Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Making Jam

I was able to go home last week to visit my parents. The kids were at camp and my neighbor wanted to go to Lubbock so we just took off. It was so nice to spend time with them.

Dad decided that I was ready to learn something new. Something he used to watch his mama do and then he taught himself - the art of making jam.

Anyone that knows my dad, knows that when he teaches you something the instructions are very well planned out and timed down to the minute. That's not really how I roll. I do a lot of guessing and adding this and that when I'm at the stove but since he was instructing me, I followed his directions to the letter and the results were AMAZING!

First of all, he had all the supplies laid out that we would need. I would never have thought of that but I found out quickly that you have to be able to grab what you need in a hurry so that things don't get out of control while you're frantically searching for what you need.

Exactly 31 apricots make one batch of jam. Yes, there is one extra. That was for the cats. They like to play with apricots.

I was super excited to learn that you don't have to peel apricots. You just halve them, take out the seed and any blemishes and that's it.

The apricots go in the food processor until this beautiful orange, thick, a little chunky consistency is made. You put this on the stove with some lemon juice, pectin, and a little butter. When it starts to boil, a whole bunch of sugar is added and I mean a whole bunch, like a mountain of sugar.

It cooks until you get a nice rolling boil and then you let it keep boiling for 1 minute. Now you have a beautiful orange gold liquid that goes into the jars.

Lids go on.

Now they are ready for a 20 minute bath in boiling water.

Beautiful and delicious.

We made 2 batches of these and they both turned out great. So, of course, I think I'm a jam making expert now. On the drive home, my neighbor and I were talking about all things we could start putting in jars. I was even imagining all the Christmas gifts I could put together with homemade jam and fresh baked bread.
Upon my return home, I rushed to Sam's to get supplies to make strawberry jam. I followed the directions from Pioneer Woman and now I have 12 jars of strawberry syrup.
Back to the drawing board. I'm not quite the expert I thought I was.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Tubing on the Guadalupe

 In my opinion, one of the best ways to spend a hot summer day is tubing on the river with a bunch of awesome people.
 That's just what we did yeaterday.  We had 19 people in our group, mostly teenagers, and we spent a lazy day in the very cold water of the Guadalupe just below Canyon Lake.  There is an area where the river makes a horseshoe.  It takes about 2 hours to float the horseshoe and then you can get out and do it again. Which we did.
 Alan wasn't going to go, but he decided the night before that he would go with us.  I'm so glad he did. 
 Here's all the kids.  I can't call them kids much longer.  Some of the guys are 18 already.
 Why didn't someone tell me to take off the hat for the picture?  Did I look that ridiculous all day?
 Katie and one of her best friends, Hannah. I don't know what's up with Armor.
 There was a rope swing that came out over the water and of course they had to try it. 
We ended the day by eating at the Gristmill in Gruene.  That is one of the coolest restaurants to eat at.  Of course, we were so hungry by then that it didn't really matter.  This picture was taken inside Gruene Hall, the oldest dance hall in Texas.  Isn't that where you are supposed to take a bunch of Baptist teenagers?

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Back From Camp

I got to go to Youth Camp this last week. I haven't been to Youth Camp since I was a teenager myself.

Here we are before we left.

Like all Youth Camps, there was a music leader and a speaker. Jason Gray lead the music and I didn't realize until I got home that I hear him on the radio. I should have gotten his autograph. The speaker, Tom Richter, was fantastic. Every night there was some kind of entertainment. The first night was a big party with Travelin' Max. He gave everyone hats, leis, and maracas.

There were several different competitions during the day. Tom and his team almost won the paintball tournament.

Katie played paintball too.

There was a Dodgeball Tournament.

I'm so glad I got to go. I've known most of these kids their whole lives and it is so awesome to watch them grow in Christ and mature as Christians.

Monday, January 2, 2012

2011 The Year in Review

Since I didn't blog much in 2011, I'll catch up in one post.
So here goes:
Apparently, it snowed last January. I have no memory of this, but when I was looking for pictures, I found some with snow. I do know we had to make up 2 bad weather days in school so this must have been one of them. I wonder what else I have completely forgotten. It scares me a little. This is a reason to blog more.
Spring Break was a little different for us. My mom had surgery that week and I wanted to be with her. The kids wanted to come. We often go to Amarillo that week, but I told them that I wouldn't be able to keep them entertained like we usually do because I would be there to help my mom and dad. So they decided to stay home. Alan was able to take a couple of days off, so they went exploring. One place they went was the Hamilton Pool Preserve. The pictures are beautiful. They are going to have to take me some day. One of the kids almost got bit by a rattlesnake. It's probably a good thing I wasn't there.
Katie turned 15. She wanted this Mocha Raspberry cake which I totally messed up. It tasted ok, but it was not pretty.
I love this picture of Tom and Emma. He needs to be around little kids more.
Easter is always a big deal with our family. We go to Rockdale for a big Easter Egg Hunt. My kids are too big now to hunt for eggs, but there are always plenty of little ones around. The big kids just like to sit around and talk. If you hand them some candy, they'll take it, but they won't hunt anymore.I tried my hand at gardening again this year. It had been several years since I tried to grow anything. I wish I had known that this would be the driest, hottest, windiest summer ever in the history of the world. My poor plants didn't have a chance. We protected them from the deer, but I couldn't do anything about the heat. I didn't get even 1 tomato. We got a few peppers. I really don't like to sweat, so it didn't take long before I gave up.
We took a family vacation to Orange Beach in June. It was a lot of fun even though we almost died.
Alan picked the hottest, driest, windiest summer ever in the history of the world to cut down some dead trees. He hired Tom and his friend Drew. They got a lot done but because it was so dry, none of it could be burned. The dead stuff was just piled up in a huge barricade around the front of the house.
Tom got a car this year. This was the first time he drove himself to school on the first day.
Tom played football again this year. I am happy to report that he had no broken bones or injuries of any kind.He also played in the band, sometimes he did both in the same night.
He turned 17 this year. I secretly invited his friends over to celebrate. He was surprised.
Katie is on the varsity basketball team.
For the first time ever, we didn't go to Amarillo for Christmas. Tom was working and Katie had a basketball tournament so we couldn't get away. It was a little sad, but we had some good family time at home. Kim and her family came over Christmas day. We just needed Memaw and Grandpa.
We ended the year in true Kyle style. Fireworks! We finally got enough rain that Alan was able to burn the barricade around the house and the kids could buy fireworks. We had about 20 people over on New Year's Eve and enough fireworks to possibly be illegal.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Old Pictures

I remember when the kids were little and people would warn me about how fast they grow up. I really didn't understand what they meant, but now I know how true it is. When I look at these pictures it seems like it had to be yesterday. How could so much time have passed?
I love that picture of Tom. I wish there was sound with it so I could remember what he was saying. I'm sure he was giving instructions to Katie.
Katie loved having her hair in a ponytail. She was never interested in girly things. Give her a t-shirt and some jeans or shorts and she was happy.
Here is Katie and her first set of wheels that didn't require pedaling. She never looked back. All we've heard about for the last 14 years is what kind of car she is going to have someday. Someday is almost here.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Orange Beach Vacation

Last week we took a trip to the beach. We stopped in New Orleans first. The kids hadn't been there since they were very little and they didn't remember it at all. I've always thought New Orleans was an interesting place. I thought the kids would enjoy experiencing a place that is so different from what we are used to. I was wrong. They hated it. Katie was especially vocal with her opinions. It was too hot, too crowded, too noisy, too smelly, too big, and she had to walk too much. She didn't even like the beignets. How can you not like beignets? I enjoyed mine very much and I ate hers, too. From New Orleans, we drove to Orange Beach. Everyone was happy when we got there. We spent 2 days just soaking up the sun and playing in the surf. I mainly sat on my chair under the umbrella and read my book. That's my idea of a great vacation. The rest of the family likes a little more action.

The guys wanted to go fishing and after much thought and indecision, Katie and I decided to go with them. I don't like to fish and I get motion sickness, but I thought I would enjoy just going along for the ride. Alan said we would stay in the bay where the water is less choppy and with some Dramamine we should all be fine.

So we all head out for 4 hours of fishing fun. That's Rex our captain. He's about to have a very bad day and before long he will suggest that we never get in a boat again.

The first inkling I had that things might not go well was when Rex said that nobody was catching anything in the bay. He wanted to take us 5 miles off shore to a reef where we could catch as many red snapper as we wanted. Notice the size of the boat. It was small. There were no seats. Katie and I were sitting on a cooler and Tom and Alan had to cling to the sides. Much bigger boats were passing us by on our way out. As it turns out, it didn't matter much about the size of this boat because 1 mile off shore it just died. Just stopped dead in the water. Rex had to call a friend to come get us and tow us back to shore. He called another friend, Ronnie, to bring us another boat.

So we switched boats and headed back out. A storm had blown into the gulf so we couldn't go to the reef. Rex tried really hard for us to find a place to fish near shore, but nothing was working in our favor. The current was faster than usual. Something was wrong with the anchor. Alan and I both caught bluefish, but apparently that's not a fish you keep because Ronnie threw them back. After a while, the storm passed and Rex said he was taking us to the reef.

We got out there and it was really far away from shore. I could still see the condos but they were so small. I was feeling great though. Not the least bit sea sick. Rex found the fish but the current was so strong that he was having a hard time staying over them. By the time we would get our lines cast the boat would have drifted away from the fish. He kept circling back to the fish and that was my undoing. The slightly rough water and going in circles was more than I could take. At one point I handed my pole back and just clung to the boat. Oh, I didn't tell you that this boat was smaller than the first boat and it had a flat bottom. I don't know anything about boats but I do remember thinking that I hadn't seen any other boats going out that had flat bottoms like this one.

We couldn't catch anything. Tom did catch a snapper but as soon as he pulled it in Rex said it was too small to keep and threw it right back out. We hardly got a look at it. Kaite was playing with a shark. She caught one of those pilot fish that follow sharks and the next two times she cast, something bit her line straight through. About that time, Rex decided it was time to go back. I was trying so hard not to be sick and to not tell anyone I felt sick. I was glad to be going back. We hadn't gone very far at all and this boat died. Just like the first one. I couldn't think about it too much at the time because I had to concentrate so hard not to be sick. I didn't even panic when I heard Rex on the radio say, "We have a semi-emergency. We are dead in the water and adrift in the gulf." I just climbed up in the front of the boat and laid down to wait for help to arrive. If I had been thinking clearly, I'm sure I would have dwelled on the fact that there were sharks in the water and we were in a boat that just didn't seem like a deep-sea fishing boat.

I did do a lot of praying and God answered my prayer. The boat miraculously started up and we took off toward land. I did get sick over the side of the boat before we got back. That was just the icing on the cake.

So we were out for 6 hours and caught nothing. There was a restaurant at the marina that would cook what you caught, so we had been thinking about the red snapper we would be eating for supper. It didn't happen. We got off the boat with nothing and walked with our heads down across the peir.

This is what we saw as we were leaving. Look how happy they are. It should have been us. We went back to the condo and ordered pizza.

A couple of days later we were watching Alan's favorite show, "Swamp People", and I noticed that the gator hunters used these flat bottom boats called skiffs. We looked at each other and just started laughing. That's was the kind of boat we had been in. That boat was supposed to be in the Louisanna swamp hunting gators, not 5 miles off shore with sharks circling.

Overall it was a great vacation. The kids got to go parasailing. While they were in the air, they saw more sharks, a sea turtle and pods of sting rays. We will definitely go back to the beach but I may take Rex's advice and not venture out to sea again.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Cousins Camp 1

We got to have Jake and Emma over for a couple of days all by themselves, with no parents. I had been telling Kim that when they were old enough, we would have cousins camp at my house. I think Kim was eager for them to come. She called me that morning and asked what time I wanted them there. I said anytime after noon and she said, "OK, we'll be there at 12:01.

My kids have been going to Camp Runamucka (Kyle Cousins Camp) for about 10 years. In order to go to Camp Runamuka you have to meet some guidelines.

1. You must be potty trained.

2. You must be at least 4 years old.

3. You must be able to swim.

4. You can't cry for your mommy.

I think those are good guidelines. Jake qualifies for camp. Emma does not. So we bent the requirements for her. I changed her diaper, but she always told me when to do it. She's only 2 but that didn't hold her back in any way. She loves to swim, especially if Katie is holding her. She never once cried for her mommy.

She told me on the first day, "I like Katie. I like Tom. I like Alan. I like Cheryl. I do not like Chico.
Poor Chico. No one likes him much. He's mellowing a little with age, but now he's just like a grumpy old man. Chico spent most of Cousins Camp sitting on the porch looking in through the window.

The kids were great campers. I forgot to take pictures until it was time to go. They did not want to pose for pictures.

I had to wait quietly for a long time before Emma lifted the blanket off her head.

Jake would not smile. He started talking in different voices and I had to guess who I was talking to. Somtimes he is Spiderman and sometimes he is Iron Man.

I really enjoyed having them. We will have a Cousins Camp 2.