Wednesday, December 26, 2012

White Christmas in Texas 2012

Christmas day started off chilly and gray with temperatures of 39 deg. (F) with rain out here in the rural area north east of Dallas.

The weatherman, a new guy who holds a slight resemblance to Chevy Chase, said we might get "a light dusting" on Christmas, but likely it would be north east of us. I was thinking, Wichita Falls area, but he meant us. 

A light dusting started early in the morning with some square, hail-like chips of frozen rain tinkling against the window glass, like reindeer feet lightly touching down. To heighten the mood, rain was dropping from the eaves, tapping out a familiar Christmas tune on the dog's steel water dish lying upside down on the porch.

Soon the snow began to fall in earnest, with the frozen rain starting to float sideways and come from all directions as the wind rose and temperatures dropped. We made a silly video to go with the festivities of the day.

A few minutes later it was 36 degrees; the mercury was falling fast.
As my Christmas ham baked quietly, nestled in its hot roasting pan, we watched Doctor Who episodes, their Christmas ones, back-to-back in a marathon, while snow continued to drop obscuring the fall leaves that remain in the yard.

When it reached 29 degrees, I put together an emergency hutch for the cat we've named Hungry Jack who insisted on sitting stubbornly under the table beside the front door waiting for his dinner. As I brought out the towel wrapped trash bag covered storage crate, he crawled inside even as I carried it to a spot behind the lawn chair from where he could still see the door. The Temptations cat treats I'd scattered in it were a big hit. And he stayed there for quite a while getting warm and polishing off the small bowl of Meow Mix inside. Tony made sure he welcomed his guest with a vigilant watch from the dining room window.



The Walkway
While we haven't seen any rain for months, it was a pleasant surprise to get an hour of rain before it turned into a white coating of powdery fluff that begs to be transformed into snowmen.
The Driveway

Back Yard Popcorn Tree

Back porch

Tony waits for his elusive sister



Friday, November 23, 2012

PegCole's Test Kitchen: Libby's Pumpkin Pie

The day before Thanksgiving I bake pies.
After so many years now, it's become a tradition for me to spend the day puttering around the kitchen setting the dining room table, which sees little use until the holidays, and tending to the baking. It is that time of year when I bring out the linens and special dishes; more for my pleasure than anyone else in the family. I carefully rinse out the well preserved China and the platter that once belonged in my Mother's wedding set.
To get the pies rolling (yuk yuk) I take one of the Pillsbury Pie Crust dough packages out of the refrigerator. Most years I make my own dough, but not this year. It's just easier to let the package come to room temperature while I find my glass pie dishes and gather the spices and ingredients together.

I use the Pumpkin Pie recipe from the Libby's can as I have for many years. It is really as easy as pie. No joke.

Ease the crust into the dish leaving just enough around the rim to turn the crust under and make thumb prints around the outside edge with the dough.

This pie uses an unbaked crust so there's no need to prick the dough as you would for a custard or pudding pie. To protect the crust from turning too brown, cut a strip of aluminum foil and fold it around the edges before you fill the crust. It makes it easier to handle when you do that before filling the pan. I use one long piece that I cut lengthwise and fold into thirds. Then I join the two pieces of foil at one end and size it to the dish.

It works out alright even if you don't use the foil protection. The crust just comes out a bit darker because of the baking time.

Mix the sugar and spices in a large bowl, add the canned pumpkin, the evaporated milk and the eggs then pour it into the unbaked crust.

It's hard to carry the filled pie to the oven without spilling over the edges of the crust so I pour the ingredients in the dish on a counter near the oven.

When it first comes out of the oven it's puffy like this then settles down after it cools. Just take off the aluminum foil skirt and let it cool completely before you dig in.

Happy Thanksgiving All.

Pass the Cool Whip, please

Sunday, November 18, 2012

A Cup of Special Tea with Friends

Having a little slice of pound cake and a cup of special tea in my new favorite mug. Dare I show a picture here? It seems somehow sweetly familiar as if I've had this cup for a long time. I hold it easily and comfortably wrapped in my hands as the hot liquid warms my cold fingers.

The mug is new; a special gift, a reward for walking out in the cold this morning to take a picture of the sunrise.

Reaching into the spidery plastic mailbox, I was thrilled to spot a brown-paper wrapped package of sunshine peeking out. When I saw the return address my step quickened toward the house to reveal its mystery. I still had kitties to feed and had already stalled the 'inside critters' with stories that their canine breakfast would soon arrive.

Ms. Kitty and Tiny were the only ones that showed up for the buffet today and yesterday which is both good and bad. Jack has been missing meals for a couple of days now. He's a seasoned tom cat who knows his way around, but there are the local yokels who like to do burn outs on the back roads out here.

Ms. Kitty
Just another day in paradise here in the country. As the build next door continues slowly but ever pleasing in its beauty against the revised landscape of the setting sun.

Another one sinks into the watery lake and day is done.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

PegCole's Test Kitchen: Pumpkin Pie Cake

With the change to cooler weather the desire to start baking kicks in at my house.  I love a recipe that starts out with a yellow cake mix and adds pumpkin puree. The feed from Hub Pages this morning, showed this delicious recipe for Pumpkin Pie Cake or Pumpkin Smash.

After a quick comment to the author I headed straight into the kitchen and made this dessert following this well explained and beautiful recipe which combines two of my favorite things: cinnamon and eggs, into an aromatic pan of irresistible goodness. The recipe showed quality photos that illustrated special tips like what to look for when testing to see if it is done
Go ahead and enjoy it with absolutely NO calories (virtual version only). Yes, it is as good as it looks.

Here's the recipe link: The Best Pumpkin Pie Cake Recipe, Easy Pumpkin Smash by Natashalh on Hub Pages. I give it a Yum Rating of 5.

Here's how mine came out and my variations from the recipe:

The recipe calls for a 16 oz can of pumpkin puree but mine was just 15 ounces. The manufacturers must have changed the packaging quantity but the pumpkin pie cake turned out just fine all the same!

I had a glass baking dish that measured more like 16 x 9" (rather than the recommended 13 x 11" baking dish) which seemed to make very little difference.

Rather than use a medium sized mixing bowl to puree the pumpkin combination, I just used my immersion blender right in the saucepan in which I would bring the mixture to a boil.

 Then it went over medium heat where it slowly came to a boil.
And the rest is in the recipe. It was my first time to make a "dump cake" but it won't be my last. Easy and delicious. Pour the base into the greased glass baking pan.

Sprinkle the box cake mix over this base and

Then spread the melted butter over the dry mix and put it in to bake.

For 50 minutes at 350 degrees.
Try to let it cool a bit before serving.

Just a bit, if you can.

Coffee Talk on Saturday Morning

Stacy David of the TV show Gears is talking about installing brake lines in his superlite race car project while my head set has Ann Margret singing "How Lovely to Be a Woman" from Bye Bye Birdie. It is a movie we watch whenever it airs on cable; the old version with Paul Lynd.

This has been a week of activity starting at 3am Monday morning when J headed out to the airport and San Jose CA. After an entire day of interviews with various principals from the hiring company, he did a technical presentation of the company's product to the group. He tucked a few of the slides received late Sunday afternoon into the powerpoint presentation that he had already prepared when they thoughtfully sent 75 slides for his perusal.

Tuesday was travel day heading back to Dallas via Phoenix, arriving at home at nearly 7 pm. Wednesday was a day to recover from the exertion and stress associated with four one-on-one interviews, lunch with the prospective manager and the product presentation. Now he waits again for the next move as he's done so many times before. This one takes the cake when it comes to jumping through hoops.

Wednesday was Doctor Day with the girls. The three of us headed out around 7:15 am for the medical clinic in Richardson. Our primary care physician (pcp) says the new Obama Care regulations are requiring doctors to spend more time on paperwork and therefore less time on their patients. He sat there filling out three forms for each woman as he explained that he is already seeing the pressure of the new requirements. To renew and continue the medications Mom and her sister have been taking for years, like blood pressure medication and thyroid medicine, they must submit for blood work and physicals more often.

At eighty seven and ninety two, it takes a lot of energy to fast all morning and get into the doctor's office to have blood drawn before having a first cup of coffee. They've put the girls in separate rooms this time so I sit with Louise since she can't see and is wheelchair bound. They ask me to join the doctor when he goes into the room with Mom. She's already told him she's 86. I correct it for the record.

Back in the room with Louise, the assistant asks me, "How old is she?" and once again I turn to Louise and ask her to tell the lady how old she is.

"I'm, um, ninety one." She says and looks to me for confirmation.

"Well now, Auntie, you're ninety two now." I remind her. The nurse scribbles it down on the paper.

During the visit, they're told that they must get glaucoma tests done every two years too. Doctor notes on the page he's filling out that he's notified them.

"There's a disclaimer somewhere that says 'Medicare may or may not pay for these tests'", according to Dr. Hussey, for things that may be required like a "Venous Doppler" to continue prescribing the blood pressure medication. These tests run thousands of dollars. Not a very positive impression of the new health care for elderly patients like these women who are still trying to make it on their own after a lifetime of working and contributing to the system.

The rest of the week was a breeze until I read that my Hubber friend Dusty Tibbs 50 Caliber has passed. Here's one dedicated to you today, Dusty, from Louis Armstrong, What a Wonderful World. Missing you already.

Friday, November 2, 2012

New Neighbors

The foundation poured, construction started this week on the neighboring property that has been vacant until now. Though it looks as if it will be a two story, we're happy that the structure is a little further back from the road than our house which is about 700 feet in from the main road that fronts the property. We still have a good part of our view of the lake which has been nearly obscured over the years by the growth of the scrub cedars.

We're not too pleased that with 10 acres, they chose to build their house about 10 feet from the closest property line to our land. The fence in the picture is just the dog's yard. We own the property across the way over almost to where the new building is going up.

Cats in the Hood

This morning 'Tiny' the smallest feral cat that has shown up, greeted me as I went out with kibble and a small amount of milk and some chopped chicken liver. They are getting used to this special treatment and he even let me touch his back lightly today! Here's a close up of Tiny.

Ms. Kitty still won't let me get near her and she's the one I'm worried about since Jack has taken an interest in fighting with her. It's only a matter of time until a new litter comes along at this rate.

Jack is the old man of the group. He has battle scars on his head from many confrontations and he stands his ground when the dogs try to intimidate him. Yesterday he spent most of the afternoon lounging on the back porch, much to their distress.

Jack has a way of meowing that is more like throwing his voice out of the side of his mouth like a ventriloquist. Sort of a short choppy mewr. Really strange. He was on the front porch in the lawn chair waiting for me to bring the food out to his station before I took this shot.

Hungry Jack

Ms. Kitty

Tiny and Ms. Kitty waiting together for breakfast.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

New Neighbors on All Sides of the Fence

You know how things seem to go along as usual for a time and then all of a sudden, major things change. That seems to be a certainty of life. Like the Texas weather, stick around, it'll change.

Over the past two weeks at our homestead, things have changed dramatically when it comes to neighbors.


First of all, the major landmark on the corner known as Crandall's went up for sale after some of the usual hollering and fussing that goes with a tenant leaving having no desire to do so. Trucks came and left, taking out load after load of teetering piles of poorly packed belongings. A few days later, a yellow notice went on the front door.

There has been a for sale sign in the yard for a month now and the house sits empty. A Constable has been to the door at least twice looking for someone. Plus I think I've inherited their leftover cats.

Then, the folks who bought Troy and Edie's house behind us have some new people living in their garage apartment. Tony has enjoyed the exercise of running to the fence and looking for the lady's dog, whom he calls Brandy. She is the girlfriend of his imagination.

This past week folks came out and staked out a section of the pasture behind their house and fenced it in with horse fencing. The area is directly in the view from my back porch, which, other than when Edie's front yard caught on fire, hasn't changed much in twenty plus years.

Well, the Popcorn Tree has grown quite large in that time; "See the tree how big it's grown".

That afternoon they brought a beautiful horse into the pasture so naturally I began to worry: there are no trees, no shelter, no shade for the animal. Which reminds me that I must soon capture the kitties and get them to the vet. Fortunately the temperatures are mild at this time of the year.

These are the best two weeks to visit weather wise here in Texas. Then came that torrential rain a couple of nights ago. Poor horsie. I was much relieved to watch them build a feed stall for the horse this week. Another new impact on the landscape: A corrugated steel shed and the silhouette of a horse on that side now. Not too bad.

Back in May, the proud new owner of the neighboring ten acres closer toward the lake knocked on our door and introduced himself. He asked if we minded him trimming some of our trees that hung over the fence line. I thought that was really considerate and thoughtful of him. Over the past few months, he and his family have followed exactly what we did when we first bought our property. We camped out here on the weekends, mowing a patch of grass here and there on the huge chunk of land envisioning our future homestead. They have barbecued and laughed and planned their way toward their dream home which has broken ground this week after they finished building the perimeter fence.

Early Saturday morning, just after seven, I heard heavy machinery operating nearby. Now that is an unusual happening out here in the boonies; to hear the roar of a cement mixer rev up its engine and start to drop its load. We peered out of our second story window to view the work in progress. All week there had been workmen on the neighboring property who built the wood frame and tied in iron rod for the structural support of the foundation now being poured.

Before long our view will be permanently altered to include their residence now fully in progress. I'm grateful that they placed the base of the house far enough back where we still can enjoy the view from the front porch. That was a major concern while we freely enjoyed the unimpaired view of sunset for the past two decades.

Welcome to the neighborhood.