Monday, June 30, 2008


My Willett grandmother lived in a small Texas town near Lubbock. I stayed with her sometimes in the summer and she made the best crispy fried chicken, velvety smooth mashed potatoes and thick cream gravy that I have ever tasted—makes my mouth water just thinking about it! Grandmother’s meal planning began in her back yard where she kept the hens that laid eggs for the family. I can picture her now, in a dress with an apron covering the front, marching out the kitchen door and into the chicken yard where she grabbed a plump hen by the feet. In a deft maneuver, she popped its neck and left it to run circles around the back yard until it dropped. Next the hen went into a pot of boiling hot water on the back porch. The smell was awful, but soon the wet feathers were plucked off and set aside to dry for a pillow-in-the-making.

Grandmother then gutted the chicken and cut it into pieces. She coated each piece on a big cutting board covered with flour, a pinch of salt and a shake of pepper. Meanwhile, a big cast iron dutch oven on Grandmother’s stove was heating up the oil to cook the chicken. I believe Grandmother used Crisco to fry her chicken—and for lots of other recipes in her kitchen. She might also have added a bit of the bacon drippings that she kept in a metal container on the back of her stove.

After Grandmother had the chicken pieces well covered in flour, she carefully lowered them into the popping hot grease in her dutch oven. The pieces were cooked and turned until they became a crispy golden brown. Meanwhile, Irish potatoes that had been boiled were mashed with big pieces of butter, a dash of milk, a pinch of salt and a little pepper in them. Grandmother mashed them with her electric mixer until nary a lump could be found.

When the chicken was done, Grandmother took the pan and threw flour into the leftover oil and began adding milk as she stirred it over a low flame. Small crunchy bites left over from the fried chicken were stirred into the mixture and it all became wonderful cream gravy to be spread over the mashed potatoes.

Somewhere along the line, Grandmother had time to slice tomatoes from her garden and warm up some of her home-canned green beans. All of this made up a delicious meal on a warm summer’s evening in West Texas—without air conditioning!

Friday, June 27, 2008

Grandkids Are Here = Fun!

Soph is feeding the deer. Little One LOVES standing at the living room window and watching the deer.

Granddaddy found the Big Wheel for Little One--she loves riding on our patio. Granddaddy also found bikes for both Em and Soph in the shed.

We enjoyed a trip to a Lavender Farm yesterday. Kara and Little One were looking at the lovely rows of lavender plants. Em and Soph tried out their pink tractor and suggested that their dad paint his John Deere pink since they had mostly girls in the family. He said, "Ah, NO!" Then we sat at the picnic table and had root beer before we left.

A visit to the state capitol, but first, feeding the squirrels on the capitol grounds like Son # 2 remembers doing when he was a boy.

Thursday, June 26, 2008


Today I am thankful for grandchildren. I have had more laughs, fun, and enjoyment in the last few days than I have had in a month of Sundays (that used to be an expression of my Grandmother's!).

There is nothing like the smile of a one year old to cheer me up! And there is nothing like a having a religious discussion with a five year old. And, best of all, there is the wonderful reward of having an eight year old and a five year old help me cook dinner! They are wonderful! They speed up the preparation process immensely because they have grown up in their parents' kitchen and know how to chop, slice, dice, and cook EVERYTHING! What a joy that has been! The only critical moment came when the eight year old looked at the serving plate and said, "Our dad would have added a bit of garnish before putting that plate on the table." Oh, well! Not everything around here is perfect!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Em's Story

My eight-year-old granddaughter, Em, is visiting and she has written a story that she would like to share with all of us:

One night I dreamed that I saw a Leprechaun! Then I woke up.

Hi, my name is Emma--Agent Emma. I work for the CIA. I am a secret agent. My job today is to find a Leprechaun! I wish I could do real CIA stuff. Well, I was driving down the road and I heard someone say, "I wanted green potatoes, not white potatoes!" I stopped. I got out of the car, and I went to where I heard the sound. I found a little man who was talking to a woman. He was arguing about the color of potatoes. I went over there and I said, "What are you doing?" They both walked away. I followed the little man, ignoring the lady. I asked the little man why he was so little. He said in a mean voice, "What's your problem?" I was surprised! ~Nobody had ever been that mean to me. And then he said, "I am a Leprechaun, don't you know?" So I grabbed him. I got back in my car and drove back to the CIA. I showed the head boss! He said that I could be promoted to be Manager! It was the best day of my life! I soon became friends with the Leprechaun! And we all lived happily ever after.

The End.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Home Again

We traveled to see Son #4 and played with Miss Ella Bella for a couple of days while her mother rested on the couch with doctor's orders to stay immobile until Grandchild #7 is ready to enter this world. Miss Ella Bella is so wonderfully delightful! We spent time outside blowing bubbles. When we went to put on her shoes before we went outside, I got out her socks and she said, "No socks! Just feet!" She wore her shoes without socks. She spent time reading the morning newspaper with her granddad, and she showed us her new baby brother in her mom's tummy.

We also went to a wedding in a beautiful church and watched a friend walk his daughter down the aisle. The bride was lovely and we had a great time visiting with a number of friends who attended the wedding and reception. Before we left for home I got to walk in the sand and dip my toes into the water with the waves splashing on my legs for just a few minutes. What a marvelous feeling that was! I picked up a perfect shell to bring home until the next time!

Thursday, June 19, 2008


As I look at today's news and all the flooding in the Midwest, I am thankful that I am on dry land this year. Just this time last year our part of the country was in the midst of a "rain event" that had parts of our area under water--not to the extent of the Midwest, but bad enough for those experiencing the flooding.

How quickly things change. Last year we were experiencing too much water and this year we are talking severe drought, water rationing, and excessive use of electricity. I am so thankful that we have air conditioning and that my outdoor plants are still alive. However, this is just the end of June and I don't know how much longer the plants will hold out, but--so far, so good!

I just have to remember to be thankful for what I have TODAY!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Happy Father's Day

My father was a quiet man, but very interesting. He worked almost his whole life for a wholesale hardware company where he began in the warehouse stocking inventory for shipping materials out to a five-state area. He moved up to salesman and traveled a large territory in the upper Texas Panhandle for many years. In his later years with the company he moved to the main office as head of the buying department.

Daddy loved to read. As I learned to read, he took me to the library where I was allowed to check out two books. I could not go back to the library until I had read both books--usually in two weeks, when they were due. Daddy loved mysteries and westerns, especially Louis L'Amour, Zane Grey, and others. As I grew older, I was allowed to ride my bike to the library by myself and pick out new books even if Daddy was not ready to return his own books. I really felt grown up then.

The best vacations that I can remember are the ones that Daddy used to plan for us. His company gave him two weeks of vacation each year and he always “put in” for the last two weeks in July. In his job he drove miles and miles each week to cover his territory. However, for his vacations, he always took us on marathon trips throughout the Southwest. We visited national parks and stayed in small motels along the way. Most of our trips west followed the now famous Route 66 from Texas to New Mexico and across to Arizona. We also took trips up into Utah, Wyoming, and Colorado.

My sister remembers our trips to the local train station and how Daddy depended heavily on the local trains to deliver his carefully completed orders to his company by Monday morning. On Sunday evening, we would all pile into the wood-paneled station wagon and head for the local depot which was built up on an incline surrounded by green, grassy slopes that provided us with the perfect playground to roll or slide down. Sometimes we walked down the brick platform and jumped onto the tracks to practice balancing with our arms outstretched like graceful gymnasts. We were never far from Dad's long reach, and he always knew when the train was approaching the depot. He thoroughly enjoyed explaining to us the facts and pitfalls of business along with his life's wisdom. Mailing his work orders to the company and getting them there on time were very important to him. He had marvelous work habits that left lasting impressions on all of us children. He let us carry the large manila envelope containing his purchase orders for the week to the depot's mail room where he paid the postage so that the envelope would be placed on the next freight train headed for Amarillo.

We could hear in the distance a faint whistle as the train approached and we could see it stop at the water tower to fill up on water. I then chugged slowly into the station area. Many times a passenger train would roll into the station dropping off travelers coming home from an exciting excursion or picking up new passengers headed somewhere beyond Pampa. We watched fascinated as men unloaded baggage onto carts that could be pushed from either end. We liked to play on the baggage carts, and Dad at times pushed us up and down the brick walkway while waiting for our train.

The mail car usually followed the engine at the front of the train and had a double Dutch door located at the rear of the car. The top half of the door would be open, and we could see the lighted interior that contained a wall of small cubicles where mail was sorted. The mailman positioned himself at the open door where he leaned out and grabbed the mailbag hanging on a hook over the tracks. As the train left the station, we could see the red light on the caboose twinkling and dancing as it disappeared into the night. We returned to our car where mother was patiently waiting and sometimes we headed to the local Dairy Queen for a brown derby before heading home for bed.

My sister says that she treasures those moments spent with Dad when he offered his bits of wisdom. These talks with Dad are now gone with the passing of time--never to be repeated but only to be relived through family stories.

Happy Father's Day to all fathers who might read this blog today.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

100 Things Challenge

I recently ran across the following challenge in a blog and thought about it for a time. Here was the introduction:

100 Things Challenge: cut your personal possessions down to 100 things?
Why go through the challenge? A few reasons:
To help you declutter your home.
To make you realize what’s necessary, and what you love, and what you don’t need.
To free yourself of the burden of possessions.
For fun.
To force you to stick to the limit, even if you get new things.
If you have a minimalist streak in you, you might want to give it a try. If you’re really minimalist, you might even want to go below 100 — perhaps 50.

I am definitely not a minimalist since I struggle with being a pack rat and having way too much stuff, but I would like to concentrate on decluttering my home. I decided that I could NOT cut my personal possessions down to 100 things, but I could definitely discard 100 things. I had been pondering the idea for a day or two when I spotted a belt in my closet that I have had for YEARS and have NEVER worn. I decided that belt was my first item to discard and I would not stop until I had at least 10 items from my closet in a discard pile. Next I looked around my bedroom and found 10 more items. Then I was digging around in the back of a kitchen cabinet and found 5 more items that I could live without. By that time I had three sacks ready to go to Goodwill, so off I went. Now I am going to work on my next 25 item discard by cleaning out another messy kitchen cabinet.

Hopefully, by the time I reach my goal of discarding 100 things I will have a cleaner closet and kitchen cabinets. Next on my list would be to move The 100 Things Challenge out into my garage, and if you have ever seen our garage you will know what I mean! However, hubby and I might come to blows on that issue! He has not yet heard about this 100 Things Challenge that I have entered into.

Thursday, June 12, 2008


We have a wonderful neighbor who is turning, well, a bit older soon, and I wanted to write this tribute to him as a birthday present. We are very thankful that he and his family moved into our neighborhood several years ago. I know I have written about our neighborhood several times before, but today I am thankful for Patrick!

Patrick first came into our lives when he bought the house catty-corner across from ours and prepared to remodel it. He was very friendly and on a mission to meet all the neighbors. I suspect he met everyone the first day or two and knew the story of half of us by the end of the first week because Patrick is a “story gatherer.”

Patrick and his family moved into their newly remodeled house on Christmas Eve and we welcomed them into our neighborhood. Little did we know that Patrick would be instrumental in drawing our whole neighborhood closer together. Most of us had lived here for many, many years. We all knew each other but did not socialize much. We waved at each other and said hello when we passed on the street, but had little contact other than that. Patrick set out to correct that situation. Every Saturday morning Patrick was out in his front yard greeting neighbors, checking on everyone, visiting, working on his yard, and borrowing tools and help wherever he could. By doing this, he pulled all the neighbors together.

The Patrick we have come to know and love is full of fun! He bought a pedicab to take his daughter and her friends for rides, but the neighbors just love it when he picks them up for a ride. In the picture here he is taking the neighbor’s children and grandchildren for a late afternoon ride last summer. When I had my hip surgery, he devised a way to get me into the thing and took me on my first outing—a ride to visit the neighbors around the neighborhood.

New neighbors have moved into the neighborhood since Patrick and his family moved in, and, with Patrick leading the way, we have welcomed them and involved them in our gatherings. We have quickly gained new friends this way.

The first Christmas after Patrick and his family moved in, Patrick invited everyone to their house for a neighborhood Christmas party. It was a pot luck affair and we learned that our neighbors cooked wonderful specialties. We visited and got to know each other better that year and it has become an annual event. But Patrick did not stop there. He bought a large cowboy cooker that he uses to entice us out on cold winter nights to sit around the fire and share goodies, a glass of wine or cup of coffee, and discuss whatever world or neighborhood problems that need to be solved. In the summer we sit around the cowboy cooker (without the fire) and continue our problem-solving sessions.

As a result of Patrick’s efforts, our neighborhood has become very unified. We know each other much better, we know what is going on in each other’s lives, and we provide help and support where needed. Since the arrival of Patrick we have helped each other out in illnesses and surgeries. Our neighborhood has celebrated birthdays and holidays together. We have shared successes and worries. We watch each other’s homes when someone is away and we are so much closer to our neighbors now that we have Patrick to pull us together on a regular basis. Thank you, Patrick Fries, for standing out in your front yard each weekend and checking out the neighborhood—and gathering our stories!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


High school seniors are graduating this time of year and many are considering leaving home for the first time. For many parents and some students this impending separation is a difficult time. I do not remember that leaving home was a painful time for me. Rather, I believe that I had gleefully anticipated going off to college as my high school days began to draw to a close at the end of the 1950s. My parents encouraged my dreaming and planning for my college years and I had high hopes for several illustrious careers as I prepared to launch myself out into the world.

My first brave step forward was to enroll in a Texas Panhandle college located about twenty miles from our house. I happily moved into the dorm—Cousins Hall—and learned the very strict rules. Those rules included not wearing pants downstairs, no boys except chaperoned in the downstairs living room, a strict curfew, bed check every night, and a clean room check every week. The dorm also gave me my first experience in sharing a communal bathroom and showers.

Dorm life was quite a change from our warm family atmosphere, but I was determined to make it work for me. I do not remember much about my classes but the social life was enchanting. I quickly acquired a new boy friend with a new car sporting large fins. I pledged my mother’s sorority and acquired many “sisters” to help integrate me into campus life and the activities on campus. Those first two years of college went by in a flash.

My next step farther from home came when I began to dream of going to Kerrville for the summer to teach swimming at a camp for handicapped children. First I had to learn to swim which led me to discover a love for the water that I still have. I was a natural in the water and sailed through the swimming classes and my Life Saving and Water Safety Instructor certification in one year. My parents were not too sure about allowing me to go that far from home but I was hired and off I went. Oh, what a glorious time I had in Kerrville amongst all those trees. I gained many new loves that summer including a boy friend from Austin. I also gained a deep love for the Texas Hill Country and a pet skunk named Pepe La Pew that I kept under the bunk I shared with a blind counselor. She loved to help me take care of Pepe and at the end of the summer I took him home to Mother, poor dear, who later donated it to the zoo.

From Kerrville, I moved to Austin to attend the University of Texas where I received my first degree, but did not marry the boy I met in Kerrville. After graduation, I taught in Austin for three years until I married and we moved to California. Thus my separation from home was fairly well accomplished. I still returned home frequently for the next 40 years, but I never returned there to live.

Do you have a story about leaving home? Take some time to write about your leaving home experience--or experiences. Some of you may have left home, returned, and left home again. Write about it.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

A Weekend Visit

This past weekend we met Son #1 and family for fun and work. The guys did the work at Uncle P's Place and we girls had fun down by the river and shopping. Grandson #1 joined us on Sunday for a trip to the Zoo. It was HOT, HOT, HOT, but Daughter-in-Law #1 brought wonderful spray sunscreen so I believe we all avoided bad sunburns--except I forgot the part in my hair! Ouch! This first picture shows Granddaughter #1 by the river.

The next picture shows Grandchildren #2 and #1 at the entrance to the Zoo.
The next two pictures were taken in the Butterfly Garden. That blue butterfly really liked Granddaughter #1!

We had to stop for Mexican Food because Grandson #1 looked weak from hunger! Yum!

And then we checked up on the workers and their progress.

We were all hot and tired when we headed home! But the workers seemed satisfied with their progress and the rest of us had fun staying out of their way while exploring stores, new eating places and the Zoo.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Thankful Thursday

I am so thankful for the wonderful neighborhood that we live in today. We have lived here since we only had two children, added two more, watched them grow up and now have grandchildren come to visit. Some of our neighbors were here when we moved in and some are new--younger couples with young children of their own. It is nice to see children in the neighborhood again.

I am thankful for our neighborhood because of the close bond between the neighbors on our cul de sac. One of our neighbors was recently diagnosed with breast cancer and everyone has rallied around her in such a wonderful way. We have all visited back and forth with her and last Sunday afternoon one of the neighbors called to say she was having an outdoor cookout and invited us to come. Each of us brought a dish, the host grilled chicken and sausages and made homemade ice cream and we all sat around and supported our neighbor who is soon heading off to M.D. Anderson for evaluation and treatment. Here are some pictures of the fun we shared in the
"hood" that evening.
We visited, added support and visited some more.

The children played games on the Wii and in the pool. And we all ate and visited some more.

And we had one last picture of the "women of the 'hood' " before everyone left. It was a fun evening and wonderful support for a member of the neighborhood who needs that caring kind of support at this time!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Graduation Time

It seems like it is graduation time all over the place right now. I ran across this picture the other day and remembered back to the day (several years ago) that our daughter-in-law, Kara, our #2 Son, and I all graduated on the same day. It was an interesting experience and one that I treasure! Since that time we have all moved to other cities, #2 Son and Kara have added three girls to their family, and we are all involved in other jobs and endeavors now.

And then there was the picture on the left taken when our oldest grandchildren (and only ones at that time) were quite young. Now they are both in their teens and our #1 granddaughter is as tall as I am. Mercy! How time flies! We have added another sweet daughter-in-law and four more grandchildren since then--and one more grandchild on the way.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Miss Ella Bella Is Two Today

We went to Miss Ella Bella's party to celebrate her second birthday on Saturday. She had a great time with some of her friends at a play gym for her party. She played in the rubber pit with her dad. She was fearless in climbing up the wall and loved running and running.

She conned her granddad into helping her put the basketball through the hoop and she did a front roll for us.

Miss Ella Bella had a cookie birthday "cake" and then enjoyed opening her presents.

I think she had a very nice birthday. Afterwards we went to their house and helped her play with a few of her presents; saw the nicely decorated room for baby brother, Colton, who is due in August; ate dinner together; and then we returned home that evening. A wonderful day.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Quirk #6 - Oil Painting

6. I am relearning how to oil paint and am having a grand time smearing paint on canvas, good shirts, shiny new easel and everything nearby--such fun! Maybe I need to revisit my finger painting days also!

I am really having a wonderful time relearning to oil paint. It has been a LONG time since I painted with oils--probably about 30 years and it has taken several months to be comfortable with the process once more. I have finished three paintings and messed up a couple more. On the easel is a poppy that I am beginning and a bluebonnet that is finished and ready to be varnished and framed. I have two more paintings in process.

My husband caught another picture of me painting out on our deck. I love to be out there in the fresh air and amongst all that green of the outdoors. However, it is becoming a bit warm some afternoons to paint out there.

Tomorrow is my class and I have to go load up my car with my painting supplies.

Write about the creative things that you do. Do you have creative urges? How do you honor those creative urges?