Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Into the Wild Blue Yonder

Today I flew in a very small airplane with my husband to and from our job across the state.  It wasn't my first time to fly in this particular airplane, but it feels like the first time EVERY time.  The stress of the whole thing wears on me mentally and physically.  The day starts early and ends late and my life literally flashes before me like every other minute.  I'm hot and cold and cramped and need to pee and can't, but all the while feel happy for the break from driving and for the fact that I'll be back at home in bed with my babies instead of having to spend the night away.  I pray so hard the entire day (and night before) that it almost hurts.  The story of Stephanie Nielson played over and over in my head and all I could think about is that I would choose to live.  If the plane crashed, because they sometimes do, and I was hurt or burned really badly, I would choose to live.  I would rather live in pain and watch my children grow than to die.  Flying in that little tin can contraption makes me face death and the prospect of leaving this Earth and everyone behind.  I am forced out of my bullet proof comfort zone and made to look at all that I am blessed to have and consider all that I have to lose.  What terrifies me most is the thought of my kids living without my kind of love.  The love that only a mother can give them.  And then when my husband and I are flying together, I think about how they would also lose their father...their real life super hero...their protector.  Anyway, it all adds up to a very long and soul-searchy day.  The thing is...I come out on the other end feeling so thankful to God for every breath in my chest.  I actually feel more alive having been so close to death, even if it was only in my mind.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Camping Out with Grandma & Grandpa

Talk about making some memories!  Mom and Dad came up a few weeks ago and we took Harrison and Emerson camping on the ranch where we live.  There is a perfect spot under a canopy of trees that even has a fire ring.  Dad scrounged up the pup tents we used when my brother and I were little.  We went camping quite often when I was growing up and Mom and Dad have kept the gear in their garage over the years hoping, I'm sure, that some day their grandchildren might be able to use it.  (See...it DOES pay to be a pack rat!)  Well, everything was still in working order!  Dad set up the tents and stoked up a fire, Mom made cozy sleeping pallets in the tents, the kids explored and played in a fort that must have been made by the family that lived here before, and I prepared to cook hot dogs and s'mores.  Harrison and Emerson colored wooden masks that morning and we read a book and did a little play by the campfire once it got dark.  It was perfect.

We had a good night's sleep and awoke at about 7 the next morning.  Dad got the fire going again and I cooked bacon and fried eggs for breakfast.  We even had coffee in my french press!  We just don't mess around!  The kids had a ball.  They almost enjoyed it as much as Mom and Dad and I did!  I really can't wait to do this again!

Happy Camper,
Outside Lisa

P.S.  Harrison was covered with chiggers the following Monday and had to go to the school nurse because he was itching so badly.  Next time we go camping, I'll be sure to spray the kids down with OFF to keep those little devils at bay.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Farewell to October

This was our first October in our new home in the hill country of Texas and I just can't help but marvel at how beautiful it was.  These are the last pictures I took of our yard in all it's October glory and I just had to share.  The last few nights have been pretty cold and the images in these pictures will not be seen again for another year as frost has nipped and transformed just about everything including my nose!  I pulled out the heat lamps for the hen house and our dog Maisy and decided not to cover any of the plants in the yard because there are just too many and I'm okay with Winter having it's way.  We have mostly perennials and evergreens, anyway, but I was really sad to see my beloved Zinnias go.  Also, I hated losing the basil and figs.  The figs were so close to being ripe my mouth was watering, but alas, they are not going to make it this year:(  I hoped to harvest some Winter squash and tomatoes from the Fall garden, but no such luck.  All the blooms and baby squash and tomatoes are gone, too.  Next year I will know to plant the Fall garden earlier and I'll be better prepared for the cold season.

I am happy to say that the lettuce, arugula, kale, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, carrots, mustard greens, sage, and chives are holding up nicely, as they should.  The first head of broccoli made it's appearance last week!

Goodbye, October.  It was good.  You will be missed.

Outside Lisa

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Get Your Protein!

The Fall garden is overflowing with beautiful lettuce and greens right now and my girls are laying up a storm so I've been taking advantage and making myself some pretty great salads lately with yummy boiled eggs for protein.  I pick every leaf myself and usually don't even wash it because there is nothing on it...no chemicals, no dirt...nothing.  Well, to my surprise, today in my gorgeous salad I had an extra little something special to up the protein content even more...A TINY CATERPILLAR!!!  I was at the bottom of the bowl, where stabbing no longer really works for lettuce and you have to start scooping.  And there he was, like a thorn in my organic gardener side, rolled up tight looking like a peppercorn.  I thought to myself...I didn't use peppercorn, what is this?  And then he started to move!  All I could think about was...have I already eaten his friends?  his parents?  Needless to say, I was DONE with my salad and tossed Mr. Peppercorn into the garbage.  Organic gardening has its ups and downs.  You just have to take the good with the bad and enjoy the adventure!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Standing Tall

Standing Tall, originally uploaded by outside lisa.

I recently signed up for a photography e-course called "You Are Your Own Muse" with the amazingly talented Vivienne McMaster. It is a study on self portraiture. This is such a fun and adventurous journey for me and I am learning something new about my style and my soul each and every day through the lens of my camera. All the while, we support each other through our online classroom and flickr group. There are some really amazing women participating and I am delighted that many of the women I met at Squam Art Workshops were drawn to the same course. This is going to be really fun!

I took this photo in the pasture near our house at dusk and over-exposed it for effect.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Fall 2010 Photo Book

Check out the Shutterfly Photo Book I just made for my Mom.  If you've never been to Shutterfly, you're missing out.  I have made several books on their site and they are great.  In fact, I prefer photo books over prints in albums these days.  They're neater and hold up better in my opinion.  Hope you like the book, Mom!

Monday, November 1, 2010



Minnie Mouse & Ninja Fighter

Lights, Candy, Action!
We do it up BIG on Halloween every year.

We made it through an awesome Halloween weekend.  The school Carnival was Saturday and we had a party on Sunday.  Whew!  Now it's time to put away all the decorations and drag out Fall!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

What's for dinner?

I cooked this for dinner tonight and it was yummy for sure.  It is a recipe from The Pioneer Woman, Ree Drummond's awesome website.  If you have never been to her site, I suggest you get there fast!  Cooking is not fun around my house lately because my timing is so out of whack with kid's naps and bedtimes.  So I went out on a limb and tried this tonight and it was definitely worth the craziness!  I used basil, parsley, and chives from the garden and served it up with sauteed spinach with chives, also from the garden.  I think I would sub hamburger meat for the Italian sausage next time. You should try it!

Fall Surprise

Today after school and work, I had a little surprise waiting for the kids.  A pile of leaves!!!
Harrison couldn't wait to dive in.  Emerson was not impressed, at all.

Happy Fall!

Outside Lisa

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Acorn Didn't Fall Too Far From the Tree

This evening, I left Harrison alone to finish his homework while I gave Emerson a bath.  I returned to find he had completed his homework and had done so beautifully!  I really think most people, even I, would have chosen brown to color this acorn.  I absolutely love his fearless use of color and total disregard to any preconceived notions of how an acorn is SUPPOSED to look!   I think my love for color has rubbed off on him.  Now, if only I can be so brave.

If you pay attention, your kids can teach you a thing or two!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Pumpkin Patch at Love Creek Apple Orchard

A few weeks ago my Mom and I took my kids to the Pumpkin Patch at Love Creek Orchard in Medina, Texas.  The day began with my two little bambinos sprawled out on the kitchen floor coloring some wooden owl masks.  Harrison wanted to use them in a play that evening around the campfire.  It was quite a busy day...we went to the Pumpkin Patch mid-day and camping with my parents on the ranch where we live that evening.  Needless to say, we were wiped out on Sunday!  It was an awesome way to kick off Autumn.  I will post camping pics next.

Emerson insisted on doing her own hair with her purple headband.  Nice, huh?

Poor Billy got wrangled into going.  He was a good sport and even helped paint pumpkins.

We visited the apple shed and drank some yummy apple cider.

Look at those gorgeous pumpkins and gorgeous babies (if I do say so myself)!  I made it out of there with three big "designer" pumpkins and two painted pie pumpkins.  I wanted more but somehow I managed to control myself.  We rode in a train made out of barrels and pulled by a lawn mower...yes, a lawn mower!  I love these pictures of my beautiful mom with my sweet sweeties sitting on the hay bales waiting for our hayride back to the parking lot.  What a great day and awesome memories!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A Date with Destiny

The Zero Cookie

Here's the thing...this morning I'm not Lisa...or Mama...or Mommie...or Outside Lisa...or Lis...or Sis...
I am Zero the Hero!!!

Every 10 days in my son's kindergarten class, Zero the Hero flies in to talk to the students about counting and the number zero.  He/She hands out a special treat and flies off into the morning sun promising to return when 10 more school days have passed.  It has been a tradition in Mrs. W's class for years and today it's my turn.  Harrison has been mentally preparing me saying things like, "Okay, Mommie...I told my friends Zero is going to be a girl tomorrow.  They were expecting a boy."  and "Maybe you shouldn't do that move, Mommie."  "But, Bub, that's my best move."  "Oooookay, you can do it."  These kids are gonna eat my lunch!  I'm prepared though.  I made Zero Cookies.  A tie-died (wow, I really don't know how to spell that) version of my Mom's famous iced sugar cookie.  I will share the entire recipe at a later date.  These are the steps, however, for making my Zero treats.  I am counting on them to save me!  I'm going in!

First you roll out the dough.  I had some in the freezer from the last batch I made, so all I had to do was let it thaw a bit, not too much, though because cold dough is much easier to work with here.  I like my cookies fat, so I don't roll the dough too thin. Maybe 1/3 inch thick?

I used one of those funny soda can toppers to cut out my zero shape.  It worked great!

First I cut out the big circle.

Then I cut out the middle with the smaller end.

Carefully lift the circle and move it to the cookie sheet.

I thought they were too much like "o's" and not zeros, so...

I pinched in the sides a bit to make them look more like a number and not a letter.

Place them in a 350 degree oven for 5 minutes.  I like them nice and soft.

I mixed my icing.  I will post the icing recipe with the cookie recipe later.

I tried something new accidentally.  When I dropped in the food coloring and began to stir I liked how it looked all swirled and not mixed completely.

I dip them in, giving them time to drip any excess icing.

This technique made a nice tie-died effect.  Neat.  I put mine on a paper towel or wax paper lined cookie sheet to let them dry.  This step is critical.  Wet cookies do not stack well and sure are messy!

Okay...I'm off to get my hero sleep.  Zero's going to need some coffee in the morning...it's late and I've got a date with destiny!

Zero the Hero

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Mum's the Word

Homecoming has come and gone around here, but I thought I'd post the pictures of the mum I did for Billy's date in case you ever have to make one and need some ideas.  If you are unfamiliar with what mum's are, here is an explanation based on my experience.  

It is tradition around these parts (Central and South Texas) for high school girls to wear a mum on Homecoming game day.  The mum is given to the young lady by her Homecoming date or boyfriend.  It is pinned to the chest in the same way you wear a corsage.  I believe it is okay for parents to give their daughter's a mum these days, as well, but I am no expert on the exact etiquette.  Anyway, they come in sizes varying from about a foot long to three feet long.  They are basically an artificial mum flower that is backed with a thin piece of cardboard and adorned with lots of ribbon in the school colors.  They are made to reflect and represent the boy who gave the mum, as well as the girl receiving it.  Mums are worn with pride and often kept as a keepsake for many years.  (Until one day when your parents call and say they're throwing out all of your old stuff from high school and you yell "NOOOOO" and speed over to their house so you can look at your mum's one last time before they go to the burn barrel...I'm not talking about me, of course...I've just heard of this happening ;).  They can also be an indicator of status or popularity depending on the size of the mum and how elaborate the adornment.  In other words...they're a big deal around here!  There are mums for boys to wear now, too.  These are worn on the arm and are much smaller than the girls'.  Mum's can be custom ordered at flower shops or craft shops, or they can be made in varying degrees at home.  

I didn't start completely from scratch.  I was able to purchase a base mum from our local craft store.   They sell all the ribbon, bells, ornaments, stickers, etc. there, and will even do custom orders if you give them enough advance notice.  Since we do not DO advance notice in our family and I have the "it needs to be unique and original" thing that I have, I bought all of the "add-ons" and designed and created it myself.  All you need is some scissors, a glue gun and glue sticks, and some really thick skin- You WILL burn your fingers, and your work will NOT be appreciated by your teenage boy child!  

I basically took the base and added more color and texture with ribbons in several colors, widths, lengths, and prints.  This is done by cutting ribbon in slightly varying lengths and gluing them under the cardboard form the flower sits on.  Be very careful that you do not glue the entire thing down before you have a chance to add all of your ribbon.  I also found it helpful to use a stapler when positioning one ribbon on top of the other so they are held in place while you are gluing them onto the base.  

I personalized the mum by adding stickers with Billy's name, his date's name, and their jersey numbers from the sports they play- football for him and basketball for her.  I wanted to make it cute and girly for her, while still keeping with the spirit of the event which is centered around football.  

I used many different widths of ribbon and even made some little bows to embellish the ornaments I tied on.  I made a loop out of yellow and white polka dot ribbon to hang some little antlers.  We are the Tivy Fighting Antlers in case you are wondering.  I added a little glue inside the loop to keep the antlers from sliding out of place.

I added another bow-laden helmet ornament, numbers to the little blue jersey, some gold and blue star garland to the flower, a few bells for some noise, and some basketball ornaments since his date plays basketball.  And there you have it...my first mum! The last two pics are the before and after shots.  I do have some left over ribbon that I will save for next year.  If I'm lucky, I'll only have to do this about a dozen more times!  Just curious...is this a tradition that takes place everywhere or are we Texans the only ones who wear these big gaudy things?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Ode to Superman

Dodging bullets all day long
Making plans and righting wrongs
Putting fires out with just your words.

Starting early, ending late
There's no time to hesitate
You make it work and if it won't you make a change.

A single man who leads a heap
If only you could get some sleep
You burn the candle at both ends each day.

Flyin' high, and speedin' round
Makin' tracks to gain some ground
Landing hard each night you hit the sack.

Superman, it's plain to see
I need you and you need me
Or how on Earth could we get through each day?

Superman, those tired eyes and frown lines caught me by surprise
Can't you see you're Superman to me?

I wish I may, I wish I might
Let me be your Kryptonite
Can't you see you're Superman to me?
Can't you see you're Superman to me?

I love you, Superman.

Take a Hike

My little naturalist.  
I know he needs a haircut, but I love this picture of him in his exploring gear.  

Look at that smile.  Ready for a hike with her big brother.  This girl is fearless.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Them Bones, Them Bones, Them Sleepy Bones

I love this picture of my sleepy little skeletons taken in October last year.  They finally crashed out after a warm bath, a bit of jumping on the bed, and listening to me read a handful of Halloween books.  It is a moment I'll never forget and that I will try to recreate every year as long as I can!  Happy October!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Squam Art Workshops Fall 2010

I've been home from my trip to Squam Art Workshops for two weeks now and I can't believe it has taken me so long to write about my experience there.  I think it has a lot to do with my tendency to hang on to big events by avoiding the final task on the to do list.  This tendency is why I still have the proofs from my wedding photographer in a box under my bed.  It's hard to let go of momentous occasions like these.  Especially the ones you know have changed your life forever.  This experience really has changed me and my life forever, and as much as I would like to pour over every detail, I have decided to let my photos speak for themselves for the most part.  I think there is magic in the intrigue, and magic is what we all need a little more of these days.

To my instructors-
Thank you, Jen, for opening my eyes through writing and your kind, gentle words.  Your stories are spellbinding and your heart is as big as the lake we gazed upon.  I'm more of a Dr. Phil, but this Texas girl will drink your Kool-Aid any day!  You have a gift.

Beatrice, your class was so much fun and so helpful for what I do in writing and photographing recipes for my blog.  You have changed the way I look at food forever.  Your patient and soulful demeanor made the day such a joy. I will never forget your smiling eyes.  Thank you for sharing your amazing talent.

Flora, to put it simply, you are a rock star.  Your captivating presence makes you seem larger than life.  You have a natural gift for teaching.  Before your class I was paralyzed by deciding what to paint.  Your fingers-in-the-paint-no-brushes-needed-get-it-on-your-clothes-create-now-explain-later method is so liberating and fun, it was just what I was missing.  I was a beginner painter who now, thanks to you, considers herself an artist.

To my cabinmates-
Kate, Jen, Monica, Elizabeth, Helen, Aleece, and Cinderella...thanks for the fireside stories, the gut busting laughter, the birthday dip in the frigid lake, the constant atmosphere of acceptance, encouragement, and love.  I can't imagine seven people I'd rather shack up in the woods with!  You all are beautiful and so amazing.  Thank you for giving me a little piece of you so willingly and openly.  You made my Squam!

To Peg-
Your tireless attention to detail and positive attitude are what makes a good thing perfect.  I want you to know how much I appreciate you taking the time to send Cinderella and I the "Things to do in the area" email that helped make our trip so great.  I loved getting to spend the day with you and your daughter in Beatrice's class.  You are so amazingly kind and true.

To Elizabeth-
You have created such a truly unique and magical experience.  The lake, the trees, the fire, the food all seem like a dream looking back now.  But the faces of people I met, the relationships I made, and the feelings that stirred deep in my soul are still very clear to me.  You are a magic maker, and everyone needs a little magic in their life.  Thank you for having the courage to follow your dream.  I bet you never knew what an impact that would make on so many others.

To Cinderella-
We could have gone our whole married lives just going through the motions at family events year after year having no idea what kindred spirits we are.  Think of all the years we wasted.  Imagine all the years ahead.  I am so blessed to have you as a sister-in-law and so glad I got to share this amazing experience with you.  What an unforgettable adventure!

To those who make the magic,

Outside Lisa

Friday, October 1, 2010

Today in the Garden

It's a glorious day in the Texas Hill Country today.  Everything in my Fall garden is thriving in this beautiful weather.  We are in the high 50's at night and high 80's during the day.  

In the vegetable and herb garden

bell peppers
green beans
mustard greens
lettuce of all kinds

In the flower garden

Mexican Bush Sage
Purple Cone Flower
Red Bachelor Buttons
Purple and Orange Cosmos
Pink Dahlias

In the coop

Buffy has gone broody, AGAIN!  We are getting 2-3 eggs a day.  There should be more.  I have a feeling she is keeping the other hens from feeling comfortable laying in the coop and they may be laying elsewhere.  Guess we need an egg hunt!

Enjoy your day,

Outside Lisa

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Lady Bug Release

This is a look back at one of my favorite moments of this Summer.  These pictures really make me smile!  So does the new software I downloaded for making these great collages.  It is called Picnik and you can find it here.  Thank you, Helen, for sharing.

Now, back to my story.  I was having a major problem with aphids in the herb garden and one day I happened upon a very organic method of getting rid of them while shopping for seeds at the feed store.  Lady bugs!  You can't get much more organic than that.  They came in a little tub full of some kind of food they like and wood shavings.  I think there were about 1,000 cute little red ladies (and gentlemen) and they cost just over eight dollars for the tub.  They were to be stored in the refrigerator until their release which was to take place at dusk.  You have to water the plants you release them on very thoroughly because they come out thirsty and if there is no water where you want them to be, they will fly away immediately in search of some.  My aphid problem was concentrated on the arugula, so I watered all the little plants and at dusk my number one assistant, Harrison, helped me set them free.  They immediately covered the plants and went to work eating up those pesky aphids.  Harrison and I had fun and even kept a few for the lady bug house his cousins got him for his birthday.  

While we were busy releasing lady bugs, our pretty alpha hen, Henrietta, was busy killing a snake she found in the garden near our old red barn.  Another great reason for keeping chickens around!

The lady bugs hung around for a few days and then moved on to greener pastures.  I think our lady bug to aphid ratio was not adequate for total elimination.  I ended up harvesting what was salvageable and added the rest to the compost heap.  It was time to replant for the Fall anyway!  Next time I'll buy more lady bugs and start earlier.

Time to bug off!

Outside Lisa

Monday, September 20, 2010

Basking in the Squammy Glow

Down this road lies an amazing place.  A place where new and old friends gather to share common interests and learn more about themselves and each other.  Lifelong friendships are made, self imposed barriers are broken, and creative souls are replenished.  Through art, spirits are lifted and lives are changed.

I have just returned from an amazing place and I can't wait to tell you all about it.  I am sorting through pictures and working on my next post, so stay tuned!

Outside Lisa

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Wilson Farm in Concord, New Hampshire

I stepped off the plane in Manchester, New Hampshire and stepped into Autumn in New England.  Autumn is my favorite time of the year,  and this year, because of this glorious trip, I am getting to experience it a bit early.  Pumpkins, sunflowers, butternut squash, apples, mums, crisp, cool air that puts a spring in my step.  There is even a tiny hint of color creeping into the tips of the Maple trees.  I can't imagine a more beautiful place to visit in the Fall and I'm not even at camp yet!

The nice man at the information desk in the airport suggested a restaurant in downtown Manchester called Republic.  They serve locally grown vegetables and fruits.  This concept really rang our bell.  We hopped into our rented Chevy Cavalier and blazed a trail toward the restaurant.  Turns out I missed a turn and we ended up in a little town called Concord.  Left and right, mile after mile there were gardens full of vegetables, sunflowers, and even pick-your-own raspberries.  I wheeled into a farm stand and  Cinderella and I trotted inside.  The old red barn held a colorful bounty of eggplants, radishes, apples, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, corn, sunflowers, eggs, goat's milk and cheese, peppers, broccoli, and pumpkins of all shapes and sizes.  For a farm girl like me and an "Auntie Organic" girl like Cinderella, we were in high cotton!  We broke out our cameras and lit up that old barn paparazzi style!  This produce was so beautiful, I just had to share.  So, without further ado, I present "Wilson Farm" in Concord, New Hampshire.

These are the best raspberries I've ever had.

Cinderella taking a picture of me taking a picture of her.

Me taking a picture of Cinderella taking a picture of me.

Look at all the mums in the field full of buds just waiting to bust onto the scene.  

We eventually made it to Republic and enjoyed a beautiful, tasty lunch there.  At some point on our way to Holderness it began to rain.  

We stopped off at Target and Michael's for some art supplies for one of my classes, and this is what we saw when we came out...

A rainbow!  What a wonderful welcome to New Hampshire!