What a Crock… of Success!

Yesterday, I did a little experiment with my crock pot (normally we’re not friends). I was testing out spaghetti and meatballs with a bit of a modification since I was home. I was scared it wasn’t going to be very good, so I didn’t post the recipe. However, it was really yummy! Mr. Gray “ate so much [his] stomach hurt!”
Crockpot SCR151-WG 1-1/2-Quart Round-Shaped Manual Slow Cooker, White
Crock Pot Spaghetti & Meatballs
1 pound ground meat
1/8 cup parmesan cheese, grated
1/2 cup quick oats
1/4 cup milk
1 egg
Fresh basil, shredded, to taste
1/4 cup onion, finely minced
Onion powder, to taste
Course ground black pepper, to taste
Oregano, to taste
Garlic powder, to taste
Olive oil
Thin spaghetti (as much as you need, depending on servings)
20 ounces pre-made spaghetti sauce
1/2 cup water
  • Combine meat & quick oats in large mixing bowl
  • Slowly add milk & egg
  • Add the rest of the seasonings and continue to combine
  • Form the meat into balls (I make them somewhere between a golf ball and a baseball size)
  • Coat the bottom of the crock pot in a thin layer of olive oil
  • Place meatballs into the crock pot
  • (You can stop here and refrigerate the meatballs if making that part the night before.)
  • Turn the crock pot on low with only the meatballs for 30 minutes to an hour (Leave it on while you’re getting ready to go to work without the other items)
  • Meanwhile, soak the spaghetti in room temperature water while meatballs are cooking
  • Drain and dry spaghetti before placing into crock pot on top of meatballs
  • Cover meatballs & spaghetti with sauce
  • Pour water over the top of all three
  • Close the lid and let it cook! 
Mr. Gray & I both really enjoyed this dinner. It definitely beats a cold salad every Monday and Wednesday for the next four weeks! Up next, roast, potatoes, and carrots! My crock pot and I might become friends, after all!

Oh, These Backwards Days

I got up this morning and started dinner. Yes, dinner. It’s a teaching day, so I decided maybe the crock pot is the solution instead of cold salads every Monday and Wednesday through mid-August. I know Mr. Gray will appreciate this new idea. Since I’m home, I can modify crock pot recipes some from total stick-it-in-and-forget-it practices (I know that’s the point of a crock pot).
For today’s menu, I decided on spaghetti and meatballs. Because I wanted to test the feasibility of doing this in one stick-it-in-and-forget-it step, I started with just the meatballs (unbrowned) to see what would happen.
So far, they’ve been in there about forty-five minutes, and they smell amazing! I’m going to flip them at an hour and then add sauce and pasta to simmer until this afternoon (assuming it doesn’t smell so good I try to eat it for lunch).
I’ll post the recipe if this dinner turns out to be any good. I borrowed from a Pioneer Woman recipe, but changed them to an Italian-style meatball. My sauce is cheater HEB sauce I can just throw in the crock pot on top of the spaghetti and meatballs. (I soaked the spaghetti noodles in room-temperature water first since they wouldn’t boil in the crock pot.) 
Now I’m off to finish up my backwards day; so far, I’ve cooked dinner and baked muffins for breakfast. My plans for the day include washing clothes, reading, relaxing, and then going to work (backwards, backwards, backwards).

UPDATE:

I checked the meatballs at an hour, and it wasn’t necessary to flip them. They’re cooking very evenly. I drained and blotted the spaghetti noodles before putting them on top of the meatballs and covering with sauce. The lid is back on and dinner is cooking!

See You in the Funny Papers…

Yesterday Mr. Gray and I had a little date night and went to a local production of Annie. It was amazing–the children in the show were so talented! The little girl who played Annie was in fifth grade, but, boy, could she sing! I had never seen a live production of Annie, so I was quite surprised at the amount of political jargon that was taken out of the movie. I understand why, but it really changed the storyline in some places. Overall, I was really impressed with the whole thing. 
Mr. Gray worked cattle yesterday, so we didn’t have time to go eat dinner before the show. That left us with a myriad of choices once it was over–at 10:30! We ended up at Applebee’s, which isn’t generally a favorite of mine anyway. When we walked in, the hostess had on some Hawaiian garb, as did the rest of the wait staff. This wouldn’t have been so bad if anyone had said, “Hi, welcome to Hawaiian night,” or anything that remotely acknowledged the fact that waiters and waitresses had on swimsuits and grass skirts! To top it off, we were seated right next to the karaoke machine (and its speakers). It really looked like a sad night club scene in a movie–maybe worse. Thank goodness that’s not our normal Saturday night scene!

Water Logged

Earlier this week, I called to get my latest blood work results from the doctor. Other than being anemic, (which is nothing new for me, pregnant or not) they were able to tell from my hemoglobin that I was not drinking enough water. Their goal for me is 64-80 ounces of water (Gatorade, Propel, all of those things count as well) per day. I set out to see how I could fix this problem. 

The first day, I just monitored my drinking habits. Am I drinking other things instead of water and still coming up short? If so, what, and where can I substitute? Am I just not thirsty? What’s going on, exactly? 

Day one results? I just don’t drink anything most of the day. I have a sip or two after a meal, maybe a couple of ounces at 2:00 or 3:00 in the afternoon, and a little something to swallow my vitamins after brushing my teeth at night. That’s about it. Some days (not that day in particular) I’ll get a drink a Sonic or Dairy Queen during happy hour, but, even then, I only drink less than half of it. I also happen to carry a water bottle (or two) around all day and maybe drink 6-10 ounces out of it total. Over a year ago, I stopped drinking Dr Pepper (no, I didn’t forget to put the period, it doesn’t have one) as my only source of liquid and bought some really nice water bottles. They stay in my refrigerator until I get ready to stick them in my purse and carry them around all day (only to come home with almost the exact same amount of water in them). At least I’ve got good gear!

Yesterday, I made a conscious effort to drink the correct amount of water. I found that when I made myself think about it, I could drink even when I’m not thirsty. I managed to drink 76 ounces of water alone yesterday–that’s completely unheard of for me. I asked Annie and Mr. Gray to be my accountability partners and ask me periodically if I’d had anything to drink. I’m also going to start a “Water Log” and keep track of it. I think seeing it in writing will help me to make sure I’m drinking enough.

NALGENE NARROW MOUTH TRITAN WATER BOTTLE - 16 OZ - O/S - PINK

Moosejaw .75L CamelBak Water Bottle BPA Free (Spring 2010) Pink .75L

Pay It Forward

Today I had some errands to run in New Braunfels, so, of course that meant I’d be having lunch at Chick-fil-a. I tried to plan it so that I wouldn’t be there in the middle of the lunch run, but I shopped a little too long at Target (imagine that).
When I get to Chick-fil-a, cars are wrapped around the building and every parking spot is filled. A lady in a truck let me in front of her in the drive through line. I waved and was appreciative. There was no way to let her back into her spot, so I decided to pay for her lunch at the window. As I handed the girl my card, I told her to run it for mine as well as for the car behind me. The look on her face was unforgettable and had, “WHY?” written all over it! It was as if she had never seen a kind gesture before. She asked me several times if I were sure I wanted to pay for the other vehicle. Each time, I reassured her I did. I kept telling her to tell the lady behind me thank you for letting me into the line. The clerk wasn’t getting it at all. Finally, in one last attempt, she said, “Ma’am, hers is sixteen dollars.” 
I just looked at her, smiled, and asked her again to run my card for the car behind me. “Be sure to tell her thank you,” I said one more time. I don’t know if she told her thank you, but I know that I love it when people do things like that for me. I hope she enjoyed her lunch, and I hope the clerk took something bigger from the action than just the fact that I spent an extra sixteen dollars at lunch.

Twenty Percent

As I mentioned, I started an evening teaching job. I’m teaching developmental math at Austin Community College in San Marcos. God really did his work getting me there; it was a strange series of twists and turns no man could have made work out. I’m thankful I’m there, and maybe it’ll turn into something more later. The class is Monday and Wednesday from 6:00-9:00 pm, which is so crazy and backwards to me! I’m having the toughest time adjusting to get up and be productive at home (or be lazy, as some days have it), then go to work. SO, SO backwards! 
Anyway, we’re now three classes into it (two for me, I was on vacation last week) and I have a little more to write about. Last week, the students were supposed to take a pre-test for placement into the appropriate section of the class. One class is “advanced” the other is “basic” (actually, they’re both basic developmental mathematics, one is supposed to go a little quicker than the other, but I’m not sure that’s even happening). I was told all these pre-tests would be taken care of and the split would be done when I got back on Monday. 
Apparently, they had a problem with the grading of the test. (Really? You just graded straight off an incorrect answer key and didn’t notice? Wow. I don’t do that in my kindergarten classroom.) About 6:05, the other instructor strolls in with the re-graded tests while I’m in front of the class I haven’t met, asking about homework I didn’t assign, and trying to keep the ball rolling. Not my idea of organization. 
We finally get them split and where they’re supposed to be, and I take the “advanced” class to the other classroom. We get started, and they seem to sort of get most of what’s on the pre-test. I’m pretty impressed… then we start on new material and I lose about four of them completely. Two stop taking notes and just sit there! They don’t ask a single question, don’t respond when I try to ask them where they got lost, nothing! They. Just. Sit. (This is where I have a really hard time working with the students who are in a developmental math class in the first place–especially the younger ones who got themselves into this class by just those types of actions!) I offered them both the option of moving to the other class, and one took me up on it. That helped the morale some. I left feeling pretty disgusted by the whole thing. 
Last night was much better. The other student who was concerned moved to the other class, and the remaining two who were struggling (but actually trying) sat with the tutor and got extra help as we worked. One of the mouthier students from Monday took some sort of medication before she came in, so she wasn’t as outspoken about how she thought the class should be taught. It was much more pleasant, and everyone was making progress with the material. We’re still a little behind where I’d like to be, but we’re slowly catching up. 
It’s hard to believe that in a six-week course (five for me) we’re already 20% of the way done. They have so far to go in so little time, and most of them don’t have the ability to get to where they need to be without me dragging them in the dust of my new materials. We’ll see how it goes.

Teaching New Tricks

I started my evening teaching job today… it was good, but it throws a little kink in my thinking. I’m a get up and get everything done kind of person; I like to relax the evening away with Mr. Gray. That’s not quite how this works out. It also throws a little wrench in dinner time. So, I’m trying some new stuff that will keep for Mr. Gray when he gets home from work. Here’s tonight’s: 
Tortellini Salad
2 pounds frozen cheese stuffed tortellini
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1/4 cup chopped basil
1 cup grated carrots
1/2 cup black olives, chopped
1 can chick peas, drained & rinsed
1 cup grape tomatoes, quartered
1/2 cup green onions, chopped
1/4 cup Italian dressing (more or less to taste)
1 head broccoli
1 small-medium lemon, juiced (watch for seeds)
  • Prepare tortellini according to package directions
  • Meanwhile, begin mixing other vegetables in a large mixing bowl
  • Drain tortellini & rinse with cold water
  • Add tortellini to vegetables
  • Add dressing & lemon juice
  • Toss to coat 
  • Serve chilled
Even sans meat, Mr. Gray loved this salad! It has a great flavor. We will definitely have it again.

A Little New England Time…

Thursday, Mr. Gray & I headed to the East Coast for a little vacation time and my cousin’s wedding. On paper we knew what we had to do to get there, but it didn’t really sink in until we started off. We got up about 4:00 Thursday morning, drove to Austin, flew to Newark, rode a bus to another terminal, flew to Providence, hopped in a cab to Galilee (I love that we were in Galilee, even if it wasn’t THE Galilee), rode the ferry to Block Island, then got a cab to the hotel (they called it an inn… I can’t get used to saying that, but it was more of an inn than a hotel). Whew! Once we got there, we realized we’d have to do all that again to get home! 

Our first flight was definitely a northern crew headed home. It’s always fairly easy to note where the crew is from–especially when leaving Texas. The crews from Texas and the South are generally so polite and friendly. This crew wasn’t interested in doing much of anything to ensure our flight was pleasant, or doing anything at all. One of the first announcements asked that everyone please check their overhead bins because the plane couldn’t take off until they were all shut. I have never been on a flight where the crew didn’t walk through and take care of that themselves. Hmmm… 
Once we landed in Newark, we had to get on a bus to change terminals for our next departure. Mr. Gray, being the Southern gentleman that  he is, got up to offer his seat to some older ladies who were standing. They both looked at him like he was crazy and continued to stand. I had plenty of wiggle room as we cruised around Newark. Mr. Gray didn’t want to sit back down after offering his seat, so he just continued to stand. It was a very different scene from anything around here. 

We successfully made our way out to the island, and were pleased to see that the moped rental place was right up the way from the ferry landing. We headed over to rent our moped for the weekend. They were maroon–WHOOP! 


Mr. Gray walked up to talk to the lady while I waited with the luggage. The plan was to put the luggage in a cab with me while he took the moped to the hotel. As soon as the lady saw me, she told him I wasn’t allowed to be on the moped at all on the island. So we settled for a cab. 


With all the talk of a “heat wave” in New England before we left, we knew they were experiencing warmer temperatures than they were used to. We went as far as to make fun of these poor people for thinking those were hot temperatures. Then we got there and noticed that air conditioners are not standard in that part of the country. Please see exhibits one, two, and three in our windows: 



We were really quite comfortable as long as we had all the fans on, all the time. (They stole the third one back from us the last night.) It worked out nicely in the evenings once the sun set and the outside air cooled off as well. 

Friday night, we ate dinner at an air conditioned restaurant (YAY!) and then headed to one of the hotels on the island for drinks with my family and other wedding guests. Many of the people on the island looked like they belonged there; they wore sailing clothes (like you see in movies… I didn’t really think there were any men who actually dressed that way) or other nice high-end apparel. However, there was a group of 6-10 at the Spring House, who had to be Guidos. Straight off the crazy show (Jersey Shore? I don’t know, I’ve never seen it, but I’ve seen the people). They talked the talk and dressed the part, so Mr. Gray and I just watched them for a while… hilarious! I wish I would’ve had my camera (it was too dark for my phone) to catch these folks in action. 

Saturday we planned on kayaking, but the weather looked a little gloomy for the already cold water, so we decided to walk to town and rent a Jeep for a couple of hours. We just wanted to cruise around and check out the island. We got about half-way to town, and it started to rain. We stopped at the Block Island Depot to wait under the porch until I let up… 



We watched it for quite some while; the funniest part was the only two people had umbrellas. I don’t know if they were all tourists who were unprepared (like us) or if the people on the island just don’t care if they get wet. Once it let up, we headed towards town again. Before we got much further, it started to POUR! We headed into Block Island Grocery (which has air conditioning, by the way) and called a cab. We were drenched when we got back to the room.


 We decided to spend a little time inside the rest of the day and took a nap before the wedding. 

The wedding was in a gorgeous garden in a friend of the couple’s back yard. The reception was in the groom’s mother’s back yard. Both were gorgeous. It rained a little during the reception, but not enough to hurt anything. There were several hand- and home-made touches to the wedding that made the details so nice. It was fun to spend time with cousins we rarely see and to do so in a setting other than a funeral!


We got up early Sunday morning to do the cab, ferry, cab, plane, bus, plane, drive home trek again, and were pleased to be able to ride the ferry with cousins as well. We were all headed to different airports on the mainland, but we got to visit a little more before heading back.

As we hopped in our cab to ride to Providence, I noticed that the cab driver had the “defrost” on full blast cool air instead of the air conditioner! Mr. Gray and I were cracking up–we had a hard time dealing with four days of no air conditioner, and these folks don’t even use the air conditioner enough to know how to turn it on correctly. After switching it to decompressed (read: hot) vent air, she finally got it on the AC and I stopped feeling as though I was suffocating in a sealed up tin can. 

We spent a few hours waiting in the Providence airport (ate some Wolfgang Puck pizza–yum) before departing (after a delay) to go back to Newark. While we were waiting in Newark, we went to the Garden State Diner to grab dinner before our plane (we did a lot of sitting; we don’t actually eat all that often–even in my condition). A poor bus boy spilled tea (thankfully Yankees don’t sweeten their tea to the point of syrup like Southerners) all over me while we were eating. Fortunately, it didn’t stain my clothes or stay too wet for too long.

On our plane into Austin, a lady several rows in front of us started having chest pains and trouble breathing 30-45 minutes before we were scheduled to land. The flight attendants paged any medical personnel to help with the situation, and the pilot rushed our landing. Paramedics were waiting in the jetway for her, and got her off the plane immediately upon landing. It was a situation that was handled excellently. We don’t know what happened for sure, but we hope she’s all right. 

We made it home about midnight, and now we’re back to business as usual. It was nice to sleep in my own bed with the AC and the ceiling fan! Poor Mr. Gray had to get up and head to work, but he was planning a trip to Home Depot before we were even off the plane, so I’m sure he’s got something to keep him busy before he catches up on any sleep!




So Close Now…

The walls are painted; the floors are down; the doors are back on their hinges. Our nursery is coming together! Mr. Gray has done such a wonderful job helping me get things just where I want them. We haven’t put the crib together yet, but that will come. I don’t want to have all of it done too early–then what will I do with my time? 
Here are a few sneak previews of the nursery so far: 
This little corner isn’t quite finished, but it’s close. We’re not sold on the color of the recliner, so we’ll probably get a new slip cover for it. The crib will be to the left of the recliner on the striped wall. Baby Gray already has books on his bookshelf! I can’t wait to read to him! Nonna made him the quilt on the recliner, and it’ll be on his toddler bed later. 
These stars are from one of my favorite booths at Wimberley’s Market Days. They’re hand-cut out of tin. Mr. Gray helped make this vision work. I had no idea how to pull it off, I just knew what I wanted–he’s the power behind my visions.
Pops & Nonna gave us the dresser/changing table. Mr. Gray put it together, and I’ve already started filling it with Baby Gray’s things! The little buckets on top were a Target dollar spot find! They’re primary colors with stars all over them; I love them! 
All in all, it’s getting close to ready for the shower. Of course, after the shower, I get to work on it some more! I can’t wait for our little guy to be here and enjoy his room. 
We’re off to Rhode Island for the weekend; my cousin is getting married. We’re taking an extra couple of days to just hang out and relax before Baby Gray gets here. Expect to hear all about it!

The Fourth and Fifth

For the Fourth, we headed to Buck’s Poolside with a few things in tow: Pork ‘n Bean Salad, watermelon stars, and Jolie Blonde Brownies. Recipes and photos are below. 

Pork ‘n Bean Salad (I forgot the photo. It looks like a bean salad.)

1 can Pork ‘n Beanas, drained & rinsed
1 white onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 yellow bell pepper, chopped
Dill pickles, chopped (to taste)
Mayonnaise (to taste)
Salt & pepper (to taste)

  • Mix all ingredients and refrigerate. 

 Jolie Blonde Brownies

1 stick butter (room temperature)
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1 large egg
1 cup flour
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup malted milk powder (more or less to taste)
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp baking soda
Pinch salt
Nuts, baking morsels or chips, or both (optional)

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • Cream together butter & brown sugar
  • Add egg and mix until well blended
  • Stir in flour completely
  • Add vanilla, malted milk powder, baking powder, baking soda, & salt
  • Mix well
  • If desired, add your choice of nuts or baking chips
  • Spread into a greased (I flour mine, too) 9″ x 13″ pan
  • Bake for 16-20 minutes or until golden brown and slightly sunken in the center

This time, I did not add anything to the brownies when baking. Instead, I used buttercream frosting and sprinkles to decorate for the Fourth of July. I only got to taste one I scrounged around and found–they went fast!



Mr. Gray also sliced a watermelon for me (at my insistence, of course) so I could make watermelon stars. I just had him slice the watermelon cookie-cutter thick and cut the stars out with cookie cutters. I stuck them in the freezer to help them hold their shape, but I’m afraid they might get soggy if they sit out too long after freezing. Only freeze them if you can serve pretty quickly. I sprinkled blueberries around for color as well.



We had a great time at the Couchs’ with good food and friends. Mr. Gray has been sore today from the adult football game, but he loved every minute of it, I know. Next year, Fabby can teach Baby Gray to swim while we’re there (right, Bean?).

Today we worked on the nursery some more. Mr. Gray did the finishing touches on the floor, and I covered nail holes in the moulding (in the office, too). We got the changer/dresser put together and into its place. The curtain rod, curtain, and decorative stars are up as well. We’ll get the crib done tomorrow. all we need now is the shower and a baby! 

We got the office/art room put back together; it looks different, but good! Some furniture that was displaced from the guest room will make a permanent home in there, and another piece or two was repurposed and put to use. We’re waiting to find a day bed to put in there for guests as well.

The best news? I have my living room back! YAY! No more clutter and craziness! The worst news? I’m not feeling like uploading photos of either room, sorry.