Rachel Matthews is your average stay-at-home mom - well, almost.
A resident of Calallen, she volunteers at the schools of her two children, helps them with their homework when they get home and makes sure they eat right (and well) when the time comes to snack or sit down for dinner. She coaches her daughter's soccer team and is involved in the PTA. She and her husband, Nathan, have been married for nearly 10 years, and have resided in Calallen for the past five years.
But Rachel, 32, is not quite your typical stay-at-home mom.
The reason for that is Rachel is the author of one of the more well-known food blogs on the Internet. Her Web page, www.asouthernfairytale.com, is Rachel's own form of a culinary diary. There, Rachel posts both recipes that she has found and those she has created while tinkering with ingredients at home.
"Usually, I'm like, 'This might be good. Let's just throw a bunch of stuff together and see how it comes out,'" she says. "I do that a lot and it's more fun."
As Rachel says this, she begins tossing various ingredients into a bowl and mixing them. She is trying out a new recipe for cheese biscuits, opting to use cubes of cheddar cheese in this batch to see what the outcome is. Rachel says she still remembers how, as a young girl, her first batch of biscuits turned out.
"You talk about bad. Try having biscuits where you have five tablespoons of baking soda instead of baking powder - oh my god," she says. "My parents were so mad."
Rachel attended college in San Marcos, where she worked as an assistant manager at a bar to help pay for expenses. Some of her husband's friends worked at that bar as bouncers, and he came to visit them one weekend to take a break from his studies at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi.
"He says it was love at first sight," she says. "But I gave him hell - I was way too independent for my own good."
The memory gives Rachel, a native of Bryan, Texas, a reason to laugh before she goes on to say the couple wound up dating for a bit before marrying in 2001. After telling him that a long-distance relationship was just not possible, Rachel says Nathan moved to San Marcos in order to be closer to her. The couple has resided in numerous parts of Texas, including New Braunfels, Canyon Lake and Victoria.
It was while she was pregnant with her son, who she lovingly refers to as "Monkey," that Rachel started her first food blog. While struggling through the first three months of the pregnancy, Rachel turned to writing to talk about her experiences and share recipes she had been trying.
"People talk about morning sickness - it's a fallacy," she says with a laugh. "It's all damn day and being camped out on the bathroom floor."
While chatting with other foodies online, one of them suggested Rachel start a blog.
"I said, 'What's a blog?'" she says.
Her first attempt at a Web page did not turn out well, and Rachel says she is sure the initial template is still floating around cyberspace somewhere. After a brief period of research, including learning how to properly write recipes, Rachel later formed her current Web site.
There, she shares anecdotes about her day-to-day activities with her family, as well as discussing recipes that she has stumbled upon or created. The response has been overwhelming.
"I still have this thought in my head that I'm writing and it's going out there. It's kind of like, 'Yeah, people read it, but not actual people,'" she says. "Then you run into someone who comes up to you and says, 'I love this recipe.' It's weird, but it's fun."
But cyberspace is not the only place Rachel shares her culinary prowess.
During a visit to a Kraft Foods kitchen two years ago, Rachel was able to try different foods served to the group. During the tasting portion of the visit, she offered a piece of South Texas culinary advice to an attendee about one of the dishes.
"I said this would be really good with some chipotle," Rachel says. "And one lady said, 'What's a chipotle?'" And I was like, 'Oh honey, you need to come down south.'"
The blog itself is a showcase for Rachel's personality - it is an easygoing and humorous read that never seems to take itself too seriously. In Rachel's mind, she'd really have it no other way. The point of it all, she says, is to have fun and share the love of food she has had since she was a little girl.
A timer dings during Rachel's interview and she gets up from the table to check on the biscuits she was mixing earlier. They have been baking for almost 15 minutes and the smell wafting from the oven brings on memories of a relaxing day at grandma's house. But when she opens the oven door, Rachel sees a mistake right away.
"Yeah, there was way too much liquid in those," she says. "This is why I try a recipe before we actually make them."
She pulls the tray out of the oven and places it on the counter, leaving the biscuits to cool for a bit. The decision to use small, cubed blocks of cheese proves to also have been a mistake, as there are now small divots where each cube had settled. The cheese itself has melted and flowed into a ring around most of the biscuits.
But the taste of the biscuits is undeniably homemade. There is a fluffy texture to them that just cannot be replicated by even the most high-dollar can of frozen offerings available on the market.
Rachel credits her grandmother, Mary Cecil Trew, as the main influence for how she experiences and experiments with the art and science of cooking. Home-cooked meals were a staple of family gatherings when Rachel was a child and her most prized possessions include a large collection of cookbooks that used to belong to Mary.
"It's amazing, right?" she asks while showing off one book that is more than 60 years old. Included in the collection are recipes written by hand by her grandmother. It's a piece of culinary history that Rachel says she treasures every time she looks at.
Rachel's blog is full of various recipes, from full-on entrees to snacks for the kids. But she also takes the time to talk about the joy she finds in spending time with her children, while spreading that message with other parents who visit her site. Some of them seem to have taken that message to heart.
"Beautiful and so true. I've been trying to remind myself of this recently whenever I can, especially while my kids are still so young and these times are so precious," writes one user with the screen name Lady Mama.
"I need this reminder daily. I don't find my joy on Twitter - I find it in those sweet sticky hands pulling at my leg and shutting my laptop down," writes another of the site's visitors, with the screen name Tracy.
"I remember the day when I hit 100 visitors. I was over the moon," Rachel says, adding that number is much higher now.
Looking toward the future, Rachel says she has become interested in writing a cookbook. However, like Rachel herself, she would like it to be something unique. It could be something similar to her blog, wherein she shares personal and funny anecdotes, while also sharing her passion for cooking.
But until that day, Rachel has her love for all things culinary and her family, and that is more than enough. Her daughter, who goes by the nickname "Princess," and son are now learning their way around the kitchen. Monkey is often more interested in making a bit of a mess, but Rachel says she sees some of herself in the way he approaches their cooking moments - with enthusiasm.
But the blog has given her a chance to share those two loves with others, and maybe have a positive impact on those who visit her site on a daily basis. That, she says, is a gift she never expected to receive.
"I never would have thought any of this would have happened," she says. "But I'm not going to complain about it."