Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Good But Not Yet Great

Last night I was texting with a friend while finalizing yesterday's blog post and spontaneously decided that I would invite some of the neighbor ladies over for coffee in the morning.  Yes, we are all super busy with the Christmas countdown on, but if not now when?

I added lemon juice to milk to make a buttermilk substitute.
Of course you can't have coffee without something to nibble on.  I had an Apple & Cheddar Cheese Scone recipe in my head that I had wanted to try, and with a lone Granny Smith in the back of my refrigerator,  I whipped up a batch to test run on my friends.

My grandmother's pastry cutter is one of my most cherished kitchen utensils.
Before you get all "Oh, so you just whipped them up in your spare time, hu?,"  scones are one of the easiest things you can make.  All the ingredients get dumped into one bowl then baked.  E A S Y.

No electric mixer required so the clean up is a breeze.
Now, my friends are super sweet and supportive and said the scones were good, however, always the self critic, I think before I post a recipe, I need to tweek it a little with some bacon or carmalized onions and make them even better.

Love the texture of crunch on the outside and apple chunks on the inside.
In the meantime, most of my cooking is prepped and I'm ready to relax and enjoy the next few days.  Have you been cooking like crazy too?

Monday, December 22, 2014

Christmas Menus and a Plan

Traditions are wonderful, don't get me wrong, but change is not a bad thing either.

A break from cooking on the screened porch with a fire and my kitties
 We are definitely in "change" mode this year and I must say I am embracing it.  Our Christmas celebration will truly last 2 days.  As a child I always wanted to open gifts on Christmas Eve and this year I get my wish and will have my brother Mike and his wife Jane, my parents, and my son Cameron here.

Cardinal ornament made by my grandmother back in the day
After opening gifts with them and an early church service, not the usual 11pm candlelight one, we'll have a nice sit down family meal before Mike and Jane head back to their home out of town.

*Christmas Eve Menu*
Poinsettia Cocktail
Wassil Glazed Ham
Cranberry Apple Crisp (a la Mom)

However, my joy does not stop there.  

Table set and ready for guests
On Christmas Day I will also have my son Trevor and his wife, my daughter, here as well.  More laughter and wonderful aromas from my kitchen.

*Christmas Day Brunch*
Red Rudolph Cocktail
Orange Juice, Starbuck's Christmas Blend (thanks, Ed & Diane)

After brunch we will open gifts then, get this, head to the bowling alley for putt-putt, lazer tag, bowling, and games.  

It will be nice to get out of the house after a couple days of cooking and do something different.  We will keep the meal easy after being gone all day.

*Christmas Dinner*
Green Salad
Fluffy Dinner Rolls

Our new Christmas tradition?  Flexibility.  Traditions are familure and safe, but the time with family is the best.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Number 53: Fairfield Lake State Park

If I was getting a little tired of all the state park posts I know you must have as well.  In fact, I was really not sure I wanted to go see another after such a short break from our previous trips, but Fairfield Lake State Park offered a couple opportunities we had never experienced before.

Yes it had a body of water like most parks we have visited.

Yes it had trails through the woods for hiking.

Places to rest and enjoy the view, though this one had been reclaimed by nature.

It had wildlife.

It also had one of the most stunning sunset views we have experienced.  Wait for it.

The clouds and our timing were perfect.

But what was so different, you may ask?  We decided to cook out our dinner in the park.

It was a last minute idea, so the food was not very inspired.  We had potato chips for an appetizer while the coals heated up.

And you know coals take awhile so we took a little playtime as well.

The plan was for hot chocolate to drink and our coffee pot was perfect for boiling the water.

When the coals were ready, we plopped down two t-bone steaks, some sliced bread , and some broccoli and carrots in foil.

Everything is better over a fire, but we should have brought a lantern to eat by.  The cell phone flashlight didn't really cut it.

There was a reason we wanted to be in the part after dark.  They were hosting a lighting display where everyone in campers and tents decorated for Christmas.  The turn out was impressive.

You could take a free hayride through the park, but we walked.

They also had free Wassil and Hot Chocolate with cookies.

It was a chilly night, and they had a nice fire going to keep people warm who were waiting in line for the hayride.

The tents and trailers were very cool.

I talked to a couple people who camp every year at different parks around Texas and love putting up their Christmas lights.

I think we will find another one to see next year.

Luckily the Texas Parks and Wildlife facebook page will help me remember.

So, see, not just another park post.

But for sure it's the last one of the year.  Only 40 more to go.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

One Of Our Finer Traditions

I have spent a good chunk of time lately talking to friends about how special my job is.  Not just working with young children with autism (that is a blessing beyond words that I will talk about another day), but the team of people I share my day with.  We have so many wonderful traditions, more than I can name here, that keep us bonded and enthusiastic.  One tradition started by my amazing coworker and friend Krystina is the lunch we serve our custodians at Christmas every year.

We clear out the Teacher's Lounge, lay out a table cloth and place settings, and serve up a home cooked hot meal.  This year is was King Ranch Chicken, hot bread, coleslaw, and chips and dip followed by yummy cookies, and chased with sweet tea.

Everyone in our Special Education hallway contributes goodies for the gift bags we stuff for them to take home filled with sweet treats, candles, lotions, gloves, socks, bows and wrapping paper, gift cards to grocery stores and restaurants, bags of chips and jars of dips.  What we can do as a school family makes me happy.

Our custodians work so hard at the end of our day to clean and prep our rooms for us and our students when we have gone home to our families and no one is there to see.  This is just our way of saying thank you.  Besides, everyone involved with an elementary school Christmas party knows they deserve a little something extra after that clean-up.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Number 52: Martin Creek Lake State Park

I took a little break from my state park updates, but we visited Martin Creek Lake State Park over Thanksgiving and it is almost Christmas.  Time to slip in another post.

Whenever we go to a park we try to find something that makes it unique.  For one park it was just a series of photos of mushrooms (Fort Boggy State Park).  But this park had something a little different.

An island hike.  We found this at one other park, Martin Dies Jr. State Park, and we really enjoyed it.

When we spotted deer tracks I wondered if they actually crossed the bridge or sheltered and fed on the island.

We hit this park late in the day so the light was amazing.

And for an island, it had some pretty nice trails.

And a lot of trees.

Aside from the two ducks just off shore we also happened upon a very shy bunny.

This was one of my favorite photos of the day, month, and year.  The shadow on the tree trunk of a leaf suspended in air makes me happy.

Just goes to show you that you never know what you will see on a hike.  Like a beautiful sunset.

But the best part was having someone like my husband to share it with.