Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Country Life

Got up early this morning.  Not because I had to but because I just woke up, as I usually do--early.  Stumbled into the kitchen in my gown and made myself a fabulous cup of coffee in the Keurig--- Butter Toffee is my very favorite-- and from there stepped out on the porch and sat in my favorite outdoor chair.  I didn't have to wait long for the show to begin.  Approximately a dozen hummingbirds swarmed the 4 feeders we have hanging in a huge Live Oak tree by the porch.  Pound for pound they have to be one of natures most aggressive little creatures!  They dip and dive and hover with the precision of a Huey helicopter.  And they are voracious--swilling down 4 quarts of  sugar water every 3-4 days.  Needless to say, we are always buying sugar in 25 lb. bags to keep up with their demand.  But hey, we don't think it's that expensive for such continued entertainment.

The deer were next in my sight--all eleven of them.  There was 2 bucks, 3 fawns and s does.  The does were so graceful  while grazing on the short grass and the fawns bouncing around their mothers.  I couldn't help but compare them to human mothers and children in a park.  And the bucks were quite statuesque, ever vigilant in their watchfulness, standing in the tree line with heads erect and ears perked.  Well you make the comparison.  Just breath-taking in their existence.

After finishing my first cup of coffee and seeing the deer wander out of sight, I strolled around to the front yard.  There is where my herb garden and the zinnias are planted.  And just outside the fence are our feeders for the big birds--Indigo Buntings, Cardinals, Sparrows, Titmouse and Tanagers all were on the feeders even as I prowled around the yard.  I gave them fresh water in the bird bath and picked myself a vase of zinnias and left them to their breakfast and bathing.

What a joy to live on this lovely Hill Country land that has been enjoyed by my family for six generations!  In Gone With the Wind, Scarlett O'Hara was so in love with Tara and the land first and foremost.  I know how she felt.  I love this old place and though not an antebellum plantation it is home to me.  It's not even South Fork (of Dallas fame) but as a Texas woman my heart is tied to the land and it's natural inhabitants as surely as I am tied to my ancestors who made it possible for me to be here this morning in this little bit of bliss. Thank you to them! And thank God!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Politics Anyone?

Well I've recently discussed relatives and religion and haven't received one comment.  My momma told me that there were 3 things that were conversationally "off limits" to women with good
manners--religion, relatives and politics.  I say "girls with good manners never have any fun."

In as much as I am decidedly opinionated I'm going to make a real effort to keep this as non-partisan as possible.  What that means is that it will take me hours to write this because I will have to go back and edit and re-edit.  So here's what I think.

Our nation has always been respected as a leader among nations, young as we are--236 years old.  Really still in our infancy as nations go.  We've been respected because we earned it!  Respect is not automatic.  We have earned that respect because we have been a nation who took care of it's own.  We have made education a priority.  It's there for anybody---girls as well as boys, the mentally and physically challenged, the young and the old.  Nobody has been turned away!  We have upheld every one's right to worship. Whether you agree with your neighbor or not you can attend or not the church of your choice.  We have defended the right to bear arms and here's where I might get into a bit of trouble.  I just want to say that nobody has lost their Grand Daddy's shotgun to the "govinmit!'  In fact, the government doesn't want your Grand Daddy's shotgun, but there are many wise and thinking people who would like to remove assault weapons from the hands of 14 year olds.  O.K. I'm finished with that!  We  also have the right to peaceful assembly.  If not for this some our citizens would still be slaves.  What an abomination that was!  And were it not for that right to assemble, the Tea Party would never have gotten off the ground--no pun intended.  Which leads into another treasured right--the right to speak on any topic at any time, as we see it.  And though there are indeed limits as regards public safety; liable and slander, pretty much anyone can say, write as they please. There are no restrictions as to that persons intellectual abilities to do so or ability to pay in order to speak.  We just can and do say what we think. (sometimes it's pretty evident that we also speak without the assumed prerequiste of thought.)   Another reason we are so widely respected, as a nation, is that slow as the effort may have been we have given EVERYONE the right to vote.  Not just white men who own property.  Voting is another means of speaking our minds and everyone can do it.  Yes, I know that there are certain groups of citizenry that thwart this effort for some minority groups and I say,"Shame on them."  However, we hope that too will end.  Are you noticing a trend here?  Something about life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness!  Yep, for the above and so much more we have garnered the respect of the free world.  I hope and pray we never lose it.  Too many of our best and bravest have died in order for these "inalienable" rights to be placed in jeopardy.

So with all this said, I beseech you to become an informed voter.  We owe it to ourselves, to our country and to those who died so we could continue to enjoy "the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness."  Look at the big picture.  Don't just grab onto a 10 second sound bite.  Most of those are narrow in their scope and feed on our insecurities.  Read and watch other news programs besides Fox News.  Spend some of your computer time reading.  So many of us vote against our own best interest because we hear something about a certain candidate and then close our minds to anything else that is said.  As an educator, one of my goals was to teach my students the art of critical thinking--to gather information, analyse, compare, decide. If a 4th grader can do it, you can too. 

Be an informed electorate and force our candidates to focus on the very real issues of the day---energy crisis, jobs, education, immigration, the financial institutions and the list goes on--instead of whose wife never worked or if one of them is a closet eater of french fries.  And I know you want to blame the dang media but they focus on what their market will allow.  Change that market!  Change that dialogue!

Be a "Rosy the Riveter" of the new age and do your part to maintain America's respect around the world.  Vote like your life depends on it!      

Friday, July 6, 2012

Role Models

Who helped make you who you are today?  Oh dear ones I can't possibly narrow it down to just one, as I'm sure you can't either.  But the primary influence in  my life was Ethel Bawcom, my maternal grandmother.  She was something and those of you who know me know of my Nan.  I was her first grandchild and her pride and joy!  Right there girls is where it all began.  She was the author of my self esteem.  She believed in me so I just naturally believed that anybody as smart as she was couldn't be wrong. She planted the seed of "can do" in me and I'm still convinced if I really want to accomplish something it is purely just a matter of getting off my backside and doing it! 

But let's get back to my Nan.  She was truly a woman of substance and she had a purpose.  Before the Woman's Movement in the 60s she already had a husband, a child (my mother), a career and a Cadillac!  Oh yeah--she traveled in style!  And though she didn't think in these terms she "had it all". Wasn't that the battle cry of our generation of women?  She singled handedly build one of the most successful antique businesses in the U.S.  She never bragged about it she just did it.  She also managed to accumulate a house full of treasures which she left to my mother and 4 of us grand kids.  She educated and groomed each of us regarding the value and history of each item, but never once did she declare them off limits.  We had all holiday meals at the 12 foot Belter table and chairs in the dining room.  We had flowers from the garden in her signed Stubben vases and salads in the cut glass bowls.  I can still hear her saying that it really wasn't worth having if you couldn't enjoy it. 

And she did work everyday.  That in and of itself inspired me.  I saw her ambition--which by the way is not a bad word--and realized I could do this, too--work hard.  Well girls I don't have to tell you that I've never worked as hard as our mothers or grandmothers did a day in my life.  That's the other thing--we don't physically work like they did but we can and do work and for that we also owe our "thanks" to the women who blazed that trail before us. 

Sounds like a real workhorse doesn't she.  Not all the time.  'Cause I remember having some fun.  In fact a whole big bunch of it.  We went to parties with her and my Grandpa where there was always lots of laughing and card playing and dancing.  I remember dancing with my Grandpa while standing on his feet.  We swam in the creek and in the livestock tanks.  We had picnics and car trips.  We went shopping for clothes.  Sometimes we bought school clothes but she also bought my first two-piece swimsuit--something Momma wouldn't have let me buy.  And she bought me a slinky dress for a football banquet and helped me die my hair the same colored as the gold la'me as my dress.  Another move that my mom didn't approve of. But yes mam, she was all about fun, too.

So balance is what it's all about.  You can have it all but to enjoy it there must be a balance between the work, the family, the fun.  I'm still working on this but tome that is the "takeaway message" here.

I keep a gratitude journal and it is difficult not to put her at the top of my list every night.  So who inspired you?  Who do you owe a debt of gratitude that can only be paid by "paying it forward?"  I am so pleased to hear how so many of you are building memories with your grandchildren.  Keep it up.  Thank God we have all lived long enough to still be young and fun and an inspiration to our grandbabies who by the way are a tremendous inspiration to me.  I pound that darn treadmill everyday hoping it will keep me going long enough to be OLD.       

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Tomatoes---Fruit?, Vegetable?, DELICIOUS!

Seems I just can't get away from tomatoes and blessings.  My neighnor, Sharon, one of my blessings for sure, called this morning and said, "Suzanne,"would you like to have a bunch of fresh tomatos?"  Is the Pope Catholic!!  I couldn't dress quick enough and drive down the road to her beautiful garden.  We visited a bit and then she proceeded to load me up with tomatoes, cantalope and the promise of some fresh okra in time for Bodie's supper on Saturday.  Oh my stars and garters!  I do love me some tomatoes.  On the way home I "spit polished" one big red beauty and by the time I drove up to our mailbox I had juice running off my elbow.  DELICIOUS!  I brought the rest of my take in the house, washed three more tomatoes and cut then into wedges.  I drizzled each with a little EVOO and  sprinkled each with a dash of salt & pepper and topped with a nice helping of crumbled feta cheese and a couple slices of avacado.  Had luch fit for a queen!  I think I'm gonna have the same thing for supper.  Dessert?  Cantalope of course.  

Musings From the Porch

You know, sometimes it just really is a good idea to be still and listen.  Listen to nature.  Listen to your heart.  Listen to God.  At about 7 a.m. on this beautiful sun-drenched day I think I heard all three.  It is so quiet here, unlike my former life as a town girl, that I can hear a breeze begin over in the trees just southeast of the back porch and then in a few seconds it caresses my face.  What a gift!  I think God gifts us with so many things-- feelings, family, friends, our health, wealth, etc., etc.-- that we become like spoiled children.  We take these things for granted or worse we assume that because we have so much, it is because we have done something to deserve it.  I am one of the least deserving people in the world yet, I have been blessed with an abundant life.  And I hope God knows how much I know it is He who has provided every bit of it-- the big and the little.  This morning He gifted/blessed me with a quiet moment; a gentle breeze and a really good cup of coffee.  For that I am very grateful.  So instead of asking Him for things to happen in a certain way with certain people at a certain time I simply asked,  "Thy will be done." And I know it will. 

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Independence Day

What a blistering hot day!    too hot to cook much.  Too old to get in the boat and water ski or swim.  And too lazy to work in the yard so I've decided to try this again--blogging that is.

 Just to catch all of you up on things, I'll start by saying that last July Bodie and I moved to the family ranch near Lampasas.  We have both retired but oh not really.  I still work part time for Fort Worth ISD and Bodie still helps Ashley at Skinny"s Hamburgers in Weatherford.  When we work she has house guests.  That's the trade off she has to make for reliable help.  Can't get any better than that! 

But, this summer I have been at the ranch everyday and have loved every minute of it.  I've fed my hummingbirds, my big birds and my man.  I planted an herb garden and it is doing better than anything else in this scorching weather.  And speaking of herbs, the basil and the mint are my pride and joy.  I just have to share 2 recipes from my book,  Praise the Lord and Pass the Biscuits---Tomato Basil Soup pg. 39 and Mint Ice pg. 78.  Both are easy to prepare and are light fare for these hot days.

                                                                        Mint Ice

2 c. sugar      4 c. water      1/2 c. fresh mint leaves, chopped     1 Tbsp. unflavored gelatin
2/3 c. lemon juice, strained    1-2 drops  green food color

In a medium sauce pan combine sugar and water and bring to a boil.  Add chopped mint leaves.  Stir gelatin into 1/4 c. hot water and add to hot mixture. Stir.  Cover and let steep/sit for 1 hour.  Then add lemon juice and stir together.  Now strain the entire mixture and add food coloring.  Pour into an ice cream freezer and let the machine do the work.  Garnish with mint leaves and a lemon slice.  Serve with a good chocolate cookie or brownie.

Mint is such an old herb.  Both my great grandmothers always had it in a bed near a dripping outdoor  hydrant.  They often added a sprig of mint to the pitcher of sweet tea.  So very fragrant and an added benefit is that it aids with digestion.  The older I get the more I need this to work

                                                             Tomato Basil Soup

4 c. whole tomatoes, crushed     4 c. tomato juice     10-15 fresh basil leaves    
1/2 lb. sweet butter (not margarine)     1-2 c. heavy cream

Combine tomatoes and tomato juice in a large non-reactive saucepan.  Cook on low to medium heat for about 30 minutes.  Add small amounts of hot tomato mixture and basil leaves to a food processor and puree.  Pour each batch into a mixing bowl.  When all tomatoes are pureed return mixture to the sauce pan and add butter, cream, salt and pepper to taste and heat through before serving.  Garnish with a pat of butter and a sprig of basil.  Serving this in a bread bowl makes a very attractive presentation. 

Of course the best is to use fresh tomatoes from your garden or Farmer's Market.  And since you really can't overdo the summer tomatoes I can't see a thing wrong with serving this with your favorite tomato sandwich.  YUM!!

I hope everyone has had a safe and delightful holiday.  God bless the men and women who keep our safety and freedom, often at the expense of not being with their families today and everyday.  God bless our nations leaders with the wisdom and the courage to do what this country has always done---lead the world in democracy!