Wednesday, April 30, 2014

What is it???

Found this little creature crawling on Joe's chair under the big live oak and have no idea what it is. 

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Menu for May

May Menu

1.  Leftovers
2.  Antonia's
3.  Bacon sandwiches, Oven fries
4.  Schlotzsky's
5.  Baked Fish, Carrots, Corn/Cabbage
6.  Slow Cooker Old-Fashioned Chicken Noodle Soup
7.  Beef and Bok Choy
8.  Leftovers
9.  Texas Roadhouse
10. Bacon Sandwiches, Oven Fries, Veggie Tray
11. Schlotzsky's 
12. Cod Chowder
13. Chicken Rice Bake
14. Slow Cooker Beef Stew
15. Leftovers
16. Gringo's
17. Bacon Sandwiches, Oven Fries, Veggie Tray
18. Schlotzsky's 
19. Shrimp Jambalaya 
20. Slow Cooker Farmhouse Chicken and Corn Chowder
21. Spaghetti and Meatballs, Green beans
22. Leftovers
23. Luby's
24. Bacon Sandwiches, Oven Fries, Veggie Tray
25. Schlotzsky's 
26. Pork, Sweet Potato, Spinach
27. Chicken & Snow Peas
28. Slow Cooker Beef and Barley Soup
29. Leftovers
30. Papasito's 
31. Bacon Sandwiches, Oven Fries, Veggie Tray


The good thing about science is that it is true whether you believe it or not.

Neil DeGrasse Tyson

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Saturday Poetry

Everything you see has its
In the unseen world. 
The forms may change
Yet the essence remains the 
Every wondrous sight will
Every sweet word will fade,
But do not be disheartened,
The Source they come from
     is Eternal,
Growing, branching out,
Giving new life and new joy.
Why do you weep?
That Source is within you
And this whole world
Is springing up from it.
The Source is full,
Its waters are ever-flowing;
Do not grieve,
Drink your fill!
Don't think it will ever run
     dry, This is the endless


Friday, April 25, 2014

Goals for Next Week

Goals for Week Ending Saturday, May 3, 2014

1.  Quilting
     Layer and Baste

2.  Reading
     Washington: The Indispensable Man by James Flexner
     Pandora's Seed by Spencer Wells

 3.  Cooking
     Pork chops, sweet potatoes, spinach
     Baked fish, Carrots w/thyme, Asparagus
     Spaghetti and Meatballs

4.  Trip to Louisiana if weather permits
     Check out Alaska cruise sites

5.  Guest Bedroom Project

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Book Review: Orange Is the New Black by Piper Kerman

Orange Is the New Black by Piper Kerman

I started off really annoyed by Piper Kerman. I mean, how stupid can a person be? She's a graduate of a prestigious college, rich, with a loving family and decides to cast her lot with international drug dealers. Does she really think this is just a harmless lark to be moving drugs and drug money in and out of the country?  Does she truly think this is some kind of schoolgirl prank that will have no consequences?? Again, how stupid can a person be?

Anyway, once I got past the crime and into the punishment phase of the book, I became much more engaged with the narrative of her year in the minimum security Federal prison at Danbury.  As annoyed as I was with her choices, I must admit she can write about people and bring them to life.  The women with whom she is incarcerated became real with their own idiosyncrasies, flaws, and virtues. The conditions, the food, the corrections officers and staff are described and discussed. Very informative about prison conditions and recidivism. 

I couldn't put it down. 

(I have not seen the television series nor do I plan to.)

Monday, April 21, 2014

Brazos Bend State Park

Last Friday JMM and I took a picnic lunch to Brazos Bend State Park and enjoyed the warm sunshine and shade under the massive live oaks.  After lunch a stroll along the park trails. Immediately, it was obvious that spring was well under way: Never have we seen so many alligators and turtles! We realized that we always visit Brazos Bend in mid-winter to avoid the heat and mosquitoes so we were never there when the turtles and alligators are out and about. The ducks, of course, were all gone but there were many herons, moorhens, and a grebe or two.  Lovely day.

The Soup Project: New England Fish Chowder

I have not made this but it is on the May menu. I'll let you know how it turns out.

New England Fish Chowder

5 ounces bacon (5 slices), chopped fine
2 onions, minced
1/4 cup all purpose flour
4 8 ounce bottles clam juice
1 pound red potatoes (3 medium), scrubbed and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried
2 bay leaves
2 pounds 1 inch thick cod fillets, rinsed,patted dry, and cut into 1 inch chunks
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley

Cook the bacon in a large Dutch oven over medium heat until crisp, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel lined plate, leaving the rendered fat in the pot. 

Add the onions to the fat into pot and return to medium heat until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the flour and cook for one minute. Slowly stir in the clam juice, scraping up any browned bits. Stir in the potatoes, cream, wine, thyme, bay leaves, and 1/2 teaspoon salt.  Bring to a simmer and cook until the potatoes are nearly tender, about 15 minutes. 

Add the fish.  Bring to a brief simmer, then remove the pot from the heat cover and let sit until the fish is cooked through, about 10 minutes. 

Discard the bay leaves and season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the bacon and parsley before serving. 

Sunday, April 20, 2014


Though my soul may set in darkness, it will rise in perfect light; 
I have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night. 

Sarah Williams, Twilight Hours

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Saturday Poetry

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

Whose woods these are I think I know. 
His house is in the village, though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow. 

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year. 

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake. 
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake. 

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep. 

Robert Frost, 1923

Friday, April 18, 2014

Goals for Next Week

Goals for Week Ending Saturday, April 26, 2014

1.  Quilting
     Block #1--not even close. Still need to layer and baste.

2.  Reading
     Washington: The Indispensable Man by James Flexner--in progress.
     The Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis Ack! Didn't read past p.30.
     The Age of Wonder by Richard Holmes Changed my mind & decided to read
     Pandora's Seed by Spencer Wells instead.
     In the Bleak Mid-Winter by Julia Spencer-Fleming (Audio CDs)Finished. OK, not great.

 3.  Cooking
     Baked Ziti with Sausage--OK.
     Steak, GMP, Green beans --Very good.
     Baked fish, Carrots w/thyme, Asparagus--Very good.
     Macaroni and cheese--good.
     Oatmeal/Raisin cookies--Very good.

4.  Birding trip to Brazos Bend State Park if the weather cooperates
     Make reservations for Louisiana Birding trip

5.  Guest Bedroom Project
      Hang framed map prints

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Satisfying Retirement Questions

Bob Lowery's blog, Satisfying Retirement, is a must read. He has such a comfortable, interesting way of writing that I'm sure if we ever met, he and Betty would pick up a conversation just like old friends with Joe and me.  He has some questions about retirement that he has invited his readers to respond to.  Here they are with my response below. 

1) Has retirement turned out the way you thought it would? Why or why not?

2) What has been your biggest surprise about being retired?

3) Do you worry about your financial situation? 

4) What new things have you discovered about yourself?

5)  If you had it do over again, would you keep working, retire sooner, or are content with how things worked out?

I retired 3 years before I had planned to because of a neuromuscular condition.  However, my husband and I were debt and mortgage free and had been fully funding our 403b accounts and emergency fund for many years.  So while I had planned on 3 more years of retirement savings, the financial side of leaving the workplace was in good condition.  I really don't worry about our finances because I have always been the "finance person" in our family and know what our expenses are.  We both waited until age 66 to start drawing Social Security and that with our 403b provides our income. Joe is considering an opportunity to work prn two days a week and that may or may not happen. Now the stock market and the banks and the economy may go belly up but I really don't worry about something I have no control over. 

I love retirement. In all honesty, this is about the happiest time of my life.  I'm not worried about how the kids will turn out-- just fine. Not worried about having enough money to retire--we do. Not really worried about health--my neuromuscular condition is more an inconvenience than life-threatening--we are quite healthy. 
I guess the biggest surprise is just how happy I am. I worked at one job or another since I was 17 and wondered if I would be bored or lonely at home--I'm not.  I have time to quilt and read and learn how to cook new things.  I attend and participate in my church and book club and quilting guild. 

The two best things about retirement to me:
   1. Not having to leap out of bed, into the shower, and out the door.  Waking up slowly is a daily pleasure to savor. 
   2. Afternoon naps. 

If you haven't read Satisfying Retirement, get yourself on over there right now and thank me later.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014



Well, the crisis du jour is Russia and Ukraine.  Politicians make me want to throw up. Putin wants to rev up the ratings on the home front with patriotic fervor so he stirs the pot seeing just how far he can go.  So now Russia has about the same number of troops on the Russian side of the border as we have on the other side of the world in Afghanistan. 

And of course John McCain has never seen an incident he didn't want to bomb and/or send troops to while John Kerry continues to circle the globe in search of relevance. 

We have enough to take care of within our own borders. Let the Ukrainians and the Russians sort it out. And please, folks, give some thought to what happens after the protests and revolutions. 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Around OakMeadows


I finally finished the AARP Safe Driver online course. Joe is about half way through. I can't say that I learned a whole lot but it was a good review and a good reminder that my vision and reflexes are not as good as they once were. As soon as he finishes, I can contact USAA to get our safe driver discount. 

Another area that I have checked into is our electricity provider. Our one-year contract with Reliant will expire in May so I went to to see if I could get a better rate elsewhere. I can get a 3-year contract with Yep for 2 cents per kilowatt hour less. I really like the power to choose site because you can see exactly how many customer complaints the company has had in the past 6 months. I certainly don't want to sign up with a company that is less expensive but screws up the billing. Anyway, Yep has a good customer complaint/satisfaction level so I will be changing over this week. While 2 cents per kilowatt hour doesn't sound like much, when summer comes and the a/c is on every little bit helps. 

My quilting project, the baby quilt, is coming along nicely. The fabrics are going together even better than I thought. I hope to have it layered and basted this week. 

Joe installed the new blinds in the guest bedroom and how much brighter it made that room!  The two antique map prints are at Hobby Lobby being framed and may be ready sometime next week. One of the maps is of Galveston (where Joe and I and our daughter were born) at the turn of the century.  Then the next thing I want to do is get new bed linens. I saw that Penney's has a sale on bedding and should get a move on it before the sale ends. 

I finished reading Mr. Churchill's Secretary by Susan MacNeal. It was pretty good if highly improbable.  I am plodding ever onward through Hot: Living through the Next 50 Years on Earth. It has turned 100 Pages of good information into 500 pages of wordiness. I soldier on through it out of dogged determination to get all 100 of the worthwhile pages.  I have started on Washington: The Indispensable Man and so far it is excellent. Just got an email from the library that The Twelve Tribes of Hattie is in and ready for pickup.  Libraries today are so wonderful! I remember how much I loved Rosenberg library in Galveston when I was growing up. The massive oaks surrounding it and climbing up the steps before going through the huge doors. But there were no convenient branches ( though there was a bookmobile that came to our elementary school).  Now you just go on the Internet instead of going through the card catalog and request the book and it is sent to your nearest branch library for pick up. That, my friend, is progress!

Our trip to Louisiana has once again been postponed. I'm beginning to think that it just wasn't meant to happen this year. Oh well, maybe next week....

Monday, April 14, 2014

The Soup Project--Slow Cooker Italian Meatball Soup

2 slices white bread, torn into quarters
1/2 cup whole milk
1 pound meatloaf mix
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese grated, plus more for serving
3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
1 large egg yolk
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh oregano
Salt and pepper
1 onion, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon red-pepper flakes
8 cups low-sodium chicken broth
8 ounces kale, stemmed and cut into 1/4 inch strips
6 ounces orzo (about 1 cup)

1. Mash bread and milk into a paste in a large bowl.  Mix in meatloaf mix, Parmesan, parsley, egg yolk, 3 garlic cloves, oregano, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and
1/2 teaspoon pepper.  Pinch off and roll mixture into tablespoon sized meatballs (about 30).  Microwave meatballs on a large plate until fat renders and meatballs are firm (about 3 - 5 minutes).  Pour off fat and transfer to slow cooker. 

2.  Microwave onions, remaining 3 cloves of garlic, oil, and red pepper flakes in a bowl, stirring occasionally until tender, about 5 minutes.

3.  Add broth to slow cooker.  Cover and cook on low 4-6 hours until meatballs are tender. 

4.  Stir in kale and orzo and cook on high 30-45 minutes until kale and orzo are tender.  Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve with additional Parmesan and olive oil.

So good. I serve it with buttered and toasted sourdough bread.

Sunday, April 13, 2014


“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing
and rightdoing there is a field.
I'll meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass
the world is too full to talk about.”
― Rumi

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Saturday Poetry


Hymn to Gaia, Mother of All

Gaia, mother of all,
the oldest one, the
I shall sing to the Earth. 

She feeds everyone in the

Whoever you are,
whether you walk upon her
sacred ground 
or move through the paths of 
the sea
you who fly,
it is she who nourishes you
from her treasure-store. 

Queen of Earth, though you
beautiful children,
beautiful harvests

You give life
and you take life away. 
Blessed is the one you honor
with a willing heart. 
They who have this have

Their fields thicken with
bright corn,
the cattle grow heavy in the
their house brims over with
good things. 

The men are masters of the
the laws are just,
the women are fair,
happiness and fortune richly
follow them. 

Their sons delight in the 
ecstasy of youth,
their daughters play
they dance in the grass,
skipping in and out
they dance in the grass over
soft flowers. 

It was you who honored
generous goddess, sacred 

Farewell, mother of the
bride of starry Heaven. 

For my song, allow me a life
my heart loves. 

And now, and in another
I shall remember you. 

Jules Cashford

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Around OakMeadows


Much of last week was taken up by Aunt Liz's death and funeral.  But life has a way of just keeping on going. 

My missing MistyKitty was not eaten by the coyotes. She is home-- thin, dehydrated and weak but alive. Each day she is eating a bit more and getting a bit stronger. I was just stunned because she had been gone for 7 days and I was certain the coyotes had eaten her. So nice to have her back!

I did get the baby quilt cut out and I have begun the piecing. I think it will go together well. 

No birding last week. But the Louisiana trip is back on for next week. Still haven't made it out to Brazos Bend State Park.  

Exercise and Weight Watchers were a non-event too. Ack!

The one project that I have made some progress on is spiffing up the guest bedroom.  The blinds came in and JMM installed them. That certainly brightened up the room. And I left the 2 antique map prints to be framed. I found a frame for one with a 40% off coupon. The other one had to be custom framed but it just happened that Hobby Lobby was having a 50% off sale on custom framing. I was sure happy about that because custom framing can be $$$. 

We got the auto insurance renewal policy.  We have had USAA for auto and home insurance for the past 40 years. I called and got a policy review. Since Joe's Ford Ranger has 200K miles and has a blue book value of $2000, we kept liability and dropped collision on it. No changes on my van. We are taking the AARP Safe Driver online course which will save us another $70 a year.  All in all, I was able to save $178 on the 6 month policy.  

I am jumping through insurance company hoops to get my Lunesta refilled. I know they don't want to cover it because there is no generic and the brand name is expensive even though I pay a $85 co-pay for it. Anyway, I won this round and got it refilled. 

We seem to have a resident possum who loves the peanuts & oranges that I put out for the bluejays. The usual raccoons but no armadillos so far this year. Lots of birds at the seed feeders and at least 2 hummingbirds at the sugar water feeder. The wildflowers are so lovely this time of year. Joe has planted a flat of Butterfly Weed and I want to plant another flat of it next week. 

I'm still plodding through Hot: Living through the Next 50 Years on Earth by Mark Hertsgaard and Mr. Churchill's Secretary by Susan MacNeal.  I am enjoying Mr. Churchill's Secretary but not so much Hot.  I just started Washington: The Indispensable Man by James Flexner. 

Next week: On to Louisiana. 

Monday, April 7, 2014


I haven't made this yet but plan to make it sometime soon. 

3 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth (or vegetable broth)
3 cups water
4 tablespoons unsalted chicken stock
1 onion, minced
2 cups Arborio rice
1 cup dry white wine
2 ounces Parmesan cheese, grated (1 cup)

Bring broth and water to a simmer in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Cover and keep the broth warm over the lowest possible heat. 

Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook until lightly browned, about 9 minutes. 

Stir in the rice and cook until the edges begin to turn translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the wine and cook, stirring frequently, until it is completely absorbed, about 2 minutes. Add 3 cups of the warm broth mixture and bring to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid is absorbed, about 11 minutes. 

Continue to cook, stirring in about 1/2 cup of broth every few minutes, until rice is cooked through but is still firm in the center, about 11 minutes. 

Stir in the Parmesan. Season with salt and pepper. 

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Complainypants -- MMM

Complainypants -- Mr. Money Mustache 

Back in 1987 the Houston oil economy went bust and along with the economy, my husband lost his job and we could no longer afford the house/pool/neighborhood we were living in. We sold the house for exactly what was owed on it, losing 15 years worth of equity, and moved into a smaller house. We lived on savings and some part time work while I finished Pharmacy School. My husband knew that to continue in the oil industry was going to be very iffy. So during my last year of Pharmacy School, he started In Pharmacy. That meant that he didn't work for 3 years. 

I decided then and there that this was not going to happen to me again.  I made the startling discovery that the best way to get out of debt was to stop spending money.  I decided to pay off one bill/credit card at a time and I made a chart of when bills such as auto insurance, flood insurance, and homeowners association fees would be due so that I would have the money to pay them. Christmas was bound to come around so I started a Christmas savings account. It was difficult but with perseverance we got out of debt and even paid off the house once we were pulling in two incomes. We did this before I ever heard about Dave Ramsey and his baby steps. I absolutely agree with him on his program for getting out of debt. 

The new guy on the financial scene is Mr. Money Mustache and I love him too. What I especially like about him is when he calls whiners Complainypants. It isn't easy to get out of debt and build an emergency fund and save and invest so that you have money to take care of yourself. It is much easier to make excuses and sit around and complain.

 I see this in so many areas of life today -- so many people whine and complain instead of finding ways to make their situation better in ways other than financial. We become obese and diabetic because we won't exercise and go to Weight Watchers (or something similar). We don't maintain our homes or vehicles and then gripe because things fall apart. I see people buying cigarettes and lottery tickets and wonder why they are broke.  They think they have bad luck but what they have is bad habits.  I think it was Thomas Edison who said that the harder he worked, the luckier he got.

I will now step down from my soap box...and onto the exercise bike...


When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand.  The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares. 

Henri J.M. Nouwen, Out of Solitude: Three Meditations on the Christian Life

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Saturday Poetry

There are fiery sparks of
the world soul, of the light
of nature, dispersed or
sprinkled in and 
throughout the structure
of the great world into all
the fruits of the elements

Alchemical Text

Goals for Next Week


Goals for Week Ending Saturday, April 12, 2014

1.  Quilting
     Piece the top of the baby quilt
2.  Reading
     Hot: Living Through the Next Fifty Years on Earth by Mark Hertsgaard
     Mr. Churchill's Secretary by Susan MacNeal
     Living the Quaker Way by Philip Gulley

 3.  Cooking
     Beans and Rice and Sausage
     BBQ chicken thighs, beans, corn 
     Cutlets, GMP, Green beans
     Oatmeal/Raisin cookies

4.  Birding trip to Brazos Bend State Park if the weather cooperates
     Make reservations for Louisiana Birding trip
5.  ABF/Church

6.  Exercise 12 minutes 6 days 

7.  Guest Bedroom Project
     Install new blinds
     Frame the remaining 2 antique map prints

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Around OakMeadows


Saturday afternoon Joe and I took BBQ and all the fixings to Paul and Wendy's house for all the people who have been watching over Aunt Liz. It was a wonderful time of food, fellowship, and relaxation for those who were physically and emotionally exhausted. I am so glad that we did it because Liz died late that evening. At least everyone had a good meal and knew that people cared about what they were going through. The funeral is set for Wednesday.

We seem to have lost our sweet MistyKitty. She went out Friday evening and didn't come back. She could have been killed by an owl or coyote. We hope that she comes back home but really don't expect it. 

Now for some good news. 

I decided to make a baby quilt for my next quilt and found just the perfect fabric in blues, yellows, and cream colors. I've made the pattern before and it goes together easily. There were a couple of of fabrics that I really liked and I thought about going back and getting them but decided against it because after the baby quilt, I already have pieces cut for another scrap quilt. I also bought a new rotary cutter. Rotary cutters are one modern invention that is a real improvement. 

I made Slow Cooker Homey Chicken Stew from the Slow Cooker Revolution cookbook. Man was it good! I have yet to make anything from that cookbook that hasn't been just delicious. I made biscuits to go with it to sop up the juice, so good!
I also made a big pot of beans and rice and sausage. We ate it and had some for leftovers and then froze the rest of it. For dessert, we had leftover pecan pie.

Reading has been really good. I finished To End All Wars by Adam Hochschild. It was one of the best history books I have ever read. I also finished A Week in Winter by Maeve Binchey; it was her last book before she died and it was a typically sweet Binchey book. Unfortunately, there will be no more. Currently, I am reading Mr. Churchill's Secretary by Susan MacNeal and Hot: Living through the Next Fifty Years on Earth by Mark Hertsgaard. 

I haven't made any progress on the guest bedroom makeover because we are still waiting for the new blinds and for the antique map prints to come in. 

Lots of birds at the feeders. Hummingbirds are stopping by for a feed on their way north. Unidentified warblers occasionally. Lots of blackbirds, doves, and a few sparrows. The usual mockingbirds, cardinals, blue jays, and titmouse. I saw one squirrel this week; it puzzles me why we don't have more squirrels here.