Wednesday, November 9, 2011

My Camping Buddy

I have really, really missed my camping buddy.  My sister, Gwen, and I used to go camping regularly when we lived in South Carolina.  Since we've moved here, I haven't been camping at all.  So sad, I know.

But I got lucky.  Gwen has moved to the north side of Dallas.  That's just a few hours from here.

Once Gwen got settled in, the first item of business was for us to plan a camping trip somewhere half-way between Dallas and Oklahoma City.  Turner Falls is close to halfway, but it was kind of expensive to camp at the park, so I looked a little further.  That's when I found it.  Lake Murray State Park.  For a minute I actually wondered if I was in the wrong state.  I could have sworn Lake Murray was in South Carolina...

There is apparently more than one.

So now that we had a location, we needed a date.  When to do it?  The best time for both of us was Halloween night, and since the kids got to have "Halloween" at the church the Saturday before and stock up on some candy, it didn't seem like much of a hardship to them to miss the neighborhood trick or treating to go camping with their cool Aunt Gwen and Uncle Richard.

It was absolutely gorgeous.  The scenery, the weather, you name it.  Lows in the mid-50's; highs in the mid-70's!  That's what I call perfect camping weather.  I will never understand those crazy people that go camping in the summer.  I'd rather have my air conditioning.

So, on to the pictures.  This one sums up camping with a 12-month old pretty well:

Honestly, there's just no way to keep the baby clean.  And I'm okay with that.  A good soaking in the tub when we get home takes care of all those germs under the fingernails.  But I drew my line at the worm.  He was not going to eat that, which meant he couldn't play with it at all.  He wasn't thrilled.

Overall, though, it was a great trip.  We camped at Tipps Point, which is a small peninsula in the lake.  Our campsite was close to the water, but not so close that Maddox could fall in.

What you don't see, however, is the 6-foot cliff along the edge of our site.  It led down to this rocky stretch of coast:

Maddox loved walking to the edge of the cliff.  Constantly.

And where were the other kids?  Where else?  They were by the water.

Throwing in rocks.
Fortunately, Aunt Gwen took watched Maddox like a hawk while I was setting up our tent.  He wasn't going over the edge on her watch.

Since the kids were missing Halloween festivities at home, Gwen and Richard brought Halloween to the campsite: decorations and goody bags for the kids.  The girls had a blast putting up the decorations.  This guy totally creeped me out.

The girls dubbed him "Creepio", which I think is funny since they aren't Star Wars fans (much to my shame and Ben's disappointment).  I'm not really sure where they came up with the name.

 For dinner the grown-ups had fabulous foil dinners cooked by the Firemaster (aka Richard), and the kids roasted hot dogs on the fire.
Olivia got pretty good at cooking over the fire, but Kelsey has this terror of food catching fire (bad marshmallow experience once), so in the end Richard cooked her dinner, too.

And a few other pictures worth posting here...

A gorgeous sunrise

Campfire fun

Gorgeous blue lake

Elephant Rock

The obligatory pose on top of a rock

Tiny shells found by the water

The one thing that we really wanted to do was go to Tucker Tower where the nature center is housed.  Unfortunately, it was closed for renovations and we missed it.  I guess we'll just have to head back in the spring for another trip! 

With any luck, Maddox will have grown out of his cliff-diving obsession.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Fall Festival

The Saturday before Halloween we had our big celebration at the church Fall Festival & Chili Cookoff.  We had invited our friends from Vietnam to join us, and we were excited to introduce them to their first American Halloween celebration.  Unfortunately, Khanh got stuck in Dallas, but we had a lot of fun with Mai.  Since my camera had died before we left home and Mai had forgotten hers, the only camera we had on hand was my phone's camera.  The quality leaves a little to be desired, but we got some great shots.

Mai loved the chili, and was amazed at the variety that we had in our competition.  She had thought she didn't like chili because of an experience with Sloppy Joe sandwiches.  Similar, but not quite.  We have some great chili chefs at church!

She was also impressed by the cupcakes for the cake walk.

She even posed with one!

She had a great time hanging out with the kids, taking them "trunk or treating", and playing the games the youth had set up.

Kelsey and Mai having fun!

But the best photo of the night was this one.

Why, you ask?  Well, let's look a little closer...
 She is such a stinker!  I think she has pretended to hang herself in the lights.  But oh, she makes me laugh...

Monday, November 7, 2011

Who's a Pretty Kitty?

My camera ran out of battery before I got everyone's picture taken, but this is what everyone was for Halloween this year:

Olivia was a witch - albeit a glamorous one.

Kelsey was her black cat.

Connor was a bat, but I didn't get a picture before the camera died.  But you may have already seen him in it. Remember this nap-time picture?

 But wait!  Who is this handsome devil?  And what could he be?

Why it's a Redneck Superhero, of course!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Maddox's First Haircut

We went from this...

To this...

To this.

Zucchini Pizza - F.A.B.U.L.O.U.S.

A couple of months ago my neighbor brought me something yummy to try - she said it was called zucchini pizza.  As in, zucchini-for-the-crust pizza.  Before I tried the first bite I had little hope that anyone in my family would actually eat it with me.  Boy, was I wrong!  One bite and I was sold.  This stuff is fantastic.  Ironically, my vegetable-hater Kelsey loves this more than Olivia.  It's so good I had to blog about it.  It's one of my new favorites!  

Zucchini Pizza

4 cups shredded unpeeled zucchini
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 cups (8 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese, divided
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded cheddar cheese, divided
1 pound ground beef
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 can (15 ounces) Italian tomato sauce
1 medium green pepper, chopped
Any other pizza toppings desired

Place zucchini in strainer; sprinkle with salt. Let stand for 10 minutes. Squeeze out moisture.  

 Combine zucchini with the eggs, Parmesan and half of the mozzarella and cheddar cheeses.

I was baking 2 separate pizzas - one for the veggie haters kids in our family, and one for the grown-ups.  Therefore, I used a smaller casserole dish and a pie pan rather than a large 9x13 pan.  Whatever you're using, coat it with cooking-spray and dump in your zucchini mixture.

Press it into the bottom of the pan like a crust, and bake, uncovered, at 400° for 20 minutes.

 Meanwhile, prepare your toppings.  The recipe calls for Italian tomato sauce, but we used Italian-style diced tomatoes and pureed them.  The first time I made it there was too much water in the sauce, so this time I drained the tomatoes before pureeing them.  Then I found that I didn't have enough sauce.  I would recommend either using your favorite pizza sauce, or simply adding a little tomato paste to the diced tomatoes before pureeing them to thicken them up.

Cook beef (or turkey) and onion over medium heat until meat is no longer pink; drain.  Assemble your other toppings.  In addition to the peppers called for in the recipe,we used sliced mushrooms as well.  On the kids pizza we forgo the ground meat/turkey and just use pepperoni instead.

After 20 minutes, take out your zucchini mixture.  It should look something like this.

Add your meat and tomato sauce.

Then top with remaining cheeses.  Add additional toppings as desired.

Bake 20 minutes longer or until heated through.

This yields about 6-8 servings.  For our family, that means there's enough for dinner and some leftovers for lunch.  And in case you need to know, the original recipe as written is about 300 calories / serving.

How do you spell delicious?