Still Alive(ish)

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Gentle Reader,

The last 24 hours haven’t been pretty around here.  Without getting into gory details, allow me to make two observations:

1.  People who clean up after other people, whether for monetary remuneration or not, are all WOEFULLY UNDERPAID.  WOEFULLY.  Give your mama or your SO or your housecleaner (or all three) a big hug and say, “Thank you”.  Unless you are currently germy and in which case they don’t want your lovin’.

2.  All food is now completely dead to me, forever.

I’m going to go back to bed and watch “Weeds” now.



TV Thursday

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Gentle Reader,

After a fairly wine-intensive few weeks, let’s talk TELEVISION!

We’ve reached the point in the summer when I need my shows.  Cooking competitions, lo, even those featuring my favorite Scotsman, have faded and now the remaining contestants are either jerks or not my favorites.  (Cutter MUST GO.  NOW.  Nothing redeeming about him whatsoever.)  I’ve marathon-watched my standby sitcoms, and we still have two months until new programming appears on the horizon.  And that’s not including those shows that toy with me and don’t premiere when they should.

Fortunately, one of the advantages of my Herculean television-watching is that I have a backlog of shows at any given time that I just didn’t have time to get to during the season, and for whatever reason got held until summer.  So here’s what I’m watching this week (other than my normal summer pabulum):

(Seriously.  Cutter?  Pull his toenails out.  Because that’s what I feel like doing Every.  Single.  Time.  Homeslice is up there for a pressure challenge.  Arrogant.)

Rectify:  I watched season one when it first came out, and LOVED IT.  I know there was criticism of the…unambitious pace, the detailed character development, but I loved it.  But when season two premiered this summer, I didn’t have the chance to watch it right away, and I had really kind of forgotten about season one.  So I am rewatching season one before I dive into season two.  I’m glad I am, because I am picking up on some nuances that I had missed first time around.  Supposedly, season two was to up the plot pace quite a bit, I have no idea.  Anybody have comment?

Sherlock, Series Three:  I missed this one while I was in Russia.  And I will say that I HEARTED the first two eps of the season.  The wedding?  Benedict Cumberbatch can…toast me…ANY TIME.  But, we watched “His Last Vow” last night, and we looked at each other and said, “HUH??”  Eventually, we finished our glass of wine and then called it and went to bed.  Can someone help me and give me a frame of reference for rewatching this episode and appreciating it?  (It might have a bit to do with the fact that fifteen minutes in, even I got tired of just drooling over Mr. Blue Eyes and started crushing candies.)  Pro tip:  If the dialogue moves too fast for you, turn on the closed-captioning!  A genius hack taught to me by my cousin, S.

True Detective:  We watched this one until “The Secret Fate of All Life”, and then we got busy and didn’t get back to it, so after a few weeks, I had forgotten a lot of the details.  And I think this is a show that really lies in the details.   So I’m re-watching it.  And I am so glad I did.  For one thing, I’ve always loved Matthew McConaughey (I’m from the Great Republic, I am contractually obligated) but the last few years, the boy has proven he can ACT.  He continues that trend, here.  Really excellent television.  However, in this show, Woody Harrelson talks like he has just started chewing (tobacco) and he can’t figure out how to keep it from flying out of his lip when he talks.  Any good Louisiana Native Son knows how to do this instinctively, and therefore this is distracting.

-Masters of *** (I’m not going to have the blog pop up in any searches…that would lead to both disappointment for the searcher and a bad reputation for my blog.):  On Showtime.  I think this show is OUTSTANDING.  Nope, it’s not safe watching for the airplane or public transit. (Unless you don’t care what other people are thinking about you, and in which case?  Bravo, confident person, but please turn that off in front of my young people.  They ask a LOT of persistent questions.)  But it is BEAUTIFUL.  Sets, costumes (they are, in fact, clothed for the vast majority of the show), hair and makeup, gorgeous.  And while I haven’t reached the spot in this show where I notice the writing and character development instead of the physical parts of the show (like I did almost instantly with a certain show featuring a certain chemistry teacher), it’s snappily-told and really more of a reflection of just how superb the design of the show is rather than the lack of story elements contained therein.

Sleepy Hollow:  I watched the first ep of this show, and kinda liked it, but got busy doing other things, and never really went back.  So I tabled it until the summer.  I now realize this was a mistake, and it will be in my appointment viewing this fall.  I don’t usually go for men with long hair and beards.  Ichabod Crane changes that.  (Also, it has a plot and fun special effects, it’s not like I just watch it for the pretty.)

And then four from the “I missed them the first time” file.

Boston Legal:  Because I needed more James Spader in my life.  Though I will admit that Betty White STEALS THIS.  She is A TREASURE in this role.  (Who am I kidding?  The woman is a TREAT in all of her roles.)  I’m still on Season One.  Ridiculous, unrealistic, but unapologetically awesome.  Denny Crane.

Good Wife:  I’m watching this one because I’ve read several articles that essentially call this “The Best Show That You Aren’t Watching”.  And they point out that Alan Cumming and Nathan Lane are in the cast now, and that’s all the show needs to sell me on the idea.  But I have a fun personality trait whereby I cannot just drop in on a show mid-run and catch up as I watch.  So I’m in Season One.  And I’m hoping that Chris Noth takes a full-time job doing ANYTHING ELSE besides this show, because I just don’t care for him.  I’m sure he’s a lovely person and has way more talent as an actor than I, but maybe it’s just that I’ve never liked any of the characters he plays.

The Tudors:  Jonathan Rhys Meyers.  I rest my case.  (Also, am I the only one who did a little cheer at the end of season two?  I never thought of Anne Boleyn as an unlikeable twit before, but clearly I was wrong.)

Weeds:  I’m still in the middle of this series, in season 5.  At the beginning of season 4, I thought that the show was definitely on the downhill due to the fact that Agrestic was no longer the center of it.  There was something so surreal about that setting.  But then James Brooks turned up as Nancy Botwin’s father-in-law, and ALL WAS HILARIOUS again.

And that, dear reader, is what I am watching now.  What are you watching as July stretches on, endlessly, too hot to go outside?



Wine Cellar 2.0, Part Two

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Or, “Wordie Does Crafts, Glues Herself To Her Desk”.

Gentle Reader,

When last we left, I was about to tell you about how I made the little signs I used in the wine cellar.  But before I get into that, I should let you know that while I was busy sorting and labeling and charting wine for a solid week, Mama was pounding little dowels into holes on bigger pieces of wood in order to add some rows to the wine racks that we already had.  To eliminate the tiny little rack we had at the far wall and also be able to bring those bottles perched on top of each other down into the racks.  We have always used these racks, and have had success with them.  (This is technically our third wine cellar, but the second one we have built from the walls out.)  I’m sad to report that they are not a part of the Happy Organized Home sale.  But get them anyway because they’re simple to put together, and you get a nice workout while pounding, and it has a rustic homey look.

Important Pro Safety Tip:  When you are storing wine on a wall, unless you are storing a tiny amount (like 12 bottles), you want to anchor your racks to the wall.  Use common wall brackets you can find at Home Depot (I’m guessing they are hardened aluminum?  I forget the technical term for them.  Whatever, don’t use plastic.) and get a stud finder while you are there.  Because you want to anchor the rack into a stud.  One, it’s just really fun to say “stud” that many times.  And two, the average case of wine weighs 46 pounds (trust me, I know).  Get more than 12 of those on a wall, and misalign the bracket so it doesn’t go into the stud, and your drywall is going to suffer.  Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon, and with your security deposit.

Important Wine Storage Tip:  If you currently store your wine on top of your refrigerator, even if it is in a fancy rack, please stop reading right now, and go move it to somewhere else.  I’ll wait.  Wine needs dark, cool, and STILL environs.  On top of the average fridge is light (the kitchen lights are always on), hot (because it’s an electrical appliance), and it vibrates.

Okay, so more rows added, and a shelf added to keep special bottles and our water storage and our large formats.  After that, I reloaded the wine and then considered how to label the sections so that we could find things.  And since cellar composition is going to change, I thought a chalkboard might be nice.  And then I remembered either seeing or dreaming about some wedding place card holders being made from little chalkboards and glued onto clothespins.  Which would work perfectly on the little dowels.

So I went looking for them.  And I’m sure you’ll be shocked to hear that our town doesn’t have anything like that for sale.  So I googled them, and found some for sale, but they looked cheap.  And then I found this little tutorial.  Bingo.  Her instructions worked like a charm.

My supplies:


Make sure you cover your work area with scrap paper, and then paint.  I wound up using three coats of paint, and they turned out nicely.  I let mine dry 24+ hours between each coat.



And then, like her, I used something called “Washi Tape” to cover the back of the little slates.  I had never seen this stuff before, but I went a little nuts at the variety of fun ones (TOILE!!!!).  And then I forgot to take pictures of them after that.  But after I taped the backs, I used “Modge Podge” (who names these things????) to seal them, and then glued the clothespins on using wood glue.  And a couple of them didn’t stick so well, so I went back and redid those with super glue.  Which is how I ended up accidentally gluing myself to my desk.  The upshot to that was I have never been so productive as that day.  After that, I used “liquid chalk” to write the names of the varietals on the chalkboards.

(Side note:  What else can I do with Washi tape?  I’ve got plenty of leftovers.)

And after that, it was simply a matter of putting the finishing touches on the cellar, and now it looks like this:


(See, more racks.)


And then our temporary solution to storing our sweet wines (usually those come in skinny bottles that slip through traditional wine racks) is:


(Also where we store those jugs of water, and our beer.)

If you noticed, there is now a styrofoam wine shipper laying around on the far wall where the tiny rack used to be.  Which is ugly and will be why our cellar will never win beauty pageants (but she’ll always win Miss Congeniality, because she knows how to throw a party…).  Those are our VGS Syrah bottles and they are approximately one centimeter too big to fit in the rack.  Don’t worry, I express my disappointment in these weirdly-shaped bottles every time I talk with them.  (Which lately has been a lot.  And I’m not sure that says anything good about me.)  Anyway, our neighbor is a woodworker, and she expressed an interest in possibly doing a bit of a custom-fit rack for our sweet wines and the weirdly-shaped bottles and our large format wines.  Fingers crossed.

And that, y’all, is our wine room.  A labor of love, for sure, but I think Daddy would be pleased with the obsessive attention to detail I have on his wine now.  (Which I will admit, is my big guilt area.  When we open a bottle that he bought, which those still account for the vast majority of our cellar, I think about us enjoying it without him.  And what he intended it for when he bought it.  And did he get to taste that vintage?  Life does go on, and we will celebrate that with glad hearts.  But a near-daily ritual that is a large part of my world is still quite bittersweet right now.  And sometimes I don’t know what I feel about that.)




Wine Cellar 2.0, Part One

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Gentle Reader,

So you might remember a few months ago, when I lamented the truly horrific state of our wine room.  Observe:


See that?  It gives me hives.  For one thing, don’t get me started on the JUGS OF WATER in there.  (Because we’re on well water out here at the ranch, and until recently we had an immunocompromised member of the house, and well water gets funky every once in awhile.)  And the little rack on the far end?  Well it was blocking my ability to get to the very bottom corner of the long walls.  Which is where some of the good pinots and our cab francs were.  (Some days call for a big ole cab franc.)  And then there are the bottles precariously perched on top of each other on top of wine racks that HAD EMPTY SPACES.  Crazy-making.  Not to mention, unsafe.  And then the organization of the whole thing was just a mess.  Varietals were mixed in with each other, and forget entirely about chronology.

So I did the only logical thing.  I started over.  We drank all that old stuff and then went to Napa and bought fresh.  (KIDDING!)  But I did pull all of the wine (and the jugs of water, and the file cabinets that were on the other wall of the room, and I think we found Jimmy Hoffa in there, too–it had gotten pretty well overgrown…) and I organized it.




My first cut was red/white/bubbles/sweet.  Because they were in such disarray when I unloaded the cellar, it would have taken forever to sort them by varietal at that point.

And then after the room was emptied, I sorted by varietal.  And then, after I had found a unoccupied horizontal space in the house so as to be able to further sort, I sorted each varietal by year, and label (and in some cases, type–“reserve”, “Napa Valley”, “Alexander Valley”, particular vineyard, etc., if that particular wine has more than one type…e.g., Kosta Browne).

And then I just made an Excel workbook with a tab for each of the varietals (there are, BTW, way more than you think there are…) and went by year listing them, and doing a count of each individual label for inventory purposes.

And here’s where I found my niftiest and most helpful trick on a website that was in French, and I don’t remember where it was, and even if I did it was in French.  My high school and college French is still in my brain, and I do pretty well with verbs that aren’t in one of the wacky tenses and also nouns.  So, from what I gathered, this website wanted you to buy sheets of their labels, on which you write the wine details, and stick on the top of the wine foil, like so:



That way, you can tell what wine it is without a lot of grabby-grabby in the wine cellar, moving and disturbing your vino.  It also helps in organizing your cellar and keeping things nicely in chronological order.  We also discovered that the little labels are good for keeping track of what bottles you have consumed since the last time you updated your inventory, rather than saving the whole bottles, you save the labels and update accordingly and pitch the labels after you have.  So you have an accurate in/out count.

BUT, I think we all know I’m fundamentally impatient, and I didn’t want to order these things, in French, from France.  I mean, for one thing I’d have ended up with twelve gross of them (aren’t fancy Avery labels THE hot gift for this Christmas season?).  Also, as we have observed before, currency conversion isn’t really my jam.

So I went about looking for these little 1″ round labels in our little hamlet here in East Texas.  Ten minutes later, after an exhaustive search, I had struck out.  So we went out to Tyler, in search of craft stores.  Surely these craft-type moms like to make their own stickers.  That’s A Thing, right?

It is not.

Feeling dejected, we had to go pick up some more rawhide sticks for Cody so we ran into the Walmart before heading home.  (Keeping it real, here: We look forward to going into Tyler and to “the good Walmart”, because the one here in our town is tiny and pitiful.)  So while we were there Mama suggested I look at the office supplies, just in case, and she’d look at the craft supplies.  And there, in the office supply section of the Walmart on Broadway in Tyler, I found them.  Avery 1″ round labels.  I bought them out.

So all that to say, I don’t actually remember the original source (but I imagine if you fiddle around with Google, you can find it) but the above?  NOT MY ORIGINAL IDEA.  SOMEONE ELSE WHO IS VERY SMART FIGURED THAT ONE OUT.  But I love their idea and it’s brilliant.  And if someone buys their labels instead of the cheapie labels?  That’s capitalism at its best, friends.

And so after they were sorted, I loaded them back into the wine room.  Chronologically.  I found it easier to load from the back.  And because I believe in conserving energy, I put the stuff we don’t ever drink in the very back.  Port, and chardonnay.  And then, I loaded the rest of the stuff.  I went front to back, oldest to youngest, within each varietal, and left space in between each varietal to make room for expansion.

And then I thought about how to label each varietal-keeping in mind that cellar composition is going to change over time.  And I came up with:


Which entailed my doing A Craft.  But since this is already nearly a thousand words, I’ll review that process and give you the final pics tomorrow.




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Gentle Reader,

So approximately five hours ago, I did two things:

1.  I started downloading season 3 of “The Tudors”.  (Hummahumma Jonathan Rhys Myers…even with that beard.)

2.  I sat down to do my “Wine Cellar 2.0” tutorial post.  Because there is NOTHING on pinterest about this vital project which I am sure you are all desperate to try in your own home.

And then these things happened…

1.  I remembered that I needed to take “After” pics of the Cellar.  (In Texas, we can’t have basements because of the nature of the soil-it makes them cost prohibitive…so when I say “cellar”, I mean “room that has its own HVAC system and better insulation than the rest of the house”.)

2.  So I went to take pics.

3.  And encountered all my release notes from the spring shipments.  And remembered that I have to find some way to organize those as to be useful.  (Winemakers?  Please consider this my plea to start releasing those things electronically instead of just on paper in the shipments.)  So I thought about that for awhile.

4.  Then I re-racked the pinot because tomorrow, though my faith that this will happen is nil, I have a case of the stuff supposedly being delivered.  It has gotten lost and rerouted three times now.  I’d be rage-y but it’s a case of pinot noir.  Meanwhile, in the Middle East…so I try to have perspective.  This is my Thanksgiving order, not my home.

5.  Remembered the pics!  Woo hoo!

6.  Downloaded all of my camera’s memory card onto my computer.  Which when combined with Season Three of Jonathan Rhys Myers, made my computer go nuts and tell me I had no memory left.  (Which is true.  I got my MacBook Air JUST before they released the version that has the beefed up storage, and I need to replace it, but I’m not eager to spend that kind of money yet, so it’s usually a juggle whenever I put data onto the computer.)

7.  So naturally, I did the sensible thing and cleared out my email box.  Which is stored at NSA/Google.  Not my computer.

8.  Five of daddy’s old golf books have sold on Amazon now, so I went and printed out shipping labels and got those ready to go.

9.  Oh yeah!  Storage.  Back to my photos-what can I delete?

10.  Wait-where did the inventory spreadsheet go?  Found it.  Never mind.

11.  I smelled bacon cooking, and ascertained that tonight’s menu includes BLTs.  Yum!

12.  Oooh!  Forgot to make reservations for Cousin H’s wedding here next month.  Gotta take care of that.

13.  My storage capacity on the computer still rests at 400 mb.

So tonight, I’m weeding through 700 photos of zebra and cats and Labradors, trying to figure out what I can delete.  And tomorrow we’ll have Wine Cellar 2.0.



Jesus Makes Pizza…AND TORNADOES

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Gentle Reader,

So Friday afternoon, I battled through a randomly terrible traffic day on Central Expressway (Friday afternoons in the summer are supposed to be light on traffic, Dallas…please read your memos next time.) and picked up Aidan and Archer at camp to spend the night with us at the ranch while their Mama and Daddy moved.  (Side note, let’s all take a moment and be jealous at the fortune of picking THIS particular weekend to move.  I mean, moving in July, in Texas.  They’re clearly living right, people.)

Anyway, I was driving back to the ranch and the boys were chattering in the back and I eventually zoned out and just paid attention to the road (it’s a boring drive to the ranch, you gotta do what you gotta do) and suddenly something kind of made me focus in on the conversation again.  I think it was some kind of brotherly squabble (Which?  Those are endlessly fascinating to this only child.) and apparently some kind of elevated level of “Rock, Paper, Scissors” was happening.  After weaponry escalated quickly to “super mega infinity infinity infinity a million” levels, one of the boys (Aidan, if I’m betting, but I don’t remember.) busts out the deity card.  “Jesus beats [Archer’s preferred weaponry]”.  Because, OBVIOUSLY.  And then a theological discussion of sorts ensued.  And those two are on an ENTIRELY DIFFERENT THEOLOGICAL PLANE than my Old Testament-preferring self, because if I gather correctly, Jesus is the best because “Jesus makes pizza.” (per Aidan), “…AND TORNADOES” (per Archer).

I had absolutely nothing of value to contribute to that discussion so I just observed.  And tried to hide my giggles.

Anyway, we got back to the ranch where dinner was hastily served, because both boys were STARVING.  I mean, about to pass slap out from the hunger.  Snack having been over an hour ago.  (Having had Labradors, I was actually familiar with this particular phenomenon, so we were prepared.)  Also, I wanted to get them fed in time to go by the Dairy Queen to get a Blizzard before their bedtime.  (Listen, I’ll take any excuse I can get, and those were two FANTASTIC excuses.)

While I will feed them ice cream at every available opportunity, I will also make vegetables available to them at every opportunity.  Candace, observe:


Homemade chicken nuggets (which turned out pretty darn delicious), tater tots, and veggies.  Because we believe in dipping here.

And, proof of vegetal consumption:


Cody, it should be noted, LOVED having the boys to play with.  And snack with.

So after dinner, I started to get everybody excited to go to DQ, and Aidan asked how far away the place was.  And I told him it was about 10 minutes away, and he asked if he had to go.  Obviously the boy was near death, so I grew concerned.   He was exhausted from a day at the water park, and didn’t want to go get ice cream.  (I KNOW, RIGHT????!?)  So I told him to make it okay with his little brother and if they both could agree, then we’d stay at the ranch and have ice cream sandwiches and watch a movie.  I didn’t hear the conversation, so I have no idea how much of it was, “I’m the big brother and so what I say goes”, but somehow, Archer was bribed/made agreeable.  So that’s what we did.

And here it should be noted that I am AMAZED at how many movies feature anthropomorphic snails.  And now, after having the boys at the ranch for less than 24 hours, Netflix thinks I should watch ALL OF THEM.  I think it’s a part of the scorpions plan for eventual dominion.

Anyway, snail movie watched, the boys went to bed.  And foolishly I assumed they would pass out dead to the world in a matter of minutes (because that’s how I work now), but they asked for my iPad so they could watch another movie on it.  I said that I’d let them watch a movie until 8:40 PM, but that their Mama had told me I was supposed to be firm on bedtime.  (And I don’t mess around with bedtimes.  I’ll be a total pushover on anything else, but sleep is a precious thing, and it’s too delicately balanced.)  So they watched a football movie, which they assured me was a PG rating, and after I determined that it didn’t star DeNiro, Pacino, or a pre-Shrek Eddie Murphy, I believed them.   I tried to encourage “Hoosiers”, but that was met with less enthusiasm.  But there’s always next time.  I’ll bend my bedtime rules for “Hoosiers”.

Now that Netflix thinks I’m a 13 year-old boy, I have to go back and reset somethings, I think…

So the boys slept soundly and woke up at 7:00 AM, ready to greet the day.  With vigor.  And zero regard for my Two Hours Of Silence rule.  Or my need for caffeine.  We got up, and decided to go look for zebra.  Only since it was chilly, the boys needed to borrow some outerwear.


And Archer’s never been so stylish as in my mom’s warmup jacket.

Then we loaded up in the golf cart and went zebra hunting.  We found none.  No zebra, three little old whitetail deer, the flock of geese, and not even a squirrel.  The animals must have been taking the morning off, too.  Except the geese.  They’re ALWAYS there.  And always, erm, recycling.

Anyway, after the hunting expedition, we came back and had the regulation healthy breakfast of peach cobbler, ice cream, and hot chocolate.  You know, to warm up after the frigid 65 degree weather.


And after that, we had a quiet morning, and drove back into town to meet up with their Mama and Daddy.  Cody was exhausted and slept the rest of the day, as did his two people, if we’re honest.  🙂

And that was our weekend.  It is so fun to watch these two become their own people.  Archer is just funny sometimes, and Aidan is really developing a sense of wit and timing.  Which is really quite rare, so I’m encouraging it.

Hope y’all had a fun time as we did.



As Yet Unmangled By Scorpions

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Gentle Reader,

So sorry to have left you hanging like that!  We had houseguests, and last week was what would have been my parents’ 40th Anniversary and Daddy’s birthday.  It was, as you might guess, a rough time.

But life is for celebrating and so that’s what we did.  We had some of our dearest friends out and opened our very last bottle of 1997 Joseph Phelps Insignia, which is one of our two most favorite bottles on earth.  (The other one being the 1997 Joseph Phelps Backus Cabernet, but we drained all of that a LONG time ago.  Like, before grad school.)  And then Daddy’s brother and his wife came out and enjoyed two of his favorite dishes with us-fried avocados with some kind of aioli (lemongrass?  I honestly don’t make it, Mama does, so I have no idea.) and a pan fried sea bass with a slaw and some kind of mango sauce and an ancho chili something or another.  Both were excellent, and I think he would have approved.

Speaking of, fishermen-type people, when something is labeled “Chilean Sea Bass” (and is commensurately priced), how do I know that fish really did come from Chile?  He doesn’t exactly come with a passport, so how do I know he’s not a…North Carolina Sea Bass who was on vacation in Chile when he happened to collide with a net?  This is why I have a huge issue with “Maine Lobster”.  All those New England states are so tiny and you know their sea critters travel from one to another on a daily basis.

Anyway-where was I?  Oh yes, trying to do a post quickly so that I have time to make a peach cobbler.

So anyway, the scorpions are still relentless.  But the bug guy came out last week, and so I remain optimistic that the problem will fix itself.  Without napalm.  Or xanax.  We have not seen any more in the mailbox, so that’s a win.

And this weekend, two of my favoritest male-childs are coming to stay with me at the ranch (hence, the peach cobbler), so Monday I’ll be back with a recap of my attempt at herding two little boys into bed at a reasonable hour after feeding them chicken nuggets with a side of ice cream.  (Oh, I kid.  Sides of ice cream.  Plural.)

In the meantime, this is happening in our front yard, right now:




So.  Landscaping dollars WELL-SPENT.

Cody is having NONE of this…so I think I’m going to sign off and go make a peach cobbler to distract the boy.

Wish us luck!