Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Memories of summer days...

Grand kids fishing

This is one of my favorite photos.  For some reason it just reminds me of 'summer days'.  I believe it was actually taken about 3 years ago when my son-in-law took us all cat fishing.  The kids (and I) had such a good time... even though the weather was scalding hot. 

Years and years and years ago my dad (now deceased) took his grand kids fishing.  I used to have a photo of that... probably still do... somewhere.

We lived in New Orleans and Dad and his brother had built a small one room fishing camp on Grand Isle.  Hurricanes knocked it down several times and they always rebuilt it.  The last time it happened, Dad was getting older, and they didn't rebuild. But I always remember going there with him.  He didn't take me often because it was mostly men friends who used it and it consisted of one room, 3 bunk beds, a sink, and a hot plate. I was a little girl (albeit a tomboy). There was no bathroom facility (but there was a pier and a bayou).  Generally he would take my brother, Billy (don't even think he cared about going).  But I loved the fishing, the boat, and the camp! As a kid, I didn't even mind that mosquitoes covered us as we walked through the swamp.  Memories....

Friday, July 27, 2012

Place Saver...

Texas heat

This picture is just a place saver as I haven't time to blog this week.  We have family in town and are spending the days running around in the heat and 'eating'.  This morning we drove down to Terrell and checked out Ham's Peach Orchard.  We came home with an ice chest full of home-made peach and  strawberry ice-cream... (hmmm, really good stuff!)  as well as a fresh chocolate brownie pie, butter pound cake, and baskets of fresh plums.  And that was just this morning.  Yesterday we made buttermilk pie and stuffed artichokes... (we ate part of the pie, but are saving the artichokes for another day).  Anyway, I'll blog again in a few days.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Pie fixes everything...

This was a Pie Shop in Fredericksburg that was adorable... and the pies were fantastic!  We tried to get their recipe for the crust, but they said it was 'secret'.  I really wish they had one like this here by us.  By the way, the Apple Cinnamon Pecan Tea Cake was a hit - extremely moist and very vanillery (is that a word? works for me).  I will definitely make it again.

Here is the recipe if anyone's interested:

Apple Cinnamon Pecan Tea Cake

1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter softened
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 eggs
11/2 cups flour sifted
1 teaspoon baking powder sifted
1- 11/2  teaspoon ground cinnamon (didn't have any, so used 1 t cin sugar)
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup chopped pecans
(I added about 1/2 of a chopped apple to mixture)
melted butter for brushing

apple cinnamon topping:
4 green granny smith apples (1 used 3)
2 tablespoons white sugar
2 tablespoons cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350
Mix butter, sugar, and vanilla in mixing bowl
Beat until pale and creamy
Add eggs one at a time
Add flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and sour cream until just combined
Add pecans
Spoon into lightly greased pan lined with non-stick baking paper.
Cut apples into halves, peel, and core.  Slice apples and push into the top of batter. 
Sprinkle apples with cinnamon sugar.
Bake for about an hour and 15 mins. 
Let cool
Brush with butter and sprinkle cinnamon sugar over before serving. 

These pics were taken at my daughter's place.  They have a pretty good-sized vegetable garden.  These are the raised beds.  I believe they have squash, tomatoes, spinach, onions, and cucumbers (maybe radishes too).  Their turtles love the tomatoes.

And this is an Artichoke plant:

Isn't it beautiful?  I had never seen an artichoke plant before this one.  I love to eat artichokes...with the steamed leaves dipped in butter or the whole artichoke stuffed with breadcrumbs, parmesan cheese, and garlic, but I had never seen one actually growing. This one was at the herb farm in Fredericksburg.  I bought a cutting and took it to my daughter's place. Hopefully its doing well.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Apple, Cinnamon, Pecan Tea Cake

Apple, Cinnamon, Pecan Tea Cake
This week has been 'different'.  I cut off my long ponytail that I've had for the last few years and had a friend's hair dresser put in  highlights and lowlights into my almost completely white hair. And it's not that I didn't like the white hair, but its the 'washed out' look that bothered me. Now it certainly is different. Guess it was time for a change. Can't say I love it... but I don't hate it either. Every time I look in the mirror these last few days, I have to do a double-take and say to myself, "who is that?" But to be honest, the last few years I've said that a lot anyway.  Aging is a strange process.   One of my sons says he likes the change and that I don't look like a 'tree-hugger' anymore.  I told him that I kind of liked looking like a tree-hugger (since I was one).

At the moment I'm baking an Apple, Cinnamon, and Pecan Tea Cake. The recipe sounded wonderful, so I decided to give it a try.  If it comes out looking good, I'll post a picture (it did, and I did).  If it tastes wonderful, I'll post the recipe (haven't tasted it yet).

We have family coming to visit in a few weeks, so I've been dusting areas that we don't use much (like the front room with the fireplace in summer). This morning I took down all the little knick-knacks and china, crystal, etc. that sits on our old hutch/china cabinet and dusted it. I love going through these things as they all have a history or a story (something that had once belonged to a close relative, or was given by a dear friend, or brought back from a trip, etc.)  As I said, I don't do this often, but when I do, all the memories come rushing back.  Used to have 2 China cabinets full of this type of thing... but gave one away... too much to take care of.  But I've kept this one. Guess one day I'll have to give it away too... but not yet.

Cats laying around while I dust room...

Monday, July 16, 2012

B. W. O.


Saw this on someones site recently and thought it pretty cute. Most of you probably know what it means, but I didn't.  For those of you who may be clueless (like myself) , it means "blogging without obligation" and I got it here.  I didn't know how to copy the whole message, so I did it my way and linked it.  Anyway, I thought it an original idea... kind of a waiver saying "I'll blog when and if feel like it!"

Today is a quiet Monday. I won't have many of them in the Fall when Pottery takes over again, so am trying to enjoy them now.  I did a little more 'clearing out' of my computer room... just in case grand daughter decides to come spend some time with us.  She usually does for a week or so each summer, but this summer I have had some health probs that interfered.  But it may still happen.  We have a guest room upstairs, but she prefers to stay in her mom's old room which is adjacent to ours and is now my computer/study (it does have a daybed in it). Unfortunately it is also used as a 'store it all' throughout the year... so it gets a bit cluttered.  In some places there are attics or basements that accommodate this problem, but here we don't have basements and the attics are too friggin hot to even attempt putting much up there. So here I sit with a Santa Claus and old wooden sign saying "Merry Christmas!" on the side of my desk... not to mention boxes of files and old papers that need going through. Oh well, such is life.

This afternoon DH and I plan to visit the town of McKinney.  It's only 15- 20 minutes from us, but has a quaint little town square with shops and eating places.  His brother and wife are coming in a few weeks to visit and we thought we'd take them to a restaurant that I went to with friends a while back.  DH wasn't with us, so I thought we'd go today and have some pie and coffee... and let him check it out.  We need to take the back roads as the highway is being worked on and a real pain to navigate at times.

This is one of our male box turtles that come by to eat the cat chow we feed the ferals (they should call it 'cat, turtle, raccoon, & possum' chow). I marked his shell with a bit of nail polish to distinguish him from some of the others that live in our yard. He's a nice size, but not as large as some of the females. He also likes strawberries, figs, and apples (the figs and apples grow in our yard, the strawberries we get at Central Market and share with him on occasion). We live on a creek and the box turtles and red sliders seem to be abundant... (we also keep our area as organic as possible - no insecticides).

Sunday, July 15, 2012

DH's birthday...

Today is DH's birthday.  Yes, our birthdays are 9 days apart.  The kids are coming over later. I'm making spaghetti and meatballs, salad, and cheese bread - simple.  DH picked out a white chocolate raspberry bundt cake with cream cheese icing for dessert.  It's very good as we've had it before... and no, I didn't make it.

I just finished reading "The Rope" by Nevada Barr.  Her books are intense.  She has the knack of making you feel like you're right there with her... in this case... at the bottom of a crevice (she called it a 'jar') at the mercy of a madman.  In 'Firestorm", you shared her panic as the forest fire flashed over the hole she dug in a dry creek and covered herself with some sort of fire retardant tarp.  If I remember correctly, the fire flashed over her... depending on its speed depended on whether or not she would be cooked.  And in "Blind Descent", you were trapped with her in the bottom of a pitch black cave with a killer on the loose.

I love her writing, but can't take it too much at a time. I prefer safe easy reading, 'cozy mysteries' that don't involve too much tension... ones I can fall asleep reading. 

Haven't done any knitting since this past winter.  I find this relaxing too (sometimes).  If I'm working on something that is new or difficult (for me), it's not so relaxing.  Just learned to make cables and baubles... and love the look.  Here is a picture of my first cables and baubles scarf.

Well, I'd better go get some things done since the kids are coming over later. Have a wonderful Sunday!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

the story of Reggie (bunny) and Rupert (rat)...

This post belongs in my "Cats, Coffee, and Chocolate" blog... since it is about critters.  But it's also part of the ongoing story of our Aga... which was my "Older but better...?" site's previous post.  So, forgive me but I'm posting it on both sites.  Talking about the Aga got me to go back and read one of my old web sites called Agasite which began as a journal of the horrendous days of remodeling our kitchen. If anyone has undergone this elective devastation, you will understand.

Anyway, as I was reading I came across the story of Reggie and Rupert.  It's a true story that I put into a children's story form in a letter to my then 3 year old grand daughter.  (I send her stories about the critter activities in our backyard).  Anyway, it is a cute story about 2 real life animals that became friends and hung out in our yard.  Even the workers who were remodeling were fascinated by this friendship. So, if you're interested, here is the story of Reggie and Rupert.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Our Aga...

In 2005 we remodeled our kitchen and put in an Aga.  It's a simple story, but there is a story.
For years I followed an online friend's blog, and he made mention several times in his posts how much he missed his Aga.  He lives 'across the pond' in England. Being from the States, I had no idea what an Aga was. So I researched it and found that even though they were not popular here, they were still available.  So DH and I decided to check them out.  Well... for a kitchen appliance, we both thought they were absolutely beautiful. I had the intention of 'admiring from afar'.... beautiful, but not attainable.  DH had different ideas.  So... tada! 

And if you're wondering if we later regretted our purchase because of the Texas heat (an Aga is on 24/7 - continuous heat - no knobs), the answer is no, we love it! The cats love it!  It does get a bit warm in the kitchen in July and August, but the rest of the year it offers warmth and comfort to us all. I tend to sit on the floor with my back to it and drink my coffee with the cats in the early mornings...


Wednesday, July 11, 2012

To pot or not to pot...

I'll bet you thought I was going to talk about gardening here.  No...I've been reading blogs lately that have to do with cats, farm animals, knitting, cooking, gardening, and pottery...  and have found some great ones that I intend to follow

Pottery is a fairly new activity for me. I have played around with writing stories, sketching, water-color, photography, etc. for most of my life. But about 2 years ago, I decided that I would like to learn to throw on the potter's wheel.  So I signed up for some classes and have been at it ever since.  Working with clay is new to me and extremely enjoyable. I've a long way to go, but the process of getting there has been delightful.  Most of the people (or maybe I should say, 'a lot of the people') I'm working with have done this for 15 - 30 years... so-oo since I'm already 67, I doubt if I will ever be as accomplished as them.  But that's OK.

While learning to throw on the wheel has been my main focus, hand-built sculptures has provided me with lots of entertaining hours.  The picture at the top was the first part of our project for last semester... a stoneware dinnerware set.  It wasn't great, but I was happy that the pieces actually came close to looking like what they were supposed to be.  The second part of our project was to hand-build 3 trophy animal sculptures.  Well, the thought of animal heads on trophies put me off... so I decided to do birds... for whatever reason, it didn't seem so off-putting. 

I choose a rooster, a puffin, and an eagle...

I find working in this new medium not that different than some of the others... such as writing.  When writing sometimes the story takes off on his own volition; the characters taking on a life of their own. Well, sculpting seems to do this also.  Sometimes I plan to make something whimsical... but it pulls towards reality... or vice-versa.  With the wheel though, I find it a constant struggle to conquer it... but am beginning to realize that its not a matter of controlling it, but rather learning how to co-operate with it.  Again, I'm still very new at this.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Definitely older...

67th birthday just passed this week!  Don't have any recent photo, but found this one of my 56th birthday taken while breakfasting at Le Madeleine's 11 years ago.  If you change the dark hair to almost white (and that partly due to radiation), I'm not that different... maybe a little thinner and even though I wear my hair in a long ponytail or braid these days, the looks the same. I'm still me... just old.

Like all of us whose birthdays fall close to a holiday, our day becomes embedded into the holiday. For years growing up, the family's 4th of July picnic was always my birthday celebration. Not as bad as having to share a birthday with Christmas... in fact, it just added more festivity to the national holiday.  And how many kids get fireworks on their birthday!!

Don't have any words of wisdom to share.  And it's not that 67 is that old.  But the fact that neither my brother nor my sister made it this far impacts me.  It's made me very appreciative of life in general, and mine in particular.  DH and I are both retired, and although not financially well off, we do ok. Our kids are all grown and hard-working, and our grand kids are fantastic. So-oo I guess what I'm saying is "Happy Birthday to me!" 

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy 4th 2012!

Happy 4th of July!

Sitting here drinking my sweet tea... neighborhood parade just went by... and parade music is still ringing in my ears.  Everyone has their flags out.  This picture is an old one from a previous 4th.  We no longer have that flag pole.  It was taken down and never replaced when we had the wood painted.  But we did have 2 smaller flags out.  Guess we need to get around to replacing that pole.

Parade music reminds me of Mardi Gras at home (in New Orleans). I was never a big fan of the parades, but loved the music.  It made you feel happy... and carefree.  Unfortunately I've never liked crowds... and believe me, it gets crowded

If I had to think of what I miss most not living at home (besides family, I mean), it would be the food.  I do love red beans and rice, po-boys, gumbo, and good seafood... like fried catfish and boiled crabs (I especially love soft shell crabs).  But we try to get our 'fix' when we go down for a visit. 

It should be a quiet day.  We don't have anything planned.  The kids may come over, but may not.  We never know.  I plan to bake a chocolate pie later this afternoon... just in case.  Besides, DH and I love dark chocolate cream pie!

Oh, just a tidbit of info here: Grand daughter called this morning at 7 am (we were still asleep) to tell us the exciting news...  the box turtle we gave her a few weeks ago just laid eggs in its pen!  So hopefully (with a lot of luck and nothing weird happening) we'll have baby turtles in about 50 weeks (I think?).

Again - HAPPY 4TH!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

"People suck... ?"

Texas Horned Toad

Good Morning!  It's a little cooler here in Texas this morning, so I actually took an early morning walk. I love to walk, but once it gets into the triple digits, forget it! 

Anyhow, I have been reading old journal pages from my 2001 site and came across this one that speaks volumes.  It came about because someone left a comment on one of my pages that "people suck"... and it got me to thinking.  It's been over 10 years since I wrote that, but my belief system hasn't changed. It's served me well.

I guess if I had to give any advice that could be generalized, it would be:  BE KIND

Monday, July 2, 2012

Growing Old...

While looking through one of my older websites, I came across this poem:

Growing Old

The days grow shorter, the nights grow longer;
The headstones thicken along the way;
And life grows sadder, but love grows stronger
For those who walk with us day by day.

The tear comes quicker, the laugh comes slower;
The courage is lesser to do and dare;
And the tide of joy in the heart falls lower,
And seldom covers the reefs of care.

But all true things in the world seem truer;
And the better things of earth seem best,
And friends are dearer, as friends are fewer,
And Love is all as our sun dips west.

Then let us clasp hands as we walk together,
And let us speak softly in low sweet tone,
For no man knows on the morrow whether
we two pass on - or but one alone.

by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Makes you think... more now than it did then.  I also visited some sites this morning where the people were fulfilling their lifetime dream of traveling in their retirement years.  Some were just taking more vacations, others were actually traveling around the country... in RV's or trucks.  Their photos are awesome!  And I imagine their experiences are awesome too!

love to travel.  And I prefer to 'live like the natives' so to speak.  This doesn't mean that I 'rough it' much, only that I like to stay in a home, B&B, mission, etc. to get the feel of the place... and not necessarily a hotel  (you know, 'eat where the locals eat'). But as much as I enjoy it, I'm not sure that being on the road 24/7 would be my thing.  The longest I've ever been 'out of my element' was a month-long trip to England, Scotland, and Ireland... which was fantastic. We weren't with a tour, just on our own.  But by the end of the month, I was tired and more than ready to go home.

Think about it...  even if you're having a fantastic time, there comes a moment eventually when home beckons.  Doesn't it?

Sunday, July 1, 2012

3 am...

Jack sitting on the counter this morning with my DVD series

Yes, it was one of those 3 am wake-up calls.  They don't happen a lot, but do on occasion... and last night was one of those.  So I made a cup of hot tea, and the cats and I watched "Pie in the Sky". Then I went back to bed at 4, and slept until 7.  Not too bad. Had read somewhere that if you wake up in the middle of the night, you shouldn't force yourself to stay in bed... that if you're still awake 20 - 30 mins. later, to get up and do something.  So I did.

Anyway, I was also reading Chippers post about 'being silly' this morning.  He's right.  We forget how to have fun as we age.  To be honest, I can't think of many ways to have fun.  People party for fun. I've never been a party-er.  Guess I cook for fun, work on the pottery wheel, take pictures, read books, write stories... but most of these are solitary actions.  They don't need a crowd... or even other participants. I would love to learn to fly fish (but again, this can be done alone). When I try to think of fun with others, all I can think of is 'going out to eat'. We do do this. And I guess 'taking classes' qualifies as a fun group activity...  It's all very subjective.

Wrote up a list of my favorite things the other day (actually it was while I sat at the DPS waiting to renew my TDL).   Will figure out how to add those somewhere on my blog page. Which reminds me, my "spell check" here on blogger doesn't seem to work... any ideas?