Motherhood

Handsome Ben 1My Sweet Son, Ben

This is my wonderful, sweet, loving, smart, and handsome boy…and I love him with all my heart!

I remember the day the doctor told me I was pregnant…just a few weeks along but it was official. I had only been married about 6 weeks and I was in a state of shock. I couldn’t believe how blessed we were. It was the best thing that had ever happened to me and my husband (of course, aside from finding each other and getting married!). We were both thrilled…and when I gave birth at the “advancing” age of 40 (my OB/GYN called it a geriatric pregnancy!), we welcomed our son, Benjamin, into the world. He’s been a real joy to raise and has developed into quite the charming gentleman…just like his Dad!

Ben…always the adventurer

Ben at age 12

Love,
Mary

Finding Forever Homes for Loving Dogs

“K-9 Kids” of Austin Dog Alliance and the Humane Society of Williamson County teamed up last summer to find forever homes for loving dogs.

Hi Sweet Friends,

Those of you who know me well, also know about my passion for dogs.  I love them unconditionally and simply can’t live without  them.  As I’m fond of saying, “Every outfit looks better with a little dog hair on it!” ;-)

When I was about five years old, my parents let me pick out my first dog, a Boston Terrier named Bridget.  She was a homeless dog from our community’s  SPCA animal shelter.  It was love at first site and I have been in love with dogs ever since.

Over the course of my life, all my dogs have been rescued dogs.  Certainly all dogs are wonderful, but I have a very special place in my heart for the homeless dogs of the world.

Homeless dogs have a little something special about them.  You can see it in their eyes when you first  meet them.  It starts with just a little bit of a twinkle.  But as anyone who has ever rescued a dog knows, it’s that look that begs, “Are you the ONE?” Will you take me home?”

Oh those eyes!

When you respond with that smile, that hug, that “Yes! Yes! Yes!”, their eyes burst forth with unconditional love and gratitude for providing them with a forever home.  A look that they give you every day of their life, until their life on this earth ends and they return home to be nurtured in the loving arms of St. Francis, patiently waiting until they will be reunited with you in heaven.

So if you ever have the chance to provide a loving forever home to a homeless dog, I hope you will.  You will be so glad you did! :-)

So in that vein, I wanted to share the adorable video from last summer which is at the top of this post.  It’s of the “K-9 Kids” of Austin Dog Alliance filming Public Service Announcements to help find homes for dogs who were living at the Humane Society of Williamson County.

At about the 23 second mark of the video, you might have recognized a familiar face…it was my sweet son, Ben. :-)

And for those of you who know Ben well, you know that he has inherited my gene for a passion for dogs!  He loves them unconditionally and can’t live without them.  His favorite saying is, “Every boy needs a dog…and a mom who will let him have one!”  Good thing that God paired the two of us together. ;-)

Over the years, Ben has participated in many fantastic summer programs at Austin Dog Alliance and has also attended a number of dog training classes with our sweet dog Obi-Wan.

Ben and Obi-Wan

If you’re not familiar with Austin Dog Alliance, it’s a wonderful organization.   They offer a myriad of services including all sorts of dog training classes covering both basic and pet therapy training, summer camps for kids and their dogs, (Yes, our dog Obi-Wan has gone to camp there, too!) and their world-class program “Special Dogs for Special Needs.”

Our own sweet “rescued” girl, “Obi-Wan”

So if you live in Austin or the surrounding area, be sure to check out Austin Dog Alliance.  It’s a great place!

Well, I’m off to start my day…to hug my son and our dog :-) but before I go, I want to share this with you.  It’s an inspiring story about second chances for man and dog alike…

Have a wonderful day! :-)

Love,
Mary
Wife, Mother & Defender of Dogs

Tuscany in the Texas Hill Country

Trattoria Lisina – Tuscany in the Texas Hill Country
“Le selle la notte sono grandi e luminose nel cuone profodo del Texas.”*

Good Morning Sweet Friends,

I wanted to share with you today about a lovely restaurant  we have here in the Texas Hill Country … Trattoria Lisina.  My family and I recently celebrated my birthday here enjoying a delicious Sunday dinner in a most delightful setting.

Over the last ten years or so, many new restaurants and wineries  have popped all over the Hill Country and Trattoria Lisina and the adjacent Duchman Winery standout as real stars.

Costolette di Agnello alla Griglia
Texas grass fed lamb chops grilled over oak & pecan, with a reduced balsamic glaze, peperonata & Parmigiano garlic mashed potatoes.  Absolutely delicious!

My Handsome Husband

“Thank you for the wonderful birthday celebration, Honey!  I love you soooooooooo much!!”

Ben with his Grandparents (My Folks)

My Beautiful and Sweet Mom (she’s 87!…shhhh don’t tell anyone) along with my Dad…you’d never guess that dapper cowboy is a former New Yorker!

Grandma and Ben heading over a lovely little bridge that leads to the winery.  I love to see how sweetly Ben walks with his grandmother arm in arm.  Hard to believe he is already close to a head taller than her!

The Vineyard

If you have the chance to visit the Texas Hill Country someday…and I hope you will…be sure to put this restaurant on your list as a must visit.  You’ll be glad you did. :-)

Enjoy!

Love,
Mary
*And if you haven’t already guessed … “Le selle la notte sono grandi e luminose nel cuone profodo del Texas” translates…”The stars at night are big and bright deep in the heart of Texas.” ;-)   This sweet verse from the famous song – extolling the beauty of the Texas night sky – is written on the placemats at Trattoria Lisina.

And So It Continues … Getting the Garden Ready for Spring

Ben planting onions

Good Morning Friends,

As I shared with you previously, my son, Ben, and I continue to work in our garden getting it ready for spring.

We planted some basil, lettuce, onions, and leeks.  Unfortunately, right after we got everything in, a cold snap came through central Texas dropping temperatures below freezing and even sending a bit of sleet!

We figured the onions would be fine, but we covered the basil, lettuce, and leeks with large pickle buckets.  Everything survived the night. :-)

Basil

We started placing our stepping stones in the garden to create a walking path

Our beloved, albeit cracked, “Welcome” sign

In a bad storm, St. Francis fell over and cracked the sign but he’s steady on his feet today! :-)

Overall, we’ve had a mild winter and one of the pepper plants survived and is still producing!

A gift from my parents

Flocked by Italian Flat Leaf Parsley

Obi enjoys lying in the fresh mulch and getting a good scratch behind the ears from her boy.

Next up, we’ll be putting in our tomatoes and also trying our hand at some potatoes that we’ve been sprouting in our kitchen.  We’ll keep you posted on our progress!

Love,
Mary

Happy Valentine’s Day

Dear Sweet Friends and Readers,

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Now that’s a smile!

Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier.  Be the living expression of God’s kindness:  Kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, and kindness in your smile.  We shall never  know all the good that a simple smile can do.”

Blessed Mother Teresa

I was pleasantly surprised the other day when I opened a letter  – a Valentine – that came in the mail to me.  On the card inside, were the beautiful words above.  They were sent to me from a sweet friend who truly lives by them…always with a smile on her face…and her heart and home open to others.

Happy Valentine’s Day to my Sweet Husband…
I Love You, Honey!

Have a wonderful day!

Love,
Mary

Come Visit with Me Today at Reluctant Entertainer

Good Morning Sweet Friends & Readers,

Come join me today at Reluctant Entertainer!

I have wonderful news to share with you.  Today, I am guest posting at the delightful blog Reluctant Entertainer written by Sandy Coughlin – one of the nicest women I know.  Sandy’s blog – as the name implies – guides all us “reluctant entertainers” to become more comfortable about opening our homes – and our hearts – to family and friends.

Once you start reading Sandy’s blog – as well as her book by the same name – you will be delighted by her encouraging and gentle tone.  It’s like a warm and loving hug from a sister.  And that’s just how I feel about her!  I’m confident that as you get to know Sandy, you will grow to love her just as I have!

“From Fussy Washington Attorney to Hill Country Hostess”…Come read my guest post at Reluctant Entertainer

Enjoy!

Love,
Mary

What a Difference a Day Makes … The Texas Sky

Good Morning Friends,

We have a busy day ahead of us but I wanted to share two pictures with you of a glimpse of the sky outside my kitchen doors.

The other day I caught a glimpse of this as I was cleaning up the dinner dishes.

Come morning, things were quite different…

A cool, foggy morning

Last winter was unusually cold for us in the Hill Country with some nights dipping below the zero mark!  This year has been mix of cold days and warm days creating some interesting foggy mornings.

This week is quite cool…about 42 degrees as I type this, but it’s been great weather for getting our planting done.  I’ll share more pictures tomorrow of our gardening progress.

Have a great day.

Love,
Mary

And So It Begins … Getting the Garden Ready for Spring

My herb garden as it looks today…needs lots of work.

Last week, I started the winter clean-up around our property to prepare for our early spring plantings.  Here in central Texas, the weather is fairly mild in the winter  – with a few cold snaps here and there (just enough to kill lots of plants) – and the summers are scorchers – topping over 100 degrees –  so our “spring” planting comes fairly early in the season.

The Italian Oregano which is along the “barn” garage wall has survived fairly well through our winter but everything else isn’t looking so great. The weather wasn’t the only factor…more about that later…

The flowering trees have been pruned back and the beds mulched.

St. Francis greets us along the garden path.

Obi investigates the yucca branches intruding upon her newly mulched “bed”!

As you can see from the pictures above, everything needs to be fenced or walled off if we have any hope of growing things to be harvested.  The reason?…We certainly must have more deer in our town than people!

I’ve also been saving egg shells to fill with dirt and use for seed plantings.  Once we get a sprout of a seedling, we can put the whole thing in the ground, shell and all.

I have hopes of planting some squash this year along with my usual cherry tomatoes and Italian plum tomatoes.  I’d also like to try a few other things, just haven’t decided on what yet – – – plus I need to do some research as to what will do well in our climate.  I’m thinking, too, of planting a peach tree.  They grow beautifully in the Hill Country.  The Fredericksburg area is famous for them.

In addition to my veggies, I’d like to grow lots of my usual herbs…oregano, basil, thyme, chives, sage, and more.  I love growing a wide variety of basils for making pesto, basil mayonnaise…and just using it in all sorts of dishes.  Yum!


Basil picked from our garden last year.

Basil we picked last year at Sweet Berry Farm in Marble Falls which was later turned into…

Basil Pesto Spread…I added a little less oil to make it thicker to use as a spread on slices of baguette. Out of this world delicious!

After a hard days work in our herb garden! ;-)

My son, Ben, and I have been working on making some garden stepping stones to add to others we’ve made in previous years.  We’re hoping to make enough to complete and entire path for the herb garden.

The stone in the middle was made when Ben was younger…the one to the left when he was older.  I just love seeing the changes.  So sweet!  (The one on the right was made by his obsessive-compulsive mother…who has an extreme need for symmetry! ;-) )

“Talk” with you again soon, my sweet friends.

Love,
Mary

Roast Chicken & Clementines

This time of year I just adore stocking up on clementines. I buy them by the box full and use them in almost everything I cook. And nothing goes to waste – I use the zest, the pulp, and the juice.

Last week when I was preparing our Chinese New Year’s dinner, I decided to roast a chicken.  As I’ve shared with you in the past, my husband is of part Chinese ancestry, so I like to honor his cultural heritage keeping his childhood traditions alive both for him and our son, by celebrating Chinese New Year.

Now getting back to the chicken…For those of you who know me, the fact that I’m roasting a chicken (yet again, Mary?)  will come as no a surprise.  I love roasting whole chickens…and just cooking with them in general.

In any event, once again, getting back to this chicken (I can be a terrible “digress-er”)…I propped her up on a beer can which was filled half with beer and half with the juice from about six clementines.  Next, I rubbed the chicken with a bit of softened butter then sprinkled it with a Chinese spice blend that included black and white sesame seeds,  garlic powder (yes, very retro but coming back into favor thanks to the fried chicken recipe in Bon Apetite Magazine this month), ground ginger, red pepper flakes, and just a touch of turmeric.  Then I topped it all off with a good dose of the clementine zest.

I tossed the used clementines into the roasting pan, added a bit of water, put a small foil tent* over the very top of the chicken, then popped the whole thing in a 450 degree pre-heated oven.  Within an hour my family and I were enjoying a succulent bird imbibed with the delicate citrus flavor from the clementines.  Just delicious!

Enjoy!

Love,
Mary

*I have a very small oven, and when a chicken is propped upright, the top of the chicken is almost touching the roof of my oven, so I tend to tent the chicken with foil. If you have a large oven, you may not need to do this.