Julie Benson’s Winner!

Debra J Pruss

Congratulations, Debra!

Look for an email from me for how to claim your giveaway.

Thank you to everyone who spent part of the day sharing ways to stay positive. May all the positive energy you put out into the universe be returned to you threefold.

                                                                                                     Julie

 

Thinking Positive Takes Work

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.

Do you see a woman’s face or a man playing an instrument?

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.

A Little History, a Margarita Recipe, and a Giveaway!

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.

Fajitas

INGREDIENTS

1  lb skirt steak

2  limes

1  pkg tortillas

Rub

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

DIRECTIONS

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!

Not Your Grandmother’s Farmers Market

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.

My son Zachary and the carrots he grew one year.

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.

  • Candles
  • 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.)
  • Honey
  • 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!)
  • Jewelry
  • Bath products: soap, body wash, shampoo, lotion, lip balm, bath salts

                           

 

Talk about one stop shopping!

To be entered in the giveaway for the cool T-shirt, yes I have this one, too, leave a comment on this question. What’s the most unique or your favorite produce item to buy at a farmers’ market?

Texas Snowmageddon

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.

My grandparents’ farm in Decorah, Iowa

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?

Happy Valentine’s Day–A Little Early

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!

Ingredients—

8 oz. Mascarpone cheese

½ C powdered sugar

½ tsp run extract

1 C heavy whipping cream

Lady fingers

½ C coffee

2 tsp cocoa

Directions–

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.

I’m Like, Totally Your Huckleberry

Lots of us have had tough years personally before, but not in my lifetime have we as a human race had such a difficult year. If you’re like me, New Year’s held a new significance and you’re thankful to see 2020 in the rearview mirror. Hopeful for 2021, I tried writing about the activities I desperately miss and appreciate more since COVID-19. I hope this year to return to treating myself to a mani-pedi (I’m so relieved it’s closed toe shoe season!), getting a haircut every six to eight weeks instead of twice a year, going to lunch with friends and sitting close enough we don’t need walkie-talkies to converse, and window shopping. Somehow instead of being the hopeful post I intended, I found myself needing a break from thinking about COVID and the harsh realities it’s brought crashing down on our lives.

Also needing to laugh, I turned to a book I discovered in Glassboro, New Jersey visiting my son. When the title caught my eye, This Is Like, Totally a Quote Book, I had to open it. The dedication had me LOLing. “This book is dedicated to the eminent individuals whose words are parodied herein. We’d like to imagine each of them, living or dead, getting a chuckle out of it. We only wish we could invite them all to dinner. * That would be, like, totally an amazing party. *Except maybe Hannibal Lecter.”

 

 

The book takes famous quotes and inserts the phrase like, totally. Having been part of the generation that thought those words were so cool, I couldn’t stop reading. The next thing I knew I was reading quotes to my husband. So today, in hopes of making you smile and showing how adding two words can change a sentence, I’ve tweaked some famous quotes.

  • The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in like, totally rising every time we fall.” -Nelson Mandela
  • The way to get started is to like, totally quit talking and begin doing. -Walt Disney
  • Life is what happens like, when you’re busy totally making other plans. -John Lennon
  • To be or like, totally not to be. -William Shakespeare
  • When you reach the end of your rope, like tie a knot in it and totally hang on. -Franklin D. Roosevelt
  • Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but like, totally by the seeds that you plant. -Robert Louis Stevenson
  • It is during our darkest moments that we must like, totally focus to see the light. -Aristotle

Here’s some modified western/cowboy sayings from grammar.yourdictionary.com.

  • Some cowboys have like, totally too much tumbleweed in their blood to settle down.
  • When you’re throwin’ your weight around, be like, totally ready to have it thrown around by someone else.
  • Always like, totally drink upstream from the herd.
  • Never ask how stupid someone is ‘cause they’ll like, turn around and totally show you.
  • The only good reason to ride a bull is to like, totally meet a nurse.

And my favorite…

  • Never like, jump a barbed wire fence totally naked.

I hope these changes to famous quotes made you chuckle. To be entered in the random drawing for today’s giveaway of the sparkly Peace sign and a signed copy of Home on the Ranch:  Family Ties share a quote and like, totally parody it in This Is Like, Totally a Quote Book style. Here’s to 2021. May your year be blessed, and wishing you like, totally the best year ever!

 

Barks To Live By

As I waited in the pharmacy for my flu shot, I checked out a book display. Among various inspirational books was Wise Dogs by H. Jackson Brown, Jr. and Dale C. Spartas. The book pairs words of wisdom with beautiful dog photos. The small book brightened my day and got me thinking.

Animals have always been there for me during good times and rough patches. They never judge, love unconditionally, are fantastic listeners, and never share my secrets.

Our newest addition to the family, Addie.

But pets offer more than companionship. Studies show they can improve our mood and immune systems, reduce stress, anxiety, and lower blood pressure. (A common statement in my house when someone’s cranky is “Will you pet a dog to lower your blood pressure and calm down?” It’s also a handy excuse. “Sorry. I can’t _______. I’m lowering my blood pressure now.”) There are stories of people who would’ve committed suicide if not for having a pet to care for.

I have a “Dogilosophy” coaster. If you can’t read it in the picture it says, “Listen more than you speak. Act like you have purpose. Appreciate a simple life. Give more than you receive. Be happy with what you have. Be a best friend.” What fabulous advice. Ever since, I’ve tried to follow this.

Jack and foster Mindy helping me write this post.

I’ve added to this list of what dogs and pets have taught me from Wise Dogs, bestlifeonline.com, and the Huffington Post.

  • Live in the moment/Enjoy life/Enjoy the journey—I think this is especially important now with social media. How often do we see people ignoring those around them in favor of their phone? Some people are so busy posting what they’re doing they’re not really present in what’s happening. I’ve learned sometimes the journey is more important than the destination. Wise Dogs says, “Who you’re with is always more important than where you are.”
  • Walk more—Very few of us get enough exercise. I know I don’t. (I’m adding walking the dogs more to my resolutions.)
  • Drink more water—Again I’m adding to things to work on in 2021!
  • Greet everyone with enthusiasm/Jump for joy when you’re happy—We don’t celebrate successes and the positives in our lives enough. Dogs do. Finding a stick, barking at a squirrel outside the window, their human coming back after checking for mail are all celebrated with gusto.
    Jack greeting my youngest son with enthusiasm!
  • Everyone needs a hand to hold and a heart to understand—This has been difficult with COVID-19. We need to find other ways to stay connected such as notes and phone calls.
  • Play and run daily—We need to have more fun!
  • Be loyal/Defend and protect those you love—Truly good friends are a rare gift and should be treated as such.
  • Don’t hold a grudge/Don’t let a little dispute injure a great friendship/Leave the past in the past—I’ve fostered dogs who came from terrible situations that are still capable of love. They don’t let their tragic past steal their future.
  • Family doesn’t have to be blood—I’m a big believer the one and the theme runs through many of my books.

Don’t have the time or space for a pet? Consider volunteering at an animal shelter walking dogs or playing with cats or dogs. Or, visit a friend with a pet. I bet you’ll receive health benefits.

As we thankfully approach the end of 2020, I pray 2021 is better for the people who have suffered or still are and may we all be a more like pets. I’ll leave you with one last quote from Wise Dogs. “May your dreams defy the laws of gravity.”

Today’s giveaway is a “live like someone left the gate open” (one of my favorite sayings) mug and A Cure For the Vet which contains my book The Rancher and the Vet. My heroine, Avery McAlister, is a veterinarian who runs an animal shelter. To be entered in the random drawing, comment on this question. Of the above lessons from dogs, what’s your favorite?