Lessons From My Grandmothers

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

The older I get the more grateful I am for what my grandmothers taught me. I wish I could spend one more day with each of them to ask all the life, history, and family questions I was too young to know would be important later.

Most of the recipes I’ve shared with you were my Grandma Walter’s. I wish I’d made time to write down more of them while she cooked. As my birthday approaches, I remember the times I was on the farm in July. She would ask what I wanted for a birthday cake, and my response was always the same. I wanted her angel food cake with fresh strawberries mashed so they were all syrupy. She also gave me a love of gardening, though my thumb is more brown than green like hers was. I took a sewing class in high school (and still use those skills) because she sewed. From her I learned how women could be quiet, patient, and still possess an indominable strength.

My Grandma Ryan’s grocery store in Ohio, Illinois.

My father’s mother, my Grandma Ryan, possessed a more obvious strength. Widowed young, she raised four sons. With three grown sons, I can’t begin to imagine how daunting and scary that must have been. I wish now I’d asked her how she managed. She remarried, but her second husband died when I was a toddler, leaving her with a general store to run in a town of less than five hundred people. She had breast cancer before I was born and bone cancer as long as I can remember. Through all that, she never complained or thought God was punishing her with these trials. She loved to play cards and would sit with my brother and I playing her current favorite card game. From her I learned to laugh and that a woman could make a life for herself. But the best gift my Grandma Ryan gave me was, making me feel special. As one of only two granddaughters, she made no secret she loved us just a bit more.

A picture of me and my Grandma Ryan when I was two.

No wonder grandparents play such guiding, supportive roles in many of my books. In my most recent release, To Marry a Texas Cowboy, Zane carries a plane full of family baggage. After divorcing, his parents concentrated on their new lives and families. Zane became collateral damage and part of a past they wanted to forget. Who stepped in to fill the void and create the hero I fell in love with the minute he walked on the page as a friend in To Love A Texas Cowboy? His grandparents.

My Grandma Ryan spent every Thanksgiving and Christmas with us, but rarely cooked. Today I’m sharing a recipe she gave me. This one, referred to as “frozen salad,” is easy and great for these hot summer days. Two notes about it. First, while we called it a salad, it could be served as dessert, and second, watch out for brain freeze eating it straight out of the freezer! I prefer to give it a minute or two to thaw some before eating.

Frozen Salad

Ingredients:

  • 1 can Eagle Brand sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 can cherry pie filling
  • 1 lg. can crushed pineapple (drained)
  • ¼ tsp almond extract
  • ¼ C lemon juice
  • 1 12 oz container Cool Whip (thawed)

Directions:

Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl. Place in 8 x 8 freezer safe container overnight.

 

Giveaway: To be entered in today’s random drawing for the USA y’all T-shirt and a signed copy of To Marry a Texas Cowboy, leave a comment about something you learned from a grandparent or significant older person in your life.

 

Happy Cabbage Night!

I knew Halloween evolved from the Celtic festival of Samhain and All Hallow’s Eve, but that was about all I knew. This year I decided to change that and dove into researching Halloween. First, I learned in New England the night before Halloween is Cabbage Night. Right now, I’m glad I live in Texas, because this tradition involves “pranksters” leaving rotten vegetables near a neighbor’s front door! I doubt this did much to promote good neighbor relations! Despite that, Happy Cabbage Night y’all.

Now on to Halloween…

I discovered many Halloween traditions revolved around helping women identify her potential husband or reassuring her she would indeed find a one. In 18th century Ireland, a cook would bury a ring in her mashed potatoes on Halloween. The hope was that the ring would bring the finder true love.

In Scotland, fortune tellers instructed marriage-minded women to name her hazelnuts after her suitors. Boy does that sound odd. 🙂 Then she was to toss them, the hazelnuts not her suitors, 🙂 into the fire. The nut that burned completely rather than exploding represented her future husband. Another legend insisted if a woman ate a sweet treat of walnuts, hazelnuts and nutmeg on Halloween, she would dream of her future husband that night.

Women would throw apple peelings over their shoulders in hopes of forming the initials of her future husband’s name. I wonder if there was strategic throwing involved with this tradition to get a desired result. Another legend told a woman to stand in front of a mirror in a dark room holding a candle. The hope was if she peered into the mirror, would see her husband’s face over her shoulder.

Halloween parties could get competitive regarding matrimony. For example, the first guest to find a burr on a chestnut hunt would be the next one to marry. The first one to successfully bob for apples was predicted to walk down the aisle soon. This tradition had visions of unmarried women practicing their bobbing for apple skills before Halloween parties to ensure a victory to pop into my head!

Because beliefs of different European countries mixed with American Indian traditions, America developed its own unique version of Halloween. At first, celebrations featured “play parties” to celebrate the harvest. Neighbors shared stories about the dead, told fortunes, danced and sang. The night also included mischief. But in the late 1800’s, people tried to shift the holiday away from ghosts, pranks and witchcraft to a more community or neighborly get together holiday. Parents were encouraged to remove anything frightening, grotesque or scary from their Halloween celebrations. Despite this community-centered focus, adding parades and town-wide parties, by the 1920’s and 30’s, vandalism became prevalent.

However, by the 1950’s communities had tampered down on the vandalism and Halloween became a more child-centered holiday. This probably was a result of all those post-war babies, too. Communities revived the tradition of trick-or-treating after it was halted due to sugar rationing during WWII. The thought was people could prevent being pranked by giving children a small treat.

Today, Halloween is America’s second largest commercial holiday, surpassed only by Christmas. We spend around 9 billion, yup with a billion with B, annually. That’s a lot of candy, costumes and yard art. It works out to an average American shelling out $86.79.

Speaking of candy…we haven’t even touched that delicious subject. But let’s do that now. Leave a comment on what’s your favorite trick-or-treat candy and why or what one makes you you want to pull a trick on someone to be entered for today’s giveaway. One random commenter will receive the pumpkin coasters and a copy of Family Ties.

Christmas Stockings

Hello everyone, Winnie Griggs here. Are you one of those super organized holiday people who have up their Christmas decorations the day after Thanksgiving and mail out their Christmas cards the following week? I used to be, but I have to admit, not so much lately.  As of today just about the only decorating I’ve done is to hang up the Christmas stockings. (Mantle is looking mighty crowded these days – I LOVE it!!)

The four stockings made from the same fabric are ones I made for my kids when they were very young. I even crossed stitched their names and a holiday design on the cuff. When my oldest daughter got married I purchased her husband a stocking but cross stitched a cuff to add to it so that it matched the other four. Unfortunately, by the time my next daughter got married my cross stitching days were behind me. So I personalized the rest of them with jaunty embroidered patches.

 

As I was taking care of that fun bit of holiday tradition (and remembering holidays past), it made me wonder, where did the custom of hanging stockings come from.  So I decided to do a bit of research.

It turns out that there are two schools of thought on how this came to be, both shrouded in myth and tradition.

The most popular theory is that it is linked to the stories surrounding the generosity of the original St. Nicholas. Nicholas lived in the third century and was renowned for his concern for and generosity toward those in need. One story tells of a poor widower who had three daughters. The man was distraught over the fate his daughters were facing since he had now dowry to offer prospective husbands. The story goes that Nicholas heard of the family’s plight and secretly, so as to not gain honor for himself, entered their home and left gold coins in the girls stocking which were hung by the fire to dry. Thus the practice of hanging stockings by the fireplace in hopes of receiving a gift was born. Oh, and sometimes an alternate version is given that has Nicholas leaving a small gold ball in each stocking. This is supposedly where the custom of putting oranges in the toe of stockings comes from.

 

The second theory on the origin of the Christmas comes from a completely different belief system, that of Norse mythology. According to this version, children would fill their shoes with straw, root vegetables or sugar and leave them on the hearth for Odin’s flying horse  to eat. As a reward for their kindness Odin would replace their offering with one of his own, that of gifts or sweets.

This practice was widely spread through Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands. Once Christianity was adopted, the legend of Odin’s benevolence merged with the stories of St. Nicholas evolving over time into today’s current practice.

 

Whatever the truth of the matter, I’m glad this fun tradition is part of our current day holiday celebrations.

 

So what about you? Does your family hang stockings? Is there a story behind any of the stockings themselves?

Leave a comment to be entered in a drawing for one of two copies of the re-release of The Christmas Journey

Philadelphia lawyer Ryland Lassiter is everything Josephine Wylie wants – for a brother-in-law!  As the sole supporter of her family, Josie’s plans for herself have always had to wait.  But Ryland will be ideal as the new head of the Wylie clan…once he finally realizes how perfect he is for her sister.

 

Ry knows its time to settle down.  The newly appointed guardian to a friend’s daughter, he’s ready for a home and family.  All he needs is a bride…and Josie’s sister is not the Wylie who has caught his eye.  If only Josie would see the truth – that the only Christmas present he needs is her love.

Family Reunion and a Recipe

 

Hello everyone, Winnie Griggs here.

Today is Columbus Day.  About 4 years ago I wrote a post celebrating the day with lots of fun facts and trivia – you can view it by clicking HERE. So, instead of a repeat, I thought I’d talk about something else.

This past weekend was my hubby’s family’s annual reunion. It’s something we always look forward to. It’s an opportunity for him and all of his siblings and cousins and everyone’s extended families to come together and get reacquainted. Those we’ve lost since the last gathering are remembered and additions through birth, adoption or marriage are joyfully welcomed.

We usually gather mid-morning and visit, look at photos and family memorabilia folks have brought with them, update a large family tree chart and just generally enjoy each others company. Then we have a group meal provided potluck-style by the attendees. 
After lunch several of us drive out to visit hubby’s old home place, evoking memories for the adults and nurturing an appreciation of their roots for the younger generation.

All in all, Saturday was a wonderfully lovely day.

Now for the recipe I promised you. I love to experiment with new ideas and combinations of flavors when I cook. For the reunion this year however, I was hampered by the fact that not only did I wait until a few days before to think about what I was going to cook, but doctor’s orders still have me restricted from driving so I had to make do with what was already in the house. The following recipe and accompanying notes will probably give you some insights into how my mind works.  Keep in mind that I developed this on the fly and rarely measure so many of the quantities listed are approximate.

 

Oh, and also keep in mind that I was cooking for a large group gathering (we usually run around 40+ people) – this should be scaled back for smaller groups.

 

Winnie’s Chicken And Sausage Potluck Pasta 

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound sausage, diced (I used a skinless smoked sausage because that’s what I had on hand, but I think it would be great with andouille)
  • Shredded Turkey (I used leftovers of a roasted turkey, pulled from the carcass and frozen in a 1 quart container in it’s own broth)
  • Dehydrated  seasonings (again using what I had in the pantry, you can substitute fresh) as follows:
    2 tblsp chives
    2 tblsp minced onion
    1 tsp celery flakes
    ½ tsp garlic
  • 3 boxes Pasta Roni (angel hair with herbs)
  • 1 can Rotel diced tomatoes and green chilies
    I put them in the food processor and give it a couple of quick pulses because I don’t like big chunks, but this step is totally optional.
    Also, I like spicy so if I was cooking this just for me I would have used a full can. But since I was cooking this for a mixed crowd, I just used about ½ the can
  • 1 can of small English peas, drained
  • Black Pepper to taste

Note, most of the ingredients already contain salt so you should taste the finished product before adding more

Directions

  • Brown sausage in a large skillet.
  • Add dehydrated seasonings along with turkey (with broth). Continue to cook together until liquid has reduced.
  • Remove meat from pan and set aside. 
  • In the same pan, cook pasta according to package directions, except at the point when the pasta and sauce are added to the liquid, also add rotel.
  • Once pasta is cooked, add meat, peas and pepper and continue to cook on low heat for ten minutes, stirring frequently and adding liquid as needed.

There you go. Not the most complex or elegant of dishes, but believe it or not, I had several folks come up after the meal and ask for my recipe 🙂

 

So what about you? Does your family schedule reunions or get togethers? And have you invented any dishes you’d like to share the recipes for?

Good Gravy By Crystal L Barnes

Howdy y’all! Thanks for having me back on Petticoats and Pistols. It’s always a treat. And speaking of treats…when was the last time you treated yourself to some good old-fashioned home cooking? I’m talking Texas-style comfort food, y’all. Steak and taters. Sausage gravy and homemade biscuits. Black-eyed peas and cornbread. Mmmmm…I think I’m getting hungry. 🙂

If you haven’t figured it out, I love to cook and bake (just not clean—praise God for dishwashers!). Like many of the characters you’ll find in my historical western romances or other old-time westerns, I was reared, for the most part, on what my family grew, raised, or hunted. Pretty much still am. In my kitchen you’ll find anything from venison to home-grown chicken to home-canned veggies and fruit preserves. Through the years my table and taste buds have enjoyed rabbit, squirrel, wild hog, and even steers from our pasture, to name a few.

                                  

I love to intermingle these types of tidbits into my stories, and I thought some of you authors and history lovers, who don’t delve into these delicacies 😉 often, would enjoy a few fun facts about this type of down-home cooking.

For example, did you know…?

  • A squirrel is all dark meat and tastes a lot like chicken. They are very lean, but go great with dumplings.
  • A rabbit is all white meat. 🙂 Just don’t eat one in a month without an R in the name. (I can tell you why from my dad’s personal experience, but I don’t want to test those with weak stomachs.)
    • In my family, we joke when we eat rabbit and say we’re having “furry chicken.” My favorite is BBQ rabbit. Only don’t smoke them on the pit too long or they’ll be like eating cotton-candy bunny—it practically dissolves in your mouth.
  • When cleaned properly—if no one punctures a scent gland—deer meat actually does not taste gamey. If a scent gland does get hit/cut, you can soak the meat in salt water to remove the gamey smell and taste. Venison is leaner than beef and higher in iron too. (It’s my favorite! 🙂 )

Now that I’ve shared a few tidbits, why don’t you take a turn? What unique or country-style dishes have you eaten? What is your favorite comfort food? Were any of these tidbits news to you? Leave a comment and let me know.

I’ll be giving away a FREE copy (ebook or paperback) of one of my stories to one of this post’s commenters, and I’ll give a second FREE copy (ebook or paperback) to the first person that correctly answers the following question.

What is the most integral ingredient in any country-cooking kitchen?
(I rarely cook a meal without it.)

Winners may select one of the following titles:
(Paperback for contiguous US winners only.)

 

 

An award-winning author, bona fide country girl, and former gymnast,  Crystal L Barnes tells stories of fun, faith, and friction that allow her to share her love of Texas, old-fashioned things, and the Lord—not necessarily in that order. When she’s not writing, reading, or singing, Crystal enjoys exploring on road-trips, spending time with family, and watching old movies/sitcoms. I Love Lucy and Little House on the Prairie are two of her favorites. You can find out more and connect with Crystal at http://www.crystal-barnes.com

Find her also on her blog, the Stitches Thru Time group blog, her Amazon Author Page, Goodreads, Pinterest, Google+, or her Facebook Author page.

Want to be notified of her latest releases and other fun tidbits? Subscribe to her newsletter.

 

 

 

Life Always Looks Better in the Saddle

I know the Easter Bunny has come and hopped away, but one day at my favorite shop, Rustic Ranch, I saw the little guy below and couldn’t resist him for a blog giveaway! Since I had an Easter giveaway, I decided to stick with the theme for the post. While researching old-west Easter traditions—or attempting to because my brain and Google’s are on two different wave lengths—I stumbled across an April 21, 2011 article on patch.com. The story by Ryan E. Smith was about Shepherd of the Hills Church and them encouraging people to ride to Easter service on horseback!

The article according to Kathy Alonzo says, “…riding around the area—whether it’s to the store, a service, or a local event can be a wonderful experience.” Then it mentioned that Alonzo is involved in two therapeutic horse programs. Those two things got me thinking how my characters often find the world looks better on horseback. In fact, at least one of my heroes has utter almost exactly those words.

Many animals, particularly horses and dogs, have healing properties we haven’t begun to understand. Equestrian programs help people suffering from traumatic brain injuries, post-traumatic stress disorder, Cerebral Palsy, Autism, Multiple Sclerosis, and other physical, mental, social or emotional challenges. If horseback riding can help with these major life difficulties, think of what it could do for day-to-day stresses. On their website, Equest Center for Therapeutic Riding, the organization that assisted with my research for Roping the Rancher, says, “To anyone who has been smitten by the calm I’ve-seen-it-all gaze of a horse, or who has stood beside a horse and believed the horse was literally seeing into her soul, the concept of horse-as-healer is not a great stretch.”

In my stories my characters often have a connection with the land around them and have a sense of the Old West heritage. Not only that, but they frequently learn how this connection, along with one to animals changes a person for the better. Technology is wonderful and has improved our lives in countless ways, but there needs to be a better balance between old and new. Maybe we should do more of what Shepherd of the Hills Church did and encourage people to ride a horse to ride to church.

Not all of us have access to a horse, but there are other options that we aren’t using in our society. Families used to live closer together and when Mom and Dad had to work, grandparents were there to help with children. Everyone benefited. No one was alone. That reminded me of an episode of The Middle where Patricia Heaton’s character Frankie wonders why we have separate animal shelters, nursing homes and daycare centers. She talks about how all three groups would benefit from spending time together. I’ve often thought so, too.

My recommendation today is for everyone today to spend time with a young person. Pet a dog or cat. Or, if you’re lucky and have access to a horse, saddle up! Ride to the store, or just around the countryside. No matter what your problems are, I’m betting life will look a lot better after you do.

Now leave me a comment for a chance to win my Easter giveaway!

Comfort and Joy

 

 Due to an ice storm that knocked our power out for a day and a half right before New Year’s Eve, I had plenty of time on my hands to do some much needed cleaning and sorting in my cupboards and closets.

As I dug through one deep drawer where I store assorted blankets, I happened upon a well-loved quilt.

My mama helped me make it one cold, snowy January when I was heading off to begin my college internship 1,100 miles away. The fabric used in the nine-patch quilt came from scraps saved from a variety of places, but all connected to sweet memories. When I settled into my tiny apartment, all alone in that big city, I curled up under the quilt and found comfort in the lovingly-made stitches. The quilt became a reminder of home, of family, of the my ties to the past. Even after I married Captain Cavedweller, the quilt came along. It was often the covering I reached for when I needed a bit of comfort when I once again found myself all alone while he worked nights.

I took the quilt out of the drawer and spent a powerless afternoon cuddled beneath the warmth of it while the joy of remembering sweet times from years ago flooded through me.

Quilts have always been important to me because they’ve always been gifts made with incredible love.

quilt sunbonnet sue

My Grandma Ila made this quilt for me when I was a little girl. It graced my little twin-sized bed in my very pink bedroom for years and years. The pattern is Parasol Lady.

 

quilt roses grandma nell one block

CC’s grandmother made this quilt for us one year for Christmas. She knew how much I love roses and surprised us with this beautiful cross-stitched quilt. Grandma is no longer with us, but the love she put into this quilt will last forever.

 

quilt rose of sharon full

This is the quilt Grandma Ila made as our wedding gift. She let me pick the pattern and the colors then she and my mom pieced and quilted it. There was a lot of piecing and a lot of quilting and a lot of love that went into this Rose of Sharon variation quilt.

 

 

quilt grandma jackson

My Grandma Elsie started this Tulip Basket quilt for my mom back when she was a teen. Mom told Grandma she didn’t like the colors, so Grandma never finished the quilt. One day when I was in high school, we were at Grandma’s helping her clean and found a bag with the quilt blocks. Grandma gave them to me, so Mom put the top together and quilted it. When she completed it, she couldn’t remember why she thought it was ugly in the first place.

 

quilt grandma nell's mom

The blocks for this quilt came from CC’s Grandma Nell. Her mother made the squares back in the early 1900s. No one ever finished the quilt. She gave them to me and when we needed one more block to make the quilt work, Mom did the one with the pink roses (pictured top left of the above photo). Mom sewed the top, then did all the quilting.  I should mention that Mom and Grandma did their quilting by hand. No fancy machines for them. I remember seeing a quilt frame stretched across our entire living room on many occasions. In later years, Mom would quilt using a big hoop instead of the frame.

Unfortunately, with all the talented quilters I’ve known, the gene and talent completely escaped me. I can sew – but quilting is beyond my patience and skill. That doesn’t, however, keep me from having one (or three) storage tubs full of fabric I hope to someday make into quilts. I’ll just have to find someone to do the quilting.

 

quilts pile

I enjoy looking at the quilts and thinking of all the love, detail and skill that went into making them.

Last year, I participated in a series of books that featured quilts. It was a lot of fun for me because it brought to mind all the quilts I watched my grandmas and mom make over the years.

The series, Grandma’s Wedding Quilts (which includes a book by fellow Filly Kathryn Albright!), features all sweet novellas. Grandma Mary’s traditional gift to each of her grandchildren is a hand-pieced and hand-stitched quilt, woven with memories, wisdom, and a family legacy of enduring love.

tads-treasure

My contribution to the set, Tad’s Treasure, is the final book in the series.

Tad Palmer makes a promise to his dying friend to watch over the man’s wife and child. Years later, he continues to keep an eye on Posey Jacobs and her precocious little boy. The only problem is that he’s not sure his heart can withstand the vow he made when he falls in love with the widow and her son.

Posey Jacobs misses her beloved husband, but her wrenching grief has given way to hope for the future as she finds herself falling deeper and deeper in love with Tad Palmer. However, the infuriating man doesn’t seem to notice her interest and treats her as he would his sister.

Throw in a goat who thinks she’s a dog, a town full of quirky characters, and this widow has her work cut out for her if she wants one handsome cowboy to give her his heart.

~*~

To enter for a chance to win an autographed copy of Tad’s Treasure, just answer this question:

What’s your favorite way to stay warm on a cold winter day?

Wishing you call comfort and joy throughout this new year!

Christmas Came Just the Same–Imperfections and All!

First, I wish everyone a blessed and happy 2018.

Last month I wrote about how doing less could make for a better holiday. I truly believe that, but this year I pushed the cutting back on the holiday production to the limits.

It was one of those years when my dear hubby and I couldn’t get our act together. It started with our tree, but continued all the way through New Year’s Day. Normally, we decorate the tree the day after Thanksgiving, but this year everyone had other activities. Hubby and I kept saying we’d get it done, but three days before Christmas, there we were, still without a tree. While we did put one up and had lights, we never did put on the ornaments. But you know what? To paraphrase Dr. Seuss and my husband, “Christmas was just fine.”

I’ve spent years working to overcome my perfectionist nature. In the past I became upset when little things went wrong or didn’t get done because I felt everything had to be perfect. I missed opportunities to be present in the moment because I believed I had to be perfect.

This year I realized I do write what I know. My characters, especially my heroines, often struggle with trying to please everyone. They wrestle with the idea that their self-worth is tied to their accomplishments and others’ approval. They’re trying to be perfect. Those characters learn the journey can be as important as the destination.

Over the years while I’ve learned that lesson, I do backslide. (I felt guilty about cutting so many holiday corners, but not too guilty.) So, I’ve decided this year I’m making changes regarding New Year’s resolutions. My BFF Lori quotes a blog written by Jen Hatmaker on January 5, 2015 entitled “The Thing About Being More Awesome.” (If you want to read the blog go to http://www.Jenhatmaker.com.) She claims many resolutions set us up for failure and revolve around trying to be “more awesome.” We think we need to be the best author, mother, friend, spouse, and the list goes on. She insists, “The finish line to this particular rat race is THE GRAVE.” Lori and I joke about making a sign with the resolution Try To Be Less Awesome. Translation—quit trying to be perfect. So that’s what I’m going to do in 2018.

The best I can do is good enough, and I’m going to celebrate it. I’m giving myself permission to say yes to what gives me joy, no to what doesn’t, and to feel less guilty about both. Life is too short to live it any other way.

When my perfectionist starts nagging me, I plan to tell myself to quit trying to be more awesome. Now it’s your turn. Leave a comment about what helps you when you find yourself trying to do too much, and be entered for a chance to win the ornament and a Leather and Lace scented candle from my favorite shop Rustic Ranch!

Christmas Nostalgia

Hello everyone, Winnie Griggs here.  I always get nostalgic when I take the Christmas decorations out. So many memories attached to various pieces.  And while they all evoke fond thoughts of Christmas past, there are a few that are extra special to me.

The first is the little bubble light tree I’ve pictured below. I believe I’ve posted about this before, but one of my earliest Christmas memories is of raptly watching the dancing movement of these lights as this tree sat on the console table of my grandparents’ home.

The second one is our tree topper. This ornament that is a combination of angel, nativity and star has topped our tree for over 30 years.  I can still hear my children vying for the chance to be the one to set it in its place of honor and the lively debates over who did it ‘last year’.

And the last ones I want to share with you are these. They are two of the few surviving ornaments from the very first set hubby and I bought our first Christmas after we got married. Our tree was rather bare that year, and several of the decorations were handmade, but I was so very proud of how it looked.

There are many more memories that the decorations bring to mind, but I’ll leave it there.

I want to wish each of you a very joyous and blessed Christmas – here is my Christmas card to you.

Fall In Texas

I’m from Iowa, and there it’s easy to tell fall has arrived. The trees change to lovely shades of yellow, orange and crimson. A crispness lingers in the air all day. It feels like fall. I love that time of year. Wearing jackets, snuggling under a blanket with a good romance on Saturday. Walking on crunching leaves.

Now I live in Texas, and fall is different from what I knew growing up. In Texas, it’s hard to tell autumn has arrived. Halloween has come and gone, and Thanksgiving is around the corner. Despite what the calendar says, this week’s forecast is for record high temperatures. We’re talking hitting ninety degrees. When the leaves change, they turn a shade of brown and fall off the tress. Not exactly the ooh-ahh fall colors I spotted in the Midwest.

Saying It’s been an adjustment for me is like saying Texas and Texas A&M have a little rivalry. Over the years I’ve learned fall is heralded in different ways in Texas. First and foremost, we know it’s fall because of the arrival of football season. Yes, it’s true. Football is almost a religion here in Texas. From high schools on Friday night to TCU, Baylor, Texas Tech, Texas and Texas A&M on Saturday. There’s even have a “Red River Showdown” between Texas and OU at the Texas State Fair.

Which brings me to another huge sign of fall in Texas, the state fair. When people start talking about corny dogs, turkey legs, and fried any and everything, I know autumn has arrived. I hear Big Tex’s voice and see pictures of him everywhere. In 2012 when Big Tex caught on fire, it was huge news. We got updates on the progress to rebuild him, including details on changes in his iconic outfit.

But I’ve learned to adjust. I decorate the yard and house for fall, Halloween, and then Thanksgiving. I admit a couple times I had a fire and then turned on the air conditioner because the house got so warm. I bake items that remind me of fall. One of my family’s favorite is pumpkin bread.

Pumpkin Bread

3 1/3 C flour
3 C sugar
4 eggs
1C oil
2/3 C water
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 can pumpkin
½ black walnut flavoring
Sift dry ingredients into a bowl. Make a “well” in the center. Add eggs, water, oil and black walnut flavoring in well. Mix. Add canned pumpkin. Mix. Place in greased loaf pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour.

Now tell me about your favorite fall tradition and be entered in the drawing to win the pumpkin and Home On The Ranch: Colorado.