Friday, November 30, 2012

# 377 - Ring ding-a-ding Day at Texas State University!

This week, my "baby" girl received her class ring from Texas State University. Am I proud? Yes, you're darn tooten! Stefie is a sassy little thing, barely 90 pounds, but she felt ten feet tall as she heard her name called from the podium to prompt her ring ceremony walk.
Texas State is a unique university in the Texas Hill Country. It has the San Marcos River winding through the town, which eventually leads to the Guadelupe. If you've never been to Texas, then you might want to know about this major recreational activity that many, many Texans have experienced...floating the river, me included, YEARS ago.

Old Man River - - - San Marcos

As part of the Texas State Ring Ceremony tradition, the students receive their rings and then dunk them into the river. Paying tribute to this tradition, the university sets up an elaborate waterfall, filled with water from the San Marcus River and as the students are handed their ring, they then walk to the waterfall and dunk their ring into the water so that all can go through this ritual, whether they make it to the actual river, or not.

Of course, the students are encouraged to take their ring to the actual river for an official ring dunking, on the spot. I can only imagine how many rings are floating at the bottom of that river!

As for us parents, this moment was a tremendously positive memory --- to see that kid walking in all her cuteness to get her ring --- it was a lot of fun. And since she looks so darn young, not at all like a 22-year old woman, my husband was yelling, "I'm so proud of my thirteen-year-old daughter!" It was quite humorous.

Now, we've seen both of our daughters receive their university rings. Our oldest, Heather, received her ring from Texas A&M. The big moment at that massive university was simply waiting for the chance to sign for the ring, but Texas State is small enough to actually still call each student's name in an official ceremony to get their ring. Both experiences have been wonderful.

The Sisters --- My Girls!

I can tell you one thing...Texas State is an awesome university and a perfect fit for my youngest daughter. The college town of San Marcos is jam-packed with every restaurant and store imaginable, enough to rival any metropolitan area. In addition, the town is comprised of rolling hills and trains tooting their horns on the various tracks, to make it feel like an authentic old town combined with awesome technology and convenience of today's time-frame.

Best of all, my husband's Aunt Normandy, who is right around 80 years old, showed up for the ceremony. She had received her own ring from Texas State during her youth, sometime in the 1950's.

I took a photo of these two gals together and of their hands displaying their Texas State rings. Since this aunt never had children of her own, she is especially proud to have family following in her footsteps.

Over 60 years difference between aunt and niece's ring day!

For the celebration dinner, we took the kids, including our awesome new son-in-law, Henry, as well as Stefie's sweet boyfriend, Brice, to Outback Steakhouse --- the restaurant of Stefie's choice. Being the Ring Girl has its advantages!

Dinner was delicious and we enjoyed an evening of fun conversation revolving around football, funny television shows, the history of the Berlin Wall coming down and other interesting topics. Then, our oldest daughter kept saying, in a too loud voice, that her husband's dinner of pork smelled like a "fart." I wanted to explain to the neighboring tables, "She's a degreed Biology major...please excuse her sense of 'scientific' terms during dinner." A fart? Really?

Overall, this day with Stefie was a wonderful time to share with her...seeing her earn a token of her hard work was rewarding in itself. Plus, her ring was fairly gorgeous.



Our grown daughters; they are getting to the point to where
they will be doing things, for better or for worse, with their
own growing families. It sure won't be easy, but it will be
worth it. Once our kids start having kids, they will learn how
challenging life can REALLY be...CAN'T WAIT!
I am delighted to be the proud mom of a Texas State student. Being a Native Texan, I understand the pull this university has upon Stefie. In my opinion, they are blessed to have her...she is one smart doll.

Yes, I'm strutting proud Momma gear!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

# 376 - An EPIC Thanksgiving Adventure

I am lying here tonight, listening to a terrible storm pass over the house. In the dark I sit with my laptop propped on my legs as lightening flashes to light up the room. Creepy. So far, no power loss.

The thunder is rumbling and storms are expected to continue until around 4:00am. Guess I'll use this nerve-wracking time to catch up with my blogging. Yes, I love storms...No, I don't like lightening. Not this close. I can hear everything, the house is so quiet and still.

It's suddenly more quiet because for almost two weeks we've had two girls in our home for the Thanksgiving holidays, kids who have been living in a group home for several months. I sometimes sulk and feel as if I have a reason to throw a pity-party, then I remember there are kids like who no longer have a home to call their own and who no longer can be with family members they love and adore. For them, their life might change in a flash at 3am, without warning, without a chance to leave home with anything but the clothes on their back.

I am yanked back into knowing life and its tussles aren't so bad. Sometimes, you have to go through an attitude adjustment and put others before yourself. Sometimes, that's the best prescription for enjoying life as it tries to bang you around. I like fighting back by trying to reach out to others. I guess that's the great strength of my marriage, we make a good team when it counts. On a bad day, we can be like two opposing pit-bulls, then, on a good day, with a common goal, we become like lobster and butter.

He's the lobster.

Hey, work with me.

These girls, 16 and 13, have brought incredible joy into our home over the past couple of weeks. In spite of their challenges, they have fantastic attitudes. They pray before every single meal, even if they are sitting down to eat a snack by themself.

Sunday we had to take them back to the group home. We will get them again for two weeks of Christmas holidays. But, Sunday was very difficult. Both girls were extremely anxious about going back. Throughout the day, they kept telling me they were nervous and wished they could stay.

At one point, I grabbed them with a big hug and said, "Ok, it's decided, I'm going to keep you girls forever...when the SWAT team shows up, we'll just hide you in the chicken coop." At least that got them laughing. Deputy Dave said, "I think we better follow the law, even though I think ducking behind the couch is a better hiding place."

Anyway, we decided to take them to get a surprise on the way back to the group home...the short journey we were postponing with all our might. As we drove up to Dairy Queen, we told the girls they could order a large Blizzard.

Now, for those of you who don't know the South, there is a iconic diner called Dairy Queen that every Southerner has enjoyed. And a "Blizzard" is a cup full of ice-cream, blended with your choice of candy. Everyone in these parts knows what a Blizzard is...they've been around since I was a youngin.

So, we drive up and ask them what kind of Blizzard they'd like to order. The girls looked at each other with perplexed expressions, "We've never had a Blizzard...What exactly is it?"

Heart sinks to my feet. What Southern kid doesn't know the taste of a Blizzard? Well, I'll tell you, the two girls in our backseat were too old to not know.

Needless to say, they each got a Blizzard while we two were too dumbfounded to do anything but get their treats and drive slowly to the group home, which was within 3-5 miles away.

Stefie had come home from college for the Thanksgiving holiday break, it was great to spend time with her too. Actually, the day after Stefie took the girls to the movies to see Red Dawn, Stefie and I went to the movies to watch Breaking Dawn Part 2 --- it was awesome.

Stefie, always wanting to do her part, had gone through some of her clothes and jewelry and gave them a lot of things...even a purse. The 16 year old didn't even have a purse. Everything they are wearing is second-hand donations that had been made to the group home. I'm glad to have added a few nice things to their wardrobe. So, we had a lot to take back into their group home. They had come to us with backpacks and left us loaded down and with Blizzards.

So, lugging into their temporary home on grounds partially funded through the State of Texas, many kids residing there because of CPS intervention, we had to leave these two wonderful girls with words to remember that there ARE people out there who care about others, even a stranger. There ARE people who will open their home to children in need, but it's not easy. For us, being a Sponsor Parent is not a role that is's all on your own dime. I told the girls that made them extra special because any Sponsor Parent who takes them into their home is doing so as a volunteer. In this economy, that explains the reason the group homes are suffering a great shortage of sponsor parents. Mostly local, home-town church folks who, like the girls, will never have a perfect life, but at least they're willing to share what they've got with the less fortunate.

And it's not easy. We told the girls that we didn't have the extra money to run around town, but we have enough comforts here at home to have a grand old time. And that's exactly what we did with the exception of one trip to MacDonalds and for Stefie taking the girls out for a day of fun. Other than that, we had lots to do at home.

Christmas break for the kids is coming soon. I know there is a chance they could be united with their family and gone in a blink of an eye, but we will try to be here for them for as long as possible. I hope they do get the chance to be with their family again, at least before the "age-out" of the system.

Regardless, the girls and their Blizzards put on a happy face for us as we departed. There were a few tense moments of separation anxiety on behalf of all of us, but we got through it.

Photo: This is the one that's the best!

After the hugs and smooches on the cheek good-bye, the girls' faces lit up as the other girls in the group home came to the front door to nosy about and all was well as we walked out the door while hearing, "We got to take baths in a jacuzzi tub! It was EPIC!"

For me, I'll miss their EPIC laughter in the house and hope to hear it again over the Christmas holidays.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

# 375 - Two Beauties Join our Family!

Our extended Thanksgiving holidays are extra special because we have two kiddos who are guests, well, they are treated like family. Rissa and Teeta are glad that we are their first Sponsor Parents. These sisters just want to be together.

A facility nearby allows children who are a Ward of the State of Texas to be taken home every other weekend and holidays with Sponsor Parents. There is no incentive, no pay, nothing. This is something you do because you want to help children.

These kids with us for the next couple of weeks are 16 and 13, they remind me to put life's hardships into perspective. You know the old saying, "No matter how bad you got it, someone else has it worse."

Regardless, these kids are resilient. They are always ready to laugh, to smile and to have fun.

Teeta immediately became attached to our chickens. Every day she goes outside and sits among the chickens, she holds them and feeds them. She loves gathering their eggs.

The older sister Rissa is a bundle of theater and arts performances...loves to dance, to do magic card tricks, and to read and write. She tries her best to be a good student.

I am glad to share our home with these sister for the Turkey Holidays. Over the next couple of months, they'll be here on a regular basis. I don't know what will happen when we move. The house is back on the market and we already had a showing this weekend.

If the house sells, we'll be out of Harris County, which may put a halt to us being Sponsor Parents. I'm not sure. The state facility really need the Sponsor Parents to live in-county. This is understandable.

The best scenario would be to have the girls' home situation resolved so they could move back in with their mom and siblings. However, I'm not so sure that will be possible.

No matter what, we'll do the best we can for as long as we can. That's the important part.

Meanwhile, we are giving them a safe place to lay their head. We bought enough food to fulfill a teeagers' ultimate-foodie dreams. Deputy Dave cooks them whatever they want to eat. Today was lasagna.

And we have great talks...proving these kids are articulate and introspective about their lives. Tomorrow, I'll show them a few video games. I can only imagine the fun they'll have playing the PS3 games, especially the "move" games.

It's nice hearing kids laugh in the house, but I am still grateful we had our two children young, and I do appreciate the hard-earned quiet I have come to appreciate!

For now, the girlie-giggles are fun to hear as they watch the next movie.

Smile my darlings. Smile and be joyful.

Monday, November 12, 2012

# 374 - Move the Shed & Back-Up Heat

I miss the fresh air of the country. And, on our acreage, you can actually see the Fall colors throughout the landscape.

Sometime over the next few weeks, we will be going to look at a few houses that some of the builders on our list has constructed. Need to see their work up close.

Even if it is chilly, we will probably camp-out on the land and savor each moment in nature. Last year, we camped, without heat in 42 degree weather and that wasn't fun. It was so cold that we called the big dogs to get into bed with us. Howdy laid across me for most of the night, knowing I was shivering. He gives off more heat than an electric heating pad. The dogs made all the difference to our level of comfort.

It's a good thing to teach your dog to cuddle.

We have this nice-sized shed on the back-side of our property. It sure would be nice to have it moved to the area we set up and work around, mostly. This shed could actually be a great temporary quarters during cold weather and it would allow us to leave a few things on the property as we get closer to staying there full-time.

Yes, it's a nice shed and we sure could use it. Moving it is on my list of priorities. Maybe the Deputy can hook it up to the tractor or truck and slowly drag it around to the right side of our property. It sure would be a fun undertaking! Perhaps I can enlist my brother to come out and help move it.

I'll let you know how it goes.

For our upcoming camping trips, just in case, we will be buying a little heater. Then, we won't be hypothermic and having to deal with worried family members back in the city who are concerned were going to become Texas country popsicles.

Little do they know, we are very experienced campers, and like I said, we have dogs, big dogs. We have back-up heat.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

# 373 - Unique Kitchens are Great!

Searching the Internet for pictures of kitchens is something that is not easy to do, especially since I am drawn to kitchens that are rustic in appearance. I do not really want too many upper cabinets because the space could be better utilized by other means.

I've had a couple of kitchens with white cabinetry in my day and I must say, they were not any harder to take care of than the country-green painted cabinets I have today. The white was actually easy to maintain --- I painted them with paint designed for bathroom/kitchen cabinetry, and it was scrubbable. Loved it!

I also keep extra paint on hand in an empty water bottle with a clean stone or glass bauble dropped inside, ready for quick touch-ups. You just shake the bottle, dip in a touch-up sized paint brush and your life is less complicated! In fact, I do this with ALL left-over paint, for every room. It has saved me frustration for countless paint-touch-ups.

I love the shelving.
As for the country cabin, I adore elements that are rustic. This island with the plank top might not be good for a chopping block because of the cracks, but it is beautiful. The towel hanging rod is a smart idea. I would have one side with hooks to hang big, frequently used utensils, etc.

I nearly dropped when I saw this kitchen. Our second home in Germany had a kitchen that was extremely small, but the wall had tile, just like this, and it had white shelving that we installed. Perhaps that is the reason I love this look and the reason I appreciate the functionality of having shelving instead too many upper cabinets.

The kitchen in the photo below is so nice, but I'm not so sure about the hanging carriage lights. I like the warm colors.

For some reason, I am drawn to a kitchen with warm wood elements or a mixture of white and warm, natural wood. However, this kitchen with the country red and white checkered accents is like a magnet.

Incorporating some of our German memorabilia from the years we lived overseas will be a part of our country kitchen design. However, true German kitchens are high-tech master-pieces, like their vehicles. There's not really a rustic German design. French rustic, yes, I love that look...Julia Child is the master! American pioneer, yes, I love it.

If I could get this trivet, I would. I had to read it a couple of times, then laugh. So true.

I guess the country cabin will be so far-removed from a cookie-cutter designed house that it is difficult to find a kitchen I can decide upon. So, it becomes a question, or a series of questions about the elements I'd prefer to have in a kitchen.

1. Less upper cabinets of typical kitchens, more shelving for cookbooks, large pots and such.
2. Wood, need areas with wood, unpainted.
3. Area with pegboard, even a small area, to hold favorite cooking utensils and prevent counter-top clogging
4. Triangle design of kitchen with cooking, cleaning and refrigeration.
5. Area of hanging pots with lids slid over handle for easy pairing and retrieval.
6. Love sheet metal or stone at area under serving bar, no sheetrock to paint and scuff.
7. Lighting, under-cabinet and inside glass cabinet lighting.
8. Dining area adjoining kitchen must have wall space to accommodate my German Shrunk (china cabinet).
9. Large farm table is a must --- only one dining area with ample seating for our growing family.
10. One sink faucet with one handle --- having two faucets to adjust for temperature is not the most bacterial resistant method nor more convenient, love the faucet that detaches to make a sprayer, kind of like the one used in restaurant kitchens.
12. No sheetrock on backsplashes, must be tiled and sealed for easy clean up.
13. Most lower cabinets will be slide-out drawers, not caverns.

Love the stone walls. Always love stone and wood together.

I suppose the stone would have to be sealed?

I am getting close to being able to draw out the kitchen design. I've seen a LOT of kitchens, especially because I was a Real Estate professional for years...when houses are your business, you see a lot of kitchens of every sort.

From my point of view, the people who would spend a small fortune on their kitchens were never on the mark. The more functional kitchens might have provoked a second-thought, but those were usually the most memorable. The only problem with having an out-of-the-box kitchen in a cookie-cutter neighborhood is that it is so scary to depart from the "norm."

Me in an unglamorous shot, in my "now" kitchen.
It seems that more and more people would LOVE to own a kitchen that is less about selling cabinets and more about individual preferences. Catering to your own tastes is the best part of home-ownership. Even places we rented throughout our lives were fun to decorate with our own flair, but getting to build a country cabin is taking this freedom to a new level.

Getting some distance from city-suburbs house-next-door expectations will keep you chained to the status quo. It is a challenge to look at kitchens in a different way. I can see that my cookie-cutter brain-washed mind will encounter some struggles with this country cabin, but I believe obstacles can be conquered so that a new way of life can be enjoyed.

After all, I did love our little German kitchen that had a huge picture window, the kitchen that was devoid of upper cabinetry. It was small, but I loved it; however, back then we didn't entertain on the scale that we do now and our family wasn't this size. Heck, we were basically the only ones in our sibling groups that truly had a family. Now, the chain reaction has taken on immense proportions. It shows during every gathering we host. Also, neither of us knew how to cook like we do now. But, I loved the uniqueness of that little kitchen and am looking forward to having something different once again.

Friday, November 9, 2012

# 372 - Ignorance is Not Bliss

I am in disbelief over events unfolding with the CIA.

Most of us know that military decisions demand that the ranks of military be able to make life-saving decisions at the right time. If some of these decisions are on hold until Washington politicians get involved, then we will probably continue to see our fellow Americans, who are putting their lives on the very line of danger, be killed.

This is a terrible issue for our country to confront. The question of HELP being requested by Americans working in government positions, on foreign soil, and the desperate request being stamped, "DENIED." So, the ones in need end up dead.

As a citizen of the United States, I cannot be quiet over this topic, especially not after what happened today. There's no doubt, I've been appalled at the Benghazi, Libya situation.

Moreover, I am disgusted that General Patraeus, the Director of the CIA, handed in his resignation today to President Obama, over a marital affair, even though Roosevelt, Johnson, Kennedy and Clinton had affairs and continued at their posts. How does a CIA Director end up confessing such a thing only days after the presidential election? Does anyone else find this timing to be HIGHLY suspicious for the White House?

Does anyone else highly doubt that a CIA Director, a man who is an Army General, would be issuing such a painfully personal reason for their resignation? If you've been around military, then you know this is likely a lame excuse to get rid of Patraeus. Even if he had been involved in an affair, it is not a reason for an Army General/CIA Director to RESIGN from his post. If he had an affair, then it was a stupid move, but this man has served his country as a military icon and this is not an acceptable reason for a resignation, except for an administration that appears to be escorting him out the door very quickly after the election. I wonder what will happen to Hillary?

This smells very foul.

And just so you know, I vote split-ticket. Yes, I voted for Clinton. I felt that his personal actions were not a reason to hang him out to dry professionally, but I do admit the Oval Office abuse involving the cigar was over the top. I don't think this was digestable for Americans picturing the Oval Office as a place of boundaries. Check it at the door Mr. President, please.

So, this concern I have today for our country revolves around highly questionable acts that should not be walked by with closed eyes. What will be next?

Is this the best reasoning that could be contrived for a resignation of such a high-ranking official? Is this supposed to make the political "right" accept the General's situation as proof that he should not be our CIA Director or a future political candidate?

It is even more questionable that the House of Representatives and Senate were to have closed-door intelligence committee meetings NEXT WEEK with Patraeus testifying on the Benghazi fiasco. Does this timing strike anyone as disturbing?

I cannot imagine being a family member of a Benghazi victim.

Can any of us imagine heading toward a major intersection and a massive chase is underway, going through that intersection before our eyes...with a car full of passengers, we must turn right to avoid the accident, so we must hit the "red button" to call Washington to get permission to make that right turn...and to our horror, they deny us. The button worked, but the person in charge of giving the approval decides that our life is not worth granting permission to do what is necessary to save lives. We have no choice but to plow ahead and be massacred.

None of us should feel we are too far removed or immune from such government induced tragedies. The people in Benghazi hit that red button. It was met with a denial.

This Benghazi tragedy is a sign to me that our government is out of control and consumed with other priorities beyond security of its citizens. What is another sign of a government out of control? It's also a government that has spending that cannot be met by the tax-payers. The national deficit is basically like us having a bank account that is devastatingly American citizens own that bank is us people who are going to have to pay to get that deficit paid off. Of course, it's not likely that we'll see it paid down in our life-time at this rate of growth. It's unlikely our children will be able to do it either, unless they pay, pay, pay, pay in higher and higher taxes. The past four years have not shown that the deficit is being reduced, it's being increased more than ever. That deficit sure isn't going to disappear on its own. It takes us people to pay it down to make it go away OR the government must get its spending under control. I vote for the government to get itself under control, but that option looks bleak.

Then, we have a Harvard educated, lawyer-professor President who seems to have little understanding for so many Americans who are suffering. As we struggle, he is entertaining Hollywood and the family is taking more vacations to dream destinations than any of us could imagine. First of all, none of us could imagine living in the White House and being catered to at every turn...maids, secretaries to answer our phones, cooks, entertaining specialists, wardrobe provided free of charge...not much to do other than make public appearances and try to do the right thing with your time. Therefore, if I were in the position of living in extravagance, on the country's dime, as the country endures massive unemployment, I think I'd pass on any vacation photo opportunities because it's a bit like spitting in the face of people who can't even pay their rent or mortgage.

A speech cannot take the place of actions.

Today, I am severely disappointed in the going "Forward" message that includes Patraeus resigning at a time that raises more questions than ever.

If anyone is sick of the Benghazi situation, then they need to think about it from the perspective of anyone having a loved one in the service of their country. I admire the people who take a risk to take jobs in foreign countries, especially as an American in the Middle East. If they ask for help...Why would they be denied? Why?

General Patraeus is resigning at a time of great turmoil with Libya and other Middle East troubles. This resignation is getting the attention of many in our country. I hope that people will not ignore such things --- I hope disaster doesn't have to come to our individual doorsteps before we start paying attention. We cannot pretend that disaster is not happening, it is. How far does it have to go?

Now, supposedly, Patraeus is not going to testify at the hearings. Since he is the CIA Director, I doubt that any replacement can even cover the Director's first-hand knowledge, maybe that's the entire point.

Ignorance is not bliss, it is our destruction.

# 371 - Camel on the Ranch

My grand-dog "Thor" is a cutie! Puppies have this way of flopping themselves right into your heart. This mini-Australian Shepherd is a bundle of fun. He has such a cute personality and loves to play. He's finally hit that age to where he'll lay back in my arms for a while, like a sweet little baby and he loves it when I rub his ears. He's a fun guy.

There's no doubt, we really need to get ourselves moved to our acreage, get some fences up for all the dogs to have lots of play space, then we adults can have fun without worrying about the dogs messing up the house.

Having a house in the suburbs gives us very limited private recreational space to work with, but the country gives us lots of romping room.

House is officially back on the market today. Round 2 begins. Let's see if we can get this bad-boy sold as soon as possible! Since another recession might be possible, I feel an intense desire to unload this house.

Hey, my daughter's father-in-law has gone beyond getting dogs and horses, he just purchased a young camel.

This is one we've all laughed about. They live near Fort Worth on a ranch and their camel is definitely an odd addition, but how could you say no to this cute fuzzy creature?

I sure hope they know how to take care of camels. I wonder if it eats dog food or horse food? I have no idea. I'll find out and let you know. This is sure to be an adventure for them!

Monday, November 5, 2012

# 370 - Super Sexy!

A few weeks ago, on the drive home from Heather's wedding (our oldest daughter), my husband was a sly devil and took a photo of me snoozing. He immediately posted it on Facebook. He liked it. I had no idea it existed until my sister called and told me she loved the picture of me asleep on the way home while wearing our mother's red hat.


The hat had been put on an honor chair at my daughter's wedding for her grandmother and since I had it in my lap on the way home, I decided to wear it to help block the sun from my eyes. The shape of the hat worked perfectly to block out harsh rays of sun so I could relax and catch some much needed zzzz's.

Between my orthopedic neck pillow, the pillow in my lap, my cell phone hanging from the collar of my shirt, and the red hat with my hair splayed everywhere, I thought this shot was Super Sexy and had to be passed on to my blog buddies for a peek. I think the orthopedic pillow cinched the "S" in sexy...Don't you think?

I guess I should be thankful there wasn't an open gaping mouth or drool involved. It could be worse!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

# 369 - Gooey Butter Cake

My mother had many cookbooks that she referred to over the years; she loved to cook. After she passed away from breast cancer at 57 years of age, my sister and I split up the cookbooks, some for her house, some for mine.

This cookbook had been given to my mom as a gift from my incredible Aunt Peggy who is now in her mid-80's and still lives in downtown Houston. As the wife of a prominent business man, my Aunt Peggy always had something interesting to give others, especially from her work as a volunteer in many organizations. That woman has spent her life helping others, including my mother as she was dying. So, any gift from my Aunt Peggy is especially treasured. She's a beautiful woman. I hope this explains the special feelings I have with sharing this cookbook with you.

This cookbook had been part of a fundraiser. It is old. Many of the ingredients are proof of this cookbook's age. Ingredients such as, oleo or a "Box" of powdered sugar, which had been the standard, for years. Then, there is "sour milk" which I don't think I've ever cooked with and wouldn't know how to go about creating it...the thought brings on a slight gag-reflex.

But, I'm not the cook around here. So, I will share with you a few recipes from this cookbook that had been given to my mother and let you give me comments on what you think about the recipes. I hope you enjoy!

This recipe is for GOOEY BUTTER CAKE, which sounds sinful and indulgent. Also, the ingredients are those that I comprehend. It doesn't seem too difficult to make, so I like it even better. I'll try it over the next couple of weeks.

If you happen to make it, at any point in this blog, make your comments. A new comment always shows up for me, no matter how old the blog post.

I photographed the recipe in two portions. Don't pay attention to the Pumpkin Cookies recipe because it is not the featured recipe for this post. However, I might post that one as well.

...the rest of the recipe's instructions...

Gooey Butter Cake sure does sound scrumptious.

# 368 - City Woes & Tidbits of Life

Well, the house will FINALLY be back on the market this week. We've had so much on our hands following our daughter's wedding. It's been emotionally draining, in a good way. However, over the past two weeks, we've been working on boxes pulled from the attics, junk from the garage and from over-stuffed closets to have a garage sale, make donations of left-overs and to re-organize everything more efficiently.
Now, the closets look better and the attic looks great. The garage is less congested, but will never be big enough to contain everything needed for the house and for the land. A two-car garage just isn't enough space to accommodate everything for two properties.

However, the sifting through things collected over the years has been productive. Once the day comes to move, we will have a much easier time of it because we went through the effort to rid ourselves of so much stuff already.
This task has been easier since the weather is cooler. In the South, you must plan such chores with appropriate weather because organizing a garage in 110 degree temperatures due to the heat index is not pleasant.

At any rate, I am glad to have worked in the house this weekend. I was supposed to go into the hospital this past Friday for testing, but I was running a slight fever, so it was put on hold. I'll be speaking with the doctor and hospital admissions to see if we are going to shoot for next Friday. Regardless, I'm not thrilled about it. Oh well, I stay busy and try to not think about it. Medical tests...Doesn't everyone love them?
As for the house, we are adding a Realtor Bonus to the deal. This is always a good marketing strategy and one that I used as a Broker. It sure helps to draw traffic to a listing. We haven't done this before with our own house, so it will be good to see if the bonus will still draw more potential buyers to the house and if the agents work harder to remember the house with the bonus. That's how it works folks. Agent's the age of incentives, use them well.
Lately, we've been talking about how to make as fluid a move as possible once this house sells. Most likely, we'll get an RV to live on-site while the cabin is being built, and then we'll have the RV at our disposal for when it's time to travel to see our kids and future grandkids, especially the ones that live a five-hour drive away, near Dallas. It will be nice because we'll be able to take the dogs along, but not have to worry about leaving them at my daughter's house for us to go out to dinner. The dogs love being in an's home to them because we've traveled so much.

All of us are dog-lovers. Each family has two dogs and when we have a gathering, that's a lot of dogs to put together. We all try to put considerate thought into our breed selections because we are all so involved with each other and want our dogs to be buddies. Of course, when you get a "pack" of dogs together, there will be a few tense moments, but overall, our dogs are great. The only problem we have is that we each have shepherds and they all want to be the lead dog of the pack; the herding of each other can be ridiculous.

Howdy has the most prevalent herding instinct, but it's because he was born into herding on a ranch. Since he came to us from a ranch, it had been deeply reinforced by the time we came along, which for those who study Aussies, know that a farm/ranch trained dog is not something you can turn off. Howdy is definitely the one you can tell who is around chickens every day, conducting herding activities on a regular basis. When other dogs are around, he remains on high alert and he usually tries to use his body to keep the other dogs from me and my daughters. This can be a problem when Heather's oldest Australian Shepherd, Tux, is clearly dominate and protecting Heather himself. It's bad when both dogs feel possessive.

There's no doubt, it will be wonderful for the kids to come visit us and to have all that land for the dogs to expend their energy. We'll have some fenced-in areas for their protection, but there will be room for them to run and jump and show-off their athleticism. 

And buying another RV sure will be great. The benefits with having an RV again will be ten-fold now that our oldest is married and they are wanting to start a family. Maybe we'll find a good RV buy at another auction.
A couple of years ago, I wrote about an exciting day we had at an auction here in Texas.
We purchased a nice 30 foot RV for a killer low-ball price and even sold it about a year later for double the purchase price.
Four bunks in the back -- two of the bunks were
double capacity, the dining table converted to
sleeping quarters as well as the sofa. The bedroom
had an RV queen, so this RV slept at least 11-12
people comfortably. This time, we just need a
roof over our heads as we build the cabin shell.
I'm hoping that we find a great RV at an auction, even if we have to travel to Louisiana. Otherwise, we're keeping our eyes open for good deals.
Spending half the money for an RV because of an auction hassle is well worth it. Saving thousands of dollars is not something to frown at, especially when every dollar must go into our home-without-wheels.
Since our land is several acres and there aren't any neighbors nearby, we will need to be there throughout construction. We will have a shell cabin built, then have the mechanicals handled. I have an a concrete person and an electrician that everyone adores in the area because they are very experienced and trustworthy with amply examples around the county to show their workmanship, but we'll still need to find an air-conditioning person and a plumber. I'm sure we will come across the best people for the job as we get into the construction phase.

One thing is for sure, I do not want Billy-Bob showing up with his wire that is stapled all over the house, across windows and in zig-zag must be done right or I will hunt down Billy Bob.
The other day, Deputy Dave and I stood in the front yard of our house in the Greater Houston area as we played ball with Howdy. Liyla made herself comfortable in the sun. She's getting older and the heat feels good to her bones and joints.
First of all, this city house is a very nice house, let me make that clear...I am thankful to be here...but it doesn't really fit our lifestyle or current circumstances with grown children and big dogs and chickens and acreage equipment and as avid gardeners.
Anyway, in the front yard on that day, Howdy would go after a ball that had been tossed into the air and if his nose hit it, the ball would launch another direction, a couple of times toward the street, and he naturally dashed after the ball. The 2nd time it happened, play-time was over. I felt like melting into the pavement. That dog is trained to not go into the street, but put a ball in play and his focus is so intense that he would not notice a semi-truck heading his direction. This is why we now stick to throwing the ball toward our garage and he can make the long running trip up and down the driveway.
Regardless, the rogue ball was another moment when I again felt driven to get out of here...I felt tucked in and cramped. I guess I've developed some kind of strange need to get away from city congestion and into open spaces. There's no doubt that the land will offer a massive amount of space to spread out. It'll offer one mighty big front yard! The dogs will be able to play with no worries, plus I'll have a real front porch and a screened-in side porch off to the side of the house. Everyone knows that those two elements in a house are all you need in Southern life!
Most of all, I will savor being in the midst of nature. After all these years of city life, of living in a highly industrialized area that is part of Greater Houston, I'll be so thankful to get out of here and take in a deep breath of air every morning and be thrilled that my lungs are not being filled with stinky, polluted inhaled air.
Sometimes, I wonder...will this EVER happen? Then, I look at how close we are getting. I see the big changes taking place and I do not under-estimate my determination. Besides, this big house is a drain on us, in many ways. It feels like we're taking a bath in a swimming's just not practical.
If I am going to have too much of something, I'd rather it be too much space outdoors!
Most of all, I crave privacy. Yep, that's a biggie for me. I want to be able to step into my backyard or into my front yard and not have other people's windows facing me from every angle.
I'd like to be able to sit in my backyard and read a book without hearing the constant sounds of dogs barking, kids screaming, someone else's chimes that are just that right high-pitch that makes you feel like fingernails are scraping a chalkboard...I just need some solitude! The city is great, but I've had my fill of it. I'm ready to hear birds chirping, the wind moving through the trees, frogs croaking at dusk, and yes, I'll be listening for the big cats who are predators and for the black bears that are supposed to be reintroduced to the area. It's all part of country life; it's wonderful and beautiful and it already owns my spirit.
Everyone needs something different to soothe their soul. I do understand that some people feel an intense need to be close to other people, even if they are strangers. Some people just like to have others nearby because it soothes them for some reason. I love having my huge family gatherings and being with my friends, but I also have reverence for solitude. And, for my personality, it is nice to have a daily life that puts more distance between me and neighbors.
I love my neighbors...we all get along great. I will miss them. I'm the social one in the neighborhood...I know everyone, even the kids. I sit outside and visit with them and remind them to stay out of the street. In the country, I'll still have neighbors! They just won't be able to stand at their window and easily look into my house unless they have highly specialized equipment that can see through a forest of trees.

In my neighborhood, we can all count on each other. But, we also deal with heightened emotions that come with living too close together, especially because the street is too full of vehicles and people back into each other too has caused tensions. You would think that certain neighbors would learn to look behind them when backing out of their driveway or to tell their guests to be watch out for extra street traffic that is rather obvious. Frankly, it proves that high numbers of people do not turn their head or really care very much about looking behind them when pulling out of a driveway. Like my dad says, modern day vehicles spoil people into erasing skilled driving, all the sensors, cameras, computerized systems seem to do a big part of driving and it's seemed to have created as many problems as it's solved.

Lack of driving attention is the reason you can't even let the kids in the family walk down the sidewalk by themselves. Unfortunately, accidents have caused a couple of neighbors to resort to ignoring each other instead of being on the friendly speaking terms they'd enjoyed for years. Once the teenagers of each family got involved with hitting each other's cars and tempers flared, relationships were damaged. It's sad because we have all had such good times together. Now, I'm literally in the middle of these families and refusing to side with either one. Accidents happen. I will say, one of the neighbors took it too far and her mean-streak caused an irreparable situation. But, it stinks.

As for me feeling too congested in the city, it's also frustrating when too many cars means a person parking in front of your house is blocking your mailbox and the mailperson won't deliver your mail if the box is not accessible. Not pleasant when you are eagerly anticipating something to come in the mail.
I won't miss the crowded street, especially the neighbors who have multiple boats and find it acceptable to start flushing the engine at 7am Saturday morning, taking well over two hours to work the two engines into such a roar that I'm sure someone has thought about bringing their thoughtlessness to their attention. My engine revving neighbor once admitted that he takes delight in this task because his next door neighbor has kids who play basketball in the driveway until midnight and the ball bouncing can be clearly heard next door, every single bounce, backboard hit, garage door banged, rim slam...yes, it's a problem for our neighbors with the boat. So, he places his boat engines closest to that neighbor's house, good and early every Saturday morning, and he gets going with letting the engines roar and roar and roar. Problem is...we hear it too. life. I guess those who live in extremely jam-packed city conditions are completely accustomed to city sounds and any peaceful quiet moments would be a deafening issue for them. For us, we're kind of in the middle, we don't have sounds of nature, but we're still somewhat insulated from the harsh sounds of the inner-city.
So, it's always fun around here. Forget Desperate Housewives...which I've never seen...I need to add it to my Netflix schedule. The street in front of my house should be named "Testosterone Trail.". 
I love my neighbors in the suburbs, but please, for my next residence, put me in the woods.