Julie Benson has written five novels for Harlequin American, and her Wishing, Texas series is available from Tule Publishing. Now that her three sons have left the nest in Dallas, when she isn't writing, Julie spends her time working on home improvement projects, rescuing dogs, and visiting Texas wineries with her husband. Visit her at www.juliebenson.net.
I love when God or the universe if you prefer, tells me exactly what I need to hear some days. And it’s even better when that reminder leads to not only one blog post, but two! This happened last month as I struggled to find a post topic. When I went to Starbucks to pick up my morning tea, I said I couldn’t think of a topic for my post. The fabulous manager and incredibly perceptive person, Caitlyn said, “And now you’re putting that negative energy out there.”
Caitlyn’s words reminded me I’d been backsliding on positive thinking. (Click here for the post inspired by a dear friend Jinger who started my positive thinking journey.) I smiled and responded, “I don’t know why I’m worried. I’ll think of something. I always do.” My fear eliminated, at home when I read through my blog ideas, the file entitled “Sayings that tick me off” caught my eye. Thinking someone else might need a gentle nudge about turning a negative into a positive, I wrote this post.
Just as the picture here illustrates, most things come down to how we view them. One saying on my ticked me off list was “too blessed to be stressed.” For me, this felt too Pollyanna and like ignoring stress. I can’t do that. Plus, stuffing things down never works. (But they make for great books!) I need to actively fight stress. I prefer the staying “Pray more. Worry less.” or “Be Still” Psalm 46.10. Then there’s “Stars don’t shine without the darkness.” Yes, we know the road will at times be rough for everyone. But when stuck in the darkness, thinking rough times makes the good moments shine brighter offers me no comfort. I prefer, “Stars don’t shine in the day.” That reminds me day will come, though the night feels endless. It also says something positive can come out of what has happened. Though that thought doesn’t make going through difficult times easier. However, when the night recedes, just as it’s easy to forget the stars during the day, it’s easy to forget what I learned.
Sometimes simply changing a word can change a negative to a positive. Can’t to can is the obvious one. But here’s another less obvious example. Instead of saying I’m struggling to find a post topic, what if I say I have to work to find them? The first is negative, while the second if positive. I have to work to discover topics indicates I will find one. The hard work will pay off. For me to remain positive, I have to watch for words like struggled that can trip me up.
How did I get two posts out of Caitlyn’s comments? When I saved this post under May’s scheduled date, I discovered my day was May 5. I thought if I posted these musings for June and wrote about the history of Cinco de Mayo for May I’d be ahead for once!
Today I’m giving away the T-shirt pictured here and a copy of To Tame A Texas Cowboy since that book was released when I started my positive thinking journey. The heroine, Cheyenne also refuses to let her medical issues destroy her positive attitude. To be entered in the random drawing, share your favorite positive thinking advice or how you keep a positive attitude.
When I realized my post fell on Cinco de Mayo, I wondered how the day became such a big United States celebration. Okay, I hear those who remember I live in Texas saying, “You’re just asking this now?” Yes, I should’ve researched this sooner having lived in Texas over 35 years, but as my father said, I was born two weeks late and have been late ever since!
The first thing I discovered, that celebrating Cinco de Mayo is primarily a US festivity, surprised me. I also mistakenly thought some that the day commemorated Mexico’s independence from Spain. (This occurred on September 16, 1821.) What Cinco de Mayo originally celebrated was 1862 Battle of Puebla during the Franco-Mexican War. On that day, Mexican peasants with South Texas and Rio Grande Valley vaqueros led by Goliad, Texas, born General Ignacio Zaragosa defended forts in Puebla. Though poorly trained, short on ammunition, weapons, and artillery, they defeated the French.
In 1864, Mexican American associations in California organized an event to memorialize the battle. To these people, the win was a symbol of Mexican pride and hope for freedom over tyranny. Soon after, communities in South Texas started commemorating the day. Newspapers from the 1880s and 1890s contained stories on Cinco de Mayo celebrations in San Antonio, Laredo, and El Paso. In the 1960s Goliad created the General Zaragoza State Historic Site in Goliad State Park. In 1973 the town held Fiesta Zaragoza which included music, ballet folklórico performances, and a barbecue cookoff. (After all, this was Texas!) In 1980 Puebla gifted Goliad with a statue for their historic site, and in 1990, the Texas Senate declared Goliad the “official place to celebrate Cinco de Mayo.”
As to how Cinco de Mayo has become the huge event it is today in the US? Part of the reason could be because as some claim winning the Battle of Puebla, slowed Napoleon III’s taking of Mexico and installing Maximilian I, and prevented the French’s involvement in the US Civil War on the Confederate’s side. But most agree the celebration’s huge popularity is due to marketing folks realizing the day’s potential.
Tonight if you want to celebrate Cinco de Mayo and toast General Zaragoza and the bravery of those Texans that fought with him against the French but aren’t big on crowds, here’s my dear hubby’s margarita recipe.
Into a shaker with ice, place the following:
1 shot Tequila
1/2 shot orange liqueur such as Triple Sec
1/2 shot Fresh squeezed lime juice
1/2 shot Simple Syrup (Make by bringing equal parts of sugar and water to a boil and cooling.)
Shake well. Strain into a glass filled with ice and rimmed with salt (optional).
Note: You can make a margarita mix to store in the fridge by mixing equal parts of fresh lime juice and simple syrup.
As an extra bonus, here’s my hubby’s great fajita recipe to go with the margaritas. The meat is also super in quesadillas.
1 lb skirt steak
1 pkg tortillas
½ tsp black pepper
½ tsp onion powder
½ tsp garlic powder
½ tsp cumin
1 tsp coarse salt
1 tsp coriander
1 Tbl chili powder
Sprinkle meat with tenderizer. Combine dry ingredients to make the rub. Apply the rub to the meat, let stand 10 minutes. Sprinkle meat with fresh lime juice. Refridgerate 30-60 minutes covered. Grill on high heat for 6-8 minutes per side. Let rest 5 minutes. Slice against the grain.
To be entered in today’s giveaway of a margarita car air freshener, car coasters (they also fit in my couch’s cup holders), and a copy of The Rancher and the Vet leave a comment about your favorite Mexican dish, dessert, or cocktail. My favorite is a tie between sopapillas and flan!
With spring’s arrival, my thoughts turn to planting a garden. I love gardens, and it doesn’t matter what kind: flower, bee, vegetable, whatever. I have fond memories of my Grandma Walter’s huge garden filled with green beans, potatoes, onions, cucumbers, strawberries, and what else I can’t remember anymore. Unfortunately, while I received her crafty, DIY, and gardening soul, I didn’t inherit her green thumb. My vegetable/fruit gardens have been dismal failures except for growing green beans.
When my boys were young, planting a garden was a spring break tradition. Each kiddo picked what he wanted to grow and together we nurtured the small plot along. Again, as I said with limited success, but what mattered was doing the project together. Now that my sons are on their own, planting a garden isn’t the same.
With my grim gardening skills, I’ve started doing the next best thing to growing my own fruits and vegies. I shop Farmers Markets. By doing so, not only do I get fresh produce at a great price, but the farmer receives more for his product. A win-win! But these “farmers” markets have broadened their horizons. No longer are they a group of folks selling produce from the back of pickups along the roadside. A lot are big shopping events. Communities, apartment complexes, and mall parking lots now host these farmers markets. They still have tomatoes, peaches, apples, green beans, squash along with an array of other fruits and vegetables. But now, they have products you might be as surprised as I was to find. Here are some of my favorites non fruit or vegetable items.
Plants for my house or yard
Pottery (I bought my mother-in-law a cool mug with a bird on it for Christmas last year.)
Dog treats, dog bandanas and other dog related items (I buy something from these vendors almost every time because you know me…I have a house full of dogs!)
Lotion candle (I love these, but they’re hard to find. When the candle melts the warm liquid is lotion!)
Thank you to everyone who stopped by today to talk and laugh about what item of technology we’d miss most if we lived in the Old West.
The winner of today’s giveaway is: Denise Holcomb.
Congratulations! Look for an email from me on how to claim your giveaway. Thank you to everyone who spent part of your day with me discussing how hard it would be to live without modern conveniences. Stay safe out there!
Hello from wacky weather Texas! The last of the snow melted here in Dallas on Friday. By Monday, our temperature was 81 degrees. Today as I write this, it’s 48, but that’s Texas for you. A weather roller coaster ride!
Here’s a picture of my view after the first snow.
What my family went through during Snowmageddon Texas Edition was nothing compared to what others endured. We only lost power for a day, and we never lost water service. Others were without power for a week or more. While our house pipes didn’t freeze, our pool froze over, though. My youngest son had fun doing a photo shoot with his penguin, Tama, to memorialize our adventures. The only damage we sustained was broken pool equipment pipes. Unfortunately, so many others have not been as lucky. Houses have been destroyed by burst pipes and for some safe water is still an issue.
My small adventure brought back memories of my grandparents’ northeastern Iowa farm and reminded me how difficult daily life could be in the past. My grandparents’ house had electricity but lacked running water and indoor plumbing. A gas heater warmed the downstairs. I can still picture it—a giant brown rectangle that stood in the living room. It had a glass window through which we could see flames. It was the monsterish kind that scared poor young Kevin in Home Alone. Upstairs we went without heat.
A simple task such as bathing a preschool me and my brother Saturday night to attend church on Sunday was a major project. My grandma would pull a dented round galvanized tub into the kitchen. Water had to be hauled from the pump by the milk house. After that, she boiled water on the stove to mix with the colder water to eventually get bath water. No wonder folks in the past only bathed once a week and didn’t have to worry about exercising! Daily life provided all the workout they needed. Sleeping upstairs in the winter meant wearing the warmest jammies possible and sleeping under mounds of blankets. And don’t even ask me about the outhouse…
I’ve always loved reading historical romances, but the recent snowstorm reminded me how we romanticize 🙂 the past. My small taste of life without electricity during Snowmageddon reminded me how past generations had to be strong, determined, and tough or they didn’t survive. Our favorite historical authors incredibly weave the feeling of the time period and daily life into their stories. They transport us to a time we often wish we could visit. After my recent short technology deprived stint , I’m thankful they don’t make the trip too realistic, and now I appreciate their talent of knowing what of past time periods to leave out even more. The past is a nice place to visit in a novel, but as for me, I wouldn’t want to live there!
Please continue to pray for those struggling to overcome the effects of the snowstorm. For many recovery will be a long, expensive process.
To be entered in today’s giveaway for the thankful, grateful, blessed sink mate and llama chip clips, comment on this question. What would be the toughest modern day item or technology for you to do without if you lived in the Old West?
I know Valentine’s Day is eleven days away, but I never seem to think about the day soon enough. That means I end up running around like crazy trying to do something special. In order to keep that from happening this year and in case you need ideas, I’m sharing some Valentine’s Day facts and one of my favorite (and easy dessert) recipes for tiramisu.
Over 36 million heart shaped boxes of chocolate are sold every year.
Men spend about twice money as much on Valentine’s Day gifts as women.
Teachers receive the most Valentine’s Day cards, followed by kids, then moms, wives and girlfriends.
More than one-third of men are okay not receiving anything on Valentine’s Day.
The only other day when more flowers are sold than Valentine’s Day is Mother’s Day.
Candy hearts were invented by a pharmacist and were originally medical lozenges! Not only that, but 10 new sayings are introduced every year.
People prefer receiving candy over flowers.
Caramels are the most popular candy in a box of chocolates.
40% of people prefer an “experience gift” such as concert tickets or an evening out.
3 out of 10 people say they skip celebrating Valentine’s Day, though they might treat themselves to a small gift or a night out with friends.
It was bad luck to sign Valentine cards in Victorian times.
3% of pet owners will give their pet a gift this Valentine’s Day.
In Finland Valentine’s Day is called Ystavapaiva which translates to “Friend’s Day.”
I think making Valentine’s Day about celebrating everyone we care about and appreciate in our lives is fabulous! That could prevent the holiday from being one where so many people feel excluded. This year, let’s all reach out to one person who might feel left out or despondent on Valentine’s Day—a single friend, a widow or widower immediately come to mind. I’m reminded of the song “Love is Something if You Give it Away.” For the lyrics click here. The more love we share, the more we create in this world.
Now on to dessert!
8 oz. Mascarpone cheese
½ C powdered sugar
½ tsp run extract
1 C heavy whipping cream
½ C coffee
2 tsp cocoa
1. Place Mascarpone cheese, powdered sugar, and run extract in large bowl. Whisk by hand or with electric mixer until smooth. Don’t over mix.
2. In separate bowl, beat whip cream until stiff peaks form. (If the whip cream isn’t stiff you’ll get a runny filling.) Fold into cheese mixture until combined.
3. Place lady fingers in 8 x 8 dish. Spoon coffee over ladyfingers making sure to cover completely. Top with half the cheese mixture. Layer more ladyfingers on top of this and cover with remaining cheese mixture. (Recipe calls for 3 layers using 1/3 each time, but I only do 2 .) Sift cocoa powder over top.
4. Chill at least 4 hours before serving.
5. Top with whip cream, or not. Enjoy with a friend or family!
To be entered in today’s giveaway for a valentine T-shirt and a copy of Home On the Ranch: Colorado Rescue leave a comment about your favorite Valentine’s Day treat.