All Summer and No Plans Makes Mommy a Dull Girl (AKA crazy)

7 Jun

The other day when I awoke I thought about the ten errands I needed to run and started planning my day in my head, when I immediately stopped my thought process. How the heck am I going to grocery shop with the kids??? An awful picture immediately flashed before my eyes of kids fighting in the grocery cart, whining for toys, crying because they didn’t get their choice of a sugary-filled breakfast…and so on and so forth.

When both of your kids are in school full-time you become pretty spoiled when it comes to making those quick trips here or there. The best way to get kids out of the house and mommies back into the world of sanity are camps. After the camps run out (or the money) we always tend to hit our favorite, local spots. Killeen Independent School District is very good at sending flyers home toward the end of the year with numerous camps available throughout the summer. Along with what you will get in your child’s folder, below you will find a few other camps we have utilized over our time or other random places you can take them when you are looking for some good, nearby fun. The links will take you directly to the summer activities/schedules. Good luck parents and stay sane!!!

University of Mary Hardin Baylor  – camps including art and music, sports and swim lessons

Texas Tumblers – kind of like a day care, but they make it fun with weekly, themed camps. My son went during the science week and part of his adventures was going to Inner Space Caverns.

Wazoo’s Indoor Inflatable Play Center – Perfect for a hot day!!! It will wear them out!

Lions Junction Family Water Park – Temple

Summer Fun Water Park – Belton

Salado Creek – (pictured above) This is a wonderful place my kids love to go. The link will take you to Pace Park which is a public park in Salado. If you drive just past the park, you will see a public parking space and just beyond that…the creek. Take some lawn chairs, some rafts and watch your kiddos enjoy one of my favorite childhood pasttimes…floating the creek!  We also took nets to catch minnows. Be sure they wear some rubber-soled,river shoes…the rocks can get slippery!

Summer Vacation Bible Schools

7 Jun

 

If you couldn’t already tell by the 100-plus temps in Killeen, Texas…SUMMER IS OFFICIALLY ON!

Luckily, there are a ton of things this town offers to keep your little ones busy and to keep you from going insane the next three months. One of my kiddos’ favorite things is to attend some sort of Vacation Bible School. We have attended one every year since we’ve been here and they still remember all their songs, friends and fun that they made at each one.

 

I have found two VBS programs. They happen in the next few weeks….so register ASAP if you want to take part.

 

1. First Baptist Killeen  – VBS this year  is June 13-17, 9 am – noon. There theme is “Big Apple Adventure”.  Cost is free. You can register your children online. They must be 4 years of age at the time or about to start fifth grade year.

2. Grace Lutheran – VBS this year is June 27 – July 1, 9 am – noon. They don’t have any information online about this year’s program, but my children went last year and enjoyed it very much. Last year, they asked parents to make a $5 donation to help with snacks for the program. You must register at the church office which is open Monday-Friday 9:30-3:30.

My favorite vegetarian meal…

22 May

I have a friend coming over who has recently gave up meat….cold turkey (nopun intended!) She’s coming over for a pool-side barbecue and of course, my first instinct is to grab the hot dogs and burgers for the grill. Since today is already overcast with a pretty good chance of thunderstorms…I decided to crack open the old cookbook and ran across one of my favorite recipes…Black Bean Lasagna. I rarely get to cook it though because when lasagna is mentioned in this house, if it doesn’t include some form of meat…it’s just not my hubby’s cup of tea. Luckily, hubby is TDY!!!   That means, I get to make this veggie meal without an ounce of meaty guilty. (yeah for me!!!)

 I’m super stoked to cook this today and enjoy some good conversation with an old friend. If you find yourself in a similar predicament…reach for this recipe card. It’s an awesome meal!😉

1 pkg no-bake lasagna noodles

2 cans black beans

1 jar spaghetti (basic classic jarred sauce)

1/2 tsp. cumin

15 oz container ricotta

1 ten oz. pkg frozen spinach

1/4 cup fresh cilantro

2 eggs (slightly beaten)

1 tsp. salt

4-5 c pepper jack cheese (shredded)

mash beans with masher or hand blender. Add sauce. In separate bowl mix cheese, cilantro, eggs, salt, spinach and 1 c. of cheese.

Spray pan with PAM. Spoon 1/4 of black bean sauce mixture. Cover with layer of noodles, spoon 1/2 of cheese mixture on top, then layer with pepper jack cheese (1 cup)

Cover with red sauce, noodles, cheese mixture and cheese again.

Cover with noodles, top with remaining bean mixture and sprinkle with last of pepper jack cheese. Cover with foil and bake 1  hour @ 350. Remove foil and cook for another 15 minutes.

ENJOY!

Cara Mia! Copperas Cove!

18 May

 

 

It’s not often I head to Copperas Cove. It’s on the other side of Fort Hood, about a 20-minute drive from my house. However, the other day my friends and I decided to meet up there for our once-a-month book club-dinner.   We opted for an Italian Restaurant called Giovanni’s. I had heard good things about the food and heard they recently reopened at a new location.

Before even pulling into Giovanni’s parking lot we could smell the fresh garlic from the highway! I was completely taken aback at how good this place was. The building looks great. There’s a water feature that runs through the main portion of their dining room, a little “lazy river” like feature with nice plants and rock accents.  

Upon taking our seats, my mouth dropped when I saw the prices for their wine on the menu. They serve mostly Italian wines…no names you would recognize from the traditional liquor store line-ups. We got a bottle of Italian Chianti for $14!!!! And, it was very good! I ordered the antipasto salad and the chicken picatta. It was top-notch. I was also impressed that on this particular Friday night,  a young man was walking around, serenading guests with his violin.

I give Giovanni’s Italian Restaurant in Copperas Cove an A+. It was well worth the drive for us. It’s always nice to support local mom and pop type of places in the cities and towns you’re stationed at…..and even nicer to break away from the common chain restaurants  like Olive Garden. (which by the way expect over an hour wait on any weekend night at the one in Killeen)

Which Hair Salon I’m Hooked On…

17 May

I’ve been to a few salons during our time here at Ft. Hood, and really there’s nothing bad to report at all. Each hair dresser was very good. In fact, I’m glad to say I don’t think I’ve had an AWFUL haircut during our time here. I’ve also been everywhere when it comes to my hair. Very short (we’re talking Halle Berry pixie cut), the famous Posh Bob and the long layered look ( and not in that order).

Below is a pic of the bob I wanted and what I ended up getting.  Not bad if I do say so myself!🙂

 

The reason I switched hair dressers over the past three years??? Sometimes, I just like to change it up. All in all, I’d recommend the following places to get your hair done in the Fort Hood area:

1. Highlights Salon and Spa – They are currently under renovation but they have great hair stylists and colorists. I am currently going to Melinda there.  She’s AWESOME and sooo sweet!  Brandon is also a great stylist/colorist there.

2. Shelly’s Day Spa and Salon – Very nice place. I used Garmil (yes that’s how you spell and pronounce her name) for a long time. I dont’ know what she’s like as far as coloring goes, but she gives great short hair cuts! I showed her two pictures and said I wanted something in between and by golly, when she was done, that’s exactly what I got!

3. EcoBlue Spa and Salon – Don’t know much about this place because I have never been. A few of my friends go and their hair always looks AMAZING! It’s an AVEDA salon so I’m sure you can’t go wrong! Probably more pricey than the places mentioned above.

4. ULTA Salon – I’ve never visited here either, but again have had numerous friends that have used their salon and have been happy with the results.

Bats…they’re creepy…but in Austin…they’re cooL!

16 May

View of bats emerging from below Congress Bridge. Approx 8:15 at night

 

A great day trip to Austin can take your family just about anywhere due to the fact that there is SOOOO much to do!!!  Recently, my husband went TDY and I found myself with a completely open Saturday. Instead of washing the car, mopping the floors or starting a new decorating project…I loaded us up and made a late-day trip to Austin. We started by checking out a local toy store I ran across on the internet called Toy Joy. It’s 100 % safe to take your kids there (no naughty/funny business) They have a ton of “old school” things that took me back to my younger years. In the end, I walked out with a “Pet Tornado”, a harmonica, a bow and arrow, a “thirsty bird”, a battery-operated monkey who smashes cymbals together, and a bunch of  “funny eye glasses”. It was a blast!!!  By no means…not cheap…but worth every penny when I realized we had killed over an hour in a toy shop and I wasn’t about to strangle anyone.

From there, we drove over and had dinner at Shady Grove Restaurant near Zilker Park. The wait was a bit long, but the kids had fun running around in a little shaded, grassy area while I sipped on a WONDERFUL frozen margarita. Dinner was very good, just wish the wait hadn’t been so long (over an hour)
After dinner, we found some public parking close to the Congress Avenue Bridge and followed many other stragglers who were apparently in the mood to see some bats. We settled into a spot under the bridge on a grassy little slope and we timed it JUST RIGHT. Within three minutes of sitting down, the infamous Congress Avenue Bridge bats emerged. The kids LOVED IT and I must say I was pretty impressed. There are soooo many of them and the whole city seems to get behind these creepy little animals as they emerge for their nightly feeding time.  A simple little occurrence that happens everyday in nature and there’s no doubt my kids will remember it for years to come.  Oh yeah…and it’s free!!! .Make sure to check it off your Texas Bucket List too!

Best Sushi In Town…

16 May

Our favorite sushi place in the Ft. Hood area is Wild Wasabi. It isn’t necessarily convenient..in fact, that’s probably why we don’t order it more often. It’s located on Old Veteran’s Highway,very close to the W.S. Young intersection. (Right next door to the McDonald’s)  It’s further than we’d like and at times it can be hard to reach due to Ft. Hood traffic so keep that in mind when planning your night.  Despite that obstacle, we are quite impressed with their selection of sushi rolls. Our favorite…HANDS DOWN… is #69 “Burning Love” and also the Texas Roll.  They don’t have a hibachi grill but other typical Japanese and Korean food is available along with sushi. Be sure to check it out!!! 

***Sorry, no menu available online! ***

1914 E VETERANS MEMORIAL BD

 Killeen, TX 76541 

(254) 690-6809

Have A Diva That Likes to Dance?

18 Apr

In the three years we’ve been here at Ft. Hood, I have had my youngest, Ella, enrolled in some form of dance the entire time. The first year I can honestly say I think I paid a monthly due so she could simply pose and primp in front of a mirror. (the picture below is proof) :)  Thankfully, these days I feel we are  finally getting our money’s worth.

Ella, my little ballerina

Our first two years here, she was enrolled at Texas Tumblers. It’s located in Harker Heights off of Indian Trail. (close to the new library) Overall,  I’d give Texas Tumbler’s  dance program a C+.

We loved the dance instructor there, however, I felt the place grew too big too fast.  Texas Tumblers undoubtedly has the monopoly on any kind of gymnastics program in the Ft. Hood area. In my opinion, they should stick with just that…gymnastics. The dance program always felt a little neglected to me. Classes were very full with only one instructor. Drop-off and Pick-up was AWFUL!  The parking lot (which isn’t big to begin with)  was always full and they release all gymnastics/dance students at the same time. I never understood why they didn’t stagger the times to make the routine easier for parents and kids alike. Also, the recitals were very long…unless you don’t consider 4 hours of dancing divas long????

This year, we enrolled Ella at Studio 203 off of Stan Schleuter Loop. She has been taking tap and ballet there since August and I feel she is really learning the basics of each dance form.  The music is very appropriate (little girl classic style)  There are also 2-3 dance instructors per class. We are preparing for the upcoming recital next month and the process has been very organized, precise and chaos-free thus far. Plus, they have split the recitals up so that they won’t run as long. (bigger kids =difference recital)

I take Ella  to Studio 203 twice a week for a tap and a ballet class.  For those two classes we pay $55 altogether. At Texas Tumblers, she was getting tap and ballet in a once-a-week combined class and I was paying $50. 

Luckily, there are a few other places that offer dance lessons in Killeen. I’ve also heard good things about A&K Dance and Acro including the fact that they do a recital twice a year.

Studio 203 Dance Centre

(254) 526-6778

www.studio203dancecentre.com

 

It’s Almost Summer, Do You Know If Your Sprinklers Are Working??? (insert scary-movie sound effect)

13 Apr

 

It gets mighty hot here in the Lonestar State! June can sometimes start out at a sweltering 104. Not trying to scare all you fair-weather friends off, but it’s the truth!🙂

With tha t said, when buying  a home around here, a sprinkler system is pretty much the status quo.  Our home came with a in- ground sprinkler system already put in. Last summer,  however, we had a bit of a hiccup with our system.

A few of my sprinkler heads decided to peter-out and the temps were well over 100 degrees.  I’m a bit of a plant lover so any thing that threatens the livelihood of my  grass, plants, flowers, shrubs etc…gets me in panic mode🙂

I knew the problem was way out of my league, so I called the experts in. After making 10 phone calls ( and I’m not exaggerating when I say it was 10) I finally got someone who said they could come check it out that week. Everyone else was well booked for the summer. Royel Johnson is the person who saved my day, week and eventually my summer.

Royel  had me fixed in a few days and was wonderful. He usually came in the evenings. (from what I remember, he is a retired Army EMT and began the sprinkler repair business as a side job awhile back) He even took the time to show me how to run my sprinkler system…something that had been very foreign to me. Now, thanks to everything he taught me…I’m the guru on sprinkler systems. If my friends are having a problem or need me to schedule their systems come summer time..I’m their gaL!

I’m thankful for folks, especially former Army folks,  like Royel. If yours sprinklers should need fixing, I highly recommend him ( and be sure to take notes..he’s full of knowledge on a variety of things)

 Johnson’s Sprinkler Service

Installation and Repair of Sprinklers

Lawn Maintenance and Fertilizing

254-258-4836

 

Our Pooch Person…

29 Mar

We are pretty big pet people. As of now our humble abode is host to three fish: Jesus, Sugar and Flour; two dogs: Jake and Ruby; and we recently were hosting a rabbit: Mia.

Unfortunately, this summer our friendly feline, Tortilla, (yes that was his kid-given name)  decided to take a permanent vacation, after leaving one night and never coming back.

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My recommendation for an off-post veterinarian goes to Killeen Veterinarian Clinic.  When we adopted Tortilla from the Killeen Animal Shelter we had to get him snipped and vaccinated within 30 days of adoption (city rules). I called around to get prices for the simple procedure and was shocked at how much places were charging.  We were getting quoted $350 for the neuter procedure under most clinic’s “cat wellness program”.

I finally called Killeen Veterinary Clinic. They were one of the cheaper quotes, so I questioned their services. Three years later, I am still impressed with their animal care, service and prices.  Our veteriarian there is Dr. David Smonko. He has now helped us through numerous cat appointments as well as provided us with ample canine support. His assistant, Jovana Pardo, is wonderul with pets and is such a joy to be around.  They also provide bathing and boarding for pets, which was a lifesaver one Spring Break for us after last-minute vacation plans.

I will say that out of my friends that live here, I am one of the only gals who uses Killeen Veterinary Clinic. Not because they are bad, but because they are located right off of Ft. Hood Street, about a 15 minute drive if you live in Harker Heights.  A few of my friends would recommend Aztec Pet Hospital in Harker Heights.  I’ve heard their prices are good and their staff is friendly, but  they also accept walk-ins so your wait can take a little longer, even with an appointment.

As a side note…..if anyone sees a white,  fluffy cat with a green and a blue eye who answers to the name of “Tortilla”, please contact me!😉 We miss you big guy!

Killeen Veterinary Clinic

1321 Pershing Drive, Killeen – (254) 634-0242

or

Aztec Pet Hospital

104 West FM 2410 Road, Harker Heights  (254) 699-6725 

He’s On My Speed Dial….And It Ain’t My Hubby

26 Mar

I’m starting this blog off on a sad note despite the title. I had something happen to me recently that really put things in perspective.  I was at Kohl’s picking out a new steam cleaner for the house when I noticed a sweet young girl next to me doing the same thing. We started comparing cleaners, prices…and then life. After talking to her, I discovered that she had been recently widowed. Her husband, an active duty Soldier, died six months ago while on a training mission at Ft. Polk, Louisiana. She has an 11-year-old son and despite the tragic hand her family had been dealt, seemed to be taking it all in stride.

 I became more choked up than her in that small Kohl’s aisle, but truth be told…we were both crying.  I was happy to hear that her experience with the Army after her Soldier’s death had been a good one. We always hear the horror stories of the casualty notifications and how they can go wrong, scarring a family for life. Although I don’t know the details, she told me that she knew she was going to be taken care of and she had the Army and it’s people to thank. She will soon be finishing her pharmacists degree and plans on living  and working here in the Ft. Hood area.  She’s very involved with Ft. Hood’s Army Community Services, SOS (Survivor Outreach Services) program,  and now spends most of her free time speaking to Army groups on how they can better the process for families when there’s a casualty.

The point of this story, is that while talking to this brave, strong woman…she told me the hardest thing for her now is when something in her home needs fixing. She had always relied on her husband for those things…and now was doing it all herself.  After telling me this, I immediately, whipped out  my phone and looked up the man I keep on my speed dial. He’s a local handy man named Wayne White. He works mostly in the Harker Heights area, but he is good, polite and very reasonable. She took his name and  number as well as mine, and we made plans to have coffee down the road. I hope it wasn’t just small talk, and that we really do sit down for that coffee. 

I am a firm believer that God crosses people’s paths for a reason and I know that on a day I was too concerned about getting my carpets cleaned for my next social function…God stopped me and introduced me to this remarkable woman. I hope that my simple gesture of handing her a phone number, will help her in the future.

I’m sure there are many handymen in the Ft. Hood area that are very good, but if you’re in need…here’s mine.

Wayne White 254-535-5873

Ay Caramba!! Where’s the good Mexican food?!?!??!

25 Mar

I’ve been on a bit of a food kick here lately.  Must be the time of year. The time when us gals deprive ourselves of the good stuff so we hope the summer swimsuit season is a successful one!!!

That must be why I’ve been blogging on the best  burgers, Thai food, italian food restaurants, etc… in the Ft. Hood area lately!

Being that I am a Garcia (married) and before that was a Trevino, I am definitely a Mexican food junkie. I tend to think no restaurant can do it better than my mother-in-law. Her rice and beans are something to brag about for sure. FYI…here’s her beans recipe .🙂

Luckily, if you get orders to Ft. Hood and are a Mexican-food-fan, you’re in luck! There are some amazing places to eat in the Lone Star State, especially Central Texas.

By far and away my favorite place “locally” is Chuy’s Mexican restaurant. I say “locally” very loosely because the closest Chuy’s is in Round Rock. It’s about a 45 minute drive from our home in Harker Heights but the food is AWESOME and worth the drive. If you ever have company fly in and you have to pick them up in Austin, this is an ideal place to stop and eat on your way in.

 While you’re waiting for a table (and yes…you will wait) head over to their bar area where you will find a trunk of a car that has been turned into an all-you-can eat chips and hot sauce source…

 

 

Their menu is as eclectic as Austin. But no matter what you order, you can’t go wrong. Everything’s a winner there. My favorite are their fajitas..and of course…their mango margaritas. Man, I’m getting hungry just writing this!

Favorite Mexican Restaurant #2 is much closer. My vote goes to Taqueria Mexico #3. Yes, there are a few of them around these parts. We are lucky enough to have the #3 version just down the street on Knight’s Way in Harker Heights.  The food is very good. I’m particularly fond of their hot sauce or salsa as many  Northerners call it. When I’m entertaining I tend to stop at their drive-thru and order a large tub of it. It’s a crowd-pleaser. Their tortilla soup and beef fajita tacos are our usual orders.  It has also become a Saturday morning favorite thanks to their drive-thru and amazing selection of breakfast tacos!

 

 One complaint I have against them is the fact that they don’t serve beer/alcohol. From what I understand, they aren’t able to get their liquor license because they are located in close proximity to a church. But the good thing about that…is that it’s BYOB. (not always a bad thing either!)  Happy Eating!!!

Taqueria Mexico

  526 East FM 2410 Road, Harker Heights, TX 76548-5687

(254) 690-0155

Chuy’s Mexican Restaurant

2320 N Interstate 35, Round Rock, TX

(512) 255-2211 ‎

 

Lawnmower Repair

24 Mar
 
 
When Murphy’s law kicks in…it’s never pretty. Murphy decided to rear his ugly head on the one day I was in the mood to throw myself a pity party…the day my husband left for a year-long deployment to Iraq. That morning, in order to distract myself from the inevitable heartbreak, I decided to get out the lawnmower and mow my front yard. What should happen 2 minutes into my venture??? I hit a large rock and bent my mower blade. Did I mention it was the first time I had used my brand new mower?  Talk about bad luck!
 
I asked around and someone told me about this little place in Copperas Cove that did a pretty good job repairing lawn mowers, AJ’s.  That day, I loaded the mower up and took it on over. (Copperas Cove is about a 15 minute drive away)  Within 10 minutes of pulling into the place, the nice man had pulled out my mower from my backseat, took it to the back, and came out just a few minutes later  with a brand new blade and an invoice that didn’t leave me broke. They were nice, quick and cheap. What more could a girl ask for???
 
I highly recommend them…especially on a day when Murphy was wreaking havoc on my mentality.
 
AJ’s Repair and Services
 302 East Robertson Avenue
Copperas Cove, TX 76522-2930
(254) 542-8000

The Texas Bucket List

21 Mar
 

 

Lake Whitney, Texas

Having only a few more months left in the Lone-Star-State, we are trying to squeeze in all this big ol’ state has to offer an adventure-seekin’ family. One thing I learned…if you’d like to go camping in one of the 93 Texas State Parks…plan ahead…WAAAAYYYYY ahead. We thought a month out would be ample time to schedule a two night camping trip in one of the Hill Country regions. Come to find out, those prime parcels are booked up to a year in advance. After spending an hour on the phone with a gal who was trying her best to find us a place, she came up with two nights during Spring Break at Lake Whitney.It was literally the ONLY place available within a two-hour drive of Killeen, Texas. I booked it, hoping it would at least offer my young family a fun, first-time camping experience.

All in all I give Lake Whitney a “B”. I think the highlight for us was the camp site we were assigned..Site 128. It literally was right on a bluff that overlooked the lake.  Very scenic…a little windy, but the view was totally worth it. We splurged and rented a pop-up camper from the Ft. Hood MWR. $40/day plus a $50 deposit. The site had electricity and water. We had to walk about 1/4 mile to the closest bathrooms which were brand new and in very nice shape.

The lake itself is pretty basic. There is a main beach area which is open to the public. We were turned off by the number of people there, so we found a nature walk that took us right to a private beach. We were able to let the dogs off their leashes and clown around without seeing a person for hours.

The park is clean and quiet, maybe not as “pretty” as some of the other places you can find in the Hill Country, but all in all it was a fun and pleasant experience for us.

Other state parks you must visit:

Garner State Park – Hill Country

Guadalupe State Park – Hill Country

Pedernales Falls State Park – Hill Country

Enchanted Rock State Park – Hill Country

Best Burger In Town..

15 Mar

Five Guys

Having lived in Washington, D.C. a few years, you can only imagine how stoked we were to see the familiar “FIVE GUYS” sign going up just down the road at the Market Heights shopping center.  Five Guys Famous Burgers and Fries originated in 1986 in Arlington, VA. Their juicy, filling burgers (a regular burger is not one..but TWO greasy patties), are right on the money!  Here are some interesting facts about the restaurant itself I found from a Tampa, Florida reviewer when a Five Guys popped up in her neighborhood:

 -Free in-the-shell peanuts in a big box at the entrance (people with peanut allergies beware; fries are also cooked in peanut oil).

– Spectacular fries, served in no-frills, no-logo, brown-paper bags that get tantalizingly besmirched with grease.

– A white board that tells you the provenance of the day’s potatoes, plus big sacks of spuds are spread around the dining room as decor.

For the whole story:

http://www.sptimes.com/2007/09/20/Food/Five_Guys_Famous_Burg.shtml

For the best burger in the Ft. Hood area, I’d say it’s Five Guys hands down….BUT because I am a Texan…I have to give props to my native burger you can easily find at any local Whataburger. If you happen to live in Texas for any amount of time without trying at least one Whataburger…SHAME ON YOU!  They are soooo good (especially if you are of the mustard variety)  and have been a family favorite for quite some time!!!

In a hurry… for some curry!!!

11 Mar

No matter where the Army takes us I hope it will always take us close to a good Thai food place! I say at least once every two weeks, I crave a good serving of spicy curry! My favorite Thai place here in the Ft. Hood area is not in Killeen, but in a small dive closer to my home in Harker Heights. Orchid Thai is a little hole in the wall resturant across the street from the Indian Trail HEB grocery store. Don’t go there for it’s ambiance. There is none. I’d guess 60% of it’s business is take-out. The rest probably comes from a healthy lunch rush. I’m not saying it’s not a good date place..it’s just nothing fancy. A few tables, small kitchen, no alcohol served…BUT….GREAT FOOD!  

Our usual meal:  fresh spring rolls (with rice paper), chicken pad thai (spicy), yellow curry (spicy) and an extra serving of steamed rice.

Orchid Thai

600 Indian Trl # 204
Harker Heights, TX 76548-1370
(254) 680-7014

Lawn Care Recommendation

10 Mar

When my hubby was deployed last year, there were a few things both he and I agreed would make life easier if we just paid someone to do it. Two options on the “make life easier” table were hiring a house cleaning service twice a week or hire someone to take care of the lawn twice a month.

Most would probably choose the lawn care.  But me…I wanted a maid. 

Lawn care does not intimidate me. I actually LOVE doing it. You get sweaty, dirty and nicked up at times, but when it’s all said and done there is nothing I love more  than mowing ,weed-eating, turning on my sprinklers, opening a beer and basking in my post-lawn care glory.

I’d rather pay someone any day to clean my toilets. Especially since I’m apparently raising a boy with REALLY bad aim!😉

The funny part is after we got bids for both the maid and lawn care options, we were shocked that we could afford both luxuries. Mostly because of what a steal Reyes and Reyes Landscaping is.

Reyes and Reyes is a local lawn care and landscaping team run by two brothers. They are fast, cheap and very friendly. For my entire front and back yard they charged a total of $30. Not bad at all when you take in the size of my backyard!

We also hired them last Spring for a big backyard project. When I had Benjamin Reyes come over and give me the bid for the work, it was about all I could do to not gasp when I heard how low of a bid he gave me. 

Reyes & Reyes Landscaping

English and Spanish

254-760-3562 or 718-6410

Getting orally educated…

8 Feb

I’m a bit of a high-maintenance gal…just ask my husband and the frequent trips I make to GAP or the nearest Outlet Mall.  However,  if my dentist had any say in the matter, he’d tell you I’m a pretty low maintenance creature…ESPECIALLY in the teeth department.

I’ve never had any major work done. Just the biannual cleanings…and to be honest I’m kind of glad I only have one dentist to recommend. If I had had multiple visits to different dentists for numerous oral problems, that would mean that I had been plagued with a painful kisser…and the thought of that makes my stomach queasy.

I’m thankful I have a low maintenance mouth and I happily recommend Dental Images if you do too. Dr. DeLaPaz is friendly, fast, and to the point. One visit, I timed a little too close to the kid’s after-school pick up. I alerted the nurses I only had about 15 minutes and they had me in and out in jiffy. His office is in Harker Heights, right across from the Super Wal Mart.

Say Ahhhhhhh…..

7 Feb

I recently made the biannual trip to the dentist with my kiddos.  I always think it’s funny that  a few days before their appointments they are very aggressive teeth brushers. They are sure not to skip a brushing because it’s important they not get a bad grade at the dentist’s office. I’m glad they are having a positive dentist experience at such a young age and I think that’s largely due to who I introduced them to initially.

Dr. Stephen Brandt

A friend of mine recommended Dr. Stephen Brandt when we first PCS’d here. His office is located in Killeen, close to the mall. The waiting room is a child’s dream with tropical fish tanks, televisions and video games ( a big hit with my 7-year-old)  Once called inside, the kiddos are greeted by sweet, smiling dental assistants who immediately take them to a large bin filled with toothbrushes in every color imaginable. The assistants do the  majority of the work… cleaning and entertaining, then Dr. Brandt comes in. He’s very friendly with the parents and the kiddos and has a professional, yet approachable bed-side manner.

Each visit, the kids get a “report card” with a grade. This report card makes a big impact in our home. It goes on our fridge, it’s talked about at dinner and it’s remembered until their next visit, six months later. At the end of the appointment, the kiddos get to choose another prize (balloon, pencil, silly band, etc…) and if they are cavity-free, get their name put on a board for a monthly prize drawing which can include dinner out for the family.

I will say we have had no dental issues to date (knock on wood), so I don’t have much information on Dr. Brandt other than doing a thorough cleaning job. I do know the same friend who recommended Dr. Brandt, did so because her daughter had a procedure done that required sedation dentistry. She was very pleased with the experience they had.

She has to run everyday or she goes crazy, she’s like a Border Collie…

2 Feb

The ABC show “Modern Family” has recently become a favorite between my husband and me. For my husband, I think the latina bombshell, Sophia Vegara, has something to do with it…..

For me, it’s the humor that fits right in with my mentality. On a recent episode the quirky dad, “Phil”, summed up my existence in a few funny lines:

Phil: She has to run everyday or she goes crazy, she’s like a Border Collie.
Claire: Did you just compare me to a dog?!?
Phil: The smartest in the world!

Let me be frank, if I don’t get a run in or a great workout of some sort, the whole house suffers. I’m not saying it’s healthy, I’m just sayin’.😉 I know I’m not alone in my crazy mentality either. Some of my best friends in the world are my gym buddies. That’s why it’s very imporant for me to find the right gym with the right resources to fit my needs.

The gym that works for me here at Ft. Hood for a number of reasons is Gold’s Gym/Killeen. It’s a bit of a drive from our home in Harker Heights.  Between 10-15 minutes. I did do my reserach in this arena though and I’ll happily make that drive for what they offer:

  • Kid’s Club – a clean environment, coloring, movies, big jungle gym, etc.
  • Great classes – my favorite is spin… but they also offer zumba, pilates, body pump, body combat etc..
  • indoor pool – you have to be smart and plan ahead (sometimes water aerobics will take up most of the pool) but a great pool with lanes for when you need to swim off that energy
  • CARDIO CINEMA!!! I have never been much of a treadmill runner but put me in a dark room with a movie to distract me and I’ll run all day. It’s a great way to blow off some deployment steam AND get a break from the kiddos while watching a great flick!

The gym, being a franchise, does make you sign a contract but as long as you present military orders and give them ample notice (I believe 60 days) you can walk away with a happy experience.

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www.goldsgym.com/killeentx

902 W. Central Texas Expressway
Suite 100 B
Killeen , TX 76541
Phone:254-953-4653

What Pre Schools are making the grade…

26 Jan

Ella and Mrs. Carmen, St. Christopher's Pre School, 4-year old class

ST. CHRISTOPHER’S PRE SCHOOL
My daughter, Ella, attended St. Christopher’s for two years during our three years at Ft. Hood. It was a close knit community where many of the moms knew each other and did gym dates and lunch together after dropping off their precious bundles.

The hours are pefect because pick-up time is just before KISD lets out so you have ample time for both.

School hours are 8:45 to 2:15 Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. Some moms have trouble with this because they view it as paying to have their child nap. I, however was ecstatic. My daughter was never a napper and usually ended up helping the teacher during nap time. They also helped me a great deal in the potty training department. Sometimes, a child is way more inclined to listen to their teacher over their own mom (as many of you can probably relate)

Other facts:Classes were generally around 10-15 students with a main teacher and an aid as well. All classrooms have bathrooms. We packed a sack-lunch every day. The school provided snacks. Every Wednesday was chapel. They do a very cute Christmas program where the kids dress up as angels, shepherds, sheep, etc…

For our family, it was a pefect fit. I felt Ella learned her fundamentals (letters and numbers) in a very fun, positive and close knit environment.

One thing that stands out in my mind about our time there is one day I had had THAT kind of morning. You know the ones you have about half way through a deployment when your emotional and mental state is…”delicate” I had been rushed out of the door, had an FRG meeting on post that morning and realized that I had totally forgot Ella’s lunch. Carla, the school’s assitant director, called to remind me. I think she could sense the stress in my voice. She asked me if Ella liked hot dogs and chips. I said yes. She said not to worry, she could easily put a little lunch together for her. She was my miracle worker on a day I really needed one. That is one thing that sticks out in my mind about St. Christopher’s. It’s a mom-n-pop type of pre school in which the staff generally looks out for your child and you. They are aware that this is a miltiary community and are big supporters of us temporarily single gaLs.

Cost: $235 month with a twice a year supply fee of $50

For more information:
http://stchris-online.com/
2800 Trimmier Rd
Killeen, TX 76542
254-634-7474

GRACE LUTHERAN PRE SCHOOL
Many of my friends might argue with me that Grace Lutheran or “Grace” as many of them call it, is the best pre school in the Ft. Hood area. I think I was initially turned off because of how long the waiting list is for the school. The day that sign up begins, I have heard stories of moms waiting at 4 a.m. to make sure their child was signed up. Hard to believe that is the situation in a small town like Killeen!

There is no doubt that it is a great school and maybe that is the reason for the wait. Their web site was down today so I could not look up their information. Army gaL paL Erica Van Epps’s daughter, Addison, attended and I know that she loved the school. I’m hoping that she will chime in on this post with her postive experience there and divulge more details as well.

Erica, the floor is yours:😉

From gaL paL Erica:

Thanks for giving me the floor E!

So, I would agree Fort Hood is very lucky to have not one, but two awesome pre-schools.

We picked Grace because for us the hours and days worked better. I liked that we went every other day instead of 3 days in a row and I didn’t want to pay for a nap and lunch when Addison could just do that at home with me. Now, I will say that when we moved to Fort Hood she was 18 months and Grace was the only school that would take one as young as she was (I don’t know what Saint Christopher’s age requirement is).

I know the waiting in line for “admission” is intimidating for some. When I got Addie into Grace we hadn’t even PCS’d to Hood yet and I was able to do it all over the phone! The next year I didn’t get up at 4am, I went at the normal hour of 7am and still had no problems getting her into the class of my choice. Maybe some people just like the “thrill” of standing in line at 4am to secure the Ivy league Hood Pre-school education of GRACE LUTHERAN!

But seriously my recommendation to anyone PCSing to Hood is to check them both out. They are both OUTSTANDING/reasonably priced programs and you will be happy with with whichever one you choose!

http://www.glckilleen.com
1007 Bacon Ranch Road
Killeen, TX 76542-2799
(254) 634-5858

San Fran Pork Chops

17 May

This is a family favorite for sure!!! I know when I make this one, the kids and the hubby will EAT IT UP!

1 pkg pork chops. ( I prefer the thin, boneless pork chops for this recipe…they always come out more tender than the thick ones)

2 crushed garlic cloves

1/2 cup sherry wine

1/2 cup soy sauce

2 TBS brown sugar

1 tsp crushed red pepper (or more according to how hot you want it)

Olive oil

salt/pepper

In large skillet, place salt/peppered pork chops in olive oil and brown both sides. Once brown (approx 7-8 minutes) Take pork chops out and set aside. In a small bowl, combine sherry (you can substitute brandy if you don’t have sherry available), soy sauce, brown sugar and crushed red pepper. Stir well. Keep the pan with all the browned pork chop bits on med heat and add crushed garlic. The garlic will begin to cook fast.  Just before it burns add the liquid mixture. It will bubble up but that’s what you want. You want all those yummy, semi-burned pieces of meat to mix with the sauce (it’s called deglazing the pan). Stir well, put heat on low-med and add pork chops back to skillet. Put lid on and let simmer appox 15 mintues. Turn pork chops every so often so both sides get soaked in mixture.

Serve over steamed, white rice.

ENJOY!

Semi-Homemade Hot Sauce

17 May

1 can Rotel (Original)

1 small can tomoato sauce

1 can stewed tomatoes

1/2 large yellow onion

1-2 jalapenos (depending on how hot they are)

large bunch of cilantro

1 tsp vegetable oil

garlic salt to taste

In a blender, combine everything and pulse until it’s the consistency you want. Sometimes if  I have green onions in the fridge, I will put a few of those in there as well. This is really all about making it to your liking. Adding a little more of this or that until it’s how you prefer it. Enjoy!

Gruene, Texas…the perfect day trip

16 May

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If you’re looking for a perfect get away trip that doesn’t break the bank and can be done in a day…then visit Gruene!!!! It’s an absolute must-see and it’s roughly two hours away from Killeen. (pronounced like the color, green) Recently, we made a day trip out of  it with close friends.

 First, we decided to do something fun with the kids, so we stopped in at Natural Bridge Caverns. It’s one of Texas’ natural attractions just outside of New Braunfels. From start to finish, the cavern tour lasted about two hours. The kids absolutely loved exploring the historical cavern system.  When we were finished, we decided Gruene would be a great place to stop in for an early dinner.  

We first made a quick stop at Gruene Hall for a few beers and a sneak peek at some local country music talent. Then we walked on over to eat a very nice and relaxing dinner at The Gristmill River Restaurant and Bar. The food was great and the setting was amazing.

 

If ever you would love to get a true taste of Texas….Gruene, Texas would be my #1 recommendation. Hop on over and check it out!

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