Saying Farewell is Hard, But Not Final

Time flies. I can’t believe that it was 2017 when I became a filly with Petticoats and Pistols. Since my first post all of you have shared poignant memories and family stories with me. You’ve made me laugh and taught me more than a thing or two. You’ve offered encouragement, ideas, and friendship. Getting to know each of you has blessed and enriched my life. I hope I have given some of that in return.

But life changes. My heroes have never been traditional cowboys, but my newest heroes in the five-book series I’ve contracted to write for the Tule Publishing Group will be Texas soldiers. These men served together in Afghanistan where a suicide bomber brought a building down on them. Correspondence with a resident will draw each of them to the small east Texas town of Service in search of a fresh start. While I’m excited about this new venture, the change means I no longer fit as well with Petticoats and Pistols cowboy theme.

I have loved spending time with all of you and with the wonderful fillies in the corral. I can’t say how much I’ll miss chatting with you every month. I hope those of you who’ve enjoyed my books will continue to follow me, and don’t be surprised if I stop by as a guest in the future.

So instead of saying goodbye, I’ll say talk to you in a while. Take care and may God bring you as many blessings as you’ve given me.


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.


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.


Valentine’s Day Reflections

Some days I swear I can’t be as old as I am (and no, I’m not sharing that detail). Other days, I feel old. Not so much physically but in the slap-me-upside-the-head-with-a-reminder way. When my children’s babysitters started having children, that was a rude age awakening. (Now some of their children are going college!) This year as Valentine’s Day approaches, I’ve had another odd age related realization.

I remember what a big deal that day was in elementary school. Would my latest crush, Chris or Lester, give me a Valentine. Yes, I’m old enough that we didn’t have to give valentines to everyone in class. In college, I wondered what to do on that day because goodness, no one wanted to be sitting home. And of course, when I was dating, Valentine’s Day was a big deal. Do I give a gift or simply a card? If I go with the gift, what and how much do I spend? Such angst. When I had young children, Valentine’s Day was a great excuse to get a babysitter, go to a restaurant, and have couple time.

This year as a woman married forty-two years, the holiday isn’t as big a deal in the romantic love sense. Hubby and I will have a quiet night at home. We’ll get takeout, but don’t want to deal with getting a reservation and fighting packed restaurants. After dinner, we’ll watch a movie. Now I see the day as a reminder to tell those I care about how much they mean to me, including my exceptionally patient husband.

I want to make a point to thank all of you for being a part of my life. The first Wednesday of the month, you take time out of your busy day to chat with me. You share the ups and downs of this crazy writing life and have helped with my stories in more ways than I can count.

Since candy/sweets is the most popular Valentine’s gift, and I assume most of that is chocolate, I as my Valentine’s Day gift, I’m sharing my grandmother’s Chocolate Drop cookie recipe with you.


Chocolate Drop Cookies

1/2 C butter

1 C sugar

1 egg

1 tsp baking powder

1 3/4 C flour

1/2 C milk

4 Tbs Cocoa powder

1/2 C nuts (optional)

In a bowl, mix dry ingredients. In a different bowl, cream sugar and butter. Add egg and milk. Beat well. Add dry ingredients and combine. Drop a small dollop on a cookie sheet. Bake at 350 for # minutes. Insert a toothpick to test for doneness. Cookies will have a cake like texture.


1 C powdered sugar

1 Tbs cocoa powder

2-3 Tbs butter softened

2-3 Tbs milk

Beat until creamy and smooth. Frost cookies when cool.

These cookies and chocolate covered strawberries are my favorite Valentine’s Day treats? What’s yours? Let me know.

Winter Holiday Movies and Winter Realities

This holiday season I treated myself to watching a lot of Christmas romance movies. While I enjoyed the stories and loved the characters, I struggled to suspend my disbelief in the outdoor winter scenes.

In many of the movies—even those where a snowstorm closed airports, roads, and towns—the characters headed outside in below freezing temperatures wearing a light winter coat hanging open. They rarely wore mittens, boots or hats, and their scarves were merely stylish accessories.

Movie image

What would the reality be? I’ll simply say when I attended Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa, we called the open center of campus Little Siberia. To walk across campus, I wore two pairs of wool socks, hiking boots, long underwear, jeans, a turtleneck under a wool sweater, under a wool blazer and a down coat. Under my hood, I pulled my hat down to my eyebrows and wrapped my scarf over my nose.

realistic image

In one movie, despite conditions like above, the town managed to plow Main Street for the Christmas parade. Because other roads were impassable, the entire town walked to the event dressed more for October weather. One girl in the crowd wore nothing more than a knitted poncho with bare arms visible as she waved to those on vehicles easily navigating the freshly plowed street. In reality, the street wouldn’t have been plowed and if it had, the city still would’ve cancelled the parade.

More realistic image

In many movies, the couple have had conversations outside. Often the heroine wore a strapless ball gown or cocktail dress, but the hero generously offered his tux/suit jacket to keep her warm. The couple finish their discussion, usually involving a big emotional reveal, and share a romantic kiss. Really? In reality, after two minutes tops they’d be charging inside or turning into well-dressed icicles.

Another thing I found odd that pulled me out of the story was everyone drinking hot cocoa and no one asking for coffee. How often in a coffee or donut shop do you see anyone over twelve order hot chocolate rather than coffee? In addition, when the characters wandered into the kitchen because they couldn’t sleep and ran into each other, they drank hot cocoa, chatted, and shared a romantic moment. Don’t get me wrong. Give me a cup with a peppermint stick and a dollop of real whip cream and call me happy. But in the real world, if I had hot chocolate in the cupboard, chances are it’s expired or dried into a hard clump.

Movie hot chocolate
What we might have available.

I found myself developing a holiday decorating inferiority complex because every house inside and out looked as if the owners hired a professional decorator. The reality? Who knows how long it took the set director and crew to accomplish the task. For me, even if I started in September with an unlimited budget, I wouldn’t obtain those results by Christmas. And don’t get me started on stories where a Christmas shop provided the character’s sole income. No wonder she was having financial troubles.

Okay, I know they were movies, not documentaries. Maybe I had trouble suspending my disbelief because authors rarely get away with tweaking reality that much and my last novel, Aiming for His Heart, was set in winter. I considered how would my characters get around if the roads were closed. What would they eat? How long would they be cut off from the world?

Would I give up a moment of watching any of the movies? No way. But while I enjoyed these movies, I couldn’t help but think, would it hurt the story and destroy the mood for characters to wear hats (okay my cover heroine doesn’t have one, oops), gloves, and decent boots and for the character who adores Christmas to own a store that sells other items during the year?

What do you think ab0ut Christmas romance movies? What’s your favorite thing or your pet peeve about them? 

To Trend or Not to Trend


As I pulled out my eclectic Christmas decorations this year, I wondered what trends were hot this year. Of course, now distracted, I turned to Google to find out. Here’s what I discovered.

Click here to go to article

According to a Better Homes and Gardens article, (click here to read) this year’s all the rage color schemes are jewel tones, “Crisp” blue (whatever that is), pastels, and “wintery” white. (I’m always amazed that there are variations of white.) I love the idea of jewel colors. Deep maroon, emerald green, and deep purple with gold always say Christmas to me, but I’m not sure about the pastels. Another trend I saw multiple places was “natural” ornaments and “organic” greenery. Basically this is a fancy way of pinecones, oranges, cranberries, and real greenery or bringing the outside in.

Click here to go to article.

Another article (click here to read) I found said to have a theme for a tree and decorations. It listed hot trends such as nutcracker, retro glam, pink Christmas Candyland (pastels again), gingerbread, and “mixed metals.” While they all look beautiful, and I would love to decorate with some of these (except for the pastels ?), two things keep me from doing so. One is the cost. Buying new decorations and ornaments is not in my Christmas budget. Plus, trends change so fast this year’s great décor becomes next year’s so over it trend. As to what’s out, I read mentioned ornate décor, tree skirts (we should replace them with a tree collar. See the picture below), traditional red and green. For me, that last one is never out of style.

A tree collar means using a basket, washtub, or something else for the tree to sit in.

The other reason I don’t want to replace my decorations and ornaments is because they mean something to me. It’s usually because of who gave the item to me and/or because of the event associated with it. I have “our first Christmas together” ornaments friends and family gave me and my husband. I gave my husband a little porcelain plane ornament. Every year when I see it, I envision him holding each of our sons as toddlers and them flying the plane around the living room before hanging the ornament on the tree. My bff Lori gave me a suitcase that says Australia ornament. That’s one of my favorites because when she or I have a bad day, we often joke about moving to Australia because of the children’s book Alex and the Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.

One solution would be to have multiple trees. I started doing that a couple years ago, adding two table-top trees, but again, I went with ornaments that had an emotional connection. in the kitchen and family room. The one in the kitchen has Peanuts ornaments which I collected for years, but hadn’t put on the main tree for lack of space. The other tree has ornaments I’ve made to hold dog tags from our foster dogs.

So despite admiring all the wonderful magazine suggestions for decorations, this year I’ll stick with my eclectic-memory-filled items and save some cash.

To be entered in the random drawing for the long sleeve Merry Christmas T-shirt, leave a comment about your favorite Christmas decoration, ornament, trend, or what trend drives you crazy.

Men and Their Trucks


I don’t know why but lately I’ve been thinking about trucks. Maybe it’s because I’ve heard so many songs that contain references to them or the fact that I live in Texas. Who knows. Part of my ruminating included the revelation that a truck is the twenty-first century cowboy’s horse. Nowadays we only see folks who work ranches riding a horse to check the far pasture fence or find a stray cow in Hallmark movies. In real life while some ranchers ride horses to cut cattle, most drive their truck, ATV, or a four-wheeler around their place, . (Please correct me if I’m wrong those of you that have working ranches or farms.)

My oldest son on the day he got his Big Blue Truck.

My oldest son bought a truck when he was in college. A couple years ago he hydroplaned in the rain during his long work commute. Thankfully, he wasn’t hurt, but his truck was totaled. As it seems is always the case, he couldn’t afford another truck with the insurance money. (His truck was paid for.) Instead, he bought a small sedan. It’s never sat right with him driving that car, despite having a truck again, he still misses that first one. His truck, merely having one, was tied to who he was—a born and bred Texan.

With that on my mind, I started looking at country songs with truck in the title. Here are some of my favorites.

  • Getting Married to My Pick Up Truck by Rodney Carrington—the comparison between his truck’s loyalty and a woman’s is hilarious. Click here to listen.
  • Truck Yeah by Time McGraw—is just plain fun. Click here to listen.
  • My Truck by Gretchen Wilson—is one of the few truck titled songs sung by a woman. Click here to listen.
  • My Ol’ Bronco by Luke Bryan—while while the word truck isn’t in the title, a Bronco is a specific truck so I’m counting it. The line “I ain’t never gonna let her go” sums it all up. Click here to listen.
  • Boy Gets a Truck by Keith Urban—these lyrics are a wonderful love story, “Boy gets a truck. Truck gets a girl. Girl gets a midnight feeling he’s the one, one night turns to love. Love turns into one knee down, down payment on a three-bedroom house filled with the sound of little feet. Then you blink and he’s asking for the keys to pick her up. Boy gets a truck.” Wow. I wish I’d written that. Click here to listen. 
  • That Ain’t My Truck by Rhett Akins—I feel the pain and anguish the singer feels from the moment he starts singing about driving past the house of the woman he loves and sees another man’s truck at her house. Click here to listen.
  • Look at My Truck by Chase Rice—Yup, a man’s truck says a lot about him. “If ya want to get to get to know me it ain’t that hard. It’s sitting on some Goodyears there in the yard. Got some dents, got some dings, been my best friend since I was 16, baptized in dirty water, handed down to me from my father. If ya wanna know, wanna know what I’m made of just look at my truck.” More words I wish I’d written. Click here to listen. 
  • Pick Up Man by Joe Diffie—I included this one, too because a pickup is a specific kind of truck. I love the lines about the singer getting his first pick up when he was three, driving 100,000 miles on his knees, and how he moved a Barbie doll bed for the girl next door. And the lines, “there’s something about a pick up man” and “if it weren’t for trucks, we wouldn’t have tailgates” are priceless. Click here to listen.
  • We Rode In Trucks by Luke Bryan—sums up how a man’s life and his truck are intertwined. Click here to listen.
  • Mud On the Tires by Brad Paisley—again, this one doesn’t have the word truck in the title, but the tires are ones on his new Chevrolet truck but adding that to the title isn’t as catchy. ? This is one of my favorites. Brad Paisley paints a picture of him and his girl spending time with each other and getting “a little mud on the tires.”
  • I Drive Your Truck by Lee Brice written by Connie Harrington, Jessi Alexander, and Jimmy Yearymy other favorite song with truck in the title, but grab a handful of tissues before you listen to it. Here’s the poignant story behind the song. One Memorial Day weekend, songwriter Connie Harrington heard a father on radio show talking about his son, fallen soldier, Army Sgt. 1st Class Jared Monti, who died in Afghanistan while trying to save a fellow soldier. When asked how he would commemorate his son, the father said, he’d drive his truck. “What can I tell you? It’s him. It’s got his DNA all over it. I love driving it because it reminds me of him, though I don’t need the truck to remind me of him. I think about him every hour of every day.”
  • Click here to hear the song. Then click here to listen to “Mud on the Tires” to make you smile.

I always knew trucks meant a lot to their owners,  but after listening to these songs, it will change my writing because they’re more.

Giveaway:  To be entered in the random drawing for a signed copy of Aiming For His Heart, the Happy Clips, and the phone pocket, leave a comment about your favorite truck song or just a comment about trucks.


  • After a comment from MaryEllen Cox I have to add another song. Wait In the Truck by Hardy, featuring Lainey Wilson. Another wow that will hit you emotionally. Click here to listen.

Julie Benson’s Winner!

Thank you to everyone who stopped by the corral to chat with me about quilting superstitions.

And the winner of the ebook version of Aiming for His Heart is…

Lori Smanski

Lori, look for an email from me regarding how to claim your copy of Aiming for His Heart.

Take care, stay safe, and for goodness sake don’t do any quilting, or to be safe any sewing, on Sundays!



Quilting Superstitions

Since my oldest son recently married, I intended to write a post on wedding traditions but as what happens, my plans went awry. The more I wrote, the more it sounded like a high school Home Ec report.

My son and I before his wedding

However, when researching wedding traditions, I discovered single women in the 1800s stressed over whether they would marry. To cope, they relied on parlor games or predictions such as tossing cats into new quilts. That sent me down a rabbit hole to discover how traumatizing poor cats in a quilt could predict a woman wouldn’t be an old maid or reveal her true love. That led me to an article on quilt superstitions and a topic change.

Here are some superstitions I discovered. My comment (because I couldn’t post these without saying something. 🙂 ) follow each superstition.




  • Never make a quilt with 13 blocks
    • I assume it’s because 13 is unlucky. Okay, now I’m wondering how and why 13 was labeled as unlucky. But I’ll save that for another day.
  • If a thread breaks, it will bring misfortune.
    • There should be a warning label on thread because who hasn’t broken a thread while sewing a quilt? And does it bring major misfortune such as a car accident or a minor one like losing a shoe? Come on, be specific about how bad this will be.
  • Stitching a spider web design into a quilt will bring good luck. Because a spider web is so easy to work into every quilt design.
    • First, a four-leaf clover or horseshoe, for luck I could see. But a spider web? Second, I never remember seeing one in anything but Halloween quilts. The solution to that is to sew a small one in somewhere, but I’m not that talented. ? I guess whoever I give future quilts will have to add one or do without the extra good luck until I figure out how to sew one. Either that or I have apologies to make.
  • It’s bad luck to give away your first quilt.
    • This would’ve been nice to know before I gave my first quilt to my son. However, since that quilt stayed in my stayed in my house, maybe I didn’t get too much bad luck for that.
The first quilt I made which I gave to my oldest son.


  • When a new quilt is finished, the first woman it is thrown over will marry first. Wrapping her in it will ensure she marries within a year.
    • I’m wondering if throwing the quilt over is different than wrapping her up in it, or if one superstition is simply more specific.
  • Wedding quilts should have borders of continuous vines or ribbon patterns because a broken border means the marriage will be broken too.
    • I must be an awful person because my first thought here was, if someone didn’t like who their child was marrying, they could give the couple a quilt with a broken border.
  • If a single female puts the last stitch in a quilt, she will become an old maid.
    • This superstition was easy to avoid when quilting bees or circles were prevalent, but what’s a gal to do now, call a married friend or relative to put in the last stitch?
  • After taking a quilt off the frame, wrapping it around an unmarried woman will give her luck to find a husband. Throwing it at the first single man she sees, will “charmed” him into a relationship. If a young lady shakes a new quilt out the door, the first man who comes through the door will be her future husband.
    • From the little research I did, I discovered there was a lot of quilt shaking and throwing them at folks in the past, making me wonder if there are other superstitions to uncover. But apparently they had to be newly completed quilts. Which spurns me to wonder why they had to be new…


My bff made this beautiful quilt for me.


  • If you sew on a Sunday, you will have to pull out those stitches with your nose when you get to heaven.
    • First, with the way heaven is described in the Bible, I find it hard to believe God would punish a quilter this way upon arrival. Second, how would I pull out stitches with my nose?! Guess I’ll learn that should I be blessed enough to get to the Pearly Gates.
  • Quilts started on Friday will never be finished.
    • Again, why would this be worse than starting on any other day, except Sunday of course. ?

And finally, Cats and quilts and the answer to the question that started this.

  • If women stand in a circle and “shake up a cat” in new quilt, the one the feline runs toward will be the first to marry.


To be entered in my random drawing for an ebook version of my Pink Pistol Sisterhood novel, Aiming for His Heart, leave a comment about quilting, superstitions, or whatever’s on your mind.


Cowgirls in the Kitchen – Julie Benson


I’ve always loved cooking shows. When my oldest was a toddler I’d watch Jacque Peppin on PBS, followed by Great Chefs of the West. My son loved the music show so much, he’d stand in front of the TV and dance. Even now thirty-two years later, I can still close my eyes and see him bouncing to the theme.

As I started writing this, I realized how long the list of series I’ve enjoyed over the years is. Cupcake Wars or any holiday season war. The Next Food Network Star. Top Chef. Chopped. (You know that one. Where they give you a basket of ingredients such as mushrooms, some kind of cheese, sausage, and marshmallow fluff and tell you to make an appetizer. ?) Beat Bobby Flay. (We got our favorite spaghetti and meatballs recipe from an episode of that show.) But I think our favorite has to be Iron Chefs America. My youngest son who often cooked with me, would pretend we were on an episode. He would choose the “secret ingredient” and we would joke about how we were incorporating it into our dish.

When we fillies came up with the idea to do Cowgirls in the Kitchen, sharing recipes with four or less ingredients, I was a bit concerned. It’s not that I don’t have wonderful recipes. I do, but ones with four or less ingredients? Ah, no. So, I did what I always do. I wandered around the house in a panic, talking to any family members who would listen and the dogs who always listen on how I had no idea what to do.

Thankfully my youngest son shared this recipe with me, Cacio e Pepe, which means cheese and pepper. made with ingredients most people have on hand. I hope you enjoy it.


8 oz spaghetti

2 Tbsp butter

½ C grated parmesan cheese

½ tsp cracked pepper


Bring salted water to a boil and cook spaghetti according to package instructions. Drain pasta, but reserve 2/3 C pasta water.

Return pasta to the pot, add butter and pasta water. Cook over low heat until butter is melted. Add grated cheese and pepper. Toss until cheese melts and a creamy sauce forms.

Top with more grated cheese before serving.

We added grilled chicken, a dark green salad and garlic break to round out the meal.





Coffee Shops and Making Friends

When my bestie moved to Lexington, Kentucky a few years ago after living in the Chicago area for nearly 20 years we talked about how hard it is to make new friends now that our children are grown. (Yet another reason why I hate moving. I have nightmares about being the ‘new kid.’) When our boys were young it was easier. Our friends were parents of our children’s teammates, other band/choir/dance/insert your child’s activity.

So how can we make friends when we don’t have those child center friendship pools to draw on? Work and church come to mind. But so many of us work from home now. Or, what if you are a manager, and socializing with those you supervise is awkward? What if you’re retired? What if you can’t find a church you’re comfortable with?

The other day another friend shared Mel Robbins’ video “The ‘Coffee Shop Friendship Theory’ Will Change Your Life” with me. Here’s my quick summary, but if you’d rather watch the short video, click here. Robbins claims coffee shops are a great place to make friends, but there are four types which have people with different interests who frequent them. The first being chains, she says aren’t a good place to find friends. (Ironic note—I met Val met because I write in Starbucks Monday through Friday mornings. ?) The next type, “first responders” shops are frequented by town natives and community volunteers. Third is the “local coffee” shop where moms go before work or after dropping kids off at school. The last is the “high end” type which is fancy schmancy. After determining which type suits you, Robbins suggests going to a coffee shop for an hour multiple times during the week and once on the weekends. I recommend going around the same time each day for a while as people tend to come into the shop around the same time. If you don’t connect with someone then try a different time of day.

However, in this video she doesn’t say how to form the connection but having been blessed to find friends from writing in coffee shops over the years here’s what I suggest. Smile and say hello. Get the door for someone whose hands are full. Chat while you’re waiting in line. Compliment someone. Be kind. But from the way y’all are around the corral every month, I’m sure you know that. That’s just the way you are and you always brighten my day.

For me, interacting with people in little ways and even if it doesn’t form a lasting friendship, improves my mood, makes the world a better place, and reminds me what’s important in life—the connections, even small fleeting one, we make. My hope is that we all discover as the Beatles say, “And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.”


GIVEAWAY:  To be entered in my random drawing for a $10 Starbucks gift card, tell me how you met your best friend.