Saturday, January 31, 2009


It has been rather cool here the past few days and I thought I would add the following story about heating in the house where I grew up.

The first house that I remember living in was small. It had two bedrooms and a bathroom on one side of the house, a living room across the front of the house, a dining room and a small kitchen on the back side of our house with space for our kitchen table. Our square-shaped house was heated with a floor furnace in the middle of the house between the living room and dining room. The floor furnace had a gas heater down below the metal grate that covered the hole in the floor of the house. I am not sure of the size of the metal grate but I am guessing it was about three by five feet.

Each fall Daddy took the grate off the furnace and checked to see if any toys or small objects had fallen through the grate during the warm summer months. Then Mother used the attachments on the vacuum cleaner to clean out the dust bunnies that had accumulated since the furnace was used the past winter. Finally, Daddy unbent a coat hanger and attached a match to fire up the pilot light of the furnace. This was quite an ordeal and usually required lots of patience on the part of my dad—especially with the three of us children dancing all around the open hole in our floor. At times when the pilot light did not stay lit, Daddy had to call a repairman to come out and remove the whole furnace from the hole in the floor and take it outside on the front sidewalk to work on it.

When the furnace was finally lit, it created a great deal of heat in the center of the house, and the grate was hot enough to burn the bare skin. Talk about danger! I knew enough to stay away from the grate with my bare feet but I often walked across it with my leather-soled oxfords and felt the heat through my shoes. If I stood on the grate long enough I was able to burn a copy of the grate on the bottom of my shoes. I thought that was interesting. I often straddled the grate and let the hot air blow up my skirt until it became too hot to stand there any longer. Mother sometimes put a wooden clothes-drying rack over the floor furnace and dried clothes that she washed out by hand since we did not have a washer or dryer all the years we lived in that house.

For supplemental heat on very cold days, Mother often turned on the oven and left the door ajar to warm the kitchen. We also had a gas space heater in our bathroom wall by the toilet and a standing space heater in the fake fireplace in our living room. The space heater in the bathroom was wonderful because it heated the whole room when the door was closed.

The standing space heater in the living room was only good enough to warm one side of my body at a time. On cold mornings Mother let us dress in front of the living room space heater. I started by facing it for a while until my face and cheeks began to burn with the heat. Then I turned around and absorbed the heat until my back was nice and toasty. It took several turns to stay warm during my dressing process.

Friday, January 30, 2009


For the second time in a couple of months, our newspaper has featured an article on resale shops and thrift stores. With the economy where it is today that is not surprising. The article in our newspaper says that our city has dozens of thrift, consignment, resale, vintage and secondhand stores. Some of these stores have cropped up in clusters in certain shopping areas and many feature wonderful designer bargains. Some garments even have original store tags on them.

Another caveat of shopping some of these stores is that the money spent there often goes to support charitable causes. Last year funds raised through the Goodwill stores provided education, training, and career services for disadvantaged people as well as those with physical, mental and emotional disabilities. Funds raised through the Junior League and the Assistance League thrift stores provided funds for programs that serve emerging needs of children and adults in our community, and the Salvation Army thrift stores support their adult rehabilitation programs.

Not all resale stores contribute to local charitable endeavors, but they do provide a way to save money and some of my friends say the thrill of the hunt for bargains is what makes resale shopping fun, no matter what the economic is doing.

Sunday, January 25, 2009


When I was a young girl growing up in the Texas Panhandle I remember a very special quilt that Mother had. It was called a Sunbonnet Sue quilt and I loved playing with it. I am not sure where the quilt came from but some distant memory seems to tell me that my quilt-making great-grandmother helped Mother make the Sunbonnet Sue quilt when Mother was a young girl.

I enjoyed that quilt because each of the twelve large squares was covered with a girl in a floral skirt and sun bonnet in a contrasting fabric. It was made of old 1920s or 1930s-era fabric. Each Sunbonnet Sue was a different color and each one seemed to have a different personality.

One of my favorite things to do on a hot summer afternoon was to take the Sunbonnet Sue quilt out into the shade on the front lawn and play dolls on it. The thought of that makes me cringe now that I am making my own quilts, but Mother did not seem to mind. I spent many happy hours talking to my dolls and the different Sunbonnet Sues on the quilt.

Eventually the Sunbonnet Sue quilt became frayed and the dresses began to detach from the quilt. Mother finally packed it away into her linen closet and my sister recently retrieved it to see if she could find someone to repair the fragile and fraying fabric. I am afraid there is not much hope for the quilt but a huge array of past playtime memories spilled out onto the floor as we opened up the quilt and I recognized it as Mother's Sunbonnet Sue quilt.

Friday, January 23, 2009


Making things for gifts this year is one of my New Year's Resolutions. I am still knitting dishcloths. I have found self-striping cotton yarn at Hobby Lobby and it makes very interesting striped dishcloths in luscious pastel colors. Now I am roaming the Internet looking for other gifts that I can make without great expense.
One gift idea that I found on the blog, Little House in the Suburbs, sounds interesting. It is a recipe for lotion bars and would make a nice addition to a "Spa Basket" of a handmade wash cloth, a couple of lotion bars and some handmade soap. This particular blog has a "GIFT" bar at the top to click on for great gift-giving ideas and I intend to make use of some of her recipes and knitting patterns. She gives directions for making the gifts she mentions.
Now I just have to get organized so that I think far enough ahead to have time to make gifts rather than rushing out to buy something at the last minute.

Thursday, January 22, 2009


It feels like I have been gone from home a month. First, I went to New Mexico and had a great time there with my brother and sister-in-law as she regains strength following her kidney transplant. The time flew by and I was back home again for a few days before we left again to go to South Texas for a school dedication.

Our good friend is a superintendent for a wonderful school district and the school dedication was lovely. The highlight for me was the kilted bagpipe player who stood out there against the clear blue sky and piped the most beautiful songs before, during and after the ceremony. We also had a nice visit with our friends while there and a brief time to walk along the beach, get some sun and pick up a few shells. Ahhh! That felt good.
We briefly saw both of our sons and caught up with Miss Ella Bella and Grandson #2, but missed seeing the other members of the families due to our crazy schedules. What a shame! Now we are home again and I have a mountain of laundry to do and preparations for visitors to arrive Sunday. Never a dull moment around here!

Friday, January 16, 2009


I have noticed that there is much talk on television, in the newspapers and in magazines about ways to save money. It feels like we are truly in a down time financially. Advertisements tell about the good bargains to be found, but my suggestion for today is to stay out of stores whenever possible. The lure of bargains seems to instill in me the need to spend money instead of saving it. At this point I think it is important for me to seriously evaluate each and every purchase that I make and decide whether it is really a need or just something that I want but could easily do without.

Thursday, January 15, 2009


Tomorrow I will leave New Mexico and return home. I will be sad to leave the mountains and the view of the sky all around. I have taken a large number of pictures with my camera, but none of them accurately capture the vastness of this land.

Today I climbed a large hill near my brother's house and stood there looking out over the valley for as far as my eyes could see. Then I turned around and looked up at the mountain looming large behind me. Today I did not take pictures because I realize that I cannot capture the beauty of these wide open spaces except in my heart.

As I climbed down the hill I found a large river rock shaped like a heart and carried it back with me. I will take that heart-shaped rock home and put it by the pond in my backyard. It will be a reminder of this vast mountain place that is so beautiful, even on a winter afternoon.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


I self-published my book, "Growing Up in the Texas Panhandle" through and had an excellent experience with that company. They did a very professional job, I found them easy to work with; they provided assistance in their online chat room when I got stuck; and, BEST OF ALL, I had to pay them NOTHING up front for the book.

I got some excellent advice from Sharon Lippincott on font size, line spacing and margins and her guidance was most helpful. I did have to contact a couple of times for assistance with my cover photo, and they they helped me iron out a couple of glitches. I also asked several friends to read over my stories and make suggestion or corrections.

I only ordered the number of books that I thought I needed for Christmas giving. I then reordered again because I also sold some to friends and the books arrived at my house seven days after I ordered them. The more books I buy, the cheaper they are. To me, that is a win/win situation! I have not had to pay a large amount of money up front for books and I do not have boxes of books in the garage waiting to be sold. I am having a wonderful time holding MY BOOK in my hands and admiring it.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


This morning I went on my morning walk all bundled up for the cold weather here in New Mexico. It was about 23 degrees, but there was not a bit of wind blowing. I quickly shed the hood of my windbreaker but kept my knit hat on and I still needed my gloves.

I enjoyed the crisp, clean air with not a sign of smog anywhere in the valley. My view of the mountains was unobstructed as I climbed to a higher point in the area where my brother and his wife live. I took several pictures and tried to frame the mountains being touched by the early morning sun between skeleton trees sticking their white branches up into the air. I am SO ready to try out the new brushes that I got for Christmas and paint a mountain picture with these beautiful almost-turquoise skies!!

Monday, January 12, 2009


When I planned to come to New Mexico I wanted to see some snow. We have very little snow where I live, but I love to see it. The weather has been beautiful the week I have been here, with cool sunny days and cold nights. However, last Friday night it snowed up in the mountains. We saw the clouds hovering low over the mountains when we got up Saturday morning.

About mid-morning my brother loaded us up in his truck and we took off for the mountains. We went to a lovely restaurant for lunch and had to step over a few snow piles to get inside. It was much colder there than in the valley, but it was lovely with snow dusting the cedar trees, the fences, and the ledges of the buildings. I was so excited! It was wonderful!

The other good news is that my sister-in-law, who had a kidney transplant just before Thanksgiving, is feeling better each day! Way to go! See how great she looks at our lunch in the mountains?

And I LOVE the sunsets here! I just run from one window to another looking at the gorgeous colors on the mountains! My brother says I am "sky deprived" because I live in a neighborhood where the trees hide much of the sky. I guess growing up in the Texas Panhandle instilled in me a love of the sky and I miss seeing the sky where I live now.

Friday, January 9, 2009


I had a chat today with my sister-in-law about treats for ourselves. She said that it was very important to give ourselves treats from time to time for our own mental health--especially if we spend time taking care of others.

As we talked about examples of ways to take care of ourselves, my mind jumped to Julia Cameron's book, Artist's Way. Julia Cameron suggests that we should make an artist's date with ourselves once a week. When I was going through her book, I found lots of ways to treat myself without using a lot of money. One of the things I did was to go to the local bookstore where they had a vast collection of art books and wonderful easy chairs. It was a wintry day, so I bought myself a hot chocolate (I don't like coffee), pulled down a whole array of books, sat in an easy chair and spent a whole morning absorbing wonderful ideas from the art books.

Another day, when it was lovely outside, I went to the local garden and wandered around in the Japanese garden area where I absorbed the beauty and simplicity of the place. Another artist's date I remember was a visit to a place that sells exotic woods. Since I love to carve wood, I walked in the place, inhaled the smell of all that wood and became intoxicated with the desire to carve something beautiful! Recently, I spent half a day in a huge art store exploring all of the different ways to create art.

While I am here in New Mexico, one of the ways I am feeding my spirit is to take long walks and breathe in the wonderful scenery and fresh air of this place that is so different from the area in Texas where I live.

Yes, I think it is important to treat ourselves for our own mental health, but as I consider ways to save money this year, I think that there are ways that I can feed my spirit without spending a lot of money. As I typed the above list, it occurred to me that I have not had an artist's date lately and I might want to make artist's dates a routine part of my calendar this year.

Thank you, sister-in-law, for reminding me of a very important aspect of mental health.

Thursday, January 8, 2009


I am a bit lacking in technological skills and it takes me a long time to figure things out by myself. Yesterday I talked about pictures I wanted to consider painting when I return home from New Mexico but could not put the pictures on my blog once I had downloaded them to my picture file on this laptop I am using. I fiddled and fiddled with it last night and finally fell asleep in frustration. Today I decided to try a different procedure and, as you can see, it worked! It may be unconventional and my techie son may groan when I explain what I did, but the bottom line is that IT WORKED!!

The first picture is the view from my bedroom window yesterday at midday. The second is a sunset picture the first day I was here and the third is a sunrise picture the next morning.

The fourth picture is of an arrangement in the kitchen that made me think of painting a still life. The shapes and colors intrigued me.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009


I have been taking pictures here in New Mexico and have a few that are making me ITCH to get back to my painting! Here are a few that I have taken in the past two days. Sunset--oops! For some reason there seems to be some disconnect between the pictures I saved to my desktop (on this borrowed laptop with which I am vastly unfamiliar), the blog picture loader and my limited technological skills. So--you will just have to use your imagination that I have taken luscious ice cream pink colored clouds over the mountains in the evening, brilliant orange sherbet colored clouds over the mountains this morning and lovely powdered sugar dusted mountains drenched in winter sunlight with lots of filmy white mare's tail clouds overhead this afternoon. It is marvelous to watch the mountains change in the changing sunlight.

And I must be hungry judging from the descriptive words I used about the clouds. I am trying to imagine the paint colors that I will mix to achieve some semblance of those colors.

Meanwhile, my sister-in-law and I went downtown for lunch with my brother. She did very well considering that she just had kidney transplant surgery six weeks ago. I think she was a little frustrated at how quickly she tired, but I was amazed at how well she did!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009


This morning I flew to New Mexico to visit my brother and his wife. She had a successful kidney transplant just before Thanksgiving and I decided to come for a visit. She and I will venture out to do some shopping, perhaps join my brother for lunch, maybe visit Santa Fe and whatever else her energy level will allow.

Meanwhile she suggested that I might need a nap. I came upstairs and was delighted to discover that my husband's laptop computer works delightfully well--many, many, many, many, many thanks to Son #1 who talked me through a massive amount of technological "jargoneese" yesterday to install a wireless card so it would work for me here.

I am sitting on the bed looking out on mountains that are bathed in sunshine and look like they have had a dusting of powdered sugar sifted down through the trees. I love the mountains; I love the snow and I really love this sun-bathed corner room that overlooks a whole mountain range!

More from New Mexico later and perhaps even a picture or two. I can hardly wait for one of their spectacular sunsets!

Friday, January 2, 2009


One of my New Year's resolutions has been to plan more ways to be frugal. With the downturn in the economy, I believe that it is prudent to think of pinching every penny twice before turning it loose. Here are some of my frugal ideas:
1. Becoming more conscious of how much water I use. We are in an "exceptional drought stage" now and I believe that water rationing might be coming if we do not get rain soon, but it seems that conserving water is always a wise idea--and also a money-saving idea.
2. Being more cognizant of the ways that I use my car--planning trips to cover several errands at a time and cutting out trips that are not absolutely necessary.
3. Turning off lights and electrical appliances when not needed to conserve electricity and save on our electric bill.
4. Making lists before going shopping so that I will not be tempted to buy things that are not absolutely necessary.
5. Using store coupons for every grocery shopping trip.
6. Checking out resale shops for clothing purchases--recently I read that a family never bought anything new that they could find used and that is beginning to make more sense to me as I try to be more frugal with our retirement funds.
7. Making gifts rather than buying them this year.
8. Trying to be more aware of ways to be frugal.


On New Year's Eve we gathered with Son #2 (also known as WB) and Son #4 and their families to celebrate WB's birthday. It was also a gathering of the cousins who had a wonderful time playing together and getting to know one another a little better!

We shared a birthday dinner with WB at a very nice restaurant and Grandmommy read to Little One while the big girl cousins had a chance to sit together.

Daughter-in-law, Kara, made WB's delicious carrot cake from scratch and we all enjoyed having a piece. I probably need that recipe for a cake for hubby--his birthday is next and he keeps talking about how good it was!

During our time together, Miss Ella Bella discovered the piano and Little One discovered her pockets!

We had a wonderful time visiting, watching the children play, taking LOTS of pictures, and celebrating a birthday and the beginning of a new year. Happy New Year to all!