Tuesday, November 01, 2011

A Huge Gift in a Small Package

She came to me when I truly needed her.  I was a junior in college, drowning in life11-01-2011 09;31;55PM decisions.  I had no idea what to do with her.  How to train or feed her, even what the law required regarding dogs, I was clueless.

It didn’t seem to matter.  She needed me as much as I needed her.  She lost her family to the coyotes on my father’s farm.  She only survived because she was the best at hiding.  Then she was too cute not to take home.

11-01-2011 09;39;26PMShe taught me about separation anxiety and fear.  She chased down cockroaches after the bug guy sprayed and growled just when I needed her to.  She growled viciously at just the right person despite her short squatty legs and 24 lbs of mostly fur.  She made me get out of bed to walk her and feed her when I wanted to sleep too long.  When I didn’t want to care I couldn’t forget about her.  She saved me in inches every day from sinking too low.

She never begged for too much attention.  Just a little tummy scratching then she would settle in at the end of the couch.  She slept on the edge of my bed until his feet got in the way.  After 4 years of just us she took to him so well, mostly. 

He insisted we get another dog.  She never liked other dogs until we brought home thisDSC00566 one.  She didn’t really have a choice.  Dancer, a self appointed Goddess, insisted she was boss and after 3 days of talks, she agreed.  The discussion went something like “I pin you to the ground by your throat and you agree, ok?”.  Dancer came with her own issues but it seemed to work for them both.  Their quirks worked together for all of us.

11-01-2011 09;22;13PMDespite a fear of little hands she dealt with the birth of 3 boys in 5 years well.  They learned that the old dogs didn’t' play but would steal their food given the chance.  The dogs learned that baby spit up wasn’t bad and little kids dropped snacks.

She took visiting dogs well as long as they didn’t play with her.  She only ever played with one dog and never did again when we lost Dancer to painful arthritis at age 11.Addie sleeping on quilt

Since then we have had many dogs in our lives.  A few moves, a major career change, and a long deployment later she grew weary.  Her back legs had lost sensation, slowly getting worse.  The wrong step could paralyze her but living in a crate 24/7 is no way for any dog to live.  I watched carefully every time she stepped out the door for 4 years.

Her muzzle was gray and she could no longer hear people coming to the door.  She couldn’t chew her food because her teeth had mostly fallen out and it hurt to turn her neck much but she still seemed happy to be here.

Then she no longer could no longer make it outside for bathroom breaks.11-01-2011 09;33;02PM

We said goodbye to her a few weeks ago.  Addie was over 16 years old. I was pleased to lay her to rest at a friend’s farm.

I am not one who believes our pets go to a kind of heaven.  I do believe she was a gift from God that offered a kind of support and comfort that only she could give.  I am forever grateful for that gift.

I miss her.

Monday, October 31, 2011

A Creative Quick Fix

My creativity is languishing in the land of priorities.  Hence the blog posting once a month,DSC01349 or less.

I could complain or list my to do’s, but that is such a drag and accomplishes nothing but prolonged self-pity.  My struggles are small, tiny, almost non existent in the light of God’s glory.  Am I right?  I like a good perspective.  It brightens the view.

ANYWAY……here is where my creative outlet has been used in the recent (yesterday) past.


I have mad Lego skills.  Want to know how long it took me to put that “rocket ship” together?


4 hours


I could have kept going.  I think it needs blasters on top.  Maybe a robotic arm to grab bad guys?


It will be destroyed in 2 days.  Most likely by an alien attack.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Middle Son

DSC01523This last week he turned 6.DSC01582

He was always on the chubby side.  Then he was just big.

He was born with a birth defect that we were told was a miracle.  A miracle that he had no lasting effects.  A less than 1% chance that he is now perfectly normal.

DSC00022He likes to laugh.  He really really likes to make you laugh.

He is particular and passionate, equally.  When things are not in his particular order he passionately lets you know.

He still hates to give kisses.  He says he is allergic to girls, except me.DSC00437

His imagination will wow and frustrate you all at the same time.

He would rather be funny than right.

He looks the most like his father.  He acts the most like his father.  He is shy and sensitive, easily hurt but unable to tell me why.  DSC00706_edited-2Just like his father.

I pray I do what God will have me do for him.  I am humbled by the gift that is my middle son.  Six years seem to have flown by while I was busy being a mom.DSC00629

I would like to say I wish I could have cherished them more.  But it is their brevity that makes them precious to me.  How they are all squished between diaper changes, laughter, and laundry makes them more amazing.

Happy Birthday Alex!

downsized_1026011716 (2)

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Joy in Suffering

There has been much talk recently of trials and suffering.  As a world class complainer, I find the topic difficult to wrap my thoughts around.

Why can’t we just fix it?  Why does it have to be this way?  It must be my fault because this doesn’t happen to people who do it “right” or “better”.  I do not understand.

This morning I tried to explain 9/11 to my 8 year old son.  I couldn’t do it without tears.  The fear I felt that day came rushing back.  The memory of standing with co-workers watching the news in a large downtown area far away from home surrounded by strangers was overwhelming.  Trying to keep it together as I rode back with a gentlemen my father’s age across the deep south was difficult.  The man was born in Iran and fled decades ago because the same thing that happened that day in our country happened in his country to a much greater degree.  He understood what had happened.  He already knew what it all meant that day.

I am working on understanding and by working I mean praying.  I know seeing the joy in trials and rejoicing at my pain when the suffering is unbearable will not come from me.  It will not come from my heart.

It will be gift, a blessing.  To rejoice in God being glorified during tragedy, to embrace pain as a gift, as an opportunity is not in my nature.

10 years later many blessings can been seen.  The gifts shining against the backdrop of such pain makes them shine that much brighter.  Embracing my children that did not exist on that day and to count my blessings since then is overwhelming.DSC01470

I pray I can look faithfully to God during trials, large and small.  I pray I can thank Him for His gifts even when I do not understand them.

Today I am thankful for brothers building memories.

I am thankful for father and son making memories.  Memories made not on my timeline but His.DSC01381

DSC01429 (2)Today I am thankful for brave men who run toward the sound of battle. 

I am thankful for the pain of that day and many since.  Those wonderful days have molded and changed me for good.  Not goodness from my own heart but goodness given to me by the only One who has any to give.

I pray it is the same for you.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Did You Miss Me?


I missed blogging. A LOT.  Life has been happening here with much to share.  School has started for us and God has put it before me that things must change.

Not drastic things, at least not in the worldly sense.  Things according to His purpose and His plan.  Last year I tried to answer my problems my way, not His.  I overwhelmed myself and although I sustained it for awhile it eventually crushed me.

I reasoned that I was trying some things out and I was good at this or that so it was easyIMG00134-20110829-1705 to “fit” in to our lives.  My heart did not follow my head.

Now I am back where I was a year ago with the same problems but a new position. ON MY KNEES.  I am dropping some things and focusing on others.  The reward?  Peace and a joyful perspective.

So to recap a few things you missed I will share some pictures.  I also think the blog is looking a bit tired.  New colors perhaps?  I think so too.

Do these guys look bigger?  They sure do to me!

 IMG00136-20110829-1706 IMG00137-20110829-1707 IMG00139-20110829-1709



I did these for a friend.  She still has not received them yet but soon, I hope.






This is why I don’t get more projects done or blogs written.





This is why I by used furniture.






This is why my Blackberry is banned from all little boys and my camera battery is usually dead.



We are down to only 3 dogs!  I know, I know, that is till a lot to some but considering these 3 are calm and obedient it is a huge change.  I have not finished any quilts but soon I will have something to show.  I am in the process of finishing up 1, and 2 are closer than they were a month ago.  That is huge progress, for me.

Thanks for not abandoning me while my life sorted.  More later.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Tablecloth That Survives

Hey, so if you are new here then I will tell you – I have boys.  3 boys to be exact.

I often question my parenting (about every 5 minutes) and why OH why do my boys go at the speed they do.

That being said my goal when decorating or purchasingDSC00948 items for the house is first- WILL IT SURVIVE.

We purchased this table 4 years ago used off Craigslist.  The first thing I LOVED about it was the character from all the cracks.  The second thing I LOVED about it was all the cracks that could conceal scratches and gouging from my boys.  The one thing that bothered me were all the cracks where food and toys could hide.  2 to 1 says it would work for us.

IMG00002-20101211-1624And it has until recently.  It stopped being the primary eating surface and became the school room table.  Then it became the primary area for Lego construction.  Do you know how TINY Lego pieces are?  After the Christmas Lego assembly marathon DH requested that I find a way to cover the cracks.  He was done digging out Lego pieces.

I already had an idea but had put it off because I was lazy forgetful distracted busy with other projects.  My friend, Jackie, had done something similar with her dining table (her picture below by the way).  She flipped hers over and stapled oil cloth to the top (staples underneath).  I loved how it looked but I around_the_house_006KNEW I could never commit to staples.  My mind changes about decorations furniture clothing food everything in the house as quickly as the weather in Texas. (It is really quick just in case you didn’t know)

So I remembered a tablecloth my grandmother had made for her card game nights and thought it would work perfectly.  It was fitted with elastic so when Granny’s friends got crazy with Bridge or Canasta the table didn’t get scratched.  Those ladies a serious about their cards.

Of course I did not account for the slippery fabric and my desire to never work with it again as I fought it through the sewing machine.  However, this was probably due to my older sewing machine that is wonderful but not made to push through moody uncooperative oil cloth fabric.  So if you are over and look close at the tablecloth please don’t think I was doing Tequila shots and trying to sew.  I wasn’t.  I promise. 

But even after all that it turned out great.

So if you are interested here is the HOW TO:

First, I measured the table and added about 4-5 inches on both sides (length and width).  I used inch wide elastic because I had it from some other project and didn’t want to buy more.  If you are using smaller elastic (which would work fine) you won’t need 4 inches added around.  My 4 inches was the width of the elastic x’s 2 + the distance from the edge of the table to where I wanted the cloth to be under that edge plus 1/2 inch for seam allowance (1/2+ 2 + 2 inches=4 1/2).

DSC00949I also like to add inches according to my sewing skills+the machine+the propensity to make errors=1/2 yard for me.  The best and cheapest selections of oil cloth seem to be online.  I found this at Hancock Fabrics that was $20/yd and used a 50% off coupon.  Then I found some online for $6/yd. Grrrrrrrr

Next, flip your fabric over (pretty side down) and place on table as you want it to look.  DSC01073Then lightly trace all the way around where you want the seam to be while holding the table cloth in place (heavy books, baby in a car seat, lazy cat would work too).  Add 4 1/2 inches (or your number) and trim excess fabric.  Scissors will be fine for the trimming.  Perfectionists can use a rotary cutter and ruler.

If your table is wider than the width of the bolt (mine was almost too wide) you will need to cut two pieces the length of the table and sew them together to get enough for the width.  So keep in mind that you will have a seam in the middle.  That will affect the pattern and I would not have chosen this fabric if that was the case.  I would have gone stripey to conceal the line.  Just a thought!

This next part requires someone who can hold a piece of elastic still while you pull on it.  I do not recommend 5 year olds. They do not have the attention span for it and may let the elastic go and giggle hysterically when it hits you in the face.  Then repeat it for their brothers.

Now, I only put elastic on my rounded sides.  If your table is completely round you may want to do the whole thing.  If it is square, just the corners with 4 different pieces of elastic. If you are a better sewer/crafter than me go with your gut.  I don’t know what I am doing most days.

So have your reliable helper hold the elastic at your designated spot.  You will do the DSC01080same thing on the other end so going halves works well (see above for square tables).  Now gently pull and mark where you want the other end to stop.  This is just half the table (or a 1/4 if you are square).  Now go do this on the other end/corner of the table.  For the right angled bunch you will do this 3 more times.

NOTE: You are not trimming the extra elastic right now.  Mark the starting and stopping points with PINS and trim the elastic with about 10 extra inches.  This is important because you have to adjust it once the table cloth is sewn, but not the elastic.  K?

DSC01081Now (after your pins are marking the spots) begin folding the table cloth to the line and pinning in place.  Rounded edges definitely need LOTS of pins if you don’t want to say mean words to your sewing machine later.  (I apologized afterward)

For those who have never worked with elastic (i.e. me) you are not putting it in at this point.  That comes later.

Walk proudly to your sewing machine because you used so many pins and try to sew a 1/4-1/2 inch seam.  See how well I did?  Don’t you feel better about yourself now? 


Remember to leave an opening at both ends.  You will finish sewing after the elastic is in and sewn in place.  Remember the pin you put in place to mark the elastic places?  STOP SEWING THERE.

And sew the other side the same way.

Now find a GIANT NEEDLE or something similar.  This is what I used.  No, I have no idea DSC01302where I got it.  My grandmother gave me a box of sewing stuff with an old machine like 20 years ago.  I kept most of it and gotta say this needle freaks me out just a bit.  I am happy it was finally used for something normal (not to imply I used it for anything abnormal).

Anyway, go get some strong thread/yarn for your freaky needle, thread it (if you can’t thread that stop what you are doing and go to the optometrist now), and poke it through one end of your elastic like so (see DSC01304picture).  Tie it on like a rope.  I used regular thread about 4 times over.

If you don’t have a giant needle you just need something long, thin, and straight (pencil size) that you can tie to your elastic so you can work it through the hem you just made.  Get creative.  You can do it.

Now work the needle through the hem slowly, pulling your elastic through.  Be sure to pin the elastic in place at the beginning and end of the hem.  Do this for both ends.  Now go put it on the table to see how it fits. 

It will be a bit of a struggle.  I needed to put something heavy on one end when it got on the pull the other end on tightly.  Here is where your pull your elastic tighter or loosen it based on the fit.

If you are pulling on it like you did those jeans in 1986 then you may want to let it out a bit.  If it lays there like a regular table cloth it isn’t tight enough.

Once the elastic is where you want it go sew it in place.  Just go over the end about 3 or 4 times and trim the excess.  Repeat for the other side.  Now hem up the remaining edges and get it on your table.

Smile and look with joy on your new tablecloth that will survive snacks, Legos, hot wheel races, cookie decorating, quilt class, glitter glue, stickers, crayons, frogs, caterpillars, misbehaved dogs, laundry day, etc.


Linked up over at WFMW

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Tackle It Tuesday
Tackle It Tuesday Meme

Thursday, April 14, 2011

A small break for updates

Hey wonderful readers! I am taking a small break to polish the page and write some needed items. I realized with the increase in traffic I had better get my ducks in a row.

I also want to get cheesecake information up for customers and I am a little behind in the html code department. So rest assured things will be up and running with wonderful new recipes, projects, and general boy wackiness to brighten your day soon.

Much Love,
Sgt. Zapple

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Cheesecake Saturday–Kamilah’s Turtle Cheesecake


I dedicate this one to you Kamilah.  Thanks for the inspiration.

My sweet friend Kamilah asked for cheesecake lessons and I happily obliged.  I will use any excuse to make cheesecake.  When I asked her which one she wanted to make she said Turtle Cheesecake.  Well I have never made one and didn’t have a recipe.

We all know my aversion to candy bars in my cheesecake.  I want cheesecake to taste like a cheesecake, not a candy bar, or ice cream toppings.  If I want any of those desserts I will pop out to the store or the ice cream shop to get them.  But please don’t put them on my cheesecake.

My search of the internet was met with disappointment.  My opinions on cheesecake seem to be confined to only a few.  I have spoken to those of you who agree with me.  I know you are out there you just apparently don’t post recipes on the internet.

After I regrouped I decided to begin with the same crust as the Caramel Pecan Cheesecake a few weeks ago. DSC01084 The chopped pecans in the bottom are a revelation.  I love those wonderful bits of yumminess.  I did add a teaspoon of vanilla to enhance the flavor of the cookies on the second go around. They needed something.

The new and fun ingredient is the caramel that I decided to use.  This I cannot take credit for because it came from my husband’s grandmother.  I have no idea where she learned it but it is a fantastic short cut.  What she used it in is a sore spot between my husband and I which pretty much started me down the road of difficult desserts.  Totally different blog post.

Where was I?

Oh yea!  This.

Boil one can of sweetened condensed milk, the brand does not matter. (You can do 4 or 5 at once with paper off please) Boil steadily, submerged (water over the top) for 4 to 5 hours.  Do not put more cans than can be comfortably surrounded by water.  This will change the boiling time.  Check the pot every 1/2 hour to make sure the water is still above the tops of the cans.  When it drops below then pour in more water.  After 4 or 5 hours (not an exact number here folks) turn off the heat and let the pot sit there.  Really don’t touch it.  Don’t get excited and try to open the can.  It will explode hot caramel stuff all over and potentially burn you.  LEAVE IT ALONE! Got it?

Okay, after the cans cooled to room temperature dry them off and set them aside.  Because they have been boiled and remain sealed in the can they can go back in your pantry for months.  I don’t want to say years because I am not sure but I have had some for over a year and my mom has too.

(Please keep in mind that this actually takes an entire day just to get the caramel stuff ready. As I often repeat to myself late late late late at night waiting for one to cool – Cheesecake is NOT a DSC01240last minute dessert.) 

Anyway, it comes out all gooey, thick, and caramelized.  It is quite rich and not too sweet so perfect for me.

Next, take small dollops and place evenly and carefully on the bottom of the crust.  This is difficult because it is sticky and doesn’t want to come off your spatula.  It also wants to stick to the crust.  This clingy co-dependent attitude from the yummy goo only serves to rip your beautiful crust apart.  I prefer not to enable so small dollops pushed off with another spoon evenly spread about. Then short one directional (no back and forth) strokes with an offset spatula to smooth it out a bit.  It takes some patience but it will spread.  Trust me.  Reserve a 2 tablespoons for the batter.

(I will say that I think it needs a little more caramel.  I am going to add 2 cans to the next cheesecake.  First to thicken the bottom layer and second to enrich the caramel flavor in the cheesecake.  Still it is not too sweet, rich but not sweet.)

The batter comes together just like the New York Cheesecake.  It is the Junior’s Cheesecake Recipe, not mine.  But it is quite basic and useful.


4 blocks of Philadelphia Cream Cheese (full fat, room temperature)

1/4 cup cornstarch

1 2/3 cups of sugar

1 tablespoon Vanilla

2 eggs

3/4 cup Heavy Whipping Cream

8 oz. Bittersweet chocolate

2 tablespoons of caramel (See recipe above)

Mix together for at least 3 minutes, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl, 1 block of cream cheese, cornstarch, and 1/3 cup of sugar.  After it is thoroughly mixed beginning adding remaining cream cheese one block at a time, scraping down the sides after each block. (The scraping is very important, don’t skip this please)

Next add the remaining sugar, slowly, with more scraping.  Then add vanilla and eggs, one at a time, scraping after each one.

Finally add the heavy cream.  Do not over mix, just stir in until combined.

This next bit is mine:

Now divide the batter in half into two bowls.  Add the remaining caramel to one half, stir until combined.  There will still be a few chunks which is fine, you just want a little caramel flavor.

Melt the chocolate using a double boiler (glass bowl over gently boiling water on stove top).  Let cool a few minutes.  Then combine with batter in second bowl. 

You can also use the microwave to melt the chocolate.  1 minute on high. I like the shake the bowl so I am not actually stirring the chocolate to test for meltiness.  Add 30 seconds until melted, removing after each to see if it is melted.  It rarely takes more than 2 minutes.

Now spoon chocolate batter into the crust, smooth with an offset spatula.  Then gently spoon the caramel batter on top of the chocolate layer and smooth.

DSC01157Now it is time for the water bath and baking.  (The water bath is an entirely different post, next week.)

Bake at 350 for 1 hour 15 minutes.  Convection ovens do change how it will bake.  If you can turn that off then please do.

When the time is up simply remove the cheesecake and let it sit on the countertop.  Do not touch it or try to check if it is done.  Remove it from the water bath/foil and just walk away.  Once it is cooled to room temperature move it to the refrigerator.  It is still in the springform pan at this point.  Do not take that off.  Let it cool for at least 6 hours or better still overnight.

After that gently remove the springform sides by gently running a knife around the outside and unlatching it.  Then remove carefully. 

Now you can pull it out for the decorating.  This is not necessary but it does look good. 

Melt bittersweet chocolate, about 5 ounces (microwave or double boiler, your choice), and put into pastry bag with a narrow tip.  It doesn’t matter the shape because the melted chocolate will not hold a shape.  It is melted.  It just needs to be narrow.  Now quickly, and I mean quickly, make lines about a 1/2 inch apart.  Go back and forth, making your turns while your tip is off the cheesecake.  I do this on a sheet pan and then transfer the finished product to the cake plate or box for transport later.  This way the mess is on the pan, not the cheesecake.  Now go perpendicular to the lines you just made.

You have to do this very quickly.  The chocolate pours out the tip and you can’t stop it.  DSC01154So concentrate and go fast.  Put it back in the refrigerator for an hour to chill the chocolate.

Really, I loved how this turned out.  I will add more caramel because it can take it without being too much.  I also want some more flavor out of that crust.  I know it has more to offer.  But overall a great cheesecake and it does look amazing. 

It also does not taste like a candy bar.

We Are That Family

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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Lessons Learned–Why I Will Never Have A Super Mom Cape

1. Cocktail sausages and strawberries can count as a late dinner.dsc00332

2.  I am my mother’s daughter more and more with each passing day.

3.  I think my mother is a wonderful brilliant woman even if it took me almost 36 years to fully realize it. (Sorry Mom, couldn’t resist using this pic)

4.  You can freeze buttermilk.  My cooking world has opened wide!

5.  I really like to use buttermilk in recipes.

6.  I have been a writer all along.  I just needed to listen to the voices in my head (no not those voices).DSC00595

7.  I get very grumpy when I don’t get to write or quilt.

8.  When I am grumpy I blame my husband for everything even though it is rarely his fault.

DSC012119.  My husband is a very forgiving man.

10. There are only so many hours of the day you can be the pack leader.

11. Being followed by an actual pack every second of the day is exhausting. (Yes, there are 5 dogs in the picture who all live inside with us all day.)

12. I think better when my floors are vacuumed.

13. A West Texas Girl who grew up with big sunsets and wide open spaces needs a GPS on a cloudy tree lined highway in North Carolina no matter how often she has driven the road.

14. My ideas are good.  My ability to implement them is bad.

15. Too many good ideas that whither in the shadow of life can make anyone feel like a failure.DSC00712

16. The best things in my life were never my idea.

We Are That Family

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