Fruit salad with light and easy syrup

On a recent trip back to Ohio, I was reminded how much I love fruit salad. At one party, there were five different kinds of fruit salad!! Talk about yum. One even came in a fancy watermelon rind bowl.  That led me to make my own fruit salad for a party we attended. I really don’t understand why I never encounter fruit salad in Texas. Well, cutting up all that fruit is time consuming I suppose.

I went to the store and picked out the most delicious looking fruit they had that day. I came home with red and black plums, strawberries, watermelon, cantaloupe, pears and apples. Most fruit salads I’ve had in Ohio are just cut up fruit, but after looking around at some recipes I decided to make a light syrup for my salad.

Colorful fruit salad!

Colorful fruit salad!

After cubing the apple and pear, I mixed in the juice from half a lemon to keep them from turning brown. I then cut up the remaining fruit and tossed it with some mint from the garden.

I made a simple syrup by combining a  1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 cup water, zest from one lemon and the juice from 1 and 1/2 lemons in a sauce pan. I simmered the mixture for a while to thicken it just a bit.

Right before heading to the party I poured the cooled syrup on the fruit and mixed it up. I think I’ll make this again.

Lemon zest!

Lemon zest!

Plums, pears, apples, cantaloupes, oh my.

Plums, pears, apples, cantaloupes, oh my.

Fruit salad-3

The pioneer woman’s fruit salad was definitely inspiration.


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First try at making a video

My lovely husband gifted me a GoPro 3 video camera for Christmas. I wonder if this means he wants me to try more adventure sports…

Anyhow, we picked up a handlebar mount for the GoPro since biking is the closest to any adventure sport that I get. I tried it out over this weekend and used iMovie to create two YouTube videos.

A few lessons learned from using the GoPro:

  • The handlebar mount can’t just be hand tightened. There’s a reason why the finger screws have a phillips screw head in the center of them. To use a screw driver so that the camera doesn’t end up filming the ground!
  • The battery doesn’t last that long. From a full charge I road my bike for about an hour with the camera on, but it wasn’t taking video the whole time. I took about 18 minutes of video and the battery was already showing just one bar out of three.
  • I need to learn more about video formats. Both of my YouTube videos look sort of grainy / pixelated. I used all the default settings in iMovie.
Back view of the camera on my handlebars

Back view of the camera on my handlebars

Front view of the camera mounted on my bike

Front view of the camera mounted on my bike

For the first video, I took two clips from my ride and cut them down a bit. I sped up the speed to twice the normal speed. The afternoon Texas sun was strong so the trails aren’t the easiest to see in that contrast-y light. I’ll have to redo them in better light on another day.

For the second video, I selected shorter clips and let them play in real-time. If you look closely, you’ll see some dogs playing in the creek crossing.

I have at least one more video from that day of riding the BMX loop that I want to edit and upload. I expect that to take a bit more time. Maybe I’ll learn how to create clearer videos by then 🙂

Make your own sun screens

Every time I’ve walked into our new kitchen during the late afternoon / early evening with its west facing windows, I think to myself “it’s time to make sun screens.” Well, I finally got around to it so now the sun doesn’t blind us and we have improved energy efficiency, which is important in sunny and hot Texas. Because the built-in screens for our windows only cover the part of the window that opens, I had to create new screen frames for the windows, rather than just simply using the screen frame that was there. Converting existing screen frames into sun screens is much easier, something I’ve done before as well.

Ugh, the sun shines right through the kitchen window on the west side of the house!

To make a sun screen, first measure your windows and head to the store to get supplies. Lowes and Home Depot sell screen frame kits that basically have everything you need, except the screen material and the screen spline roller tool. Since I had some screen frame pieces left from our previous house, and I needed to create two frames, I bought my supplies separately. Here’s what you need:



  • Screen spline roller
  • Cutting utensils: scissors, box cutter
  • Drill, screw driver
  • Metal saw (ignore the saw in my picture below, apparently it’s a wood saw. Make sure you have a metal saw)

Supplies and tools all collected


General instructions:

Measure your window to determine what size to make the screen frame. Make sure it will cover the window, but leave room to hang the screen using your chosen method. Factoring in the screen corners, cut the metal frame pieces to size. My screen corners added 3/4″ to each side of my screen, so I had to subtract 1.5″ from each side of my screen frame so that it would be the appropriate size. After cutting four pieces, assemble them with the screen corners.

Assembled frame

Then, cut a piece of screen to fit over the frame, leaving at least an inch or more on each side. Lay the screen over the side of the frame that has the channel for the spline. The roller tool has one end that is narrow and another end that’s wider with a groove. The narrow side is used to push the screen down into the channel before forcing in the spline. This helps you make sure the screen doesn’t get ripples and is positioned correctly.

Use the roller to push the screen down into the frame before using the spline.

Next, use the other side of the roller to push down the spline into the channel, starting at one corner. This is where it helps to have the thinnest spline that will work for the frame.

Spline in the channel of one side of the frame.

I don’t worry about cutting the spline at each corner, I just make the turn and keep going. Make sure to hold the screen fairly taut while rolling in the spline, which can take some force. It helps to have two people for this part, especially if it’s the first time you’ve tried making a screen. Once you’re finished, use the box cutter to cut the excess screen off, close to the frame. Be careful that you don’t cut your new screen! I position the razor blade towards the frame to reduce those chances.

Screen, before trimming excess

To hang the screens, we drilled into the metal window frame at the top and the bottom and used the plastic screen clips:

Installed sun screen on the kitchen window.

And now we can finally leave the blinds open in the evening, without being blinded by the sun in the early evening!


This weekend I took care of another exciting house project – organizing our plastic container storage! The Container Store had just the thing, an elfa basket that be installed in a cabinet on a track so that you can pull it out of a cabinet for easy access. You can also easily lift out the basket to get at anything you have stashed in the very back of the cabinet.

Elfa drawer, installed in the cabinet. Yes, that shelf is kind of warped, but the basket frame still works as designed.

Elfa drawer, pulled out with plastic containers nicely organized.


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Keeping the sun out

Today I made something very boring. I took our old screen door and replaced the screen in it with sun screen to keep those harsh Texas rays out of our house this summer. Our old sliding door had a film on it to block the sun but the new one does not. I find that using a sun screen works better than trying to apply one of those films yourself.

Now, I just need to build the screen frame for the other side of the door and figure out how in the world to attach it…. that should be easy right?

Making the best of crazy Texas weather

When we first moved into our house, it hard a front yard full of lush green grass (St. Augustine for those of you familiar). Needless to say, it didn’t live very long under our care. We tend to feel that grass shouldn’t require two waterings a week in such a drought prone area.

Once the front corner of the yard completely died, we installed a little corner xeriscape garden:

Look at all those tiny little plants!  Well, we chose a rough time to plant this garden as the next spring and summer we experienced an extremely harsh drought. We tried watering the little plants, but quite a few of them didn’t make it.  In this photo, you can see what was left (and how big it got):

With those native plants not surviving, you can imagine how our stupidly thirsty grass fared (especially since we didn’t water it)! The next year even more of our lawn died. I decided it was an excellent time to finish the front yard xeriscape that I had planned all along!

Let me just say, I got us into a lot of work. I always underestimate these things. We pulled out the dead grass / weeds, leaving just the grass under the cedar trees that had managed to survive the summer. Then we edged the area with black landscape edging and laid down weed cloth.  We also collected free rocks from rock and dirt piles at a local cemetery to line my new xeriscape (three loads, in the trunk of our Ford Focus).  We collected plants from the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center fall plant sale and went to town planting them, including the Mexican Plum tree that rode home in the back seat of the convertible with the top down. The craziest plants we bought there were these itty bitty assorted wildflowers.  We planted them thinking they’d get maybe 2 feet tall and the four plants that survived that winter turned into MASSIVE wildflower bushes 4 – 5 feet across and almost as tall!  Of course, they were aided by the fact that the spring and summer after they were planted was incredibly rainy and we lost almost no plants this time. In fact, all of the plants grew way more than we expected, even after reading their descriptions!

Now after a year and a half of the front yard xeriscape awesomeness we created I had to prune some of the massive bushes back so that they don’t look absolutely ridiculous this coming year. These Texas hardy plants all seemed to have survived the four days straight of freezing temperatures without us covering them.  Hooray! Plants I don’t have to water AND I don’t have to cover. WIN WIN.

In addition to planting plants, I like to plant large pretty rocks.

And from today, buds on our Mexican plum tree!