My husband used to say that he never saw a bunch of women, like his wife and daughters who could celebrate their birthdays quite as long as we did. Yes, even though my party was on the 30th, this past Tuesday, my sister and some friends and I went out for dinner for my birthday! We went to a local Mexican Restaurant; my friend had arranged ahead of time that “Happy Birthday” would be sung.

Continue reading “Fiestas”

Are you ready to wear green?

This morning, (Sunday) when I got ready to go to church, I stuck my head out the door to check the thermometer, and went back inside and got a jacket! It was 42º out there and too cool for shirt sleeves. Of course, I had the heater on to go to church and then around noon, when I went to town to run a couple of errands, the air conditioner was on, ho hum…this is Texas. This past week was busy as always…meetings, pokeno, and working at the gift shop.

Continue reading “Are you ready to wear green?”

A delicious orange vegetable

Recently, while I was working in our hospital gift shop, a copy of the weekly newsletter was on the desk and it contained some information that caught my attention. People frequently ask me “Where do you get your ideas for a column”? My answer is usually “Wherever I can find one”. Well, a little article on the reverse side of the newsletter gave me the idea for this week’s column. Of all things it was about carrots, and I realized that I have never written about this beautiful, delicious orange vegetable!

Continue reading “A delicious orange vegetable”

Does it feel like fall/autumn to you?

This week, I checked my calendar and as of today, 9-20-23, we are only three days away from the beginning of fall! The weather is a little bit cooler, and I can tell the days are already becoming a little shorter, and gosh, Christmas mania is beginning in the stores. As I mentioned last week, Hobby Lobby had lots and lots of Christmas décor displayed and it’s beginning to show up in other stores as well.

Continue reading “Does it feel like fall/autumn to you?”

It has begun

My week was pretty quiet, it was one of those weeks that you have your days mixed up because Monday was a holiday. In fact, I thought Monday was Sunday and called my daughter asking if she was making a big dinner for a friend, her reply: “No Mom, it’s Monday”, my reply was: “Oops”. The week pretty much stayed that way. Workshop on Tuesday, and then gift shop on Wednesday, and on Saturday, my sister and I went to Victoria to do a little shopping, our main stop was at Hobby Lobby as she was looking for flowers.

Continue reading “It has begun”

Odds and Ends

This past week was a fun and relaxing one for me. Since I was hostess at our bunco club, I spent part of Monday and Tuesday making some of the food that I was planning to serve. That evening, I decided to load anything that didn’t to be kept cool in my car to get a head start, so Wednesday morning all I had left to load was the stuff that went into an ice chest. It sure did save me a bunch of time that morning and I managed to get away from home by 8:30 a.m.

Continue reading “Odds and Ends”

Please pass the salt.

After last Sunday, spending time and working at the church picnic, my week was pretty quiet. Monday was my pokeno day and it was fun, our hostess served a homemade pumpkin cake that was absolutely delicious! We’ve seen a shortage of players recently, due to the fact that several have dropped out and not been permanently replaced. However, we still had a great time.
This coming week is going to be a little busier, since I have family coming in on two different days! Hopefully, we’ll be able to get some work done cleaning out a couple of storage buildings. Since I don’t have a pickup, it’s hard for me to do anything that requires stuff to be hauled off, and just maybe, we can accomplish that since they’re coming in on a weekday and staying over!
Now, let’s talk about salt, it’s something we all use frequently, sometimes too much and too frequently. When you order food in a restaurant or order take-out, do you taste the food and then add salt, or do you just grab the saltshaker and start sprinkling, think about it?
We have used salt all our lives, from everything from brushing our teeth to mixing rock salt with ice to make ice cream, to sprinkling it in and on our food; we’ve made play-dough for our kids or grandkids, and in some places spread it on the roads and sidewalks to prevent icy buildup during snow and ice storms, all without giving it much thought as to where it comes from or what we would do without it. It is almost as important in our lives as is honey!
The human body incorporates a certain percentage of salt, which plays a critical role in controlling and regulating the water content of living tissues and cells. Long before the chemistry of salt was understood, people were aware of its importance for the maintenance of life and health. Origins of salt manufacture and the salt trade appear to date back to the most primitive stages of human civilization. In Roman times, salt was used to pay the soldiers. In fact, this is where we get the word salary for payment of wages. We have all heard the old expression “not worth his salt”.
In many parts of the world, rock salt occurs in massive underground deposits, while saline lakes and salt flats on sites of former salt lake beds provide plentiful salt supplies in some countries. In some warm or tropical coastal areas, with low humidity, salt is often extracted from seawater through natural evaporation.
Sodium is widely distributed as the mineral halite. This is common salt or sodium chloride. Beds of halite in Germany have reached a depth of over 4,000 feet. Poland is said to have deposits which are 50 miles long, 20 miles wide, and 1,200 feet thick. The leading producer of salt is the United States. There are also salt mines in the Chinese People’s Republic, the Soviet Union and the United Kingdom. It has been estimated that the oceans contain enough salt to cover the earth to a depth of 400 feet.
The United Salt Corporation was incorporated on March 29, 1928. Magnolia Oil Company when drilling for oil on the Warren Ranch in 1906 discovered the Salt dome in Hockley, Texas. This dome is about 2.5 miles wide and is estimated to be about 5 miles deep. The salt was reached in 1930 and mining was begun in 1932 at 1,500 feet below the surface of the earth.
Another mine belonging to United Salt Corporation is located near Houston, Texas in Fort Bend County. it is the Blue Ridge facility and the salt there is nearer to the surface than at Hockley. Brine wells are used to extract the salt in brine form. It is then crystallized by the use of evaporators. Once this step is completed, the salt is dried for further processing. This salt is a high purity salt that is used in food processing and for human consumption.
Their other mine, in Carlsbad, New Mexico, was acquired in 1962. The salt there is harvested on a 2,600 acre salt lake. It is gathered from the surface of the lake after the sun has evaporated the water from the brine. The salt is then washed three times before it is produced into a variety of solar salt products. Originally, the salt at Carlsbad was primarily used for deicing roads in Western Texas and New Mexico. Today, much of the salt harvested is used in water conditioning.
Salt is very important in cooking. It is necessary to the rising process when baking. In a cookbook that came with a bread maker, it stresses the importance of not cutting back on the salt called for in the recipes or omitting it completely. In cookie recipes, one teaspoon of salt is generally called for, this can be safely decreased by half. In cake recipes, I usually use exactly what is called for. In a sauce, (such as spaghetti sauce or enchilada sauce), if you are using tomato sauce or canned tomatoes, you really need to taste and see if it is necessary to add salt. Sometimes the ingredients you use have salt in them and you don’t really need any extra. A good example of this is soy sauce, unless you purchase one labeled, low sodium, it is pretty salty. A small amount of salt added to vegetables while they are cooking enhances their flavor. Many people are now on low sodium diets. You gradually learn to eat vegetables and meats with or without salt or at least without added salt. You can purchase canned salt-free vegetables in your local grocery store. Of course, they are more expensive than regular vegetables. By now, what with regularly reading labels, you will have noticed, I am sure, how the more they remove from something, the more you have to pay for it, (i.e. salt free, caffeine free, fat free, sugar free!).
Since we’re still having warm weather, here is a taco salad you might enjoy.
Texas Taco Salad
1 pound ground beef
1 can (15-oz) Ranch Style beans, drained and rinsed
8 cups shredded lettuce
2 tomatoes, cut into small dice
3 avocados, peeled, diced, and dipped in lemon juice to prevent darkening
1 bunch green onions, sliced, including tops
1 bottle (8-oz size) Catalina style dressing
1 package shredded Cheddar cheese (1 to 1½ cups)
1 bag (8-oz size) corn chips
Brown meat, drain well on paper towels, cool slightly and set aside. Rinse and drain beans. Combine meat, beans, lettuce, tomatoes, avocados, onions, and cheese in large bowl. Pour dressing over all and toss to coat lightly. Stir in chips just before serving.
Here is a delicious sugar-free dessert to try for summertime!
Diabetics Delight
1 box yellow cake mix
12 oz. diet soda (Sprite Zero® or your choice)
1 can crushed pineapple (16-oz size) (divided use)
1 large tub Cool Whip®, sugar free
1 large box of sugar-free vanilla instant pudding
Empty cake mix into large bowl, add diet soda and mix well. Then add one-half (½) can of crushed pineapple and stir well. Pour into 9×12 pan that you have lightly sprayed with non-stick spray. Bake as directed on package. While the cake is baking, mix the Cool Whip®, the remaining crushed pineapple and the pudding together and stir well. Chill thoroughly. When the cake has finished baking and has cooled, spread the Cool Whip® mixture over the top. Cut into squares to serve. Makes 12 to 15 servings.
Glaze Cheesecake Puffs
2 packages cream cheese, 8-oz each at room temperature
¾ cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 can cherry pie filling
1 box vanilla wafers
Muffin tins and liners (20 to 24)
Preheat oven to 375º*. Thoroughly beat together cream cheese, sugar, eggs and vanilla. Line muffin tins with liners and place 1 vanilla wafer into each liner; fill ¾ full with cheese mixture and bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes. Remove from pans and cool thoroughly. Spread pie filling on top of each one, dividing evenly among the cakes. Makes 20 to 24. *If your vanilla wafers seem to be browning too much, turn the temp down to 350º. Blueberry pie filling could be used for these instead of cherry.

What is a Caracara?

Goodness, when I put the date up here, I realized that the month of July is gone, however, the heat continues. Today, Sunday, when I started writing this, it was over 100º in the shade.
Last week was a fun week for me! As usual on the last week of the month, I headed from my home to the Devine/Moore area for my monthly bunco game and family visiting time. This time, my youngest daughter was there, taking care of two of her precious grandsons. We had a wonderful visit together on Wednesday, and I managed to get quite a few hugs! Later, when it was time for her to go to the airport in SA to get her daughter-in-law who was coming in from CA, returning from a family emergency, I left and headed out to my other daughter’s home.
Bunco that evening was in the home of our hostess, she had some delicious food and dessert for us, and we had a great time. She’s a great hostess and her newly remodeled home is beautiful and very spacious. Oh, and I won the booby prize with a mere five games won, any prize is better than no prize, at least I got my money back.
Saturday, I spent the morning at our family center helping make noodles for our upcoming church picnic; it’s that time of year again. I know we used 47 dozen eggs and an unknown amount of flour. We will package them Monday morning, in plastic bags to sell at the picnic. There will probably be about 95 pounds of the noodles. Clear profit, as everything to make them was donated. This is a great money maker, and they all sell every time! Next Saturday, we will make the delicious cream cheese and poppy seed rolls that go into the auction. That is our other big money maker for us, lots of work, but lots of visiting and meeting a few new ladies each year.
Now, as I asked in the beginning, do you know what a caracara is? I’m sure you have seen them alongside the roadside along with the buzzards, dining on roadkill, but not known exactly what they are.
The first time I noticed a caracara, we were on our way to the deer lease, it was alongside the road with some buzzards and Sam told me it was a Mexican Eagle. Years down the line, my son told me that the actual name was caracara bird. Like the buzzard, the caracara is protected from hunting, trapping, etc. On another trip down Squirrel Creek Road, out past D’Hanis, there was one in the middle of the road taking a running start with his wings spread as he took off for the sky. It was beautiful seeing the span of the wings!
In going on-line and looking information up about this strange looking bird, I found that they are a member of the falcon family and other interesting little things, such as that in Arizona they build their nests in Saguaro cactus and actually prefer it to be one standing alone rather than in a place where there is a multitude of the cacti.
The common name “cara cara” is what South Americans called the bird and this name most probably imitates the sound the bird makes. It has also been called: Mexican Eagle, Caracara Eagle, King Buzzard, Audubon’s Caracara and Mexican Buzzard.
The original scientific name for this bird comes from poly, the Greek word for many or varied; boros, meaning gluttonous and remarks on the birds’ voracious appetite, and from the Latin word plances, which is a word Aristotle used for an eagle.
The Crested cara cara has a body length of 19 to 23 inched and a wingspan of about four feet. They weigh about one and three-fourths to three and one-half pounds.
The preferred habitat of the Crested Caracara is open lowland countryside, such as pastures, savannas, river edges and the desert. They reside in the southwestern United States and Florida as well as Central and South America.
You frequently see them feeding on carrion alone or in company of buzzards the sides of roads. I have seen them between Devine and Hondo as well as between Devine and Jourdanton and various other places between Devine and Yoakum. They will, however, take advantage of any food opportunity, by eating such things as small mammals, reptiles, turtles, fish, crab, eggs, insects, worms and nesting birds. They hunt for food themselves or take food from other birds. They also spend a great deal of time on the ground.
Crested caracaras build a massive nest from small sticks. (The first article I found concerning them was about a study in Arizona, in 1997-1998, and the folks doing the study stated that the nests were used more than once, and that they had found one the size of a Volkswagen). The nest is built in a palm tree, cactus, in a tree or on the ground. There are usually two or three eggs laid, that incubate for about a month. The fledglings can take as long as three months before they fly as independent birds.
Now, the next time you see that strange looking bird with the black and off-white plumage eating alongside the road, you will know what it is!
Now, how about a super simple, really delicious dessert? This makes up quickly, bakes only 30 minutes and serves 12 to 15; depending on the size you cut your servings.
Sopapilla Cheesecake
2 cans crescent rolls
2 (8-oz) blocks cream cheese
1 c. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 stick melted butter (do not use margarine)
½ cup sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon (or more if desired)
Preheat oven to 350º. Grease or spray a 9×13-in. pan and roll out 1 package of the crescent rolls on the bottom of the pan, sealing creases. Mix cream cheese, sugar and vanilla and spread over the dough. Roll out the second crescent roll sheet and place on top of the cream cheese mixture. Pour melted butter over the top and sprinkle with the sugar and then the cinnamon, bake for 30 minutes.(I mix my cinnamon and sugar together, as I like this better).
This chicken salad is delicious and by using a rotisserie chicken, you don’t heat up your house cooking the chicken, so, it’s perfect for this weather!
Light Chicken Salad
3 or 4 chicken breasts, cooked and diced*
1 large Granny Smith apple, chopped
2/3 cup finely diced celery
1/3 cup sweet pickle relish
1 cup toasted walnuts, chopped
2 to 3 tablespoons sunflower seeds
Enough light mayonnaise to moisten**
Cook chicken breasts in water seasoned with salt and a small amount of onion and celery, cool until you can handle the meat, remove skin and bones and cut into small pieces. *In this hot weather, cheat a bit and buy a rotisserie chicken, even though you will have both light and dark meat.
Wash the apple, and cut it up, and add to the chicken, add remaining ingredients along with enough light mayonnaise to moisten. Serve with crackers, Melba toast or bread rounds. **I use regular mayonnaise, NOT salad dressing.

Weird Information

Have you noticed? We’ve barely had time to blink, and this year is over half gone? Time has a habit of flying by sometimes, and other times it moves with the speed of a snail. The month of July has been the same as it almost always is, hot and dry, with nearly three weeks of no measurable rainfall, and mostly just plain miserable for all of us. We’ve had more days than usual with no rain, the cracks in the ground in my yard are nearly an inch wide in some places and I do my best to stay inside as much as possible. As I am writing this, it is over 100ºF in the shade by my back door and the same in the front of the house. To the north and west, it is 110º on a thermometer that tells indoor and outdoor temperature. However, clouds are building up just a bit…hope they contain some water! (30 minutes later, it’s raining!!!)
Last week, I wrote about a neighbor that was having some problems, he is now in a safe environment and being taken care.
My week was quiet; we have so many people out with various problems concerning their health, that we’ve shortened the hours in the gift shop. Working a Wednesday afternoon, instead of Tuesday and Thursday messed with my mind! I was trying to get started on some food to take and serve for snacks, when we make noodles, but I was a week ahead of myself. This coming week, I’ll be in Devine, to play bunco and visit with family and friends, and I am so very much looking forward to it!
The information in this column is truly “Did you know” trivia! It came to me several years ago in emails, and since I received it two or three times in a row, decided to use it. I found it very interesting and decided to use it as part of my column this week, even though some of the things may no longer hold true.
In reading it, I found something that I hadn’t thought of before (yeah, I’m slow on the uptake), but maybe, accidentally, some of you haven’t thought of it either. There are seven letters of the alphabet that are not represented in our fifty states! There isn’t a state that starts with B, E, J, Q nor X, Y, Z. The letter “M” is most popular, with eight states starting with that letter, and there are eight letters that have only one state beginning with that letter. As you read it, you will find out where a couple of our favorite sodas were invented, who invented the Frisbee, why the Ice Cream Sundae was invented, where our most common and prolific brand of re-useable plastic ware was invented (not the thin stuff, we use and toss), and several more interesting facts.
A Fun Fact for Each State:
ALABAMA: Was the first place to have 9-1-1, for emergency, started in 1968.
ALASKA: One out of every 64 people has a pilot’s license.
ARIZONA: Is the only state in the continental U.S. that doesn’t follow Daylight Savings Time. (I pretty much wish Texas didn’t).
ARKANSAS: Has the only active diamond mine in the U.S.
CALIFORNIA: Its economy is so large that if it were a country, it would rank higher than seventh in the entire world.
COLORADO: In 1976 it became the only state to turn down the Winter Olympics.
CONNECTICUT: The Frisbee was invented here at Yale University.
DELAWARE: Has more scientists and engineers than any other state.
FLORIDA: At 874.3 square miles, Jacksonville is the U.S.’s largest city.
GEORGIA: It was here, in 1886, that pharmacist John Pemberton made the first vat of Coca-Cola.
HAWAII: Hawaiians live, on average, five years longer than residents in any other state.
IDAHO: TV was invented in Rigby, Idaho, in 1922.
ILLINOIS: Has a Governor in jail. One pending jail time & is the most corrupt state in the union! (These are the facts that may not be accurate).
INDIANA: Home to Santa Claus, Indiana, which gets over a half million letters to Santa every year.
IOWA: Winnebago’s get their name from Winnebago County. Also, it is the only state that begins with two vowels.
KANSAS: Liberal, Kansas, has an exact replica of the house in The Wizard of Oz.
KENTUCKY: Has more than $6 billion in gold underneath Fort Knox.
LOUISIANA: Has parishes instead of counties because they were originally Spanish church units.
MAINE: It’s so big; it covers as many square miles as the other five New England states combined.
MARYLAND: The Ouija board was created in Baltimore in 1892.
MASSACHUSETTS: The Fig Newton is named after Newton, Massachusetts.
MICHIGAN: Fremont, home to Gerber, is the baby food capital of the world.
MINNESOTA: Bloomington’s Mall of America is so big, if you spent 10 minutes in each store, you’d be there nearly four days. (Again, this may no longer be accurate).
MISSISSIPPI: President Teddy Roosevelt refused to shoot a bear here… that’s how the teddy bear got its name.
MISSOURI: Is the birthplace of the ice cream cone.
MONTANA: A sapphire from Montana is in the Crown Jewels of England.
NEBRASKA: More triplets are born here than in any other state.
NEW HAMPSHIRE: Birthplace of Tupperware, invented in 1938 by Earl Tupper.
NEW JERSEY: Has the most shopping malls in one area in the world.
NEW MEXICO: Smokey the Bear was rescued from a 1950 forest fire here.
NEW YORK: Is home to the nation’s oldest cattle ranch, started in 1747 in Montauk.
NORTH CAROLINA: Home of the first Krispy Kreme doughnut.
NORTH DAKOTA: Rigby, North Dakota, is the exact geographic center of North America.
OHIO: The hot dog was invented here in 1900.
OKLAHOMA: The grounds of the state capital are covered by operating oil wells.
OREGON: Has the most ghost towns in the country. (I would have thought it would be Texas).
PENNSYLVANIA: The smiley, : ) was first used in 1980 by computer scientists at Carnegie Mellon University.
RHODE ISLAND: The nation’s oldest bar, the White Horse Tavern, opened here in 1673.
SOUTH CAROLINA: Sumter County is home to the world’s largest gingko farm.
SOUTH DAKOTA: Is the only state that’s never had an earthquake.
TENNESSEE: Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry is the longest running live radio show in the world.
TEXAS: Dr. Pepper was invented in Waco back in 1885. The Hamburger was invented in Arlington, Texas in 1906.
UTAH: The first Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant opened here in 1952.
VERMONT: Montpelier is the only state capital without a McDonald’s.
VIRGINIA: Home of the world’s largest office building… The Pentagon.
WASHINGTON: Seattle has twice as many college graduates as any other state.
WASHINGTON D.C.: Was the first planned capital in the world.
WEST VIRGINIA: Had the world’s first brick paved street, Summers Street, laid in Charleston in 1870.
WISCONSIN: The ice cream sundae was invented here in 1881 to get around Blue Laws prohibiting ice cream from being sold on Sundays.
WYOMING : Was the first state to allow women to vote.
Since okra seems to be growing pretty prolifically, maybe you’d like to try making a big pot of gumbo. Now, in reality, the word “gumbo” actually means okra! There are probably as many recipes for gumbo using okra as there are cooks out there making it. In the past, when I made gumbo, I used crushed tomatoes, however, using whole canned tomatoes works well also as that is what is generally used. Also, when tomatoes were in season and people had given me some, I peeled them and used fresh tomatoes.
Okra Gumbo
1 to 1½ pounds fresh okra
5 thin slices bacon, (2 or 3 if you use thick sliced)
½ to 1 cup chopped onion
½ to 1 cup chopped bell pepper (color doesn’t matter here, I had only red ones on hand the other day and used that, at 5 miles from the grocery store, you’re not particular)
1 can (16-oz) tomatoes or 1 pint home canned tomatoes, or 2 cups peeled diced fresh tomatoes
1 to 2 ears fresh corn
1 tablespoon vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
Wash and cut okra into ½-inch slices and set aside, cut the bacon crosswise into pieces and fry until crisp, remove from pan and set aside to drain; shuck the corn, removing as much silk as you can, cut from the cob and set aside.
Drain all but 3 tablespoons drippings from the pan and sauté the onions and peppers until the onions are translucent. Add the okra and sauté until heated through. Add the tomatoes, vinegar, corn, bacon and seasonings and pour this mixture into a pot and allow to simmer for about 20 to 30 minutes, or until the liquid is cooked down and the corn and okra are done. If you want to add sausage or ham, add it at this time. (Slice the sausage about ½” thick, and cut the ham into cubes). If you plan to use shrimp, (about add them about 15 minutes before you’re ready to serve the dish.