Milestone – #100

This is my 100th post here on Life on Olive Street. Five months in and I’m glad I made it this far. It’s a fun way to keep everyone updated about our family, and I like posting and photographing recipes I try.

So while I’m fairly sure that only about 12 people actually read this blog, it’s a lot of fun on my end to document some of our daily life and share our adventures. Some unexpected things turn out to be the most popular. For example, the top post on here is Happy Father’s Day in which Hannah had a meltdown over crushed Oreos. It is also the most commented-on post. It was a moment that Brett and I could have laughed over for a while ourselves, but since I grabbed the camera and published it in the blogosphere, we got to share it and hopefully bring a smile to a lot of other people.

So, thanks for reading! Here’s to the next 100. And stay tuned for a new look.

Visit from Grandpa Dean

Hannah had a blast with her Grandpa Dean for the last few days. It was fun from the moment he pulled up in his turquoise Nissan Cube rental car. Every day, Hannah begged to go drive it.

(it’s hard to take good pictures in the dark with a phone)

My dad tackled some of the household projects we’ve had on the to-do list, and we ate out at some of our favorite spots like Torchy’s Tacos and Moonshine. We also went to Hannah’s favorite spot, Chick-fil-A. We went to the Nature Center, ran fun errands together and wrapped up the time with a Fall Festival at the church where Hannah goes to preschool. The highlight of the festival was definitely the pony rides.

As soon as she saw the horses, it was all she wanted to do. She was quite comfortable riding the pony and was very upset when she had to get off. The rest of the time she was begging for more. Later in the evening, we were going to let her do it again but noticed the line had gotten really long. We decided to give it a shot and were so impressed when she waited in the line for 15 minutes for her turn! She really wanted to ride those horses again. :)

So it was a fun time having my dad here, and now Hannah keeps asking, “Grampa back?”

A “pop”-ular snack

I got in a rut with snack time. Mostly, I was rotating goldfish, raisins and some form of dry cereal. Sometimes, I’d get really crazy and combine all three in a sort of party mix.

Then my friend Meghan showed me how make popcorn, and we are big fans of how cheap, easy and healthy it is. We often have popcorn parties when we get together.

Cheap – I buy organic popcorn kernels from the bulk bins for super cheap, and even just a pound ($1.69) can last a long time. A bag of microwave popcorn (nonorganic) runs around 54 cents, but I can make the same amount for 33 cents. That’s over a 40% savings. Easy – Once I got the process down, it only takes me six minutes and not much effort to have popcorn in our bowls. Healthy – Popcorn is a whole grain, and has fiber, protein and antioxidants. By making it myself instead of using a microwave bag, I’m saving a lot of fat and calories and skipping ingredients like hydrogenated oils, artificial flavorings and too much salt. And by buying organic, I’m avoiding GMO corn.

And did I mention it’s just fun? Hannah loves to help listen for the pops. She and Cody can put down a lot of popcorn. We usually just make it with a little salt, no butter.

Stovetop Popcorn

  • 1 T. canola oil
  • 1/4 c. popcorn kernels
  • salt (optional)
  • melted butter (optional)

Put oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add four kernels to oil. When all four kernels have popped, you know the oil is a good temperature. Add the rest of the kernels and some salt if desired. Put the lid on the pot and shake vigorously (holding lid on) so that kernels are coated evenly in oil. Put back on heat. Shake every 10-15 seconds to keep kernels from burning. When pops have slowed to 1 every 5 seconds, turn off heat. Add melted butter if desired and shake again. Ready to eat!

Austin Nature Center

I recently got a recommendation for the Austin Nature and Science Center, and since my dad is visiting this week, I thought it would be a good time to check it out. We got there a little early and took a stroll down to Lady Bird Lake where Hannah wanted to chase all the strollers, pet all the dogs, run in front of bicycles and jump in the lake.

Meghan and Cody met us there, so we loaded up the Bobs and headed up the switchbacks to the Nature Center entrance.

We were glad for the strollers because it was a fair distance and would have taken a long time for little legs. The inside of the Nature Center has a hands-on room with skulls, feathers, rocks, bones, horns, turtle shells and fur. The two-year-olds didn’t think this was very interesting.

Outside, there were animals that are native to Central Texas. Nothing exotic but a good up-close look at regional wildlife – bobcat, coyote, foxes, skunk, etc. There was also a building with local reptiles and amphibians. The fish and turtles were the biggest hits with the kids. Back outside, we went through the “Bird of Prey” area which had a few hawks and owls. There were four species of owls which I think is more than you usually see at a zoo.

The kids’ favorite part came at the end – the Dino Pit. Basically, this is the world’s awesomest sand box. It is HUGE and full of shovels, brushes and fake dinosaur bones.

What do we do first?

Two shovels!!

She loved pouring the sand on her feet

Let's wave our shovels and giggle!

Best sandbox ever

Getting worn out

Group project - put sand on the wall

I could see that the Nature Center is going to be more fun when Hannah is older, but there was a lot she was able to enjoy now. And it’s all FREE! We were there for an hour and a half, so it was a fun morning activity in our (finally) fall weather.

Night out for a cause

My cousin Jenny and her family who live in Austin are faithful supporters of pro-life activities. For the last several years, they have invited us to join their table at the annual Texas Alliance for Life dinner and program. This year, everything worked out and we were able to finally go!

We finally found a babysitter we LOVE, so we left Hannah in her capable hands, dressed up and hit the town. The dinner was at the downtown Hilton, very nice. We were surprised how many people were there – almost 1500! We enjoyed meeting the others at the table, and the basil butter for the rolls was seriously tasty.

There were many politicians there who all got introduced by name (with a special note if they are up for re-election). I was kind of interested in possibly seeing Rick Perry, but apparently he was off doing a debate or something.

The speaker for the event was Lila Rose who is only 23 and started Live Action, a pro-life group geared toward teens and college students. As she said, with a growing national interest in social justice and human rights, more teens are identifying themselves as pro-life because they want to protect and speak out for the most vulnerable humans, the voiceless unborn. Lila Rose was introduced by Abby Johnson, a former Planned Parenthood director who became pro-life after watching an abortion on an ultrasound and having no doubt that was a baby fighting for its life.

Texas was one of the first states to de-fund Planned Parenthood by prioritizing funding for groups that offer a wider range of medical services such as community health centers. They also announced a pro-life, pro-adoption license plate that will be released in November – you’ll be seeing one on my car, for sure!

The pro-life “movement” is close to my heart because I am in a family of adoptees. My husband and my daughter, as unplanned pregnancies, would have been labeled by many as inconvenient, unwanted and disposable. I am thankful each day that their courageous birthmothers opted against what is culturally acceptable and chose life for the babies that are now my family.

Wild West Fest

This morning we headed about 20 miles west to Dripping Springs for their Wild West Fest. They had kids’ activities, rodeo events, booths and food cook-offs for chili, salsa and pie. This is not a huge event, just enough to keep our little family entertained for just the right amount of time.

And lunch! My Frito pie had homemade chili and queso, and Brett’s BBQ sandwich had been smoked right next to the concession booth.

My lunch - Coke and Frito pie, soooo good!


Brett had a BBQ sandwich and Hannah had a hot dog. We watched horse events while eating.


She got to "help" take the donkey on an obstacle course.


Time to brush the donkeys.


All the donkeys were so gentle and laid-back.


These little boots got some Texas dust on them today.

This was a really fun family activity. Hannah loved seeing all the animals, and all the teenage girls who helped with everything (probably 4Hers) were so sweet with her. It was very affordable, too – parking, activities and lunch all totaled $20. I think we’ll put it on the calendar for next year, too.

This week in iPhone pics

Sorry I’ve been slow in posting lately. Here are a few pictures from the last week to show what we’ve been up to.

Grandma Joyce came to visit. We went to the Austin Zoo and she showed Hannah how to feed the animals.

Then Hannah tried feeding the animals by herself. That was exciting!

Hanging out with Cody, playing duets.

Beautiful eggplant from the farmer's market.

Mum’s the word

I have an ongoing struggle with my not-so-green thumb. But in the interest of livening up our front porch, I got a mum and figured I’d enlist Hannah to help water, potentially increasing its chance at survival.

Planting the flower was a fun morning activity.

First, make room in the pot

It's fun to dig in the dirt

Then, put the flower in

Don't forget to water

Dinner tonight – Fancy acorn squash

We picked up some acorn squash at the Farmers Market – this is one of Brett’s fall favorites. I usually just roast it as a side dish with melted butter and brown sugar. This time, I decided to find a more exciting recipe and use it as a vegetarian main dish. After all, acorn squash is a bit of a seasonal splurge, so we should make it the star of the meal!

There are a lot of stuffed squash recipes to be found, but one stood out with simple ingredients and a unique concept – Roasted Corn Pudding in Acorn Squash. It was easy to make and quite delicious. There is supposed to be cheese sprinkled on top according to the recipe, but I didn’t have any and I’d skip it next time, too.

I served it with garlic toast, and it was a very filling dinner. I also saved energy by cooking it all in the toaster oven. The two halves of the squash fit perfectly.

Cowgirl Hannah

We have a little cowgirl. Brett’s parents outfitted our little Texas girl for her birthday. She now has some real boots, several horse shirts and even a horse to ride.

She loves it! I asked her what the horse’s name is, and she said, “Force” which is her word for horse. She rides it all around the house. Yeehaw!

Hospitality to-go

Before Hannah was born, I had some friends offer to set up a calendar for people to bring meals for the first few weeks. I told them that since I wasn’t actually giving birth, I thought I’d really be fine and I didn’t want to impose on anyone. Luckily, they convinced me to let them set up the calendar for a couple meals per week. And wow, were they right! I may not have been physically recovering from giving birth, but with the sleep deprivation, the lifestyle changes and the stream of visitors (which we were also very thankful for), it was such a blessing to not have to plan and cook a meal every night.

Having been the grateful recipient of meals showing up on my doorstep, I make a sincere effort to “pay it forward” and to sign up to take meals to others. Our church uses the CareCalendar website (if you are not familiar with it, it’s amazing). I sign up on an open day, and it sends me email reminders.

Then there’s always the question – what do I take? On the CareCalendar, I look at the meals around my day to see what others are planning. If the person two days before me is taking chicken spaghetti, I don’t want to take chicken spaghetti. I would probably even choose something with beef to have some variety.

There are some people at the church who are faithful in delivering meals, and they have a signature dish – Brenda apparently has some amazing roast chicken. I like to mix it up depending on the other meals, so I don’t think I’ve actually taken the same meal twice. Some meals in the past:

  • homemade macaroni and cheese with ham and broccoli
  • baked spaghetti – sides of salad and garlic bread with muffins for the next morning
  • rotisserie chicken ($5 from Costco) – with homemade sides of mac and cheese, zucchini gratin and apple cake
  • stuffed shells with meat sauce – with salad and garlic bread, also cookie dough for whenever
  • breakfast for dinner – hashbrown casserole (that’s a breakfast item here in Texas), sausage, pumpkin muffins and fruit
  • enchiladas – sides of spanish rice and bean and corn salad
  • taco night – with chips, spanish rice, black beans and cookie dough

Most recently, I went with a dish I was introduced to here in Texas – King Ranch Chicken Casserole. I found a “healthified” version online that is easy to make and is quite tasty. I did the chicken breasts in the slow cooker then just mixed the ingredients and baked it.

One of my other meal-taking tricks – if there are two different families in need of meals in the same month, I sign up for the same day or one day apart. That way I can make the same meal times three and we all get to eat with one meal’s worth of work. So there was a lot of King Ranch Casserole going on.

I’m looking forward to winter when I can do some soups because of their easy packability. One of our favorite meals that was delivered to us was the Chicken Verde Soup.

I think it’s good to have several options of go-to to-go meals because of the variety of dietary needs. Someone doesn’t like onions, someone doesn’t like spicy food, some family doesn’t eat beef, one family is totally vegetarian, another is gluten-free. Bring it on! My kitchen has seen a lot of different meals, and I’m sure I’ve got one to fit.

Now that I’m fairly confident in planning meals to take, I should take the extra step and have meals in the freezer ready for a need. I have several meals for our family in the freezer, but they are un-glamorously stashed in gallon bags with Sharpie scrawls across the front indicating the contents (or not, sometimes it’s a mystery). It wouldn’t be hard to have at least one meal in a decent, take-able form for instant hospitality to-go.

So I don’t have it perfected yet, but I hope these ideas may encourage you to help out a family who needs a cooking break. It’s not difficult and it will be immensely appreciated.

I could always use more ideas – what are your favorite portable meals?