New Year’s Meal Nirvana

My goodness, I love traditional Southern US New Year’s food. I also love cooking it. Today has been the best day all year so far (ha) because all I did was cook easy food in a relaxing manner. Then I got to eat it.

The chickens got to enjoy collard green stems. They preferred the chicken food, but eventually ate ir.

I made fresh black-eyed peas, for luck. I cooked them with some mystery sausage and onions. They were so good. I cooked them all day. Yum.

My favorite pea.

Then I cooked two bunches of collard greens. The secret is to cut out the thick ribs (and feed them to chickens) and cook them with tasty meat. You can use bacon, ham hocks, andouille sausage, or pork of some sort. Mmmm.

Collard greens with pork loin (leftover)

I do so love collards. They aren’t so bitter and just have a mild, soothing flavor. They go great with cornbread. So if course I made that. Leftover collards and gravy (pot liquor) served over cornbread was my mother’s favorite.

Cool pattern on the cornbread.

My sister made deviled eggs courtesy of our chickens.

Very yellow yolks!

And in my family, you have to serve the peas over rice. Just one of many possibilities in the US. Here’s dinner.

Yes. I like eggs.

The most fun part of the meal was that I decided to make a lemon cake. I just took my favorite cake mix and added some lemon juice in the water. I put in an extra egg and half a cup of sour cream. That made it really rich and moist.

Lemon cake

I put a orange marmalade between the layers then frosted it with store bought lemon frosting. I added colored sugar for fun.

Gingerbread cake

Dang, it was so good! Plus, my sister made gingerbread cake, another favorite of mine. It was also moist and tasty. So, yep, I’m full. But, so what? We had a wonderful meal and a very pleasant day. At least so far 2021 is just fine.

2021: Keep Slogging

This morning dawned chilly and shiny. The chickens were out running in their pen as usual, and new cows are behind us, enjoying a nice, full pond. I’m drinking New Year’s coffee and plan to read a while before cooking my black-eyed peas, so no photos of any of this.

Spoiler alert for next book report, and dirty cup.

This morning, my friend and insurance agent, Carolyn, posted this:

How refreshing.

I like the idea of making a wish for the new year. Hope is something I can muster up right now. I can wish for enough, the word for my year, and not feel let down if 2021 is more of the same.

Interrupting my musing with proof it’s chilly. That lump is Carlton, who has taken to asking me to lift up the covers so he can lay on my feet. Mmm. Toasty.

Probably my best lesson from last year is that life can be okay with lower expectations. Getting through another day with my family all right, the pets beside me, and relatively good health is enough. No need to save the world. Suddenly, this smarmy over-used sentiment works for me:

Might as well enjoy being alive, find humor when you can, and focus on love over hate and divisiveness. Simple and mostly manageable, I hope. I’m still a little worried about the next few weeks from a civility viewpoint, but I’ll be positive. Why not?

That’s always my goal. Just trying to manifest it!

There. I’ve set reasonable expectations, won’t forget my resolutions, but won’t be hard on myself or others if we just muddle through and slog through the next few months as best we can. That feels like enough.

Does this seem good to you? Got any better ideas?

2020 Strikes Again! Flood!

Yesterday the wetness was just a preview. Starting last night it really, really rained. That storm system is quite intense! We’ve had over four inches so far, and others have had more. So, yeah, the ponds are now full.

Water flowing into front pond.

I was able to get out to drive to the office this morning, but soon after, Mandi called to tell me the road by the creek was flooded.

Here’s her photo showing a truck having trouble crossing.

Luckily, the surge didn’t last long and I was able to get back around 1pm. Lee had removed some debris from the road, so cars were safer.

You can see how much higher the water was. All that brown is balloon vine, which floats.

The chickens were very happy to have their new roof. The uncovered part of their run became a puddle, but the covered part was fine. They didn’t come out of the coop until I gave them some scratch.

Meanwhile, I had to feed the horses. I decided to walk, since I have that great new coat, hat, and gloves. I checked out the water, of course.

The trees you see are the creek. I’m always amazed how quickly this happens.

I dawdled a while watching the water flow, which I probably shouldn’t have done, since it started raining again. But it was cool.

Here, watch how fast the creek is flowing!

My coat protected me, and I was able to feed the horses and Big Red, who all seemed just fine. I enjoyed the exercise and once again surprised myself at enjoying bad weather.

Water flowing from the front pond to our happy stream.

So, it will be a chilly new year. I have pot toast happening, and some Prosecco for tonight. Happy New Year.

When It Rains, It’s Wet

Ya know, because of the pandemic and all, Lee and I don’t go anywhere very often. But, today we really had to go to Austin, since my car has a tire with a big ole bubble in it that needed to be fixed, and we hadn’t given my son and his partner anything for Christmas yet (we knew what they needed/wanted).

I wish.

Naturally, today is the day it finally rained some real rain, rather than in dribs and drabs and hundredths of inches. It’s the big storm that’s going to mess up New Year’s for the “important” parts of the US, i.e., the east coast. We always need rain, so yay for the weather.

Except we had to drive, and Lee doesn’t like driving in the rain, even in his new vehicle with the spooky features like adaptive cruise control. Nonetheless, I’m the one in the family who does what they say they will do when they say they will do it, so off we went.

Rain and drenched Christmas decorations.

Yep, it rained a lot. But, there were fun clouds to look at (especially if you were in the passenger seat, I grant that). We managed to find the Costco store in south Austin, and got somewhat wet going in there. Still, the trip was a success, because though the store looked crowded, people were distancing themselves like old pros, AND we found a darned large television for a good bit less than $300. In my mind those cost three or four times that much, so that was a deal (and the picture quality was great!). Plus, the rain let up while we loaded the car.

We easily found the apartment complex of the young folks (Lee had never been there, since he doesn’t go to Austin unless he HAS to), and handed over the television in the parking lot, avoiding any meetings in confined quarters. They appeared to be pretty thrilled.

They look sneaky to me.

Then, they gave me a VERY thoughtful gift that they’d looked hard for on Ebay. Sniff. That was so sweet. And, off Lee and I went again. No dilly dallying.

It will do.

The new car told us in no uncertain terms that we needed to get gas, so we planned to stop halfway home. The horses and chickens needed food, and I needed a calendar to mark horse feedings on (because SmartPack, the supplement supplier, didn’t send us a calendar for the first time in many years!).

Well, our luck with the rain ended there. A real downpour began, and there was no way to avoid a real soaking. My boots, pants, sweater, and most of all my hair…all soaked through. I looked like a young man of some sort who just swam across a lake, and no amount of SnapChat filtering would fix it. I did laugh a lot at myself, which confused Lee, poor guy.

To be honest, I’m blathering a bit, because I am sad. I’m happy I got to write about Carlton. And I’m so glad I got to see the kids today, because this week has just been chock full of bad news that really isn’t blog material. And no, it’s not all people from our business, though our staff and clients have gotten some raw deals from the hands of fate, that’s for sure.

The worst. Today I found out a young man I’d always liked passed away in a house fire, and that was just the last straw. My heart just aches for his parents and sister, who have always been incredibly kind to me.

Please tell people you care about that you’re there for them. I’m gonna even tell the son who won’t speak to me. Because I do still care.

Exciting New Uses for Tongs and Other Items

This morning, I was emptying the dishwasher of items used in last night’s holiday meal. I kept picking up tongs. Tongs and more tongs.

Hmm. Tongs.

I’m a person who never uses tongs. I’m not sure why. I just use other kitchen tools. I don’t think I’ve ever intentionally bought tongs. So, how did we get EIGHT pairs of tongs?

Tongs for every possible tonging need.

Anita and I were baffled. With such an extensive collection, we could do so much! We could open a store called “Just Tongs.” When my cousin, Jan, called she suggested a Tong Monster Halloween costume. Hmm.

You could play a game where you try to grab people’s heads with tongs.

My best idea, though, was to form a tong band. With so many sizes and materials, you can get a lot of sound out of the tongs, I think. And they are easy to use as a rhythm instrument.

You could poke an eye out!

The pictures here are me trying out the bass tong and the baritone. They made a cheerful sound! I need to get a couple of other people to help me out and create a composition for tong orchestra.

Another Creative Use

So, at Christmas I gave Lee a lovely silver box with turquoise stones on it, which I found in Utah. He seemed to like it. I had thought he could store some of his nice pens in there, but naturally, he has a set pen storage system that no gift can interfere with.

That’s Lee looking pleased.

Meanwhile, Kathleen gave him a series of joke gifts to help him deal with the woman in the next office (her). There was aspirin, a funny calendar, etc. Lee realized that one of her gifts could be beautifully stored in the silver box.

Yep. That’s hemorrhoid cream.

So, whenever Kathleen is a pain in his butt, he can reach into the silver box on his desk and find relief.

We are quite a creative family, huh?

Did you experience any gift creativity at your COVID Christmas celebrations?

Peace, Joy, Hope

Sharing a quick message to all of you. Keep the Hope going, it will help.

Holiday love.

From the Hermits’ Rest to your place of refuge, celebrate what’s meaningful to you today.

It’s a memorable Christmas!

Here’s what’s keeping the ranch house looking cheery!

Of course, dogs
Blooming on time!
Looking forward to food. Yay.

Peace! Hope! Love!

Why Not Resolutionize?

Let’s admit this right off. I stole this idea from a very talented bogger, whose writing I really enjoy. Her blog also has a beautiful design, so check out this post on the Zowiezoe blog. Zoe (how come it’s so much easier to find an umlaut on the phone than on my dang keyboard?) shared how she has never been a fan of New Year’s resolutions, but decided after the weirdness of 2020, she’ll make lots and lots of them. She is going to revolutionize resolutions and resolutionize her life! You see, if you make so many that it’s hard to keep track of them, you’re bound to succeed at one or two!

Example of 2020’s effect on me. These are my “festive” holiday gifts for tomorrow. I bought exactly two gift containers, which are hiding.

I Can Resolutionize, Too

I decided that it would be a fun Christmas Eve activity to make some resolutions, myself. This also conveniently procrastinates from more closet organizing. I won’t have quite as many as Zoe did, but I did like her category ideas. Here goes.

WORK-O-LUTIONS

Planview

  • Be free with praise to productive coworkers
  • Contribute more to the LGBTQ+ group and make it the BEST
  • Remind myself that I enjoy organizing and writing, and have fun
  • Get a better desk location near a WINDOW
  • Find new ways to support and encourage my direct reports

Hearts, Homes and Hands

  • Write more frequent blog posts
  • Figure out what I can do to help without getting in the way
  • Support the team!

VOLUNTEER-WORK-O-LUTIONS

  • Find more ways to help with MTOL; I’ve been a sucky Board member
  • Keep the spirits up with the Master Naturalists as we can’t DO much right now
  • Keep my mojo going on the Friends of LLL newsletter, even though hardly anyone gets it because we have so few members

CRAFT-O-LUTIONS

  • Crochet a cardigan
  • Crochet an afghan
  • Knit Lee’s table runner for his office
  • Knit anything a family member requests (within reason)
  • Try some new (dog-friendly) things
  • Use my stash as much as possible
  • Organize the craft room in each house (ha ha ha ha ha)

SOCIAL-O-LUTIONS

  • Talk to kids more
  • Find ways to talk to more friends (and see them, eventually)
  • Be a better conversationalist, even when tired
  • Conversely, stay out of conversations where my contribution would not be helpful
  • Participate more in online groups (I tend to lurk)
  • Blog every day, for my own fun, not statistics
  • Comment on people’s blogs and encourage them
  • Quit trying so hard to be nice to people who aren’t nice to me

HEALTH-O-LUTIONS

  • Get that annoying post-nasal drip looked at
  • Go to a dermatologist
  • Get new glasses/prescription
  • Keep walking as much as or more than now
  • CBD Oil. Lots of it.
  • Don’t stop my therapy just because I only have one big issue

RANCH-O-LUTIONS

  • Ride the damn horse or get another horse that has good feet and just enjoy Apache
  • Get more chickens and keep them SAFE
  • Help however I can to get a tack room and fencing for horses on our property
  • Contribute to beautifying the outside
  • Get rid of ugly stuff in the house, like dead plants
  • Replace the nature tree with a new one

Geez, that should be enough. I hope I get some of this done. But, at the least, Lee will be happy that I now have GOALS and priorities and lists! He loves those, more than anything, I think.

Lee, writing in his journal of lists, goals, goal analysis and goal tracking. He’s amazing at it.

Maybe I’m becoming a better person, right? Some of this will help, or, at least I’ll have fun trying!

So, are you ready for the resolution revolution? Let’s ALL resolutionize!

Okay, Let’s Spread Some Cheer

One of the things I like about the way Hearts, Homes and Hands does its business is that they do lots of nice things for the clients and staff. Every year, goodie bags and flowers show up out of thin air to give out to everyone.

Just kidding. Many hours are spent making those goodies. Last night, after a long day of work, Kathleen, Meghan, and CC showed up at the Hermits’ Rest to go into goody overdrive. I got to help, and even Lee measured some cocoa for fudge! (I picked and shelled a small bunch of pecans from the tree outside our office, but Lee ate most of them.)

Ready to make treats.

Meghan and I made many, many pretzels dipped in almond bark and sprinkled with sugar. We got better as we went along. Everyone laughed at how I wanted to be sure every treat bag had the same number of treats. Well, MAYBE I enjoy divvying them up! (Hey, I spelled divvying right the first time!)

The pretzels are hiding in here.

The other half of the crew made Kathleen’s special fudge recipe, which contains cheese product (you’d never guess). The microwave was going nonstop between melting fudge ingredients and almond bark. Good thing we have a big kitchen.

Fudge, not solidifying.

After the fudge was done, Kathleen made “trash,” which is her version of Chex Mix. It’s spicy! That’s mostly for the caregivers, since we don’t want to shock the systems of the clients.

Trash. And remnants of the pretzel operation.

We had so much fun making a mess, enjoying adult beverages (some of us), and telling stories to each other. I’d say the management team put a LOT of love into our gifts.

This morning, they discovered our fridge wasn’t quite cold enough, and the fudge hadn’t solidified. It got re-melted and put in the freezer for a while. Our poor saucepan was traumatized, but everything worked out, and after a good soak, that saucepan can cook Christmas foods.

Ready to deliver the goodies.

Eventually, everything was all packed up and ready to be delivered by Kathleen and Meghan at some point today.

Personal Note

I’m really proud of them. They work SO danged hard, taking phone calls at all hours, filling out paperwork, supervising…trying to help team members better themselves…etc.

A personal assistance service is not an easy business to be in, since you tend to be surrounded by sick people, hurting people, grumpy people (and FUN people, too, don’t get me wrong) and doing your best to make their lives easier. Luckily, the great people on our team and the truly wonderful and appreciative clients make up for it. I’ve always felt that work that helps others is the best, and I think the Hearts, Homes and Hands team will agree.

Religion, Politics, Grievances

Not sure if this is a rant or what, but I’m experiencing some righteous indignation on behalf of some people I know, in person and online. It seems like folks are really, really bored right now, and I get that. It’s winter and many of us are pretty isolated.

BUT

Nope. Not finished.

Just because you’re bored and you have an opinion about someone’s beliefs or actions does NOT mean you are obligated to share it with the rest of the planet. More important, you don’t need to tell people how wrong all the things they think and do are. Really, you do not.

Yes, people we know do stuff that bothers us. And, I have nothing against talking about things people, in general, do that bother us. I do it, as you may have noticed, and am doing it now, as a matter of fact.

However, just because you have the TIME to send a long email, text, or IM to someone spelling out exactly how wrong their beliefs and opinions are, it doesn’t mean you SHOULD do it. Think about it.

If you are happy with the religious path you have taken, which after all is a personal religious path, would someone telling you how wrong it is do anything other than make you think less of that person. It certainly would not change your religious beliefs. That happens between you and your deity or deities. No one has a right to call your beliefs into question (even Scientologists, ha ha).

Now hush.

If you have expressed your personal thoughts on a personal platform (blog, Instagram, Facebook, etc.) about politics of your country, policies in your area, or issues that need to be addressed, that does not (or should not) open you up to diatribes, name calling, meanness, or threats. Sure, people can express disagreement or other points of view, but why be mean about it?

Does insulting someone or disparaging someone’s beliefs EVER EVER EVER get them to change their mind and see your brilliant point of view as correct? (Hint, the answer is, “no.”)

Suggested Alternatives to Giving People a Piece of Your Mind

If you get a strong urge to tell someone exactly what you think about their life choices or viewpoints, here are things you can do that don’t involve attacking them with your scathing words:

  • Donate money in their name to your favorite cause. That always feels good. I’ve done it!
  • Write the horribly misguided person a long letter by hand, on a piece of paper. Then stomp on it really hard to get your frustrations out, followed by violently wadding it up and throwing it in the trash.
  • Take a long walk around your property while muttering dark and foul thoughts about your target, until you get distracted by something naturally beautiful and you start feeling all sorts of oneness and your hostility dissipates (works for me).
  • Call your best friend and declare that it is time to vent. Rant and rave and complain your head off. The friend will say soothing things. Then you will agree that there’s no point in telling the wrong-thinking person off; they just won’t get it.
  • Wait until Festivus, then stand by your Festivus Pole and air your grievances. That will be okay, because it’s a holiday activity.*

By the way, it’s FESTIVUS! Let us air our grievances!


(*The article I link to above explains how Festivus is the perfect pandemic holiday and is pretty cute. Also, if you Google Festivus, there’s a Festivus pole in the margin! Hilarious!)

Warmest Solstice Greetings

Last night, as the official solstice occurred, I went out and looked at the Jupiter and Saturn confluence (or whatever it’s called), humming “Star of Wonder, Star of Light” to myself. It was a welcome getaway from the people in the house once again discussing why they don’t like my stovetop (this is said with a laugh).

A doe in Illinois, not Texas. Photo from: @castlemandesign via Twenty20

The morning dawned frosty and silvery, with the sun practically rising in the south, it seemed to me. I was given the gift of watching a herd of deer bounding across one of the nearby fields, with the buck turning briefly to look at me. That’s enough to warm my heart for the rest of the day.

In my office, which is a bit of a mess while I await my new glass shelves, I lit all the available fake and real candles, and of course have a roaring fire in the fake fireplace. Sitting here in the darkened room gives me plenty of time to reflect on all that’s transpired since last Yule, when Lee and I were happily preparing for our supposedly solo trip to Bandera.

Don’t these look pretty?

This evening, I plan to light all the candles in the house and pretend I have a Yule log in the fireplace (unless I can convince someone to light a fire). This year, especially, the longest night of the year provides time to finish mourning the losses in the past months and look for the glimmer of light that’s approaching. I’m glad there are now vaccines for essential workers.

Solstices Past

I haven’t done a memoir in a little while, so I’ll share how my family used to celebrate the solstice. It was a lot of fun when the boys were young. As they got old enough to understand, we explained to them what the winter solstice meant, and how it was celebrated in the past.

These are all the cheap fake candles that still work after a year.

We had a tradition of having a fire, lighting all the candles in the house (and I had lots back then, since the kids’ dad was not deathly opposed to scented candles), doing a little ceremony where we shared the best thing from the past year and the worst thing (these were often pretty funny), then selecting ONE present from under the Christmas tree to open before Christmas (we also celebrated Christmas!).

Continue reading “Warmest Solstice Greetings”