One Perfect Spot for Kids- Lehnis Train Museum, Brownwood, Texas

When thinking of perfect places to tote a trio of grandkids on a road trip, Brownwood, Texas might not be the first place that pops in your head. However, Brownwood does have a lot to offer. One of those cool offerings is the Lehnis Train Museum. Daughter #3 is in her last semester at Howard Payne University in Brownwood, Texas. She also just celebrated her 22nd birthday, so on a whim, Tony and I decided to take a road trip with the trio.

We were super impressed with the space and scale of this museum. The kids loved all the model trains and watching them speed along the tracts. The volunteers are fantastic. The fellow running the model trains was also building new cars and engines as he spoke to us. We learned a lot and will avoid a lot of mistakes when we start building a set of our own.

The museum offers a lot of interactive exhibits. The play area is quite large and offered a lot for the kids to build and interact with, the trio spent about an hour and a half in this area and cried when we said it was time to go. The time spent here was so fun. You could see their brains working as they manipulated the levers, latches, and physics demonstrations. No one asked for a video all day!

But, the highlight of the day was the mini train that we got to ride. The cost is $2.00 per person (4 and under are free) in addition to the entrance fee which is $4.00 per person (4 and under are free). And this was the best spent $2.00 ever! The conductors were fun and let the kids blow the horn at the end of the ride.

Brownwood, Texas offers a lot of fun, low key family fun. The train museum is not the only attraction in Brownwood. You can learn more about Brownwood and other great places in Texas if you look in the Texas Travels category over on the sidebar. I have been traveling with kids for almost 30 years, and simple is a good thing.

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Happily Ever After

This guy- I don’t know what I would do without him.

Four babies have come and gone. They are building careers and families of their own.

We are back to the two of us. We loved the years of raising our chaotic zoo and it hurts to know that we are officially done with that season. But, we are excited to be a couple again.

We started young and it wasn’t the easy way (I don’t think an easy way exists when it come to raising a family) but I wouldn’t change a thing.

When we look at our crew, we are SO FREAKING PROUD!

Happily Ever After is a way of life for us.

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Ornaments, Tradition, & Tapestries

Mickey Mouse & 3 of his friends came from our trip to Disney World
Mickey Mouse & 3 of his friends came from our trip to Disney World

When Cheyenne was about 3, a wonderful lady shared about buying ornaments for her grandchildren to hang on the “cousins tree” in her house.  Each Christmas the cousins would all come over and were given a new ornament to go on the tree and would then decorate the tree with ornaments from years past.  I thought this was great and I changed it a bit to fit the season of life that I was currently in and still am as I do not have any grandchildren yet.

Each year I give the kids a new ornament which is the first ornaments to be hung on the tree.  Their ornaments are stored in a plastic shoe box labeled with their names.  The idea was that when they left home that these would be their ornaments to decorate their own trees.  Last year, the first box left home.  Honestly, this was more traumatic for me than when the child actually left home.  There are precious memories in those boxes.

In the beginning, I wanted a themed tree- you know color coordinated and just so.  So, I purchased ornaments that went with my theme, mainly mercury glass type ornaments in shiny colors.  But then one year when the kids were still very little, I had the idea to purchase the ornaments while on our summer vacation.  I was able to do this without the kids noticing as my husband is great at keeping the kids busy while I hunt ornaments. At Christmas, the vacation would have long been a memory but when the ornaments came out the memories came back. Being stealthy about the ornament buying worked for a few years, but the children being smart and observant started looking for ornaments for me while we would be shopping.  Then this became a new tradition.  Also, it dawned on me the year we went to Chincoteague Island that if I didn’t buy myself an ornament I was going to have a very empty and sad tree when the kids left home.

From the island of Chincoteague- the light house
From the island of Chincoteague- the light house

Now, each year when the boxes are relieved of their contents, we remember each trip and tell the stories one more time.  Some years, there weren’t vacations so the ornaments were chosen based on a significant event in our lives.  Like the year all the kids got into horses, I bought horse ornaments that looked like each kid’s horse.  It has become something we all treasure and enjoy.  My tree is not coordinated, but it is themed.  I wouldn’t trade it for anything.  I often ask the kids about their friends houses at Christmas- I am a bit of a junkie and I like to gather new ideas- so often their response is “The tree is pretty, but not special like ours.”  It seems I set the bar high without even meaning to do so.

Hand blown glass ornament from Hot Springs, Arkansas
Hand blown glass ornament from Hot Springs, Arkansas

This is what traditions are to me- threads that run through the years tying us together and weaving the tapestry that when we look back, it is the tapestry of our lives.  As the mother, it is my honor to be the keeper and maker of these traditions.

Tony would always sing the rymn "little pig, little pig let me in" to the kids and one year I found a set of 3 pigs and one big bad wolf.
Tony would always sing the rhyme “little pig, little pig let me in” to the kids and one year I found a set of 3 pigs and one big bad wolf.

What says Christmas like a pink flamingo?  Brought back from one of the many tips to the coast.
What says Christmas like a pink flamingo? Brought back from one of the many trips to the coast.

This years ornaments were make by me with shells, sand and drift wood collected from Galveston Island.
This year’s ornaments were made by me with shells, sand and drift wood collected from Galveston Island.

Opening the 2013 ornaments
Opening the 2013 ornaments

Hanging the ornaments from their boxes, the three still left at home.
Hanging the ornaments from their boxes, the three still left at home.

The Best Things In Life Are Free

jonathan picking berries

Oh, summertime.  One of the first signs that summer has arrived, other than every item of clothing on your person being soaked with sweat- and I mean all your clothing- is the arrival of dewberries.  These are a variety of blackberries- not as big and not quite as sweet as the cultivated varieties but they are available for the picking.  Seriously, free and organic fruit- what could be better.

Around the corner from us on an abandoned fence, there is a whole mess of berries.  Lots and Lots.  Jonathan and Sierra and whoever else will walk down the road with them have picked berries everyday for a week now.  The vines are so loaded that I think we will have another week of harvest.  There are so many things to do with berries- cobbler, ice cream, flavored cream for the top of a pound cake, pound cake, crumb cake, and the list goes on.

As Jonathan and I picked berries together in the warm sunshine, he prattled on about the possibility of what we might do with the berries. Once back at the house, of course, the first thing to do is to get a bowl full and sprinkle them with sugar and eat them with your fingers- that way you can lick your fingers clean. But in the meantime, you eat the most plump and ripe berries right on the spot.  No, you don’t need to wash them they are fine.  You might eat a bug, but it won’t kill you.  Eating them off the vine is a big part of the fun.  The best part of the berry pickin’ is the memories you make.  The conversation is seemingly meaningless as we chatter, but in that chatter you build connections with your kids.  These are the tidbits that come together as the whole picture that tells the kids who they are and where they come from.  Not to mention the warmth in your heart you feel when your twelve year old son reaches over and takes your hand as you walk down the road.  I love that kid and I love to pick berries with him.  The best things in life are free.

My favorite use of berries is a cobbler and here is the most simplest of deserts best eaten warm with vanilla ice cream!

 

Dewberry Cobbler (or whatever berry you have on hand)

One recipe of pie crust

2-3 cups of berries

1 cups sugar

Take one half of the pie dough recipe and roll it out.

Put half of the rolled out dough in the bottom of a 9X9 pan-  I like cast iron pans.  Place berries in the pan and pour sugar on the berries.  Cover with the other half of the rolled dough.  The dough does not have to cover the berries or the bottom completely.  Place in an oven heated to 350′ oven and bake for 30-45 minutes- just until the dough is brown.

Remove from the oven and let cool a bit.  Put a generous helping in a bowl and top with ice cream.  Let the good times roll!

What Do You See?

EomirWhat do you see when you look at this picture?  You probably see cuteness, adorable baby goat.  Some of you may even think that this is exactly what you need.  And shopping through the ads on craigslist you can find many cute and sweet goat kids- just the thing to make your little farm complete.

BUT, I will tell you what I see- a punk.  Punk with a capital P.U.N.K.!  He has not even had his first month’s birthday yet and already he is a punk.  Some of you don’t believe me- you think that nothing this cute and young could possible be classified as a punk.   Some of you, however, have dealt with goats and know perfectly well what I am talking about.

So, I will tell you how he came to be known as a punk.  Savannah- my 17 yr old daughter & his mama- left for San Angelo leaving me to care for the little guy.  So, on the first morning I get him out of his crate (he sleeps in a dog crate in Savannah’s room because it has been quite cold at night and he has no one to keep him warm) and give him his bottle.  As I am making the calves bottles, which only takes me about 5 minutes he pees and poops more than should be possible.  Now, this is somewhat to be expected so we move on.  I open the door and head out and he happily comes along.  He is following me like a good boy until we reach the half way mark to the barn.  Then he notices a rock, a blade of grass and the plastic that is draped over the livestock trailer converting it into a greenhouse.

So, I walk on calling his name.  He knows I am talking to him because he looks at me every time.  Each time he acts as though he will run and catch up, but all he does is run a few steps buck and leap in the air and turn around to see what fascinating thing he has missed.  At this point I am still thinking that he is innocent- just a happy goat kid exploring his new world.  I soon learned the truth.

Still carting the calf bottles each containing a half gallon of milk, I walk back from the barn door (why didn’t I just set the bottles down?) and walk back to him.  Just as I get within about 10 feet of him, he turns and runs off.  He runs back to the house and all around the back yard.  I am in shock.  He is knowingly avoiding me because he knows I want to take him to the boring barn.  So, still carrying the bottles I trudge back up the hill to the house.  Each time I get just close enough to grab him he darts away.

Now, I set the bottles down and get a dog leash.  Punk sees the bottles and thinking that he has just hit the mother load of milk comes close enough for me to grab.  Having been caught, he turns on the charm nuzzling my neck and talking sweetly to me.  I, however, am no spring chicken and having been around the goat block a time or two do not fall prey to his charms.  I slip the leash on him looping around one leg “shoulder” and his neck.  I do not put it around his neck because a goat will pull so hard against a leash that they will choke themselves down- of course they recover quickly- but still I hate it.

I gather the bottles up and give a little tug.  He prances along thinking it is a game until we reach the half way point again.  Then he fights like there is a huge beast lurking in the barn waiting to eat him whole!  I hold tight to the leash and practically drag him to the barn but he arrives unharmed and conscious.  I deposit him in his stall and feed the calves.  I apologized to the boys for their milking being lukewarm and they eye the little punk knowing how goats can be.

EaomirGoat kid and the trailerOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The Dallas Farmer’s Market

Sierra and Jonathan

Yesterday was a fun family outing.  The kids love to go to the Dallas Farmer’s Market.  It is such a paradox to me that these country kids like to go in to “the big city” and go to the Farmer’s Market.  But it is fun.  If you haven’t ever gone to the Dallas Farmer’s Market you should.  This place holds a lot of fond memories for me and my cousins and my family as our family was once one of the farmers setting up under the sheds offering the fruit of our labor to those that did not have the privilege of growing their own food.  Perhaps this is why my kids and myself are drawn to the market- it is in our DNA.  My great-grand parents and several of my aunts and uncles were truck farmers.

We enjoy walking around the four huge sheds where local farmers, growers and wholesalers bring all the produce.  In recent years, the market has made some changes and there is one shed that is designated for only local farmers and Texas growers.  This really helps if you are trying to buy from local farmers to help sustain our local food shed.  Which, of course, we are.  We were able to get heirloom tomatoes, pie pumpkins, onions, and an Apple Gourd from one farmer grown by him and his wife.  I guess that is what makes it so fun!

A chili cheese dog!

Then we had lunch in the open air.  Jonathan managed to eat a very large and messy chili cheese dog without getting any on him-AMAZING!  The food was good and the laughter was even better.  Tony got nailed by a bird (just on his leg and just a little bird) but none the less, Sierra and Jonathan thought that was too funny.  We of course had to change tables because Tony could not stand the thought of something hitting his food.  I can’t say I blame him.  For desert, Tony and Sierra had to buy fudge and Jonathan had some gummy frogs.  I was full and the sweets did not appeal to me.  However, if the pie folks had still been there I would have had to get a piece of chocolate pie.

Once we wrapped up our produce purchasing, we headed to the mother store- Half Price Books on Northwest Hwy.  Nothing makes me and the other bookworms that I have birth to happier than being in that store.  Sierra had some extra money and she sold some books that she had outgrown.  Not only did I find a few books on herbs and propagation for me, I was able to make a dent in the Christmas list.

A hamburger and fries.

Sierra + Birthday= Chicken Jalepeno Soup

That is a lot of candles! She blew them all out in one try, make your wish

My third daughter, Sierra Anne, turned 13 this past January.  My how time does fly.  Sierra is very petite, but don’t let her size fool you.  She is a firecracker.  But, she is every bit as sweet as she is feisty.

When it is your birthday on the farm, you don’t have to do your chores.  The other siblings chip in and get them done.  All of the kids like this perk.  I also cook the birthday person’s favorite meal for dinner.  So, on her night we will be having chicken jalapeno soup.  What is funny about this recipe, it that I leave out the Jalapenos!  Cheyenne and I like it hot, but we are about the only ones, if only 2 out of 6 like it I will tone it down.  No matter, this soup is still awesome!  Sierra also has a thing for jello.  She will choose the Chinese food place in town just for the jello, the food there is not that great.  So, I told her that I would get her some jello- one flavor for every day of the week.

The birthday banner goes up and stays up for about a week.  Why not?  I am so glad that God sent these wonderful people to be my children, so why not let the celebrating linger on?  Birthdays are fun and we enjoy them. Regardless if people admit it or not, everyone likes to have a fuss made on their birthday.  It feels good to know that there is someone who is delighted that on that certain day in history, you entered this world.

Here is the recipe for the birthday girl’s favorite food:

Chicken Jalapeno Soup
1 whole chicken
1 tbsp of olive oil
1/4 cup chopped onion
garlic clove

To the broth add:
2 cans cream of mushroom soup
2 cups cream (half/half will work great, plain milk is ok, but not nearly as creamy)
2- 4 oz cans of green chillies
1 jalapeno seeded and chopped
1/2 cumin
1 lb velveeta cubed.

Boil chicken until tender, remove from broth (save broth- you should have about 8 cups add water if you don’t), pull chicken from bone and tear into small pieces

In skillet heat oil and cook onions until clear, add garlic and cook for about 1 minute.  Add onions to broth, then add the ingredients listed above except the velveeta.  Cook for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Add velveeta and cook over low heat until melted.  Stir in chicken and cook on low until warmed through.  Serve, this tastes great with cornbread.

Sisters, Savannah and Cheyenne teamed up for this cake

Whoo Hoo! First Goat Baby of the Year!

Kandi’s new baby girl

Ever since George came for an extended visit back in the fall, we have been excited about the coming kids.  5 months have passed since George’s visit and the first baby arrived today.

As usual, it was not the goat we picked to go first.  Kandi brought us the first kid and she did not look like she was that close.  Several of us thought she might, but didn’t want to say so because she would have held on to the kid just to prove us wrong!

Regardless of who went first, we are so glad to have kidding season begun.  In year’s past, once a Doe kidded, the others followed suit within 2 weeks.  Finally, after several months of store bought milk we are within weeks of fresh milk right from our own farm.  Never a dull moment.                     Speaking of activity, Tony went down to check on things tonight only to find bunnies on the lose.  A support chain has come loose and the cage had dropped down allowing the little guys to get out and run around.  All are accounted for and back in their pen.

George, the baby dady

What A Day

Today was a lot of fun. Starting early at 7:30 am, we set up pony rides for a fundraiser for the East Texas Stampede, which is a 4H equestrian drill team. Sierra rode with them in the parade at the Peanut Butter Festival in Grand Saline. That is correct, the Peanut Butter Festival. It seems that a world record peanut butter sandwhich was being built in Grand Saline today. It really was a lot of fun, a little cold but that didn’t stop the fun. This was Sierra’s first parade. She did great. Of course I thought she looked like Miss Rodeo America- smiling and waving to the crowd. Cheyenne and Savannaha carried the banner and walked in front of the team. Of course they were beautiful too! Tony and Jonathan were at the 4H sharpshooters meeting. We met them there when the parade was over. All the member brought their guns and ammo and did a lot of target practice. Jonathan has been counting down the days until this free shoot. We also had a community lunch. The friends we have made and the experiences we have had though 4H have been so rewarding.