It is the small simple things of life that bring us peace.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Houston, I have landed.

It's here, it's here!  The one event I dream of all year - the International Quilt Festival - and once again, by the grace of God, I'm here! Woo-hoo!
This year the Festival celebrates its 40th anniversary - its Ruby Anniversary.  There are red and white quilts everywhere.  Although I never really cared for the plain red and white quilts by themselves, I am charmed by the collection together!  I love red (and most other colors, too) and it is giving a startling effect to the Festival this year.

One of my favorite thing to do while here is get downtown early, get a cup of coffee and go to one of the second floor patios of the convention center.  I have watched the skyline of Houston change over the years that I've been coming to the Festival.  I've watched buildings go up as well as the implementation of the Discovery Green just across the street.  The trees in the green are now well grown and provide cool shade and greenery to the downtown landscape. 
Hurricane Ike went through just weeks before the Festival in 2008, but the show would go on.  I remember sitting on the patio marveling at the broken windows and damaged buildings where work was already quickly underway to make repairs.  I've watched new hotels and condominiums be built.  This year a new Marriott is going up where years ago I remember older homes, maybe from the late 1800's, that were gently worn yet still elegant.  Now they are gone and newness continues.
Many years ago I worked just down the street for a week; I stayed in the hotel on the right.  Even then I was fascinated with downtown Houston; it continues today.  This morning while enjoying the morning realized what an old citySan Antonio is - the Europeans came in 1690 and the missions were established in the early 1700's.  We are a city of adobe buildings and many cultures.  Houston was formed in 1836, but today it is the city of newness, of oil and glass towers.  I love them both.
I always want to walk down toward Minute Maid Park and check out this church surrounded by a modern building.  It reminds me of St. Joseph's church in San Antonio that is surrounded by River Center Mall.  I think my feet will be too tired again this trip, but I'm thinking that maybe just a weekend trip when there is no Festival to keep me distracted from exploring would be most rewarding.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Monday Musings 10.27.2014

Scary Fellow!
Jaydon carved this Jack-O-Lantern on Saturday morning for use in Sunday afternoon's Harvest Festival at church.  He did it entirely on his own - the only thing I did was spread out the newspapers on the table and give him a trash bag.  He's done this every year and looks forward to it.  Good job!

Now for the musings. Some time ago I had the realization that I could either have
1) a beautifully decorated, immaculately clean, perfectly organized home,
2) a beautiful, well-landscaped yard that is perfectly maintained, or
3) I could pursue interests such as making quilts, knitting and other needlework, reading, writing, researching places and then travelling to them, grooming and training my dogs, preparing food for friends who are sick or bereaved, taking friends who need a bit of cheering to lunch, and other activities that bring me pleasure and are worthwhile endeavors.

But I cannot have all three.  I cannot have two; neither can I successfully balance all three.  Even though I know this fact I still attempt to try to balance the three because I cannot choose which one to pursue.  It will not work; I cannot have them all.  I know this to be a fact.

I had a Halloween wall hanging that I started early in the fall that I wanted to use for the Harvest Festival.  I managed to make myself work on it every night when I was home.  Each day I set a goal to piece a certain part, quilt a certain part, to get x amount done that night; I had reasonable goals and I met them.  Did I finish the wall hanging?  Almost, I basted the binding (no one ever knew) and I also plan to re-do some of the embellishments before next year. 

I was successful with this project by focusing on it to get it done.  I think this approach works good sometimes; however, the trade off is that I now have a nice layer of dust on the furniture (no, I can't blame not dusting on the weekend trip to see my sister), there are animal fur samples in corners and on the back of the sofa, and the yard looks just about like it did before the sewing project fired up.  Books are still stacked up, waiting to be read.  Pictures and notes await creation into blog posts.  I have only sporadically walked the dogs (and myself). I have managed to keep groceries stocked and feed myself.  Basically, life will go on.  But the musings of this blog post will end because I think, dear readers, you know what I'm saying - you can't have it all!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Wednesday 10.22.2014

Covered Bridge
Woodstock, Vermont

Monday, October 13, 2014

A Little Visit to the King Ranch

When I wrote the post on Cowboy Church I mentioned that I was on a trip to the King Ranch.  I've decided that I would be remiss if I didn't mention this trip and the King Ranch in a post.  It was an enjoyable day and I am planning to visit again and do some historical sleuthing in Kingsville while there. 

Visitors are not allowed to drive onto the ranch since it is a working ranch; all tours are either on one of their busses or a group motor coach. They tour you through a small area of the ranch, but you do get to see several buildings including the Big House and the large covered pavilion where horse auctions were once held.

I didn't get too many pictures from the tour as making pictures through the window of a motor coach has its serious faults.  At the visitor center 2 longhorns were in a adjacent field, and as our tour guide told us, their longhorn cattle is on another part of the ranch so they have these there because non-Texas visitors always expect to see a longhorn while visiting the ranch!

In preparation for the trip I had started reading Petra's Legacy. Petra Vela Kenedy was the wife of Mifflin Kenedy who was a business partner and close friend of Richard King.  While it is not an actual biography of her life, it is a compilation of the events that would have involved her and her family.  Little is actually known about her, but through letters, court documents and newspaper articles the authors compiled a book that offers a glimpse into the struggles that these early ranchers and their families encountered as they tried to tame the Wild Horse Dessert.  Many years ago, in what now seems like another life, I had spent time in South Texas and was familiar with the harshness of this land.  As I read the book I could understand the trials that they went through to exist and to establish these ranches.  Life was not easy and often they were dealing with human threats in addition to the unpredictably of natural events.

This area had had several inches of rain the week before our visit; they were over-joyed and everything was very green.  The last few years have been very dry for South Texas.
Our tour guide was ecstatic that there was water in this creek!  It had been dry until the rain came.  I don't remember the name of the creek, but the guide told us that Richard King had camped along this creek when he first came to the ranch, known then as the Santa Gertrudis Ranch, and had fallen in love with this rough country.
The King Ranch web site offers a good summary of the ranch and its history:
The Ranch now covers 825,000 acres—more land than the state of Rhode Island. Over the course of 150 years, King Ranch has led some of the first cattle drives, developed the Santa Gertrudis and Santa Cruz breeds of cattle, bred the finest quarter horses, and produced champion thoroughbreds—all under its iconic Running W® brand.

Today’s King Ranch has diversified into a major agribusiness with interests in cattle ranching and feedlot operations, farming (citrus, cotton, grain, sugar cane, and turfgrass), pecan processing and sales, commodity marketing and processing, luxury retail goods, and recreational hunting.
I was surprised to learn that the King Ranch had been a key player in developing the American Quarter horse.  At one time the ranch had several thousand horses, today they only have a few and they are used exclusively on the ranch and are only bred to replenish their stock.  The horses we saw were fine looking horses and we even got to see a foal at the brood mare barn! The Triple Crown winner in 1946 was Assault, bred and born right here on the King Ranch.

The Santa Gertrudis and Santa Cruz breeds of cattle were developed on the ranch.  Our guide was quick to point out which was which as we passed different pastures, but I can't remember for sure in this picture.  I think the lighter cow on the left is a Santa Cruz. The tags in the ear have codes that trace the lineage of each animal as well as information about the marbling to be found in their meat.
Our final stop before heading home was the King Ranch Saddle Shop.  I enjoyed browsing in the beautiful store, but was more taken with the building and this entryway tile! 

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Happy 60th Anniversary!

Just married!
This almost slipped my mind, but today would have been my parents' 60th wedding anniversary.  Earlier I had been reminiscing about their 50th anniversary celebration and wondered why it had popped into my thoughts; finally, the date connected with me and I realized that this was their 60th.

The wedding was simple, held in my grandparents' home.  A friend played the piano and sang and the refreshments were cake and punch.  I remember my mother saying that after paying for everything for the wedding she had twenty-cents in her wallet when she and Daddy pulled out of the driveway to leave for their new life together!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Wednesday, 10.08.2014

Fall tomatoes
I had such good luck with cherry tomatoes in this pot during the spring and summer that I decided to try it again for the fall.  I think this is one of the nicest tomato plants I've ever had and was surprised when it quickly began to bloom and set fruit! If I can just keep it watered enough I'm hoping to have a nice supply of cherry tomatoes for a few months. I also bought a lettuce plant and was delighted to discover that an empty pot now has little green onions popping up!  All I need now is cilantro and another parsley plant to replace the one that didn't survive the summer heat.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Wednesday 10.01.2014

 prickly pear cactus blossom

Monday, September 29, 2014

Captain Hook makes an appearance

Several weeks ago Cameron asked me if I would make him a Captain Hook costume, just for play.  He is five and likes to dress up in costumes.  He showed me several that he found online and since one of the patterns actually used a child's shirt I told him I would accommodate his wish, after all that's what Gammy's do!

I briefly thought about getting a pattern and fabric and sewing the costume up, but only briefly.  I remembered the solemn vow I made to myself as I made that last prom dress and set in that endless zipper up the back:  I will never make a garment again, ever. 

I found the t-shirt at JoAnn's for around $3 and came home to put this together.  In spite of the fact that I have a hoard of trims and ribbons I didn't have anything that I needed for this project.  So back to JoAnn's for trim, nothing expensive and the extra went into the hoard.  I also got a yard of $3.99 fabric for the cape.
We told him to make a scary face, so he did!
And, I found the hat there on the second trip.  Although it wasn't on sale I did have a coupon so I picked it up for a few dollars; I knew I had to get it to complete the costume.

This was the easiest costume I ever put together. Cut off the sleeves of the shirt, slit it up the middle. A little glue and a little sewing was all it took.  He loved it!
His only request was for me to add a piece of Velcro at the neckline to hold it together as it kept falling off.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Into the Fall

The first day of fall officially came and went this week.  Ahhhhhhhhhh, I say!  As I walked into the grocery store this afternoon (in a wonderful light rain) I saw the familiar fall mums clustered on display in front of the store.  I found myself remembering fondly my last trip to New England almost 3 years ago and how I reveled in the rainy days and the sight of pumpkins and mums on every doorstep.
The days of waiting for fall are over, it is here.  The month of August is long, hot and dry, but to me August is a sort of necessary prelude to the fall; we have to have those days in order to have September.  Finally, it is Labor Day which really signals the start of fall to me.  The days begin to cool down a bit and the daylight hours begin to shorten. 

The sighting of pumpkin displays becomes more common and it is time to start thinking about a visit to the pumpkin patch for the perfect pumpkin to go on the front porch.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Wednesday 09.24.2014

All Singers have a serial number that you can look up to determine their manufacture date.  I was surprised to learn that this lovely lady was made in 1904.  She either belonged to my maternal grandmother or her sister; at some unfortunate time the machines got switched.  My grandparents married in 1925 and didn't have much money; I'm sure this machine was bought used regardless of who it belonged to. If this was my grandmother's, then it is the machine I learned to sew on since my grandmother gave me my first lessons.

The top of the cabinet has been abused by some thoughtless relative that put a can of paint on top of it, but I keep it covered with a quilted table runner.  The belt for the treadle is broken, but if it was fixed this machine would still sew.  The light still comes on when you plug it in!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Cowboy Church

This morning I was headed south, but not by myself.  This road trip was a day trip and I was on a nice motor coach with 35 other people with the destination of the King Ranch.  My companions were people (and friends of those people) who are members of my Sunday School class; one of our members just happens to be a tour guide and she put this day trip together for us.  She started our trip playing Willie singing "On the Road Again" and were all singing along!  I was especially glad because it just didn't work out for me to take a fall road trip this year, so this was a nice substitute. 

We were scheduled to make a rest stop along the way.  Our guide had let me in on a little secret about our first stop, so I knew we weren't stopping at the rest area.  We were going to Brush Country Cowboy Church

This church is for cowboys and cowgirls and welcomes city slickers, too!  The pastor had prepared coffee (regular and decaf), had juice, fruit, apple fritters from a local bakery, plus a tray of muffins and pastries to welcome us.
Pastor Pat talked to us for a few minutes about the history of the church and then he gave us a little sermon.  Just from listening to him for a few minutes I knew that he was a man of God who is passionate about his faith.  He was wearing jeans, boots, hat and a work shirt; I am sure that he can rope a calf, drive a tractor, and handle any ranch chore.  After I got home when I looked at their web site there was a picture of him on a horse, he's a cowboy and a pastor! Our guide has brought groups here before and even attended a service recently, so she knew him very well.  She explained later that when she brings non-church groups that he can't preach since they have to be mindful of different beliefs (sad, right?).

The stage was ready for the Cowboy Band to play.  Music stands, microphones and sound equipment were all there.  At the front of the steps was this tractor seat stool, boots, rope and saddle.
A metal building with a commercial garage door, walls of plywood, a place to worship.
The adjoining building appears to be their fellowship hall and classroom space.  My church has golf carts to transport people around, they had a John Deere tractor sitting out front. As we were leaving I looked back and behind the playground visible just on the left was a nice arena with lots of stadium seats.
What do country people love?  God, family, and country! The American flag and the Texas flag were displayed on either side of the front wall of the church.  Pastor Pat had just returned from saying goodbye to his son who was deploying to Afghanistan.

As much as I love the stained glass windows, pipe organ, and the traditional worship of my church I found myself thinking that this is my kind of church, too. 

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Cooking the perfect round steak

After those last two posts, I need something a little lighter (and a little shorter).  Food is always a good topic and I'm celebrating a little cooking success, so it's time to share!

My mother was an excellent cook and she cooked almost every night since eating out was a treat and only done occasionally.  I was a picky eater, very picky, and to be truthful my mother cooked a lot of stuff when I was young that I would not eat even today.  I will not elaborate on what was on the menu in those days, but things did get better as I grew older.  By the time we moved to San Antonio in 1969 she had added tacos to her recipe box; they were something I experienced in the public schools of Southern California and brought home to her.  She had also picked up her excellent spaghetti sauce recipe while we lived there; it came from the wife of one of Daddy's flight school buddies who just happened to be stationed at the same base. 

The recipe box increased when we joined a small Presbyterian church that had Sunday night church fellowship dinners several times a year.  The ladies of the church were fabulous cooks and knew how to spread out the food, oh yes!  My sister and I still reminisce about those meals and the many dishes that were offered.  King Ranch Chicken and Chicken Tetrazinni plus many other casseroles as well as salads and desserts became family favorites, even today they are favs.  My sister and I have also reminisced about how wonderful it was to come home from school and walk in the door to the heavenly smells that came from the kitchen where our evening meal was being prepared.

One of the best smelling things Mama made was a pan fried round steak. She didn't make it real often, but I was always glad to come home and find that we were having round steak for supper.  As a novice cook I asked her for the recipe; the answer was that she didn't have one.  She told me to just brown it and let it simmer.  No matter what I did mine never came out like I remembered hers.

Last Saturday while in the meat section of the grocery store I saw a small package with three pieces of tenderized round steak.  It looked so good, and of course, I instantly thought of Mama's round steak.  After contemplating the package of meat I decided to give it another try, I just couldn't pass it up.  After I got home I kept thinking about how hers looked and running through what I know about cooking now.  So here's what I did:

Lightly seasoned flour with salt and pepper, dipped each piece lightly in the flour mixture just to coat it.  Then I browned it in Crisco oil (not the solid) over medium heat, flipping it several times.  I covered the pan and turned down the heat after it was fairly brown.  I let it simmer for over 45 minutes, turning occasionally and adding a little water.  Toward the end I decided to add some green bell pepper and white onion (Mama didn't add these, but I like sautéed vegetables so decided to add them in).  The result:  delicious, just like Mama's!  I probably could have simmered it a little longer as it was tender, but could have used just a little more tenderizing.

Why did it turn out like hers?  Well, I think part of the success was in just using a light coating of flour and in using the oil rather than the solid shortening to fry it in. But I think the main reason lies in the pan that I used - it was one of my mother's and I honestly think that made the difference.  She cooked with copper bottomed Revere ware pots and pans, so did I but mine were newer.  She had a round pan and a square pan; I seem to remember that she used the round one for the round steak, but the round pan is long gone.  I had brought the square pan home when we closed her house and use it frequently. In past attempts I had used my Revere ware pan as well as the much-loved iron skillet, but my steak had never turned out right until I used her square pan.  And, yes it does make a mess on the cooktop, but who cares when your steak is perfect!