Thursday, December 31, 2009

Oh, The Shame Of It All...!

Well, I did my best!

I tried to teach them, preach at them, even tried to lead by example...but all to no avail!

I've told them of all the mistakes I've made in years past, I've shown them the pictures and read them the horror stories out of the paper! All for naught...!

They just sit there, disinterested, staring at me with those innocent blue eyes and a stupid smile starting at the corners of their little mouths! Nothing that I do or say seems to have any effect at all!

The oldest and biggest has already left the house, looking for someone to fight or a lady to chase! Sometimes I don't know which he likes best!

His brother, the smallest one, has already started with the hard stuff! Thank goodness the neighbors can't see this! Thank goodness their brothers and sisters can't witness this!

Thank goodness neither of them can drive...!

Not only is he tipping so early...he's using a STRAW! I know I taught him better than that! What a sorry sight! Red eyes, lost look on his face...and singing at the top of his lungs!

Oh, the shame of it all...but what can you do?

I know...! We can get some fresh coffee and sit in the kitchen for a bit! Just try and not stare at the staggering cat in the dining room, OK?

Happy New Year, everyone!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

In With The New, Out With The Old...!

With the New Year just around the corner, I wanted to touch on some a few little known origins of our celebrations.

It's always interesting to find out where our so-called "modern" activities come from.

Many of the superstitions associated with the bringing in the New Year bear the common theme that activities engaged in on that day set the pattern for the year to come. Others have to do with warding off evil spirits or attracting luck.

Because January 1 is the first day of the new year, we have drawn a connection between what we do on that day and our fate throughout the rest of the year. Here are some of the ways we attempt to guarantee a good outcome through our acts on that portentous first day:

* Kissing at midnight: We kiss those dearest to us at midnight not only to share a moment of celebration with our favorite people, but also to ensure those affections and ties will continue throughout the next twelve months. To fail to smooch our significant others at the stroke of twelve would be to set the stage for a year of coldness.

* Stocking Up: The new year must not be seen in with bare cupboards, lest that be the way of things for the year. Larders must be topped up and plenty of money must be placed in every wallet in the home to guarantee prosperity.

* Paying Off Bills: The new year should not be begun with the household in debt, so checks should be written and mailed off prior to January 1st. Likewise, personal debts should be settled before the New Year arrives.

* First Footing: The first person to enter your home after the stroke of midnight will influence the year you're about to have. New for old Ideally, he should be dark-haired, tall, and good-looking, and it would be even better if he came bearing certain small gifts such as a lump of coal, a silver coin, a bit of bread, a sprig of evergreen, and some salt. Blonde and redhead first footers bring bad luck, and female first footers should be shooed away before they bring disaster down on the household. Aim a gun at them if you have to, but don't let them near your door before a man crosses the threshold.

The first footer (sometimes called the "Lucky Bird") should knock and be let in rather than unceremoniously use a key, even if he is one of the householders. After greeting those in the house and dropping off whatever small tokens of luck he has brought with him, he should make his way through the house and leave by a different door than the one through which he entered. No one should leave the premises before the first footer arrives — the first traffic across the threshold must be headed in rather than striking out.

First footers must not be cross-eyed or have flat feet or eyebrows that meet in the middle.

Nothing prevents the cagey householder from stationing a dark-haired man outside the home just before midnight to ensure the speedy arrival of a suitable first footer as soon as the chimes sound. If one of the partygoers is recruited for this purpose, impress upon him the need to slip out quietly just prior to the witching hour.

* Nothing Goes Out: Nothing — absolutely nothing, not even garbage — is to leave the house on the first day of the year. If you've presents to deliver on New Year's Day, leave them in the car overnight. Don't so much as shake out a rug or take the empties to the recycle bin.

Some people soften this rule by saying it's okay to remove things from the home on New Year's Day provided something else has been brought in first. This is similar to the caution regarding first footers; the year must begin with something's being added to the home before anything subtracts from it.

One who lives alone might place a lucky item or two in a basket that has a string tied to it, then place the basket just outside the front door before midnight. After midnight, the lone celebrant hauls in his catch, being careful to bring the item across the door jamb by pulling the string rather than by reaching out to retrieve it and thus breaking the plane of the threshold.

* Food: A tradition common to the southern states of the USA dictates that the eating of black-eyed peas on New Year's Day will attract both general good luck (financial in particular) to the one doing the dining. Some choose to add other Southern fare (such as ham hocks, collard greens, or cabbage) to this tradition, but the black-eyed peas are key.

Other "lucky" foods are lentil soup (because lentils supposedly look like coins), pork (because poultry scratches backwards, a cow stands still, but a pig roots forward, ergo those who dine upon pork will be moving forward in the new year), and sauerkraut (probably because it goes so well with pork).

Another oft-repeated belief holds that one must not eat chicken or turkey on the first day of the year lest, like the birds in question, diners fate themselves to scratch in the dirt all year for their dinner (that is, bring poverty upon themselves).

* Work: Make sure to do — and be successful at — something related to your work on the first day of the year, even if you don't go near your place of employment that day. Limit your activity to a token amount, though, because to engage in a serious work project on that day is very unlucky.

Also, do not do the laundry on New Year's Day, lest a member of the family be 'washed away' (die) in the upcoming months. The more cautious eschew even washing dishes.

* New Clothes: Wear something new on January 1 to increase the likelihood of your receiving more new garments during the year to follow.

* Money: Do not pay back loans or lend money or other precious items on New Year's Day. To do so is to guarantee you'll be paying out all year.

* Breakage: Avoid breaking things on that first day lest wreckage be part of your year. Also, avoid crying on the first day of the year lest that activity set the tone for the next twelve months.

Other superstitions attaching to the beginning of the new year are:

* Letting the Old Year Out: At midnight, all the doors of a house must be opened to let the old year escape unimpeded. He must leave before the New Year can come in, says popular wisdom, so doors are flung open to assist him in finding his way out.

* Loud Noise: Make as much noise as possible at midnight. You're not just celebrating; you're scaring away evil spirits, so do a darned good job of it!

According to widespread superstition, evil spirits and the Devil himself hate loud noise. We celebrate by making as much of a din as possible not just as an expression of joy at having a new year at our disposal, but also to make sure Old Scratch and his minions don't stick around. (Church bells are rung on a couple's wedding day for the same reason.)

* The Weather: Examine the weather in the early hours of New Year's Day. If the wind blows from the south, there will be fine weather and prosperous times in the year ahead. If it comes from the north, it will be a year of bad weather. The wind blowing from the east brings famine and calamities. Strangest of all, if the wind blows from the west, the year will witness plentiful supplies of milk and fish but will also see the death of a very important person. If there's no wind at all, a joyful and prosperous year may be expected by all.

* Born on January 1: Babies born on this day will always have luck on their side.

Now, my friends, another tradition I would like to continue is to share a fresh cup of coffee with all of you! So, let's go to the kitchen, get a fresh cup, and enjoy each other's company! That's a good thing!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

It Ain't Pretty, But It Works...!

You know, sometimes you look at a picture and think "man, that's just plain silly"!

But then, when you think about it for a realize that maybe it's not that silly after all! What starts off as a joke, suddenly turns into a completely workable idea!

What brings this whole train of thought to the fore front is a picture I got in an email. It was a collection of funny pictures and, while it did make me laugh at first...I couldn't get the idea out of my mind!

First, take a look at this picture!

Now this is a picture of a standard leaf rake being used to roast hot dogs! It was meant to reflect some red-neck cookouts...but I don't see why it wouldn't work! If you used a brand new rake, made sure all the paint on the tines was burned off, nd maybe washed it really good should be good to go!

I mean, I've used a sharp stick, a straightened out wire hanger, and I'm sure several other things I've can't remember to roast hot I wouldn't have a problem using a rake!

Just think, you could feed a lot of kids with just one rake full of hot dogs! Now, all we need to do is to find out how to heat the buns at the same time! Any ideas?

Kinda makes you wonder what other types of tools could be used to do double duty around the house...

Now, let's get some fresh coffee and sit in the kitchen for a bit. Want a hot dog?

Monday, December 28, 2009

Some Advice For Your House And Home...!

With the up coming New Year, it's time for all of us to consider a number of things.

We are all looking forward to the cleaning, the re-arranging, the redecorating and all the things associated with the end of the Christmas season, right?

During this time, we might be aware that there are a lot of "Old Wives" tales and advice about the home. It's always interesting to look back at some of these, and sometimes we may find a nugget or two of true wisdom in them.

Some of these you may have heard in some fashion or another, some of them you may not know! Take a look...

* Scatter Solomon's seal on the floor to banish serpents and venomous creatures from the room.

* To protect your house from lightning, gather hazel tree branches on Palm Sunday and keep them in water.

* Add caraway seeds to chicken feed to keep poultry from wandering. Feed the seeds to homing pigeons to help them find their way back.

* Stuff fennel in your keyhole or hang it over your door to protect against witches.

* Never carry a hoe into the house. If you do so by mistake, carry it out again, walking backward to avoid bad luck.

* Never walk under a ladder, which is Satan's territory. If you must do it, cross your fingers or make the sign of the fig (closed fist, with thumb between index and middle fingers).

* If you give a steel blade to a friend, make the recipient pay you a penny to avoid cutting the friendship.

* Never give a knife as a housewarming present, or your new neighbor will become an enemy.

* Never pound a nail after sundown, or you will wake the tree gods.

* Nail an evergreen branch to new rafters to bring good luck. An empty hornets' nest, hung high, also will bring good luck to a house of any age.

* When you move to a new house, always enter first with a loaf of bread and a new broom. Never bring an old broom into the house.

I don't really know if there is any truth in any of these old tales, but they sure are fun to read, don't you think?

Now, my friends, let's get some coffee and retire to the kitchen...always the warmest place in the house!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

My Pantry Is Getting Bare...!

I'm sure that I'm not the only one this has happened to, but since the holidays and all the cooking and gift making...I find that my supplies are a lot lower than they should be!

My supply of pantry items has taken a real beating this year, or maybe it's just that I've noticed it more! Either way, it's time for me to start paying more attention for sure!

My biggest problem is that I got too comfortable with the amount I had, and as I used some of the goods...I didn't replace them! Bad idea!

When we get into the habit of not replacing what we use, or not rotating our supplies properly, it gets to the point where that becomes a habit! A bad habit, for certain!

We should (or at least I should) start remembering that my food supply, water supply, and my preps in general could make the difference in whether or not I survive some day!

It's time for me to get more organized, start planning again, and definitely time to restock and replenish all the things that I should have on hand!

In other words, time for me to start practicing what I preach! Time to start walking the walk again instead of just talking the talk!

Going to do better in the next, make that the next week! No putting things off any more! Right? Right!

Now, let's get some coffee and sit in the kitchen...and no comments about the bare shelves, OK?

Saturday, December 26, 2009

A Day Of Peace And Quiet..?!

The day after Christmas...and it falls on a Saturday!

I have to admit that I got into the whole celebrating thing more than I have in years! Believe it or not, I had a great deal of fun for a grouchy old man!

However, now the fun part is least, for those of us that must keep watch on all things about us!

As the children get fully acquainted with all the new toys, books, and games...then we must become more focused on the toys of our enemies, the books being doctored by the nefarious accounting persons in the head offices in D.C., and on the very dangerous games being played out by those that would take advantage of our peaceful state of mind and the uncaring nature of our so-called "leaders"!

As we worshiped and remembered the birth of the Prince of Peace...there were those in this world that would once again attempt to work their foul deeds on American soil.

I fear that if the planning and skill of these would be terrorists ever catch up to their desire to spread fear and destruction, then we are in for some terrible times!

We must be vigilant and on constant guard more now than ever before. Look not to the government to be adequate protection. Look not to others to protect hearth and home, but depend upon the tried and true skills and common sense steps we talk about all the time!

We must create our own peace of mind, fortify our own defenses, and guarantee our own time of quiet security!

The time for us to fiercely prepare is upon us in full force...and there is more at stake than we may know!

Now, my friends, let's get some coffee and sit in the kitchen for a bit! Enjoy the slower pace while it last, for it may not last very long!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas...!

I'm taking the day off today.

Going to my baby Sis' house for Christmas dinner! Usually I don't do the "traveling on a holiday" thing...but I'm making an exception this time!

Guess I'm getting soft in my old age! However, it's always good food, and it's FREE!

God Bless Everyone...!

Merry Christmas...!

I'll see all of you for coffee in the morning! Please be careful out there, my friends!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Well, It's Christmas Eve...!

Now, in spite of my being Hermit like in my ramblings, I find myself with more friends than I've ever had in my life!

Many of these friends I've never met. Many I have! Many are from countries that I've never been to, share customs entirely different than ours, may not even recognize the same day as a holiday in the manner we do.

That doesn't really matter, does it? If you consider someone a friend, then they are a friend! If you call someone your friend, then they are a friend!

In my way of thinking, a person doesn't have to consider you a friend for them to be your friend. It's nice, but not always the case!

My way of doing things is a lot different than most folks. I keep my own counsel about things in this world. I can be alone without being lonely.

I don't have to have a crowd. I don't have to have a holiday to feel joy! I don't even have to have approval from someone else to be myself and have a good time!

I think that if I can make at least one person smile from time to time, then I will know more joy in my heart than any holiday could bring, regardless of it's name!

The warmth of a friend's smile is more warming to me than any fireplace could ever offer! So, that's what I wish for all of you this Christmas...a happy heart, a warm smile, and a knowledge that, like it or DO indeed have at least one person in this world that considers you special! That considers you a friend!

Oh, and here are some quotes about Christmas that I thought you might enjoy!

Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas.
Calvin Coolidge

Christmas is, of course, the time to be home - in heart as well as body.
Garry Moore

Happy, happy Christmas, that can win us back to the delusions of our childhood days, recall to the old man the pleasures of his youth, and transport the traveler back to his own fireside and quiet home!
Charles Dickens

He who has not Christmas in his heart will never find it under a tree.
Roy L. Smith

I don't think Christmas is necessarily about things. It's about being good to one another, it's about the Christian ethic, it's about kindness.
Carrie Fisher

There's nothing sadder in this world than to awake Christmas morning and not be a child.
Erma Bombeck

Time always seems long to the child who is waiting - for Christmas, for next summer, for becoming a grownup: long also when he surrenders his whole soul to each moment of a happy day.
Dag Hammarskjold

When we were children we were grateful to those who filled our stockings at Christmas time. Why are we not grateful to God for filling our stockings with legs?
Gilbert K. Chesterton

Christmas renews our youth by stirring our wonder. The capacity for wonder has been called our most pregnant human faculty, for in it are born our art, our science, our religion.
Ralph W. Sockman

Now, let's get some fresh coffee...and enjoy the smell of cookies baking and the warmth of true friendship!

MERRY CHRISTMAS to each and every one of you...!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Some Wisdom From The Past...!

Some things only get better with age...fine wine, beautiful women, fond memories, ME, and good advice!

This was taken from the Old Farmer's Almanac. originally written a long time applies very well to the way of the world today, and is still very sound!

December Farmer’s Calendar

• Remember, ye wealthy and affluent, the sons and daughters of affliction! Think of those into whose shattered dwellings poverty enters to increase the inclemency and the horrors of the present season. Distribute bread to the hungry, and clothes to the naked.

• Pay off your mechanics, laborers, &c. Though the sum due to them be but trifling, they may suffer for want of that trifle at this inclement season.

• Now make it a point to balance your book of Accounts, call upon debtors for payments, so that you may begin the year square with every man.

–Robert B. Thomas, The Old Farmer’s Almanac, 1795 and 1796

Now, my friends, let's get some fresh coffee and sit in the kitchen. Raining outside again!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Now This Is Different...!

We hear stories all the time about how the pioneers had to make do with what they had. Certainly that posed a real problem at holiday time, and led to some outstanding recipes!

When they were forced into making do and using what ever was available, our forefathers could get pretty creative! This is just one way to make some special treats, using leftovers and stuff from the pantry!

I have to admit, this recipe sounds a little strange at first...but it turns out pretty good! Why not give it a try?

Pioneer Mashed Potato Candy

1 pound semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 cup mashed cooked potatoes
1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 pounds confectioners' sugar
2/3 cup shredded coconut

1. In the top of a double boiler, heat chocolate, stirring occasionally, until chocolate is melted and smooth.

2. In a mixing bowl, combine the potato, salt and vanilla. Sift the confectioners sugar over potato, stirring and adding about 1 cup at a time. Mixture will liquefy when first sugar is added then gradually begin to thicken.

3. When it becomes the consistency of stiff dough, knead it even though not all the sugar has been added.

4. After kneading, cover with a damp cloth and chill until a small spoonful can be rolled into a ball. Shape in small 1/2 inch balls. Dip balls in melted chocolate then roll in peanuts or coconut.

Hey...I don't know about you, but I'll eat nearly ANYTHING that has chocolate on it! Please notice that I said NEARLY anything...but I do have limits, ya know?

Now, my friends, let's get some fresh coffee and sit outside! Chocolate mashed potatoes anyone...?

Monday, December 21, 2009

A Few More Calories...!

I know that the hardest thing to come by this time of year, besides money, is TIME!

Anything that we can find to save a little bit of time is a good thing! In keeping with that search, I have a couple of really good recipes that are not only delicious, but are really fast to make!

I had the chance to taste both of these dishes this last weekend, and they are outstanding! Trust me on this...!

One cookie and one cake! Add hot chocolate or fresh coffee...and you are good to go!

First, here is a really good pound cake! Cake mix and easy is that?

Eggnog Pound Cake


* 1 box yellow cake mix
* 1 small package instant vanilla pudding mix
* 3/4 cup canned egg nog
* 3/4 cup vegetable oil
* 4 eggs
* 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
* Powdered Sugar

Combine first 4 ingredients; mix on low speed in mixer until moistened. Add eggs and nutmeg. Beat for 4 minutes on high speed. Pour into a greased and floured bundt pan or tube pan. Bake at 350 F. for 40 to 45 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.

Cool for 10 minutes; remove from pan. Cool completely and sprinkle with powdered sugar or drizzle with powdered sugar icing.

Next is perhaps the quickest cookie recipe I've found lately. It's really good...but how could it be anything else with chocolate and peanut butter?

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies


* 1 package devils food cake mix
* 1 cup peanut butter
* 1/3 cup water
* 2 eggs
* 1 cup peanut butter chips

Grease cookie sheets and fire up oven to 350 degrees. Stir all ingredients together, then place 2 inches apart on sheet. Bake 10-15 minutes.

I think you'll like these recipes! I did, and I know it could save you some time, for sure!

Now, let's get some fresh coffee and sit outside for a bit. Oh, pass the cookie plate, OK?

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Turn Out The Lights...The Party's Over...!

Well, the family party is over. It's history!

All in all, I think it went pretty well! Lots of food, lots of noise, lots of kids! Actually, I think there were only three kids there, but sometimes three can sound like thirty, ya know?

There were no fights, no arguments, and few left overs! I don't mind when there's left overs. I like left overs...especially the cakes and pies! I did manage to hide and hold back some cookies for later! Gotta be sneaky around my bunch!

I did get a few tips from my sister about holiday eating that I thought were so good, I wanted to share them with you! Ready...?

1. Avoid carrot sticks. Anyone who puts carrots on a holiday buffet table knows nothing of the Holiday spirit. In fact, if you see carrots,leave immediately. Go next door, where they're serving rum balls.

2. Drink as much eggnog as you can. And quickly. It's rare... You cannot find it any other time of year but now. So drink up! Who cares that it has 10,000 calories in every sip? It's not as if you're going to turn into an eggnog-alcoholic or something. It's a treat. Enjoy it. Have one for me. Have two. It's later than you think. It's Christmas!

3. If something comes with gravy, use it. That's the whole point of gravy. Gravy does not stand alone. Pour it on. Make a volcano out of your mashed potatoes. Fill it with gravy. Eat the volcano. Repeat.

4. As for mashed potatoes, always ask if they're made with skim milk or whole milk. If it's skim, pass. Why bother? It's like buying a sports car with an automatic transmission.

5. Do not have a snack before going to a party in an effort to control your eating. The whole point of going to a Holiday party is to eat other people's food for free. Lots of it. Hello?

6. Under no circumstances should you exercise between now and New Year's. You can do that in January when you have nothing else to do. This is the time for long naps, which you'll need after circling the buffet table while carrying a 10-pound plate of food and that vat of eggnog.

7. If you come across something really good at a buffet table, like frosted Christmas cookies in the shape and size of Santa, position yourself near them and don't budge. Have as many as you can before becoming the center of attention. They're like a beautiful pair of shoes. If you leave them behind, you're never going to see them again.

8. Same for pies. Apple, Pumpkin, Mincemeat. Have a slice of each. Or if you don't like mincemeat, have two apples and one pumpkin. Always have three. When else do you get to have more than one dessert? Labor Day?

9. Did someone mention fruitcake? Granted, it's loaded with the mandatory celebratory calories, but avoid it at all cost. I mean, have some standards.

10. One final tip: If you don't feel terrible when you leave the party or get up from the table, you haven't been paying attention. Re-read tips; start over, but hurry, January is just around the corner. Remember this motto to live by:

"Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate and wine in one hand, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming "WOO HOO what a ride!"

Now, my friend, let's have some fresh coffee out on the patio...where it's peaceful and quiet once again!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Smarter Than I Am...!

Sometimes I get the feelings that my cats are a lot smarter than I am...

I mean, they get free room and board, get to choose which foods they will eat or not eat, sleep pretty much when and where they want, and decide for themselves whether or not to ignore us or pay attention!

Don't ever think that cats and dogs don't understand exactly what we say...they do! It doesn't even make a difference if we speak in Spanish, English, or probably Chinese!

Here is an example of a dog that understands "southern" real well...pretty damn smart!

Now, if i could teach my cats to do that...I'd make a fortune and retire again! But you and I both know that ain't happening any time soon, right?

Let's get some coffee and sit on the patio for a bit...before the crowd shows up! Don't want you subjected to the MADNESS!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Family Party Coming Up...!

This is one of those "Good news...Bad news" post!

First of all, the family Christmas get-together is Saturday. That means that a lot more people will be at Mom's house than usual. Almost a crowd...and you know how I feel about crowds!

However there is an up side to the party this officially marks the end of my Christmas celebration! Even though the widely recognized day is a little bit off, once the family get-together is over, I'm done.

The only reason I go through all the decorating and gathering and cooking and all the because of my Mother! Her house is the location of the party. Her house is the one we decorated. Her house is the one with the Christmas tree. She really likes this season, and looks forward to having the family all together, little ones running around in an extreme state of excitement, and all the grown ups talking at the same time!

At my house, there are no decorations up. There is no tree. There is never a lot of folks gathered there. Pretty much a lot of peace and quiet...and believe me, I like the peace and quiet!

Now, before you get to thinking that I'm just a mean old scrooge, let me tell you why I feel that way, OK?

I spend over 20 years of my working life in retail, having to listen to Christmas music from the day after Halloween until Christmas. When I was married and had kids around, I could still get into the mood for decorating, for the wrapping, almost could deal with the music! However, after I became single didn't seem to make a lot of sense to go through through the activities found mainly around families.

Add to that the fact that my Father died in his long haul truck a long time ago...on Christmas eve. The fact that of the 4 times I've been in the hospital, 3 of them were at Christmas time, and the fact that, being single, I used to volunteer to work on the holidays so that the guys with families could spend time with them. I most always lived away from family, so it was just me and the critters.

I still enjoy a little holiday magic, but it's my own version. After saying "Happy Birthday" to the Lord...I'll spend the rest of the day just enjoying the peace and quiet, sharing some good food with the critters (they eat mine, not the other way around) I'll probably read and maybe listen to some good music. NOT the Christmas kind...maybe some classical or big bands!

On a separate note...the nephew came by early Thursday morning to say good-bye! He is off on the next big adventure in his life! I wish him all the best and do envy him for at least getting out of Houston. I hope it won't be that much longer for me, but now just isn't the time! I'm hoping that things hold together long enough in the world, for me to reach the point where I can see the big city in my rear view mirror...and wave good bye for good!

However, life moves at it's own pace! We can't change it, we can't fight it, we can only go with the flow and continue to prepare for all the surprises we know are just around the bend, right? Right!

Now, my friends, let's get some fresh coffee and sit in the kitchen for a bit. We'll drink a toast to the nephew and his new journey!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Some Things Endure Forever...!

You know, most of the things we have around us seem to change from day to day.

We may forget at times that our children are also affected by the hustle and bustle, by the disturbing news presented by the media, and by all the outside influences in their lives.

They may come to us with questions and concerns, but often we put them off. Often we get so wrapped up in other things, we forget to pay attention of the little ones. This isn't a new occurrence. It's been that way for generations.

Once in a while, someone somewhere does listen! Sometimes they even take the time to answer the concerns voiced by the children, treating the concerns as real in the effort to provide a little peace of mind.

This is such a case...from a long time ago!

Eight-year-old Virginia O'Hanlon wrote a letter to the editor of New York's Sun, and the quick response was printed as an unsigned editorial Sept. 21, 1897. The work of veteran newsman Francis Pharcellus Church has since become history's most reprinted newspaper editorial, appearing in part or whole in dozens of languages in books, movies, and other editorials, and on posters and stamps.

"DEAR EDITOR: I am 8 years old.
"Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus.
"Papa says, 'If you see it in THE SUN it's so.'
"Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?


VIRGINIA, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except [what] they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men's or children's, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no VIRGINIAS. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that's no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You may tear apart the baby's rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, VIRGINIA, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.

This letter, although written long ago, is a case of one person doing what he could to give comfort to a child, and to let that child hang on to some of the magic of the holidays!

We should do the same! We should help our own little ones hang onto the magic of the holidays! We should assist them in building the fond memories that will stay with them into adulthood. We should help them realize that family and home can provide a warm and joyous haven during the confusion of the season ahead.

If they have questions, answer them! If they need comfort, hug them! If they start to show stress, sit with them and share some smiles...and maybe some hot chocolate and a cookie! Include them in the planning and activities, remembering that this time of the year is very special for them!

And then, when you deem them old enough...explain to them the "reason for the season"! Help them to learn the true meaning of Christmas, so that it will continue to be very special to them, regardless of their age!

It seems to be the least we can do, don't you think?

Now, my friends, fresh coffee on the patio is called for...and there's hot chocolate and cookies for the kids as well!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

A Spring In My Step...!!

Even though Winter is pretty well settled in for real here in the south, I found myself with a spring in my step today!

Two of my online friends, one that I have had the opportunity to meet in person, sent me a special care package today! Two beautiful tins, filled with some home made treasures! What a special surprise...and a treat for the taste buds! This just made my day, and I wanted to say a very special "Thank you!" to my friends Kyddryn and Momlady!

They are both fellow bloggers, and if you have not had the opportunity to read them...I invite you to drop by their blogs and take a look. Both are well written and certainly worthy of a visit!

Since it would be such a shame to waste this new found energy and good feeling, I figured it would be a great time to play this video. A special treatment of an old classic!

Now, my friends, let's get some fresh coffee and sit around the kitchen table for a bit! If you're can have a cookie!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Realizing Your Potential...!

Each one of us knows the feeling.

We are just going through our daily lives, not a care in the world, thinking that we have everything totally under control! No pressure, no problems, all is right with our world! it?

Suddenly, an unexpected problem arises! A problem that goes beyond our ability to deal with, beyond our capabilities, beyond any foreseeable positive outcome.

We exhaust our knowledge, we test our talents, we suddenly seem to come to the end. The end of our plans, the end of our hopes, the end of our future...the apparent end of our rope!

But then, we find strength from an unexpected source. Reaching down deep inside, we find hidden strength, making us more than we ever thought we could be! It goes like this...!

You see, when we find our hidden potential, when we start to draw on our true inner self, when we start to truly believe in ourselves...others start to believe in us as well!

When we recognize our limits, we can expand them. Most importantly, learn from the past.

Now, my friends, let's get some coffee and sit in the kitchen for a bit. Too foggy to sit outside!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Here's A Bit Of Trivia...!

Since it's Monday, I want to start your week off with a few unique questions you may or may not know the answers to.

I figure that it's a good way to get the old gray matter warmed up. Besides,it beats the heck out of hearing about all the bad things going on in the world!

Ready...? Then here we go!!

Why wasn't the Bill of Rights originally included in the Constitution?

A lot of folks asked the same question when the framers first drafted the Constitution. President George Washington asked Congress to consider adding some amendments "providing for essential civil liberties" to address this oversight. The result was a draft that included 12 amendments, 2 of which were ultimately voted down. Ratification of the remaining 10 took place in 1791. See the complete text of the original 12 amendments.

Why do people say, "Don't look a gift horse in the mouth"?

The saying, which generally means "Don't be ungrateful," seems to stem from the practice of giving horses as gifts. To check the age of a horse, you normally look into its mouth. This would be considered quite rude if the horse was being given to you as a gift.

Where does one find a black-tailed deer in the United States?

The black-tailed deer, a subspecies of the mule deer, is primarily found in the Pacific Northwest. Stockier than the white-tailed deer, it is mostly yellow to reddish brown in summer, and the upper side of its tail is black.

What's the deal with unbleached versus bleached flour?

Bleached and unbleached flour are interchangeable in any recipe. The only difference is that bleached flour is a little whiter, which some people prefer. Unbleached flour isn't any more nutritious, as many people think.

Is it true that when the Moon is tipped on its side, it is going to rain or snow?

According to folklore, if the new crescent Moon holds its points upward, able to contain water, you can expect a dry spell. If it stands on its points, expect precipitation to spill out.

Is it colder at the North Pole or the South Pole?

The South Pole. Why? Because the South Pole is surrounded by a large land mass covered by a thick ice sheet. The North Pole rests in the middle of the Arctic Ocean which acts as an effective heat reservoir, warming the cold atmosphere in the winter and drawing heat in the summer.

Can you tell me the origin of the saying "by hook or by crook"?

Reapers' hooks and shepherds' crooks are the instruments referred to here. In Old England, forests were the private property of the king, and permission to cut wood was rarely given. Commoners could take deadwood, though, and they increased their bounty by bringing down branches from the trees in any way they could--including by hook or by crook.

How can we keep our cat away from our Christmas tree?

Folks have suggested a lot of things over the years, and you may have to try several until you find a method that fits your cat's personality. The most direct route may be to keep your cat out of the room where the tree is. If that's not possible, try lining the tree's lower trunk with aluminum foil. Some cats hate the sound and feel of it and won't try to climb up with the foil there. Another trick may be to keep a pot of ryegrass or catnip near the tree to act as a diversion. Cats may respond to loud noises or the popular method of spraying water at them when they begin to attack the tree, but we've found that their little cat brains forget this message pretty quickly, and they're soon back to cause trouble again.

Well, that's enough to keep you all busy for a while, don't you think? Maybe later I can come up with something else!

Now, my friends, it's coffee time on the patio...quick, before it rains again!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Some Sunday Feline Philosophy...!

If you have cats...or if you have ever watched a cat for any length of time, then you know that they have their own way of doing things.

They often look like they are really thinking some profound thoughts. You sometimes just can't help putting your own words to the looks on their faces. If you could do that, it might go something like below!

It's true that cats can be a little arrogant! They can look you straight in the eye and seem to be insulting you! And they are indeed pretty full of themselves!

Sometimes, though, you just have to give them credit for coming up with some funny looks and some pretty good ideas at the same time! Kinda like this...!

At other times, they look straight at you with a look that shows a total disdain for us. Almost like they are looking down their noses at us! If we could read their thoughts at times like this, we might find they are thinking some smart-ass comment along these lines!

But you know, despite their faults and bad attitude, cats do have their moments. Sometimes they can come up with an idea or a movement that We can totally agree with. Such is the case with a cats outlook on taking naps! Cats take the art of napping to a whole other level than most of us!

I have to admit, when it comes to nap time, cats will ignore everything else to find just they perfect spot for a few winks. In cases where they cannot find a suitable space, or their favorite place is already taken by the dog...they will boldly claim a new spot without a second thought! They do so with no hesitation and no fooling around! Kinda like this...!

Now how can you possibly argue with this kind of logic? Hey, it works for me...!

Now, my friends, let's get some fresh coffee and sit in the kitchen for a bit. Raining again outside! Oh, and keep an eye on the cat!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Hand Made And Heart Felt......!

Over the last couple of years, I've gone back to making a lot of the gifts I give to friends and family.

Hand made gifts are usually very well received, because folks realize that you put a lot of time and thought into them. They can be much more personal than a "store bought" gift, and they are certainly easier on the pocket book.

During the past, many of the gifts were home made...sometimes out of necessity, sometimes just out of love. The challenge becomes how to come up with new ideas for the gifts. Food is always a good idea...and is often the most appreciated.

I want to share a couple of new hand made gift ideas with you that I picked up over at the Farmer's Almanac. These folks are always a good source of food gifts, and gift ideas from the past. I'm making these myself this year, and I think they will go over big!

Confetti Pickles

To make easy, all-purpose sweet and colorful pickles, drain the contents of the following, reserving the juices, which you can combine in one container: 1 small jar each of mixed sweet pickles, kumquats in syrup, red maraschino cherries, and sweet gherkins, and 1 can of pineapple chunks. Mix the solids thoroughly, and spoon into clean decorative jars. Add enough of the mixed juices to cover the contents of each jar, and seal. Although they can safely be left unrefrigerated for several hours or even overnight, attach a colorful label advising that these pickles be stored in the refrigerator.

Raspberry Vinegar

In a glass container, combine 1/4 cup of crushed raspberries with 1 quart of white distilled vinegar. Let sit overnight at room temperature. Strain through a fine sieve into a decorative bottle, and add several perfect whole raspberries. (Packaged frozen raspberries work fine and usually have plenty of whole as well as crushed berries.) Add a colorful tag recommending it to be used alone or combined with olive oil as a salad dressing.

Fiery Pepper Vinegar

Lace brightly colored hot peppers into decorative bottles. (If you have some that are too large to fit, quarter them lengthwise or cut them into strips.) To each bottle, add a few black peppercorns, a peeled garlic clove, and a small slice of fresh ginger root. Fill to the top with white vinegar. Seal the bottles, and store for at least a week in a dark place.

You know, in this day of big time consumerism, the act of making your gifts by hand and giving them with love...should be more important than ever!

During this holiday season, we remind ourselves that it is the giver who makes the gift precious.

“Not what we give, but what we share,
for the gift without the giver is bare.”

James Russell Lowell, 1819–91

C'mon, my friends, let's get some fresh coffee. We can sit outside until the rain starts, OK?

Friday, December 11, 2009

Let's Liven Things Up...!!

I've been talking a lot lately about the traditions of Christmas times.

You know, so many of the traditions that we celebrate didn't actually come from here in the States. Most came to us as European traditions that we adapted to use as our own. However, nearly everyone of them was a version of medieval traditions.

Heard the term "Eating humble pie?"...want to know the origins of the term? Of course you do! And you just know that the old reliable Hermit is going to bring it to you, right?

Humble (or 'umble) pie was made from the "humbles" of a deer -- the heart, liver, brains and so forth. While the lords and ladies ate the choice cuts, the servants baked the humbles into a pie (which of course made them go further as a source of food). This appears to be the origin of the phrase, "to eat humble pie." By the seventeenth century Humble Pie had become a trademark Christmas food, as evidenced when it was outlawed along with other Christmas traditions by Oliver Cromwell and the Puritan government.

Another tradition that has it's roots in history is the popular drink "Wassail". Originally a very strong drink with some very strong ingredients, this traditional holiday drink has been adapted to the point that there many less harsh recipes, with a variety of ingredients.

Wassail comes from the Old English words waes hael, which means "be well," "be hale," or "good health." A strong, hot drink (usually a mixture of ale, honey, and spices) would be put in a large bowl, and the host would lift it and greet his companions with "waes hael," to which they would reply "drinc hael," which meant "drink and be well." Over the centuries some non-alcoholic versions of wassail evolved.

If you want to liven up the holidays a bit, why not try both of these old time traditions at the same get-together! It might raise a few eyebrows...and certainly should raise the energy level!

Now, let's get some coffee and sit outside a while! Looks like a beautiful day coming!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Let's Have A Taffy Pull...!

I have only had one taffy pull in my life...but it was a real blast!

My cousins, Margie and Gail, lived on an old homestead outside of Jarrell, Texas. My Uncle Bill and Aunt Blanch seemed to always have a bunch of kids at their house . Their place was one of those places that folks just seemed to be drawn to, especially the young people!

Now, being true country folks, my Uncle Bill and Aunt Blanch always could come up with ways to keep everyone entertained, even in the Winter months. One of the things I can still remember was the night we had a good old taffy pull! It was my first!

You know what I remember most about that taffy pull? What I remember the most was the laughter! We laughed from the time we started...all the way to the end of the evening! I have an image in my head of all of us crowded into the living room of that old farmhouse, a fire burning in the fireplace, music coming from the old hand crank Victrola in the other room, and laughter bouncing off the rafters and ringing all through the house!

I don't know if we were laughing at ourselves, standing there with farm fresh butter smeared all over our hands and arms...or if we were laughing at the absurd picture made by all of us walking backwards while pulling the taffy with our partner, trying our best to keep the stretched out taffy from drooping down onto the floor!

Whatever we were laughing at, it was the sound of pure, wholesome fun! How about you and your group having a good old-fashioned taffy pull? I've put the recipe and instructions here, so the hard part is all done! See what a nice guy I am...?


* 2-1/2 cups sugar
* 1-1/2 cups light corn syrup
* 4 teaspoons white vinegar
* 1/4 teaspoon salt
* 1/2 cup evaporated milk

Note: Use a candy thermometer for this recipe. For brown sugar candy, substitute 2 1/4 cups firmly packed brown sugar for the white sugar.

Mix all ingredients except milk in heavy saucepan over low heat. Stir often until sugar is completely dissolved. Increase heat and bring mixture to boiling. VERY slowly add the evaporated milk in a thin stream so boiling does not stop.

Put candy thermometer in pan; continue stirring. Cook and stir constantly until mixture reaches 248° (firm ball stage). Dip pastry brush in water and gently brush sides of pan to wash crystals from sides of pan. Do this a few times while candy is cooking. When candy has reached desired temperature, remove from heat, remove thermometer and WITHOUT scraping sides and bottom of pan, pour mixture onto large platter which has been greased with margarine.

Let mixture cool until it is cool enough to handle. Grease your hands with margarine; take a small portion of the candy and begin pulling. Use only the tips of your fingers to pull. Candy should be white in color and no longer feel sticky when it has been pulled enough.

Twist each pulled strip slightly and place on waxed paper. When all the candy is pulled, cut each strip into 1-inch pieces. Wrap each piece in waxed paper and twist ends.

If you can resist eating all of the taffy, a mason jar or any other container with a tight fitting lid can be used to store the left over candy! But be warned...with the holiday visitors coming over, it may be hard to count on any being saved for long!

If nothing else, this could be a good way to create some outstanding holiday memories for everyone involved, especially the kids and the young at heart!

Now, my friends, let's get some coffee and sit's still a bit chilly, but that's alright!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

I Had A Drug Problem...!

I got this from someone and thought it was too good not to pass on.

There's a lot of truth in this piece...!

I had a drug problem when I was young: I was drug to church on Sunday morning. I was drug to church for weddings and funerals. I was drug to family reunions and community socials no matter the weather

I was drug by my ears when I was disrespectful to adults. I was also drug to the woodshed when I disobeyed my parents, told a lie, brought home a bad report card, did not speak with respect, spoke ill of the teacher or the preacher. Or if I didn’t put forth my best effort in everything that was asked of me. I was drug to the kitchen sink to have my mouth washed out with soap if I uttered a profane four letter word. I was drug out to pull weeds in mom’s garden and flower beds and cockleburs out of dad’s fields.

I was drug to the homes of family, friends, and neighbors to help out some poor soul who had no one to mow the yard, repair the clothesline or chop some fire wood. And if my mother had ever known that I took a single dime as a tip for this kindness, she would have drug me back to the wood shed.

Those drugs are still in my veins; and they affect my behavior in everything I do, say, and think. They are stronger than cocaine, crack, or heroin, and if today’s children had this kind of drug problem, America might be a better place today.

Probably wouldn't hurt to have some of this kind of problem today. Forget about being politically correct. Forget about letting someone else dictate how you discipline your children. Forget about what the rest of your family and friends have to say about making your kids do something they don't want to do!

You know what's right! You know what's correct! You know what needs to be just do it! Most of the time, our children pass on to their children the values they learned as youngsters.

Maybe it's time to be "old fashioned" again!

Now, my friends, let's get some fresh coffee and sit outside for a bit!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

To Sooth Your Furrowed Brow...!

It won't be long until you won't be able to find any music on the radio except the same old Christmas songs you've heard year after year.

Before we fall into that routine...I'd like to take a little time to play for you a piece that is definitely NOT a Christmas song.

To soon we'll all be caught up in the hustle and bustle of last minute gift selection and wrapping, decorating around the home and office, party planning, card addressing, menu know, all the things that seem to add up until we feel totally overwhelmed.

I want to slow that down a bit. I want to give all my friends a reason to take a break, to sit back and take a deep breath, and let yourself be transported to that other place! You know, the place that's filled with post card landscapes, silently falling snow, soothing crackling of logs in the fireplace, and the sunlight dancing off the jewelery of the slowly dripping ice cycles?

Just give a listen and see if this helps...

Now, let's get some fresh coffee, sit outside on the patio...and listen to this piece again!

Monday, December 7, 2009

A Day To Remember...!

Just a reminder to take some time today to reflect on the events of December 7TH, 1941.

On that day, as I'm sure you all know, the Japanese launched a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, virtually destroying the majority of the American fleet. The United States and Japan were not at war at the time, and the attack was unprovoked.

For the most part, until that moment, the people of the United States pretty much held an isolationism point of view when it came to world politics. The Japanese changed all that by the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Thanks to their actions on that day, the American people became more united, stronger, and more determined than ever before that they would never let anything like this happen again!

Another reason for me to reminisce on this day...if my Father had lived, my Mother and Father would have celebrated their 66TH wedding anniversary today!

This is a story that would sound like a work of fiction, were it not true! In 1943, my Father had been in the navy for around 2 1/2 years. He had written to my Mother several times, but she was engaged to another young man. One day in December, 1943...My dad showed up at the Western Union office where my Mother worked here in Houston. Somehow, even though she was engaged to another, he convinced her to go out on a date! One date, their first date...and the only one needed! They were married the next day!

Mom and Dad enjoyed a 4 day honeymoon before Dad had to board the train back to the coast to board his ship! Such was the course of true love in times of war!

Although these two events don't really have a direct effect on one another, they do have something in common. What they do show, without a doubt, is that the unexpected things in life can test us, can unite us, and can be the basis for a strong future!

Just as this great nation was tested and made stronger by the war, the wartime union of my Mother and Father laid the foundation for a strong family!

Even though my Father is no longer with us, his presence is still felt in the strength and the family traditions we celebrate to this day.

Let us remember on this day that the sacrifice and dedication of many, many individuals and families was the cost our nation paid for peace. May the people of this nation never forget that, may our leaders never forget that either!

Now, my friends, let's get some coffee and sit at the patio for a bit. We can toast to all the heroes in our lives...past and present!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

My "Don't Want Any" List...!

You know, being from the south...I like food!

I especially like fried foods and grilled foods! And's gotta be spicy hot! I mean, that may be just a Texas thing but hot sauce doesn't last long in my pantry.

Now even though I do admit to loving fried foods, there are some things that I just don't want to eat, fried or not! Now, I have to admit that the list of fried foods I won't eat is a very short one...but there are a few things on it. Here is an example of what I'm talking about!

I don't know...but this just seems to make me shudder when I think about it! Kinda like caviar (fish eggs)...

I know it may be a silly hang up, but that's just me. If I didn't know what they were, it would probably different! Just one of my personal "don't want any" list!

Anyway, let's get some fresh coffee and sit at the patio table for a bit. Just don't bring any turkey fries, OK?

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Snow? In Houston...? REALLY...??

It doesn't happen very often. In fact, only about every 4 years on the average!

Now I know that a lot of people like the snow, but I'm not one of them. Quite frankly, I can live without it!

Snow is nice on postcards. It's nice for the kids to build snowmen. It's nice for the tourists. However, it is NOT nice for people to have to drive on here in Houston!

The folks here have a hard enough time driving on dry streets. If you throw in ice or snow...then you have a disaster in the making! Believe me, I know what I'm talking about here!

HOUSTON — Houston had its earliest snowfall on record Friday, with several inches accumulating in counties southwest of the city.

The previous record for early snow in Houston was Dec. 10 in 1944 and again last year, said Charles Roeseler, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

Snow is rare in the nation's fourth largest city. In the past 15 years, it has snowed four times, including Friday.

Accumulations of 3 to 4 inches of snow were reported in counties southwest of Houston. The city got a half inch or less of snow, and its suburbs reported 1 to 2 inches, according to the National Weather Service.

"It's going to continue to snow through the afternoon," Roeseler said in the early afternoon. "We'll pick up another inch or so across parts of Houston."

The city and other parts of Southeast Texas were under a winter storm warning that was expected to remain until Friday evening. Other parts of Texas, including El Paso and Dallas, also had snowfall this week.

Many government offices and businesses around Houston shut down early Friday, said Francisco Sanchez, a spokesman for the Harris County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.

Houston Mayor Bill White directed city departments to send nonessential employees home Friday afternoon.

The Houston school district did not shorten its school day Friday, but many other districts and colleges around the area sent students home early.

"We're trying to make sure people stay off the roadways," Sanchez said. "We want to get them home earlier today."

Many Houstonians took advantage of the snow day to venture outside and play. Parks were filled with adults and children making snowmen, engaging in snowball fights and posing for photographs.

"We usually like to go to Colorado for some snow, but this year it came to us," said Teri Mims, 36, as she played in the snow with her 6- and 9-year-old daughters in a north Houston park.

The snow wasn't the biggest worry for officials.

It was supposed to stop by Friday evening, but then temperatures were expected to fall below freezing, with lows in the 20s. The National Weather Service issued a freeze warning for 22 Southeast Texas counties that was to be in effect until Saturday morning.

"We're really concerned with what happens overnight with the snow melting on roadways and turning into ice," Sanchez said.

Roads and elevated bridges in Houston and other parts of Southeast Texas were being covered with deicing materials to ensure they were safe to travel, but drivers needed to prepare for some roads to be closed, Sanchez said.

The forecast for Saturday was mostly sunny skies and highs in the lower 40s to upper 50s. Temperatures were expected to climb to near 60 by Sunday.

The snow would likely be gone by Saturday, Roeseler said.

You know the worst part of a snowfall? It's when the snow begins to melt! We're talking mud...a LOT of mud! If you have never seen South Texas gumbo soil when it gets turned to mud, you haven't really seen mud!

For me? I'm staying in the house! I'm not brave enough to venture out and play "dodge cars" for real in the crazy Houston traffic! This is when you realize that being a Prepper is really a good thing, indeed! I have everything I might need for the next couple of days...or longer if necessary! No need to risk life and limb by going out in this mess!

Besides, you ever been to the store, on a Friday, when it's payday, and the roads are icy ? This is NOT a good scenario, believe me!

So, my friends, let's get some coffee and sit in the kitchen for a while. We can be very thankful that we had the foresight to keep our pantry stocked!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Don't Forget The Critters...!

While decorating for the holidays, don't forget the animals, especially the animals outside.

It may seem a little silly until you stop and think about it. I mean, we get some enjoyment from watching the animals that live outdoors all through the why not give a little back.

Another good thing about this decorating idea, is that the kids can be a large part of it. I can almost guarantee that after it's done, they will spend a LOT of time looking out the window to watch the animals enjoy their tree!

Some easy ideas are to string popcorn or cheerios on thread or yarn. Pine cones can be spread with peanut butter or suet/peanut butter mix, then dipped in bird seed & hung on the tree. Pieces of apples and oranges can also be used for ornaments.The birds will love it! Not to mention the squirrels...!

You can even have the kids help with making the popcorn string. Just be sure to keep an eye on them during the process. Using needles and such can cause some ouchies on little fingers, not to mention being hard on bare feet if they are lost in the carpet!

Just a couple of tips here on stringing popcorn. If you use the non-buttered popping corn, the insects will be more likely to leave it alone. Also, letting the corn sit over night can help the corn to be more pliable for running a needle through.

You might consider using very light weight fishing line instead of thread for stringing as it will last a little longer in the weather. Besides, the birds can use it for nest building in the Spring!

Oh...and don't forget to spread some peanuts or the like on the ground for all the critters that can't get up the tree or bush, OK?

Now, my friends, let's get some coffee and sit at the kitchen table for a bit. We can watch for the snow that's supposed to come!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

How About A Christmas Kiss...??

There are so many Christmas traditions, it's hard to keep up with them all!

Very few of these traditions are as pleasant as the tradition of kissing under the mistletoe. I mean, if nothing's certainly one of the most pleasant!

Like most of the Christmas traditions, this one is rooted in history. In fact, the origins of kissing under the mistletoe might just surprise you!

Mistletoe was used by Druid priests 200 years before the birth of Christ in their winter celebrations. They revered the plant since it had no roots yet remained green during the cold months of winter.

The ancient Celtics believed mistletoe to have magical healing powers and used it as an antidote for poison, infertility, and to ward of evil spirits. The plant was also seen as a symbol of peace, and it is said that among Romans, enemies who met under mistletoe would lay down their weapons and embrace.

Scandanavians associated the plant with Frigga, their goddess of love, and it may be from this that we derive the custom of kissing under the mistletoe. Those who kissed under the mistletoe had the promise of happiness and good luck in the following year.

All I can say is...I don't care where it's from, or where it started, or even who started it! I love it! Of course, being just an old man I don't get a chance to practice this particular tradition as much as I'd like, but that's OK! I have enough memories of trips under the mistletoe to keep me warm for a long, long time!

Now, with that being said...I have to warn all you pretty young ladies out there that if you find yourself being anywhere near the mistletoe...and if you see some old gray-bearded hermit looking guy hanging around, then BE PREPARED!

I hope you know that I'm just fooling here! I think that the kiss is only a nice thing if both parties are into it evenly, ya know? Besides, you know that I don't do the party thing too much, so there!

Now, my friends, let's get some fresh coffee and sit at the kitchen table for a bit. Don't worry...there is no mistletoe hanging anywhere near, OK?

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Let's Eat The Decorations...!!

Of all the different things that are traditional about this time of the year, perhaps nothing says "Christmas" more than the candy cane!

While there are many versions of the origins of this humble candy, I think that we all agree that at one time or another we have had the sweet pleasure of munching on a candy cane! I can't even imagine NOT having candy canes around the house or hanging on the tree during the Christmas holidays!

Although the striped candy is traditional at Christmas, they are available year 'round. In my opinion...that is a good thing!

OK, history time again! Here is a little rundown on the origin of the candy canes. I hope you find it interesting...

Candy canes were probably first introduced over 350 years ago. Professional candy makers had learned that sugar could be stretched and rolled into various shapes. This prompted them to produce straight, white sugar sticks that were easy to eat. During the 1600s, people began to decorate their homes at Christmas time. This typically involved a tree and various sweets like cookies, cakes, and stick candy. The historical evidence indicates that candy canes were first given the cane shape in 1670 by a German choirmaster at the Cologne Cathedral. He supposedly gave the children who sang in his choir sugar sticks that were bent like a shepherd's staff to keep them quiet during long services. The tradition of handing out these candies during Christmas services spread throughout Europe.

The candy cane was first introduced to America in 1847 by a German-Swedish immigrant named August Imgard. He decorated a Christmas tree with candy canes in his Wooster, Ohio home. Evidently his creation had inspired others and a tradition was born.

While people had occasionally enhanced the appearance of the white candy cane with colored sugar prints, it was not until the early nineteenth century that candy canes got their stripes. It is not known exactly who gave candy canes this characteristic, but they have been produced that way ever since. This is also about the time when the flavors of peppermint and wintergreen were added to make the product known today.

During the early part of the century, candy canes were made by hand. This process was extremely laborious. Candy canes were sold almost exclusively at a local level. In the 1950s a Catholic priest named Gregory Keller invented a machine that could make candy canes automatically. This sparked the mass production of the candy. Today, over 1.7 billion candy canes are sold each year.

You know, this would make a good at-home history lesson for the kids! Imagine...having a class with edible homework! No more having to blame the dog...the kids will be more than happy to accept the blame for this one!

Now, my friends, let's get some coffee and sit at the kitchen table...while we figure out another way to gain a few pounds this holiday season!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Where Is All The Gingerbread...??

One thing I remember from my early years, is the gingerbread at holiday time.

I especially liked the gingerbread men. I think there were probably some gingerbread women as well...but I don't remember the gender of the cookies being of any particular importance at the time!

I think we were mostly taken by the various ways in which they were decorated. Raisins for buttons, icing for eyes, whatever the whim of the decorator was at the time! It was beautiful, it was creative, it was delicious!

We didn't have very many gingerbread houses around at the holidays...I'm not sure why. I believe that with all the cooking, the wrapping, the decorating, and all the general chaos of the moment...they were not practical, but that's just my guess.

The point is, you don't see much gingerbread any more. In a way, that's surprising. Gingerbread has a very long and interesting history, just loaded with tradition. Here's a small bit of history of gingerbread that you might enjoy!

The Story of Gingerbread

Most early immigrants to North America came from Europe, therefore most customs are from European origin.

Gingerbread is traced to Europe back to the 11th century. Crusader returning from the Middle East and brought back among other items a spice -- ginger. Soon after, different varieties of gingerbread appeared throughout western Europe. The variations varied widely from sweet, dark, spicy, soft or crusty, the only common characteristic was the ginger spice.

Gingerbread, the name comes from the Latin word "Zingebar", and was not used until the 15th century. By that time, gingerbread gained great popularity, especially in Germany and France. Bakers in both countries formed their own guilds, which gave them exclusive rights to make and sell the bread. However, a law was formed which prohibits them to produce gingerbread at Eastern and Christmas ("Government Red Tape" was well established). This law was eliminated in the 16th century, because of the popularity and favorite attraction of Gingerbread Bakers at market places, were gingerbread was freshly baked. Gingerbread gained such popularity at the already famous "Christkindlesmarket", in Nuremberg, Germany, that it was called the "Gingerbread Capital of the World".

The first gingerbread houses were made in Germany. Children story writer, Brothers Grimm, made them famous in the very popular fairy tale "Hansel and Gretel". The story featured a gingerbread house, which was called "Hexenhäuschen", (Witch House. The story goes, which two lost children came upon and nibbled on the sweet gingerbread house, the evil witch caught and imprisoned them).

Now that I've shared that little bit of culinary history and added to the copious amount of almost useless information you're used to finding here...I wonder if I could get someone out there to do me a really big favor?

Would it be asking too much for someone, get me a gingerbread cookie? Man, I sure would appreciate it a lot!

Now then! What say you and I get some fresh coffee and sit at the kitchen table for a while! Too cold to sit outside in the rain, ya know?