Wednesday, July 28, 2010

A New Author

So, we have been visiting the library every Sunday after church, which is a great treat for everyone but Ryan who has no idea what to read.  lol  He takes the kids to the kid section, and I go find my books, which just so happen to be color coded!  All the inspirational fiction has a yellow binding, so it's easy to find. 

I started in the B aisle, because I know that Terri Blackstock is in that row.  :-)  And I found a new author--Mary Connealy.  The Lassoed in Texas series tells the story of some brave women of the frontier in Texas.  They are great stories of overcoming hardship, finding the good in life's circumstances, with a bit of romance and danger thrown in.  And, look how cute the covers are! :-)

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Whole Wheat Bread

I've decided that a super short post is in order after my super long post the other day!  lol

I made whole wheat bread yesterday--and it turned out really good!

So here's how I did it:

1)  Heat 2 1/2 c milk & 2 T butter to 110 degrees.

2)  Add 1 tsp sugar, 1 tsp salt, and a package of yeast.  Wait for yeast to fully dissolve.

3)  Mix in 4 T molasses and 3/4 cup whole wheat flour.

4)  Mix in flour, one cup at a time until dough is ready.

5) Let rise one hour.

6) Punch down, put in bread pans, let rise 1 hour.

7) Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes.

I think you could probably add in more than 3/4 c whole wheat flour, and I thought about adding in some whole wheat, too.  I combined Tim's basic recipe with a Betty Crocker recipe in my old BC cookbook.  It's yummy! 

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Our Moving Story...or Why I Need a Summer Vacation

When the economy went belly-up in AZ, my amazingly talented contractor husband and I decided to switch roles for a while!  I went back to work, after being a stay-at-home mom of three little ones for 4 years, in the Spring of 2009.  Since then, I have taught up to 10 to 11 composition courses a semester for three to four different colleges/universities, while hubby became Mr. Mom.  

To make things more interesting, in April, we decided to move 1000 miles from Camp Verde, AZ (where all my family lives) to New Braunfels, TX (where we know NO ONE) in the hopes of finding work for my husband and getting me back home with my kiddos.  The first hurdle?  Ryan needs a truck.  (Unfortunately, he had traded his truck in for a smaller car with smaller payments in December!)  Deciding to be 'wise,' we buy a 1999 Chevy utility truck we find on Craigslist with our dwindling tax refund and sell Ryan's car for what we owe to my cousin.  We will drive to Texas in two vehicles--Ryan pulling a trailer of our belongings behind his truck, while I follow in my little Corolla with our three kids (ages 3, 5, and 8). 

With no leads on buyers for our home, we decide to rent it.  The people renting the house are wonderful, so we know they will take care of our home.  And they even drop hints that if they like it they might decide to buy it.  Hmmm.  We bend over backwards to make them happy--including agreeing on a June 1st move-in date on May 25th and leaving ALL of our furniture.

With one week's notice, we pack up our house, putting only what we really need in my father-in-law's trailer.  On June 4th, we pack the kids in the car & leave for Texas.  Less than 20 miles out of town, Ryan's engine blows up.  A tow truck and $350 later, we are back at Ryan's parents' house trying to come up with a plan.  The good news--There is a flood in New Braunfels this week and we missed it!

We end up trading in my Corolla for a 2002 Chevy that can pull the trailer and hold all 5 of us. I will be without a vehicle in TX, but at least we'll be there! A week later, June 12, we are on our way again.  About 90 miles later, just outside of Phoenix, we decide to get some gas & snacks before heading across the desert.  Ryan notices that all the tread on all the tires of the trailer is completely gone.  Four new tires later, we are back on the road.  Thankfully we were just minutes away from a tire place, instead of stranded in the middle of the desert! 

We are now 2 hours behind schedule on our 14 hour drive.  About 4 hours from our destination (11pm Texas time), Ryan decides to stop and rest for a few minutes.  So, we pull into a Wal-Mart in Ft. Stockton, TX.  Where we sleep all night.  In the truck.  :-(

Finally, we get to our destination--some friends of Ryan's parents whom we have never met, but who have generously asked us to stay in their casita (a one bedroom, one bathroom guest room) in Bandera, TX.  We arrive Sunday around noon, and, with an appointment with a realtor to scout out rentals on Monday, I know we will be in a house by the end of the week.

Unfortunately, a huge flood in New Braunfels, which we thankfully missed with our vehicle drama, has created a run on the rental market.  Any house or apartment immediately available has been snapped up by the 100 families put out of their homes by the flood.  We stop at house after house, only to have the realtor call, shake her head, and say, "They just got a contract." 

Finally, after about 8 hours of searching with all the kids and no lunch...we pull up in front of a cute house downtown--right where we want to be!  She calls...and the house, which had been under contract until 5 MINUTES ago!, is now available.  We sign papers that afternoon.  The bad news--no house until July 3rd. 
Our New House!
We spend three weeks in a one bedroom, one bathroom guest room with no kitchen, no toys, no books, no transportation.  The good news?  Ryan gets a job!  The bad news--the job requires that he spend money to get tools, that he be gone from 7am to 9pm, and he won't have a paycheck for 3 weeks.  The good news?  We really love the Embrees, and they love us!

Finally, it's July 3rd.  We leave Bandera and head to New Braunfels.  20 miles into the 60 mile trip, Ryan hears a strange noise and looks out his window, only to see a tire bouncing down the road.  Pulling into a parking lot, we find that it, is, indeed, our tire--one of the brand new tires from the trailer has completely separated from the trailer and bounced into someone's car.  Good news--no damage to their vehicle.  Bad news--there is no way to fix the wheel and we are stuck in Boerne, TX, with all of our stuff on the back of a trailer that we can't move. 

What now?  We rent a U-Haul.  After about an hour of confusion,  we finally find one that's open and has a truck--the biggest one they have.  We have to unload the trailer onto the UHaul before we can get on our way.  Fortunately, the 3 weeks we spent with the Embrees made them like us a lot!  Mr. Embree came, with his son & daughter-in-law, to help us load the U-Haul and to haul the empty trailer back to their place.

Finally!  We make it to New Braunfels and our cute little house.  Where we have absolutely no furniture--well, except for the two card tables and 5 chairs I managed to squeeze into the trailer and the three blow up mattresses we bought for the kids to sleep on at the Embree's. 

What happens next is the miracle of Texas hospitality.  One neighbor comes over with 3 camp cots for the kids.  Yay!  Three beds.  (And that means that Ryan & I have blow up mattresses to sleep on!)  And the other neighbor brings us a real, live kitchen table with 5 chairs!  Even better, on Sunday, the real estate agent brings us a full tray of Subway sandwiches to enjoy--that feeds us for 3 days! 
Megan in the kids' room with their cots
July 4th--we spend with our new friends and neighbors watching the fireworks in New Braunfels.  Truly a day of independence and hope for our family. 

Ryan left his first nightmarish job two weeks ago and is now working with one of the finest builders in New Braunfels, TX, and I am, of course, still teaching my online classes.  Still busy, still struggling a bit, but knowing that there is hope, a light at the end of the tunnel.  Through it all, we saw that God was watching out for us.  And we realized that we may not have a bed to sleep on, but we have each other, and that's what counts.  Is it any wonder that my favorite Bible verse has always been Romans 8:28:  "All things work together for good for those who love the Lord and are called according to His purpose."

So, why do I need a summer vacation?  To celebrate that God is good.  To celebrate my beautiful family.  And to celebrate a new beginning.

Friday, July 23, 2010

A day in New Braunfels

I thought it would be fun to take you with us through a day here in New Braunfels.  :-)  We start out, of course, by liberally spraying everyone with bug spray!  Then, we just start walking!  It's so fun to have so much to do within walking distance.  On this day, we are setting out to the Farmer's Market, where there is live music, lots of fresh produce, & other fun stuff. 

After walking around and making some yummy purchases, including some ground beef, a whole chicken, tomatoes, and bell peppers, we decide to stop for some breakfast burritos and fresh lemonade. 
After stashing our bounty safely at home, we decide to head back to town to check out the Red Rooster, an antique store and restaurant.  After browsing through the store, we head off in search of a snack.  And we find a brand new bakery called Tarts!  We enjoyed our delicious cupcakes, and went back for more the next day for the free grand opening cupcakes.  :-)
Later on, we have an impromptu water party in the backyard with all of the neighbors.  With 6 boys ages 1-10, we had quite a lot of fun.  Megan hid out next door with her friend, Vanessa, playing Monopoly. 
And we round off the day with hotdogs at home--grilled on our itty bitty charcoal grill. 

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

I'm a TV Repairwoman!?!

Well, at least a helper!  Just before we moved to Texas, our wonderful Samsung LCD TV decided to stop turning on.  It would "click, click, click, click, click" for hours!  So, we brought it with us, anyway, thinking that maybe we could get someone to fix it. 

Getting tired of watching from my tiny laptop screen, I decided to do a little research.  Guess what?  Apparently Samsung TVs are just plain defective!  Tons of people are having the same problem--with a repair bill of up to $500!  They put in a capacitor that was too small, causing the TV to short out as the capacitors go bad. 

See the X in the middle?  It's sort of bulging out instead of being totally flat.  And the black in the X is a sign that it's leaking.  Turns out, these capacitors cost just a few bucks each.  With the purchase of a soldering kit, you can repair the TV yourself for around $25-30!

So, I sent Ryan to watch the youtube instructional video, then to Radio Shack to pick up the soldering kit and the 4 35V 1000uf capacitors that we figured we would need.  (most of the TVs have either 3/4 that need to be replaced.)  Here are the kids hiding away in their room so they wouldn't be anywhere near the soldering gun.  :-)

So, the first step was unscrewing the back of the TV and removing the board.  (Yes, I'm totally a girl and I don't know what the real name for it is.) 

Then, Ryan put the board on a magazine on the kitchen table. (fancy!)   Ryan used the soldering gun to melt the solder, while I pulled and wiggled the capacitors out from the other side.  Careful to check the charge (positive is the long wire, negative is the short one), Ryan put the new capacitors on.  It was a tight fit, but it worked! 

He put the board back in the TV, screwed the back on, and plugged it in.  SUCCESS!  What an accomplishment!  A little less than an hour and around $25 and we had our TV back.  Nice.  :-)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Riding a Bike!?!

One of the great things about our new neighborhood is that you can walk everywhere--or ride bikes.  Our kiddos love to ride bikes, but, even though I actually won a bike in a Mother's Day contest at Sears (before I was a Mom!), I never rode it.  In fact, I haven't ridden since I was a kid, when Tim, Laura, and I used to take turns racing up and down the road on the one bike we all shared. 

So, when our new neighbors proposed that we all take a bike ride down to the river--and generously loaned Ryan & I bikes to boot--we accepted, everyone in the family except me with excitement.  Me?  I was scared to death! 

The bike I borrowed was an old men's bike, modified to suit my neighbor, Holley.  Unlike the kids' bikes, my feet did not reach the ground when I sat on the seat, which freaked me out even more.  It took me a few tries (and Ryan holding on to the bike for me!) just to get on and get going.  Stopping was another dramatic event--one that usually ended with me jumping on one foot away from the bike to avoid a major crash. 

Thankfully, we made it down to the river, where we found a nice shallowish place for the kids to play.  The current was a little strong, so they couldn't really experience the joys of the river--but the kids did have fun floating downstream to Ryan, where I pulled them on shore.  ;-)  And Ryan had fun with our neighbor, Landon, on the rope swing, although neither one of them was brave enough to do a back flip.  I didn't get very wet--I was positive that the sore bum I already had would be worse if I was also dealing with a wet suit!

At dusk, we set off back home.  I was much more confident this time and even got off the bike (mine is the green one--Ryan is holding Megan's bike in this pic, and the little ones--Luke, Jack, and Josyan rode on the Big Dummy with Landon) without falling down at the end of the ride.  After 3+ miles round trip, I felt much more at ease on the bike, though today I am finding sitting down anywhere a tad difficult.  I have some bruises that I hope will go away soon!  :-) 

I am proud of myself, though, for getting back on a bike and taking a risk.  It was worth it!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Baking Bread

I have always considered myself a decent cook.  Give me a recipe, and I can make it.  Sweets & desserts are my specialty (because they're my favorite, of course!).  So, when I decided to try my hand at baking bread, I figured I would be a natural.  NOT SO!  My bread didn't rise, turned out really heavy, and was just, overall, nasty.  My wonderful brother, Tim, who is a phenomenal baker, gave me a recipe he created--one that he tweaks to make everything from bread to cinnamon rolls--and careful instructions.  Which, I followed, mostly.  Turns out, mostly is not good enough! 

With trepidation, I thought I'd try again the other day.  I took pictures to document my progress, and I thought I'd share.  :-)

Step 1:  I had the milk and butter warming up in the microwave when I realized that I didn't remember unpacking the yeast.  So, I had to walk down to Handy Andy with all the kids to pick up a packet of yeast.  We got home, finished warming up the milk & butter.  At this point, everything looks GREAT!  :-)

So, on to Step 2:  Adding the yeast, sugar, and salt.  To my surprise, the yeast actually started bubbling away as it dissolved.  I wasn't sure when exactly to put in the sugar, but it seemed to work out ok.  

Step 3:  Here's where I made my mistakes before.  You know how the recipe tells you to put in one cup of flour at a time?  Yeah...I just dumped it all in last time.  SO, deciding to actually follow the directions this time, I stirred in one cup of flour at a time.  By this time, I have, not only my brother's recipe, but two Betty Crocker cookbooks out on the counter turned to the pictures of the dough.  What is it supposed to look like?  How in the world do I know it's ready?  Tim says that it gets satiny and you just feel that it's done.  Well, I don't trust my 'feeling,' hence, the two illustrated cookbooks!  Apparently, baking bread requires some 6th sense of baking, which you must acquire through practice.  Yikes!

Anyway, I finally get the dough to look 'right'--where it doesn't really stick to the board anymore as I'm kneading it.  So, I decide this is as good as it's going to get and I put it back in the bowl to rise for an hour in the nice, warm sunroom. 

An hour later, I was pleasantly surprised to see that my dough had, indeed doubled in size!  I punched it down and divided it in half, placing it in two bread pans.  I covered the pans and set them aside to rise for another hour.  I even set the timer--but forgot to press start.  So, about 90 minutes later, I remember the bread & find that it has doubled in size again!  I was so excited that I forgot to take a picture & just put the loaves in the oven.  30 minutes later, here is what I found: 
Two beautiful loaves of bread.  In the pans, they were pretty hard, so Ryan was dubious.  But I dutifully rubbed butter all over the tops, & turned them out on the cooling rack, covering again with a towel.  Sure enough, the bread was nice and soft!

In fact, Ryan and the kids couldn't get enough of it!
I think I will try this again sometime soon!  I may even get brave and try to make dinner rolls.  We'll see! 

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Famous People in New Braunfels

We have been doing some research this morning on one of the famous people who lives in New Braunfels--Charlie Duke, one of the 12 men who have walked on the moon! Looking at the information about him and the other men, it's interesting that 1) they were all in their late 30s and 40s--not young guys! (Charlie was the youngest at 36 1/2) & 2) no one has been on the moon since the early 70s.

Reading his biography on Wikipedia, I was impressed by one piece of his personal information--He became a Christian after walking on the moon.  I think that having that information included is really neat.  In looking more at Charlie's life on his website and watching some videos, we find that his love of Christ is of more worth to him than his great accomplishments in his life--both as an astronaut and a businessman.

Charlie published a book called Moonwalker about his experiences in 1990, and he has produced two videos--Walk on the Moon, Walk with the Son and Moonwalker.  His wife, Dottie, also published a book about her testimony, called An Astronaut's Wife--Her Story:  From Sadness to Joy.  You can find out more about Charlie and his wife, and even watch clips of Charlie giving his testimony on his website.  I hope you enjoy learning about the Dukes as much as we have!

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