Hill Country Lights

We visited Park Ranger's parents in Fredericksburg on Christmas Day, and one of our activities was to see the Christmas lights in Johnson City. Johnson City was not known for it's lights when I lived there, but it is known for that now and deservedly so. We saw the Blanco County Courthouse. It was completely draped in white lights. They had horse drawn carriages giving people tours of the displays.

After the Courthouse, we went to see Dexter Haynes' display north of town. I'll have to admit that Dexter's display was quite impressive also.

And then to top off the evening, we saw the trees at the Pedernales Electric Cooperative. Every trunk of the old live oak trees were completely wrapped in white lights as well as lights in the leaves of the trees. It was quite a winter wonderland and something one should see if in the area during the holidays.

She's Baaack!!!!

Hello readers. I'm back! My family and friends have a been after me to blog again, so here I am. Life distracted me for a while, but the gift of an iPad from my family has motivated me to get back to writing. We'll start things out light and easy this morning with a little craft blog.

Last year, after Christmas, my daughter Amy and I started couple of projects for the next Christmas. These little Santa ornaments were my project. I gave them away as favors to all the friends and family that visited during the holidays this year. They are made with chili peppers that I bought by the bag at the grocery store. I used craft paint to paint the faces and beard and glued a pom-pom on the end of the stem for the hat. All of the chilies have a natural curved stem that gives an adorable, unique look to each Santa. The stem is also used for the hanger. Cute, huh?

My next craft is a crocheted project. They are scrubbies crocheted with nylon net. they are a little labor intensive but worth it. You buy the net by the yard and have to cut it into 2 inch strips, then you have to tie the strips together. This is a vital step, because the tied ends provide the stuffing for the scrubbie. You crochet two discs and then slip stitch them together. The stiff, rough net makes great dish scrubbers. The softer net makes a great bath loofah.

Stay tuned for more projects.


The fourth of July has always been a holiday for fun times with the family.  This year, Park Ranger and I ended up not having any plans for the holiday.  Katie and Tim went to Arkansas.  Amy was floating on the river with Andrea and Nate.  We didn't have a thing planned.

Amy's roommate, Lindsay, and her boyfriend, Mike, decided to make a trip to the DFW area to see the sights.  They asked if they could stay at our house.  Of course, we told them we would be delighted for them to stay with us.  They ended up not getting to the house until after 10 on Saturday night.  Sunday, we went to church, and then went to have hamburgers at Chaps for lunch.  On the way home, we decided to stop at the Ballpark and see if we could get tickets for the Rangers vs. White Sox game.  We were able to get tickets--yay!

At lunch, we were throwing around some ideas for the rest of the day.  Someone brought up the idea of making cookies. I am always game for someone to help me make cookies.  So I enlisted Lindsay and Mike, and we made cutout sugar cookies of flags and fireworks.

The  Ballpark is a fabulous place to spend the 4th.  They had about 150 young men and women take their oath to be inducted into the Air Force.They had an F-16 flyover, which is guaranteed to get me fired up.  They had a huge flag in the outfield and some great singers singing the National Anthem.

The game was a stinky game.  The Rangers lost the game.  They didn't get beat, they lost it.  After the game, they always have a fireworks display.  It is always fabulous--hearing the patriotic music on the big speakers and seeing the fireworks up close and personal.  Lindsay and Mike enjoyed themselves, and we enjoyed being with them.  They spent another night and left on Monday morning.

We got up early on Monday morning and got the lawn mowed and weedeated for the festivities later on that afternoon. 

On the way to the Ballpark, I heard from my brother, Terry.  He was on his way through Arlington and wanted to stop by.  I told him that we weren't at home and what did he have planned for the next day?  They didn't have anything planned, so they came over in the afternoon for hotdogs and homemade ice cream.  Terry's comment to me was, "What kind of homemade banana ice cream are we going to have?"  Needless to say, I made banana ice cream.  It was some of the best I have ever made.  It got rave reviews.  I don't think my family could remember my homemade ice cream, it had been so long since I had made it.  Katie, Tim and TJ got home from Arkansas at about 5:00, so they came over also. 

Even though we didn't have much planned, we ended up having a full weekend and thoroughly enjoyed and celebrated this Independence Day.

My Adventure

Park Ranger took me on an adventure today.  He took me to the Grand Canyon.  We visited the Grand Canyon about 23 years ago; although, things were a lot different then.

Twenty three years ago we visited the Grand Canyon on the way to California.  Park Ranger was working on his doctorate at Fuller Theological Seminary, and he decided to take the whole family for one of his sessions.  The whole family consisted of Park Ranger, myself, Josh (age 5) and Katie (age 2). 

We bought a used pop up camper, hooked it up to our full sized van and took off.  Of course, Park Ranger had parks for us to stop at all along the way.  It was April, and April in Texas is pretty warm.  April in Northern Arizona, Utah, and Nevada are not so warm, so right off the bat, I packed the wrong kind of clothes. We ended up buying a round of sweatshirts for the entire family at several of the parks so that we would have enough clean clothes to keep everybody warm.

Visiting the National Parks in April is completely different than visiting in the summer.  In April, the parks are filled with retired people, couples, as well as families with small children.  On this particular trip, it seemed like we were the only people traveling in the parks with small children.  We had a blast every place we went.  The kids were great.  We tried to visit parks in the morning, then we would have lunch, load up and get on the road just in time for the kids to go down for naps.  We would get to the next park, set up the camper, check things out, have supper, play, go to bed.  That was the routine all the way to California.  That trip is a warm memory in my mind.

This trip, we were watching the families with small children and WE were the "old" people.  I kept remembering Josh running around and talking nonstop in that high little voice that he used to have and Katie just toddling around.  In fact, Katie was about the same age that TJ is now. 

We have always wanted to spend time in the parks and see some of the sights without the time, physical and age restrictions that we have had in the past. 

Several years ago, when I was going through the process of being approved for bariatric surgery, one of the things I was asked was, "What do you see yourself doing when you are 100 pounds lighter that you can't do now?"  I answered, "hiking with my husband in the parks."  That became a reality this trip. 

On the way to the canyon, I looked over the different trails, what we would see, how difficult they were and how long was the hike.  I selected one and told Tom of my selection--he agreed with my selection.  We took the shuttle to the trailhead and began our descent.  The descent was exhilarating.  It felt so good to be able to move down that trail.  We got to the overlook in 30 minutes. 

The overlook was breathtaking.  We sat on the rocks and enjoyed the view and had a snack of dried apples, peanuts and G2 Gatorade.  The ascent was totally different. We would climb until we were both so out of breath that we couldn't go any further, then we would rest for a couple of minutes.  We did that over and over again until we finally made it to the top, an hour and a half later.

You will never know the feeling of triumph that I felt completing that hike. I told Park Ranger that this was our maiden voyage, and it was successful.  It was so successful that were even able to walk to the restaurant for our dinner that was down the street from our hotel.  It may not sound like a big deal, but if you have been in my shoes, then you will know how excited we were.  SCORE!!!

Pink Peony

I watch the Martha Stewart Show practically every day.  By the way, I hate her politics, but I love her style.  I'm interested in a lot of the things she is interested in.  Every spring, she starts talking about her peony garden.  It is huge with maybe a couple of hundred peony plants. 

Peonies, like lilacs, are a mystery to me, because we don't have them this far south.  I loved the lilacs when I lived in Iowa and Colorado.  They were magnificent.  There were big, tall, long hedges of lilacs--absolutely beautiful.  The smell was almost overwhelming.

Peonies have huge flowers and many of them are pink.  I decided to start naming my crochet projects.  So instead of calling this afghan a pink and green afghan, I am now calling it my peony baby pink afghan.

Silly huh?  Maybe.  But I am practicing my word pictures.  Some of you that know about peonies, got a picture in your mind didn't you?

My Love Affair

Quilts have been a comfort to me since I was a small child.  My mother always had quilts on our beds.  I love the feel of a quilt and I love the smell of those old quilts.  There is no sleep like the sleep you get on a cold winter night with a couple of quilts on your bed.

When I was about eight years old, my grandmother gave me a quilt that had the all the state flowers on it.  My mother embroider painted all the blocks, and my grandmother and great aunt pieced it together and quilted it. (Side note--It only has 48 blocks because Alaska and Hawaii were not states when my mother made the blocks.) I used it as a bedspread until I left home, and then I used it on my beds after I got married.  I took it to every cold football game and every drill team bus trip and every basketball trip.  It was a part of the fabric of my childhood.  It even went with me to the hospital when I got my tonsils removed and at the births of my children.  It became so worn that I retired it, and it now has a place on a quilt rack in my hallway. 

When I got married, my grandmother and aunt made me another quilt that was on our bed for many years, especially the cold years in Iowa, Wyoming and Colorado.  That quilt has been retired also.  It is still in good shape, but I do not want it to get as worn as the first one.

During the cold years in Iowa, we spent a lot of time with Park Ranger's aunt and uncle, Lorin and Phyllis, on the family farm.  Phyllis had a profound influence on me as a young homemaker.  Phyllis is a homemaker unlike any I have every seen.  She is pretty much excellent at everything she does--cooking, sewing, crafts, Sunday School & VBS teacher, gardener, canner--you name it, she does it well.  Phyllis was always making quilts.  Not necessarily the pretty hand pieced, hand quilted kind, but the functional, durable, beautiful in their own way kind.  Phyllis has made denim quilts for her kids and grandkids out of old jeans--pockets included.  Along with her mother-in-law, she made quilts of old suits.  This was hard for me to understand being from Texas, but they even made quilts out of wool pieces.  Talk about warm!!!  Most of her quilts were hand tied instead of hand quilted, but no less beautiful.

My mother-in-law, Helen, has made a number of quilts as well.  Hers are the classic hand stitched kind, and they are incredibly beautiful.  She spent many years quilting with the quilting group at Holy Ghost Lutheran Church in Fredericksburg, TX.  People make tops and then pay this group to quilt them. They quilt several every week.  They also make quilts out of scraps for Lutheran World Relief.  Quilts that are sent to developing countries or places that have gone through a disaster of any kind.

When Helen was about 16 years old, she had an appendectomy and ended up getting pneumonia from the ether that was used as anesthesia.  It took her the whole summer to recuperate.  Her mother wisely, set her up on a quilt under a tree in the yard.  She set her to work cutting out small postage stamp size pieces of fabric and sewing them together into a quilt.  This quilt is one of the most beautiful I have ever seen. The pieced design has a border of gold and purple--very unusual colors, but absolutely incredible.  I told Helen several years ago that to avoid any disagreements over her estate, she should go ahead and put it in her will that Kay would get the quilt.  She avoided any disagreements and gave me the quilt right away.  It also has a place of honor on my quilt rack.

My brother, Terry, mentioned to me for several years, that he wanted to make quilts for his children.  We finally got it together and made them a couple of years ago. He has become my partner in crime.  When I get to the point when I need to put the layers of the quilt together and tie them, Terry is my partner.  We sit for hours putting it together while listening to old country music and drinking coffee.  When I got in a bind and was running out of time.  Terry even took a quilt to his fire station (he is a fireman), and tied it there--IN FRONT OF ALL HIS FIREMAN FRIENDS. Now that takes courage!!  It has become a great way for us to stay caught up with each other. 

My daughter, Amy, nagged me for years about making a quilt out of her old t-shirts.  She faithfully SAVED THEM ALL, of course.  I finally relented, not for noble reasons, but because I wanted to get rid of those bags of t-shirts in the garage and her closet.  That was the beginning of a whole new vein of creativity on my part, which I will talk about more in following posts. 

My quilts are all machine sewed and hand tied. They are pretty quick to put together, if you call 40-80 hours quick. I have made one for Amy and one for my son Josh. Amy's theme was her childhood through high school graduation.  Josh's theme was his college and corp career at Texas A&M University.  I have been commissioned to make several others.

I have had a love affair with quilts my whole life.  I will continue sharing my quilt stories with you in the future. 

                                 My confession--the affair continues...

Too Girly For a Boy and Too Boyish For a Girl

This is my newest finished project.  This is a large baby blanket made from Caron Simply Soft yarn.  I made it from some yarn that I had left over from another project.  I am crazy about the combination of colors (blue, green and purple).  I am afraid that it will probably stay with me rather than me giving it to someone.  The colors are a little too girly for a boy and a little boyish for a girl.  Oh well, a Nana blanket.


Gonzales?  Gonzales, who?  Not Gonzales who--Gonzales what.  Gonzales, Texas--the city.  Gonzales, TX--why?  I visited Gonzales, TX.  The park ranger I live with insisted that we visit Gonzales on our way to a ministry engagement in Victoria, TX.  Anyone that knows Park Ranger knows that if there is anything historic, scenic, notorious or just plain interesting on the way, Park Ranger will make a point of seeing it.  Gonzales was such a place.  Most of the places that Park Ranger selects to see are pretty interesting.  Gonzales was no exception.

Gonzales was actually the place where the Texas revolution started.  It is known as the Lexington of Texas.  (Lexington is known as the place where the 'shot was heard around the world'--the first shot of the US revolution.)  Shots were exchanged in a skirmish over a small cannon that the Texas settlers had been given from the Mexican government.  They were given the cannon to protect themselves from Indian raids, but when Santa Anna came into power, he decided that the Texans didn't have any business having a cannon.  He decided to take it back.  The women were commissioned to make a flag for the Texans.  They chose to make the flag out of their wedding dresses and embroidered and painted the image of the cannon with the words "Come and get it".  Sam Houston actually put out the call to join the Texas militia from the shade of this huge live oak tree.

Gonzales had a beautiful courthouse and downtown area. Beside the courthouse is the jail, which is also the town's visitor's center.  One can get all kinds of information about the town at the visitor's center including the historic places to see as well as a directory of bed and breakfast establishments.  After getting all the information one would want, visitors can take a tour of the jail.  What a creepy surprise.  The jail was complete with gallows and noose.  My daughter decided to check out the noose, and when she did, all my mother's caution went haywire.  I couldn't get out of there fast enough.


CreepinessPark Ranger

Well, so much for the historical part of the visit, but for me the most memorable part of the trip was seeing all of the old homes in the town.  Many of them are private homes, but some are bed and breakfasts.  Hope you enjoy them as much as I did.  Pictured at the end is an old Mobil gas station that looks exactly like the ones that used to be.  Also is the stage stop and the cannon are pictured,.

Park Ranger came through again.  Gonzales is a great place to visit.  Small Town, TX, USA


A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity of visiting the Lady Bird Johnson Wilflower Center in Austin, Texas.  The center was founded to research different species of wildflowers and the propagation of them.  I have heard about the center for years but have never had the opportunity to visit. Since I was there for an event in the Wildflower Center Auditorium, free admission was given to all the participants.  Yay me.  I immediately started going through the garden and taking pictures as fast as I could.

It was a damp day after a rain storm, which is one of my favorite times to walk in a garden.  Just seeing the flowers alone  would be beautiful enough, but the garden is full of interesting sculptures as well.

We had lunch in the cafe.  I had the veggie wrap and hibiscus tea.  I also spent quite a bit of time in the gift shop.  It had everything from t-shirts to books to kitchen stuff.  Everything about wildflowers or with wildflowers painted on every object imagineable.  They had quite an extensive gardening book selection.  It is definitely a place that garden lovers should see at least once, especially in the spring during wildflower season. 

The first thing you see when you enter the garden is a cistern that collects rainwater with a huge dragonfly on it.

As you walk down the arched sidewalk, you see a couple of huge ants with heads the size of barrells..

Pictured are some of the beautiful flowers and some of my favorite sculptures. I took all the photos with my iphone.  I don't know what kind of photos I would have gotten if I had taken them with my other camera and had been able to compose the photos a little better.  It was an amazing place and a place that I want to visit again.


Sugar Cookies

When my kids were young, I did not make any decorated sugar cookies--not even at Christmas.  When I was blessed with a grandson, I decided I needed to know how to make fantabulous sugar cookies and how to decorate them.  After trying about ten different recipes, I settled on this one.  In deciding on this one, I had to decide what I was looking for.  Some people like a sweet cookies, and the icing makes the cookie even sweeter.  Some people like a more shortbread type cookie, and the icing makes the cookie sweet enough.  I went for the latter.  I was also looking for a dough that would be easy to roll out and not get tough if overworked.  This is the recipe I decided on.
Sour Cream Cookies

1 c. butter

2 c. sugar
1 t. vanilla
3 eggs
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
7 c. flour
1 cup sour cream

Cream butter, sugar, vanilla and eggs.  Soft baking soda, salt and two cups of flour and add to mixture.  Add sour cream to above.  Add our flour (about 5 cups) to make soft dough.  Roll 1/4 inch thick.  Cut and lay on greased cookie sheet.  Bake in 375 oven for 11 - 15 minutes.  Dough may be kept in refrigerator.  Cookies freeze well.  Makes 5-7 dozen depending on the size of the cookie.

I use some guides on my rolling pin to get a consistent thickness of cookie.  The guides look like rubber bands.  You put them on the ends of the pin and roll the dough.  You won't be able to roll the dough any thinner than the guide you have put on the pin.  You will want your cookies to be done but not brown, so you may need to play with the baking time until you get it right.  Another nice thing about this dough is that the cookies stay true to the shape you cut them out.  They don't spread much.  I can usually get 16 cookies on a cookie sheet (obviously it depends on the size of the cookie).

For the frosting, I use a Royal Icing recipe.

Royal Icing

4 c. powdered sugar
4 T. meringue powder (comes in a can in the cake decorating supply section of craft stores or WalMart)
1 t. almond extract
1/4 cup water

Blend well.  Use liquid or gel food color to get desired colors.  You may need to add water to get the consistency you need.  I use squeeze bottles to ice the cookies.  They work just like a marker.  I use the dam and flood method.  Outline the cookie with the icing and then flood the area to fill in.  I use the tip of the squeeze bottle to spread the icing.  Some people use a toothpick or spreading knife.  The icing needs to be thin enough to flood, but not so thin that that icing falls off the cookie.  The royal icing will dry hard on the cookie within 3 hours.

As you well know,  presentation is everything.  If I am taking the cookies someplace, I individually bag the cookies and seal them with a twist tie.  I carry in a big basket of cookies.  It makes quite an impression to give someone a beautiful cookie in an individual bag.  The cookies pictured are some examples of my cookies.

 I have also discovered that colored sanding sugars give a richness to the cookies that you would not believe.  The shamrocks, valentines and some of the Christmas cookies pictured were made using this technique.  You just frost them like usual, and while the frosting is still wet, you sprinkle the sugar on and shake off the excess--just like using glitter.

If you are making a face, instead of putting a lot of detail into the face, sometimes just putting two little black eyes will bring the face to life (snowman).  I did a bunch of animal cookies.  I just frosted them with one color and just putting the eyes on the cookies, made them come to life.

I Love Hydrangeas!!!

I first fell in love with this plant when I was about 9 or 10 years old. When my great grandfather died, there were about 15 hydrangea plants that were given at his funeral. I thought that it was the most incredible plant I had ever seen. I asked my mother if I could have one. She told me that if there were any left after all the other family members had taken what they wanted then I could have one. I watched as one by one of the plants went out the door in the hands of aunts, uncles, cousins, sons, daughters, and friends. At the end of the day, there was one plant left that had only one broken bloom .  I took it home and planted it in my parents flower bed and watered it faithfully. It lived that year. It had one bloom the next year. The third year, it was waist tall and had about 15 huge pink blooms. 

I love hydrangeas!