Monday, October 31, 2011

Farewell Sweet October

Saturday morning Roger, Willie and I hiked Pinnacle Mountain.  It was an absolutely glorious morning.  Our colors are just now beginning to change.  I'm not ready to give up October.

O HUSHED October morning mild,
Thy leaves have ripened to the fall;
To-morrow's wind, if it be wild,
Should waste them all.
The crows above the forest call;

To-morrow they may form and go.
O hushed October morning mild,
Begin the hours of this day slow,
Make the day seem to us less brief.
Hearts not averse to being beguiled,
Beguile us in the way you know;
Release one leaf at break of day;

At noon release another leaf;
One from our trees, one far away;
Retard the sun with gentle mist;
Enchant the land with amethyst.

Slow, slow!
For the grapes' sake, if they were all,
Whose leaves already are burnt with frost,
Whose clustered fruit must else be lost--
For the grapes' sake along the wall.

... Robert Frost

Friday, October 28, 2011

It Is Enough....

At some point in life the world's beauty becomes enough. You don't need to photograph, paint, or even remember it. It is enough.   ...Toni Morrison

Change is in the air.

I can feel it.

I can hear it.

I can see it.

It is beautiful.

And,  for today it is enough.
I hope you find beauty in the world this weekend.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Keep Moving

Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.   
...Albert Einstein

Old bicycle with basket and shopping bag, parked in the narrow cobble street Stock Photo - 10661663
image via stock photo/bicycle
And if you fall you must find the courage
to mount it once again
and continue on your way.

When I was quite young, around seven, every Saturday night my brother and I would saddle our horses and ride from our house to the rodeo arena at the fair grounds to participate in "The Riding Club".  It would take us about an hour.  My brother, being almost six years older, took very good care of me on those rides. 

One afternoon late, possibly a little behind schedule, my brother ask me if I wanted to gallop.  We were crossing an open field and I thought it would be great fun.  He said, "let's go" as he spurred his horse.  My horse, caught off guard, leapt to followed just as we happened upon an unseen drainage ditch.  She jump it leaving me somewhere behind.  I landed with a big thud, flat on my back, knocking the breath out of me.  I was too dazed to cry.

My brother, out of concern or the fear of being in trouble, coaxed me back on the horse with the promise he would not leave my side, and that we would walk the rest of the way.
When we arrived I rode around the arena a few times, dismounted handed my dad the reins and walked away.  I don't remember how my horse got home.  I am guessing one of my brother's friends or my Dad rode her home.  

Everyone told me I had to get right back on.  They said the longer I waited the harder it would be to conquer my fear.  Everyone had stories of falls and tumbles.  I heard the whispers of the Mommas and Daddies as I sat quietly in the bleachers with Momma.  Everyone was concerned, but my Dad.  He never pushed me to mount another horse.  He, instead, waited patiently.

One day when I returned home there was a book about a girl learning to ride horses laying on my bed.  I read it cover to cover before going to bed.  The next day and the day after I read it again.  I read that book daily for weeks.  I missed the horses and riding.

Gradually, I made my way back to the barn and back onto a horse.  Waiting probably did make it harder.  I rode again at "The Riding Club".  I barrel raced in high school rodeos and traveled to many places to participate in many rodeos.  I won, I came in second and third, sometimes I went home empty handed and I was thrown off again more than once.

I had learned my lesson young.  You cannot allow fear to stop you from doing what you want to do.

Friday, after my accident with the deer, someone offered to drive my car.  I immediately declined and said I needed to drive.  Somewhere in my heart I knew if I handed over the keys, I might not pick them up again.  I would be lying to you if I said I do not think about the accident and what might have been each morning when I get into my rental car to drive to school.  The dreams are becoming less vivid and the horrible sound of the poor animal hitting my car is quietening.  The "what ifs" are fading to the background, being replaced with gratitudes.  Bicycles, horses, all have the ability to send us flying and to the ground.  It is what we do when we get up that directs us on our way.    

Let's keep moving!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Chicken Gumbo....Quick

Browsing the October issue of "Cooking Light" I happened upon a recipe for a "speedy" chicken gumbo.  The original recipe looked delicious, but I had to bump it up a bit and make it my way.  I am sure it is not quite as light.

Quick Chicken Gumbo
(about 4 servings)

2 chicken breast, bone in and skin on, roasted and shredded
3 tbsp flour
2 1/2 tbsp canola oil
1/2 tbsp butter
1/2 large onion, diced
1/2 green bell pepper, diced
3 stalks celery, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
 2 1/2 cups chicken broth (more if needed)
1 cup okra, sliced
(defrosted if frozen)
1 tsp Cajun seasoning
1/2 tsp Louisiana pepper sauce
3 green onions, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
2 cups cooked rice
(cooked with a bay leaf)

Heat cast iron skillet on medium.  Add flour, oil and butter to skillet stirring continuously until roux is caramel colored. (about 25 minutes)
Add onion, bell pepper and celery.  Cook for about 4 minutes, add garlic and cook for another 2 minutes or until vegetables are just tender.
Add broth, chicken, okra, Cajun seasoning and pepper sauce.
Stir in chicken and okra cooking until thoroughly heated.
Salt and pepper to taste.
Serve over 1/2 of rice.

(A little bit of information on a roux:  the darker the roux the thinner the broth.  The starch will break down the longer it is cooked.  I like my gumbo on the brothy side.)

Bon Appetit

Saturday, October 22, 2011

A Substitute

Hello!  It is I, Willie.  I thought you might have missed me.  It has been awhile.

I hope you can see me okay.  It was a little difficult taking these pictures.  You know the opposable thumb thing.  I don't have one of those new iphones yet...I thought I might look better in black and white.  I am, after all, black and white!

Mom said her "word bank" was empty today so I thought I could take over for her although I am usually not very talkative.  

She left her camera out while she was away and I decided to browse her pictures.  I always like to edit those she takes of me.

Here are a few shots she took yesterday when she was walking around the yard.

These are some of her favorites.
I try to remember not to water them for her.

  She pruned her knock-out roses a few weeks ago,
 and wow...they have exploded again.

A few surprise azaleas.  I don't think she really likes  azaleas to bloom in the Autumn.  She likes the old-fashioned spring blooming ones.  She can be a little opinionated like that.

The last of the New Guinea Impatiens.

I don't really get the dead stuff in the basket.  It scares every time I go out the front door.

Autumnal collections.
I'm going to catch that pesky squirrel that is snacking on my Mom's pumpkins.

My Mom will be back soon.  I know she finished a book last night.  I am sure she will find words to talk about it.

uh-oh, gotta go....they're home!
(I hope she remembered my 
favorite snacks) sh-h-h! 

W-illie?  What have you been up to?

Friday, October 21, 2011

"Mayhem Hits"

The morning could not have been more perfect for a school trip to a local pumpkin patch.   There was just the right amount of chill in the air and the sun, giving us those wonderful long autumn shadows, promised a beautiful day.   I left just early enough to stop by and pick up another teacher before heading out into the country. 

Do you remember this from last year?

 The drive would not be long; the company and conversation welcome.  We were almost to the pumpkin patch when my friend started screaming my name.  I couldn't figure out why she was screaming.  I was on my side of the road, no one was head toward me and nothing was in the road.   I suspect I took my foot off the brake when she screamed.  I saw the deer just as it collided with my car.  I will be really honest with you, I have no idea what I said.  I stopped and started to get out of the car to check on the deer, but my friend kept saying you can't stop can't get out.  I am sure I must have given her the most ridiculous look.  I looked to the side there was no shoulder.  I glanced into the review mirror... stopped in back was a line of cars.   We were okay.

I did finally move my car down the road.  I will be honest with you, I was fairly paralyzed by the whole incident and upset over hitting an animal.  My passenger was the one who kept her head.   The car behind me pulled up beside me to see if we were okay.  And one of my parents turned around and came back to help. 

The buck hit the right front corner of my car and flipped over the hood.  Damage was done to the car, but no human life was harmed.    

I have spent the afternoon thinking about all the "what ifs".   What if I had seen it coming and slammed on my brakes?  What if I had swerved to try to avoid the poor animal?  With each scenario I shudder because the outcome could have been tragic.   I had a passenger in my car and the cars behind me had children aboard.  And, I will not be able to let go of those facts for awhile.

Tonight I am giving thanksgiving for having a friend with me who kept her wits about her when my brain turned to jello, and for what didn't happen. 

My car was drivable and we did head out to meet our children and their parents at the patch.    The children picked the very best pumpkins, rode on the hayride and toured a sunflower maze, done the wiser of what had happened...  just as it should be.  I didn't take the pictures I had hoped for, but the children and their parents had a good time. 

This afternoon when I told my daughter what had happened she replied "Mayhem hit you".

Cars are just metal and wires....repairable and replaceable.

May you have a fun and safe weekend.

I am going to be counting my blessings.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Bread Gone Wrong

I have always been a baker.   I love getting out the flour, sugar, yeast and spices.  I especially love the exactness of baking.

Many years ago, long before I was married, I would spend weeks making braided bread wreaths decorated with dried fruits for family and friends at Christmas.  My mother sprayed one with shellac and kept it for years...bless her heart.  When I  was first married I baked our sandwich bread, and there was always a freshly baked cake from a recipe found in the latest delivered magazine.   I am sure to some that seems a little over the top, but I am a bit of an overachiever at times.  I don't know when or why ( could it have been our expanding waistlines?)  I stopped, but I did.   At least I slowed down.

With the cool Autumn air coming down from Canada this week  I thought this would be the perfect time to warm up the kitchen with the scent of freshly baked bread.  I found a recipe, in the September/October Victoria Magazine, for an Almond and Thyme Wheat Bread.  It sounded perfect.  I have several pots of thyme and it is also growing in my little herb garden.  

I followed the recipe to the letter.  There were a couple of things I questioned just from my experience with baking bread, but I didn't alter one thing.  I will say, I did take a phone call while I was kneading, but I am quite good at holding the phone with my shoulder while using both my hands for other purposes.  

I formed it and put it in the bread pan to rise.  And, rise it did.  I baked it; it smelled wonderful and looked okay.  Roger couldn't wait to cut into it.  I looked at it and thought, "okay, this looks pretty good".  I tasted tasted really good.  

What happened, you ask?  Something just seemed off and I couldn't resist.  I stuck my finger through the end to find it hollow and gummy.   I've never had bread not rise in the center.  I was so disappointed!  

The recipe called for 3 tablespoons dry active yeast (that equals 3 envelopes of yeast for one loaf of bread).   The rising time was only 20 minutes.   Baking was in a very hot 400 degree oven for 20 to 25 minutes.   Here's my thought....too much yeast, not enough time to rise properly and an oven at least 50 degrees too hot.   What do you think?  (let me know if you want the recipe.  I'll post it.)

We were able to enjoy the ends with our dinner.

chicken parmesan, roasted autumn vegetables and almond/thyme bread
Once my thyme grows back I am going to perfect this one!
Well.... we'll see.

Happy Baking!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Hook 'em Horns

We spent this past weekend in Austin, Texas.   Roger and I met and married while living in Austin.  And, our daughter was born in Austin.   Roger is always telling me,  we have three homes: Austin,  Nashville and where ever we are living at the time.   I will probably never move back, but no matter how long I am away when I enter the city I feel like I am home.

We always seek out a favorite place to eat our first night in town.
Z tejas on 6th street is my very favorite

The atmosphere is relaxed and the food is fresh and delicious.

We began with a trio of fresh salsas.

My personal favorite was the verde; a mixture of tomatillos,  jalapenos
 and avocado.  How could it be anything but delicious!  
Seriously, just bring me a bigger bowl and a straw, please.

Having missed lunch,  I was starving.  I went for the catfish taco on the appetizer menu.  Oh, they also have catfish beignets that are scrumptious, if you love catfish.....I do love catfish.

Roger had the shrimp and avocado tostadas.
We shared.

Saturday was spent on campus amid a sea of burnt orange.

No matter where you look, on gameday,
 there is nothing but Texas orange.

And just in case you find yourself wanting

more Texas "stuff'", you need only cross the street

to find the perfect item.
(I did a little Longhorn shopping at The Coop Friday before dinner.)

No shopping today.
We were in Austin to see our beloved Longhorns play some football.

We cheered loudly, and our team fought hard.
We found ourselves on the losing side of the scoreboard.
As my husband always says after a losing day, "It was a bad
day at the ranch".

Longhorns win graciously and are equally gracious in a lose.
As I left the stadium walking through all the tailgaters,
I  could not help but notice the sportsmanship exhibited as
groups of fans from both sides
gathered to continue the celebration of a great game.
No one was in a hurry to pack up their tent or bus.  Food continued to cook on the grills and another game popped up on the generator run satellite TVs.  It was difficult to distinguish
who had won and who had lost.

OSU has an awesome team this year.
I wish them well on their fight to the championship.

Before leaving, Sunday morning we had to have breakfast at another favorite spot.

The waiting line is long, the tables are crowded together, but the breakfast is fabulous.   There is always a seasonal pancake.  Roger had pumpkin pancakes.  I had to go with the migas.  When in Texas.....

The only thing missing this weekend was our daughter and son-in-law.

I hope you had a wonderful weekend.

Monday, October 10, 2011


I had great plans of coming home from school today and trying my hand at making pumpernickel bread.   I have so enjoyed my "Mondays in the Kitchen".  This morning I ran out the door without my grocery list.   To be really honest, I am not for sure how successful I would have been.  I've been feeling a wee bit off balance of late.

Pinned Image
image via pinterest

You've probably noticed I've been devouring books lately.  I try to only bore you with the ones I really enjoy.   When I need to find my center I usually rush off to the bookstore.  I don't need to purchase a book;  I need only to walk among them.   I read the covers, touch the bindings and I know I am among kindred souls, whether they be authors or characters.  (I truly am not as eccentric as this makes me sound...honestly.)

Today, after a quick walk, I headed to the library.  Sometimes I want to hold a book that has been held in the hands of another book person.  A book whose cover is worn and pages a bit tattered.  A book that has been shared and passed among book-loving strangers.   I looked for some of my favorite authors, most were out visiting someone else this afternoon.  When I can't find what I am looking for I like to pick out a letter in the alphabet and search all the authors whose names begin with that letter.  Today I happen to choose "W".  I have no rhyme or reason, it is just a system I came up with that seems to work for me.  I came home with The Ponder Heart, Eudora Welty and The Judges, Elie Wiesel; neither very long.   While I am a huge fan of Eudora Welty, this is my first introduction to Wiesel.  I'll let you know what I think.  

I do adore the library!  I don't take advantage of it as much as I should.  It really is a most wonderful system.

I am thinking an evening with a good book and an attitude adjustor

(I bet you were expecting wine!)

is all I need.

I hope you have had a wonderful Monday!

Tuesday is going to be fabulous.....

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Another For the Favorites List

"I caught up with the others outside, giving a little prayer of thanks to no one in particular.  Because when some incident sheds a favorable light on an old and absent friend, that's about as good a gift as chance intends to offer."

Pinned Image

When I picked up Amor Towles' debut novel Rules of Civility I had no idea I was about to enter a beautifully written story I would not want to leave.  We are allowed to shadow the smart and savvy Katey Kontent  as she moves through the jazz clubs of the lower east side to the townhomes and vacation homes of Manhattan's elite and powerful during the late 30s.  Through humor and wisdom we find life's path is controlled as much by chance as by design.   Few books have me laughing out loud one moment and within pages misty eyed.  I was truly, at times, transported with words.  Mr. Towles "dots all the i's and crosses all the t's".  At the end we are not left wondering what happened to....  

Without doubt, unfortunately, this book will quickly be snatched up to be transformed into a movie.  There are plenty young, talented and beautiful actors who can recreate the characters.   They will include all the things that draw in moviegoers.  They might even tell a good story; they will miss the point.  They almost always do.  I hope they prove me wrong.

Happy Reading!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Monday Afternoons in the Kitchen

Growing at the edge of the yard I played in as a child was an old fig tree.  Up until the time we moved to the farm the only thing I really knew about fig trees was the story of Adam and Eve, the snake, the apple and the fig leaf.  I am not for sure I really knew there was a fruit, or if I cared.  I was pretty much an apple and banana girl.   I had never tasted a fig until that time.   I remember the first time Mother reached into the tree, picked a sun warmed fig and offered it to me to taste.   The sweet mushiness was divine.  

As years passed the tree grew enormous and the fruit was so plentiful Daddy would wedge long pieces of lumber under the fruit ladened branches to keep them from breaking.   Each summer the birds and I would fight over the ripened figs.  Mother soon began picking the figs and making the best fig preserves ever.  The birds and I fought over the leftovers.  She did little more that half the fruit and make a sugar syrup to pour over them.  Unfortunately, she didn't  know she would leave us so early and didn't bother to write her recipe down.  The best fig preserve ever recipe was lost forever.

Several years ago Roger and I bought a teeny tiny fig tree; really just a stick.  This past spring I counted 26 figs on our little tree with four branches; the birds and squirrels feasted and I cried.   Through the summer I watched figs appear and disappear.  I have yet to enjoy one of my own homegrown figs.

Last week Whole Foods had figs on sale; I brought home two containers of Mission figs and made my first preserves.  It is not my mother's recipe.  It is mine.

And all the lids popped! 

 This past weekend I brought home four pounds of French Butter pears.  They are my very favorite. 
It was so difficult resisting the urge to cut one up as a yummy snack, but I had a plan for these beauties. 

Today I peeled, cored and quartered.  I cooked the pears down with sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon and orange zest.   My finished product?  Three pints of pear butter.  

They all popped, and
I am so pleased!

I am loving my Monday afternoons in the kitchen!
I wish my Mother could be here with me... 
And, I know she is.


Saturday, October 1, 2011

The Back Door is Closed

Grab the beverage of your choice and sit back for I have a tale to tell.

Thursday evening Roger and I took our simple pasta supper to the sunroom to enjoy the outside from inside avoiding a mosquito swarm.  We lingered enjoying a glass of wine, talking about our day and watching the sun leave the sky.  As the evening enveloped the backyard we were prompted to get up and finish daily chores.   Roger headed outside and I began clearing the table.  I stacked the dishes and took the few steps into the kitchen.

I stopped and did a double take.  He was about nine inches and was slithering across my kitchen floor.   It  was rather surreal seeing this visitor scooting across the floor, head held high, the refrigerator towering on one side and the stove hovering on the other, moving toward the dead end of the room.   I felt as if maybe I had walked into a Salvador Dali painting.  I had to wonder if I was imagining it.

Although I  am not afraid of snakes, cautious, but not scared, I did yell out "snake".   Okay,  I just said it...yes, there was a snake in my kitchen.  I live in suburbia not the country!   No one came to my rescue and he seemed comfortably at home.  I went to the back door to get Roger's attention.  In disbelief he followed me into the kitchen only to find our night visitor had disappeared. 

Where?  Under the refrigerator?  The stove?  Or maybe into the abyss by the dishwasher?  There was always the possibility he dropped down the air conditioner vent in the floor.  We spent about an hour looking for this directionally challenged fellow.  

We pumped the air conditioning down to see if we could chill him into seeking warmer ground.  Bedtime and no snake.  I had visions of him slipping through the air conditioning ducts, up the walls and dropping through the vent above my bed.  Surprisingly I fell asleep with little effort.  I did have a couple of snake dreams; one involved a dog, a very large snake and fire (I was in a Dali painting).  

Friday morning there was no sign of my houseguest, and I went about my business getting ready to leave for school.  Around 10 o'clock I received a text from Roger.


When I had a minute I texted back, "Where did you find him?"

His reply, "Sunning, by the chair in the den."

Yes!  That would be my chair.  The chair where I sit each morning to email my daughter.  Had he been coiled under the chair that morning watching my feet?    Or maybe he was in my knitting basket setting beside my chair.   I shiver to think of reaching into the basket pulling out a wiggling snake instead of a knitting needle.   I suppose he was trying to give me a Halloween jumpstart.

I think I will rethink saying "the backdoor is always open".

I do hope he finds his mom and dad.  His mom and dad...surely they are living outside.