A Texas Hill Country Thanksgiving

I thank my parents for raising me as a horse loving Texas Hill Country girl.   Nine Thanksgiving ago my sisters and I lost my mother. We lost our father nineteen years ago. They loved family and every holiday, plus some we were making the rounds to visit loved ones. We were shown through example that family matters.

A few years ago my sisters and I started a new tradition for Thanksgiving. We rented a cabin by the Frio River in Leakey, Texas. (our parents married in Leakey) A cousin from my family and a cousin from my brother-in-law’s joined in and we stay for four days.

The rest of my mother’s family, including her mother, join us. We bounce between 30 to 50 people on Thursday.  In a world that moves fast and people spend more time looking down at a screen than into the face of real people, personal connections with extended family gives  us roots and a healthier life. As humans, the need for relationships with others and nature is built into our DNA. To me Thanksgiving is not  about the food…it’s the people and getting away from the rush of daily life.

Old Giant Oak tree in Texas Hill Country. Leakey Texas.

These old trees make me think of how time moves and the world changes, but God is constant. We come and go but the world keeps turning. I love to take time and enjoy the peace these trees give me.

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Roads through the Texas Hill Country
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Taking time to walk off some of our Thanksgiving feast in the Texas Hill Country. Leakey Texas

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Enjoying the Frio River even in the rain. Two aunts and uncle and one of my sisters. Leakey Texas
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It helps if you have someone that plays the guitar and maracas.

Play some games! How to have fun at a Texas Hill Country Thanksgiving.

My Grandmother and seven (of ten)of her great-grandchildren from her oldest child, my mother, Cindy French Guinther. She has a total of thirty great-grandchildren.

Longhorn on a  Texas Hill Country Ranch Country
Longhorn on a Texas Hill Country Ranch Country

Since we are on a Texas Hill Country ranch we have to include a Longhorn.

Even thought we had rain we had fun. You have to set your mind to it sometimes but it can always be found. Play in the Rain!

Play in the Texas Rain with Jolene Navarro!
Play in the Texas Rain with Jolene Navarro!

Play in the Rain! Life is too short to wait around for the right time. Give thanks for the rain and the sun, the wind and the opportunity to experience it all.

What do you do to connect with people or nature?

 

 

Fred serves the fish.

F – Fish Fry and Funnel Cake with Fred and the Family

A to Z Blogging Challenge F
A to Z Blogging Challenge F

I write stories of people stumbling through life and finding the things that make it all worthwhile: love, faith and hope. For me that also means family. Some of my people have large, crazy, overwhelming families, others are trying to gather some sort of family around them where there was none. For one of the characters I’m currently working with, he has three rescues dogs, he thinks he is just fine without people.

One thing everyone loves even the dogs is a Fish Fry!

At times dogs can make for the best family members. Pure Love
At times dogs can make for the best family members. Pure Love
At times dogs can make for the best family members
At times dogs can make for the best family members. Pure Love

With family comes family events. Yes, my stories always have some big family event. Holiday traditions are great to show off the worse and best!

So this Easter my sisters and I got together for a fabulous fish fry!  It was beyond delicious with a little Red fish, speckle trout and cat fish. Of course anytime you deep fry something it tends to work well for the taste buds. A few hand rolled hush puppies (in the south there is always a dog hanging out and acting if you haven’t feed them in three days)  You have to start with some good corn meal to coat the fish.

Ready to fry - Dip in milk, roll on Cornmeal, touch of flour mixed with sea-salt, ground pepper, onion powder and paprika.
Ready to fry – Dip in milk, roll on Cornmeal, touch of flour mixed with sea-salt, ground pepper, onion powder and paprika.

Got to make sure the oil is hot but not too hot.  You have to taste it before serving to make sure it is right.

Getting the deep fryer ready for the fish.
Getting the deep fryer ready for the fish.

Ready to Eat!!

Fred serves the fish.
Fred serves the fish.
Men cooking is always a little sexy
Men cooking is always a little sexy
Jackson likes the fish!
Jackson likes the fish!

If you have another fryer you can finish the fry fiesta with funnel cake. BUT you have to have clean oil!

Fishy Funnel Cake is not tasty

Funnel Cake- A favorite food
Funnel Cake- A favorite food

What is your favorite family tradition? Do y’all have a go to recipe that feeds everyone?

Cascarones - Egg shells filled with confetti

E – Easter Eggs Real or Plastic?

A to Z blogging Challenge E
A to Z blogging Challenge E

Spring time brings renewal and rebirth – which makes it a perfect time to celebrate The Gift of Eternal Life through Jesus Christ. He has risen and beaten death for us, even though we don’t deserve the gift is ours.

He has Risen!
He has Risen!

One of my favorite tradition for Easter is the Easter Egg Hunt.

Easter Egg Hunt in the Texas Hill Country
Easter Egg Hunt in the Texas Hill Country

Every year we decorate and stuff eggs. Some years it seems we run out of time and it is easier to stuff the plastics ones – or if your really uhm out of time – you can buy the already stuffed one.

Other years we dye more eggs than we know what to do with.DSC_1236

Great Grandma Olene Guinther and Katrina Decorating eggs in 1993
Great Grandma Olene Guinther and Katrina Decorating eggs in 1993

So which do you prefer… Plastic or Real?

Real or Plastic
Real or Plastic

The real ones are so personal and fun to decorate. You can actually eat them if you don’t leave them out too long or lose the in the yard.  You find them as you mow…eek!

The plastic ones are practical and if you lose it …well it’s plastic. And now they come in funky shapes – I’m not sure if I like these. Kids love them…but I  shy away from mass market products. I love the creative side of decorating your own egg.  I do tend to be more on the artisan side even thought we don’t always have the time for it..

jurassic-dinosaur-easter-eggs-filled-with-jelly-beans-
jurassic-dinosaur-easter-eggs-filled-with-jelly-beans-
Cascarones
Cascarones

There one other type of egg we have here in South Texas – Cascarones!  These are fun and messy!

Attack with a confetti filled egg..
Attack with a confetti filled egg..
egg fight Attack with a confetti filled egg.
egg fight Attack with a confetti filled egg.
egg fight Attack with a confetti filled egg.
egg fight Attack with a confetti filled egg.
Cascarones - Egg shells filled with confetti
Cascarones – Egg shells filled with confetti

To learn how to make you own Cascarones – read this blog…make your own cascarons

So which do you use – are do yo not even mess with eggs?

Embracing Failure leads to joy and success!

Below is a link to a blog I wrote for the Craftie Ladies of Romance. What are the three things you need for a successful year? What about embracing failure, creating community and resilience? Hit the link below and read more about it.

All the things I need for a great 2015.

I want to thank my family for such a great year.

Enjoying Life.
Enjoying Life. My Hero Fred.
Bon fire and family
A year ago for my birthday family gathering around the bon fire
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A dream coming true. Lower Manhattan – It amazes me how so many people can live in such a small space. It looks as if it could just fall of the little piece of land.
Times Square with Fred. A dream coming true.
Times Square with Fred. A dream coming true.
June is the West Texas A&M writer's Academy with Jodi Thomas, Alex Sokoloff and Sasha Summers
June is the West Texas A&M writer’s Academy with Jodi Thomas, Alex Sokoloff and Sasha Summers
RWA panel about the truth of the Texas cowboy
RWA panel about the truth of the Texas cowboy
Great times with family and friends at Port A on the Texas coast
Great times with family and friends at Port A on the Texas coast
My parent had three girls who gave them ten  grand-kids - ten grand kids that love each other so much. Annual pumpkin carving slam down
My parent had three girls who gave them ten grand-kids – ten grand kids that love each other so much. Annual pumpkin carving slam down

 

Talking about How We Liove Our Heros at the Rita's & Readers in Dallas. With Jolene Navarro, Jade Lee & Julie Ann Walker
Talking about How We Love Our Heroes at the Rita’s & Readers in Dallas. With Jolene Navarro, Jade Lee & Julie Ann Walker
Best Group of writers an author could hang out with. San Antonio Romance Authors
Best Group of writers an author could hang out with. San Antonio Romance Authors
Family makes the year full of joy even if you only see them on the holidays - maybe because you only see them on the holidays. lol
Family makes the year full of joy even if you only see them on the holidays – maybe because you only see them on the holidays. lol
Here's to many more smiles in 2015
Here’s to many more smiles in 2015

Wow – Looking back on the year and finding my highlights I was amazed at the wonderful people that have been brought into my life. Some long term and had no choice, family is family, others have come in and guided me and came with so much love I have a hard time believing it.  Thank you.

pumpkin designs

Fall, Family & Fun carving pumpkins

I love the fall (some might call it autumn). Getting family together for fun and Frito pie with Kevin Ward’s homemade chili. The cooler weather rolls in from the north. In Texas that means we are moving out of the triple digits into the 90s and 80s. The other morning it hit 68…brrrr. Of course it was back to a cool 92 by 2:00 pm.

We might be limited in the color schemes too. The majestic oaks are ever year round green along with the juniper, but we have small splashed of yellow and orange in our foliage. I think this makes it more of a gift. We could pack up the SUV and head to Lost Maples outside of Vanderpool – it’s like a little pocket of Colorado tucked into the back of our bluejeans.

My favorite part is the unofficial kick off to the holiday season. In October 2004 my sisters and I got our kids together to carve pumpkins. We didn’t know we were starting a family tradition, but now it is part of our kids memories of growing up on the back steps.

Twelve years of carving pumpkins -growing up on the steps

Now twelve years later and the kids are actually carving their own pumpkins

This one might be the real picture.

cousins and pumpkins
Growing up on the steps – 2014 pumpkins

The level of skill and competition has grown each year.

The guts and glory of pumpkin carving
The guts and glory of pumpkin carving
Cousins helping with the pumpkins
Cousins helping with the pumpkins
My pumpkin is better than yours
My pumpkin is better than yours
Finding the right patterns
Finding the right patterns
Cleaning the guts of our pumpkin
Cleaning the guts of our pumpkin
Cousins & Pumpkins
Cousins & Pumpkins

The girls even got to use the power tools this year!

Girls using powertools to carve
Girls using power tools to carve
Carved Pumpkins 2014
Carved Pumpkins 2014
pumpkin designs
pumpkin designs
pumpkin a1
Sugar Skull Pumpkin Design
pumpkins designs
pumpkins designs
pumpkin designs
pumpkin designs

What are you waiting for go make some memories!  Do you have a favorite fall tradition?

Family Favorite Food – Pigs in a Blanket

Can I have just one? No
Can I have just one Pig In A Blanket? No.

My kids have one recipe they expect at every family gathering. It’s not the healthiest or fanciest snack: Pigs in a blanket.

So simple, but they act like it is so hard to make.  I’m posting the step by step so next time they want them they can look it up and make them without any help from me. Go family!

 

 

Step one – Gather the supplies.

Pillsbury Crescents and Lil'Smokies Sausage
Pillsbury Crescents and Lil’Smokies Sausage
I use:

Lil’smokies – beef, turkey or pork work (I like beef)

Pillsbury Crescents

If you want to make them fancy add grated cheese

 

First I brown the mini sausages in a skillet. While they are cooking I roll out the Crescents.

Rolling 4 triangles together to make one rectangle. With one can of eight you will end up with 2 sheets.

Roll out the Pillsbury Crescent
Roll out the Pillsbury Crescent

Cut three slices horizontal (across) and five vertical (down) Making 20 pieces.

Roll a sausage in each square.[/caption]Roll a cooked sausage into each square and tuck the seam together. Set seam down on the stone or cookie sheet.


Roll a sausage in each square.
Roll a sausage in each square.
Ready to cook
Ready to cook

I usually use at least two cans making 80 rolls. For a large family event I use four cans. They are always the first to go on the buffet table.

Ready to Eat
Ready to Eat

In Love with Anti-Valentine War Movies

I write love stories. Therefore, Valentine’s Day should be like my National Holiday, right? Wrong. It is the one and only day I will go to a war movie. Twenty-seven years ago, I had my first Valentine’s Day date with the man that would become my life mate. I wanted to see Say Anything.

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but he wanted to see Platoon.
Platoon-(1986)-movie-wallpaper

I was young and giddy with love so as any girl would do I agreed to see his movie.
I hate war movies and avoid them at all cost, but I have to say Platoon was one of the best movies I had ever seen.
Hey, I grew up on Pretty in Pink and Breakfast Club. I do love my happy endings and war movies by their very nature do not have happy endings.

That compromise began a tradition. It would become our anti-Valentine war movie date. Over the years, we went on to see Good Morning Vietnam, Glory and Saving Private Ryan to name a few.
It helped that Glory starred Mr. Denzel Washington, 6a00d83451c20869e200e54f1231078833-800wi
but I digress.

These are all movies that I would never had bought a ticket to see, but worth every dime. There is a great deal to learn about human nature in a well done war movie. There are images that stay planted in my mind, such as floating body parts. Does it make me a better person to get out of my comfort zone and leave my safe world of happy ever after? Maybe.

I have to tell you, it is not always easy to find a war movie during February. This year we lucked out with Zero Dark Thirty.Zero-Dark-Thirty
Can’t wait. She says with a lopsided grin and one eyebrow raised. It has worked for us for Twenty-seven years now, so I’m not messing with a good thing.

Do you have a traditional Valentine tradition or Anti-Valentine tradition?
While we’re talking about it let me know if you have seen any good war movie lately. (Good War –is that an oxymoron?) Do you have a favorite war movie?