A Cowboy Surprise

It’s always a special treat when my birthday falls on Memorial Day as it did this year. Not only do I get a day off of work (the day job, anyway) but I also get to spend extra time with my family. But my husband surprised me a couple days early with a romantic cowboy gesture on the Friday night before.

First, he showed up at my office unannounced and kidnapped me from work an hour early. He brought me a change of clothes, including my cowgirl boots, then showed me his own footwear. He’d bought HIMSELF a pair of cowboy boots that afternoon just for the occasion. He hasn’t worn boots ince high school, so this was a big deal. He wore Wrangler jeans, boots, a button-down shirt, eveything but the hat. It was as if he’d walked out of the pages of one of my books!

Then he took me on a 90+ minute drive through the country (we saw wildflowers, longhorn cattle, herefords, deer, and sheep) to a ranch outside of Graham, TX called Wildcatter Ranch. They have a steakhouse there with beautiful hilltop views.

We had a scrumptious dinner next to a large set of windows looking out over this porch and the wooded hills below. So lovely! They served cheesy southern biscuits with a honey glaze for an appetizer, which were scrumptious! I had trout with glazed carrots and salad and Wes had a half-rack of ribs with a baked potato and salad. My fish was good, but when he let me sample the ribs, I regretted not getting some for myself. They were literaly melt-in-your-mouth tender and delicious.

After dinner, we walked around the grounds, and took lots of pictures.

One of my favorites was when we sat in a pair of rockers on the back porch of the Wildcatter Hotel and snapped a photo of our boots.

Then in true Texas style, we stopped at a Dairy Queen in Breckenridge,TX on the way home for a Blizzard. Ha!

It was a wonderful western evening with my personal cowboy hero!

When was a time you received a fun surprise?

Two of My Favorite Things and One of My Favorite People

Since childhood, one of my favorite places in the world, though I haven’t traveled that much, is my grandparents’ farm. I found a sense of peace, a connection to the Earth, and the warmth of belonging there I haven’t found anywhere else. I believe in large part these feelings bloomed in me because of my grandmother, Pearl Henrietta Blaess Walter. (Side note for a chuckle—growing up, my paternal grandmother told me she’d wanted me named after my grandmothers. Her suggestion had been both their first names, Goldie Pearl. Yikes, huh?)

My Grandma Walter holding me with my Uncle Wayne sitting beside us.

Now back from the side trip to the main highway.

Many of my other favorite things come from my Grandma Walter. She taught me to crochet and sew. Working with her in her garden taught me to appreciate that activity and value the calming it can bring to the soul. My love of and value of the past and old items, came from her. Many of the things I cook or bake are her recipes. Two of my favorites she made were cream puffs and angel food cake. (I think I’ve shared I requested her angel food cake with fresh strawberries and whipped cream as my birthday cake.) I regret never asked for her angel food cake recipe. Or rather that I didn’t do as I did with the recipe I’m sharing today. Because she carried the recipes in her head, one day when she made cream puffs, I grabbed pen and paper. I’m smiling as I write this remembering when I asked how much flour she put in. She said she guessed about a cup. She couldn’t be sure because she used an old coffee cup to scoop out the flour. Yes, she was an I-toss-in-about-this-much-and-cook-it-until-it’s-done kind of cook.

 

A year or two ago I was back in Iowa to bury my parents’ ashes. I had the opportunity to visit the family farm, now a B&B owned by a cousin. Though the land looks different today because nature has reclaimed it, the minute we turned into the driveway, the memories flooded back making me smile.

Cream Puffs

1/2 C butter

1/2 tsp salt

1 C water

1 C sifted flour

4 eggs

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place water, butter, and sauce in sturdy pot. Bring mixture to a full bowl. Dump in flour all at once. Stir until mixture sticks together and pulls away from the pot. Transfer to a bowl. Cool 5 minutes. Then add eggs one at a time, stirring after each until fully incorporated. Drop a tablespoon amount, heaping in the middle on a greased baking pan. Bake for 30 minutes. Without opening oven, reduce heat 35o degrees and bake 10 minutes more.

Filling:

1 C milk

1 egg yolk

4 TBS sugar

2 TBS milk

1 TBS cornstarch

Mix egg yolk,, sugar, cornstarch, and the 2 TBS milk until smooth. Warm 1 C milk in heavy saucepan, but do not boil. Pour egg mixture into milk. Stir until thickened. When cooled, combine with whipped cream and fill cream puffs.

I hope you enjoy this recipe for one of my favorite treats, that I learned to make at with one of my favorite people, in one of my favorite places.

Where is your favorite place? Leave me a comment to tell me all about it.

 

Bet You Didn’t Know This! (Or Did You?) by Pam Crooks

I’d like to think I’m an observant person, but after preparing for this blog, I’m more clueless than I ever realized.  Some things I see, I just don’t question.  Things that are just THERE, and they go over my head in importance.

Here’s a few:

The little hole in the side of a pen.

Most of us grew up with Bic pens, right?  I used to buy them in 10-packs for the girls.  Of course, I saw the hole, but I never realized without it, the pen would be completely airtight, which would prevent the ink from flowing to the tip, and you couldn’t write.  Also, in really low pressure areas like planes, the pen could explode, spraying ink everywhere.

The hole in the cap of a pen.

Without it, air gets trapped in the cap, creating pressure that will push ink out of the tip.  But more importantly, if someone accidentally swallowed the cap (who among us haven’t chewed on that cap while doing schoolwork?) the hole will help you breathe until it can be surgically removed.  Who knew?

 

 

 

The circle on milk jugs.

 

Since milk is filled to the very brim (customers want absolutely full cartons, you know), in case the jug is dropped, the inverted circle (or a similar design) will expand to prevent bursting.  Also, if you leave the milk in the ‘fridge too long, it will build up gas and expand.  That circle will help there, too.  Ditto when freezing milk, although I always remove about 1/2 cup of milk to allow for plenty of expanding.

The hole in airplane windows.

Have you ever noticed one?  I never have!  But my husband has, and he knew that it is meant to allow air to flow into the plane and regulate pressure.

Arrow on the gas gauge in your car.

Another one I never knew.  Heck, I never even noticed that arrow, at least not enough to question why it was there.  But starting in 2010, all cars were required to have this arrow, which indicates which side the gas tank is located.  Now isn’t that handy?  Especially if you’re driving a rental car or are in long lines waiting to get gas.  Much easier (and less embarrassing) to get on the correct side to fill up the tank!

Why men’s buttons are on the opposite side of women’s.

While buttons have been around since the Middle Ages, they weren’t produced en masse until the industrial age in the late 1800s.  Before then, mostly the wealthy had buttons, and they had maids who dressed them up in those buttons.  So, for the ease of the maids, the buttons were put on the left, but since men mostly dressed themselves, they were put on the right side.  Also, by having the buttons on that side, it was beneficial as men removed their swords during war.  (Okay, I admit – I don’t get that part.)

Tabs on foil or plastic wrap.

I’ve been a housewife for a long, long time, and I never knew this!  In fact, I had to leave my office and check out my foil, wax paper, and cling wrap, and sure enough, the perforated tabs were there, on both ends of each box.  But they are so much a part of the design, and the perforations were hard to see, I’d always missed them.  You can bet I’ll remember now, and they will be a big help in keeping the rolls in their box!

Let’s test YOUR knowledge, okay?  See if you know these handy tips, and I’ll post the answers tonight!  (Please, no Googling!)

1. What is the purpose of the little hole in padlocks?

 

2. Why are headrests detachable?

 

3. What is the purpose of the can’s tab?

 

4. Why does a tube of toothpaste have these colored blocks at the end?

 

5. Why do some garments come with little swatches of fabric?

 

Be sure to check back tonight, and I’ll tell you why!

Yup, I’m a Crazy Dog Lady!

Today I get to share one of my favorite things with you…fostering dogs.

Before my oldest left for college I responded to a post to foster a little black puppy. (I love black dogs and have since learned they are less likely to be adopted.) That pup had a foster, but the guy pictured here, Rowdy, didn’t. Thus began my journey fostering dogs with Cody’s Friends Rescue.

Our first foster Rowdy

We foster puppies, often as young as two months. At that age, they love being held. They’ve been snuggling with mom and their siblings and desperately miss that connection. I get the joy of puppy cuddles and kisses. It doesn’t get better than that. We usually take two or occasionally three puppies, because it’s easier when then they have a playmate their size.

Brothers Axel and Brody

The question I’m asked most is how do I let them go? We have adopted some. And while we love every foster, some are different. Like Kingston, a puppy with mange we fostered. My husband was a cat person, but Kingston latched onto him. While he was sweet, we joked how he wasn’t bright because after weeks, he didn’t recognize his name. Then one night someone came to the door. The other dogs barked. Kingston remained blissfully asleep. Thus, we discovered Kingston was deaf. Combine his special need with his and Kevin’s best bud status, and he was our first “foster fail.” But I digress. Big surprise there!

Kingston when we he first arrived.
Kingston and our foster Bear

It’s never easy letting go, but I cope with my husband’s help. I pick pups up and see to their vet care. He talks with potential adopters and takes fosters to their new homes. He loves seeing how far they’ve come and their joy with their new family. I’m usually crying at home, remembering that every dog we let go makes room for another who needs help. And the need is huge, especially Texas who euthanizes more dogs than anywhere in the country. At times, I think I’m on the Titanic bailing with a teaspoon. Then I remember, while I can’t save every dog, I save the ones I can.

Foster Bella helping me write.

The rescue I foster with, Cody’s Friends Rescue, takes any breed. They also take dogs needing medical care. The most recent, Memphis, was found in a ditch by a friend of a Cody’s foster. Both his rear legs were broken, with the right in three places, which required surgery. I was blessed to be his medical foster, getting him from his “regular” foster the night before, taking him to his surgery appointments, and then getting him back home.(To learn more about Memphis’ heartwarming journey, click here.)

Some fosters have come and gone so fast my head spun, some of whom I thought we’d have forever. Others, despite being fabulous dogs, have waited longer for their humans. Like our current boy, Dalton. Despite being loving and playful, with a huge heart, no one has shown interest. So until then we love him.

Our current foster Dalton

If you’ve ever considered fostering, contact a local rescue. You may discover as I have that you get more than you give. I realize not everyone can rescue, but everyone can help. Rescues need people to transport dogs from shelters to fosters, or from fosters to vet appointments. They also need help at adoption events. If you don’t have time for that, share posts you see on social media. I remember a story about a dog in the Weatherford, Texas shelter. A woman saw a Facebook post, fell in love, and drove from Colorado to adopt this dog. Please, please share those posts. You never know when your share will save a dog’s life.

Giveaway:  To be entered in today’s random giveaway for a signed copy of A Cure for the Vet containing my book The Rancher and the Vet which has a spirited foster dog, leave a comment about a favorite animal or just one of your favorite things!

 

Tess Thompson Visits the Corral

Hello to all the Western Romance fans! I’m delighted to be with you today. I’ll be giving away two paperbacks of my bestselling historical romance, The School Mistress of Emerson Pass. See how to enter at the end of my post.

I recently finished writing my Emerson Pass Series. I’ve been working on the books for over two years, so you can imagine that saying goodbye was a bittersweet. On the one hand, I was thrilled to have completed a 14 book series. I always feel a sense of accomplishment and relief when they’re done. On the other hand, the Barnes family felt like old friends and saying goodbye was hard. It’s a strange thing, this writing fiction. Characters I made up out of my head feel as if they’re real when I know they’re not. Readers tell me they feel the same way about the books they really enjoy. As a reader, I’m that way too. Book friends can sustain us during hard times! They never let us down.

 

 

Emerson Pass, set in 1910, is about a young school teacher who takes a job in a little mountain town out west. Once she arrives, she meets a widower and his five children and they all fall in love. Yay. The entire Barnes family and my heroine, Quinn Cooper, came to me in dream. I’m a woman of faith and fully believe that God whispered their stories in my ear while I was sleeping. I woke up to an image of Quinn getting off on a train in the middle of a snowstorm. In addition, my hero, Alexander and all five of his children were all so clear in my mind that I knew what they looked like and their personalities before I even opened my eyes that morning. However, I was in the middle of writing Cliffside Bay so I had to be satisfied with jotting the details in my journal so that I wouldn’t forget. I didn’t start writing The School Mistress until two years later! I went back to my notes and it was all in there, like the characters had been waiting for me to share them with the world. So, I did. I’ve enjoyed writing all my characters but these ones are special. If you haven’t met them, I hope you’ll give the series a try. They’re all in Kindle Unlimited and available in paperback.

Giveaway:  When was the last time you read a series or book that you loved so much you hated for it to end? Let me know in the comments below and you’ll be entered in the random drawing to be one of two winners of a paperback copy of The School Mistress.

Happy reading and thanks so much for joining me today!

Tess Thompson is the USA Today Bestselling and award-winning author of clean and wholesome Contemporary and Historical Romantic Women’s Fiction with nearly 50 published titles. Her stories feature family sagas, romance, a little mystery, and a lot of heart.

To follow Tess on:

BookBub click here
Facebook click here
Goodreads click here
Pinterest click here
Instagram click here

To buy The School Mistress click here

 

 

 

How One Movie Scene Created a Fictional Family

Please welcome Tina Wheeler to the Petticoats and Pistols Corral today.

I watched way too much television growing up. Okay, I still watch more than I should, but in my defense, I’m a visual learner and seeing characters in settings helps me build my fictional world.

I come from a military/law enforcement family, so I already had a solid grasp of alpha males who own guns. Watching mysteries with my mother influenced my desire to include a puzzle in my novels. But why cowboys?

When writing my debut, Love Inspired Suspense, I created the Walker family and their ranch outside Sedona. Jackson, Cole and Zach are brothers who are the fictional embodiment of all the heart-stopping cowboys I’ve seen on television and their finer qualities. I’m an Arizona girl, born and raised. Every time we hosted out-of-state visitors, we headed to Old Tucson Studios to watch cowboy gunfights with stuntmen falling off buildings. Five hundred movies had scenes filmed there, including four John Wayne Westerns. Feeding my love for cowboys were TV shows like Bonanza, The Big Valley, Gunsmoke, The Virginian, The Wild Wild West, The Rifleman, and The High Chaparral which was filmed at Old Tucson.

Man in coat on the wind

My absolute favorite movie scene of all time is in Tombstone. Kurt Russell, Bill Paxton, Sam Elliott, and Val Kilmer (playing the Earp brothers and Doc Holliday) are walking down the dusty town road toward the O.K. Corral to reenact the famous thirty-second shootout. They’re wearing mostly black with their cowboy hats and boots, but it’s the black duster coats that complete the image. My heart skips a beat every time I watch that scene. I could replay it a hundred times. The Earps were close brothers, cowboys, and lawmen. Together, they bravely protected the town. Yes, they had their flaws, but in that moment, they were four strong, good-hearted men about to prove that good conquers evil. Yesterday, we had the Earps. Today, we have the Walker brothers.

 

Ranch Under Fire, a Publishers Weekly Bestseller

A witness on the run.

A mission to survive.

Fleeing after witnessing a shooting in her office, Bailey Scott must rely on cowboy Jackson Walker for protection when the gunman turns his sights on her. With a drug ring determined to silence her, Jackson promises to protect her at his ranch. But he’s an undercover DEA agent with secrets he can’t reveal. Can he take down the criminals before their pursuers lead them straight into an inescapable trap?

More About Tina:

Tina Wheeler is an inspirational romantic suspense author and retired teacher. Although she grew up near a desert in Arizona, her favorite place to plot a new story is on a balcony overlooking the ocean. She enjoys spending time with her large extended family, brainstorming with writing friends, discovering new restaurants, and traveling with her husband. Visit authortinawheeler.com to read more.

To buy a copy of Ranch Under Fire click here.

Giveaway:

Tina is giving away a copy of Ranch Under Fire. To enter the random drawing, leave a comment about your favorite cowboy, real or fictional.

 

Rodeo Cowboys–Competitors, Friends, and Even Family

Today we welcome Danica Favorite to the Petticoats and Pistols corral.

One of my favorite parts of the rodeo is the bronc riding. It’s such a great combo of talent, skill and a little bit of luck. The announcer at a rodeo series I often watch has always been good about sharing some of the inside stories of the cowboys, and one of the things I fell in love with was how many times he’d talk about how cowboys competing against each other were often close friends and traveling buddies. You think about rodeos as competitions, but it reminded me of my life growing up in the rodeo scene. The people do become like family, even if you spend all season vying for the top spots.

So when I came up with this series, I thought a lot about that sense of family, not just in my Shepherd’s Creek community, but also among these rodeo cowboys. That became the heart of The Bronc Rider’s Twins. What do you do when someone in that found family dies, leaving behind a mess? For Wyatt Nelson, that meant stepping up and being the husband and father his best friend couldn’t be.

Family is equally important to Laura Fisher. For those who read the first book in the series, Journey to Forgiveness, you know that the Shepherd’s Creek family is working through a very painful past. You don’t have to have read it to read The Bronc Rider’s Twins, but for me, this series isn’t just about each of the family members, but about the way they’ve found their way back to each other after being estranged for so long.

Though there is, of course, a happy ending, what I love about this book, and this series, is that we see how messy families can be, and how sometimes working through these issues can take a lot of time, patience, and love. And, even though we have a picture in our heads of what a family is supposed to look like, the family in this series isn’t your traditional family. But together, they find healing and hope.

About The Bronc Rider’s Twins:
A family he doesn’t expect…

But will protect at all costs.

Convinced he caused his best friend’s death, rodeo cowboy Wyatt Nelson will do whatever it takes to look after widow Laura Fisher and her infant twins—even propose to her. A marriage of convenience is the perfect solution to keep custody from Laura’s overbearing in-laws. But as Wyatt begins to fall for the little family, will he let guilt get in the way of his heart?

About Danica Favorite:
Danica Favorite has spent her life in love with good books.  Never did she imagine that the people who took her to far away places would someday be the same folks she now calls friends.

A mountain girl at heart, she lives in the Denver area with her family and ever-changing menagerie of animals.

Put it all together, and you find an adventurous writer who likes to explore what it means to be human and follow people on the journey to happily ever after.

Giveaway:
Danica will be giving away a copy of The Bronc Rider’s Twins. To be entered in the random drawing, leave a comment about someone you’re not technically related to, but you consider family, and how has that person helped you in your life?

 

Keeping the Lights On


 

I love decorating for the holidays both outside and inside. Pulling out the decorations every year always fills me with joy. Every item has a story attached to it. My music box snowman reminds me of my boys. I still remember finding it at a small local shop right after Christmas. The three little snowmen immediately reminded me of building a snowman (the few times there was enough snow in Dallas) with my three boys and my hubby. I don’t recall the price, but I remember the piece was expensive enough on sale I thought long and hard before buying it. I wandered around the shop and kept circling around to look at the music box before I finally picked it up.

Other pieces remind me of the person who gave me the item. The snowman and penguin spelling snow was a gift from my Aunt Wanda and Uncle Erlin. The geese came from my Aunt Mugs and Uncle Wayne. The crystal angel, the large size not the small, came from my BFF Lori. (She pointed out I got the larger one as did her mother and sister, while other friends got the smaller angel. ?) When I put out these gifts, I smile, think of these incredible people, and say a prayer of thanks for the difference they’ve made in my life.

Snow blocks

 

 


I put lights everywhere starting with my mantle and the behind the sofa table. The Christmas tree in the entry way adds a sparkle there. In the family room, I have candles, the penguin (that I bought because my youngest loves penguins), and another snowman with lights. My favorite thing to do during the holiday season is light the candles, turn on the other lights, turn off the overhead ones, and watch a Christmas movie.

The downside of having all the decorations and the lights is taking them down. Not that I don’t like and have connections to the items I have out the rest of the year, I do, but somehow removing the holiday décor makes me a little sad to return to the everyday. I guess that’s it. Taking down those decorations mean we go back to our everyday lives filled with work, responsibilities, and day-to-day activities. Too often it feels like the joy and wonder of the season gets packed up in the boxes along with the decorations and we go through the  post-holiday blues. Add winter to that with its shorter, colder days (however as I’m writing this it’s 68 degrees here in Dallas) and it’s a double whammy. But this year, I’ve realized it doesn’t have to be that way, and I’ve decided to make a change.

I’ll take down the Christmas trees and some of the decorations. But this year, I’m leaving up the lights/garland on my mantle and sofa table. I don’t know yet if whether I’ll replace the holiday with my non-holiday items or leave the snowmen out, but put away Santa and the stockings. I’ll see what speaks to me when I get started. The snowman and penguin lights could stay for a while since they’re wintery too. Hmmm, maybe I’ll switch from Christmas decorations to a winter theme at least until the end of February. I kind of like that idea. Hopefully it will help me hold onto the joy and light of the holidays longer. I want to embrace the hope that Jesus’s birth gives us, how His light that can shine through us, and can cut through any darkness.

Happy New Year and may your 2023 be blessed and full of memory making moments!

Giveaway:  To be entered in today’s random giveaway for wrist wallet and a signed copy of A Cure for the Vet, leave a comment on how you fight the post holiday blues.

The Age Old Holiday Question–Fruitcake Treat or Door Stop?

When I look back on my books, I can often tell something about what was going on with me. When I wrote To Tame a Texas Cowboy, transporting a lot of dogs from Corsicana, Texas. (For those who don’t know, my family fosters and transports dogs for Cody’s Friends Rescue.) I say that because of my heroine, Cheyenne’s comment describing her overprotective Mom. Despite the serious nature that brought about the scene (the mother reports her missing), I had a blast writing it. Here’s an excerpt.

“I’ve got to do something about Mom. I don’t care how worried she is, when she hurts other people she’s gone too far.” Cheyenne collapsed on the couch beside Aubrey.

If this was a sample of what Cheyenne was dealing with, no wonder she was desperate to move out. If a service dog could help her with that goal, how could he refuse to help? Wasn’t easing burdens like Cheyenne’s why he’d taken up Olivia’s cause with the SeizureReader?

Dog nails scraping against the glass patio door drew Cooper’s attention. After he let the dogs in, Penny trotted over to Cheyenne and curled up by her feet.

The wild idea that sprouted last night when he saw Penny with Cheyenne expanded. The idea could work.

“We should leave. I’ve caused Cooper enough trouble, and who knows what else will happen if I stay longer,” Cheyenne said to Aubrey.

Her friend shook her head. “Girl, I slept in my clothes and the officer showing up scared me so much I’m as sweaty as a teenager sneaking into the house after curfew. No way am I crawling in the car without a shower. Cooper, mind if I use yours?”

“Go ahead. That’ll give me time to talk to Cheyenne.”

After Aubrey left, Cheyenne stared at him wide-eyed. “Why would you want to talk to me? If I were you, I’d figure out how to get a restraining order.”

He smiled at her attempt at humor as he sank into his recliner. The woman had grit. Despite everything, she hadn’t buckled. “On your mom maybe, but this wasn’t your fault.”

Fatigue and vulnerability flashed in her green eyes, overwhelming the courage and toughness he admired a minute ago. “You’re wrong. This is my fault. I didn’t rein Mom in before this happened.”

“Has your mom always been so,” he paused. Would it be completely out of line to call her mom a nut case?

“Go ahead and say it. Crazy, wacko. Nuttier than a Collin Street Bakery fruitcake. Take your pick.”

He chuckled at her plain speaking. “I was trying to find a better way to phrase it.”

“That’s sweet, but unnecessary.” Cheyenne sighed. “She wasn’t as bad when my dad was alive.”

“You don’t have to talk about this.”

She shrugged. “You’ve seen my dirtiest laundry. Might as well know how it got so bad. My dad died in a freak rodeo accident when I was fifteen. A bull threw him and before the rodeo clowns got there, the bull stepped on his—” She shuddered, and horror flashed across her face. “There was nothing anyone could do. He was gone.”

“Saying I’m sorry is inadequate, but I am sorry.”

Cheyenne picked at the couch cushion. “That’s what started Mom’s overprotectiveness. Most people think things like that won’t happen to them or someone they love, but she knows they do. My diagnosis has dredged up that pain, along with her fear, and helplessness. She’s doing the only thing she can think of, trying to control everything, but she can’t fix this for me.”

 

I know a lot of folks outside of Texas won’t get Cheyenne’s comment “nuttier than a Collin Street Bakery fruitcake” but I had a good laugh writing with it. Her comment refers to the Collin Street Bakery in Corsicana, Texas, famous for the fruitcake it’s made for over 125 years. I can see the looks of disbelief on your faces now. Hey, I’ve heard all the fruitcake jokes that abound this time of year, but the Collin Street Bakery’s been featured on a popular shows like Good Morning America.

I thought the same thing the first time I went to Corsicana to transport a dog. But when I saw the Collin Street Bakery on my way to the city shelter, I had to stop. After that, every time I drove to Corsicana, I stopped at the bakery first. I would get a cherry turnover to devour on the way home, peanut brittle for my hubby, cupcakes, and a sample of their fruitcake, which is by the way, pretty good.

While we don’t buy fruitcakes, every year at the holidays, my husband craves our family’s version which is more like a pound cake. It’s so good that if I don’t have time to bake it, he does! Today I’m sharing that recipe with you.

 

Philly Christmas Cake

 

Ingredients:

1 8 oz Philadelphia Cream Cheese

1 1/2 C sugar

1 C butter

1 1/2 tsp vanilla

4 eggs

2 1/4 cup flour

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

3/4 C each of candied red, green cherries, and pineapple

1 C chopped walnuts or pecans

Directions:

Place 1/4 C chopped walnuts in each of two loaf pans. Place 1/4 C of the flour in a small bowl. Add cut candied fruit and remaining nuts. Mix and set aside.

Cream softened cream cheese, sugar, butter and vanilla until combined well. Add eggs one a time. Mix until incorporated. Add remaining flour (2C) and baking powder. Combine. Add remaining walnuts (1/2) and candied (now floured) fruit. Mix. Pour into loaf pans. Bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour 20 min.

Giveaway–Today I have two holiday T-shirts to give away. Each one comes with a signed copy of To Tame A Texas Cowboy. To be entered in the giveaways, leave me a comment on your thoughts regarding fruitcake.

 

Jessie Uses Soap

 

Last fall, we had to vaccinate our fall herd and treat a few cows.

We did that two years ago, and I talked about it a little. I was chasing cows, got knocked around a bit, and at one point, I was pinned against the fence and ended up pretty sore with a lot of shades of blue on my body.

This time, our oldest son came down and took the beating for me. : )

We started before dawn, because we wanted to get finished before it got super hot out.

He helped finish up the garage work in PA around 11 pm and rolled into our place in Virginia around 3:30 am on Sunday morning.

He was sleeping on our couch when I came downstairs around 5ish.

He just turned 25, so he’s not a kid anymore, but I still admire that kind of work ethic. He’s done a lot of work on farms out west, and he has a great pride and respect for the salt-of-the-earth people and the work it takes to grow and produce the food that feeds our nation.

I’m a little tempted to go off on a tangent there, but I’ll try not to.

Anyway, he helped me chase the cows and gave me all the easy jobs—meaning I stood on the fence while he got the bull out. : )

We separated the cows from the calves—we weren’t weaning, but the chute is long and narrow, and if you try to run calves through with the cows, the calves will get crushed.

We’re not really set up for the calves very well and don’t really have any place to hold them.

Our son ended up getting in the chute with the calves and pinning them against the side of the chute while we gave them their vaccinations and wormer. Some of the calves were topping three hundred pounds, and he definitely had his work cut out for him.

If you can imagine being in a small, enclosed space with a terrified, young, and strong animal that is desperate to escape and find his mama and that weighs twice as much as you do, and if you can imagine trying to wrestle that animal into submission…forty-four times…that’s what our son did.

Our son was in a motorcycle accident earlier this spring, and I have a feeling that wrestling the calves wasn’t quite as bad as the accident, but he definitely earned his bumper sticker.

We started early, but it was still hot and humid. We’d gotten some much needed rain the day before, and so it was muddy too. We weren’t complaining, because we were so thankful for the rain. But we were all pretty filthy.

There was one noteworthy thing with the cows.

Maybe some of you remember the story I told a while ago where a cow was supposed to be running behind me while I stood with my back to her at the fence, but she charged me and rammed me into the fence instead. I was dazed and hurting, but I still turned to follow her out, because, you know, you do your job. It took me a second or two to realize that she’d stopped, turned around, and was coming back for me. (At this point, I always think that if I hadn’t lived this, I would never believe anyone who told me that a cow charged her—twice—for no reason.) Anyway, I might have been dazed, but I made it to the top of the fence pretty quick.

That cow was 16.

We can get about eight cows in the chute, but they’re pretty squished. About the fourth group we had in, we had a cow who just wouldn’t move forward and was keeping us from being able to shut the gate. No matter how we pushed and prodded her, she wouldn’t budge.

Her ear tag was in the opposite ear, but I finally got a look at it and realized it was 16. Ha.

Anyway, we just made do, got that group their shots, and opened the gate to let them out.

They started moving out of the chute and into the funnel to the pasture. I was working on getting more vaccine mixed and ready for the next batch, and Julia was beyond me with her notebook, when one of the cows, rather than going straight, made a U-turn and came charging down the narrow aisle where we do our work beside the chute and where I was standing with Julia further down.

Someone yelled. I glanced up, and it only took a half a second for me to see which cow it was.

“It’s sixteen!” I yelled, and I dropped the needle and vaccine I was working with and leaped for the fence. I hit it about the third rung up and was on the top before the word “sixteen” was out of my mouth. I can be taught.

I think Jules made it to the top of the fence before I did.

We hung there until 16 got herself turned around and our son poked her from the other side of the chute and chased her out.

My knees may or may not have been shaking as I jumped down.

Watson was laughing, of course, and he pointed his finger at me. “She wants YOU,” he said, like I didn’t already know it. LOL.

I really don’t know why she has a thing against me, but I seriously do keep an eye on her when I’m in the pasture. She chased me around the Gator once (that was a couple weeks after she’d slammed me into the fence) and now this. I’ve offended her somehow, I guess, but I’ll be dipped if I know what I did.

I’m not sure why we’re keeping her. (Watson says she has nice calves, but I don’t care. I think she’d make nicer hamburgers.)

All right, we finished up in good time, and just in case there were any lingering feelings of suppressed annoyance toward our cows, we told our son we’d treat him to a steak dinner. He certainly earned it.

But we all had to get showers.

I let the girls go first because it takes them longer to get ready.

Watson and I rode to check the other herd while the girls and our son showered. By the time we were done, we were both stiff from sitting. It’s funny how your body stiffens up, and the walk to the house was painful. LOL. We’re getting old.

We were done well before noon, but honestly, it’s hard work and we were all exhausted.

Now, I don’t want to gross anyone out, but my feet and jeans were covered in cow manure up to my knees, and I had it up both arms and on my face. My shirt was soaked with sweat, and my hair was wet with it, too. I definitely needed a shower.

But there were no clean towels.

I’d put a load of laundry in the washer before we’d gone out that included the two towels Watson and I use. We’ve had guests at our cabin who walked off with towels, and we’ve kept replacing them with towels from our house. I have one extra towel, and I’d given that to Julia.

Not taking a shower wasn’t an option, so, don’t tell my mom, but I got a roll of paper towels out and decided I was going to dry off with them. (If you absolutely have to tell my mother, please make sure that you mention that I wrung them out and reused them repeatedly.)

Anyway, I have my paper towels, and I’m all ready to get in the shower, except, when I turn it on, there’s not enough water pressure left to push the water up through the showerhead. Just a little stream of water coming out the faucet.

The plug in our tub doesn’t work.

Still, this chick needed a shower. So, I’m kneeling, my tired, sore body scrunched down in the tub, using the little trickle of water and twisting and straining to get my whole head under it to wet my hair. I reach back for the shampoo. The bottle is empty.

I admit I leaned my forehead on the tub and tried not to criggle. (Which is a half cry, half laugh.)

Ha. So, yeah, I used soap to wash my hair, paper towels to dry off on, and at least I was conserving water by only using a trickle, right?

Just an endnote—at dinner, the kids laughed at how 16 has a thing for me. During the meal, they came up with a new name for her that even has an acronym: AKEM. Her name is a bit unwieldy: Attack, Kill, and Eat Mom.

sigh

Thanks so much for spending time with me today!