Last night, as we rung in the new year, Christine informed me of her plans to go shopping all day, and asked if I’d be willing to cook the black-eyed peas for our New Year’s Day dinner.

I said “sure, that’d be fun”. She then went to the grocery store to buy all of the ingredients for dinner.

Right before we went to bed, she sent me the recipe for Dave’s Georgia Black Eyed Peas from which is what she intedended me to follow.

I didn’t look at it last night, so this morning, I pulled it up to check it out and to assemble the ingredients:

2 pounds dried black-eyed peas
12 cups water
8 cubes chicken bouillon
1 pound bacon
1/2 cup butter
2 large yellow onions, chopped
1 pound cooked ham, cut into bite-size pieces
salt and black pepper to taste

I looked at the above list, and then read over the directions:

1. Rinse, pick over, and place the peas in a large bowl. Cover with several inches of cool water; let stand 8 hours to overnight.
2. Pour the water into a large saucepan or soup pot. Add the bouillon cubes and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally to dissolve the bouillon. Stir in the peas, reduce heat, and bring to a simmer.
3. Place the bacon in a large, deep skillet and cook over medium-high heat, turning occasionally, until evenly browned, about 10 minutes. Drain the bacon slices on a paper towel-lined plate. Crumble the bacon and set aside.
4. Melt the butter in the pan with the bacon grease; cook and stir the onions until they begin to turn brown at the edges, about 10 minutes. Stir the onions and cooking fat into the peas; add the crumbled bacon, ham, and salt and pepper to taste. Simmer the peas over low heat for 8 hours, stirring every hour.

We’d agreed last night that since we bought fresh peas, not dried peas, we didn’t need to soak the peas, so I skipped step number one.

I decided to cook and crumble the bacon first, mainly because I was making breakfast, and I figured the kids would want some bacon with their croissants.

After making bacon, letting it dry and crumbling it, I looked around for the onions.


There weren’t any in the refridgerator, so I checked the pantry. Not there either, so I called my wife. She hadn’t bought any… so I skipped the first part of step #4 too… didn’t make any onions.

Next, I figured I’d tackle step number 2: getting the boullion going. So, I checked the pantry for some boullion cubes. I couldn’t find them. So I called my wife. She hadn’t bought any… and thought their might be some chicken stock somewhere in the pantry. There wasn’t.

Now what was I to do? I’d tried to follow my directions, but I could really only accomplish step number three up to this point… so our of four steps, I was only able to complete 1.5 of the 4 so far. Argh… I was a little frustrated.

Then I decided to just improvise. What follows is my recipe for my improvised Bacon and Tenderloin Black Eyed-Peas:

Bacon and Tenderloin Black Eyed-Peas


  • 2 pounds fresh black-eyed peas (dry if you can’t find fresh ones)
  • 12 cups water
  • 1 pound bacon
  • 1/2 pound of cooked pork tederloin, seasoned to suit, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1/2 tspn of ground cumin
  • 1/2 tspn of ancho chili powder
  • 1 bay leaf
  • salt and black pepper to taste


  1. Optional Prep: If you had to use dry black-eyed peas Rinse, pick over, and place the peas in a large bowl. Cover with several inches of cool water; let stand 8 hours to overnight.
  2. Place the bacon in a large, deep skillet and cook over medium-high heat, turning occasionally, until evenly browned, about 10 minutes. Drain the bacon slices on a paper towel-lined plate. Crumble the bacon and set aside. Save the bacon grease.
  3. Pour the water into a large saucepan or soup pot. Add the bacon grease, ground cumin and ancho chili powder and bay leaf and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally to spread out the seasonings. Stir in the peas, reduce heat, and bring to a simmer.
  4. Add the prok tenderloin, and salt and pepper to taste. Simmer the peas over low heat for 4 hours (8 hours if you started with dried, instead of fresh, peas), stirring every hour.
  5. Let rest for thirty minutes to an hour, drain of all excess water, serve and eat


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This summer, on our Vegas trip, we took the boys to the Siegfried & Roy’s Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat at the Las Vegas Mirage. Had a blast taking the tour, and taking these photos with the boys:

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So, we went to Bull Creek Park the other day, to get out of the heat, and into the creek, for a little cooling off.

After a little while, I noticed Steven was skipping rocks. I told the boys to go learn from him. Jack was super interested.

After a few tries, Steven leaned down to give Jack some pointers. He was showing him how to throw the rocks, so they’d skip.

After a few more tries, Steven leaned down to show Jack how to pick which rocks to skip:

“See this rock? This rock is good and flat, but it’s not perfectly flat. This side bulges out a little, and this other side is caved in a little. See this side? It’s convex. And this side is concave. We want to throw it with this side down. Got that, Jack?”

And Jack looked up at Steven with these “I completely understand you, but I have no idea what you said” look in his eyes. He then proceeded to throw the rock, and it skipped a little.

That is how Jack learned the difference between convex and concave. Now to get him into a 10th grade geometry class, so he retains it.

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I love taking photos. Really, I do. The photos I love taking the most, are photos of kids… because they’re just perfect, every time… kids can be dirty, stinky, frowning, smiling, jumping, running, falling, or just sitting there, and they’ll still be just perfect.

Here are some photos I took on my brother’s birthday at his house in Bellville:

And here are some non-kid photos from the day that turned out pretty good:

Happy Birthday Bro.

The rest of the photos can be seen here.

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A friend is expecting a new baby in June, and asked me for some “good parenting tips” so I started writing… just want to share what I wrote her:

Best advice I can give:

1. Love your child every day, more than the day before, and cherish every moment with them.
2. Expect them to change all the time, and yet never be anything but your baby, no matter how old they are.
3. Even when they are starting to get annoying as they get older (like whiny three-year olds for example) remember that they aren’t as sage and wise as you are, and they are just acting how they think they should act, to get a desired response. Pick them up. Hug them, and tell them you love them, and then enforce the rules, but with love.
4. Spend as much time with them as you can, because at some time in the future, you won’t get to spend as much time with them as you want.
5. Remember that your love is what pushes them… in everything they do… so give them lots of love and attention, and always know that they love you back just as much.

Or the short version:

Say “I love you” to your child every chance you get and show them your love in everything you do for and with them.

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Christine and I moved to Fort Worth from Fort Lewis, Washington in 2000.

We wanted a dog (well, I wanted a dog… Christine’s always been a cat person).

We’d met a Bichon Frise on post in Washington, that was so happy and fun, that I just had to have one. That Bichon was about 3 feet tall, and rather large (we later learned he was a Bichon/Poodle mix).

So, we found a Bichon breeder in the area, out near Reliant airport, and drove out to pick out a dog. When we got there, we were faced with a choice of one of two females, or the male runt. We chose the runt. The puppy could fit in the palm of one hand… or at least that’s what I remember.

On the way home, we were trying to pick out a name, and were naming off lots of names together… when we saw a billboard for the Law School at Texas Wesleyan… and being a good Methodist, I said “How about Wesley?” And it stuck.

We brought Wesley home, and I promptly went on a business trip (the first of many MacWorld Conferences, on behalf of MacNN). Christine was left to deal with a puppy that had horrible seperation anxiety, and couldn’t keep any food down, while I was out in San Fancisco enjoying a trade show… and to top it all off, we were living in a tiny apartment with all of our belongings still in boxes, while our first house was being built. Needless to say, they got to bond pretty tightly while I was gone. And I’m pretty sure Christine considered taking the poor little guy back while I was out of town, at least once.

We finally got him nursed back to health, and semi-potty trained, and finally moved into out house on Belladonna. Wesley and Patton used to LOVE playing with each other in that house… and I do mean play with each other. They were the best playmates each other could have… and fast friends.

I also started calling Wesley “Waggers” because the dog was always soooo happy to see us… anytime we came through the door.

Wesley was a little dog, but he made up for that in spunk and effort. I remember going for a quick mile run with him once… and picking him up after the first quarter mile, because he just didn’t have it in him to run that far (yes, I actually ran after the Army, at few times – or at least attempted it)

Fast forward a few years, and we moved four times with Wesley, and he saw the birth of two boys (with Jack and with Grayson), and the growth of our family. He’s been an everpresent presence, and never shied away from our love… always returning it in multiples.

He knew all of our friends, and loved every single one of them. He greeted everyone at the door, and was always very excited to welcome them into our home.

He loved to give kisses to anyone that would let him…

He even put up with us putting bows and silly bandanas on him:

He loved it when we gave him a good old fashioned scratching:

Somedays his hair was better than others:

A couple of weeks ago, Christine and I noticed that one of Wesley’s eyes looked a little swollen, so we took him to the vet… then to a specialist. Turns out the poor guy had some kind of tumor growing behind his eye. So we brought him home, and gave him some medicine and some ointment for his eye, but it was apparent the little guy was in pain.

So, this morning, I made one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made, and left him with out vet at around 8:15 a.m. I gave him a big hug, and a kiss on the forehead, and told him I’d see him on the other side… and with that I left him in the care of a wonderful and caring veterinary team… I said good-bye to one of my best friends… “Wesley Waggers”.

Tonight Jack told me at dinner that he “just wanted to hold him one more time” and it nearly broke my heart to tell him that “we’ll just have to hold him in our dreams and our prayers and someday, we’ll get to hold him in Heaven.” Jack then proceeded to thank God for Wesley during his prayer for dinner… and to ask for another puppy.

I’ll see you on the Rainbow Bridge buddy.

“The measure of a society can be how well its people treat its animals.” – Mohandas Gandhi

And thank you to everyone that posted well wishes and condolences on Facebook today. Really appreciate it.

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My dad died on this day twenty-two years ago. I was 11 years old:

The text in the Houston Chronicle read:

John F. Engler, Jr. died age 39. November 22, 1987, in Denver. Services will be at Graveside, Forest Park Lawndale, December 5 and 2:00 p.m. In lieu of flowers send donations to John Engler Memorial Fund, c/o/ Margo Bergesen, P.O. Box 105, Round Mountain, Tx. 78663.

Sucks to lose a dad when you’re 11. Sucks to lose a dad period.

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As a follow up to our trip to Kemah earlier this year, I’ve finally posted all of the photos from the trip… and talk about some fun photos.

I think these are my favorites:

(see them all here)

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We took a photo at the Houston Space Center last week (more on our trip later when I take the time to write it) and I loved the photo so much, I just had to throw it up here:

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If you’re checking for updates, and have been disappointed, I apologize. We’ve just been so busy, it’s been hard to keep up with posting new stuff.

While I’ll continue to post to in the future, I am inviting you to follow us on Facebook or Twitter, if you really want to know what we’re up to all the time:

John on Facebook
Christine on Facebook

And, even my little brother Evan is on Facebook.

I’m also on Twitter @johnengler.

See you around!

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This year, we headed out to the lake again. Debbie and Raymond had a full house… so full we shared a room with two cousins! Jack got to sleep on the floor on a pallet, which Christine and I shared one double bed, and the two little girls shared the other double. Grayson was in his playpen that first night. We were all so exhausted after a full Friday, that it didn’t matter a bit (and I hope my snoring didn’t keep anyone up too much during the night).

We went swimming as soon as we got there, and the boys had a blast swimming with their cousings:

Aunt Peggy and Payton were in charge of dinner Friday night. Talk about good! Mmmmm. Mmmmmmm… Everyone got plenty of good food (fish, chicken, and beef) and lots of great conversation.

On Saturday, we took all of the kids out on the lake in the morning, for a little fun in the sun!

Grayson got sick that afternoon, and so he and I headed home… Christine and Jack stayed and played… and headed to church on Sunday before heading home to hang with us.

Good weekend, althought it was too short.

See all of the photos here.

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Christine, Jack, Grayson and I drove up to Dallas this weekend to attend Steven’s graduation ceremony from SMU.

Talk about being proud of someone… I could see the pride in Michael, Mary, Frank, and Christine’s faces… And I must say he looked good in blue and red. And you can see the excitement on Steven’s face too:

SMU May 2009 Graduation

Can’t you see it?!


Seriously, though, we had a blast. The kids played a lot at Nana and Papa’s, and had a blast, and Christine and I enjoyed visiting as always…

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Murrell Cato Helmke, 86, died Thursday, March 19, 2009 at Duke Raleigh Hospital.

A resident of Magnolia Glen on Creedmoor Road, Murrell remained an active and enthusiastic participant in all aspects of her life. She loved her family deeply and valued the friendships she had made both here and abroad. She will be greatly missed.

Preceded in death by Jim, her husband of 58 years.

Murrell’s survivors include son, James Helmke and wife, Bronwyn; daughter, Gretchen Weakley and husband, Terry; daughter, Karen Rectanus; niece, Helen Barrow and husband, Brad; grandchildren, Karl and Tim Rectanus, Hannah, Jon and Matthew Weakley, Maggie and Abby Helmke and Derek and Gregg Helmke; six great-grandchildren and numerous nieces and nephews living around the globe.

A memorial service will be held at 2:00 p.m. on Tuesday, March 24, 2009 at White Memorial Presbyterian Church in Raleigh.

In lieu of flowers, Murrell asked that donations be made to a charity of one’s choice.

Arrangements made by the Cremation Society of the Carolinas.

Online condolences can be made at

From the News & Obeserver website.

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It’s hard for me to write this post.

My Great Aunt, Aunt Murrell passed away today.

Murrell was my mother’s aunt. Her mother’s sister. She was a Cato.

My mom called me this evening to tell me the news, and it sounds like Aunt Murrell passed away like she lived:

Full of grace and dignity.

Christine and I got to spend some time with Aunt Murrell back in 2005 on two occasions: We spent some time in Raleigh with her and that side of the family and then she came to Austin with two of her grandkids.

I’ve never met a woman who lived a more full life, or lived it with such grace and vitality, and who was truly sincere and committed to every action she took. Aunt Murrell is an inspiration and role model, and I can only hope when I look back on my life it was as full and honest as hers was.

You will be missed Aunt Murrell … by many. My only regret is not spending more time with you. We will remember you always.

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On November 16th, 2008, we celebrated Jack and Grayson’s birthday together at Kiddie Acres here in Austin.

Boy did we have fun (parents and kids included). We took a butt load of photos that day, but my favorite has to be this one:

Marc took that one, and the timing couldn’t have been more perfect. Notice that as Grayson blew out the candles with Jack, he spit a little… you can see it coming out in that photo. Yes, it landed on the cake, and yes someone ate that piece of the cake. Not sure who ate it, but I love that it happened, and no one seemed to notice but Marc and I, and we didn’t say anything to anyone. No harm, no foul, right?


LOTS of photos of kids having fun here.

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