Little Kitten

 

My husband. George. We’ve been married thirty-nine years and he still surprises me, astonishes me. We have history, we went to the same high school, started dating right out of high school, went to TCU together, got married right after I graduated in 1978. We know each other.

So last weekend, Labor Day weekend, we are sitting at the kitchen table drinking our morning tea and George says ” I have something to tell you.” “Okay”, says I, not expecting anything earth shattering, but we do have a project pending (the sale of my mother-in-law’s house for her). I was expecting a problem with that.

“Do you remember the story of Ferdinand the Bull?”, he asks. “Yes.”….I said slowly. “Did he have a friend?” “No”, I said, “He was rather solitary, he just like sitting and smelling the flowers.” “Well,  I need you to see something down at K.J.’s pasture.” Now, I’m slightly alarmed. K.J. is our thirty-year-old horse. He had been really ill last year but has recovered and is fat as a pig and doing great. Then it hit me. “You’ve adopted a cow?” I asked, thinking I’m in a scene from City Slickers. Our neighbor’s cows have broken through the fence before. “No.” he said, looking down.

“What?” I looked at him. “K.J. has a friend.” ” WHAT IS IT?”, I ask. “A cat.” he says. ” A black cat.”

I laughed. I laughed until I cried. You see my husband is really allergic to cats. We live in a country house that we bought from my dear Aunt, who had thirty-five cats. She was the cat lady you read about. Thirty-five. Twelve in the house, seventeen in the garage and six in a pen in a corral. She loved them to a fault. Enough said. George took a year off from work when we bought this house, completely gutted, repainted and refurbished it before we could live in it. He’s really allergic to cats. We can’t have a house cat.

We’ve been through this scenario before, by the way. The twenty acres where K.J. is pastured is separated from the acreage our house is on. It’s a short drive down the county road from our home, but isolated enough that people dump things on the road. Like cats. There is a particular brand of cretin that thinks it is ok to dump defenseless kittens or old dogs in the country and that somehow they will survive. Or they just don’t give a damn and they think starving defenseless animals is a thing that people do. There is a hell waiting for folks like that. My husband is not one of those people. The last time it was a box of four kittens that someone left in the drive to K.J.’s corral. They were weaned, but just barely. They stayed in our garage until we could get them built up enough to stay around the yard. We vetted them, neutered and spayed them and kept each one as safe as we could. Our population of coyotes and owls got them one by one. It is heartbreaking, but they had a happy, well-fed cat life while they were here as loved country cats, catching field mice and our pond frogs and the occasional lizard. I started feeding another stray cat that presented us with two kittens and years of love, so I’m guilty too.

But at the moment we were a cat-free family. Until now.

“How long has he been down there?” “Three months.” This what I mean about my husband surprising me. He has been feeding this kitten on the sly for three months because he didn’t want to tell me. After I could catch my breath from laughing again I asked, “What’s his name?” “Little Kitten.” he says.

We’re going to have to work on that. I think Ferdinand. Welcome Ferdinand.

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Today

teacup

There seems to be no end to the trouble in my teacup this day. A cherished family member is seriously weakened. A beloved pet is sick. Several friends have ones that are struggling either with their health or in their heart. A long term goal keeps slipping out of my husband’s reach. He has worked so hard and is so tired from this struggle. But he is strong and will see it through.

I know there are far worse problems and broken dreams than those little eddies in my teacup. So I am sitting looking at the stars tonight and remembering what a tiny blip in the vastness of time this day has been and it will soon be past. And that peace is my strength and understanding is a blessing that always comes through time.

 

July in Texas

I love July in north Texas. Sure it’s hot, but there is B-B-Q and the garden is picking up steam. I like getting up early to take my walk in the summer. So after dousing myself with repellent to keep away the hummingbird-size mosquitos and the chiggers lurking in the grass, I walk up and down my country road for my requisite thirty minutes. I am serenaded by my four donkeys as soon as I walk out the front door; our built–in intruder alert system. This morning when I got back Indy came up for a little snuggle time and to see if he could finagle a treat.

Pretty Boy Indy
Indy

God had a good day when he made donkeys. These little miniatures are loyal, affectionate; they keep away coyotes and kill the bad snakes before they get into the yard. Indy is a little stud donkey we keep on our back pasture. He is by himself (not counting the deer) on about four acres, we keep the Jennys fenced on another pasture (we have four miniature donkeys and that’s enough) and his sire, Poco in the pasture up front. Where have you been momIndy has a thing about smelling my shoes. His version of asking “Where have you been?” So after he investigates my shoes, he gets his scratch and poses majestically for pictures.

Bette Davis eyeI think donkey eyes are beautiful; rimmed with black and with the longest eyelashes! Donkeys are perfectly adapted for the rocky, cedar-covered hills that surround our home.

Just one inch more
If I could just reach that piece of grass.

This summer I have been trying to get the back garden going again. We have a few tomato and green pepper plants in our garden berm that has fencing around it to keep the deer out. I have not done much else but plant a beautiful Purple Fountain Grass plant (my new favorite plant) yarrow (which the rabbits are eating) and Moonflowers.

Purple Fountain Grass
Purple Fountain Grass

 

 

 

Moonflowers
Moonflower Vine

The Moonflowers have made it so far I think only because they are poisonous and the animals know that. They will have large white flowers that bloom in the afternoon and smell wonderful. The rabbits or deer ate all but three of my sunflowers as soon as they sprouted. But those three are the colossal kind so they will be enough. On the other side of the patio is a huge berm where the trick is to pick plants that like partial to heavy shade, hot weather and resist grasshoppers and hungry rabbits. So far, the dianthus, zinnias, coleus, begonias and cosmos have done the best. There is a large red oak tree over this spot that shades these plants.

 

Zinnas
Zinnias
Cosmos
Cosmos
Coleus Beauty
Coleus
Begomia
Begonias

I’m especially enjoying today because my sweet husband of almost forty years is smoking ribs and a roast in the smoker today. He is a talented and passionate griller/smoker and from the looks of things I won’t have to cook meat for a while.

Green salad and potatoes to go with, plus I baked a two-person size red velvet cake for dessert. Yum. I’ll have to walk for an hour tomorrow.

Uniform

sagegreenshirtShe used to iron his uniform, I think he called them fatigues, late at night. I watched her from the floor, sitting under the kitchen table. Sounds like a strange place to sit, but from there I could see the small black and white television on the breakfast bar in the kitchen and talk to my mother while she did her work.  Mom colored at night at that kitchen table, hand-tinting black and white photographs with oil paints before the relentless advent of digital photography. She worked at the photography studio during the day but her real world seemed always at night. I watched all the old horror movies holding onto my mother’s legs under that table, secure in their strength. The scent of turpentine, linseed oil and thermos-glass instant coffee was her uniform.

The old metal frame of the ironing board would squeak as she pressed the creases into the khaki, the hiss of spray starch punctuating between creaks. Serious work, those uniforms. He had been wearing them since he was fifteen, when my father lied about his age and joined the Navy. In the Air Force now, Dad worked on the radios of the B-52 bombers. I watched him polish his heavy brogans in that kitchen too, ebony black. Dad’s real world always seemed to be the morning. Up at the literal crack of dawn, whistling, always rushing, packing. Dad worked. I watched him walk back to us from the flight line, his distinctive walk helping me pick him out from all the others. The smell of boot polish, starch and the Brilcreem in his hair was his uniform.

And So..The Museum

 

#mwisdmatters

As I heard my teaching partner Skipper Bennett describe this museum the other day, The Amon Carter Museum of American Art is “an exquisite little jewel-box of a museum.” I explored that jewel box again as we visited the museum with a group of 6th graders from Travis Elementary School this week. I found some new gems inside.

The building, designed by Philip Johnson, is a work of art on its own. But for the next two years, the building atrium is graced by a lovely installation work by Dallas-based Mexican artist Gabriel Dawe, Plexus no. 34, 2016. What fun to see the open-mouthed astonishment of our students inspired by this ephemeral art work. dawe-3

dsc00611

dawe-sc-2
On the atrium stairs at Amon Carter

dawe-2dawe-nameplate

A soft web of over 80 miles of sewing thread is on display in the changing light of the atrium. In my head the colors sang to me, sounding like the whispers of wind over a harp.

With a little over one hundred students in two separate tour groups, the Museum Educators split our students up into workable groups of eleven or twelve and went on a 90 minute tour. The trip combined the study and writing of poetry and how it can be inspired by art. So with a dual purpose, our students got a lot of mileage out of those 90 minutes.

dsc00664

One of the second gems on the trip was our students’ access to the Amon Carter’s research library, which I had incorrectly assumed was only available for scholarly research. The library was manned that day by Archivist and Reference Services Manager Jonathan Frembling, who was absolutely wonderful and friendly with our students, showing them  Josef Albers color plates and Calder pieces and reading poetry with enthusiasm and great feeling.  He said something that stuck with me, “Writing is your chance at a kind of immortality, the words you write may live long after you are gone.” dsc00643What a great way to talk to students and a key concept when art work (visual communication) and poetry (written communication) are compared and combined . Our students separated out and wrote poetry, then read it aloud. It was a nice moment.

dsc00619He invited us back to bring student groups and offered to put together any research materials we might need to use on a future project or artist. He showed Mr. Bennett and I an original survey of the Grand Canyon, made before photography was available, illustrated with stunning intricate line drawings. I found this part of our visit especially meaningful, surrounded by hundreds of art documents and books beautifully bound in leather and carefully preserved. There is a rich musky scent and feel to a quiet wood paneled room filled with journals and old books that just can’t be duplicated.

As the tour wound through the museum, they made several stops, taking in and writing about a diverse group of artworks, one of which is a newly acquired piece by George Bellows, with a surprising vivid color that was unexpected.

bellows-2

dsc00600

We also stopped at the classic Dash for the Timber, hands down my favorite of the western art in Amon Carter’s collection.

dsc00596dsc00598

dsc00590invented-worldsbridgetdsc00608dsc00633It was a memorable trip, made comfortable and meaningful by the Museum Educators. A special thanks to those Educators, I don’t have all their names. But to Erin Long and Bridget Thomas and all the others, thank you so much. We felt very welcome.

 

 

 

 

 

George’s Christmas Ham

a-thing-of-beauty

 

 

My husband George is a great cook. Never scared to try something new, this year he wanted to make his own Christmas ham. Not the pre-cured ham that comes already cooked but the real thing; a fresh ham shank, butt end. He started with a great recipe from Weber’s at http://www.weber.com/weber-nation/blog/pecan-smoked-fresh-ham-with-maple-glaze-on-the-wsm and modified it a little for our tastes. Tender and juicy, the meat has the best characteristics of pulled pork mixed with a not-too-salty ham taste. Definitely a keeper!

 

The Pig
9-10 pound ham shank (not precooked, some people call these “green”, which sounds a little weird) A note of admiration here for our butchers at Brookshire’s Grocery Store in Weatherford, Texas, who talked with George about this little project and held us a ham shank from their Christmas order. He told us they usually only get these in at Thanksgiving and Christmas. We can request one anytime.

dsc00446
Ham shank and rub.

 

The Rub
½ cup brown sugar, dark
¼ cup kosher salt
2 tablespoons black pepper, ground coarse
2 tsp cayenne pepper, ground (optional)

the-rub

Score the fat cap on the ham shank to allow the rub to soak into the meat. Mix rub ingredients and apply to the meat liberally. He wrapped ours in plastic wrap and refrigerated it for 48 hours. Reserve some rub for application right before you smoke it. Make sure you set the meat out of the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes before you put it on the smoker. We used the coarse ground black pepper, but next time will use a smaller grind to keep it out of your teeth.

wrapped-up

dsc00453
Scored and dry-rubbed ham.

The Glaze:
½ cup honey
2 teaspoons black pepper, ground
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 cup maple syrup (not imitation flavored)

Mix ingredients and bring to a boil in a medium-sized saucepan. Reduce by half. Be sure to watch this carefully because it can boil over really easily. I won’t tell you how I know that. Glaze the ham every two hours. He used a foil pan underneath to catch the fat drippings. Makes clean-up easier.a-thing-of-beauty

 

 

 

 

The Wood:
8-10 pc apple wood chunks (presoaked in water)
apple wood-infused charcoal

The original recipe called for pecan wood, which is a little strong for our tastes, so we used apple wood instead. After he set the smoker bed with charcoal, he also needed three additional chimney starter’s full of charcoal to maintain the desired heat for the six-hour smoking time.

We have a big off-set smoker so the temperature that Weber wanted, 250 degrees, is a little tough to maintain for six hours. He cooked the ham shank six hours between 200 and 220 degrees on the smoker and finished it in the oven covered with foil at 250 degrees for at least two hours. We use an instant-read thermometer to make sure the meat is at an internal temperature of at least 165 degrees.

Happy eating!

Swiss Cheese and Sausage Quiche

 

 

final

 

I honestly can’t remember the first time I had quiche. I know my mom never made it; my Air Force Senior Master Sargent father did not take to such food, but being a child of the 60’s; which means a time before eggs and cream became a bad thing, I must have had it at restaurant. I was hooked.

Definitely not a diet meal, but in cold weather, a big puffy sausage, egg and cheese pie really hits the spot. I have a green salad on the side to make myself believe I am eating something healthy. This quiche is also good cold the next day.

Homemade pork sausage is a snap to make and doesn’t have those nasty little gristly bits that the store-bought breakfast sausages have in them. I must give credit here to Bobby Flay, who I watched make this sausage on the Food Network and then tweaked the spices to fit my palate. I use pre-made pie crust for my quiche, because I have never learned the art of a good pie crust. Gives me something to work for.

Hope you enjoy.

First, the sausage.

Homemade Pork Sausage

  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 1 tablespoon (at least) rubbed sage
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon paprika

Mix spices and ground pork together. Split meat mixture in half. Sauté half the sausage until brown, breaking it up into small pieces. Drain on paper towels. Make four patties with the remainder and save for breakfast sausages.

crumbled-sausage
Sausage for quiche.

 

breakfast-sausage
Breakfast sausage for the next day.

For the quiche.

Custard

  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • ¾ cup milk
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • ¼ cup white wine (or you can skip this and use more milk or cream)
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 Tablespoon flour
  • Pinch of Cayenne Pepper

Beat eggs and add milk, cream, wine, salt, flour and cayenne. Mix well.

creambeaten-eggs-and-cream

 

Assembly

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

  • Place one store- bought pie crust (or make your own) in a deep dish pie plate.
  • Place browned sausage in crust.
  • Chop 8 oz. of Swiss cheese and place on top of sausage.

assembly-3

final-before-oven

 

 

 

 

 

Pour custard on top of filling and bake at 375 degrees for 60 minutes or until puffy and lightly browned.