OK, the title makes me chuckle to myself just a little. I guess in Central Texas they can call it that, but really - in my opinion it is not an "exotic" ranch. Whatever - to each their own. :-)
We bought our tickets at ITR, if you are military and you want to go I would suggest doing the same. The ticket prices at ITR are $2 less per ticket making it $8 for adults and $6.50 for kids. Once you get there at the gate you can buy generous brown paper bags of food to feed the animals for $1. We bought 4 bags, one for each young person that was in the car. This was perfect and I would suggest one per person. As we drove over the cattle guard we were surrounded by reindeer and zebras. They were all very gentle and came right up to our car poking their heads in looking for food. Look at the top left side of the picture, you can barely see Boy 3's head. He was beyond freaked out that a zebra was sticking his head in our car. (He was in Boy 1's lap just a few seconds before this picture was taken!)
Hello little reindeer!
You lookin' at me?
It's not everyday that you see this in your rearview mirror!!
I'm laughing. Really. I know it looks like I'm freaking out, but that is a laugh. These guys were funny and soft and kind of cuddly. I'm considering opening a llama farm. ;o)
The ponies were so cute, but as they came up to us, they were kind of mean. OK, not all of them were but there was one psycho pony that bit Boy 2 (not bad) and then chased our car for at least a mile and he would not let the other animals close to us!! I guess I would be a little ticked off too if I had hair like that and lived in Central Texas – it was about 103 degrees outside...
Oh no, the birds are coming....
OK, the ostriches FREAK ME OUT!! They all have crazy looks in their eyes, and they are just mean. This one stood in front of my car not allowing me to move while he eyeballing me......then he started pecking at the hood of my car!!!
He pecked while his buddy was hanging out trying to get Boy one to roll his window down!
Check out his crazy eyes....
I told you I want some food....
We finally shoved our way past crazy bird land only to find this waiting around the next turn......
Love it...another Cav family!
Now, they had warned us at the entrance to either roll our windows all the way up, or all the way down. The lady told us if we didn't the camel might break our window. We rolled one middle aisle window down; all people were in the 1st or 3rd row. Things started off fine...
I mean check out that cute little face...
He even kissed our car...
Boy 1 even fed him from his hand, but then Mike (that's his name) got a little greedy and decided to see what else we had in the car....
OH, and he didn't stop there. We thought for a minute he was going to take our cooler, but then he spotted something else...a shoe. Crud, we thought the shoe was a goner, but no, he reached over it and grabbed a bag of food we had bought to feed to the animals. Check it out....look in his mouth, he took the ENTIRE bag and then he left. I'm not sure my children will ever be the same. You should have heard all the screaming coming from my car!! You would have thought I had a car full of cheerleaders!
We were beyond excited to leave the camel and his freaky birds friends behind us.....
We were thrilled to happen back upon our sweet zebra friends.
Ahh life is good again....that is what I thought - until I realized Boy 3 was no where to be seen...when I said his name and ask where he was he was behind the 3rd row and said "You know guys, I'm still a little freaked out back here'. You gotta love that kid! ;o)
All in all the drive though was really fun, we laughed so hard throughout the entire thing! We spent about an hour and fifteen minutes driving through the safari and we went pretty slowly.
The little 'petting zoo' was not as good...maybe it was because it was so hot or maybe it was because it was kind of run down...I'm not sure the animals were in the best health, but again I am not a vet. I would suggest skipping the petting zoo though.
Boy 1 and I got a good laugh from this sign.
We were so excited that Boy 2 was going in to get his cast removed! We knew there was a possibility that he would have to get another one, but we were really hoping there would be swimming for Boy 2 this 4th of July weekend.
The 'jaws of life' cast style.
When the guy removing his cast ask him if he wanted to keep his cast - Boy 2 curled his nose and said - "Um, no. That is garbage!"
And it is OFF!!!
Once his cast was off we went for another x-ray. While we were waiting Boy 2 tried to straighten his arm but it still hurt...he tried to move his hand but it still hurt...when the doc looked at the x-ray it was healing well but it was still fractured. So...
Back on it goes....
This time he got a glow in the dark cast! ;o)
Episode 2 of cooking with the kids - this time it was Boy 2's turn. He LOVES ribs, so we thought it was only fitting that he help me with ribs.
1 cup of dark brown sugar
3 TBL kosher salt
1 TBL dry mustard
1 TBL freshly ground mustard
1 TBL cayenne pepper
1 TBL sweet smoked paprika
4 racks baby back ribs (about 2.5 pounds each)
Mix all ingredients together and sprinkle all over ribs, pressing and patting it. Cover with foil and refrigerate overnight. (We did not do this overnight...we did this early in the morning about 8AM)
Preheat oven to 250 degress F. Pour off any liquid, cover ribs with foil and cook for about 3.5 hours until meat is tender but not falling off the bone. While the ribs were cooking we made the BBQ sauce. We didn't LOVE the BBQ sauce and when we make the ribs again we will most likely use KC Masterpiece BBQ - don't hate. I'm not even going to bother with giving you the recipe. Too much typing....just go out and buy your favorite sweet/spicy BBQ sauce to serve on the side if you want the sauce. I still included the pictures because Boy 2 is pretty much a rock star making his own BBQ sauce at the age of 8 (with a broken arm).
Hello beauties!! Once your 3.5 hours is up, crank the broiler up on your oven and broil the ribs for about 10 minutes or until the edges start turning a 'little' crispy!
Serve with your favorite BBQ sauce....
Or not, and enjoy!!
This recipe was adapted from Food & Wine's "Our Best New Classics" magazine
I cannot believe we have a 15 year old. It seems like only a few short years ago (NOT yesterday) I was in labor for 26 FREAKING hours with this kid. That's right, his birthday really should be the 25th of June, not the 26th, but he decided to take his own sweet time and put his mother though hell for just over a day.
Relax. I'm not going to tell you his birth story.
I will tell you that I am glad he gave me a hard time then and that he doesn't do it now. Don't get me wrong we have hit a few speed bumps in this journey of life, in fact I would like to have skipped ages 3, 10 & 12 altogether, but since the age of 12 we have only had a few minor bumps in the road, thank God. He is a good kid. He makes good grades, he loves him mom (yes, he is a Momma's boy - leave us alone! ) and his family. He stands up for his siblings when it counts (even if the does torcher them on a daily basis) and he would never let anyone outside of himself be mean to them. I watch him every day and I am in awe of him and I often wonder what we did right and hope to mimic it in all of his siblings.
For the past few years it has been kind of been sad ~ he hasn't really wanted to have a party for his birthday and you know me, I'm all about parties. I LOVE throwing parties, especially for my kids' birthdays. So this year when he told me he wanted to have a "Korean" dinner party for his birthday I was all over it. However I was informed not to go 'over the top'. Got it. (Darn it!) I did not play Korean music. I did not dress in a Hanbok. I did not ask the guest to dress in Hanboks. We did not play traditional Korean games like 'Yut'. I was also informed that I should not do streamers or balloons this year. However, I could not help myself:
Hehehehehehe!! Sorry Boy 1! I did not do balloons though, and I only put up a few streamers in the house.
His siblings love giving him birthday spankings on his birthday! This is the only day they can get away with something like this! Boy 3 even spanked him a few extra times.
One of the birthday traditions around our house is that you get to choose whatever you want to eat for your birthday. Boy 1 wanted bacon and biscuits. I was shocked by this. Really, that is all you want? I think he did this because he sees how hard I work on birthdays and wanted to make my job easier this year - I also think that is why he said no balloons and no streamers. I'm on to you Boy 1.
After breakfast we opened gifts. He got the Drivers Ed handbook. That's right, he is going to drivers ed next week! ;o)
Inside joke? Look at their faces....
Things that make you go 'hummm...'!
LOL... I taught them how to do this, wrap the meat in lettuce leaves - obviously someone wasn't paying attention and used 6 seaweed wrappers to stuff full of rice, bulgogi and kimchi's. It looked like a Korean burrito if there is such a thing! ;o)
Trying to master the chopsticks and not really sure about this Korean fare....
Getting ready to go to the pool....
Dessert! Hoduk - Korean street food.
Of course we HAD to have cake.
Ahhhh ~ I know, I know, I've talked about farewells before but as I told you, this is the PCS (permanent change of station) season and our friends just keep moving out!! UGHHH!!! This past Friday night we had a few friends over to say goodbye to our neighbors that are retiring and heading out to a sunny and warm spot near everyone’s favorite big mouse. Retiring. Really? Are we old enough for that? Hubby can retire in 1 year. Seriously, 1 year, OK, OK, actually he can retire in 11 MONTHS!!!!!!!!!!!! Freaky isn't it? When did my husband get so old? ;o)
Anywho...we had our neighbors over for a little Vietnamese cuisine. As you all know I love cooking! I also love cooking & eating Vietnamese. I had a dear Vietnamese friend that taught me the tricks of the trade, but she also swore me to secrecy. As you all know I love sharing recipes, but I swore to my friend I would not post her family recipes here, so if you want to enjoy the most fantastic Vietnamese noodle bowls or spring rolls you will have to come over and hang with me for the evening.
Trying to teach 11 kids to make spring rolls. All I can say is..........
Thank GOD for Rodney.
You HAD to be there! ;o)
Two kids, two broken arms. Of course they get special treatment. (They live across the street from each other. Go figure.)
We will miss these two!
Love that smile!
This one cracks me up!
I kind-of got in trouble for this one..... ;o)
Sometimes a Sundae just isn't enough.
So long friends...we will miss you.
I think this was his third for the night....
We all know that deployments sucks and we also know that there really isn't much we can do other than stay positive, love our soldiers (from afar), dote on our children, send lots of care packages and just do the best we can to get through the year and if that means cereal for dinner, well so be it. With a little help from my friends we have compiled a 'silver lining' deployment list. Now sit back relax and don't take us too seriously!
Here are the top 30
30. Great opportunity to grow your relationship with your husband! (Really, I'm not joking, the phone calls and emails are treasured treats!)
29. No phone calls from your soldier saying "I'm going to be later than normal".... (Like we expect them home at normal time anyway!)
28. Not waking up to the 4:30AM to that PT alarm clock and then again at 4:45, 5:00 & 5:15!
27. Little or no breaking of wind in my presence. (I didn't submit this one...I have 3 other boys that live in my house and a band of teenage boys that think they live here....thank God for candles!!)
26. You can have get togethers with neighbors every night if you want! (Because everyone else in the neighborhood has a soldier that is deployed as well!)
25. Less laundry:)
24. Who cares what the garage looks like!
23. The whole house becomes a Craft Room/Play Room and you don't have to clean up projects if you don’t’ want!
22. You don’t have to do the 6PM scramble to get the house straightened up before Hubby gets home!
21. NEW SHOES (need I say more?)
20. You can put things on HIS side of the closet!
19. You don't have to hide shopping bags in the trunk!
18. You really are the center of your children’s universe. (All the more reason to have happy hour with your neighbors and gal pals!)
17. You don’t wake up to the sound of what you think is a freight train going through your bedroom only to find out it is your darling husband snoring.
16. You can stretch out on the whole bed and sleep right in the middle.
15. You own the remote!
14. You can watch anything you want on TV.
13. He will actually listen to you when he calls to check in!
12. Not having to pull together spur of the moment dinners!
11. The kids summed it up once "When Daddy's deployed, it's like Christmas every payday!"... (Still ponder on if that's ok or not…)
10. Fun with your gal pals.
9. You don’t’ have to shave!
8. You can wear the comfy underwear! (Wow, now we are all sounding like a bunch of nasty old women that don't care....)
7. Going out for dinner 5 times a week is just fine
6. You don't have to listen to the government cell phone ringing all evening (and all night....)
5. Not even know who is playing on Sundays!
4. Cereal for dinner is OK!!
3. Cereal + wine for dinner is even better!
2. Reunions are AWESOME!
and my personal #1 silver lining is that I get to drive the Jeep anytime I want!!
Just a warning, I'm feeling mushy.
My sister Kathie is one of the most kind and caring people I have ever known. She will do anything for anyone. She has stepped up to bat more times than anyone I have ever known. She has definitely earned her seat in heaven and in fact, I think she has most likely earned the seat right next to God himself.
My sister is 13 years my senior. She has 2 children and 5 grandchildren. However she treats our children just as well as she treats her own grandchildren. She spoils them. My sister is a librarian and has kept our kids reading since they were tiny. She has gone out of her way to watch all 4 kids of our children while we have gone on vacation and has even traveled to our house on several occasions to watch them. My sister has come to EVERY duty station we have ever lived (10 duty stations, 11 homes, 5 states & 2 countries). In fact the first time she ever got on an airplane was when she boarded a plan in Dallas, Texas almost 2 years ago to come visit our family in Seoul, South Korea. Yes, that was her first flight EVER. When she commits to something, she commits fully. ;o) We may not have been close when I was little (because she is SO MUCH OLDER), but I always remember her being there. She used to sit and "pick bugs" out of my hair - it wasn't until MANY years later that I found out this was the only way she found that she was able to keep me still and that I really did not have bugs in my hair. (By the way, my therapist thanks you for this.) But seriously, my sister has always there when I need something or when I just needed to talk. She has listed to me whine, cry and laugh over the years. I am a lucky girl to have someone so wonderful in my life.
Not only am I lucky to have someone so wonderful in my life, my whole family is luck to have her. We have a brother with kidney disease, he is doing amazingly well because he listens to the advice of his doctor and he does what they tell him to do. He only has 1 kidney that is functioning at about 10%, soon he will have to go on dialysis and he will be put on the transplant list. Our sister has already started talking to our siblings about being tested. My brother doesn't want to ask anyone, but our sister will make sure that everyone (there are 9 of us!) is aware and that we will be on the list to be tested, and she will be leading the pack.
Many years ago before anyone really knew what Alzheimer’s was my sister took care of her MIL (mother-in-law) who had Alzheimer’s . It was super hard for her and her husband (he also rocks...just sayin') who had 2 young children of their own during this time. My sister (and BIL - brother-in-law) is now taking care of our mother who has also been inflicted with this awful disease. My mother has been living with them for 3 years now. When I moved back to Texas last year and offered to help by taking our mother, she told me to just take care of my family. She told me she knows that I have enough on my plate and told me not to worry about our mother that they doing fine. Yes, life is hard, but they are doing fine. In my eyes my sister is a saint. She is so humble, so loving and so kind. She will ask for help when she (REALLY) needs it but I know she doesn't ask for help as often as she should. Life is not easy for her & her husband. They should not be living the good life right now - they should not worrying about getting a 'babysitter' because they want to go away for the weekend. They constantly have to worry about our mother. They never have alone time. I can only imagine that it must be harder than having an infant in the house. You don't expect anything from an infant - it's natural. The life my sister is living right now is not natural - she has had to LEARN not to expect anything from a grown woman - a grown woman that has been the center of her world for so many years, a woman that used to take care of EVERYONE and EVERYTHING. A woman that is now helpless, a woman that has to be told to take a bath, to wash her hair and to go to bed. A woman that complains about living in my sister's house and how my sister is holding her hostage. A woman that complains about how mean my sister is and how she just wants to go home. A woman that was never a complainer before this ugly disease showed up. Yes it is hard on our mother too. I can't imagine not understanding, not knowing why she can't go home. Sometimes life sucks and it sucks hard. This disease sucks.
Again, I must reiterate, in my eyes my sister is a saint.
I am proud to call her my sister.
Kathie & Lee, thank you for what you do.
You both make this world a better place.
Our back porch is *tiny*, kind of like our pantry, but I've tried to make it as functional as possible without purchasing new stuff. Moving into new places every few year is sometimes a challenge - one place things fit a little better than the next. The back porch has been has been a challenge us, but I finally have it comfortable. I love sitting outside in the wee hours of the morning when the sun isn't beating down making everything unbearable.
My friend Rachel gave this plant to me about a month ago before she moved. I'm trying to do right by it...it has lost a few leaves but for the most part I think it is pretty happy here in its new home.
The spider plant in the red pot is from my MIL. She gave it to me last year when we were visiting...it made the trip all the way home, and then within 3 months I almost killed it. I was able to resesitate it and as you can see it is doing splended now!
Two summers ago Hubby bought this piece of bark looking stuff in Hawaii. Last summer we put it in water and it spouted so we planted it in soil. This past winter I thought I killed it (see a pattern?) but this summer it came back stronger than ever!
There really isn't anything special about this picture - other than I need to paint the wall above the flag....
I love this little bug...we bought him in San Diego and he is hanging out on a wall outside.
We bought these guys at the J.J. market in Bangkok. You can see them as you walk out of the house...
Another bug from San Diego
I know I am going to catch grief from a few people because of these next three pictures. Yes I have hummingbirds in my back yard. Yes I sit around waiting to take pictures of them. Yes I am old. Bring it on my friends, bring it on.....
Do you want to know their names? ;o)
More San Diego bugs.
I just love these little guys....
The view from the yard.
Our back porch (yes, I need to trim the bushes).
I'm very much an "I will do it myself" type of mom. Don't get me wrong, the kids have chores, but sometimes it is just easier and faster to do it myself, plus when it comes to cooking I don't really like sharing my kitchen. Call me set in my ways. However I am trying very hard to change my ways just a little and since all the kids have shown an interest in cooking I have decided that a couple of nights a week I'm going to have a different child help out in the kitchen. (God, please help me.) This will not only provide a much needed one on one time I need with each child it will also give them a skill for the 'real world' when that time comes. (It makes me sad to think about that time - them moving out.) PLUS - what type of mom would I be if I sent my kids out into the world without cooking skills?
First up, Garlic Bread and Cheesy Garlic Bread!
First Girl prepares Garlic Butter - 1 stick butter at room temperatures + 5 cloves of minced garlic. Mix together spread evenly onto a loaf of French bread.
To make cheesy Garlic Bread we like to add slices of fresh mozzarella as seen on the left hand side of picture. Bake in the oven at 450 for about 7-10 minutes. Watching to make sure it doesn't over cook
Next up Shrimp Scampi!
2 sticks butter (room temperature)
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
fresh ground pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon thyme
3 pounds large shrimp, shelled, deveined
10 leaves thinly sliced basil
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
In a bowl mix butter, garlic, lemon zest, lemon juice pepper & thyme.
Place shrimp in a large dish, dot with butter mixture - make funny faces:
Sprinkle with fresh cut basil. Place in oven and cook for about 10 minutes (mixing once) until shrimp are pink and butter is bubbling.
We like serving on top of Angel Hair pasta.
If you just look at the pictures it looks like we had a GREAT day! Go ahead, stop reading and just look.....
((((((pause for looking)))))
Now, let's rewind. It was Saturday night; kids were asking to have sleepovers. I said no. I told them that Boy 1 and I were waking up early, doing lawn work then we were all heading out to Austin for a FUN family day! Well Boy 1 started begging, saying it was C's last day in the neighborhood for a whole
month (later I found out later C is only going to be gone for 2 weeks). I held fast (for a few minutes anyway), Boy 1 promised to be home by 6AM to help with lawn care. I told him at that even though this was against my better judgment I would let him sleep over at his friend’s house but he needed to be home by 8AM ready to work. He agreed and he was home by 8AM ready to work. He mowed the front and backyard. I was edging and weed-eating when I noticed Boy 1 was nowhere to be seen. I go in the house looking for him. HE WAS IN BED ASLEEP!!!
Are you freaking kidding me? He didn't even put the mower away. I woke him up had him do more work, in his defense, he said "but you only told me to mow the lawn". OK, he got me, I did only
ask him to mow, but really is it too much to ask to put the mower away and then to come over and ask your mom what else you can do to help?!?! (I could go on but I will stop there & really he is an AWESOME teen.)
That is how my morning started. We finally left town we headed to Round Rock Donuts
at about noon. I've been hearing about these awesome donuts for over a year now, in fact it has been said that their donuts are "World Famous
"! So I'm assuming you have heard of them!
We planned to eat at Round Rock Donuts - reasonable. When we arrived we found out there is no indoor seating and it is 1PM and 104 degrees outside. We just went with it - we ordered their BIG A$$ donut and ate outside. Check it out:
It wasn't long till the complaints started flying. Why don't they have knives (reasonable question) - I wasn't sure of the answer but there were no utensils anywhere to be found so we tore it apart and went at it. More complaints followed- it's too chocolaty, it's too hot, it's too sweet, I'm not hungry, I'm too hot......I'm still smiling at this point, trying to be chipper and happy even though my smile is wearing a little thin.
When we finished the donut (no we did not eat it all) we headed to Austin's Children's Museum. I've heard great things about this place AND as a bonus it was FREE to blue star families and we are a blue star family. What is a blue star family you ask? It just means that you have a family member that is active duty military. Right now across the US there are over 600 museums offering free admission to blue star families, and we had decided to take advantage of this opportunity. (To find out more about blue start museums click here.
As soon as we arrived at the museum the little kids started having a blast!
They even made slime!
And then they made a few things for Hubby.
Boy 3 did a little cooking....
And Boy 1 sat around making this face when he wasn't texting or falling asleep. I really can't blame him though; this place isn’t at the top of my list of favorite children's museum to visit either. However the little kids enjoyed it. We had planned on staying here for 4 hours but we could only stretch it out to 2 hours.
During story time.
Since we were ahead of schedule and everyone was STARVING we headed over towards Zilker Park and stopped to eat at Chuy's. When we left the Children’s museum everyone seemed to return to their foul moods. Boy 1 was tired, and could barely keep his eyes open, Girl had a headache and stomach ache. Boy 2 was just being inappropriate - he was calling people names, using potty language, "trying" to be funny in inappropriate ways. The only person that was and had been happy all day was Boy 3. I was hoping linner (a combination of lunch and dinner) would turn things around for our clan. That didn't happen. After linner we still had 2.5 hours to wait to see the bats fly out from under the Congress Street Bridge so we decided to go to Zilker Park and hang out. Good idea right? Wrong. It was 106 degrees by now so the short walk to the Nature Center sent moods flying out of control even more. Right after this picture Boy 2 shoved Boy 3 and told him not to stand by him anymore - throwing the name poo-poo head into the mix.
And to top it off, the Nature Center was CLOSED.
I suggusted taking a little hike, (haha- that was funny!) but decided against it because everyone was already way too hot and by this time I had joined the bandwagon of bitterness. We were all done. I REALLY wanted to take the kids to see the bats, but I knew I had been defeated. We headed home early. The bats will be there another day. Everyone was thrilled to be in the car heading back home. Two out of the four fell asleep in the car. We were home by 7PM, by 8PM eveyone was in bed asleep - and back in Austin the bats hadn't even taken flight yet.