Thursday, November 26, 2015

Birdie's Little Helper

There was some good cooking going on in the kitchen yesterday.

Granddaughter Rose Helping in the Kitchen

Rose helped me with the pumpkin pie. I gave her a small piece of pie dough to play with. She rolled it, cut it, and cooked it...and then did it all over again...for over an hour. Every so often she asked me to take her picture. We had a lot of fun.

While our family is here visiting, I'll be taking a break from blogging. I hope you all have a very happy Thanksgiving!  See you sometime next week.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Beautiful Tower and View

The observation tower at Longhorn Cavern State Park is more elaborate than most I've seen. The building is made of native limestone and blends well into the picturesque setting.

Limestone Observation Tower-Longhorn Cavern State Park-Burnet, Texas

I like the design detail in the windows of the stairwell leading to the top deck.

Interesting Window Design-Observation Tower at Longhorn Cavren State Park-Burnet, Texas

And, the views at the top are spectacular!

View from Observation Tower at Longhorn Cavern State Park-Lake and Castle in the Distance-Burnet, Texas

I couldn't help but notice the huge building in the distance. John said it looked like a castle and he was right. It's called Falkenstein Castle. As it turns out, this is one of three castles in the area!

I'm sort of amazed by that...and baffled at the same time.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The Large Oatmeal Box in Oatmeal, Texas

Have you ever heard of Oatmeal, Texas? Well, don't feel bad, neither had I. 

Oatmeal is a small unincorporated community near the town of Bertram, close to where we were staying on our vacation. What put Oatmeal on the map (literally) is its annual Oatmeal Festival that began in 1978. 

John and I couldn't pass up visiting a place named Oatmeal. I posed by the large oatmeal box, the symbol of the festival and the town, while John took my picture.

Posing Next to the Big Oatmeal Box-Oatmeal, Texas

I was expecting the box to be bigger and better proportioned. I was a little bit disappointed until I found out that this is not just a decorative piece, but is actually the community's 20-foot water tower painted to look like a box of oatmeal. 

Well, I can't really find fault with that.

Read more about the history of the Oatmeal Festival here.

Monday, November 23, 2015

The Secret to Wheelers' Cornbread

I have to say we ate very well on our little vacation, starting with home cooking, and buttermilk custard pie at Schobels in Columbus, Texas, and ending with pinto beans, German sausage, and cornbread at Wheelers in Fredericksburg, Texas.

Eating at Wheelers-#3 Cornbread & Beans with choice of German sausage-Fredericksburg, Texas

Wheelers' cornbread is unlike any I've ever had. It's very light and cake-like, but not overly sweet. I've been assuming all this time that it's a German recipe and have searched with no luck in finding a recipe that sounds like it would be close to the same. 

Of course, Wheelers is tight lipped on how they make it—as they should be. But, I'm always trying to figure it out. This time as I was enjoying the generous-sized piece of deliciousness they serve, it hit me—the texture is so much like a cake, what if it is made with a cake mix?

I did a Google search and found a cornbread recipe that calls for a yellow cake mix in the ingredients! Could it be that I've stumbled upon the secret? I'll have to test it out to be sure. This recipe sounds like it will turn out sweeter than Wheelers, but it's a starting point to work from. 

Fire up the oven.

Other great restaurants we enjoyed on our trip:
Bills  Burgers, Wings & Things — Burnet, Texas (ate here twice!) 
HWY 29 BBQ — Bertram, Texas
El Rancho Mexican Restaurant – Bertram, Texas

Friday, November 20, 2015

Inks Lake State Park

The Texas Hill Country is so pretty, it's no wonder there is a large concentration of state parks in this area.

We drove through Inks Lake State Park and briefly stopped at one of the fishing piers. It was the end of a gray, cloudy day, and what little light was left, was fading quickly, but the lake was so beautiful to my eye, that I had to snap a picture.

Inks Lake Fall Color from the North Fishing Pier-Inks Lake State Park-Burnet, Texas

The trees along the shore were showing a bit of fall color and were reflected ever so softly on the smooth-as-glass surface. It was beautiful in person, even if the photo doesn't capture it well.

I happened to catch John on a point of land looking into the water. The surrounding trees created a natural frame to the scene and the green grass added a little life to the flat, dull light. 

If you know John like I do, then you know he was looking for fish and thinking about getting the fishing rods from the truck and trying his luck. But, it was late and time to go.

Maybe we'll have a chance to fish this our home waters.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Longhorn Cavern State Park

The poor weather continued the whole time we were in the Texas Hill Country, but we found a way to escape the elements and still enjoy nature at the same time by heading underground for a guided tour of Longhorn Caverns.

Longhorn Cavern-Longhorn Cavern State Park-Burnet, Texas

Our guide was fantastic! He shared with us the history of this limestone cave, its legends, and its many interesting geological features. In the photo above he is pointing out one of the tiny bats that lives in this cave.

Viewing a Bat in Longhorn Cavern-Longhorn Cavern State Park-Burnet, Texas

We all took a look at the bat, but I didn't snap a closeup. There is a very small population of Eastern Pipstrelle bats living in the cave. They do not hang out together and never leave.

Longhorn Cavern-Longhorn Cavern State Park-Burnet, Texas

There are several chambers in the cave. One of the largest is the Indian Council Room that was used by the Comanche for ceremonial purposes. The dark layer of hard rock running through the limestone in this room was used to make tools and arrow points.

A Layer of Hard Rock Running Through Limestone-Longhorn Cavern-Longhorn Cavern State Park-Burnet, Texas

Through the years, Longhorn Caverns has served many purposes. It was a place to manufacture and store gunpowder during the Civil War. It is said to have been a hideout for several outlaws including Sam Bass. During the prohibition era, it was used as a speakeasy, complete with dance floor, bandstand, and restaurant. And when Lyndon B. Johnson was president, it was designated as his underground bunker, should he ever need one while he was at his Texas ranch.

Emerging from the Lumbar Tunnel-Longhorn Cavern-Longhorn Cavern State Park-Burnet, Texas

It is easy walking through most of the cave. However, there is 20-foot section of the tour where the height of the ceiling averages about four feet. It is referred to as the Lumbar Tunnel, because you have to walk bent over to get through it. I wondered if I would feel claustrophobic through this part when we were told about it at the beginning of the tour, but it turned out to be wide enough that I never felt closed in and no one else had trouble with it either.

Beautiful Limestone Cave-Longhorn Cavern-Longhorn Cavern State Park-Burnet, Texas

The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) worked to clear the passages in the cave and make it what it is today. According to our guide, they were paid a dollar a day—$30 at the end of the month, $25 of which they sent home to their families, keeping only $5 for themselves.

Limestone Cave Formation-Longhorn Cavern-Longhorn Cavern State Park-Burnet, Texas

Our tour of Longhorn Cavern was the highlight of our trip. I've been in other caves before, some with more colorful formations, but this is by far my favorite!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Colorado Bend State Park

The hiking trails through the canyon lands of Colorado Bend State Park are rugged and beautiful. 

Scenic Overlook at Colorado Bend State Park-Bend, Texas
Scenic Overlook at Colorado Bend State Park

We had big plans to hike a few of them, especially the one to Gorman Falls, but it turned out to be a cool, rainy day, and I had a sore throat, so we saw what we could from the vehicle.

Colorado River-Colorado Bend State Park-Bend, Texas
Our lunchtime view of the Colorado River. 

Parked within view of the Colorado River, we ate our lunch (Schlotzsky's sandwiches that we brought with us) while the rain fell.

Colorado River-Colorado Bend State Park-Bend, Texas
John stands on the banks of the Colorado River in Bend, Texas.

Yes, this is our river—the same river that runs by our trailer in Matagorda—only, the scenery is so very different! 

The Colorado River ends in Matagorda where it flows into the Gulf of Mexico. Here in Bend, we were on the northern end near the headwaters. 

Colorado River-Colorado Bend State Park-Bend, Texas
Fishermen at Colorado Bend State Park

Even though we didn't get to do the things we planned, what we saw has us looking forward to our next visit. We bought a Texas State Parks Pass, so our admission is already paid for.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Off The Beaten Path

We just returned from the Texas Hill Country where we stayed in a little stone house on the San Gabriel River

Front Porch of San Gabriel River Inn-Joppa, Texas

It's off the beaten path in Joppa, Texas, and as we discovered, off the grid as far as cell phone service and wifi hotspot connection is concerned. That's why there was no post yesterday. 

Texas Birdhouse at San Gabriel River Inn-Joppa Church in Background-Joppa, Texas

The photo above of a Texas birdhouse (the entrance of the birdhouse is in the shape of Texas) at San Gabriel River Inn, gives you an idea of our picturesque setting. In the distance is the Joppa Church (also pictured below) and the old school that is now used as the community center.

Joppa Church, Joppa, Texas

It was a beautiful place to call home for a few days as we explored a part of the Hill Country we had never been to before.

Friday, November 13, 2015

The Power of Flowers

The roses in the garden are still blooming. The other day I cut three red blossoms and some white mistflower for filler...

and casually arranged the pretty flowers in an old green jar I bought at an antique store several years ago. (If anyone remembers what product came in this jar, I'd love to know.)  

The roses were still moist with dew and the fragrant mistflower smelled just like honey. 

I placed them on the coffee table and before long the whole living room was filled with their sweet fragrance...and I smiled.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Four House Cleaning Strategies That Work For Me

I love a clean house, but I'm not so fond of cleaning it. Over the years I've come up with a few strategies that help me get through the process. It's all about the attitude, not the cleaning supplies.

Sing While You Clean

My grandmother used to do this. I have to admit, it used to drive me crazy back when I was a teenager, but I see the wisdom in it now. It's hard to be unhappy when you are singing, and the work seems to go by faster when accompanied by music. 

Four House Cleaning Strategies That Work For Me - It's All About the Attitude, Not the Cleaning Supplies

I like to play my favorite Pandora Radio station rather loud while I'm cleaning. Good thing it's usually just me and the canary here on cleaning day.

Start With the Chore You Dislike the Most

Just do it and get it over with—that's my philosophy. The rest of the work will feel like a treat after you tackle that one thing you really dread. 

Four House Cleaning Strategies That Work For Me - It's All About the Attitude, Not the Cleaning Supplies

I despise cleaning the bathrooms, so that's first on my list. Beware though, this strategy can sometimes make it hard to begin cleaning the house in the first place. It's not always easy to face the worst first, but you'll thank yourself for it later.

Time Yourself While You Work

There are a couple of ways you can do this. You can turn cleaning the house into a race against the clock if you wish. This could be fun, I think, especially if you're the competitive type. But what I have found to be most helpful is to time how long it takes working at normal speed to dust the furniture, clean out the refrigerator, change the sheets on the beds, etc. When you discover how little time most of these chores actually take, it will be harder to make excuses next time. 

Four House Cleaning Strategies That Work For Me - It's All About the Attitude, Not the Cleaning Supplies

Can you spare a few minutes of your time to unload the dishwasher? Of course, you can. 

Treat Yourself to Something Special

Yes, sometimes I have to bribe myself with a promise of something enjoyable later. It can be anything you like—time to sit and knit, a piece of candy, the afternoon off with a good book—anything. 

Four House Cleaning Strategies That Work For Me - It's All About the Attitude, Not the Cleaning Supplies

A little reward now and then for a job well done is a good thing. Take a break and enjoy your clean house!

Do you have a house cleaning strategy that works for you?

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Mail From Around the World

I received the neatest envelope in the mail the other day from one of my Free Home Bible Study students in Ethiopia.

The illustration of a Black Main Lion on the front made me smile and reach for my camera. I photographed it with another envelope from Sri Lanka that I received the same day and stamps from other countries that I've clipped and saved.

Helping people from all around the world learn about God and his plan of salvation has been one of the most rewarding things I have ever done.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Made With Love

My favorite way to welcome a new baby into the world is with a gift from my heart—something I make with my two hands. 

Knitted Pink and White Honeycomb Stroller Baby Blanket
Honeycomb Stroller Blanket Knitted for a Friend's Sweet Baby Girl

For me, that means I will knit something. It's my specialty. 

Pink Honeycombs Outlined in White

Most often, I choose to make a pretty blanket. It's sure to fit every baby and will not be quickly outgrown. 

Crocheted Scalloped Edge on Honeycomb Blanket

A few balls of yarn can be turned into something beautiful if...

Made With Love Gift Tag on Knitted Blanket

there is love in every stitch.

Project Details on Ravelry

Free Printable - Made With Love Gift Tag
Free Printable - Bird Gift Tag

Monday, November 9, 2015

Louisiana Yams for Sale

Driving through Liberty, Texas, we came upon a vendor selling fruits and vegetables out of his pickup.

Roadside Fruit Stand-Liberty, Texas

We pulled over immediately when we saw his sign for Louisiana yams...

Grammar Mistake Sign-Louisiana Yam's

or yam's, if you prefer. 

I honestly did not notice the grammatical error until I was taking the photo. 

Louisiana Yams at a Roadside Stand-Liberty, Texas

Louisiana yams (no matter how you spell it) are the best tasting sweet potatoes I've ever had, so I was very happy to come across these! We bought the largest container—enough for Thanksgiving candied sweet potatoes and more.

I left without mentioning the mistake on the sign. What would you have done?

Friday, November 6, 2015

More Beautiful Butterflies in the Garden

Monarchs aren't the only butterflies in the our garden. 

Queen Butterfly on Blue Mist Flower-Needville, Texas
Queen Butterfly
The equally beautiful Queen Butterfly has made an appearance...

Gulf Fritillary on Blue Mist Flower-Needville, Texas
Gulf Fritillary, Wings Closed
as well as the Gulf Fritillary. We always seem to have lots of these.

Gulf Fritillary on Blue Mist Flower-Needville, Texas
Gulf Fritillary, Wings Open
Here's a photo of a Gulf Fritillary with its wings open, so you can compare it to...

Variegatied Fritillary on Blue Mist Flower-Needville, Texas
Variegated Fritillary
this Variegated Fritillary. We are seeing more and more of these this year.

There are so many pretty butterflies in God's creation! 

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Monarch Butterflies Are Here in Record Numbers

With so many monarch butterflies in our yard (50 or more), it's a shame we aren't tagging for Monarch Watch this year like we have done in the past.

Monarch Butterflies on Blue Mist Flower-Needville, Texas

I bet we could capture several butterflies at a time with just one swoosh of the net.

Monarch Butterfly on Blue Mist Flower-Needville, Texas

Not all monarch butterflies migrate to Mexico though, and since these have been hanging around for almost a week, I doubt they are going anywhere.

Monarch Butterfly on Blue Mist Flower-Needville, Texas

I've read reports that the main migratory wave of monarchs has already crossed the border and will soon arrive at the wintering grounds.

Monarch Butterfly on Blue Mist Flower-Needville, Texas

I've also read that it's been a good year for monarchs, with an increase in population instead of a decline. It's certainly true for us. We've never had this many monarchs in our garden before, and that's something to smile about!

Read more about 2015 Monarch Butterfly Migration at Journey North.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Blue Mistflower Gone Wild

The first time I saw Blue Mistflower at Seabourne Creek Butterfly Garden three years ago, I knew I liked it. I typically like any blue flower, and the fuzzy looking blossoms of this plant were by far the most popular bloom in the garden among the butterflies. I had to have one.

Blue Mistflower Blossom-Home Sweet Home Butterfly Garden-Needville, Texas

As soon as we found one for sale, we bought it and added it to our newly planted butterfly garden at home. It's a fall bloomer and has a sweet, pleasant fragrance. I was so happy!

But, here's what I didn't know about this plant: when a gardener (me) neglects gardening duties, Blue Mistflower becomes a beast.

Blue Mistflower Gone Wild-Home Sweet Home Butterfly Garden-Needville, Texas

The massive takeover happened sometime early in the summer and I let it be. Poor butterfly garden—so overgrown—later—I'll deal with you later—that's what I kept telling myself.

And, I will...but not right now. 

Because you see, it's in full bloom and I think every butterfly in the neighborhood is hanging out in our garden!

Plant Blue Mistflower if you dare. Its ability to attract butterflies like a magnet may just outweigh its wild ways. 

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Living on Tres Palacios Bay

Wouldn't it be great to live on a bay in a small town and have a little dock to fish from anytime you wanted? 

To live in a beautiful spot like this?

Keith (John's coworker) and Tina live here, right on Tres Palacios Bay in Palacios, Texas. They invited us over to fish one evening last week. 

We arrived just as the sun was going down. I snapped a couple of pictures and then got busy fishing. The wind was cool and breezy, the air salty and refreshing. 

Living on the bay would be a delight, I think. John says he would be worthless, spending all his time fishing...yeah...I can see that. 

No one caught any fish to keep, but that didn't matter—at all. A beautiful evening on the bay and good company overrides a stringer of fish any day!

Monday, November 2, 2015

Friday Night Special at Spoonbills

There's a small little blue house in Matagorda, Texas on Cypress Street that holds many good memories for John and me. It's Spoonbills Restaurant—our Friday night eating-out place.

Outside Spoonbills Restaurant on a Friday Evening-Matagorda, Texas

We've been coming here since it first opened in 2006 and have eaten countless delicious meals prepared by Chef Edie. She knows how to bring out the best flavor in everything she touches. There are salt and pepper shakers on the tables, but I promise you will not need them.

This past Friday Spoonbills featured a special dinner event to celebrate Edie's last round of chemotherapy. There was a set menu with two seatings, reservations required. We arrived with the other guests at 5:30. Edie and the staff greeted us at the door. You are not only treated like family at Spoonbills, you become family.

The View from Table 5-Spoonbills Restaurant-Matagorda, Texas

Table 5 is where we always sit. As usual, our drinks were already waiting for us in the pretty blue glasses with the green pedestals that I love so much. Table 5 is right by all the action. Sitting here, we see everything that comes out of the kitchen.

We knew the menu for this special dinner consisted of an appetizer, salad, entree, and dessert, but none of us knew exactly what the dishes were until they were brought out. As soon as everyone was settled at their tables, the first course was served.

Fennel and Crab Vichyssoise-Spoonbills Restaurant-Matagorda, Texas

A beautiful bowl of fennel and crab vichyssoise made with potatoes and leeks was placed before me. John was brought a velvety smooth pumpkin soup garnished for Halloween with a creme fraiche spider web design. I don't like fennel, so I almost traded with him, but surprise, surprise, when I tasted my soup, I liked the flavor so much I ate the whole bowl and would order it again.

Beet Salad-Spoonbills Restaurant-Matagorda, Texas

We were in familiar territory with the salad course, having eaten both of them several times in the past as off-menu-specials. I had the beet salad—a mix of roasted beets, fresh corn, goat cheese, and green onion, topped with arugula and served with a drizzle of spicy citrus dressing. John had the avocado, jicama, arugula salad with a bright citrus vinaigrette. 

Red Wine Braised Short Ribs-Spoonbills Restaurant-Matagorda, Texas

Before the entree arrived, we overhead the choices and I knew I would be getting my all-time favorite—red wine braised short ribs. I cannot truly explain how happy this dish makes me. Each bite is a delight and is totally worth every calorie and fat gram. The potatoes were exceptionally flavorful and I wondered how Edie was able to elevate a potato to that level. She told us later that they were brined in salt and sugar and then poached in olive oil and wonder they tasted so good!

John's entree of seared scallops with a perfectly sauced orzo-asparagus mix was equally delicious and beautifully presented, but as you have noticed by now, I only took pictures of my food...until it came to dessert. 

Splitting Dessert-Alabama Stacked Chocolate Cake and Housemade Cheesecake-Spoonbills Restaurant-Matagorda, Texas

We split the desserts in half and shared. I had already taken a bite of the Alabama stacked chocolate cake when I remembered to snap a shot. This cake was really good, but John and I both agreed that the housemade cheesecake was the best. It was a rich, creamy, no ricotta version, with a graham cracker and nut crust, and a topping of sour cream. My mouth is watering now just remembering how good it was. I'm hoping this becomes a regular item on the menu.

Chef Edie is closing Spoonbills for the rest of the year to continue with her next phase of treatment. We are so happy she is improving and can't wait for our next meal at table 5! 

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