Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Dear Daughters: Christmas Decorating Thoughts and Tips

Christmas on the Piano

Christmas on the Piano 2015

Dear Daughters-

As young adult women who all work ‘outside’ the home- as well as ‘inside the home’ - there isn’t a single feeling about decorating for Christmas that you have had that I haven’t felt as well.

It can feel rewarding and satisfying and stimulating . It checks all of our creativity boxes.

Yet truth be told, when it is December , and you have research papers coming in that need to be graded , or too many court cases and clients to handle, or book fairs to organize, it can feel a little overwhelming and exhausting.

This is a seasonal challenge sweet girls. Don’t let it get you down. There are after all ,all of those crates in our respective garages that hold treasures we so want to share with our families and friends.

Christmas Mantel 2015

Christmas Mantel 2015

Here are a few things that have helped me over the years.

* Play Christmas music and not just while you are decorating. Play it in the car too. Play it in your classroom, play it in your library,play it in your office.

It creates the ‘want to’- sometimes accompanied by a sweet touch of melancholy at times- but that will pass. Embrace that melancholy, have a good cry, turn up the volume and plan your front door wreathe.

* Learn to make a fluffy bow with wired ribbon that is patterned on both sides. This is a game changer. Thank you Mary Jo Brisnahan (a dear friend and teaching colleague) for teaching me how to make a bow about 20 years ago . That and her Sparkle Salad which has graced our holiday table for just as long places her in our family’s hall of fame.

Women of my generation are great fans of volume. A voluminous bow adds life to anything (even your hair) that has been packed in a crate, stored in the garage in our year long South Texas heat.

Try to find ribbon that is patterned on both sides. You will have to do less twisting if you can.

* Skinny, inexpensive garland is the easiest to handle for a slinger like me. I have purchased expensive, fat garlands, and they are indeed beautiful. Once I wrestled their garland extravagance to my mantle, the minute my back was turned, all sorts of whiplashing and crashing usually occurs. Find a garland of the lazy, low expectation variety.

Christmas Den Tree 2015

Christmas Tree in the Den 2015

* Remember that sometimes trees are easier and give more bang for your buck. I have received some teasing for this on those years when I have had as many as 4 trees at Christmas. Do what floats your boat.

Teacher Christmas Party2

My Annual Ladies Only Teachers’ Christmas Party 2008

* Plan a small party- ladies only. It is the perfect way to usher in this glorious season. The laughter and the ‘I get you-you get me’ that results is immeasurable. And yes in that photo above that is an enormous container of margaritas on the rocks- provided by my dear friend and yours- Anna. It is her secret recipe , which is just as well- you won’t remember it anyway. My annual teacher parties at Christmas and at the end of each school year still make me smile. And yes, the red walls and the rooster are now gone.


I love you. As you know, I am going through things, including my Christmas decorations.

You each have a pile. The rest is up to you.

I love you,




Linking to:

Monday Social #12
Share Your Style - The Essence Of Home, 21 Rosemary Lane
Party In Your PJs - Woods Of Bell Trees

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Thanksgiving Cooking Tips and Our Menu

Thanksgiving Card

When I was a little girl, there was nothing I loved more than watching my mother

and my aunts and my grandmothers work in the kitchen,

especially on a day as important to cooking and family as Thanksgiving.

My jobs usually involved putting ice in the glasses, pouring iced tea and whatever duties my mother

assigned, all with a smile on her face.  


It was in that kitchen that my beloved Ranch Recipes were born.

Every single method I use, in preparing –with the help of my own daughters- every dish we share

Thanksgiving day originated in my mother’s kitchen at the ranch.

These are some of the things I do to prepare for Thanksgiving day.

*I bake a 9x13 pan of cornbread 2 days in advance so it is not so ‘new’ when I mix the cornbread dressing.

*I use poultry seasoning in the dressing because outright sage is sometimes hard to gauge.

*I use Sister Schubert dinner rolls because they are the best.

*I bought Riverside turkeys at HEB for years because she said they were just as good.

*I now buy Butterball turkeys because as I shared here, the idea of a 24 hour hotline feeds my dramatic soul.

*I  mix the dressing and prepare Pioneer Woman’s mashed potato recipe the day before.

*For years I prepared a compulsory sweet potato casserole, but this year I think I am going to create twice

baked sweet potatoes with cinnamon, butter, and brown sugar instead of savory seasonings.

*After the turkey has been wrestled into the oven, after I have checked the cooking time a million times,

I relax for a moment or two, check the table, and have another cup of coffee.

Thanksgiving Menu 2016


Cornbread Dressing

Spiral Sliced Ham

Katherine’s Sparkle Salad

Heather’s Green Beans With Bacon and Garlic

Lauren’s Brussel Sprouts With Dried Cranberries, Pecans, and Bacon

Pioneer Woman’s Mashed Potatoes

Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes

Giblet Gravy

Sister Schubert Rolls

Pecan Pie with Pecans from Heather’s Tree

Pumpkin Streusel Pie

Flat Apple Pie

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Friday, November 18, 2016

Miss Olive Speaks In Time For Thanksgiving

Olive Speaks

One day several years ago, my father said to two of our daughters who were visiting-

“You girls want to go through that closet in the garage at my house?”

That closet in the garage held a treasure trove of my mother’s collecting.

One replied, as nonchalantly as a racing heart rate will allow, “How about right now?”

My father smiled because he knew exactly what they were thinking.

They are their mother’s and grandmother’s daughters/granddaughters.

(Note: I have 3 daughters. One was not here. She is part of all of this in absentia.

Afterall, we have rules of engagement for closet sifting too. Even steven.)

In the depths of that closet were these cookbooks
published in 1910.

Let’s look first at the Desserts Volume.

Olive Speaks 2

Can you read the first sentence of the last paragraph?

“The chief reason why more women do not give their pastries due personal attention lies in the fact that

discouragement so often follows failure…”

No kidding!

I have tried to make a pie crust in a food processor, by hand, and at one point in the 80’s by using a large

Tupperware bowl, filled with pastry ingredients, which I rotated wildly, in a clockwise direction, simulating

hula hooping.

Thank you Miss Olive (the author) for taking that monkey off my back.

And then there is this recipe.

Olive Speaks 3

I don’t even know what to say.

However, as irreverent as I can be, I am completely impressed. This one could happen…it could really


One last one.

Ivy (9)

Read the last paragraph.

I’m going to let you write the last sentence of this post.


We are packing my husband’s truck to head to El Paso today.

It is a long journey, but when time permits I will be working on my menu and shopping list for Thanksgiving day.

It is time dear friends to- as my father would say-

“get after it.”.

I get Miss Olive. I really do.


This is a re-worked post from the past I thought you would enjoy.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

If We Were Having Coffee

I wish we were having coffee this morning because I have several things that I want to share with you.
First of all, have you ever tasted an Ambrosia apple?
Oh my goodness. They are delicious. 
I will be baking a flat apple pie for Thanksgiving , using Granny Smith apples, but I  am
going to use Ambrosia apples for our fruit salad.
One of our other favorite desserts at Thanksgiving is a carrot cake, which is my husband’s favorite.
And finally, after 40 weeks of Thoughts of Home on Thursday,
it is time to bring that wonderful party to an end.
I know I speak for all of the hostesses when I say how thankful I am that we shared our Thursdays
with you this year.
You have each made this such a rewarding experience.
We hope you feel that way too.
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