I may chat about my books, what I'm writing or reading, or just general thoughts. You may read posts about my cats or just my crazy life in general. Comments are welcome, if anyone wants to interact with me. Maybe we can share war stories, whether it's writing related or just about life in general.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Childhood Memories

I was going to post something different here today, but that can wait until next time.  I’ve been reading many of the posts by the bloggers I found on Linked In and they bring back so many childhood memories, so I thought that maybe a post on some of the wonderful, yet crazy, memories I have would be in order.  Of course I know all of us have led different lives and have lived different childhoods.

I grew up on a farm and I don’t know how many of you grew up living a farm life.  In my case that meant we were barely scraping by most of the time, especially when my parents had seven kids to worry about.  Some years it was hard to survive on a cotton farmer’s income.

We rarely, if ever, went to the doctor for anything, so if we had a mishap it was dealt with on the farm.  Between my parents and grandparents there was no end to home remedies and solutions for any trouble we might get into.

On this same farm lived my only uncle, my daddy’s brother, and his family of six kids.  All of us were subject to home remedies at one time or another.  Aside from all the bruises, cuts and scrapes and other more gory issues of breaking our heads open from some fantastic feat we were trying to accomplish, such as playing Tarzan and swinging from the trees on a ribbon, and other such things, when we had a stomach ache one of the “sure fire” remedies for getting rid of it was to lie next to a wall in the house, on our back, with our feet extended up the wall.  Now, I’m not sure if this really was a cure, or something just to take our mind off of our stomach ache, but it seemed to work every time.  In fact, my sisters and I still occasionally do this today.

There were mostly girls in our family and mostly boys in my uncle’s family.  We would get together in the summers to play baseball in the cow pasture.  There were thirteen of us in all, so not a bad number and enough players to make two teams.  Of course living on a farm, you have to be very inventive and creative with your games.  We usually didn’t have all the necessary equipment needed, so we used dried cow pies as bases.  Now, you can imagine what the baseball games were like and what shape we were in at the end of a hot, humid day in the Texas heat.  However, we always had the greatest fun while doing this.

All of us loved wading in the ditches too after a thunderstorm, which drove mama up the wall.  That muddy water sure did feel good though and was such a nice break from the heat.  We didn’t have A/C, or forced air heat in those days, so we strictly relied on the old box fans to provide some kind of air circulation and one Dearborn heater we would all crowd around in the winter time.  The only trouble with that, aside from fighting for a place among seven kids, was burning your front side and freezing your back side, or vice versa.

Another highlight for us girls was summer girl scout camp.  As brownies we were too young to go to camp, but once we became girl scouts we had weekend trips in the summers where we could work on our merit badges, as well as get out to areas of the country we had never seen.  We seldom left the farm except to attend school.

Once at the campsite, the first order of business was pitching our tents.  We always had old stuff that had been used for years and years in our family because we couldn’t afford anything new, so I always used my daddy’s old army cot to sleep on.  That was solid wood and quite an ordeal for a youngster to pack in down the trail to the campsite.  But, hey, I was excited to get off the farm and away from my siblings for awhile.  I always looked forward to the great adventure I was going to embark on.

Once the tent project was managed, we had to dig the latrine that would serve the purpose for all our personal needs during the weekend.

After that came the keyhole fireplace.  This was where we would cook all of our meals.  Does anyone remember coffee can stew?  Or did they only have that in Texas?  Before the trip we had to get prepared, so we all needed a small coffee can and ingredients to go in it that we would bring with us from home.  An old metal coffee can was saved for this purpose.  I don’t even think they make them anymore because I haven’t seen one in years.  This can was shorter than most coffee cans you see today and had a key to open it on the outside by the rim, near the top of the can.  We had to cut up carrots and potatoes and things and place them in this can.

This concoction would be prepared on a table we made by tying broomsticks together.  We each had to contribute to this by collecting broom handles throughout the year.  Once this table was assembled, we would take turns cutting up carrots and potatoes and onions and then put in whatever meat we had with us.  This mixture was put into the can, carefully replacing the lid so as not to cut ourselves on the sharp edges before wrapping the whole works in tinfoil to keep it together.  These little packages would be placed on the coals in the long portion of the keyhole fire pit.  I can honestly say that this was the best stew I’ve ever had.  Maybe that was due to the fact it was cooked outside in a coffee can, or maybe I was just starved from all the physical activity.

Other days of the trip we would have sandwiches, or try our luck catching fish at a nearby creek.

Of course there was lots of hiking and exploring too because these escapades always took place in some wooded area.  Along with this, we had archery events and other activities we would compete in.  And, as mentioned earlier, we could work on any merit badges that we lacked and that applied to this camping trip.

We all had our duties assigned to us by the scout leader, so we each knew what our job was and everything around camp ran smoothly.

At the end of the day we were all so tuckered out from all the activity that we were asleep before our heads hit the pillow.  I really doubt if we would have known if we’d been bitten by any mosquitoes until morning, but of course that’s what the mosquito nets were for.  The mosquitoes run rampant in south Texas in the summers and they are some mighty big suckers.  The only ones bigger I’ve ever seen was when I lived in Alaska, as an adult, but that’s a different story for another time.

As good as it was to leave the confines of home on the cotton farm; it was mighty good to get back too.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Helpful Products

Okay, I admit this post will probably appeal more to women than men, but I wanted to share some helpful products with the ones who care to read this.  Perhaps something here will help you out.  I hope so.

I have very long hair and really wanted to do something about my split ends, other than cutting it short, which is something I would never do.  I trim, but not that much of a trim and only when the moon is waxing.  That’s just a quirk of mine.  Anyway, I finally found a product that actually works and does what it says it will do.  Imagine that?  It’s been my experience that things are rarely as advertised.
 Pantene Split End Repair

I’ve posted a picture above of the product I’ve been using for about ten months now and I could see a difference in three months with continuous use.  It can be purchased at Walgreen’s and probably lots of other stores now.

The second product I wanted to tell you about is for brittle, splitting nails.  I’ve found that as I get older and am not going out to a job anymore, but working from home, that I am more inclined to have my hands in water more.  I don’t know if that tends to be the problem, or if it just stems from desert living because it’s very dry here with the average humidity around 15%.

Anyway, I started my internet search for something to work.  It seems I’m always searching the internet for something.  This product had rave reviews, so I went in search of some to try.  I ended up getting mine from a beauty supply store, but I hear that Target has it too, although I haven’t checked this out.  It is not cheap when you consider it looks like an ordinary bottle of clear nail polish.  Because of the great reviews, I decided to give it try anyway and I wasn’t disappointed.  Thank goodness because I would never spend $14 on a bottle of nail polish and that was the sale price!  If anyone has this problem, or wants to try this, here is a picture of that product.
Opi Nail Strengthener

The last thing is a cleaning product.  As much as I hate to take time out from writing and other creative endeavors, I do have to clean once in awhile.  Since moving to the desert, eight years ago from southern CA, we have had nothing but trouble with getting rings in the toilets.  The water is terrible here.  We could not find anything to get them out, not even CLR, which usually works on a variety of things when nothing else will.  Finally, we ran across the pumice stone and to think this product can even be found at Walmart.  In a couple of minutes the rings were gone and it was so fast and easy and totally amazing.  So if you have hard water, you may want to try this.  It does not scratch porcelain.  I’m not sure how it would work on other services because it is very rough, as you can imagine, since it comes from volcanoes.  Here is a picture of that in case anyone wants to look for it.
Pumie Scouring Stick

The above products I’ve been very impressed with, so I just wanted to pass the word along to anyone who may be trying to figure out what to do about these problems.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Vegas is Not Just for Gambling

My trip to Vegas last week to meet up with my third sister was amazing!  She doesn’t gamble and I don’t either and how she ended up there is a very long story that I won’t bore you with.

We both saw it as an opportunity to get together since we hadn’t seen each other in almost three years.  I’m actually not that far from there but rather than drive I opted to take the airport shuttle because, believe it or not, it was cheaper than the gas for my car round trip.

It was nice being able to sit back and visit with the other passengers on the shuttle that delivered me to the airport where I caught another shuttle to her hotel on the strip.

Once I arrived, it was go-go-go non-stop (almost) until we both left four days later.

My sister is a big fan of romance and so she has to watch The Bachelorette or the Bachelor whenever it is on, so we rushed back to the hotel in time to kick back and see that.  It was time for a break anyway after walking all over and in circles once we got back to the casino/hotel just trying to find our room.  The reason for this is because things are not well marked and there are slot machines EVERYWHERE they can stick one in Vegas, so all areas looked just the same.

Anyway, we chattered away about all the happenings and ate a bag of jalapeƱo Cheetos for dinner, while that was on, before heading out again.  She had brought those on the plane with her and actually they were very good.  I’d never had them before.  She loves anything with hot peppers.

Over the course of the next few days we managed to walk eight to nine miles a day (she had a pedometer with her).  Up and down the strip we went, taking in all the shows at the casinos, and there was no lack of them to choose from.  Most were free and run nightly starting around 7 or 8 pm.

We rode the gondolas in the Venetian and took the elevator to the top of the Eiffel tower in the Paris.  We both figured that is about as close as we’ll ever get to either “real” place.  We took a bunch of pics and ran our camera batteries dead, but had a great time.
Taken from the gondola in The Venetian

Taken from the top of the Eiffel Tower
This is the Eiffel Tower from the strip - the observation deck is at the top

The last evening we took the bus downtown to the Fremont Street Experience and watched the people riding the zip lines and listened to the music, watched the light show and all the many mimes, painters, jugglers, etc that hang out down there.  We took the bus because we knew we’d be back after midnight and didn’t want to be walking the streets of Vegas the six miles back to the hotel.  Vegas is full of crazy characters and walking the street didn’t seem safe.  The strip is quite different with all the lights and hoards of people all the time.
Part of the Light Show at the Fremont Experience - they were playing 80's music that night and the scene constantly changed and a new show started every hour.

The time went by so quick and we really knew our way around that strip before it was time to leave.  We had a blast and, even though I came home with laryngitis and blisters on my feet, I’d do it again tomorrow.
Part of the fountain show at the Bellagio.  It runs about 30 minutes at night.  The water dances in tune to the song being played and shoots to the top of the building.  That night they were playing "I'm Proud to be an American."

I’ve posted some pics for your enjoyment.  If you can get past all the wild people and all the smoke in the casinos, Vegas can be really fun!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Bushel Baskets of Peaches

Well I’m home from my little jaunt to Vegas to see one of my sisters.  Tired would not even begin to describe the state I’m in right now, but it was so very nice to see her since it’s been almost three years.

As you can imagine we did very little sleeping and talked non-stop to catch up before the time ran out and it was time to board the shuttle again for the airport.

I came home with laryngitis and blisters on my feet.  We walked just about everywhere we went and that amounted to about 8-9 miles a day.  I know this because she had a pedometer with her and keeps track since she went on her diet.

The only time we caught the bus was to go downtown to
Fremont Street
to “the experience” there because it’s 6 miles each way from the strip where we were staying.  The action there doesn’t get started until dark, so we both didn’t think it would be wise to walk the streets back to the hotel at midnight, or later.

Of course when I called my husband the night before we left, he said, “Are you sick?  What’s happened to your voice?”  But I know this was really a blessing to his ears since he thinks I talk way too much anyway.

But this was about peaches, so I better get to it.

I slept all weekend and today I was standing at the kitchen sink eating a ripe peach before starting to weed through all my email.  I wanted to watch all the wildlife in the back yard and also it was juicy and messy and this reminded me of a childhood story.

In the summers, when all of us were still at home in the sharecroppers shacks, daddy used to bring home bushel baskets of peaches once in awhile from one of the many fruit stands they had in those days.  My grandmother did have one peach tree in her yard, but between the thirteen of us kids (7 of us and 6 cousins) we could strip that tree in nothing flat so it was pretty much off limits so she could use the peaches for baking.

I think those bushel baskets of peaches used to cost about $2 in those days and I suppose that was still a lot of money when you lived on a farmer’s salary.

But they were the most delicious peaches you ever tasted!  They were huge, and very juicy.  Of course being kids everything seems bigger so maybe they were just ordinary size, although, I think the ones you get these days are smaller than the ones back then.

All seven of us would crowd around the big trash can in the kitchen and eat the peaches over that so most of the juice wouldn’t get all over the place.  Of course some still did because there was pushing and shoving going on in the process.

Now this may sound gross to some of you, standing over a trashcan of all things, but it was so much the norm for us to crowd around things all our lives that we thought nothing of it.  We were just delighted that daddy had stopped to get the peaches and we relished the sweet taste among giggles and oooh’s and aaah’s.

I’ll never forget those days and the fruit stands all along the roads overflowing with fruits and veggies.  I guess those are times gone by and people can’t make a living doing that anymore.

Of course I probably mentioned in an earlier post that Rosenberg Mamaw had a large garden, as well as the peach tree, fig trees, pecan trees and a mulberry tree, but we always bought 50 pound bags of potatoes and onions and bushels of peaches at the fruit stands.  I’ll write more about that garden later on as that’s a story in itself with all the remedies my grandmother had for bugs.

Friday, June 8, 2012

A Thought Provoking Question

Picture courtesy of 123rs photo - Photographer Elner Amikishiyen

If an angel came to tell you things, would it have any impact on the decisions you did during your life?

First, let me tell you that I don’t mean this to be religious at all.  I do want to stay away from the subjects of religion and politics because those are personal things and not something to be discussed here.

The only reason I post this is because, at dinner tonight, my husband and I were having a discussion about ghosts and angels, etc.  He told me that his father, a very religious man, saw an angel that came to sit on the edge of his bed when he was a young man still living at home.  Supposedly this angel told him who he would marry, that she would die before him and how it would happen.  By the way, this did come to pass.  This angel told him how his life would go.  Of course my husband couldn’t answer my questions, namely, was his father influenced in his decisions about his life because of the visit of this angel.  His father is now in his 90’s and I’ve known the man forty years and I’ve never heard this story.  And believe me, his dad has told many stories, all centered on the church in one way or another.

I’m wondering what all of you, who care to comment, think about this.  Of course I understand it depends on where you’re head is with regards to all this stuff, but I thought it would make a terrific discussion among writers.

I must tell you that my family believes in ghosts and several members have seen some (meaning recently deceased people coming to say something).  My husband thinks this is hogwash and I’m “throwing around fairy dust” as he always tells me when it is something he thinks isn’t possible and I’m full of it.

My grandmother claimed she saw an angel that flew in her bedroom window years ago and told her about her mother’s upcoming death.  Now, I have no idea if this is true or not, but she believed it and made sure to tell us kids this story.  Sure enough, her mother did pass away within two weeks of seeing the angel.  I’m not sure why something like this would happen unless she needed to prepare herself for what was to come.

I’m an open minded person and not at all religious, spiritual yes, but not religious and there is a difference.  I will listen to anyone’s story, but whether people see angels that tell then things, who knows?  I do believe in ghosts because I’ve seen them, so you tell me.  What are your thoughts on this?

Monday, June 4, 2012

The Day I Met Carla

One of the things we could look forward to, growing up on the gulf coast, was hurricane season which came around every summer.  It seemed like several years we taped all the windows with masking tape and made sure there were new batteries to operate the flashlight as well as making other preparations to be ready for an impending hurricane.  Sometimes Daddy would even nail up old pieces of plywood over the windows as protection from the impending storm.

Most of the time the storms went around us and we only got some gusty winds and a lot of rain.  All of us remember Hurricane Carla because we were in her direct path.  We made our usual preparations and even boarded up some of the windows with plywood.  The winds kept getting stronger and stronger and the more the wind blew, the more apprehensive Mama became.

As the hours wore on, we kids became more excited about all the commotion.  The adults were tuned in to the news updates on the radio and we just wanted to look out and see what was going on.  When we found out it was headed straight for us, we had to go out and get the potatoes and other veggies that were ready to be picked out of Mamaw’s garden.  All of us older kids helped with this task.  We were down on our hands and knees digging up potatoes with wash tubs to speed the process up.  The sky kept getting darker and darker and the wind was strong and chilly.

As kids we were more excited than alarmed about the whole thing.  Nothing ever happened out on the farm and this was something happening that was out of the ordinary daily events.  We kept trying to peer out of the windows to watch the wind.  All of us crowded around the door and watched, wide eyed, as tree limbs and pieces of tin off the chicken coop went flying by.  We were spellbound by the wind and Mama was hysterical, running around frantically and yelling at us to keep away from the doors and windows.

Well, as kids, that was mighty hard to do when there was action going on outside.  We opened the screen door to take a better look and the wind almost ripped it off its hinges.  Instead it swung back, with a bang, flat against the house.

We could really see out then.  We had a large cottonwood tree at the corner of the house with a tire swing on it.  We watched in awe as a big limb came crashing down and landed right by the door.  By this time, Mama was beside herself with worry, all she could do was cry and yell at us repeatedly to get away from the door and the windows.

Daddy was very calm during all this.  He wasn't afraid of anything and kept trying to reassure Mama that everything would be alright, although I think his words were falling on deaf ears.  We couldn't help wondering why Mama was so afraid for all of us.

It wasn't long and Houston Papaw (Mama's daddy) and his wife Gelena drove up.  We didn't have a phone in those days and he was worried about Mama so they thought they would brave the storm and come and check on all of us.  Mama was so frantic that they were insistent we should all go up to their house in Houston.

Of course Daddy didn't want to go.  He was ready to ride the storm out right there.  Well we all know who would win that argument.  It wasn’t long and all of us were loaded up in the old pink and white station wagon.  We followed them back to Houston (about 30-40 miles). Papaw had a brick house and he thought it could weather the storm better than the sharecropper’s shacks we lived in.  The ones who stayed were Rosenberg Mamaw and Papaw (daddy’s parents) and our uncle, aunt and cousins, but the wind eventually got so bad that they went to stay at the National Guard Armory in Rosenberg (a town of 25,000 about 3 miles from the farm where we all lived).

When we got to Papaw’s house we all had something to eat and then bedded down on pallets on the floor.  The pallets consisted of a couple of quilts, or a quilt and a blanket.  We put these on the floor of the kitchen, dining room and living room.  It was wall-to-wall kids with the youngest kids in the kitchen because it had linoleum floors and Gelena was always afraid somebody would have an accident.  She would never let any of us sit on the furniture when we went to visit.  We always had to sit on the floor.

We stayed at Papaws for one night.  The wind blew hard, but the lights never went out.  We could hear it howling all night and things creaking and banging around outside.  The next day, with the worst of the storm over, we headed home to see what was left of the house.

It was still standing, but a big tree in the back yard was down, our tire swing was demolished, most of the chicken coop was gone and a few cats and chickens were missing.  Naturally our driveway and much of the field and pasture was under water.

My sister Scherri had a favorite cat that was among those missing.  She cried and cried, so Daddy put on his knee high rubber boots and took the flashlight and they went out in the rain to look for it.  They found it stuck in the water on one of the turning rows out in the fields.  They rescued it and brought it home.  The cat survived.

After a few days of heavy rain the storm passed on and the rebuilding began.  We never had another storm like that the rest of the time we lived there.