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!

Monday, September 13, 2010

New Hampshire or Bust

I’m headed to Squam.  Finally!  I was so excited I couldn’t sleep last night.  Well, excited and terrified I wouldn’t wake up in time to make my flight.  Good thing, since it took me all night to finish packing.  I was making my nametag at 2:15 a.m. and dying my roots at 3.  A girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do.  Needless to say, I feel like death warmed over right now.  My contacts feel like they’re glued to my eyeballs. 

I left the house at 5 and within a mile of my house, I ran over a cat.  I hate that!  I’m holding on to the hope that it won’t bring me any bad luck.  It wasn’t a black cat at least, but I feel horrible just the same.  I said some big prayers for a quick and painless death for said cat and continued down the road, toothpicks holding my eyelids open.

I remember now why I used to always check my laptop with my other luggage when I used to fly more often.  I had it tucked away in my new Fossil computer satchel and I wanted to cry.  It was cutting into my shoulder so badly on the walk to the terminal from my car.  I have two rolling suitcases, my satchel (I love that word), and my purse.  I found myself singing about having sweat rolling down my back to try to brighten my spirits.  “I have sweat rolling down my back, as you’re checking me out, it’s rollin’ down my crack!”  There were a few creepy, gawky men I passed by and my little ditty helped me cope.  I cooled off once I got on the plane and found a seat.  The very young little dude sitting next to me was very chatty for the first bit.  Then I crashed out while listening to the audio book I purchased called “Eat, Pray, Love."  I have found that purchasing these books on Itunes is the only way for me to read any more.   I was able to catch about two hours of sleep from San Antonio to Baltimore.  Waking up was painful.  Also realized that little dude’s parents were sitting behind him.  For some reason it made me feel weird and kind of cougary that they were listening to our conversation and I didn’t know it.  Not that I would have said anything different if I had know they were there, I just can imagine his mom was perked up and on guard. 

I’m flying from Baltimore to Manchester now.  I will meet Cinderella, my sister in law, there and we will rent a car to drive up to Holderness, New Hampshire where our camp awaits.  We’ll be exploring the area for the next two days.  Camp starts on Wednesday afternoon.  I can’t wait. 

Friday, September 10, 2010

Divided by Five

Have I mentioned that I have five kids.  There are some of you out there who could say, "Actually, you have two kids and three step kids."  To you I would have to say, "Bite me!"  I absolutely, positively, without a doubt have five kids.  Otherwise, my time, my mind, my money, and my heart would not be divided by five like it is.  It takes EVERYTHING we've got to feed, care for, pray for, worry about, and dicipline this gang of very awesome children.  I can't IMAGINE what it would be like if they had any issues, disabilities, diseases, or behavioral problems.  These are five healthy, normal kids and it takes ALL that we have to keep up.  But I don't want to just keep up.  I want to be GREAT!  I think I need some vitamins or something.

I just got off of the phone after talking to my stepdaughter, Dylan, who is a freshman in college.  I SO wish that I could say that she's doing great and loving every minute of it, but that would be far from the truth.  She is down in the dumps, hating Calculus, missing friends from high school, missing her home town, and so badly wanting to find her place in the world.  The hard thing for me is that I can make suggestions, I can encourage her to hang in there, to work hard and concentrate on her studies and tell her that things will get better, but I can't hug her or make choices for her or step in and make things better for her by waving my "I don't take no for an answer" wand.  She is out there in the big world and feeling misplaced, misunderstood,  and miserable.  It's killing me.  This is supposed to be such an exciting time for her and instead she is disappointed.  I know that things will turn around and she will eventually adjust, make some friends, and find success, but she doesn't know that and there is nothing I can do to make her understand it.  I just have to stand back (crash pad at the ready) and let her make her way.  It's torture!

Billy, who has transitioned beautifully into his new school and town, is suddenly finding that he is going to actually have to APPLY himself in school or he's not going to make his grades.  Tomorrow is the end of the first three weeks and progress reports will be coming home.  The thing that has been such a brilliant catalyst for him making friends, football, will be stripped away if he doesn't pass everything.  His father and I can help make sure his homework is done, hound him about missing assignments and low grades, and nag 'til we're blue in the face, but we can't MAKE him listen and ask questions in class.  We can't MAKE him be responsible enough to turn in all of his assignments.  We can't MAKE him be an organized person.  All we can do is try to explain to the best of our ability that failing will be humiliating and devastating for him and that we're just trying to protect him from having to experience that awful setback.  After a lot of talking and arguing tonight, he asked for a day planner and admitted to himself and to us that he is NOT giving school his best effort and that he wants to try harder and do better.  He has always managed to pull himself and his grades up in the past.  I pray he can make it happen this time, too.  I will purchase a planner for him tomorrow and we'll continue to worry daily about his grades.  He has four years to go before graduation.

Jackson just experienced a devastating setback a week ago when he injured his knee badly in football practice.  Things were really looking up for him the day before the accident when the coaches told him he was moving up to the "A" team and playing running back, a position he'd hoped he'd have the chance to play.  A hard blow to the knee in the last play of practice changed everything.  He is on crutches now, watching practices from the sidelines, unsure of how long it might be before he returns to the field.  I can't tell you how hard it has been to watch all of this unfold.  Jackson is tough, but no kid should have to endure something like this.  I am so proud of him for keeping a good attitude and not letting this adversity get the best of him, but he still has a long way to complete recovery.  If only we could somehow make it all better for him.

Harrison is being picked on at school by a kid in his class.  He tells us stories daily of how this child hits him, scratches him, and pushes him.  Yesterday I spoke to the teacher about it and she moved the kids around hoping this would help the situation.  It took me a while to even mention it to her because I really expected it to be a short-lived scuffle that would work itself out.  You know...boys being boys.  But yesterday he came home with a scratch on his nose and today a scratch on his eye.  It seems that these scuffles are taking place not in the classroom, but at P.E.  Of course, I had to be careful that Harrison himself was not the one causing the skirmishes.  I fear now that Harrison's retaliation toward this child may be worse than what the child is dishing out to him.  After all, Harrison is a self-proclaimed ninja.  I hate that this is happening and I WILL get to the bottom of it eventually, but I can't be there at school with him to protect him.  This is something he has to deal with and I was very impressed with his own proposed solution when his daddy and I talked to him about it tonight.  He decided that he will just "have a talk with" the kid tomorrow and tell him he "doesn't want to fight him anymore, he just wants to be friends".  Thank God he's got this one figured out.  Roger was asking "how big an ol' boy the kid's dad is" and I have been telling Harrison to "tell the teacher" or "scream loudly at the kid to stop so the teacher hears and can step in".  Boy are we dumb.  We'll see how the "talk" goes tomorrow and if that doesn't work, I'm gonna send in the big guns (Roger) and I guess I'll pack him a lunch, just in case.

Emerson...well...I think she just may be trying to kill me.  She is 20 months and 20 pounds of D-I-N-O MITE!  How can something so cute and petite be such a PISTOL?  She's like a wolverine in kitten's clothing.  You know in the movies when someone walks up to the cute, soft, furry, wide-eyed little cuddly kitten and says, "Here, kitty, kitty.  Come here sweet little kitty baby" and then the thing suddenly pounces on them embedding it's claws into their head, hissing, and screeching?  That's my baby girl.  Yes, I'm exaggerating, but not much.  Crossing her in public is terrifying because she is like BANSHEE loud when she gets mad.  So we're like, "Here little the tasty lollipop.  How about some Skittles, or a pony?"  Anything to make it STOP.  I could take Harrison anywhere when he was this age...the movies, a concert, a restaurant...not Sister...or at least not without having my butt cheeks clinched so tight they feel like they're gonna fall off from such extreme stress the entire time.  The difference, I think, between her and Harrison is that Harrison cared what I thought and didn't want to disappoint me.  Emerson, on the other hand, does not let this concern her pretty little self.  She is just fine.  And I'm sure I'll love this quality in her some day in the distant future, but for now...I'll keep my purse stocked with candy and look at family outings as my only chance for a nice butt.

On that note, I'm gonna go collapse into my bed (with my sweet (sleeping) angel baby girl) and try to rest up for what tomorrow may hold.  By the time you're reading this I could already be wearing a kitten skin hat.

Gang of Five

They may divide my whole being by five, but the joy they bring to my life is multiplied by infinity.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

King Ranch Chicken Casserole

This is a quick and easy favorite around our house especially when we have left over baked or beer can chicken.  My Mom perfected King Ranch Chicken Casserole back when she had a catering business, so I use a version of her recipe.  My little kids won't really eat it because the Rotel makes it a bit too spicy, but my teenagers love it.  Here it is:

I use about half a cooked chicken de-boned usually left over from beer can chicken which is a way of baking whole chickens on little metal stands that hold half full beer cans.  The beer supposedly steams up the middle making a very tender, juicy chicken.  It works!  My husband has this method down to a science, so we eat it often.

Anyway, you can use cooked chicken breasts or any kind of baked chicken as long as the meat is already cooked.   The baked chickens that you buy at the grocer's deli work great, too.

Cut the chicken into messy chunks using a knife and big fork.

Spray the bottom and sides of a 13" x 9" baking dish with Pam.  I like the one with olive oil, but the regular kind will do.

Line bottom of baking dish with chicken.

You will need 12 corn tortillas torn into bite size pieces.

I enlisted a tiny helper for this task.  She always wants to be held while I'm cooking dinner which REALLY complicates things.  When I give her a job, she is as happy as a little lark!

Next, stir in one can of Cream of Celery or Cream of Mushroom soup.  I prefer to use Cream of Mushroom, but I usually just end up having to use whichever one is in my pantry.

Then, pour in a can of Original Rotel.

Add one and a half cups of shredded cheese.  Today I used cheddar, but I have also used Colby Jack and it works well, too.

Add a sprinkle of salt and pepper, stir everything together, and smooth out the top a bit.

Sprinkle half a cup of the same shredded cheese evenly on the top, and it's ready to go into the 400 degree oven.

Bake for 20-25 minutes making sure the cheese has melted and the tortillas have had time to soften.

Look at all that yummy, cheesy goodness!

Serve with black beans or pinto beans (or both, like I do), a green salad, and dinner rolls and you've got yourself a meal.

I like Bush's Best for canned beans.  The pinto beans are no comparison to a homemade pot of beans that have been cooked slowly all day with lots of bacon, but they are okay if you don't have time to do it up right.  The black beans are awesome.  Just add salt.


Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Wakey, Wakey, Shake and Bakey

Saturday morning I awoke to a good morning kiss from my sweet husband at around 7:45 a.m.  I was sandwiched between my little honeys and feeling like I needed another hour of sleep.  I managed to squeeze in thirty precious more minutes before Harrison began talking gently in my ear.  "Hi, Mommie".  "Hi, Baby," I answered.  This is my daily dose of perfection.  I will forever remember these sweet moments... when eyes first open...the day's first squinty smiles...little hands gently rubbing my cheeks ...the rising sun peeking over the hills and through the wooden blinds... Harrison's scratchy voice saying, "Oh, feel soooo good to hold" ...Emerson's CRAZY bed hair...morning chants like "wakey, wakey shake and bakey" or "rise and shine" or "who wants kisses for breakfast?"  These are the things that will forever be etched into my mind.  I'm sure it's what I'll be thinking about as I watch them walk across the stage to graduate and as I watch them walk down the aisle to get married.  Please God, don't take those memories as I grow old.  I want them with me in Heaven.

At around 9 a.m. I started cooking breakfast.  I always have to feed Harrison and Emerson something light as soon as we get up so the older kids have more time to sleep in before the "real" breakfast is served.  Roger left early to take Jackson to see the orthopedic doctor to look at his recently injured knee.  This would be our biggest topic of discussion at the breakfast table as we have all been so worried about Jackson and the extent of his injury.  Billy's best friend Tanner was able to visit for the weekend and Dylan came home from college Friday night.  It was our first chance in a long time to have breakfast together as a family with everyone under the same roof.  It was a good, good day.

Harrison wanted to take a picture of me getting out the orange juice.  Alrighty.

The bacon is on!

Sister eating Cheerios to tide her over until the "real" breakfast is served.

On my "to do" list:  make flower arrangements and peach preserves

This is one of my pretty juice glasses I got this Summer on sale at Pottery Barn.  I think they were left over from their Easter inventory.  I love them and am sad to say one broke recently.

Who will wake the sleeping college girl?  So glad to have her home!

Maisy smells bacon cooking.

  "MO JUICE!!!"  "No, Sis, no more juice!"  

"Is the bacon ready yet?"  "Almost, Bubby"

Our breakfast plates make me so happy.  They were hand-me-downs.  I love hand-me-downs!

I decided to make chocolate chip pancakes in honor of Dylan.  They're her favorite.  I sometimes make them from scratch, but I've learned that on some mornings I just need to let it go and make it easy.

Oh, boy...there's nothing like the smell of bacon cooking and bacon grease adds loads of flavor to the pancakes.  Healthy...not so much...but very tasty!

My secret ingredient to spruce up the already pretty good box mix-  Vanilla!

What a gang!  

We found out that Jackson's MCL is most likely sprained and not torn.  It is likely an injury that will affect him to some degree for the rest of his life.  Of course, he is worried about making it back out on the football field as soon as possible.  He loves the game and it was his lifeline at his new school...a way to make new friends and make a place for himself in a sea of strangers.  He was working so hard to prove himself to his teammates and coaches.  It happened the second week of school the day after he came home from school and excitedly announced that he had earned a spot on the A team.  It was the final play of practice and he was tackled by several teammates as he was about to score.  One day you're day your down.  I can't imagine what God is up to, but he has a plan for Jackson and I know he won't give him anything he can't handle.  I'm praying for a complete and speedy recovery that leaves Jackson stronger and wiser and exactly where he needs to be for a great future!
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