History

The Presidents of These United States

Can you name all 45 US Presidents? In order from George to Donald? Did you even know we have had forty-five over the years? Well, I do. And I can name them, for the most part. There is a good reason for this.

You see, my little grandson loves presidents. And the White House. Pretty much everything Washington, D.C. And he thought I should learn them all. I do not know why exactly this task fell to me, but I told him I would give it my best shot.

So he found a song on YouTube and told me to listen carefully. I explained that I couldn’t just listen to some guy singing forty-five names rather quickly to the tune of America the Beautiful. He was disappointed. As he told my husband, “She has trouble with some of the older ones. I have to help her.” Disdainfully. Behind my back. He is eight years old! I would love to have seen the look on his little face while he was relating my inadequacies to others. Hmm.

I decided to learn the darned names! So I used my knowledge of learning styles, and I reminded him that he needed to teach them before he tested them. So I tried writing them. That helped. And I gave myself some little hints. Madison before Monroe alphabetically. Harrison, Tyler, and Taylor were boys who were in his class or I could picture being in his class. Whatever I could use in my tired brain to keep them where they belonged.

He was pretty impressed that I could name everyone from FDR to Trump. He doesn’t realize I have lived through most of that group. And that I have read about and taught World War II enough that Roosevelt, Truman, and Eisenhower were easy. Also, I attended Woodrow Wilson Elementary as a child, so WW, CC, and HH went together in my mind. That’s Wilson, Calvin Coolidge, and Herbert Hoover. It was just hard to remember that Harding came in between Wilson and Coolidge. See?

A little historical background helped me, too. Hoovervilles were the shanties during the Great Depression. Hoover-carts in To Kill a Mockingbird helped with that as well. So Hoover comes before WWII.

Bony mules hitched to Hoover carts flicked flies in the sweltering shade of the live oaks on the square.”

Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

Buchanan was a kind of do-nothing President as he didn’t successfully handle the slavery issue, passing the buck to President Lincoln.

And the old Lincoln-Kennedy assassination weird connections helped, too. Do you know those? Lincoln’s VP was Johnson, Kennedy’s VP was Johnson. There was a record made in the 60s that you can listen to here. Some of it is a stretch, and some is just outright not true, but it makes for a fun exercise in history. More importantly, it helped me to remember that Lincoln was succeeded by Andrew Johnson. I’m nodding my head as I write that line.

It made sense that Johnson was succeeded by Ulysses S. Grant after he won the Civil War. And G-H-G. Grant, Hayes, and Garfield.

  • Buchanan
  • Lincoln
  • Johnson
  • Grant
  • Hayes
  • Garfield

See how easy this is? So I tested myself by typing a list to practice. All in all, not so very hard. Of course, he still needs to teach me what comes between Garfield and Woodrow Wilson. And I need to wait for him to teach me because that was the fun of it – for both of us. That will happen on Wednesday because his school has an early-release day.

In the mean time, I fall asleep practicing them in my head. Polk between Tyler and Taylor! Polk between Tyler and Taylor! Andrew Jackson, Martin Van Buren, Harrison, Tyler, Polk, Taylor, Fillmore, Pierce…Surely this is good for my brain.

Family History

Genealogy

My brother and I are trying to build a family tree. Sounds easy, right? Until we were faced with missing birth records for our dad. There are so many possibilities, so many avenues, so many road blocks.

The biggest mystery is a family story – unsubstantiated and largely unbelieved – that he was adopted. But now that we can’t find any record of his birth, we have begun to wonder.

He was born, according to his mother, in 1928 and died, we know, in 1958. His death records do not list a father. That space is blank. Yet she was married. Well, she was a widow. But she was married when he was born.

Census records show a mother and father, Henry Carter Jenkins and Bertha Mae Greene Jenkins. There isn’t a baptism or christening record, yet my grandmother told me she named him Carl for a “fine Methodist minister.” Seems like he would have been recorded somewhere in some Methodist church records, doesn’t it? Nope.

We have a birth date – March 25, 1928. Birthplace – Wichita Falls, Texas. We have his given name – Robert Carl Jenkins. But that is all. No records anywhere to document his birth.

Several possibilities exist. He could have been an orphan. The Orphan Trains ran through 1929 and stopped in Wichita Falls. Could he have been a baby delivered on the train instead of in a Wichita Falls hospital? Sure.

Could a family member have given birth to a baby she couldn’t raise? Maybe she handed him off to our grandmother who was thrilled to have a child. They could afford one. Henry had a good job even in the Great Depression. Maybe she accepted him as a gift and named him after the good minister and lived her life.

Maternity homes existed all over north Texas in the 1920s. She and Henry could have paid some fees and received a beautiful baby boy. And he was beautiful.

And maybe she actually gave birth to him. At home. And she just didn’t bother to record his birth. Or take a picture of him until he was three months old…

But no matter what story is the correct one, tracing our family heritage cannot be done if he was adopted. The grandparents and great-grandparents don’t really belong to us. There is no bloodline.

Unless there is a record of an adoption. I just don’t believe one exists. Why would she have a record of his adoption if she has no marriage records, divorce records, or birth record of her own? Among the few things our grandmother kept were no records. We are piecing her history together, but in teeny, tiny pieces.

Sometimes I feel like a detective. Why did she move to Savannah? Why did she send the son she loved more than anyone on the planet – an only child – away to an out of state boarding school in Georgia? Why did her second husband go to Bombay? At Christmas. And send her the most random postcard to wish her Merry Christmas?

Georgia Military School Cadet

We are faced with the likely prospect that we will never know. We will put her family on our tree. We will put Henry’s family on our tree. But unless we learn otherwise, there will be a footnote. The line stops with Dad.

So if you know anything about Robert Carl Jenkins, b. 1928, d. 1958, born to Bertha Mae Greene Jenkins Littlepage, shoot us a line. She married Henry Carter Jenkins, and when he died of tuberculosis, she married Tandy P. Littlepage. She may have divorced them both. We don’t know. All of this took place largely in Dallas or Wichita Falls. And we are stumped.

But we do have our dad. And a family story. And a tree full of other relatives that we can link to with confidence. It feels good to get them organized and to write their stories for our descendents to read. Genealogical research is an amazing process that links us to an unbelievable number of people – in this country and beyond.

But, Dad, where did you come from? We know where you went, but we sure would like to know – as Paul Harvey would say – the rest of the story.

Decorating in September, Finding the Fun Stuff!

Too Soon for Pumpkins

I don’t think pumpkins should show up in our house until October. Preferably after the first cool front. And the first loaf of pumpkin bread. September is for apples, you know? So I thought I would pull together some fall ideas that aren’t over-the-top pumpkinesque. Let’s take a look.

First, I have found the most amazing florist on InstaGram. They are – unfortunately – located in the Hamptons. Bridgehampton Florist, if you are in the area. And if you are on InstaGram, they are thebridgehamptonflorist.

So how about rosehips and apples? It says fall is on the way but not here yet! The tan plates, the horses, the red of the apples and those buckets of rosehips.
I love it all. Here are a couple more views of the same table.

I can’t tell if those goblets are blue or green, but either works for me. I hope they are blue. Wood chargers, wooden handles of the flatware – I would substitute silver! – and some lilies, apples, and greenery in some lovely vessel that we can’t see. Favorite? The napkins they used. And those bark buckets that hold the rosehips could be just about anything. Baskets for sure. I sure hope no one moved his apple off the plate. That would just ruin everything!

Ina Garten knows what September is for. Look at this lovely arrangement that works for a September table. I think it would work well on a sofa table just as well, especially if the table is the first thing seen entering the room. And some less expensive flowers can be substituted since we don’t all live on Ina’s enviable budget. I hear Trader Joe’s is the place to go.

And then on another table in the same room, this. Casually. Just sitting under a lamp.

Then there’s the front door. A few weeks ago, Ann at On Sutton Place hosted a Fall Emporium on her blog, and I spotted this door mat. It was pretty much love at first sight.

I needed it. And I did have a gift card.. And it was on sale. I saved three dollars if you don’t add in the shipping. Can you believe they call that a sale? And it won’t be here until the middle of September, so that will be close enough to the First Day of Fall that I can just go ahead and put her out there!

And boy, am I glad I did, cause when I went back on Pottery Barn to see it, you know, just to make my heart sing, it was gone. I guess Ann on Sutton Place has a pretty big following because PB has sold them all. I’m sorry to taunt you like this – getting your hopes up and all – but there are plenty of other sources for cute door mats. Check Target and HomeGood. Even Lowe’s or Home Depot. Just don’t buy pumpkins! Not yet!

Of course, mine was only $23. Sorry. I wasn’t going to taunt you.

Wall baskets for the front door. We need those, don’t we? I think they are the perfect alternative to a wreath. I found a few I really like enough to build. I’m just not going to use anything too fallish. Take a look.

This is my favorite actual basket.

Source: Yvonne at StoneGable

Well, and this one.

Source: French Country Cottage

And these…

Source: Yvonne @StoneGable

To learn how to make one, check out On Sutton Place and Stone Gable. They will give you step-by-step and inspiration. Basically, you just buy a basket, stuff it with flowers that will survive the weather on your porch, and tie a simple bow around if you choose. My motto here would be Don’t overthink them. Go with what makes you happy. I’m especially fond of the one on Yvonne’s creamy door. I would probably go a little more toward red – apples, remember? Then in October add a little orange and some brown in November. Start off simple and, bit by bit, add to it. I’m pretty sure I would tuck in just a spot of blue. Golly, by Thanksgiving it will be lush…

Well, that’s my weekend project. I will say this – I’m going to HomeGoods or Marshall’s first to look for the basket. This one. She’s a doll.

Some of these beauties are $60-$70. Empty. I know I can find a good one for less. A thrift store might be a fun source, although I honestly haven’t been in one since COVID hit. And Hobby Lobby or Michaels – with a coupon – might turn up something great. The girl who cuts my hair swears by World Market.

Just stay away from the pumpkin pillows and Hello, Pumpkin door mats. Seriously.

Changing Seasons and a Recipe

September!

If I say September, you think…what? The first thing that pops into your mind!

  • School supplies?
  • Red plaid lunchboxes!
  • Birthdays…
  • Apples 🍎
  • Cooler temps
  • Football, rah!
  • Red spider lilies

I’m going with pound cake. Now, that probably wasn’t even on your list, but September is a birthday month around here, and for her birthday, my mother wanted pound cake. And when your mom wants pound cake, you bake one. Right? Look toward the bottom of this post for a delicious never-fail pound cake recipe. From me to you…in case it’s your birthday.

School Supplies

Source: Pinterest, Adrian Maddox

As a little girl, I loved school. As an adult, I was a teacher. School starting made my heart beat faster. So did the aisles at Walmart. Of course, we didn’t have Walmart when I was a girl, so we went to Skillern’s. Big fat pencils. The smell of crayons and Big Chief tablets. A new lunch box! How could school not be fun? Those teachers must be planning something really special if we need watercolors and construction paper and manilla paper. We would be drawing for sure! Periwinkle, sepia, magenta, sky blue, spring green

As a teacher, I found colored folders and sticky notes and gel pens. Stick on letters to decorate my board and label the bins. We had to put those folders somewhere. And white board markers in all colors. Purple, teal, orange, brown, lime green, and yellow…Black marbled composition books to use for writing notebooks. Oh! Then I needed to go to Hobby Lobby for scrapbook paper so we could cover those notebooks. Pretty is important, too.

I still keep a stash at home, even though I’m no longer teaching. You never know when a craft project might need some gel pens, a glue stick, and a three-whole punch.

Apples

They have always been my favorite fruit. Well, besides cherries. And peaches. And watermelon. But the great thing about apples is that we can buy them year round, and they come in so many varieties – Granny Smith, gala, and – my right now favorite – honey crisp. Soooo many more. They make a perfect gift for the teacher. Moreover, they are self-contained and tidy. They don’t have to be peeled or balled or sliced or pitted. You just wash one and take a bite. When you finish, toss the core into the trash and wipe your hands on your dress…good to go! 🍏


Lunch Boxes

Preferably red plaid. I’m in love with old metal lunchboxes from my childhood. When my sons and daughter were in school, they started out with metal but moved into plastic. My grandson has gone fabric. I find these so – I don’t know – disappointing? What we called thermoses have been replaced with water bottles. But you know, even sadder is when the lunchbox turns into a brown paper sack. Where is the joy in a brown paper sack? Maybe a cream cheese brownie nestled on a napkin. That would be joyful.

I am pretty sure my daughter would have been carrying that ladybug, though…

Football and Cooler Weather

September in the South isn’t what the rest of the country thinks of as cooler weather, but by doggy! we had a cool front this week and we are sitting in the 80s. Can’t sniff at that! High school football has been postponed around here, so no one has been practicing in 100-degree heat. Maybe sweater weather and football will coincide this year. Now if you’re waiting for college football, I don’t know what to say except the SEC still wants to play. The Longhorns want to play. Rick Bragg has his annual football-in-September piece in Southern Living. Read it here. Better yet, buy the magazine. It is still the best one in the South.

Fantasy Football by Rick Bragg, Southern Living September 2020

This one’s good, too. For the Love of the Game. And this one. Fighting Words. Maybe his words will help our withdrawal symptoms. Or just make us laugh. I’ve got to tell you, when my Southern Living comes in the mail, I turn to the back and read his Southern Journal first. I love his writing that much.

But when the weather cools, all kinds of fun returns. The geraniums go back on the patio. Evening walks turn from grueling to pleasant, and al fresco dining returns. Before long, who knows? We might be pulling out the plaid blankets and picnic baskets for a tailgate. Well, maybe not. But crazy stuff happens when we can turn off the air conditioner and head outside! And if you look in the neighbor’s yard, you might spot some of these beauties.

You know it’s September for certain when the spider lilies arrive. Out of nowhere when you least expect them. Love them fast, though, ‘cause they will be gone way too soon. In Arkansas, they’re called Naked Ladies. I think I like that better. Honey, look! Some Naked Ladies have come up in the front yard! If that doesn’t get him moving, you might need to check for a pulse.

And here’s your recipe. Happy Birthday!

Pound Cake

  • 2 sticks margarine or butter
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 5 eggs
  • 2 3/4 cup flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla

Soften the butter and bring eggs to room temperature. Preheat your oven to 325 degrees and grease and flour your cake pan. I like to use a fluted bundt cake pan because it makes such a pretty cake. Smear some softened butter into every little crease and pour in some flour. Shake it all around until everything is coated with the flour. Dump the excess in the sink and tap your upside down pan against the side so it loses all the flour that we don’t want stuck to our cake. This will probably make your dog bark, but it is vital to the success of the cake.

Place the butter in a large mixing bowl. If you have a stand mixer, this is the time to use it. In my test kitchen, I use a Kitchen Aid stand mixer and the paddle. My bowl is glass, so I can see what’s going on in there. Turn the mixer on medium and beat the butter for two minutes. This is very important because the air that mixes in with the butter is what makes the cake rise up nice and fluffy.

Add the sugar gradually. On medium speed, beat the butter/sugar mixture for about 8 minutes. If you are using a hand mixer, go with 10 minutes. The best thing about using the stand mixture is that while this beating is taking place, we can measure out our other ingredients. Be prepared! Yes, I was a Girl Scout.

Next we will add in the five eggs, one at a time. Beat each egg until it disappears. Don’t overdo it or your cake will overflow.

Now get your milk and flour. You measured it all out while your butter and sugar were beating, right? We alternate pouring these ingredients gradually into the bowl. Begin with the flour, then add some milk. Repeat until you are out of milk. Then add the last of the flour. Plan ahead for this process; begin with the flour and end with the flour.

Now you should have a luscious golden batter ready to pour into your pan. Before you do, stir in the vanilla. Mix it just until the vanilla disappears into the batter. Now pour it. It’s so pretty!

Bake for an hour. I’ve been known to bake it for an extra 10 minutes, but not in this oven. Only you know what your oven is likely to do. Golden brown is the color you want, not tan. Check it at an hour and see if it needs to keep going. Use a toothpick to test the center. It should come out clean.

Set the cake pan on a rack to cool for 15 minutes. Then place another rack on top of the pan and turn the whole thing upside down so the cake is inverted onto your second rack. The cake should come out easily onto the cooling rack. Leave it there until the cake is completely cooled.

Now here is my favorite part. Pick a pretty cake plate. If you don’t have one, run up to HomeGoods and buy the prettiest one you see. This cake deserves a footed cake plate.

Put your cooled cake carefully on the cake plate. Get out some powdered sugar and sift very softly over the top of the cake. It looks like snow. Leave the sugar that sprinkled onto the cake plate, too. It makes it even prettier. Note: if you do this before the cake cools all the way, the sugar will soak into the crust. It won’t look snowy at all. Don’t do that!

I use this cake plate. I gave it to my mother on her birthday one year. Little brown and gold leaves and stems on frosted glass. It was the perfect birthday gift to go with her pound cake.

And this is a perfect little cake for a tea party. Or sliced for strawberry shortcake with fresh berries and real whipped cream. Not Cool Whip! And at Christmas, it is a showstopper addition to a dessert buffet. On your cake plate. With a silver cake server. Isn’t she beautiful?

If you would like to subscribe to My Sweet Blue Home, add your info below. You will receive an email when a new post comes along. You won’t want to miss our fall decorating and baking! And I would really love it if you leave a comment. Thank you for reading! 💙

Looking Good, The 70s

Bell Bottoms, Hip Huggers, and Farrah Fawcett Hair

This morning, a Mustang zoomed up the street in front of me, glasspacks roaring. That car took me straight back to 1974 – my college days in Lubbock, Texas. There was a group of us that were best friends and sorority sisters. All of us were big city girls – Houston and Dallas – except one. She was from a tiny town north of Lubbock.

She had come to college with a little, dark green, box-shaped car. A Renault stick shift. We would pile into that car whenever we left campus, lurching all around town when she shifted gears. I’m sure it was a hand-me-down that her mother found appropriate for a group of coeds. Her mom, Betty Jo, always called us coeds, which we found hilarious. Eventually the little car just fell apart, reaching the point that whoever rode in the back seat had to hold the doors closed. Really. They couldn’t let go or the door would fly open.

So one weekend she tied the back doors together from the inside with a piece of rope and headed home to bring back her new car. And she was so proud. It was a Malibu or a Grand Prix. Something much cooler than a Renault. All the doors stayed closed and everything!

Of course she wanted us to ride with her immediately, so we loaded up and headed out, just to experience her cool new car. When we took off from the first traffic light, the car just exploded! We all jumped and screamed. What on earth?!? She proudly explained that she had glasspacks and weren’t they the coolest thing ever?

No, no they weren’t. Not cool at all. We city girls knew that, and we just couldn’t stop laughing. We were horrified, begging her to make it stop. She couldn’t believe we didn’t understand that a roaring car – it was the muffler, by the way, just in case you didn’t know either – was the envy of all the in-crowd in her little town. Gosh…

Just remembering those glasspacks make me wonder what else we did back then that was embarrassing but we were too clueless at the time to know any better. Trust me, there was plenty.


Flashing Back

Now I went to college in the seventies. It was not a pretty time. But through my nostalgic eyes, we were way cool. In fact, we were so cool that in recent years my eighth grade students started coming to school dressed like us. And it wasn’t a joke. It wasn’t Seventies Week or Nerd Week or anything insulting. It was for real. I tried not to smile too big as I told them I used to have a pair of those wedges! I was proud to show them pictures of my long – almost to my waist – straight hair. Of course, they were more amazed that I was ever young, but that is the way a fourteen year old’s brain works.

Hot Pants

I will admit there was plenty of un-cool in our college days. Hot pants with go-go boots? Oh my. These were for real and immortalized in our college yearbooks. Think short-shorts with panty hose and knee-high boots.

Very wholesome, right? Not the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders, for heaven’s sake. Auuugh.


Bell Bottoms and Hip Huggers

Now no one can claim that bell bottoms and hip huggers weren’t cool. And if our jeans were both! OMGosh!


These were our go-tos. We wore them constantly. The low riders were the best. They hung from our hips, our belly buttons were exposed, and those bells flapped when we walked to class. If hems got frayed from slapping the ground, we were extra-cool. Holes got patched. When they shrunk so much that we couldn’t wear them with these anymore…

we pulled them down even lower and wore flat, between-the-toes Bandolino sandals. They were perfectly flat, offered no support, but were totally cool. When they wore out, we would head back to Foley’s for a new pair.

Farrah

If you are too young to remember, this was Farrah Fawcett.

And that was her hair. It was the equivalent of the Rachel cut from the 90s. All the guys wanted Farrah. All the girls wanted her hair. Luckily, mine was long, blonde, and thick. Unfortunately, it would not hold a curl. It looked great when the hot rollers came out. Not so great in the hot wind of the Texas panhandle. Farrah was famous for throwing her hair around. We did a lot of that, too. Oh dear. What we must have looked like…

I really felt sorry, though, for my friends with curly hair. Just to get theirs straight, they gathered orange juice cans, emptied them, and cut out the bottoms. They rolled their wet hair onto these cans and bobby-pinned them in place. When their hair was dry, it was smooth and silky and straight. Until then, they looked like this.

Changing Times

Even the music we danced to needed a do-over. It was called soft rock. Bread? The Carpenters? The Spinners? You would have to google them to remember their biggest hits. Let’s just say we did a lot of slow dancing.

  • Tie A Yellow Ribbon ‘Round the Old Oak Tree
  • Baby I’m-a Want You
  • Could It Be I’m Falling in Love
  • Sing
  • Bridge Over Troubled Water
  • Don’t Go Breaking My Heart

It was so bad, old rock and roll made a comeback. We danced to Chuck Berry. Elvis was King again. We all stayed home to watch him make his comeback. In a white jump suit. With those sideburns. Elvis – Aloha from Hawaii!

But it was his old stuff that we loved. Jailhouse Rock and Blue Suede Shoes. It was a little hard to dance to In the Ghetto or Polk Salad Annie. Even Elvis wasn’t his coolest in the 70s.

But y’all, we tried. Yes, our dates wore plaid pants (see Elton, above), turtle necks, and saddle oxfords – they had made a comeback, too. We dressed up for football games and pledged sororities. And, um, we voted for Nixon. In 1972, eighteen year olds could vote and legally order a beer with our pizza. We had missed Vietnam and protest marches. We were stylish flower children – we wore peasant blouses with our hip huggers.

I remember adults telling us that we would look back on our college years as ‘the best days of our lives’. I don’t know that I would go that far. But we did grow up. And we had four unforgettable years. Even when we really weren’t cool.

Summer

August

August is such a transitional month. Summer is coming to a close and school starts back in some form or another. And it is really too easy to just let August slip by. Bid that heat good riddance. Look for pumpkins and faux fall leaves and Hallmark movies filled with both. But I say no. Not just yet.

Instagram prompted this reverie. Just scroll through and see what I mean!


And this is just some of what you will see. The first gift shop fall candle display was jarring. I’m just not ready for my house to smell like pumpkin bread. Nope. Summer isn’t gone yet. It was 103 blasted degrees here yesterday. Who wants to think of fires in the fireplace?

Want to know what August is good for? How about staying up late, late to read a book, knowing you can sleep in the next morning. Or fried oysters and a margarita for dinner. Or another beach trip or picnic or road trip. Setting up a tent in the back yard to watch the fireflies. Swimming pools. Arts and crafts and s’mores.

Now, if you have to, go on to Target with your school supply list. And when you get home, put them in your closet behind the floaties and goggles. Make tonight movie and popcorn night and stay up past bedtime. For heaven’s sake, it’s still summer!

🌻

Artists, Crafting, Finding the Fun Stuff!

Creatability!

I know you think I have been a backsliding blogger, but no! I have been busy! Crafting! And now I’m going to share it all with you because you are really going to want to do this…and you need to hurry ‘cause school is getting ready to start and then you will be too busy. You know…online…not in person…

Day 1. Clueless.

So, I signed up for an online collage class and the first one starts in 30 minutes. I’m ready! Jennifer – our teacher – told us not to go shopping, just to gather up all our crafty belongings, so I did! See?

In my stash of junk, I found some old pattern envelopes, tissue paper, pretty napkins, books for cutting, embroidery floss and leftover trims from projects so old I have absolutely no recollection what they were for. I even found paint pens and Mod Podge.

And then I went to both Hobby Lobby AND Michaels. Why? Because I was just sure I needed more…

I kinda have a plan and I wanted papers to add to this grand idea. And I bought some acrylic paint that I’m certain I don’t need and I might return. What on earth will I paint yellow ochre? We shall see.

My setup is interesting. I need my laptop for a good shot of the procedures and techniques, but the volume is too low. What if I put earbuds in my iPad and crank up the volume? Now I’m ready. I have a drink in case I get thirsty. I did do one last run through the house and gathered paper towels, a paper plate, and some more gel pens. Eleven minutes…I can’t wait!


Technically, this is called mixed media. And it comes at you about 100 miles an hour! I made the mistake of trying to do it along with our teacher instead of just watching where she was headed. Honestly? I think that made it more fun! I was throwing stuff on the floor because there was no time for folding and filing and stacking. I had every bit of the mixed media stuck to my fingers. When a classmate mentioned that she had just sipped her paint water by mistake, I burst out laughing. My husband thought I was nuts.

Things I discovered:

  • If the teacher is working in protective rubber gloves, perhaps I should also. After class, I cleaned my hands with the pot scrubber. You know…like a Brillo Pad without the soap. Yep.
  • Dried Mod Podge, Elmer’s Glue, and acrylic paints do not stick to a gel manicure. Washes right off.
  • A vinyl tablecloth would come in handy. Mod Podge, Elmer’s Glue, and acrylic paint do stick to a wooden work surface.

  • Working blindly at the speed of light is the only way to go! I walked into this endeavor without a clue and had a royal ball.
  • Yellow ochre mixed with white paint and Mod Podge makes the happiest shade of yellow. I love what it did to my sub —— something. It has a name. I just can’t remember it. It means that first layer onto which all my other stuff is glued and stamped and painted. Joy! I’m keeping the yellow ochre.

We are telling a story here. If you look closely, hidden in the collage is love of all things home. There are love birds and a happy little bunny family all snuggled up in front of the fireplace. ❤️ And a neighborhood. And flowers that are meant to look like hydrangeas.

There are quotes about home and love and dolls and a doll house. The images are flowery and soft and all blended together. I just love everything about it. My goal was vintage and sentimental. I guess that pretty much sums me up!

And this was just our first meeting! Layer numero uno. We will add more on Tuesday night and Thursday night. I will update with more revelations.


Day 2. Ready!

Paper, glue, scissors…

Today we made our laundry. Because we are the Laundry Girls. Well, I just made that up…but when Day 3 is over, we will have a mixed media of laundry day. Thus we needed some dresses. Here are mine.

I’m not sure I am finished. I might replace a couple.

Eventually we will have a clothesline and a birdcage and maybe a couple of birds. Do you see my sun in the sky behind my dresses?

Here’s what I learned tonight.

  • Eat dinner before class starts. Once the glue comes out, there’s no time to stop to eat.

  • An afternoon nap would also be a good idea. These little dresses take a while and then there’s drying time. After I finished I had to admire them and take pictures to post to the group and look at everybody else’s. And add comments. And creativity doesn’t just get in the bed and fall asleep. It requires to be written about. I’m glad we are an every-other-day class.
  • The sub— thing is a SUBSTRATE. I heard someone say it. That’s a new word for me and I love new words. Empurpled…epitome…facetious.
  • Ink pads are made of ink. It does not really wash off. I should rephrase that. It really does not wash off. I look like I voted in the Iraqi election back in the 90s. Seriously. But if you look at the edges of my dresses, you will see that they are distressed. As am I. About my finger.

  • We should never, ever, ever throw anything away. We will some day need scraps. Ribbon, lace, rick rack, paper, magazines, tiny little rosebuds, Miniature anythings. You may pride yourself on your organizational skills and lack of clutter, but you are wrong. Oh so wrong. Terribly, terribly wrong.
  • I have fallen head-over-heels in love with multi-media. Crafting is relaxing and invigorating and messy. And other crafters are so friendly and supportive. And those crazy ladies in countries like England and Ireland and Australia will stay up until all hours to be in our group.
  • This day I discovered confidence. I decided that I could do this thing. I liked what I had created and was pretty darned sure I will hang this in my house. Somewhere

Thursday night we finish up our projects. I can’t wait for you to see! And I can’t wait for me to see, either.


Day 3. The Grand Reveal!

This is my starting point tonight. Yes, I changed some dress details and I am happier with what I have now. The cupcake liner was supposed to be a pleated skirt and I just could not get past it. Instead she became low-waisted with a sash and bow on the hip.

All I know about tonight is that a bird, a birdcage, and a clothesline will be added. I find myself tonight like a child, so filled with anticipation that I keep checking the clock for 6:30. C’mon!

Ta-Da!

Tonight was intimidating. I mean we were making commitments – using ink and glue. It could all be ruined. My charming, happy background could be lost. I just watched. Couldn’t even draw on my clothesline…

So I finally just dove in. And I love it.

Not just how it turned out, but that I did it. My crafty side had gone dormant. It was lost in family and teaching and decorating and writing. I made things for my classroom, but this has no purpose. It was just expression. Just for fun. No one needs a Laundry Day collage.

Well, maybe I did.

Laundry Day, 2020

About the class! It popped up in my Facebook feed. It was taught by a talented, patient, calm, supportive woman named Jennifer Chamberlin. She teaches all sorts of creativity. There were around 1200 of us in there! People from all corners of the Internet. But it felt chummy and personal – a little community of crafters who shared their work each day and left comments and encouragement and more great ideas. In a time of social distancing, it was not…

And it was only $10. Made (mostly) with stuff from the craft closet. I highly recommend it. Three classes, with a day in between. Go find her…and get crafty again!

Movies

Shenandoah

I saw a question on social media about movies that make us cry. The actual idea – meant to begin a discussion thread – was to name a movie that made you cry. The first one that came to mind was an old Jimmy Stewart movie, Shenandoah. Do you know it?

A large Virginia family who was trying to remain neutral during the Civil War was torn apart by events. Their youngest son, Boy, is taken prisoner by the Union Army when they mistake him for a Confederate soldier. The men in the family go on a rescue mission but fail. They assume Boy is lost and grieve over him.

This is Boy.

Spoiler Alert! Don’t read this paragraph if you don’t want to know the ending! The final scene of the movie has Boy walking into the church where what remains of the family is worshiping. Jimmy Stewart turns to see him there, stands, and goes to embrace the son he thought would never return.

Oh my goodness! I cry every time! If it came on today, I would cry all over again like I had never seen it before.

It actually would be worse now that I have raised my sons and have grandsons.

And it is ugly crying. No way to stop it crying.

Watch the trailer. You will recognize the cast members. Here. It came out in 1965, so AMC or TCM will probably run it. Grab some tissues.

So, what is yours? An Affair To Remember? The Notebook? Stepmom? Add it to the comments!

Finding the Fun Stuff!, Road Trips in Texas

A Barbecue Sandwich and Big Sam

If you ever find yourself driving on Interstate 45 between Dallas and Houston, I have a suggestion for you. Stop at Woody’s Smokehouse for a chopped beef sandwich. These guys make the best, best, best ones! The buns are fresh and soft. The pickles and red onions are perfectly sliced. The beef is melt-in-your-mouth tender and sauced just right. Woody’s wraps all this goodness in layers of waxed papery stuff that catches all that extra meat falling off the buns. Every bite is delish!

In what is surely one of the best real estate decisions ever, Woody’s built two locations – one on each side of I-45. No excuse for driving through Centerville without stopping. Heading north? He’s right there. Heading south? He’s right there, too!

He’s not fancy, but I’ve never seen his parking lot when it was not packed. My husband claims there is fudge inside. And baked goods. And all sorts of beef-y food. I could not recommend it more highly. And they do all this amazing stuff with a Buccee’s just ten miles down the road…

If you can pack two parking lots with Buccee’s as your competition, you’ve got some good barbecue.

Now when you get to Huntsville, keep an eye out for 67 feet of Sam Houston. You really can’t miss him. Sam is the Father of Texas. He defeated Santa Anna at San Jacinto, was the President of Texas while it was a republic, and the Governor and Senator when Texas became a state. He is quite a sight!

Real Sam Houston
67 feet tall on top of that granite base – you really can’t miss him!

You can park and walk around him if you would like to. I’ve never done that, but I sure do smile every time I see him.

If you are feeling extra touristy, you can stop by the prison museum at the Huntsville Unit to see an electric chair in person. I’ve never done that either…

Did you also know the prison is pretty darned famous for its rodeo? Yes. The prisoners put on a rodeo. I’m not sure they do anymore. Something about escapees? Maybe I imagined that. I do know that Naomi and Winona Judd performed there.

There are signs, though, warning drivers not to stop for hitch hikers…Yes. There. Are. Like I needed to be reminded…

Happy trails, everyone!

And A Recipe, Summer

Crab Cakes

Did I ever tell you about the time I made crab cakes? Oh, they were delicious. I want to make them again. I really do. Well, really I want to eat them again. I just don’t want to make them. Or buy the stuff to make them. Or clean up the mess.

It was summertime. You know…the living was easy…fish were jumping…and the cotton was high…No. I was just wanting to cook something that seemed summery, and crab cakes fit the bill. I found a really great recipe.

So first I went grocery shopping. I won’t even tell you how much a can of crab meat costs. Two of them. If I were to do this over again, I would take this happy little recipe with me to Galveston where we could take the grandsons, a net, some chicken legs, and string to catch some fresh crab. Technically, a can of crab meat is considerably cheaper than a beach house rental, but the crab would sure be fresh. And think of the fun!

Seriously, this is all you need:

Well, and a pier where the crab hang out. And it needs to be night time. Just sit in the dark, drop a chicken leg tied to the string into the water, and wait for a tug. Scoop him up, throw him in an ice chest, and repeat until you have enough crabs to produce a couple of pounds. Boil them in a big pot of water, crack them open, and pick out a mound of meat. Try not to eat it all before you get back to the crab cakes recipe. 🦀

Or go to Tom Thumb. Buy it already done for you. You’re going to need two pounds.

Crab Cakes

  • 2 egg whites
  • 2/3 c. Hellman’s mayonnaise
  • 2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • 2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/4 c. chopped parsley
  • 1/2 c. diced green onion
  • 1 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 2 lbs. lump crab meat
  • 2 c. bread crumbs

Drain and rinse the crab meat. Feel around for any pieces of shells and remove those. Don’t play around in there too much. You will want some nice pieces of crab, but if they are too large, your crab cakes will fall apart.

Combine everything except the crab meat and bread crumbs, then gently fold in the crab meat and just 1/2 c. of bread crumbs.  Form the mixture into about 8 large patties and roll them in the remaining bread crumbs. Press the crumbs in with your clean hands. Line a cookie sheet with waxed paper; put your crab cakes in one layer on here and put them in the fridge to chill for about an hour. Note: You can do everything up to this point ahead of time and then cook them tonight. The chilling time will keep them from falling apart when you cook them.

When you are ready to cook, move your oven rack about four inches below the broiler and turn the broiler on low. Lift the waxed paper from the cookie sheet and spray the pan with Pam. Arrange the crab cakes on the prepared pan. Don’t use the waxed paper! Broil for about four minutes on each side just until golden brown.  They’re ready! Do a happy dance! You are going to want to serve these hot with to-die-for homemade tartar sauce…and a tall, cool cocktail.

Homemade Tartar Sauce

Do not skip this part of the recipe. It is simply delicious. Do not be tempted to open a jar of pre-made. Seriously, I felt just like Ina. And it is so easy!

  • 1 1/2 c. Hellman’s mayonnaise
  • 3 tsp. finely chopped green onions
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. chopped parsley
  • 3 tsp. sweet pickle relish
  • 2 1/4 Tbsp. cider vinegar

Whisk this all together in a small, pretty bowl. Cover it and chill until crab cakes come out of the oven. Ahhh. The taste of summer.

I shredded some cold iceberg lettuce and put a pile on each plate. Then I nestled in two crab cakes and added a dollop of that delicious tartar sauce on the side. Every bite is scrumptious. I promise.