Sunday, November 23, 2014

THANKSGIVING AT THE MILLER'S


I wrote this story a few years back about Thanksgiving at the Miller house.  I am reprinting to lay the groundwork for the recipe that follows. Daddy's dressing is as cherished by my daughters as it is by me, and I want them to be able to make it!  It took me several tries to get it just right.  It will never be as good as Daddy's, but it is close...this year I actually took the time to measure the ingredients, as I have always made it the same way he did--on the fly. It is a very rustic recipe, mixed and mushed together with your hands. While I don't make the cornbread from scratch like my mother did, this comes out as a fair representation of what he did. Good Lord, I love the stuff. Imagine the potatoes in this picture above is actually dressing.




Thanksgiving at the Miller's

My dad was a man’s man.  He worked all week repairing tractors, combines, and irrigation motors.  Cooking the Thanksgiving turkey would not fall under any of those job descriptions.

I came along late in their lives, (SURPRISE!!), so I can’t vouch for what happened earlier in his life, but this is my history thus: my dad was born in 1913, so he was from a different time.  My mom was born in 1919.  I remember them saying things like, “a child is to be seen and not heard”.  It was the tradition in that period that the men ate in the “dining room” FIRST, then the women ate in the same room, then whatever left was fed to the children in the kitchen. (As crazy as that sounds, I, as one of those children, never wanted for too much, as my current robust health testifies.) I guess you could call it “food politics”. That’s when “the woman’s place was in the home”.  With all this posturing, a “man " cooking was a bit—how should I say it--odd.  Different.  My dad did not care.  He usually repeated this turkey-dressing feat at Christmas, but Thanksgiving was the priority. Outside of these yearly duties, breakfast was his only culinary expertise—in the mornings or sometimes for supper.   Most folks around Hartley would be surprised, my dad was not the guy you would expect to fix a great Thanksgiving feast.   He would fix your International irrigation engine, but not dinner. Every year he tried different things.  He baked the bird in a paper bag, or he would open roast it, basting it hourly.  It was his profound pleasure to create a moist turkey.  But it was not his turkey I am here to talk about. It is the dressing.

Thanksgiving dressing is a VERY controversial subject.  Trust me, after years in the beauty salon, I know.  Most recipes are protected with some sort of vigilante attitude.   Bread?  Cornbread? Sage? Sausage? The arguments were never-ending, and sometimes bordered on violent! Well at our house, it was cornbread dressing.  

My mother would bake the cornbread, stone ground cornbread from a recipe in her head that was never written down. For weeks, she would have been freezing day old bread, dinner rolls, hamburger buns...any other bread that might be getting a little dry and could be used for this as well. Thanksgiving Eve, Daddy would begin the process of turning that bread and cornbread into dressing. When I was older, I watched to see how he did it—because it was and still is my favorite of the Thanksgiving meal!  You can all have your pies and cakes, just give me a big heap of dressing and gravy! Daddy chopped all the vegetables, and mushed all the breads and broth with his hands until it was the proper moistness, then baked it golden brown—just right to soak up all that giblet gravy!!

He usually baked the dressing the night before because he thought it had a better flavor after sitting overnight. While he tried different cooking methods on the turkey, the dressing never changed. I have considered trying different dressing recipes through the years, but when my daughters would find out my intentions, they would blanche.  “What?  You are not making Grandaddy’s dressing???”  So, I have never tried any of those sausage or cranberry dressings. But that's ok, this one ROCKS.

Cornbread Dressing

1--9" X 11" cake pan of cornbread  (4 packages of cornbread mix, made per directions)

6 slices bread

3 cans chicken broth

5 raw eggs, beaten

3 stalks celery, sliced (approx 2 cups)

1 large white onion, diced (approx 2 cups)

5 boiled eggs, coarse chopped

2 Tablespoons salt

2 Tablespoons poultry seasoning



Place slices of bread in large pan, and cover with broth, allow to soak a few minutes.  



Crumble the cornbread with your hands. Blend into the bread and broth until well combined. Add beaten eggs. 

Sprinkle salt and poultry seasoning over the top of the bread. Top with onion and celery, blend in well with your hands. If the breads are very dry, you might add more broth if it is not wet enough. It should be similar to a soft mashed potato consistency--kinda gloppy. (Don't you love my culinary technical prowess?)

  



Add chopped boiled eggs. Fold into mixture carefully as not to break them apart too much. Place in greased pan, cover with foil. 


Bake 45 minutes covered at 375 degrees. Remove foil, and bake for 45 minutes uncovered. Check for doneness by inserting knife in the center--there should be no jiggle when shaken, and it should be firm, not too soft in the center.




The thickness of the dressing will determine cooking time. If you choose a slightly larger roasting pan like a 12" X 16", it could be done after the 1.5 hours, and I recommend lowering the temp to 350 degrees. If it is as deep as this pan (disposable deep lasagna pan), continue to cook in 15 minute increments until done. This one took 45 minutes covered at 350 degrees, and one hour uncovered at 375 degrees to get to this point. 

I always bake my dressing the day or two before so the flavors can blend, and it frees up the oven on Turkey Day. It can be frozen, thawed, and the finish bake done later. This one is as brown as I like to get it on the first bake. Keep in mind you will be re-heating it, and you do not want it overcooked and dry. I also prefer a roasting pan so it will get a good crunchy crust, but this one will be travelling across Texas with me, so a disposable will have to do. 


Here you have the perfect vehicle for some delicious giblet gravy... you will never need potatoes again!

Check back after Thanksgiving for a real "after" photo!

Have a wonderful, blessed Thanksgiving my friends!  Peace, Love, and DRESSING!


Tuesday, November 11, 2014

THANKS



THANKS

The other night as I was coming home from work, I noticed this absolutely stunning sunset. I had to stop for a long train (yes, we have those in Central Texas, too), so I just parked and took it in.  After a moment, the colors of the clouds had intensified, so I decided to take a quick picture with my phone. I snapped two, then took a quick look to see if they were blurry, or if I needed to take another one.  They were good, so I looked back up. The colors were gone, replaced with the dull, grey clouds of twilight.

I just sat, searching the sky for any remnant of what had been there just a moment before.  The crossing arms went up, and I traveled on to the house, but my mind was still taken with how fast the sunset had disappeared. Just a few minutes before, I had passed yet another huge wreck on IH-35 that had the whole North-bound lane closed.  This was the fifth wreck in four weeks I have passed like that--where all the lanes were closed due to a serious wreck, with traffic backed up for miles.  Every time I see these, I do two things: pray for those involved, and give thanks it was not on my side of the highway or involving me.  So, the timing of this little gift from God was very reassuring.

That beautiful sunset reminded me of how fleeting everything can be. It was as if God said, “Here you go, take this gift” and gave it to me, and then it was gone from the sky. How many times do we give or take gifts in our day?  Like the smile from the older lady at the grocery, or a really good cup of coffee? What about a hug from someone you love, just when you need it the most? Personally, I am always thankful when I take my shoes off after a long day.  And yoga pants. I am thankful for yoga pants. And good music. And a good night's sleep. And cheese...whoa, sorry, I got distracted there for a minute! Anyway, the point is, we don’t have to just be thankful for the big things in our lives, as the little things sometimes mean just as much in the long run. And you know I can't go without an appropriate meme. 








Hee hee!  


Usually in November, I practice the daily “giving thanks” ritual, where I pick one thing each day to be thankful for. Of course, we all try to be thankful all the time, but when Thanksgiving appears on the horizon, we all go on notice.  There have been times in my younger years (Hold the old jokes, please) that the days flew by so fast, we often forgot to stop for a moment, breathe, and give thanks. We stayed so busy with the day-to-day of work, kids, and other activities that there was no time to reflect on things in our lives that were a blessing. Now that my life moves at a slower pace, I find myself taking lots of little moments to appreciate this life and all the things in it.  I try to focus more on what I have, rather than what I do not have.

As we move into this holiday season, I am taking a moment to be thankful and grateful for the blessings in my life, both big and small, and try to remember to pass those blessings around a little more. Maybe we are old friends, maybe we are new friends, but I want to thank you for being in my life!  We are all a sum total of our life's experiences, and you are in there somewhere! I want to wish you a wonderful, blessed holiday season! Buckle up, Buttercup, because we will be celebrating New Year's before you know it!


Peace, friends.




Sunday, August 17, 2014

With This Ring I Thee Wed...And Happily Ever After


August 24, 1979

The old ball and chain.
Getting hitched. 
Tying the knot. 

Most common slang terms used to describe marriage often conjure up images of torture. And yes, some folks will tell you that is what being married is for them—torture. Many people marry thinking it is about "love", and living "happily ever after". While love is definitely on the list, there are many, many other things that make "happily ever after" happen. During these 35 years of marriage Chuck and I have gone through several on the list at one time or another to stay hitched:

Love/Lust—Passion is a powerful emotion that begins a relationship.  A feeling of completion by another person, and it can literally be the glue that keeps you together as a couple. It also makes butterflies appear in your stomach and simultaneously makes you blind to the other person’s faults. Trust me, that weird chewing thing he does will come back to haunt you later when the new has worn off.

Trust—Mutual trust is foundation of any relationship.  If you don’t trust each other with your heart, soul, car keys and credit card pin numbers, don’t walk--RUN out the door.  You are not ready for marriage to this person.

Commitment—The building blocks of the marriage. Most think love is what a successful marriage is built on, but it's really commitment. Love/lust ebbs and flows over the years, but commitment is what keeps you there. When times are trying, remember love/lust will return and make you butterfly-e and blind again, and even that chewing thing won't seem so bad.

HumorThere is nothing better than sharing a laugh with your loved one. Finding humor in stressful situations is often the best medicine! Laugh until you cry, snort, pee, or whatever it is you do when you are overcome with joy. Laugh at each other, and laugh at yourself once in a while! Trust me, no one cracks me up like me! I’m hilarious!

These are just a few “textbook” descriptions of what makes a lasting marriage. Then there are the real truths:
 
There should be a hotline for homicidal housewives.  I can name countless times I actively planned the hubby’s murder while cleaning the bathroom or picking up his stuff strewn from here to yonder. Or held a pillow at the ready at 3 a.m. when the snoring reached buzz saw pitch. Thankfully, my senses returned and I put those plans on hold. For now.

There should also be a hotline for homicidal husbands. For when their wives move their stuff. Or throw out their stuff. Or drink all their whiskey. Or spend too much money. Or when he wants to hold my mouth shut at 3 a.m. when that annoying popping noise I make when I sleep nearly drives him over the edge. 
Or when I Won’t. Shut. Up.

Time apart is important. Interesting fact: Paul and Linda McCartney lived together 29 years and only spent 10 nights apart. (When he was in a Japanese slammer for marijuana possession.) While I see the value in this for some couples, we have always embraced doing things separately.  We can enjoy our different interests, and come home with great stories to share. I think the hubbs would agree that going to 55 junk shops is not high on his list. And for me, indoor car racing on a dirt track doesn’t even make my top 20. That still leaves plenty of stuff that we enjoy doing together, and I won’t come home with dirt in my ears.

Time together is equally important.  Take time every day to have a real conversation. Ask what is going on at work or how their day went, and you will understand what is going on with your spouse. Sometimes we forget to separate our personal lives from what is going on at our jobs, and good communication helps us to diffuse a cranky partner.  Always try to "check work at the door". If all else fails, have a cocktail and put on some music. It's hard to be a "cranky pants" in a happy atmosphere.

Be flexible. Age, children, job changes, health problems—they are all powerful game changers in a marriage. Friends come and go, children grow up and move out, parents graduate to heaven. In the end it is you and your spouse against LIFE. Make sure you choose a good teammate that knows how to protect the goal, and don’t let your personal selfishness derail the team. 

Recognize who you are individually. Chuck loves tinkering in the garage, smoking meat, watching movies and TV, and playing cards. I like to cook, paint, write, refinish furniture, sew, do photography, and remodel the house.  Thankfully he has learned how to stay out of my way when some of my above-mentioned tornadic activity is happening, and I don't bet against him in card games. 

Recognize what you are together. We have worked together to build the life we have, with each of us bringing different aspects to it.  It has been 35 years of changes, as we have changed as people and learned to agree on a path going forward. Does that mean we always agree on everything?  Oh, HELL no! (Anyone who has been around us more than 15 minutes knows that!) While we might go to sleep aggravated with the other, thankfully neither of us remembers it when we wake up. (Best advice, right there.)  Life’s too short for grudges.

Don't,  for even one second, think the grass is greener somewhere else.  The grass is greenest where you water it. 





A few years back, I wrote a poem and would like to share it again:

Perfect Love

If you're looking for perfect love, it just doesn't exist

It changes completely after that first sweet kiss

Challenges present themselves every day

Making it hard to find your way

There's love and lust, and sweet adoration

All of which have brought down nations

The strength of them just boggles my mind

But it is nothing compared to the daily grind

Constant see-saws in the struggle for power

Moods swinging wildly, almost by the hour

A woman marries a man, thinks all his faults she will tweak

He'll even clean and wash all the stuff in the sink

He'll iron all his shirts, and give her a massage

And he'll mow the yard and clean out the garage

He'll bring her fresh flowers when her day has been rough

And serve breakfast in bed, and all that kind of stuff

A man marries a woman, thinks she will forever be the same

Not even prepared to play the marriage game

No more parties with the buddies, no nights on the town

And God help him if he doesn't put the seat down

Forget the sexy jammies, they are long gone

Replaced by a t-shirt—NOT worn with a thong

And then come the kids, the pawns on the board

Here everybody wants to try to keep score

Oh yes, there are good times, and time spent in bliss

Then times you are not speaking, much less want a kiss

You are up, then down, then spun around crazy

You gotta hang on tight, you can't be lazy

Love takes lots of work, lots of give and take

You can't have it all, you have to give them a break

Yes, stand up and demand it, if it's something important

If it's not, let it go, it will all get sorted

Once you get by that first flush of love

You need help from heaven above

'Cause Lord knows, none of us are perfect

Love is hard and something you have to work at

It's not about finding someone who perfectly fits YOU

It is not like going shopping to find the right shoe

It is more like searching for buried treasure

You can't see their worth, can't even measure

It's all just a gamble, just rollin' the dice

But so is everything worth having in life





Now, some awesome wedding photos. Enjoy. (If you can't tell, our colors were blue. You gotta love the '70's.)
The Announcement
The Wedding Party

 L to R: Carrie Bryant, Christie (Miers) Beer, Sandy Bryant, 
Blushing Bride, Handsome Groom, 
Jimmy House, Randy Miers, Tom Shimon

The Bridal Portraits...


And the Groom...





And don't forget to laugh.










Happy 35th Anniversary, Chuck. You are my "Happily Ever After" 






Friday, June 27, 2014

CHANGE



Change. You either love it or you hate it.

We love it if it is our idea. We hate it when it's not our idea. And sometimes, we hate it even when it IS our idea. The hard fact remains that change is the only thing in our life that stays the same. Everything around us and in us is in a constant state of change.

Planet Earth changes. The scientists study it, the scholars write about it, the Chicken Little’s warn us about The End coming any day now. They chronicle earthquakes and volcanic explosions with great alarm, like this was the first time EVER this has happened, and are genuinely shocked that it does, and “what can we do to stop this terrible thing”. Droughts come and go, as do rainy seasons. Rivers flood, change paths, and dry up completely. Pretty much the only thing that stays the same on this planet is the wind blowing in the Panhandle of Texas, but even then the dirt it is blowing in changes--sometimes it is Colorado dirt, sometimes it is New Mexico dirt. (Insert theme song from "The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly" in your mind here.) Fact is, this planet is in constant flux and always has been, always will be. It is a growing, changing, expanding piece of the galaxy, and there is speculation that in a few hundred million years our Sun will implode and Earth will forever be gone. As much as I try to watch my health, I don’t think I will be around to see it, so I am not concerning myself too much with this fact.





Technology changes. I deal daily with computers. They are truly both a blessing and a curse—love them when they work, hate ‘em when they don’t. The software constantly needs updating, and then you can’t find a blinking thing on your desktop anymore, and there are all new symbols and a jillion new options, most of which you will never have the time to learn to use...all part of the culture. However, for all their pitfalls, I would never go back to the “old way” of doing things, and quite honestly don’t think anyone else wants to, either. Notebooks, ledgers, file boxes, filing cabinets, snail mail…no thanks. But please, let’s all stop reminiscing about how easy Windows XP was to use and move on. Everything is stored in the cloud now, you can access anything from anywhere—the convenience this brings has quickly advanced our culture and lives. Can it be a pain in the butt? Absolutely, but only if you let it.



Jobs change. If you are one of the bazillion of us out here who make up the working sector, you know the challenge of change in the workplace. New programs, new equipment, new insurance, new employees, new owners, new brand of toilet paper in the restroom—the list of “new” goes on and on. I have never understood why people will leave a job they know well and have done for years because of changes within the company, and go to a completely new job. The fact is, there is more change involved in that move than there is in tweaking the one they have! But it goes back to my first line—if it is not our idea to change, we are usually going to resist it. If we choose to change jobs, it is a choice we make, and therefore embrace it. Aren’t we humans funny?



Our bodies change. They grow, evolve and age. First we grow from a child to an adult, then revert in many ways to being childlike again. We gain weight, and we lose weight. We get “in shape”, and we get “out of shape”. Our hair changes color, either with help or on it’s own. Parts get wrinkled and saggy, joints quit working like they used to, and some of our "innards" do too, even on a healthy body. We can fight these physical changes, but they come on steady and sure. There are a plethora of solutions from creams, to supplements, to surgery, but at the end of the day, improvement is still change, and believe me, I am all for improvement.


Our minds change. And no, I don't mean that whimsical "I changed my mind about what shoes to wear" kind of change. Our thoughts and opinions mature through the years, with accumulated experiences and attitude affecting change. Well, most of us do anyway.  There are those who are so unsure of themselves that they refuse to grow and increase their knowledge and experiences because they feel safe doing things the same way they always have--change frightens them.  Some of us expand ourselves, sometimes learning from the past, sometimes learning from repeating it.  Our perception of the world and those around us changes with every life experience.  A choice few embrace change, loving the challenge new ideas bring, excited to step out into the unknown and gain new knowledge. People are born, people die, disasters happen. Disease and other physical ailments plague us. Our bodies wear out. Our spirits can go from the dungeon to the stars in an instant. Every day changes us—more on some days than others. It’s what life was meant to be.

                                                                        


Our daily life changes. Our reluctance to change really becomes apparent when it comes to our "stuff". I can move the furniture and paint the walls, and the hubbs will be like, "Wow. You changed things. OK, I will get used to this." But move the man's remote control to another drawer and watch what happens. Switch his sock drawer with his underwear drawer, and stand back, it can be drama for days--because his "stuff" isn't where he is used to it being. Now, I have to admit, I wouldn't like him moving my "stuff" around either, but let's face it, sometimes re-organizing is necessary--no matter how traumatic. And yes, I am that person who will look for something "where I used to keep it" 10 times before the change sticks. But then sometimes I think I could hide my own Easter eggs, so that isn't new.


Change. The bottom line is, you can make it EASY or you can make it HARD. It’s all up to you. But if you stop and consider for one moment that the main thing God asks of us is to trust in His plan for us, what really is the big deal? Why do we let our egos get "too big for their britches" and have all control? In the Bible, it was called "pride", and was a block to entering God's kingdom. I have a sweet friend whose father has had some serious ongoing medical problems, and her mother uses the phrase in her updates, "I am holding on to the hem of His garment in faith" to describe her trust in God concerning her husband's recovery. What a perfect description of what we all do when we trust our faith! Whatever change is handed us, is always manageable with faith--all we have to do is hang on.




So now,  I guess we need to make another "change" to our thinking, because "hanging on"  really means "letting go" doesn't it?  

Peace, friends.




(Want to listen to the theme song to the movie, "The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly"?  Listen here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AFa1-kciCb4 )

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Flying



As a child I dreamt I could fly 



Soar at dawn across the sky 




Gazing down on the houses below 




Seeing things I couldn't possibly know 




The fading street lights, the shadowed yards 




The old dirt school yard where I played so hard 




The tiny churches where I learned to pray 




Never thinking I'd grow up some day 




Above the elevator, I'd fly so high 




With no fear that I might fall from the sky 




The dusty old fields, the tractors at rest 




As for dreams, this one was the best 




Again and again it would come in the night 




And while I slept I would take flight 




I'd awake in the morning, wishing it wouldn't end 




But I never told anyone, not even a friend 




"They'll think I'm crazy" is what I always thought 




But the freedom of that dream was constantly sought 




I wish I could dream it again to this day 




But I grew up somewhere along the way 




I still believe one day my soul will take flight 




And fly again over those houses at night 






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When the Stars Go to Sleep

I love early mornings, it's my favorite time of day

When it's cool and dark, before the sky begins to grey

From the sun coming up to illuminate this globe

But you have to have the constitution of Job

To make yourself calm down, clear out your head

The night before, and just get your butt into bed

So you can breathe fresh air early, when you arise

And get out and enjoy all your daily exercise

I love being out there, by myself, all alone

To sort out my thoughts about work, life, and home

But there is something magic that happens each morning

I try to watch for it, it comes without warning

The stars go to sleep, but I never seem to catch them

When they close their eyes, and I've tried to see when

They twinkle out, it seems they are VERY sneaky

Like they are shy, don't want me peeking

One minute it's dark, and they are shining brightly

Next minute they are gone, and they do it again nightly

I swear, they are here, and then they are gone

Hidden by the glory of the breaking dawn

My morning date, with the stars I will keep

And keep trying to catch them when they go to sleep