My Pen Pal

China plater

these seven pieces were all that survived the trip from Germany

When I was in seventh grade, our teacher gave us a list of names and addresses of kids from other countries who we could have as ‘Pen Pals’. It was right after WW ll and I chose a boy from Germany. He sent me a picture of himself, standing on a rock ledge with beautiful mountains in the background, wearing leather shorts with colorful suspenders. It didn’t hurt one bit that he was fine looking with blond curley hair and a nice smile. His name was Freider Schmidt but nicknamed Bio. His father taught at  Baden-Baden Württemberg University. I wrote him a letter and sent a picture (not of myself but of the prettiest girl in school). He wrote back and for several years we corosponded. Mother often sent his family care packages with things like chocolate and coffee,  things they didn’t have available at this post war time . She even sent a woolen  blanket from the Eldorado Woolen Mill. Bio asked if there was anything he could send me and since Mother was a china painter I told him she would like a tea pot or something in undecorated china. A few months later a wooden crate arrived on the train and it was (had been) a complete set of Bavarian china. Every single piece was broken except for a cream pitcher  and six dessert plates. I never told him about the disaster.  Mother painted the the plates, and trimed the pitcher with pure Roman gold, fired it and it has been my treasure for 67 years. Some of my friends didn’t fair so well with their Pen Pals, but I always remembered my handsome friend and wondered what happened to him. Many years later I told my children about him and the picture I sent  him of that pretty girl who was ‘not me’, and they told me that the picture I had kept of him all those years was probably ‘not him’ either. 

Mexican Mariachi Band

Mariachi band in Valles

these men were playing wonderful music,  and they were good singers

Here is a picture of a Mariachi band in a park in Valles Mexico. We  found  groups of musicians everywhere we went. They were quite good, sometimes they had only a few players and other times there were six or more. Their instruments were interesting and different and each  added it’s own rich unique sound.

Mariachi Maximo from San Antonio

this group came from San Antonio for a celebration in honor of Dan

The River Walk in San Antonio is a great place to hear Mariachis, it is festive and the music is beautiful, it is as close as you can get to being in Mexico. My favorite song is ‘Solamente Una Vez’, I have read that it is the the greatest love song ever written. The tune is the same as ‘You Belong to my Heart’. Mariachis really put their hearts into their music, these are ‘Maraichi Maximo’ from San Antonio, they were great~

Miniature Violin

 

The little violin

I love music and like all kinds of musical instruments, even the tiny ones~

This 9″ miniature violin was a model kit from a Neiman Marcus Christmas catalog years ago and was a gift from my son Dan. It was a wonderful project and I enjoyed putting it together, every piece was machine perfect, exactly to scale, there was no detail left out. I almost hated to stain and varnish it, it looked so good in the natural wood. Since I like music, I like instruments. It sits on my piano and I look at it every time I am playing. Wonder if I have enough space to talk about my piano lessons~ I took music from Miss Ellington for 6 years, she didn’t like me and I didn’t like her. I hated those lessons! Recitals were the worst, it meant a new dress and a corsage, but the humiliation of playing ‘Birdie in the Treetops’ while my little sister (who was 4 years younger) was playing ‘Moonlight Serenade. I just could not read music.  One day I told Mother that I was not going to take lessons any more, and she  couldn’t make me, I was quitting! She said that was fine, I didn’t have to but I was going to go sit on Miss Ellington’s piano bench  for 30 minutes twice a week. Finally a couple of years later, she let me quit. About that time, the movie ‘The Third Man ‘ came out and it had that most beautiful and haunting song  played on a zither. Somehow I picked it out on the piano and soon was able to play it. I drove everyone crazy with it, I opened the windows so the neighbors could hear,  I was hooked on the piano after I found I could play by ear. Years later at a Bridge party Sharon  was telling us about her sister Joan who use to play ‘Third Man Theme’  over and over until she was ready to scream, she said she ‘just wanted to hang Joan on the wall and beat her ’til she bled’. I am laughing when I think about it, I still love that song.

Devils Food Cake

this cake is moist and slightly chewy, the icing is smooth and creamy

This is my one and only chocolate cake recipe. I never needed another one. It is easy to make, it is moist and slightly chewy, the icing is smooth and not grainy, and the toasted pecan on top is the prize. I always took this to the nursing home birthday parties, for those who couldn’t eat nuts, all they had to do was offer their pecan to someone else.

Devil’s Food Cake

2 c. sugar
½ c. shortening
½ c. cocoa
1 tsp vanilla
1 c. boiling coffee
½ c. buttermilk
2 eggs
2 c. flour
¼ tsp. Salt
1 ½ tsp soda
Cream sugar, shortening, cocoa well, then add the vanilla.
Add the hot coffee and then the buttermilk. Let cool slightly, then add the eggs and beat until mixed.

Mix dry ingredients and sift half into the
wet mixture, beat a few seconds, then add
remaining flour mixture. Mix until all is well
blended.
Use either sheet cake pan or two 8’ or 9’ round, cut wax paper to fit bottom of pan.(You can use two cupcake pans to make 24 cupcakes)
Grease pan lightly, then line bottom of pan with the wax paper and grease that. (don’t flour pans)
Bake at 350 degrees for about 35 minutes, test with toothpick, when it comes out clean, cake is done. (cup cakes take less time)
Turn out on towel to cool.Remember to remove the wax paper~ Frost when completely cool.
Fudge Mocha Icing
1 box powdered sugar or 3 1/2 cups
½ cup cocoa
¼ tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
6 T boiling coffee
6 T soft butter
Pecans~(microwave pecans on a paper plate for 1 minute, stir well and cook 1 more minute)
Mix sugar, cocoa and salt. Add vanilla
and hot coffee, stir until smooth. Add soft (not melted)
butter and beat until smooth and stiff enough to spread.
If too thick, add a few more drops of coffee. Remember,
It is better to have it too thick to start with than too
thin. Place one pecan half on top of each piece.

Paper Doll

 

Nancy, Tricia and Rita on the beach at Port Aransas

In the summer of 1941 our family went to Port Aransas on vacation. Mother and Daddy fished off the pier while we played in the water. My little three year old sister Nancy was a beautiful child with long honey blond hair, big blue eyes and skin like porcelain, everyone always noticed her. (Now Tricia and I had a zillion freckles, which came from our red headed daddy and not within ten miles of pretty.) One morning on the pier, Mother and Daddy were fishing for tarpon and there were several servicemen  fishing with rented poles (it was during the war.) They had a big pile of angel fish they had caught. Of course, they noticed Nancy, she was really eyeing those fish. Then out of the blue, she started singing, never missing a note~

” I’m gonna buy a paper doll that I can call my own
a doll that other fellows cannot steal
And all those flirty flirty guys with their flirty flirty eyes
will have to flirt with dollies that are real
When I come home at night she will be waiting
She’ll be the truest doll in all the world
I’d rather have  a paper doll to call my own
Than have a fickle minded real life girl”.
              She brought down the house!  Lots of clapping and laughing~
                                     They gave her all their fish~

Brilliant Bluebonnets

Stunning bluebonnets

this rich sandy soil can grow anything

more wild flowers

there is no end to the colorful wildflowers, they are in the pastures and along the roadways all over Texas

Here is another beautiful scene with brilliant bluebonnets and wild flowers. Soon the Indian Blankets and Mexican Hats will be blooming, something to see all summer.  I think what makes them so stunning in the Hill Country of Texas is the contrasting rich red sandy soil. Next it will be peach season and that is something else you won’t want to miss. It is hard to compare the fruit from this area with anywhere else, there is just none like it. Before long the fruit stands will be opening up all along the roads. Texas peaches are just the best. Make plans~

Row Boat

 

Row Boat

this miniature boat is 10″ long and was a ready to build kit. The many pieces were cut to perfect size so it was a pleasure putting it together.

When I was a child, the two things I wanted most were a play house and a real boat, (followed closely by a cave and a tree house). I had ridden in a rented boat at the park in Christoval, and could just imagine my family having one of our own. Since that time I have owned four boats, We bought an old green aluminum Lone Star boat from Mrs. Furrey in Christoval for $5. It was a good boat that was easy to row and not bad about tipping over. (except that one time). After many years it ‘disappeared’. Then I bought an aluminum boat near San Angelo for $75, and it had a trolling motor. (we were moving up in the boat world) This one was named the Dinktums. Later came the River Mouse, the abandoned one we found at the barn and I restored. This picture today is a little boat kit Dan and Debbie gave me to put together. It had no telling how many pieces but they were all cut exactly right so fit together nicely. It was like a salesman sample copied from real plans for an actual row boat. I stained it and finished it (like decoupage) with several coats of polyurethane varnish. It is named ‘Schatzie’ after their dog. I added the dock, posts, fish net, and the rod and reel. It is an interesting piece, I have it on a lamp table by my chair and never get tired of looking at it.  Some minatures are hard to dust, this is one of them.

Breakfast Tacos

fry a few extra tortillas to finish up on, you’re going to love this! Break off chunks and eat with your fingers, that’s how it is done ~

These crisp breakfast tacos are a real treat. I always keep small packages of pinto beans cooked and in the freezer. I also freeze packages of corn tortillas and when I need them, I can just slip a knife between them and pop out however many I want. This is a good supper time meal too. Forget the fork, break them apart and eat them with your fingers, a little messy  but just don’t look~

Breakfast Taco
Hard fry corn tortillas, (two per serving) 
1 c cooked pinto beans, mashed and seasoned with garlic powder & salt
2 scrambled eggs (add slice of American Cheese while cooking)
1 large avocado mashed and seasoned with garlic powder & salt
shredded cheddar cheese
1 c  shredded lettuce
1 chopped tomato
sour cream dressing
Fry the tortillas in half an inch of oil until crisp (not browned), drain well
Spread the mashed beans on tortilla, lay another tortilla on top
put 2 T scrambled eggs on next, sprinkle on some shredded cheese , then
lettuce and tomatoes,scoop some avocado on and then top it all off with a spoon
of sour cream dressing.  A sprig of cilantro for a grand finish~

Miniature Carved Chair

 

When she started on a project, she didn’t want to stop, she never got tired, sometimes I needed a nap~

This miniature chair and table was a project my little granddaughter Elizabeth made a few years ago. She had watched me carve and was sure she could make a chair. When it was starting to look good, she was hooked. She kept going and made the table and all the accessories. She decided she would make this for my friend Pat, because ‘Pat didn’t have a little chair’. The gift box is filled with pictures she scanned and reduced down to a tiny size, they were mostly of her and her good friend Natalie, Pat’s granddaughter. There is a Hershey bar, a phone, a note pad, reading glasses, and a coffee mug. She was able to do the whole job with little help. Pat was thrilled with her special gift. Later when Elizabeth went back home to Albuquerque she made bunk beds, tables, and all kinds of miniatures. 

twine is great for chair bottoms on the miniatures, it is the fun part~

 

Art Lessons

working on his project

this was a mama painting for sure, to keep for myself

In 1963, we had a seven year old in school and a two year old  baby at home. I was painting every day, it helped keep me from being lonesome. (work and projects always make me happy).  PJ wanted to do whatever I was doing, so I let him paint with me. I could give him a brush and a canvas and he liked it. One day I saw a perfect picture of him working in his pajamas and I painted this ‘mama picture’, something to keep for myself.  Both our boys have been the subject in many paintings. They were always available and willing. Being mama is the best of all blessings, and now I am  mama to my little ‘ four legged babies’.

Cow Skull

 

Old cow skull

a cow skull makes a nice piece of art for the wall

This is an old steer skull I found in the pasture. First the buzzards, then the bugs, finally staying out in the weather for a couple of years, and it was nice enough to work on. Fine horns, nice bone structure, it was like it had been hand carved. I can just imagine what a beautiful creature he once was. I sanded it down until it was smooth, stained it, then put on several coats of polyurethane varnish , sanding it between each coat. I painted a cattle drive scene on the forehead, then added leather strings and turkey feathers. 

Billy Goat Skull

This is the skull from a billy goat, his horns are 2′ across

A friend who knew I liked to work on the skulls left a goat head on my front porch one morning, It was way way too fresh! I held my breath while I carried it out behind the rock fence and left it for a year. Then I found it there one day and made a wall hanging from it. It is a beautiful skull, I liked working with it. I hope this one lived  a very long time and died of old age. I like goats~

Old Cowboy

 

The Cowboy Hat

you can make anyone what ever you like just by changing their hat

This old cowboy wasn’t really a cowboy at all, he just put on the hat for me that day. He usually wore a hard hat, he worked in the oil fields in West Texas on drilling rigs.  He was my daddy, Jack Elder, and  was the subject in several paintings. When someone has a wrinkled and weathered face, those are the best to paint. He could be a farmer, roughneck, sea captain, or cowboy, rough and rugged. I could just put him on a different hat  and in a different setting and make him whatever I wanted. My favorite painting was always the one I was doing right at the moment. I have always been a landscape artist, all the other things were  just for fun.  If you can wake up every morning with a project, you will be excited all your life.  (This morning it is to make some peanut patties.)