Category Archives: Family Stuff

I grew up with four funny, fabulous sisters who couldn’t be more different. We’re loud, creative, rambunctious, hilarious and competitive, especially when croquet or boardgames are involved. We’re a mixed bag, but we fit together really well. Yes, my family is kind of kookie, but we wouldn’t want it any other way.

TCP Cooks: French Toast Waffles

Challah: A braided bread laden with eggs, symbolizing manna from heaven.

Challah: A braided bread laden with eggs, symbolizing manna from heaven.

If you love good bread, let me hear you challah!

Corny food puns are my secret love, as is warm eggy challah bread. But it’s what The Complete Package does with it that really makes my heart sing. Inspired by a sleep-over episode of Bobby Flay’s cooking show, he does the unthinkable and combines two breakfast favorites into one – French Toast & Waffles.

French Toast Waffles - Inside NanaBread's Head

To make this mouth-watering delicacy, you’ll need a fresh loaf of challah, the standard cast of French toast ingredients, and a piping hot waffle maker. A bowl of homemade whipped cream and some fresh fruit doesn’t hurt either.

TCP’s French Toast Waffles: (makes 8 slices)
1 loaf of fresh challah bread
4 large eggs
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
powdered sugar, to dust with
fresh whipped cream & macerated fruit, to garnish

Pre-heat your waffle iron (set to medium heat, if yours is adjustable).

Slice the challah bread into 1″ thick slices; set aside.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs until lemon-colored and frothy. Whisk in the brown sugar, beating until the sugar is mostly dissolved; add the cream, vanilla and salt and whisk until combined.

Dunk each slice of challah into the egg mixture, turning to coat well, and place it in the waffle maker. Gently press the lid closed and bake until golden brown. Our small waffle maker can bake one slice at a time and each takes about 4 minutes, but it’s 32 years old, so watch yours carefully for a perfect golden hue.

When done, remove to a warm plate, dust with powdered sugar then top with fresh fruit and whipped cream. Serve immediately.

French Toast Waffles - Close-Up

Leftovers, if there are any, can be frozen. Simply place the cooked & completely cooled waffles into a zip-style freezer bag, press out any excess air, seal tightly, then drop in the freezer. To warm, place them on a baking sheet and re-heat in the oven at 275F, or pop them in the microwave for 25-30 seconds, or drop them into your toaster (just be sure to keep an eye on them so they don’t burn).

These are great with fresh peaches, strawberries, bananas or any favorite fruit. They’re also delicious with a smear of coconut curd and blackberry jam, or lemon curd and raspberry jam. There’s also the old-fashioned favorite – a pat of real butter and a drizzle of pure maple syrup. So many fabulous options, but that’s for you to discover. A word of caution: these are addictive.

Thinking of making your own Challah? Check out Smitten Kitchen’s recipe.

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Filed under Family Stuff, Food & Recipes

Traveling TX: Lost Maples State Park

Do you ever dream of getting away from it all? Job, cell phone, e-mail, other people… all of it? The Complete Package and I found a place that does that for us. It’s called St. Clare’s Cabin near Leakey, Texas. If you’ve been a reader for a while, you’ll remember we went there last Christmas. This rustic, fabulous cabin is everything we look for in a getaway – quaint, quiet & remote.

LeakeyTX - Porch at St Clare's Cabin

The cabin is in the middle of nowhere in the Texas Hill Country – 4 miles from Vanderpool, 11 miles from Leakey. Still don’t know where that is? Well, that’s the point. It’s waaaaay out there, in the mountains northwest of San Antonio. So far out I had to drive to Bandera to get a cell signal. For real. And I loved it.

Last year, we went just before Christmas. This year, we decided to go right after Thanksgiving and I’m so glad we did. There was still some fall color to ‘ooh & aah’ over. To make the most of it, we visited Lost Maples State Park to try to catch the maples at their finest. We were almost too late, but there was still some beauty to behold. Here’s a sampling of our afternoon hiking Lost Maples.

Lost Maples - Lone Maple with Cliffs

Lost Maples - Pond at Trailhead

Lost Maples - Orange Maple

Lost Maples - Creek withTexas Rock

Did you notice that big rock in the middle of the creek? It immediately caught my eye. Why? Because it looks like the state of Texas, if the entire eastern side of the state crumbled and fell off. Err… sorry, Houston!

Lost Maples - Texas Rock

I’m taking that as a sign that we should move to the Hill Country. {wink} Another cool feature found near the water is the limestone rock that has literally been picked up by the cypress tree roots and incorporated into the trees.

Lost Maples - Cypress Stump with Rocks

The trails through Lost Maples are lovely. Some are steep and challenging; some are more level and lazy. Whichever you choose, the most important thing is to get out of the car and enjoy the trails. Pack a picnic lunch and find a quiet spot by the river. Take a nap under a maple or hike the loop & enjoy the foliage.

Lost Maples - Steps on Maple Loop

It’s so beautiful under the canopy of maples, you can’t help but relax.

To learn more about Lost Maples State Park, visit Texas Parks & Wildlife.

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Filed under Family Stuff, Travel Tales

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Thanksgiving Turkeys

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November 26, 2013 · 9:00 AM

The Master Bath Remodel Project

MBR Project - Before - Tub & Shower

Until last month, this was our 24 year-old master bathroom (minus the decorations and 47 shampoo bottles). Sad trombone says ‘wah wahhhhhh’ and I agree. Here’s what was bugging us about our old shower/tub area.

MBR Project - Before - What is Wrong

Where to start? Old carpet (Q: Who carpets a bathroom? A: Everyone in 1989.) A huge 2-person garden tub that was rarely used except when the grandbabies swam in it. They’ll be the only ones to miss it.

MBR Project - Before1

Shower tile, some of which literally comes out of place every few years, a shower door so low The Complete Package has a history of banging his head on it, and glass so short water from every shower flies out and sprays the entire bathroom. Ugh. What are you gonna do?

That’s right… rip it out, baby!

MBR Project - Ripping out the old shower & tub

Boom. Gone! We found a contractor we enjoyed working with, agreed on every single decision (a rarity), dug in, and got it done right on schedule. Seriously, everything went like clockwork. The only minor hiccup was a corroded pipe behind the old shower tile, which was quickly replaced.

MBR Project - Corroded Pipe2 Collage

So here was our game plan:
1. enlarge the shower & add a bench
2. replace the tub with a smaller soaking tub
3. raise the shower tile & glass
4. replace carpet with new tile flooring

Let the framing begin!

MBR Project - New Framing Begins

Next up – plumbing rough-in for the new fixtures and a new concrete base for the shower floor. For the record, our old shower did not have a concrete base but should have. It also didn’t have a vapor barrier or waterproof backer board. The things you learn when tile is ripped out, man. We’re lucky we didn’t suffer a serious leak over the past 24 years. It’s kind of a miracle.

MBR Project - New Shower Concrete

This time around, we had a contractor that knew how to do it right and the difference between old and new is like night and day. We’re completely thrilled with the new stuff. One last look at the before photos before I start revealing.

Tub & Shower Collage1

First up, the new soaking tub. It’s smaller, deeper and rectangular versus oval.

MBR Project - Soaking Tub

Because it’s rectangle in shape, you can actually stretch out farther than you could in the bigger oval tub. Don’t ask me how. #Science

All I know is that I love this tub. When you want to soak, the water actually comes above your shoulders. As it should. Also cool – the front tile panel is held on with magnets, so if you ever need to access the plumbing, you don’t have to wreck the tile work. Genius! And that decorative border? It’s in the shower, too.

MBR Project - New Soaking Tub

But before I show you the shower, here’s the new floor tile. It’s the same tile used for the tub and shower, but in much larger 18″ squares. I love it. Goodbye nasty old carpet. Hello clean shiny tile!

MBR Project - 18 Floor Tiles

Other than the decorative band, we used the same tile throughout the entire bathroom in different sizes. This same floor tile is in the shower floor in a 3″ x 3″ version. Wanna see? Do you want to see it now? Okay… here you go.

MBR Project - Shower View

How do I love my new shower? Let me count the ways. I love the larger size – at least a foot deeper and about 18″ wider. I love the taller frameless glass. I love that the tile goes all the way to the ceiling. And I love the new fixtures.

MBR Project - New Shower Hardware

Old shower – small shower head. New shower – bigger shower head and a hand-held wand. Even better – there’s a new diverter valve so you can toggle between the two or use both at once. Love it! There’s also a new niche for shampoo and soap (his & hers, of course). But what I love most is the new granite-topped bench. (The next photo was taken before the shower glass was installed.)

MBR Project - New Shower Bench with Granite Top

No more bending over to shave my legs, or throwing a leg up and hoping I won’t slip and fall. (Don’t try to picture that last part, just move along.) It’s at least 4 feet long and 12″ wide, and we were able to hand pick our piece of granite, which includes some really cool streaks of gemstones. I could not be happier.

MBR Project - My New Shower

An unexpected bonus – because the new shower glass is much taller, it holds in the steam thereby turning the new shower into a steam shower. That’s going to be lovely this winter when our Houston temps dip to 45-ish. I joke, but it really is nice when the bathroom is chilly. Except that you want to stay in the shower and not come out. Like ever. Do they make wine racks for showers?

MBR Project - Before - What is Wrong

MBR Project - Finished Shower & Tub

Have I said how much we love our new bathroom? Because we really, really do. So we moved into the guest bedroom and bathroom for 4 weeks. Who cares? So we had to move our clothes and all of TCP’s computer equipment (since he works from home). Done! So we had to wrap our entire bedroom, study and both closets in plastic sheeting to protect it from construction dust. No big deal!

MBR Project - Taping Off the Bedroom

Unless you’re a big Dexter fan. Then that part got a leeettle bit creepy. :)

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Filed under Family Stuff, Miscellaneous Thoughts

DIY: A Pink Ombre TuTuTorial

Lilly Bug, our sweet spunky granddaughter, just turned four. FOUR! Can you believe it? We can’t. To celebrate her big day and her inner ballerina, I whipped up an easy pink ombre tutu inspired by Pinterest and just in time for her first ever dance classes. The best part – it only takes a few items from the store and about an hour of your time.

It starts with a specific type of stretchy headband. I found a set of 5 in various colors for only $3 at my local HEB (grocery) store. Two were pinks. Bonus!

Lilly's Tutu - headband starter
Next, you’ll need three shades of pink tulle, sold in 6″ wide rolls. I purchased a pale pink, medium pink and deep raspberry pink. To cut it into even lengths, I used a piece of cardboard that was 8 1/2″ x 11″ (or you can grab a picture frame off your shelf). Wrap the tulle around the 8 1/2″ side of the frame multiple times, then cut along both edges to create a handful of 8 1/2″ lengths of tulle. Start with 40 pieces in each shade, but be prepared to cut a few more, if needed.

I love how easily this comes together – NO SEWING! It’s all hand tied.

Tutu Collage1

1. Place the headband around a roll of paper towels to hold it in place.
2. See the gaps? We’ll be looping tulle through them, starting at the top.
3. Fold one piece of tulle in half and bunch it together at the fold.
4. Working along the top row, stick the fold through & make a 1″ loop.

Tutu Collage2

5. Grab both loose ends and pull them through the loop.
6. Gently pull the ends until it is firmly knotted.
7. Skipping one hole, start the process again.
8. Work around the headband until you have one row of the lightest pink, then repeat the process in the middle of the headband with the medium pink, and then around the bottom edge with the deepest pink. If your tulle is cut in advance, it will take approximately 30-45 minutes to complete the tutu. So easy!

This is how it looks on the inside of the headband when you’re done. Clean, simple, with no loose ends and plenty of stretch left in the headband.

Lilly's Tutu - Tied On

This is how it looks on the outside. I love the ombre effect!

Lilly's Tutu - Finished

Lilly's Tutu - Ombre Detail

If you have any tulle sticking out in odd places, simply trim them with a pair of scissors until all of the tulle is uniform in length. That’s it! Easy peasy tutu breezy. Because it was for Lilly Bug’s birthday, I tied it to the top of her other presents and put a flower on it to create a big fluffy bow.

Lilly's Tutu - Flower On Top

Lilly's Tutu - As Gift Topper

She really had no idea it was a tutu until she untied it to open her packages. It was so much fun. And here’s our little ballerina showing it off.

Lilly's Tutu Collage

Oh, Lilly Bug. You really are too sassy & cute for words, girlfriend!

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Filed under Craft Projects, Family Stuff

Horchata at Home

Horchata - long grain rice

Rice. My family loves it. In fact, it we might even prefer it to potatoes. Sounds crazy, but we find ourselves craving rice more than french fries. This weekend, The Complete Package whipped up one of our favorite summer refreshers.

Horchata - Inside NanaBread's Head

Horchata: a refreshing Mexican drink made with rice & cinnamon.

So simple, delicate, and fragrant – a good horchata is a revelation. And it’s easy to make. It only takes a few ingredients, most of which you probably already have in your fridge or pantry. Horchata is best when allowed to sit and bloom overnight, so plan to start this a day in advance for best results.

Horchata - Ingredient Collage

TCP’s Horchata (updated 2/26/2014):
1 cup long-grain white rice
2 1/2 cups boiling water
1 3″ Mexican cinnamon stick (canela)
4 cups whole milk (not skim or reduced fat)
1 can (12 ozs) evaporated milk
1 can (14 ozs) sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon Mexican vanilla
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Combine the rice and boiling water in your blender; blend on medium to medium-high until the rice begins to break up into small pieces (about a minute or so). Add the 3″ cinnamon stick. Cover the blender jar and allow it to sit on the counter at room temperature overnight (or up to 48 hours).

Strain the rice water to remove the kibbles & bits and discard the rice. Rinse out the container to remove any debris and pour the strained rice water back into the blender pitcher. Add the milks (all 3), vanilla, and ground cinnamon. Blend on medium speed for one minute. Pour into a serving pitcher and refrigerate. Stir just before serving to blend all the ingredients, as the fine rice pulp tends to settle to the bottom.

Horchata - CloseUp

Notes:
1. Mexican cinnamon & vanilla really are different that the version you’ll find in most markets. If you can find it in your area, please use it. The delicate, floral aroma is heavenly and takes this recipe to a whole new level.
2. This recipe can be doubled for a crowd.
3. This recipe is adapted from Lola’s Horchata at AllRecipes.com.
4. Horchata is perfect on a hot day or paired with spicy foods.
5. Horchata will keep in the refrigerator for up to a week.
6 Horchata makes excellent coffee creamer.

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Filed under Family Stuff, Food & Recipes

I don’t know how this happened.

Remember my post from 2 weeks ago? The one with the pineapple update? The update where I said we probably had at least 4-6 weeks until harvest? Well, we went to Austin last weekend to visit the kids and came home to this:

Pineapple Harvest 6

I don’t know how this happened. They went from firm, mostly green and this:

Pineapple Close-Up - Aug2013

to completely, thoroughly golden-yellow ripe in 4 days. FOUR DAYS!

Side by Side Comparison - 4 days

I can only attribute it to:
A.) four days of intense Houston heat, followed by
B.) a good solid day of rain during drought conditions, and
C.) my lack of experience growing pineapples (even with 15+ plants)

We had no choice but to harvest them before they got too ripe, which was disappointing because we really had hoped the kids would be here to participate. Instead, The Complete Package & I cut them down. No kids; no celebration.

Pineapple Harvest 1

Pineapple Harvest 2

Here’s a peek behind the curtain at how we’ve accumulated so many pineapple plants over the past few years. Each plant, while it’s fruiting, puts off several shoots (ratoons) that can be removed and replanted to form new plants. Each of our four fruiting plants put off at least 2 to 3 ratoons.

Pineapple Harvest 3

Pineapple Harvest 4

I’m no math whiz, but if each pineapple plant produces 3 ratoons PLUS a pineapple fruit, that means you now potentially have FOUR (4) additional future pineapple plants, because you can replant the ratoons and replant the top off the pineapple fruit. We started six years ago with the top of a pineapple plant we’d bought at the grocery store. We now have over 15 plants because we keep re-potting the ratoons & pineapple tops. I joke about our mini-plantation, but it’s actually kind of true. They’re taking over our back porch. Two years ago, we harvested one lonely but gorgeous pineapple. This year, we got this:

Pineapple Harvest 5

Which brings me to our new little gadget I just have to show off. My friend Kirsten of Comfortably Domestic (my sister from another mister) and her four boys were so excited about our pending pineapple harvest, they sent us the new OXO ratcheting pineapple corer & slicer. Oh, baby!

Pineapple Harvest 2013- Ready to Cut

To use it, lop the top off your pineapple, leaving about 3/4″ so you can replant it later and become a semi-obsessed mini-plantation pineapple farmer like me.

Pineapple Harvest 2013- Lop off the top

We set the pineapples into a mixing bowl to capture any juice so I could make marmalade (always thinking ahead), then TCP set about coring those golden puppies. The OXO pineapple corer tore right through each pineapple in seconds.
It was amazing to watch and surprisingly fun to use.

Pineapple Harvest 2013- OXO Pineapple Corer & Slicer

Did I mention it ratchets? You don’t have to turn the bowl or move the pineapple or anything! Just twist the handle on top and it ratchets after each cut until it reaches the bottom. Once done, you simply pull the rings right out of the shell. That’s right – I said rings!

Pineapple Harvest 2013- Rings on the Slicer

It cuts the entire pineapple into perfectly even rings. Shut up! I know!

Pineapple Harvest 2013- Perfectly Sliced Rings

We set aside one tub of rings for Jonah Bear & Lilly Bug, since they both said they’d like to recreate our pineapple upside-down cake from the 2011 harvest, and poured most of the pineapple and juice into the Dutch oven to make my first ever batch of pineapple upside-down marmalade (pineapple, brown sugar & maraschino cherries). With that, there was only one last task to conquer.

Remember that post I mentioned in the first paragraph? The one where I said we probably had a few weeks until harvest? Well, I may have mentioned in that post that I’d also like to make fruity cocktails with this batch of pineapples. And since the OXO corer/slicer did such a nice job of creating the perfect vessel, there was just one last thing to do.

Pineapple Harvest 2013- Pina Colada Fixings

You should know me well enough by now to know that I never turn down a fruity ‘pinkies up’ frou-frou girly cocktail. So here’s to you, and here’s to friends who send friends kitchen gadgets, and here’s to the great pineapple harvest of 2013.

Pineapple Harvest - Pina Colada

Oh, and just in case you’d like to join me:

Pineapple Harvest 2013  - Pina Colada Recipe

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Filed under Family Stuff, Food & Recipes, Things I Love