Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Real Estate 101

“FSBO” (pronounced fizz-bow)

“For Sale By Owner”

I hear of people putting their house on the market themselves all the time. We have done it, thinking we knew all we needed to know to sell our home. Our thoughts were, “What does a real estate agent really do? They stick a sign in the yard, and then collect a lot of money for a small amount of work!”

Wow, were we really dumb.

In the process of getting my real estate license, I discovered we had bought and sold 3 houses, even with the help of agents, with absolutely no idea what we were doing. Not that the agents did not explain things as we went along, but the overall picture was so large there was no way to grasp it all while caught up in the emotion of the changes put in motion by moving. We signed legally binding contracts not understanding the depth of what we were signing, but managed to make it out unscathed.

There are so many facets of this business that the average person has no idea about, and in my opinion, underestimates. For starters, a RE agent does not receive a salary. The exact opposite is reality.  They have a tremendous outflow of money monthly-- office dues, MLS dues, training conventions, continuing education, advertising, gas…the list is long and pricey. Their payday only comes when a property closes and funds. With the 45 million things that can go wrong with a contract, the suspense can be akin to sleeping every night under a guillotine with a frayed rope…tick, tock, will it fall? Will the inspections come back positive? Is my client’s lending going to come through? Will the repairs get done in time? The list of possible fails is endless.

They are basically on call 24-7, as the continuous flow of a listing or contract is like having a new baby in the house. As any RE agent knows, if they want the poop to hit the fan on a deal, just leave town on vacation! Every property has its warts…deed restrictions, easements, an uninsurable roof.  Add in the variable of the buyers or sellers…death, divorce, bad credit, tight closing timelines…the stress level can weigh heavy on everyone, but especially the agent. When you are dealing with people’s largest purchase/sale of their lives, the emotions are always on high pressure. Like a pressure cooker-type high pressure. Like “It’s gonna blow any minute” high pressure.

The first job of a RE agent is education. They must educate every client, usually as they saunter along through the listing/contract time period. They sometimes also have to educate the agents on the other side of the deal, as not all brokerages are as keen on education and training as others. They also must keep lenders and title companies abreast of changes in the contract and timelines.  It’s a never-ending game of Jenga, pulling out blocks very carefully, and hoping the whole mess doesn’t end up in the floor.

The process of working with buyers and sellers are always interesting. Usually the seller thinks their home is worth more than it actually is, because they see their home with an overlay of memories and emotions. They think their 24 pieces of taxidermy hanging on the walls are beautiful, as are the neon green/pink/purple bedroom walls, and the 4001 knick-knacks sitting around gathering dust. While all these decorating styles are great for the current owner, a buyer can find them distracting, and they aren't able to envision themselves living there. The listing agent walks a thin line between achieving a sellable look for the home and offending the seller, while trying to prepare the property to appeal to the broadest market of buyers possible.  Add in the often unseen liability placed on the seller the moment he puts the sign in the yard, and having an agent that knows both the legal and practical aspects of listing becomes invaluable.

Working with buyers is always interesting, because the agent gets to see how other agents market their properties. Not every brokerage operates in top professional form. We find awful photos, taken with a cell phone and featuring the listing agent’s thumb, crude handmade signs out of cardboard in front of the home, and missing or inaccurate information in the MLS. While it’s always a challenge to get your seller to keep the house clean and in showing condition, it is still an eye-opener when you are on the buy side. First you have to negotiate around the barking, snapping dog that the listing says is “friendly”, only to have an alarm that won’t shut off. Every agent can tell a story of the house that not only features stainless steel appliance and large patio, but has little monuments of dog poop throughout the house, dirty dishes in the sink, unmade beds, and dirty underwear in the floor. While that sounds revolting, it can get even more exciting when the seller misses the message that there is a showing, and you meet them in the hallway and they are in the buff. It’s always a gamble!

Before you think that being a RE agent is all stress and potential pitfalls, there is good news, and plenty of it! In the process of working for and with our clients, a bond is formed that many times lasts through the years. After all, when get a new client, we spend a considerable amount of time learning about not just their RE needs, but we learn about their jobs, families, even their pets. We enter their inner sanctum, their private little fort in which they take shelter from the world. We take the information we gather and formulate the best possible plan to execute their home buying/selling experience with as few snags as possible, but often there is a friendship that develops that exceeds the client/agent roles. Caring about people is primary in a RE agent’s DNA, followed by passion—the drive to deliver for their clients.

Now that you know what hard workers RE agents are, let’s talk about the fun side. Let me tell you, we know how to have fun! (Or at least the folks I have worked with love to!) While I have had my RE license for 10 years, my current job is office coordinator for ERA Courtyard Real Estate, Amarillo office. We have 22 agents in our office, and there is never a dull moment around here, believe me! They have a zest for life, and are active in the community. Our brokerage is steeped in training, and strive to have the highest professional standards. We hire a professional photographer to take the photos of our listings. We employ a new technology that shoots a 3D tour that allows you to literally walk through each property on your computer or tablet. (See the link at the bottom of this blog to tour our new office in Amarillo and try out this technology!) We have a relocation department that works with veterans on a national level to assist them in moving, many times helping them get money back at closing through the programs they are enrolled in. The icing on the cake is that we pray at the end of our weekly meetings, and invite God into both our private and work lives so we can best the best folks we can be, and thus do the best job for our clients possible.

Some people hate to move, others enjoy the occasional change of scenery. Either way, using a real estate professional is the key to the best possible outcome! Before your next home purchase/sale, give a REALTOR® a call and ask a few just might be surprised at what you might learn!

Peace, friends.

Click on this link to experience Matterport and see our new office located in Amarillo, TX!

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Seeing Food With New Lenzes

No, the title of this blog is not a typo.

As my daughter Shelly points out in her blog from August 22, our family time revolves around a common theme: food!  I have written about it before, such as in “Food, Glorious Food”, . When you are a foodie, you are planning the next meal while you are eating. Same with gypsy travelers like me, planning the next trip while on a trip. But that is another blog.

Shelly chronicles her childhood mealtimes, and quite accurately. We did not require our girls to clean their plates, but we did have the “one bite” rule.  Food can become the ultimate power play for children. “I don’t like that” often has parents skittering around trying to find Precious something he/she will eat. Not at my house growing up, nor at my husband’s. Our girls had to try one bite of everything on their plate, no negotiations were made and we avoided many dinnertime power struggles with this method. As adults they eat most anything, so I guess it worked.

 I have given a glimpse of my childhood special meals in this entry,  ”Thanksgiving at the Millers”, Daily fare consisted on much more common foods. A recent conversation reminded me of all the fried bologna, Vienna sausages, and chicken fried Spam I ate as a kid.  Supper many nights was a bowl of cereal, or Denver sandwiches that my dad would make…scrambled eggs with bacon, onions, and peppers, eaten in a sandwich.

But Shelly’s blog reminded me of the adjustments my culinary life had meeting the Lenz family. Having 11 children to feed, Donna Mae was a force to be reckoned with when they came to Texas in 1974. I heard many stories of how it took several of each thing to feed one meal: several chickens, or boxes of cereal, or gallons of milk, or loaves of bread. SEVERAL WHOLE BOXES OF CEREAL. SEVERAL WHOLE LOAVES OF BREAD! With Donna Mae came an adventuresome style of cooking. My mother cooked meals that were traditional comfort food—ham, sweet potatoes, with macaroni and cheese. Roast beef, potatoes, carrots, and gravy. The combinations were always the same.  (And, as Shelly pointed out in her food blog, I have followed suit when it comes to chicken fried steak/mashed potatoes/gravy/corn combo!)  But Donna Mae constantly searched out new recipes. They brought their Iowa staples of pork in the form of ham, baked beans instead of pinto beans, pork roasts instead of beef roasts, and other subtle differences. Several traditional Southern staples were not on their grocery list. Biscuits and gravy was not a weekly Sunday breakfast.  They viewed black eyed peas as hog feed. Cornbread dressing did not exist for them, they had plain bread dressing. She served her ham with sauces, such as cherry or raisin glaze, something I had never eaten. Salads were an ever-changing lineup, as were the desserts, like rhubarb pie- rhubarb grew wild in the ditches in Iowa and she would send the kids to gather it. This time period was when the Lenz crew of parents, spouses, and kids created a food tradition that continues today. Some of those trials became weekly traditions for years…Banana Bars, Peanut Buster Bars, Garden Glory Salad, Calico Beans, Ranger Cookies, and that Cherry salad made with pie filling everyone was nuts about in the 70’s. The list could go on and on.

The Lenz Christmas tradition was unlike anything I had ever seen.  Donna Mae and her daughters started making candy the weekend after Thanksgiving. Corn flake Christmas wreaths, divinity, fudge, Martha Washington balls, peanut clusters, and various bars. Then, a week or two later, we would devote an afternoon to Christmas cookies. She would bake and we would decorate. Mountains of icing would be spread on dozens of cookies, and they be whisked away to the freezer.

All this advance preparation had a purpose. Donna's days were filled with meal planning and preparation all year, and in order for her to be able to relax and enjoy Christmas outside the kitchen she had created the tradition that Christmas Eve was finger food. The traditional line up was ham buns,  chilled shrimp, marinated chicken wings, cocktail sausages in a spicy sauce, and other items that were special treats for a family that had to stay full on potatoes and bread the rest of the year. There were cheese balls (all the rage in the 70’s!), summer sausages, and a mountain of crackers, basically anything that could be prepared in advance so she could relax Christmas Eve. All the frozen sweets were finally pulled from the freezers, and arranged on pretty trays. That’s when the Christmas Slush came out of the freezer too…an icy "adult" concoction that the younger kids weren’t allowed to drink…(but I think most of them managed to sneak some.)  Then we all would go to Midnight Mass. Christmas Day was all about the turkey and ham, baked beans, mashed potatoes and gravy, and a jillion salads and vegetable casseroles, some of which were provided by us kids. There were pies and desserts that were a sweet holiday treat. That was also when Jesus’ birthday cake appeared, a poppy seed, cream filled wonder that was only made that time of year. Our Christmas meals today still include several of these comfort foods, and our holiday traditions mirrored these for many years.

Having such a large audience to consume the goods through the years has spurred me to be adventuresome as well. (Apparently, I will NOT be “adventuresome” with my chicken fried steak meal lineup anymore by serving GREEN BEANS instead of my traditional CORN, as Shelly’s blog pointed out. I completely threw them off, and I’d hate to warp my kids any more than I already have. Hee hee!)  I can say the Chuck Lenz family food traditions are a delightful blend of his family and my family, with plenty of new ideas thrown in. I occasionally pull out an old recipe from “back in the day” and make it. I recently made my vintage favorite Coconut Dessert, only to have my daughters fall in love with it all over again. Sometimes the dish tastes as good as it did then, and sometimes we find our palates have moved past that recipe. I think the memories of food are made sweeter because of the love that was served up with it, and Shelly’s blog confirms we have passed that love on. The food was the center of the gathering; the time spent together was the nourishment. 

Peace, friends

Sunday, September 10, 2017

The Pursuit of Perfection

It was the typical Saturday morning activity…cleaning house.  I love a neat, clean house.  Getting it clean and that even harder job of keeping it that way is a challenge.  It has gotten even harder in our current home, which features dark hardwood floors.  That morning, while the morning sun shone full on the vast dune of dust particles, I vacuumed, dust mopped, and Swiffered until I was satisfied that I captured the majority of it.  By the evening when the sun makes its way in the front door, there will be a light sprinkling of new dust. It fascinates the husband. “Where does this all come from? How did it get back on here so fast?” It would be awesome if I could figure out a way to keep these floors in a constant state of clean. Alas, it’s not in my budget for a live-in maid, which is the only real solution to my problem. I can close the shades to shut out the direct sunlight, and the floor looks fine. But let the light hit it, and every dust crumb shines like a diamond. My “clean” house is an illusion.

Our lives have the influx of all kinds of media—TV, movies, computers, phones. Along with that has come an evolving change in our expectations of what life should be. What could be seen as a wonderfully amazing portal to the world to some can be a source of great personal angst for others. The perfect images that have become the norm from social media often are not the truth.  They are arranged strategically, lighted to showcase the subject, cropped to hide the pile of mail on the counter, or dirty socks in the floor. There are birthday parties with beautiful children and cakes, and everyone is smiling and happy. Guys at the lake fishing, enjoying the day. Groups of beautiful young women, stylishly dressed. It could lead the viewer to believe that all these people are leading charmed, perfect lives.

I love photography, because you can tell a story that touches someone’s heart.  My first instinct is to attempt the perfect stage.  Lighting, angle, timing—all key components.  The magic of each photo is that you only see what shows up in the frame, the scenario that the photographer has created. Most of the time, they don’t reveal the whole story.  The above photo of mine shows three rustic houses against a backdrop of green and a pond behind.  What I cropped off the side was some dilapidated trailer houses with junk cars in the front, a trashy place on I-40 that most never even give a second glance. My idyllic scene has a dirty secret, as most photos do. Social media is no different. Those birthday photos?  Perhaps mom and dad had a fight before it started because mom spent too much money.  Those beautiful young women? Maybe one has a drug or alcohol problem, or another suspects her husband is having an affair.

There have been recent studies that indicate people, especially teens and young women, feel inadequate because so many of their peers appear to have the perfect life. Social media escalates this “imagined life”, as most people just post the good things going on in their lives--personal accomplishments, new purchases, vacations, weddings, new babies, evenings out. They don’t post photos of the stack of bills waiting to be paid, the kids throwing tantrums, the weeds in the yard, or the divorce papers being signed. Listen, we all know every night is not a steak dinner, some nights it’s a ham sandwich—but when that is all we see of our friend’s lives, it is easy to feel like our average days are not measuring up.  

Exactly like my “illusion” of a clean house, so is the perfect life. We can try our best to clean things up, but the gritty realities sift back in. I appreciate my FB friends who post those real-life photos and tell those less than perfect stories. I have a few young ones on my news feed that make me smile with their photo “fails” …the baby barf on the Sunday outfit, the ginormous mess made by their little hellions, the family photo with that one screaming kiddo…they are all photos of the perfectly imperfect life God has so graciously granted.

Now if you will excuse me, I need to go dust...but I might just close the shutters.

Peace, friends.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

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 blended 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 in these days of feeding the kids first, I, as one of those children then, 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, and he would need their one oven for the turkey and all the other goodies the next day. 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!

The final product with giblet you see me kayaking through there?  

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

Friday, May 6, 2016

Happy Mother's Day

Mother's Day. It was always the time of the year that the iris bloomed.  After the winter season, it was the one of first glimpses of flowers in the yard.  We always had a big bouquet of purple and yellow blooms on the table. My mother grew up in a time where you planted things that came back year after year, usually bulbs given to you by a friend or relative. There were no greenhouse flowers, there were heritage blooms.  

Everybody loved my mom.  She was a “cool mom” before moms were cool.  Now I don’t mean she was a mom that wore teenager clothing or tried to hang out with us or be youthful, she was just herself and that was…cool.  She was older than a lot of my friend's moms, and she worked, so that meant I learned how to cook at a fairly young age. This was good, because she was a great cook and taught me many kitchen tricks. In the summers she canned a lot, and in the winters she baked. She had a self-deprecating humor, and loved to collect things.  She was never unaccompanied by my daddy, so it is almost hard for me to speak of her in the singular.  They were from a time when married couples did not do things without the other. Anyone who was in our world at the time I was growing up knows they were never far away from where I was. They were a fixture at our house after I married, at all our get-togethers, and kidnapped my girls at every occasion.  But growing up in the Miller house was different than a lot of others.

My name was chosen long before I was born.  Clif was born 13 years before me, and the name Donna (after my mother's sister) had been chosen “in case” he was a girl.  The middle name, "Lynelle", is Mother and Daddy's names combined--Lloyd and Wanelle. Jim came along a couple of years later, and the name had to wait. Well, many years and one more brother  (Ken) later, I appeared…the little princess in all their lives.  (Know that as I write this, I am laughing. They will begrudgingly agree, however.) I was a fluff of hair ribbons, lacy socks, pretty dresses and curls. I have early memories of the three of them treating me like a little doll when I was small.  When I got older, Kenny and I had our moments of war, but I was still his little sister, and he was very protective of me.

My mom was not a super attentive mother, no matter what my princess title required.  Once I was old enough to run outside, I think a “free range” parenting label would fit better. I climbed trees, made mud pies, and played trucks with the boys.  I cut Tide boxes and clipped them to my bicycle spokes with clothes pins so it would make noise.  I went to my dad’s shop and drove small tractors up and down FM 281, much to the neighbor’s horror. Most days I am sure I smelled like a boy when I came in, after a long day blowing up gourds with firecrackers, playing pirate in the old combines behind the shop, and laying in the grass looking at the stars until the mosquitoes ate me up. In my books, that was mothering at its best. 

I was blessed with my own little curtain climbers many years later.  “Mothering” had changed, but I think they will both agree I was not a helicopter mother either.  I must say though, I know for a fact that the lessons and values taught me by my mother have been passed on. Mother taught me how to sew, cook, balance a checkbook, recycle something from almost anything,  how to laugh at yourself, and most of all, how to be independent.  I know I have succeeded in passing that knowledge on to my two little monkeys, who are now the most amazing, beautiful young women I know. They are smart, funny, capable women who know how to work and achieve great things.  Mother has been gone 17 years now, but her knowledge is still alive and well through them.

You know, we don’t get a manual when we have kids. We are just all out there, being the best moms we know how to be. For some that means being a helicopter. For others, that might mean not being in their child’s lives at all. But at the end of the day, IT IS OUR BEST.  Thank you, Shelly and Shana, for being everything a mother could ever ask for. I thank God constantly for his blessing of you on our life. I pray he bless you both with the same.

Happy Mother’s Day to all my friends and family. Appreciate your mom every day, whether she is still with you or not—she did her best.

And here are my little nuggets.

Peace, friends.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

The Bathrobe

Anyone who knows me well will tell you I am pretty thrifty when it comes to personal belongings.  I have always stowed away my decorative items for a while, only to pull them back out and use them again in a couple of years. I have always only kept one set of sheets for each bed, I wash them and put them back on.  I have cookware that I got as wedding gifts that I still use on a daily basis. I keep clothing and wear it until it is worn out.

This brings up my bathrobe. Just how worn out is worn out?  It is still a very plush blue velour, and is very snuggly (which is the most important requirement for a bathrobe). The only sign of wear is at the neck—from being hung on a hook in my closet. For 35-plus years. Ok, ok, I realize this might strike you as a bit odd, to keep something for that long—but I have to reiterate—it is still good!  It has always been able to perform its bathrobe duties-- covered me when I was cold, dried me when I was wet—it worked.  Since the styles don’t really change, I had not really put much thought into a new one. I ordered it from J.C. Penny’s in Dalhart from the catalog counter because I could get a “tall”, and I knew the sleeves would be long enough. I can’t remember the exact date, but I think around 1976. It’s a wonder it wasn’t avocado green instead of blue. Or had peace sign  or “Keep On Truckin” patches sewn on it.

So I start thinking about what this bathrobe has been through. It wrapped me as a newlywed on a cold winter’s night. It tried to cover all of me during my two pregnancies, but my baby belly peeped out the front.  It was a welcome comfort home after a couple of surgeries.  It has been dripped on, drug through, and dipped in almost everything imaginable. It has ventured outside on a few occasions, but I can honestly say it never took a car ride (I never was that robe-wearing mom driving her kids to school). It’s had a million food items on it—syrup, bacon grease, mayo, mustard, and for some odd reason, I always ended up with pancake batter on the sleeves. And yes, I dipped the belt in the toilet water more than once.

So I decided it was time to retire the old girl. She has stood with me, and done everything I have asked. I have replaced her with a cheery pink one, but it doesn’t feel as soft. The hubby said, “Now, you ARE going to get rid of the old one, aren’t you?” and I honestly had to take a breath before I said yes.  I am not a keeper, I donate pretty much anything I am not using, but I think he knew I would have a difficult time letting go of this old girl. How long will the pink one last? Who knows, but my money is on the fact that it will not even touch how long the blue one lasted. And yes, my money is also on the fact that the belt will get baptized in the toilet water.  

Wednesday, February 17, 2016


I haven’t blogged in forever. It’s not that I gave it up, it’s just that life happens. We get caught up in the daily grind. I am a spontaneous writer—when I get an idea, I have to write it then, or it is lost. I have done some deep thinking this week as we have lost Chuck’s sister very unexpectedly with a brain aneursym. A little "life review", as it were.  First we lost his Dad, Ted, in August, then our brother-in-law Tom in October. They were both ill, which doesn’t make it any easier, but I had a little time to prepare myself for their passing. Christie’s passing was a shock. She was my age (which I prefer to think is not all that old), and in a blink she was gone. Looking back at her life made me look back at mine. What have I done in this life? Am I where I want to be? If I go tomorrow, what is my legacy?  With that in mind, I am laying out what I feel is important:

Love one another. Don’t judge one another. We are all just slogging along, trying to get through this life the best way we know how. And yes, there are those out there who don’t share your beliefs, morals, hygiene, or (Lord help us) fashion sense.  Jesus tells us over and over to love them anyway, and it’s not your job to judge them. For the most part, it is useless to try to change anyone’s mind.  Just love them.

Smile. Be kind. You never know when that grouchy hateful person might just need one.  Help people who need helping. Open doors, carry a bag, whatever. Throw a wink in with that smile. Maybe that person will pass your kindness on. Or the smile.

Be accountable. I struggle with this one. There are always excuses,”the sun was in my eyes”,“the dog ate my homework” or“I was going to come over, but the ShamWow infomercial came on TV and I lost track of time”. If you screw up, own it.

Tell those closest to you that you care. Why is it that we tend to not tell our husbands, wives, brothers, sisters, children, parents, etc, that we love and treasure them? Like they should just know it? Does the fact that we are still hanging around picking up their shoes and cooking a meal once in awhile mean that we love them?  We all like to hear we are loved and valued.

Reach out to people. As you all know, I am a social networking fan. Facebook sucks up more of my time than it should, but I enjoy keeping up with friends. I don’t accept friend requests from someone I have not met. While I may not chat with all of them often, I love to look at their photos of their kids, grandkids, cats, dogs, and goofy videos.  I read their comments, "like" their posts, and watch their journey through life. I laugh at them, pray with them, and poke them occasionally. I post what is going on my end, and post all my random silly pictures and jokes in the hopes of giving away a few smiles—if I can make a couple of people laugh, I have done my job. Not everyone shares my twisted, wacky sense of humor, and if they get tired of my posts, they are welcome to unfollow me. If they disagree with my beliefs and lifestyle, they are welcome to unfriend me. Mostly, I have found people just like to complain about it, but they are still on Facebook looking at my crap.

Don't sweat the small stuff. Ask yourself, "will I remember this in 5 years?" If the answer is no, cut it loose. Mop up the mess, wipe yourself off, and get back to it. Life's too short to nitpick.

Listen to some music. Whatever your preference is, it soothes us, lifts our mood, and for me, takes me to places only music can. Get up and dance once in a while. It is a real stress reliever, and in my case, provides comic relief to anyone close by.

Take care of yourself. Remember that we are not bodies that have souls, we are souls that have bodies. Our body has to carry us through this life, and our soul carries on through the next one. Nourish both.

For me, I try to approach life like I do driving--with reckless abandon.  Peace, friends.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016


I got pulled down that black hole known as Pinterest a couple of years ago.  For creative, crafty, painting-sewing-photo taking furniture refurbisher like me, it is simply idea heaven.  But the bigger aspect of Pinterest is that there are virtually hundreds of subjects covered--travel, food, business, and even things on the risqué side. (Don’t ask me how I know that. Well, it was a mistake, I just saw this photo, clicked on it, and before I knew it I was on the wrong side of town.)

Anyway, for those of you who are not familiar with Pinterest, it is an online pinboard site that you can “pin” links to webpages, photos, etc  on your own “boards”. That allows you to go back to that web page by clicking on the “pin” and access it. When you first begin, they have created a few boards for you and pre-named them. One of the boards was named “MY STYLE”. I giggled and deleted it, thinking to myself, “Style is not something I have. Delete.”

You see, I have style challenges. I am not a girly-girl, but I like some girly stuff. I see those gals out there with the big hair and the big nails and the big purse and the big rhinestone outfits, and while I think it is cute, I would Not working that hard at it, I guess. Maybe I should call my style "LAZY".

I love that Youtube about the difference between the way men and women shower.  The woman takes in a minimum of 17 products, shampoos, scrubs, loofahs, pumices, and conditioners and after 40 minutes, walks out smelling like a flower shop.  The man walks in, washes everything with bar soap, including his hair, and leaves, dropping wet towels along the way. Me, I fall somewhere in the middle, but everything in my shower smells more like laundry soap than flowers.  My home décor is nowhere close to Pottery Barn, but is not quite Motel 6, either. I don’t like to spend a lot of money on clothes, mainly because it offends me that someone thinks I want to pay a hundred bucks for a pair of pants that looks like they were run over by a freight train. All 200 cars. I know there are more washings in that $40.00 pair without all the holes, anyway.  So, I guess I should call my style “PRACTICAL”.

When looking at the “Women’s Fashions” section in Pinterest, I realize there are a lot of options out there, but a lot of them are not made for a woman of my stature. My brother said it well once, quote-

“The guy who designed us had just got a promotion. His previous job was designing fire hydrants.”-–Ken Miller 

And as silly as it sounds, he is pretty close.  Growing up in the ’50’s when 36-24-36 was the desirable measurements for a woman, rolling in at 36-36-36 made it hard to find clothes. I have to smile when I think about my Grandmother Clifton in Dalhart. She had sets of matching shoes, purse, and hat—bone and white for summer, black for winter, and navy was for anytime, I guess. But she was adamant you could not wear the bone or white colored shoes before Easter or after Labor Day. She wore hosiery,  a hat, and gloves to church. Her earrings and necklace matched. While that was the norm for women in the '50's, I am glad those days have gone by. 

“Ain’t nobody got time for dat!”  —Sweet Brown

Then, you add in that I am now a “woman of a certain age” (which is just nicey-nice talk saying a woman is no longer young but is not REALLY old YET) and it becomes a real labrynth to find “my style”. Let’s be honest, some body parts just should not see the light of day after 50. That means short shorts are out, and we have to reel the neckline up on the tank tops. An armhole that stops that upper arm from looking like a spare parachute is nice, too. On the legs, factor in my 4 knee surgeries and waaay too many hours in the sun, and I am safe to just put on pants and call it a day.

I have actually gone back and created a style board for myself, and I have found a few things to pin. Mostly sporty looking stuff, that I will girly up by carrying my girly phone cover. Or maybe a fussy necklace.  On the Grammys the other night, they had a “shoe cam” where they had the celebrities show off their ridiculously expensive bunion makers. Chuck asked me at one point, “Did you see ANY shoes you liked” I just laughed at him. I have never seen anyone be able to walk with any grace at all in platform spikes-they all lurch along like Frankenstein.  The allure of them is lost on me.  But show me a cool pair of boots or running shoes, and I am all “ooooohhhhh, yeah”.

And so it is with a lot of “fashion”. My criteria is quite different than most women.  Does it fit?  Is it comfortable? Am I willing to pay that for it? Does this keep my muffin top from looking like a whole loaf?  If it meets these, it’s “my style”.  What's yours?

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

'White Chili"--Turkey Green Chile Stew

I made a “white” chili this weekend that my husband said was “the best soup you have ever made”, to quote him. It WAS deeeee-licious, if I do say so myself.


1.5 lbs ground turkey
1 onion chopped
2 Tbls cumin
1 Tbls chili powder
2 Tbls granulated garlic
2 tsp pepper
3/4 cup minced Hatch green chile (frozen is best if you can’t get fresh roasted)
1 can Great Northern Beans
2 cans cannellini beans
1 can Navy Beans
1 can Hatch green chile enchilada sauce (or double the chicken broth below, if you want less heat)
1 can chicken broth
1 cup water
Monterrey Jack or Colby Jack Cheese, shredded
Tortilla chips
Cilantro (optional)

Brown turkey and drain well. Add onion and dry spices, stir often until onion is cooked.  Add chicken broth, water, and green chilies- let simmer for 30 minutes.  While simmering, open one can of Navy beans. Puree in food processor or with stick blender, set aside for later. (It will be thick, you might have to add a little of the water or broth to get it to puree.)  Add the remaining 3 cans of beans, heat on super low  for at least one hour for flavors to blend. Just before serving, add in bean puree and heat through. Top with fresh chopped cilantro and Monterrey Jack cheese, serve with tortilla chips.

I would rank the heat on this at a 6 out of 10, using the real deal roasted Hatch green chile. If using canned, you will not get the heat or the flavor. I recommend using frozen, like Bueno brand, and just add some and let simmer a few minutes for the oils to come out, and test until you get the heat index right for your tastes. You will also notice I did not add salt. The salt in the canned beans is adequate for us, but you can season to taste.

HAZARDOUS COMBUSTION WARNING! While this recipe had outstanding flavor, just the right spiciness, and looked gorgeous, there has to be a warning label. It is not recommended that you consume this before a long car trip, a first date, or a job interview. Let me put it this way: while you are making it, just hum to yourself that age-old little ditty:

Beans, beans, the musical fruit!  The more you eat, the more you….

Ok, you get the picture. You have been warned. And, I have to say, it is totally worth it.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014



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.