Thursday, August 28, 2008

Back to our version of civilization

After 2 days of flying, 2 days of driving, 4 days of seeing ranches in various parts of the Southwest, and 7 days of visiting various parts of John's family, we made it home. We really were only gone for 10 days since we multitasked quite a bit of these events, but it was still quite the adventure. We had a blast and even though Nathan now thinks he gets his way all the time (can you really spank a kid when you're on vacation?) I'd do it all over again in a heartbeat. A quick rundown of the highlights....

We flew into San Antonio on Friday night and after waiting at the curbside arrival for an hour and half, John showed up with the rental car. Actually, it was van and not just any van - a Chrysler Town and Country Van, which is now high on our list of wants/needs. I'm pretty sure our family needs Sirius Radio, Stow N Go seats, extreme legroom and a built in DVD player. We'll probably change our minds once we get around to looking at the price tag but for this trip we were extremely grateful for all the fancy amenities since we spent so much time in it during the 10 days. But back to the first day..

We headed to Beth and Brian's house, along with all the other younger siblings in John's immediate family. It was a very loud and yummy reunion of the "little kids" or Beth, John, Ann and Dan (and respective families). With 9 kids all under the age of 4.25, we were glad to sit at home and drink Diet Dr. Peppers, watch the Olympics, be crafty and break up the occasional fight. We had grand ambitions of heading to Sea World or somewhere cool like that but all we made it to was Hobby Lobby (what an amazing store) for fabric runs and HEB (what an interesting store) for beef runs. We ate great food, played games until late in the night, and Ava and Nathan got to know their Texas cousins finally. But we didn't get any pictures of it so you'll just have to take my word that we had a great time.

(Actually, I was able to steal these pictures off Beth's website to give you an idea of what fun we had).

Next, we headed south 2 1/2 hours to Kingsville, TX for John to actually do some work (the whole reason we were supposedly coming to Texas and New Mexico in the first place). He spent some of the days at The King Ranch working on cattle genetics and making us a little spending money. We hung out on the porch at the little house they let us stay at on the ranch, catching rolly-pollies and rocking on the cool rocking chairs.

(The foal crop at King Ranch)

Me and the kids also spent the days at Ann and Mando's house with her 3 little ones. Ava and Paul played together wonderfully while Nathan and Joseph ignored each other and Isabelle and Lias took turns taking naps in her crib. Ann and I were crafty and whipped out some bows for our little girls heads.

I think they turned out quite cute, even if they did take almost a day to make.

We left Kingsville on Tuesday evening and headed East towards Corpus Christi, past the mountainous piles of cotton the ranch grows, to eat dinner with our good friends Scott and Tracy Moore. After feasting on a dinner of ribeye steaks (what else would you expect from one of the top guys at King Ranch?), we tucked 3 sleepy kids into our "fancy" van (as Nathan calls it) and headed West. Forever. And ever.

The plan was to drive a few hours and stop at a hotel, then meander our way over to New Mexico all the next day but then we realized how nice it was to drive without having to listen to kids crying and whining.

(Lias rode the whole way to New Mexico like this - Nathan's legs lost all circulation)

So we didn't stop, except to put gas into the car and milk into Elias. 14 hours later, we arrived at The Bell Ranch outside of Tucumcari, NM. About an hour outside of Tucumcari actually, which is the closest town with a grocery store. But don't let that fool you, The Bell Ranch is an oasis in the middle of the desert of northern New Mexico. While John again played with numbers and cows, we made ourselves at home riding horses, swimming in the pool and hiking on the rocks. We met up with John's coworker from Chicago, Tony Stinsa and his 2 girls (10 and 5) who helped us pass the time while the guys worked. Occasionally we got the guys to join us for lunch at the bar or to move a pesky snake off the road.

The ranch is huge and has its origins in an old Spanish landgrant. It has a massive old homestead on it, called the Hacienda, which at one time hosted its own casino and had visitors such as Howard Hughes and Clark Gable. The Hacienda was full of amazing artifacts and tons of cool furniture and trinkets from the old west. It has quite a few camps (spots where the cattle herdsmen live and work) so we spent quite a bit of time driving around the almost 300,000 acres.

Since we ate lunch on Thursday at Pat's City Bar, the only restarant within 30 miles, the ranch manager Bert and Debbie Ancell had us to dinner that night. And what was on the menu? Beef, of course. We were spoiled once again with steak, potatoes, salad and the yummiest brownies I've ever had. I think I've gained back all the baby weight on this trip. Bert and Debbie live on one of the camps and have the coolest adobe house they call the White House (I guess they used to whitewash all the buildings, hence the name). I has no less than 10 bedrooms, all connected in a big U shape and all with doors to the veranda out front. The kids had fun exploring the house, both in and out.

The ranch is currently owned by the same company that we work for here in Virginia (although it is for sale so if anyone has an extra $115 million lying around) so John has visited it a few times. I'm glad we got to go along this time and maybe it won't sell anytime soon so we can go back.

After a week into the trip we just weren't quite ready to head home, so we drove another 4 hours south to Roswell, NM to spice up Paul and Gen's (John's oldest brother and his girly friend) life a little. We spent all day Saturday doing laundry (me), solving the worlds problems (Paul and John) and washing the dog (Ava and Gen). We also made it to the coolest little zoo I've ever been to. Tucked away in the middle of suburbia Roswell, NM is a free city zoo that has a bear, mountain lion, eagles, antelope, buffalo, wolves, tons of pairie dogs, a train ride and a carousel. After Paul treated us to 2 or 3 go arounds on the carousel (tickets were $.25 each? why don't I live in Roswell?) we headed out to a spicy little Mexican restaurant, then went home and fell asleep putting the kids to bed.

The next day we took a trip up the mountains (how many of you would have though New Mexico has mountains?) to the area Billy the Kid was big in. I really didn't catch all the significance of the town we stopped at (Lincoln, NM) but it was beautiful and relaxing to wander around the shops and buildings.

We saw an old fort were the original settlers used to hide out from the Apaches and we though about locking Ava and Nathan in for a few hours. It was totally made our of adobe so Uncle Paul took note for the adobe house he plans to make in a few years.

We parted from Paul and Gen in the mountains and made it up to Albuquerque without much fanfare. We got about 5 hours of sleep that night, then headed to the airport for our 6am flight. The day was long but we made it home by about 9 that night. We're still trying to catch up on sleep we missed but all in all we're glad for the memories.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Where in the world are we???

somewhere in the middle of nowhere New Mexico or Texas. More to come......

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Blessing a baby....

always involves a cute baby in white, lots of family and lots of food. We had plenty of all.

Elias was very cooperative and cute and luckily I got these pictures of him before the chaos of church started. Once all the family showed up it got a little too crazy to try to get pictures, plus he slept through all the food and fun.

Papa (John's dad) comes to all the grandbabies blessings and baptisms and we're sure glad he does cause each time he takes over the kitchen. This time we were blessed with all the fried shrimp we could stuff ourselves with.

I'm so glad that this is a trait that's definitely been passed onto my Genho man too. John makes a wickedly yummy biscuit that he whips up from scratch in about 5 minutes. I don't even try to compete, I just eat. Here he is in action.

I pray this runs in the genes and that Nathan and Elias will cook me all sorts of yummy things in my old age. Everyone that came enjoyed the bounty. Representing my family were: my parents Greg and Diane Donovan, Laurel and her 4 kids, Sarah, Spencer, Dolly, and Steve. As much as I can remember here was the menu: fried shrimp, round roast, Brussels sprouts, black eyed peas, stuffed squash, Grandma Donovan's whole wheat rolls, tons of fruit, corn on the cob, John's biscuits with our nectarine jam, and Sarah's chocolate chip cookies. The saddest part is there were hardly any leftovers.

Ava, Nathan and Elias had a ton of fun with their Papa, as they always do when he visits.

We spent 3 hours on Saturday morning at the local small animal auction in Culpeper with the counties finest buying and selling poultry and anything else small enough to be shoved into a cardboard box. This was my 2nd auction but my kids 4 or 5th since John indoctrinated
them each Saturday while I was pregnant and sick at home. We came home from the auction with all kinds of things kids love: rabbits, guinea hens, fancy Seabright banty chickens and "barnyard mix" (ie. mutts) baby chicks. Ava and Nathan have been smothering the bunnies and showing off their chicks to their suburbia cousins that came for the blessing. Even though Papa is now a big cattle baron, he used to breed fancy chickens in his younger years. Rumor has it he may have even had a few fighting roosters.....

Right before Papa left we tried to get a few pictures since the blessing day had been a little too crazy. Everyone was pretty photogenic, that is everyone but Nathan. Check out the looks he's giving in these shots.

Welcome to the family Lias. We're all blessed to have you here.

Local Wildlife

This baby bird was hatched out in our garage a few weeks ago and John and the kids found it flopping around on the ground. After much chasing, they caught it to bring it into show me. And then we spent another 20 minutes chasing it again.

It was a very good hider and jumped from John's hand into the pile of junk in our windowsill. We took everything off the windowsill and looked and looked and we couldn't find it anywhere. Finally, we opened this 3 ring binder and found it stuck in the ring. I guess this is why wrens are still around - they're very adaptable to any situation.

And this wildlife of course. I just think the size difference between these two is pretty incredible.

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Friday, August 8, 2008

Peaches; Conquered...and One Really Cute Juicy Peach

I did it. I canned like crazy and whined and cried the whole way through it but it's done. We got a total of 19 bottles of peaches, 3 jars of peach freezer jam, and 5 jars of cooked peach jam.

Now that's it's done, it doesn't seem like such a task but here are the pictures to prove how messy it was.

The blanching and boiling and the pitting and peeling. The chickens gorged themselves on peach peelings afterwards. I think I hauled out 30 lbs of it to them - plus add on Lias's weight (see below) and I think I had about 50lbs I packed across the yard to the chicken coop.

Luckily (or maybe not) Ava was there to help me all along. No wait, for about 2 seconds till she decided it wasn't as fun as it looked. But that was right after she spilled all the "lite syrup" all over the counter while trying to get it into the jars. For being such a "lite syrup" it was super sticky to clean up. Which leads to this picture...

This was one side of the kitchen. The other side by the stove looked a little better.

Thank goodness I had Nathan there to quality control the canning rings to make sure they weren't in danger of breaking.

When John came home I told him he had to take me to dinner but instead I settled for pancakes with, what else? Peach jam all over. Yum, yum, yum. Adios to the peaches for this year.

And speaking of peaches. Here's a few shots of one juicy, ripe, ready for the kissing peach.

He's gotten quite nice and chunky, weighing it at 17lbs 12 oz at his 8 week checkup. We had a little scare the other day when he was really fussy during his nap. After he woke up for the 4 time I took his temp and realized he had a temp of 102 (under the arm). They get really concerned about babies under 3 months with temps, so into the doctor we went only to have them take his temp (rectally) and it show up at only 100. But we spent a traumatic evening getting blood work done (he cried and so did I) since they wanted to make sure he was fine. He is and I don't know where the temp I thought I found came from. Needless to say, I bought a new thermometer.

We're also getting quite a few sweet expressions and smiles during his happy times. Usually that's most of the day except for a few hours in the evenings. Poor John usually only gets to see him when he's fussy. John made the comment to me the other day that he feels like every minute he's home he's in charge of a kid. I told him I know exactly how he feels. I guess that's just life with 3 little ones. Life's a little crazy and chaotic, but we're all content too.

And a few of us are fat and content too.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

In case anyone was wondering...

The peaches are still sitting outside but as I grabbed one this morning I noticed the fruit flies are making off with all my yummy winter treats. So, today is the day (as long as Lias doesn't have a 103 temp again- that was yesterday's afternoon gone) and by tonight maybe I'll have a picture of those same peaches all bottled up. That or the chickens will get whatever the flies don't.

Monday, August 4, 2008

This morning....

I walked out into the garage on this
and what did I see but these staring me down.

Each summer, the local orchard that borders the farm gives us as many free peaches as we can use. We eat and eat and eat until we realize there is no way to eat them all and that leads to..... work. Lots of work. Chels will attest to this since last summer we spent an entire day with our arms covered with sugary, sappy, sticky peaches and 5 kids whining at us. We ended up with over 20 jars of peaches to eat all winter long and they were soooo good but the thought of doing all this work again now with 3 whining kids and no Chels totally overwhelms me.
Now I realized that many of you would be thrilled to have a ton of free peaches sitting in your garage and I'm not trying to complain (although John would say I am cause that's my nature) but does anyone want to come help me can peaches? Please? I'll give you all you can eat. Anyone?

If not peaches then how about nectarines?

Or more peaches? Oh well, maybe I'll get off the computer and start doing something. It's a good thing I didn't have anything planned this week anyway. And wanna know the best part? In the fall they give us just as many, if not more, apples. So it starts all over.....

But they sure are yummy in the winter.

Here's what I would like to be doing instead:

Wouldn't it be nice to be 4 again and not have anything to do in the summer but swim in a pool filled with dishsoap? Especially when you have all the juicy peaches you could ever want sitting in big boxes in the garage next to you. I think these guys ate 3 each but they kept spraying me whenever I tried to take a picture so I gave up.

I'd even take a naughty little brother who doesn't listen and sprays me with 40 degree well water when I tell him to stop.

But I think Elias is really the one who's got it made. Time for a nap again.


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