This picture was of Nancy and her little granddaughter (nancy) down at the river with us eight years ago. I am missing her terribly. This is at about the same time she started getting dementia and had trouble remembering things. What a terrible thing to happen to someone so precious. All of the things that meant so much to her were striped away. We spent a lot of time of the phone talking about our childhood and things that she did remember, and up until my birthday last November when she couldn’t remember me. The last thing she said that night was, “I love you”.
One of my mother’s friends invited us to her ranch on a river down below Sonora and even though it was many years ago, I remember what a special place it was. I came home and painted this picture and it belongs to someone in my family. We fished for a while that day and then went up to the house for a great country meal of red beans, corn bread and slaw. It was cooked on a wood stove so the the aroma was wonderful. This is a place where anyone one would love to live, just perfect peace and tranquility.
This landscape is 24″x36″ and has always been my favorite size to paint, it is the right proportion. It works well on a wall above a fireplace or over a large piece of furniture. This size canvas takes about four days to paint, with a couple of days drying time in between. I always kept three paintings going at once, that way when I had gone as far as I need to on one, I let it dry while I worked on another one. Painting wet on wet ends up a dull grey picture, bright highlights will pop out if the paint under it is dry. I have never used an easel, it is awkward and makes my arm tired. I had rather stand over the canvas with it lying flat on the table or sit with it propped up in my lap. When paintings were finished, Dan framed them for me. A salesman came twice a year from Brownwood to show me the samples. They have beautiful ready made frames with elaborately finished corners. Even a small 5″x7″ painting in one of these frames turns it into something special.
Nancy was about six years old and I was ten. One day we found some stuff in the alley that Tutt and Dorothy Ellis had thrown away. There were a couple of old fancy wall lamps, a matching light fixture, and a pair of green draperies. We had found a gold mine~ we took it home with no real plans but decided to spruce up the garage. There was a floor in the back with one window and a door, it was mostly filled with junk. The two lamps went on the sides of the window and we hung the fancy light fixture from the rafter. It was looking good. (except for all the other mess which we hauled out to the alley). There was an old ironing board and two bar stools and this is when our plans came to life. That is when The R & N Cafe was born. (aka Rita’s & Nancy’s Cafe). There was a big trunk that held all the old Life Magazines that we were never allowed to look at, it was during the war and there were pictures too horrible for children to see. (We looked at them many times) Anyway, with a drapery covering the trunk and the other one on the ironing board, it was coming together. We moved a few dishes out from the house and a stew pan. Now, ‘What to serve our customers?’. Mother canned most of our food, there was a closet full in her kitchen. We picked cans of strawberries and hominy. We took a turn being the waitress and raved about the fine food. Delicious! Now Monetta Bradshaw and Linda Jones lived on the next block so Nancy ran down to see if they wanted to come and eat at our new cafe. They did and it was free and we had a cheerful crowd. There was still most of the pan of hominy left but we were tired of this venture and all went over to grandmother’s house to play on the swing. We forgot about our cafe for a few days and when we went back the hominy was green and had fuzzies growing on it, we just threw the ‘pan and all’ out in the pasture. Our grand opening had only lasted about 30 minutes but it was fun. Nancy and I talked about these old times often, it was one of the things she always remembered.
Hot Chicken Salad is a main course meal, all you need to add is a fresh vegetable salad or fruit salad and hot rolls for a fantastic company dinner. It is one of Pat Pfluger’s great recipes, and she has many. It can be put together the day before and then topped with the cheese and potato chips just before heating. Talking about potato chips, one bag is almost $5. The world has gone crazy. I can buy a whole chicken for less than that. Or I can buy a pound of fat hamburger meat for $7. Recently I saw cows tongues in the market for a whopping $32 each, that is the trash meat that the butcher used to give away for nothing. I like the old days best~
Once when we were in Mexico on our way to Guadalajara, we stopped in Monterrey to fill up and I went across the street to a big Super Market to buy a bag of ice. I stood in line at the check out and told the woman what I needed, ‘me gusta una bolsa hielo por favor’ (Dan had told me what to ask for). Anyway, the woman just stood there and didn’t respond~ I thought she didn’t understand my Spanish so I repeated it. This time she just ignored me, and I turned to the man behind me and held my hands out to say, ‘what is wrong!’ The third time I asked she motioned me to stand aside and waited on the next customers. OK, now I thought she was sending someone to bring the bag of ice. No and no, she was not going to wait on me at all. Finally I left and it almost ruined my trip that time, I couldn’t stop thinking about how rude she was and how embarrassed I felt to be completely ignored. I suffered hurt feelings~ It was some time later when I remembered once when I was about 13 years old, Mother and Daddy had a service station down on the block next to the Woolen Mill and there was a small cafe that she owned and leased to someone else. I was in there one afternoon when an old station wagon drove up loaded down with kids and a Mexican man came in with a thermos and wanted some milk. The waitress said, ‘we don’t serve Mexicans’ and he reached in his pocket and showed her some bills, he had money to pay. She refused to serve him and he was getting upset so she got the owner from the back to come take care of it. There was some yelling going on, he told the man to get out RIGHT NOW!. The guy was so frustrated he threw his thermos into the big mirror and left. (I was thinking ‘why wouldn’t they just give him the milk’) The law caught up with him in a little while and off he went to jail. The sad part is that his old station wagon with his wife and kids stayed parked at the court house for several days while he was in jail. It breaks my heart to remember this. I could have talked to my mother about it but I didn’t, maybe she could have helped them. When I finally put this incident together with that day in Monterrey, when I was discriminated against because I was ‘gringo’, I understood how the Mexicans felt who were so mistreated when they came here. It has taken along time coming, but as Dan always said, “the old people have to die off with their old ideas to make things right.”
As I posted in an earlier blog about having ‘survival food’ stored in my closet, I have decided I needed to start using it. I was having my Sunday after church dinner and we enjoyed the feature of the day, hominy casserole using a gallon can of the hominy. I served it with thin cut pork chops, fried tender and crisp~
There was a big bowl of the black eyed peas I worked on all last week, fresh turnip greens (Wall Mart), mashed potatoes with cream gravy, Austin’s tasty tomatoes and English cucumbers from his garden, radishes from Debbie’s garden. Top it all off with buttered corn bread. Someone else passed on the dessert but Debbie and I enjoyed Haagen-Dazs Gelato Vanilla Caramel Pizzelle ( fancy name for Eskimo Pie).
Hominy Casserole ( this is the recipe for regular family size)
1 medium onion chopped, cook in 2 Tbs, canola oil until tender
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 cup sour cream
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (save half to sprinkle on top later)
1/4 cup milk
1 can (4 ounces) can green chilies
1 2 ounce jar pimentos
1/4 tsp cumin
3 cans (15 ounces each) hominy drained
In large bowl, combine half of the cheese and all the other ingredients. Pour into greased 2-qt baking dish, bake uncovered at 350* for 30 minutes or until heated through. Sprinkle remaining cheese on top. You can make this ahead of time and refrigerate to bake later.
This is the big oak tree down the trail to the dry lake. I have been clearing out dead limbs and branches that hang down low enough to bump your head or poke out your eye. The electric cord to the saw got cut in half that day so the work got cut short too. I was looking forward to cleaning out a place under the tree to sit and look at that beautiful green field. When I went back a little later, I found that all hay had been cut and was lying on the ground in a mess. So things were not working out as planned. I thought I heard a tractor yesterday and later walked down there and what a surprise.
There were big round bails of hay that had been combined. They will stay there a while and dry out. Later when I was at the post office, I saw Farmer Shay and he was happy. He had just the right amount of rain and not too much that it drowned the plants, and was a bumper crop.He said he would leave it and not plow it and have a chance to make a second crop. All of this hay on eight acres.
It would be hard to find another thing as good as fresh black eyed peas. Most times it is just hard to find them anywhere. I had some lined up with Farmer Shay but after planting 8 acres of them in five different fields, the deer found them and he didn’t make a crop. I mentioned on Face Book that I was looking for some to buy and a good friend knew of a source, that same evening there were two big sacks hand delivered to my front door by her son Austin. He said he would take me to the pea patch the next morning when it was cool and we could pick more. So I ended up with about three bushels.
Now comes the fun part, shelling them.They need to be taken care of within day or so, the sooner the better. I put a damp towel over the baskets while I worked on others. I have had this pea sheller for maybe 50 years and it does a good job. A hand mixer is attached to the side with the metal thing and it turns two black rubber rollers inside, much like a washing machine wringer. The peas drop in the container while the shuck goes out the back onto a towel. I like to sit and shell them by hand too, it is pleasant work. (It is not noisy either).
When I have enough shelled to blanch, I wash those and put them in boiling water, bring it to a boil again and let them roll around in there for about 3 minutes, then cool off quickly in cold water.
Drain and they are ready for the quart freezer bags.
I season my peas with about three slices of bacon and boil until they are tender~ maybe 20 minutes, check on them and don’t cook them to death. This along with corn bread, a pork chop, and a glass of buttermilk, you have a feast. It makes your kitchen smell good too~
Forty three years ago when we built our house our neighbor Doy Mittle gave us a Redbud tree sapling from her yard. It grew into a nice big tree in just a little while and had beautiful blossoms every spring that lasted several weeks. This is more like a pasture tree, they grow out in the wild with no special care. Just nature takes care of them with a few rains~ they are hardy. Fast growing trees are short lived trees though, not like a live oak, slow to grow but can live a hundred years or more.
Mine gave up the ghost this last week after a rainstorm with wind. When I went to town later, I saw it lying on the ground, it had bit the dust and took some near by oak limbs with it. I am a little bit sad but it did it’s time and made me happy for all those years. Now for the cleanup.
A friend came with his chainsaw and cut it into manageable pieces, he even cut me a path through the pasture with his weed eater so I could drag it off. (he is afraid of snakes so I told him I would finish).
I never knew why they were called Redbuds, their blossoms are a beautiful deep rosy pink, much like the crepe myrtle and bougainvilleas~ anyway, goodbye to a sweet old tree, I will be hauling you to the pasture in the morning.
This beautiful old live oak tree is a landmark between Christoval and Eldorado on the Helmer’s Ranch. There no way to guess it’s age. It has even been larger than this but it has been trimmed of many massive limbs that bowed over and touched the ground. Goats could walk up a limb and over the fence into the road so it had to be cut back. It is very near the highway on the west side. This is a favorite place for people to pull over and stop in the shade and take a rest. There is a gate on the right that leads to Sarah Hall’s old rock ranch house. It is one of the two most beautiful oak trees in Schleicher County.
When ZZ was eleven years old, she decided she wanted to paint a big picture. She had been painting since she was a little girl, mostly 9X12 scenes of adobe houses, parrots, and cow’s portraits. I told her it would take a long time on a large one since she could only paint a couple of weeks every so often when she came to Texas.
She picked a bluebonnet to copy, looking at another painting is a great way to learn, you can see the brush strokes and mix the colors to match. The first day she had the sky pretty well done, start at the top of the canvas, that way you don’t get your hand in wet paint while you come toward the bottom. She started painting the dark green where the tree would go. Later when it had dried for a couple of days she put some of the highlights on the big tree and the lighter bushes and trees in the background.