Thursday, January 31, 2013

Tales From The Kitchen: The Giant Cake


When the kids were growing up, they spent most of their summer afternoons over at the country club pool right across the street from our house, and because the walk from one to the other was short, they and friends would pop in and out from time to time during the day. One day Russell Brown wandered in while I was making cookies and hung around for samples as they came out of the oven. While the cookies baked, I suggested we could sit down at the dining room table while we talked. Russell’s dad was divorced and a single dad of three boys at the time, and let’s fact it, didn’t spend much time cooking, So when I suggested we sit down, he made no move to the table because, he said, he really liked to spend time in “working kitchens.”


Well, that day my kitchen worked well. Or should I say, my work in the kitchen was successful. There have been times when that wasn’t the case.


Like the first scratch cake I ever made for my new husband. We married in September and when Bill’s birthday rolled around in December, I decided the thing to do was bake him this wonderful chocolate cake from scratch. So I pulled out my shiny new Betty Crocker cookbook, a wedding gift, of course,  found a recipe, and set to work. I think I was about a third of the way through the recipe when I realized I had measured out a half cup every time the recipe called for a third cup of whatever. By that time it was too late to turn back, so I reasoned that if I remained consistent with my mistake with the rest of the recipe, it should all work out. Which it did. By the time I got the thing stacked and iced-it was a three-layer cake-it could have passed for a small wedding cake. It was huge! Miraculously, it tasted okay, but it sure did take a long time to eat it all.

But my kitchen surprises were far from being over. On the contrary, I created a few other messes before finally becoming a competent cook. Thank goodness I had a mother and grandmother who were excellent cooks to fall back on. Next week I’ll share with you my pie crust story.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Quanah Parker Shot An Arrow Into the Air..

IMG_0600And one of them landed in Muleshoe.

The latest addition to the Muleshoe Heritage Center is a 22-foot tall arrow sculpture, the 48th such marker to be installed on the Quanah Parker Trail, a project undertaken by the Texas Plains Trail Region, one of the ten heritage regions formed by the Texas Historical Commission. The TPTR conceived the idea of the Quanah Parker Trail as way of honoring Quanah Parker, chief of the Comanches, who were the last Native Americans to roam this area and live their nomadic lifestyle before being relocated in reservations, and to connect the 52 counties of the Texas Plains Trails Region that share that unique piece of history.


The arrow that came to be the marker to designate the areas that had some connection to Quanah Parker was not created for that purpose originally.  The sculpture is the work of Charles Smith, a cotton farmer and gin operator from New Home, Texas, whose welding skills and artistic passion were first evident in the steel palm trees he fashioned. The first arrow was commissioned by Gid Moore Crop Insurance Company and inspired by the Henry Wadsworth Longfellow poem, “The Arrow and the Song.” It was installed as the first piece of an Art Literacy non-profit sculpture park in New Home.


Dr. Holle Humphries, PhD, and Dolores Mosser, who are affiliated with the TPTR,  happened upon the arrow in New Home while on a trip through the Texas Plains Trails Region and were struck by its size and the fact that when the wind blew through the steel wire “feathers,” the arrow made a soughing or sighing sound, a nice authentic touch. They tracked down Mr. Smith, told him of the plans for the Quanah Parker Trail, and he offered to make an arrow for each county that could authenticate the claim of a link to the Comanches and Quanah Parker. The arrow seemed a fitting tribute and symbol for the trail. Descendants of Quanah Parker were contacted, and they agreed and approved the use of the giant arrow to honor the memory of their ancestor.

Historical markers at the Muleshoe Wildlife Refuge and at Coyote Lake document the presence of Comanches in Black Water Draw and Yellow House Draw which run through the refuge. Mummified Indian remains have been found in the sand hills, and a chief and his wife, reportedly of the Quanah Parker clan, were killed on refuge land. Because of these connections to that specific tract of land, a smaller companion arrow has also been placed at the refuge headquarters building. But it also seemed logical to place the larger arrow at the Heritage Center where it might be seen by more people and pull in curious visitors.

The arrow struck ground at the Heritage Center on January 18, 2013. Charles Smith was on hand to oversee the installation of his creation, along with Tom Watson, Lacey Vardeman, Dolores Harvey, Bobbie Harrison, Abby Vardeman, and Gina Wilkerson. It has been placed in front of the now under construction  visitors’ center, marking the starting point for visitors to see the other historical structures.

Quanah Parker was the son of Comanche warrior Peta Nocona and the white captive turned Comanche wife Cynthia Ann Parker. Even though he tried to defend his people and their way of life, he realized that surrender was necessary to save his people from death at the hands of the U.S. Army. After their relocation to the reservation near Ft. Sill, Oklahoma, he helped guide and instruct the Comanches to their new way of life and tried to build an understanding between the two merging cultures. He became something of an elder statesman and celebrated native son of Texas for his efforts.

To read more about this noteworthy Native American Texan and the Quanah Parker Trail, as well as see a map of the trail and the counties involved, these sites might be helpful:

The Quanah Parker Trail at  www.quanahparkertrail.con/Quanah 

Texas Plains Trail Region at

.The West Texas Historical Association at

Articles about the installation of the Muleshoe arrow can also be found in the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal for January 19, 2013, and the Muleshoe Journal for January 24, 2013.


But all you have to do to see the arrow painted in Comanche colors of red, blue and gold and hear its song  is visit the Muleshoe Heritage Center or the Muleshoe Wildlife Refuge.

Credit and my thanks to Dr. Holle Humpnhries and Hanaba Munn Welch who compiled the information from which I took facts for this article.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

In Defense of Litter Boxes

( I thought about taking a picture of one of the litter boxes, but a picture of one of the cats who uses them seemed a better choice!)

I read a newspaper story the other day about a man and his wife visiting a woman who had 32 cats. His wife warned him that a distinct aroma would greet him when they entered the house. And the rest of the article was about all the cats they encountered in the house and ended with the lighthearted observation that they had added yet one more kitten that they really didn’t need into their household. The implication was that it was the husband, who couldn’t believe anyone would have 32 cats, who had actually added the kitten to their count, which bumped it up to three or so.

I didn’t think much more about it until I was cleaning one of the three litter boxes in our house. My six cats  pale by comparison to this woman’s 32, but I am here to tell you that cats and their bathroom habits aren’t the problem; it’s their owners’ litter box cleaning habits, or lack thereof, that gives cats a bad name. Four of my cats use three litter boxes in the house. The two that stay outside have one in the garage, where they have beds with heat lamps, and one at their disposal in the heated barn when the weather is cold, and on rare occasions lately, wet or icy, and they would rather use the facilities than go outside. But my house and garage and barn do not smell like cat urine and feces because I keep their boxes clean.

My kids tease me that I’d better watch it, that I will soon be one of those crazy cat ladies who keep, well, something like 32 cats in the house. And I tell them it will never happen, no matter how many cats I wind up with, because all of my cats are spayed (or neutered when we have a male) have had their shots, and have clean littler boxes. So there.

Even before there was such a thing as clumping cat litter, I tried to stay on top of keeping the boxes clean. But then I discovered clumping litter, and I am convinced that is the way to go. It is so much easier to keep it scooped than to constantly be carrying the box outside, dumping the litter, wiping out the bottom of the box, and starting over with clean litter. Using a plastic liner under the litter doesn’t work well, either, as they usually tear the bag and it makes a mess anyway. And I do think that regular, old-fashioned litter never covered the smell like clumping litter does. All you have to do with the clumping litter is keep it scooped daily and throw away the bag of clumps you have just collected. The nice side effect of that is that this is also a way to recycle those plastic bags from shopping that seem to always find their way home with you after a shopping trip, even if you are a firm believer in the reusable canvas ones. I do take the plastic bags of clumps to the dumpster rather than putting them in the big trash can in the garage, which also helps keep the smell away.

The key to this working, I have also discovered, is to invest in a good, heavy duty metal scoop. Mine came from PetSmart and cost about $13. Worth every penny. Those flimsy little plastic things you can buy at the grocery store are useless. I use the Arm and Hammer Multi-cat litter, and I promise you it works-if you scoop every day. Clumping cat litter only works if  you do. it can’t possibly work if the clumps pile up and the cat has no choice but to desperately try to cover its business by having to break up a previous clump to have something loose to use. As the clumps use up the litter, I just add more litter. None of this dragging the whole box outside and finding a place to dump it and then cleaning out the bottom of the box and starting over.

I have also learned that if I systematically pick up each side of the box and tip it so that the litter all slides to the other side, the clumps become visible and it makes it really easy to scoop them all up. And if there is a clump stuck to the side of the box, I lightly thump the side of the box and the clump becomes unstuck and also easier to scoop out.

I won’t ever have 32 cats to test my theory, but if my number does go up, I firmly believe my house still won’t smell bad.


It’s a no-brainer as far as I’m concerned. You don’t like using a dirty bathroom; your cat feels the same way. Buy that scoop and get busy.


Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Colten Brings Home Another Dog

IMG_0481TThe blog is late this week because have been conducting triage on our newest family member.  Meet Porche, Colten’s latest contribution to dog rescue. Porche, which we choose to pronounce pour-sha, came to live with us after her accident Sunday afternoon.

Colten and friend Chris had a thriving seasonal business putting up outdoor Christmas lights this year and were in the process of completing the second stage of the job, taking down the lights they had put up at the start of the season, this job being undecorating the office of Pat Angeley, CPA, when they witnessed a dog crossing American Boulevard and meeting with disaster when she was hit by a passing motorist. Nothing would do but that they go to the aid of the dog, which of course, they did. Like any child related to me would do otherwise. A city policeman came to check on the dog, as the motorist had flagged him down to report that he had hit the dog and asked that the officer check on the situation. By this time the owner, who had walked to the Stripes store causing the dog to follow him, showed up and informed everyone that he had lost his job and could not pay a vet bill. Animal control arrived and said she couldn’t do much for the dog other than take her to the pound and wait until Monday to put the dog out of its misery, assuming that was called for. Colten was not willing to let the dog suffer and eventually be put down if her injuries were fixable, at which point the owner was willing to let the boys take her to the vet and assume ownership, which they did.

So a few x-rays later, Dr. Garth determined that, miraculously, there were no internal life-threatening injuries, but there was a broken leg, a dislocated shoulder, and said everything was treatable. He put a splint on the leg, gave her a good dose of pain medication, and sent her home with Colten for the night.

The next day we take her back to the vet’s office, and they sedate her again, redo the x-rays, reset the leg and keep her overnight for observation. Tuesday she comes home, and the babysitting begins, which will last approximately eight weeks while the bone heals. So you know where we will be for the next two months. Right here.


Bill’s first response was, well, we’ll just have to find her a good home. Really? No one wants to take on a dog with a broken leg, and by the time the leg is healed, she will have become a part of the family. Then the naming came up. Colten saw all this happen as he was stepping off the porch at Pat’s office, and we tend to name our animals based on something in their history. Sophie was the cat found inside the back of the sofa at school; Peaches was the cat who wouldn’t leave Bill along as he peeled fresh peaches for me to freeze; Minnie was the cat who made one too many cats; Poopie was the cat who did funny things and needed a funny name. Mari kept the name she had when she came to live with us, but we wanted a name for this pup that would blend with hers, so since Mari is Spanish, and porche is Spanish for porch, there you have it. And in our family,after that animal gets a name, well, it’s a done deal. Porche is here to stay. She will have to accept the cats in order be welcome here, however, but I think that will take care of itself. So far they are all  doing that cat thing where they ignore her as if she is not worthy of their attention, and she is not able right now to do much other than watch them from a distance anyway. Peaches, on the other hand, has hung around to observe and make sure she can trust this newcomer.


IMG_0475Porche is supposed to be about a year old, and a pit bull/chocolate Lab cross. In other words, a mutt. She has also not been house-broken, so it is like having a new-born baby around-a newborn baby with an awkward leg cast situation-and we are on a three-hour take her out and hope she potties schedule. She gets lots of praise and a treat when she performs. Mari goes out at the same time, and when she hears the “go pee-pee” command that she was also trained with, she dutifully pees, so I give her a treat and praise, too, so she won’t feel left out of jealous of the new girl. So far we have had two accidents and several successes, so maybe it won’t take too much longer for the training to sink in.

IMG_0502This little dog may not be house-broken, but she picked right up on the fact that the bed is much more comfortable than the floor, as she just made herself right at home on Colten’s bed. Funny how the splint didn’t keep her from jumping up there!  I have a feeling she will just fit right in.


Now, of course, the rain we so desperately need comes tonight, along with nice high wind, complicating the trips outside. And the next three hours are just about up, so you’ll have to excuse me while I take her out for another shot at potty-training. Stay tuned and see how she turns out.


Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Roy Rogers’ Rules to Live By

thCA25JDT7Had an eye appointment the other day to check on the progress of my cataracts, one of those inevitable perks of aging, at Dr. Avery Rush’s office in Amarillo. Dr. Rush’s examination rooms are all decorated in theme-based styles. I have been in the Elvis room, the James Dean room, the mystery-writer’s room, the Coca-Cola room, the Texas Longhorn room, and others I am sure I have forgotten. But this time I was in the Western Cowboy Actors’ room. Posters and memorabilia celebrating Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, The Cisco Kid and Pancho, to name a few, lined the walls and filled shelves and end tables. One framed document caught my eye-The Roy Rogers Riders Club Rules. And about that time, the doctor came in, so I sat down for the visit with him that had brought me here in the first place.


But upon returning home, I googled Roy Rogers Riders Club. Now, I grew up with Roy Rogers and Trigger and the whole gang, probably more to covet Trigger and Buttermilk, Dale Evans’ horse, than to get involved in the story, but I don’t remember anything about a Riders Club. Surely I would have become a member and would have grown up with a certificate or something to prove it. At any rate, I found the rules, which are:

  1. Be neat and clean.
  2. Be courteous and polite.
  3. Always obey your parents.
  4. Protect the weak and help them.
  5. Be brave but never take chances.
  6. Study hard and learn all that you can.
  7. Be kind to animals and take care of them.
  8. Eat all your food and never waste any.
  9. Love God and go to Sunday school regularly.
  10. Always respect our flag and our country.  

How can you possibly argue with that?  Words to live by. I have no idea if Roy Rogers actually came up with that list himself or what, and I don’t know that it matters, because  the objectives of the rules certainly befit his image as the King of the Cowboys and his quest to do the right thing and could guide us all to do the right thing. I couldn’t help but be struck by the common sense and directness of each rule.

I know Roy Rogers comes from a simpler time, when life might, to us now, seem less complicated, and we would most likely laugh at his movies now,  but really, wouldn’t life more or less fall into place if we all followed his rules?

I am convinced that we would find Happy Trails  more often if we did.

So. Till we meet again.  12/27/2012  12/31/2012 Images of Roy Rogers   12/31/2012