenly Homemakers. (The Organizing Junkie is taking a break this week.)

Friday, June 27, 2008

Boiled Peanuts and Tomato Sandwiches

My friend Kim emailed me this afternoon that she had seen some raw peanuts at a nearby produce stand. She knows I love boiled peanuts and was wanting some. I went by later, but all I could find were bags of peanuts and a basket of raw Valencia peanuts. None fresh pulled (or "green") - but I think it's still too early for that. I wasn't sure about using the raw Valencias, so I skipped the peanuts for now. I'll have to check with Mama on that...

I hated to not buy anything, and all the produce looked really good, so I browsed and thought about what would be good with crock pot steak and mashed potatoes, which we'll be having one night next week. I ended up buying some squash and two tomatoes. I ate one tonight: some on a BLT and some on a tomato sandwich. Yum! Brings back childhood memories.

Now if I can just get my hands on some boiled peanuts... Mama or Lindsay, would you please run by your Wal-Mart and pick me up a few cans...? (The canned ones are good, but not as good as fresh. Still, I'll take what I can get!) People in Texas look at me like I'm crazy when I ask for them.

San Antonio: Sea World

Good news: We made it to Sea World!

Bad news: We got there over an hour after the park opened. Closing time: 6:00 p.m.

Good news: Daddy had pre-purchased tickets online, so we didn't have to wait in line to get ours. We were able to go right through the turnstile.

Bad news: Instead of planning our day around the shows we wanted to see, we just went here and there willy-nilly and ended up missing out on a few shows and exhibits.

Good news: In spite of all that, we had a blast! I'm ready to go back!

In a nutshell:
1. The Budweiser Clydesdales are beautiful! And HUGE!

2. We fed the dolphins some fish and tried our best to pet them, but they were just always out of reach. I think maybe Melissa got to touch one. I couldn't lean across the wall very far because my purse would've gone splashing into the tank, and I didn't want to set it down and risk losing it or getting it wet. Otherwise I think I would've been able to reach one. Maybe next time...

3. Shamu's show Believe was good, but not as great as the show I remember seeing as a child. I really wanted to see the trainers swim with the orcas. Still it was good seeing how the whales and their trainers interacted.

4. Rio Loco is great! We all got soaked at the waterfall. Luckily we had enough foresight to rent a locker to stash our stuff so it would be nice and dry. It was the boys' first theme park ride and they loved it. Jacob was scared to get on at first and was fighting me when it was time to get in our raft, but my dad picked him up and he settled right down. In the end, though, he wanted to ride again.

5. Daddy made friends with a macaw, who bobbed up and down every time he shook out his wet handkerchief.

6. We all liked Viva! better than Believe. Dolphins and belugas jumped and did flips while divers dove from scary heights and acrobats performed on wires and rings above the water. A diving clown also provided some comic relief.

7. There were a lot of places to choose our lunch, but we didn't want to venture halfway across the park to find something. We found something near where we were and really enjoyed our food. The boys got kids' meals in plastic Shamu lunch boxes, but they didn't eat much because of all the excitement. Daddy got a tasty-looking Caesar salad with grilled chicken. The rest of us got "healthy" bacon cheeseburgers and fries. Mmmmmm-mmmm good! We had some watermelon slices for a fresh, cool dessert.

8. The boys had a lot of fun playing at Shamu's Happy Harbor. There was a huge rope net for climbing, all sorts of tunnels and bridges and slides, a ship, some sandboxes, and several scaled-down versions of adult rides. The boys rode their first roller coaster - Shamu Express - and Caleb was hooked. He also liked riding the Paint Mixer with my dad. He loves anything that spins really fast! Jacob's favorite ride was one that went up and down really fast. They spent a long time playing at the harbor with my parents in tow.

9. While the boys played at the harbor, my sisters and I went to ride The Great White: "Texas' first inverted steel roller coaster! You'll dangle your legs from ski-lift-style seats and go heels-over-head five times during more than 2,500 feet of breathtaking loops, corkscrews and other thrilling maneuvers at speeds of almost 50 mph!" I was nervous at first because I can't remember the last time I rode a coaster. But it was so much fun, we ended up riding three times in a row. After our last time, we thought we knew what "shaken baby syndrome" feels like.

10. Melissa went back to Shamu's Happy Harbor while Lindsay and I went through the penguin exhibit. It was really cool and colorful inside, but the smell wasn't that great.

11. We were running out of time, so after the boys finished riding a few more rides and climbing the nets, we headed back toward the entrance/exit to visit the shark aquarium and the coral reef. It was really relaxing being inside the coolness again, and we got to see all sorts of fish. One of the medium-sized fish had a large chunk bitten out of its back. We saw another one with a similar-looking scar. Guess they don't feed their sharks enough... :o)

12. Almost as an afterthought, we realized we needed to find a souvenir shop. The boys had seen stuffed Shamus and each wanted one. I wanted to find some T-shirts for us. Then I remembered I wanted to get some playing cards. We had to go to three different shops before we found those! (My mom and sisters and I collect playing cards. Comes in really handy for playing Nerts, where everyone needs a different-looking deck. It also makes it easy to sort out the cards after a game of Nines.)

We left just as the park was closing at 6:00 p.m. The next day, it was going to start staying open until 8:00 p.m. We could've really used those extra two hours, but we were exhausted. Our clothes had dried out and the boys were getting a little grumpy. And we were getting really hot.

After we got back to the hotel, we went for a dip in the pool, then went out to Chick-Fil-A for supper. (We found it this time.) After we got back from there, we all got together for a short game of Nines before heading to bed.

Enjoy these pictures of our Sea World adventure.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Empty Nest?

For the last week and half, I've been hearing little bird chirps outside our front window. Every few hours or so, I'd hear what sounded like little squeaks, and after a day or so, I finally figured out what it was. There are two bushes in front of the living room. The miniature rose bush is right in front of the window, but I couldn't see any birds' nests in it. The other bush is off to the left of the window, just far enough away that I can't see into it very well, but I'm pretty sure that's where they've been.

I suddenly noticed this morning that I didn't hear anything from them at all yesterday. I recall hearing some commotion Saturday afternoon, but I was busy and didn't really think anything of it. I don't know much about birds, but it seems awfully quick for them to be flying. Of course, I don't know for sure when they hatched, either. It could've been while the boys and I were away. But now I'm wondering if some of the stray cats in the neighborhood found them. I hope not, but it's entirely possible. I've heard quite a few cat fights out front here and there in the nearly two years we've lived here.

I may have to check when I go out to the mailbox this morning...

Update (6/25/08): The birds are still there. I'm listening to them right now, and I think I can see the nest near the front of the bush to the side of the window. I'm not going to go poking around, though, because I don't want to disturb anything. I'm glad they're still around and especially that no stray cats got them!

Menu Plan Monday #27

It's been a while since I posted a weekly menu, but since Billy's been out of town, the boys and I have been winging it. When we're not out of town, that is. Billy's getting back home tonight, so I'll be back to cooking this week. He's been eating Greek food for 3 weeks solid, and he told me he's really ready for something different.

Monday: leftover mac & cheese from last week or corn dogs/hot dogs

Tuesday: biscuits, scrambled eggs, and bacon

Wednesday: fried rice & egg rolls

Thursday: BBQ chicken, baked potatoes, salad

Friday: homemade pizzas

Saturday: out for Mexican food

Sunday: leftovers

For more menu ideas, check out I'm an Organizing Junkie.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Summer Plans

I never truly realized how busy the summer can be!

We just finished a week of VBS yesterday, and I also got the boys signed up for swimming lessons for July 7-17. In addition to that, there are 2 scheduled play dates with my old Bible study group members' children, as well as 2 scheduled ladies' nights with the group.

I didn't want to forget anything, so I got out my planner and started putting all that info in. Then I found a flyer advertising the Summer Movie Camp program at a local Cinemark theater, where certain G- and PG-rated movies will be showing for $1 admission. AMC has a similar program, too. They're showing basically the same movies, but on different dates. Some of the movies I don't particularly care for, so I made out my own schedule based on the offerings of 3 different theaters.

Plus, I have to work in a trip to Six Flags so Caleb and I can use the free tickets we got through a reading program. We're also in reading programs for the summer, so there's no telling what other fun things we'll end up "earning" tickets to. (I think there are some free passes to Texas Stadium in there somewhere...)

Now we've got several things to do every week this summer, in addition to our regular weekly library trips. I'm getting tired just looking at my planner.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

San Antonio: Downtown

Wednesday morning we had breakfast at McDonald's, then headed downtown for the day. We found a good spot in a parking garage near the River Center Mall and hoofed it around downtown most of the day.

Our first stop was a boat tour of the San Antonio River - right in the middle of town. (See the slide show below for more pics from the day.) It was really beautiful, the ride was relaxing, and our tour guide was pretty humorous. Lindsay had been on this tour a few months earlier and she told us a few of the jokes the guide was likely to make. She was right. At one point on the tour, our guide asked if anyone had had a birthday recently - either the week before, the current week, or the next week. We all pointed to Daddy and the guide asked him his name. "Daddy!" he replied. The guide and all the other tourists on the boat got a kick out of that. Then the guide said, "No, what's your name really? We can't all sing "Happy Birthday, Daddy". That would be weird." So Daddy told him his name and we all sang happy birthday to him. He was quite embarrassed. Then the guide started asking about recent or upcoming anniversaries. Mama's & Daddy's had been the week before, so he congratulated them on their 40 years together.

After the boat ride, we walked through the mall headed for the Alamo. As we came off an escalator onto an upper floor, we had to pass by several kiosks. One guy on the end was watching everyone come off the escalator. He eyed us one by one, then he did a double-take and his eyes lit up when he saw me. He started asking me a question, but I couldn't hear him and shook my head no. Melissa turned around and told me that he wanted to straighten my hair. When I looked back, I saw he had a kiosk full of flat irons. I then caught a glimpse of myself in a mirror. The wind blew through my hair a lot on the boat ride and it had really fluffed out. My hair looked Texas big. And of course it's really curly. I laughed at the thought of that guy spending two hours straightening my hair, because there's no way I'd let him do just one little lock of it. (Mama and Lindsay once took turns straightening my hair. It took at least two hours - and you can believe I left it like that for a day or two.) There's no way that guy would've been able to sell me a flat iron. Yes, sometimes I'd really like to have straight hair, but I also really like what I have. And anyway, I've got better things to do than spend a couple of hours trying to straighten out what God has chosen to curl.

We finally made it to the Alamo. It's weird, this old historical site right smack-dab in the middle of downtown. The buildings around the Alamo are really picturesque. And the landscaping around them is very beautiful. Relaxing. Our Alamo tour was short; the boys weren't interested in it. I tried to tell Caleb some about the battle there, but I realized I didn't know that much about it. I'm not up on my Texas history...

By now, it was after noon and the boys were hungry. We made our way back through town and along the river to Casa Rio, where we sat under a bridge along the river and had lunch. There were several ducks in the water and the boys were having fun feeding them chips. Shortly after we were seated, a tour boat cruised by. It wasn't our tour guide, but we started watching for him. Daddy had the idea to yell out, "Hey, it's Daddy!" whenever he saw him. Before too much longer, his boat came by. He saw Daddy first and yelled and waved. Daddy waved back and said, "It's Daddy!" The tour guide laughed and turned to explain the joke to his passengers. Before we finished eating, he came back by again and did the same thing.

While we were eating, we noticed some people at the table next to us who looked like they belonged to Warren Jeffs' polygamist cult from Eldorado, TX. The women and girls had the elaborate braids and rolls and sweeps of hair, and their dresses were long with long sleeves that buttoned along the wrist and big, square collars. Some of the other ladies were dressed in a more contemporary style, and one was even wearing something casual like jeans or capris. Maybe some were from the sect and the others were more mainstream LDS they had been placed with... The children were standing near the railing next to Daddy's chair. I guess they were too close to Caleb and Jacob because one of the ladies sternly told the girls to move away. Later Lindsay was taking pictures of Mama and Daddy across the table. The same lady who had scolded the little girls rudely asked Lindsay who she was taking pictures of. When she said she was taking pictures of Mama and Daddy, the lady looked at her as if to say, "Yeah, right." Lindsay offered to let her see the pictures, but she just shook her head. A few minutes later, she was standing at the railing by the little girls, ordering some people across the river to stop taking pictures. I think she even stuck her hands in front of the girls' faces to keep them from being photographed. They left the restaurant the same time we did, but they hung back to talk in small groups. Once we got on the other side of the river, Melissa took Lindsay's camera and deliberately photographed them.

We strolled along the river back to the mall and the parking garage, then drove a few blocks away to the San Antonio Children's Museum. We probably would have been better off leaving our car in the first parking garage because we ended up walking several blocks from our second parking garage to the museum. At first it didn't look like much. But as you went from one level to the next and wound your way along the paths, there were several fun things that all of us enjoyed. One highlight was the pin wall. We took turns pressing our hands and faces through and watching everyone's profiles appear. Another fun thing was playing the blue screen drums. You would stand in front of a blue screen while your image was captured on camera. Then a variety of drums would appear on the monitor. To play the drums, you'd have to reach and stretch and contort all sorts of ways. Daddy took a really great video of Melissa and Lindsay doing this. I have a copy of it, but I promised not to post it online. If you're ever in the vicinity of my computer, I'd love to show it to you, though! :o)

We were exhausted when we got back to the hotel, and the pool looked really inviting. When we went out, there were only 2 people there. After about 15 or 20 minutes, about 10 or so more people (mostly kids) came out. Thankfully they didn't do too much splashing and we were able to enjoy ourselves. Later we changed clothes and headed out for supper.

Melissa and Lindsay decided to stay at the hotel. Melissa had leftovers from lunch the day before (Mmmmm... Schlotzsky's), but Lindsay wanted us to bring something back for her. We sat in the hotel parking lot and decided where we wanted to eat. I called Lindsay on her cell phone to get her order while Daddy programmed Chick-Fil-A into his GPS, then off we went. Unfortunately there was construction and we missed the road. In order to go back, we would have to cross over the interstate, drive way back the other way, cross over again, and come back - hopefully not missing the road again. We decided to find a Burger King instead. I called Lindsay back on her cell phone while Daddy programmed Burger King into his GPS, then off we went. "Lori", as his GPS is affectionately known, had us going in circles. "Turn right." "Turn right." "Turn right." "Turn right." Again and again. I thought of the GPS jokes I've heard on a few sitcoms and couldn't help but start laughing. Finally we got out of the loop and found a Wendy's. I called Lindsay on her cell phone to get order, laughing because of our predicament. I assured her we were getting food from Wendy's because we had actually found one and were sitting in the parking lot.

The trip back to the hotel was a whole lot shorter than the trip out! We didn't realize how close we were. I got the boys in our room and ready for bed. I set a time limit and if they were all ready for bed before time ran out, I promised to play a game of Nines with them. They love that game! We all crashed shortly after.

Here are some pictures from our downtown adventures.

San Antonio: Visiting Family

We were in a bit of a rush after leaving Natural Bridge Caverns. We still had to get to San Antonio and check into our hotel before visiting some of Mama's cousins at their home. They had invited us for a Mexican dinner and swimming at 5:30, but we were running a bit late.

Around 6:00, we pulled up to their Spanish-style house. It's very unique; I wish I had thought to take a picture. I think the front door was like a huge piece of textured, amber-colored glass, with a wood frame around the edges. Off to the right was an enclosed courtyard with a lot of Spanish tile accents. The inside of the house was really pretty. It was very spacious and had ceramic tile floors. The backyard had a pool with a diving board and a cabana.

C. E. (Mama's first cousin) and his wife Mary have lived there for over 30 years. (When I first saw C. E., I was struck by how much he looked like my grandfather, his uncle.) Their daughter Katherine and two of her children, Jack (now 7) and Willie (4 months), were there to meet us. (Their son Keith - one of my Facebook friends - is a missionary dentist in Liberia. He and his wife have two daughters and an adopted son from Liberia.) C. E.'s sister Margie and her husband Marshall were there, too.

After greetings and introductions, we snacked on some chips and salsa, then the boys headed out to the pool with Jack, who swims like a fish! Caleb was really impressed with Jack's swimming skills - cannonballs, dives, etc. He braved the water in his floaties and eventually got comfortable enough to venture into the deep end of the pool. Jacob jumped into the shallow water with his floaties on, went under and came back up, then proceeded to get out of the pool for the rest of the evening. He spent all his time sitting on the side, splashing anyone within reach. He wasn't thrilled about getting splashed back.

Supper was great! There were two kinds of salad, Spanish rice, beans, and an enchilada casserole. For dessert, there were some of the best brownies I've ever eaten. Margie told us she used a box mix and added Ghirardelli chocolate chips. Yum! Oh, and there was some homemade orange sherbet, which was also really good. We ate entirely too much!

We sat around the table and visited until Katherine and her boys left. Then Lindsay and I went into the pool with Caleb. We took turns splashing Jacob (who was firmly perched on the side of the pool) and getting splashed back. We had "noodle wars" with the pool noodles, blowing water at each other (and at Jacob) through them. The boys were impressed that Lindsay and I could dive off the diving board and swim underwater. We stayed in the pool until nearly 9:00, then changed into dry clothes for the drive back to the hotel.

C. E. had hurt his back earlier on a deep-sea fishing expedition and was going into the hospital the next morning to have some sort of procedure done. There were some problems and he ended up not having the surgery until that afternoon. A few days later, he was still in a lot of pain. Mama called me Thursday evening to let me know that he had been taken back to the hospital because his organs were shutting down. They did a bone marrow test and confirmed that his cancer had returned after five years of remission. It was all through his body. He was put on morphine to ease the pain while his family gathered. Keith and his family got in Saturday night. C. E. died early this afternoon. They said he didn't know Keith was there, but I have a feeling he did.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

San Antonio: Natural Bridge Caverns

On our way into San Antonio, we stopped off to tour Natural Bridge Caverns. This was an educational experience for Caleb; he had learned about caves earlier this year in earth science. He really enjoyed getting to see firsthand some of the things we had only read about.

We didn't have to wait long for the next tour after getting our tickets. Seven minutes later, we were headed down a steep ramp to the mouth of the cave. Once there, our guide told us about the history of the cave and gave instructions about walking through it. We thought we were going to enjoy a cool 70-degree walk in the dark, but the cave has a 99% humidity level and we were sweating in no time.

There were several large rooms inside the cave, as well as many steep, narrow passages. The formations were beautiful. The pictures we took don't do them justice. There were a few water pools and streams running through the cave, but there wasn't much water in them since there hasn't been much rain lately. Last August, there had been so much rain that one of the tour rooms was two-thirds full of water. Tours during that time had to be diverted onto a higher path.

We didn't see any bats while we were there, but there was evidence that they had lived there at one time. Aside from the bat guano in at least two of the cave rooms, there were dark patches on the cave ceiling where the dirt and oils from their bodies had discolored the rock. No formations will grow there now.

There was also one lone fern growing in the cave. Apparently a spore had been taken in somehow, and 40 years ago, when the cave was being made ready for tourists, a light happened to be place near it. It provided just enough light for it to begin growing. It's not very big - or very pretty - but it's there.

Enjoy some of my favorite photos from Natural Bridge Caverns.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Memorable Monday!

Today I got to pet my most favorite animal in the world! And she ate from my hand, too!

My mom and sisters went with the boys and me to Fossil Rim in Glen Rose, TX, today to attend a homeschool event.

At 10:00, we loaded into the Fossil Rim tour bus with two other families and went down to a fossil pit to dig for two hours. It had been cloudy on our drive down, but once we got there, the skies were clear and the temps were climbing.

Thankfully we managed to find a small shady spot. I really wasn't sure what to look for at first, but once I found a few fossils, it was easy. A few I found just by standing there and looking at the ground! Each person was allowed to keep 4 fossils from all they found.

After searching for fossils for 2 hours, we rode the bus back to the overlook for a picnic and a little time to cool down in the shade. We enjoyed PB&J sandwiches (Mama had turkey or ham), string cheese, pretzel sticks, carrot sticks, orange slices, and chocolate chip cookies. Yum! While we rested, the boys played a little in a sand box, then Caleb and Melissa played tag in a rock garden.

At 1:00, we boarded the bus again for a guided tour of the wildlife center. This was by far our favorite part! We started out in the pasture with zebras, giraffes, and different types of deer and antelope. Another pasture was home to about 33 cheetahs. A third pasture held ostriches, white rhinos, and more deer and antelope. (Oh give me a home...) A fourth pasture held emus and more deer and antelope. We ended our guided tour with one last drive among the zebras and giraffes - and finally got to feed a giraffe from our hands! That was the perfect ending! (Jacob missed it. He was so tired from everything that he fell asleep on one of the bus seats.)