Saturday:) Somethin’s Bakin’ In the Oven…Again

22 Jul

“Baking is like washing–the results are equally temporary.”

― Patricia Briggs

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Well, there’s always something baking in my oven. If it isn’t a dozen hand-painted wine glasses, it’s a zillion cup cakes and brownies. That’s just how I roll. Oops! And that’s how I attained that big roll on my belly. Truth be told, I really don’t eat very many things that I bake. I mostly give it all away. I’m a lot smarter than I look.

Today was another one of those baking marathon days. Our CRHP 28 group from St. Gabriel’s was providing dinner for the women’s retreat today. I signed up for… you guessed it, brownies. We were expecting to serve around 50 ladies, including our group. I thought that maybe brownies alone might be a little boring, so I decided to also make some of my marvelous mini chocolate cupcakes with cherry in the middle.

Of course, since I was baking anyway, it’s just as easy to double the recipe and have some extra to take to my friends at the fire stations.

First, I have to tell you that I always have that warm nostalgic feeling when I take out my ancient harvest gold General Electric mixer. I smile, thinking how Mom gave that to me the summer of 1975. Man! It still works like new. They don’t build them like that anymore.

I made 2 batches of brownies and 72 mini cupcakes. Everybody loves the surprise cherry in the middle and the homemade frosting.

I packed up my containers, 3 to take to church and 1 for station 9 down the road, and 1 for my old friends at station 5. I decided to stop at the fire stations on the way to church. It is sooooo hot outside, the frosting would slip off and liquefy if they stayed in the car more than ten minutes. It was around 108 when I left the house at 5 pm.

Here are a couple of appreciative lads over at the 9.

Then, this young firefighter, Jeff, was so considerate. He asked my name, and where I was from. I said I live up by the Baylor Hospital. He thought maybe I was from an organization. I think he must be new. He doesn’t know Miss Toni, the crazy brownie lady yet. I just told him that I like to bake, and I like to share with the fire fighters. I really appreciate what they do for us all.

Then, off to church. Our CRHP 28 was providing and serving dinner for the retreat. Our theme was Mexican food. I told them my little joke. “Growing up, we just called it food.” Sometimes I get funny looks because no one realizes that I’m Mexican-American.

Oh my goodness! There was so much wonderful food. There were about 50 ladies all together, 14 from our group, 36 on the retreat, and then Father Don stopped by and joined the retreat ladies for dinner. We still had a ton of food left over. Everyone was taking doggie bags home, enjoying the home cooking and specialties of their friends. I didn’t take anything home. Have you seen the inside of my fridge? I ate a huge plate of rice and beans and beef, and nachos and taquitos and guacamole, and more. I was stuffed. Actually, it’s been so hot, this is the first solid food that I’ve eaten since Wednesday. I’ve been living on smoothies, ice water, cold drinks and a Black Russian on Friday.

Here are some of my beautiful CRHP 28 Sisters. We had such a good time cooking, preparing, and serving others. Isn’t that the purpose in life?

I am so blessed to be part of this gorgeous group of sisters.

Friday:) Finally Filled up the Wine Rack

21 Jul

“Set realistic goals, keep re-evaluating, and be consistent.”

~Venus Williams

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When I moved into my new house, August 23, 2014, I had just a few bottles of wine, maybe 6. I wasn’t a big wine drinker. I had plenty of hard liquor, mostly remains from a well stocked bar that a certain someone didn’t care to take with him when he moved out. When I tried to figure out where to store my wine, I realized that I didn’t have a place to store them, because it’s supposed to be stored lying on its side. The old house had a built-in wine rack and wet bar.

I looked all over for a small wine rack. I couldn’t find anything that I liked. One day, I was at a neighborhood garage sale, and found this awesome wooden wine rack for only $25.

This photo is from September 2014. My goal was to see if I could eventually fill every slot of this cool rack. When I put in the few random bottles of wine that I had moved with me, it looked very empty and sad. When I went to the store, I would buy one or two bottles of wine. I’d lovingly place them in the slots.

Here’s the bad part. You’ve heard the saying, “Two steps forward, three steps back.” Well, I’d buy a few bottles of wine, then I’d drink one or two. Sometimes I’d have friends over, or I’d go to a friend’s house and take a bottle of wine. The poor thing never got filled.

Well, today was the day. I was at Sprouts and bought 6 bottles of wine, on sale, of course. Granted, it was inexpensive wine, but I’m not a connoisseur of fine wine. I was so excited when the very last bottle filled the very last slot.

After nearly four years, my goal has been accomplished. Now that I’ve completed my mission, let the consumption begin.

If you’re in the neighborhood, feel free to stop by for a glass of wine. The next goal is to empty the wine rack. I think that this task will be a little easier than the former.

Thankful Thursday:) There is Always Something to be Thankful For.

19 Jul

“When you rise in the morning, give thanks for the light, for your life, for your strength. Give thanks for your food and for the joy of living. If you see no reason to give thanks, the fault lies in yourself.”

~Tecumseh

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This morning, I woke up being thankful that I didn’t need an alarm to wake me, I had a ceiling fan above, and air conditioning buzzing through the night. The temperatures have been sizzling, so I got up early to walk while it was only in the upper 80’s/low 90’s. I was thankful that I could walk the dog in the shady park across the street, then continue my solo walk for almost an hour before impending heat stroke.

After I came home and cooled off, I decided to make a fruit smoothie. I felt so thankful that I have a beautiful home, enough food to eat, and my health. (Well, fairly healthy for an old geezer.) Before I opened the refrigerator, I couldn’t help but smile at photos that greet me every day. How lucky am I, to have that fridge that’s plastered with pictures and reminders of what life is all about.

My greatest joy and happiness and the main reason I am so thankful is my family. These photos are a daily reminder of how much I am blessed. That’s when I decided that today would be my Thankful Thursday.

Inside my wonderful fridge were the ingredients for a refreshing fruit smoothie. When I buy fruit, there is always extra to freeze for a rainy day…in this case, a steamy day.

Mango, cantaloupe, banana, and some apple/peach juice. Ah, it was like eating sorbet. Enough left over for tonight after karaoke. Perhaps a little vodka might find its way into the concoction?

While I ate my smoothie with a spoon, I checked my Facebook page. Finally, the long anticipated McKinney PD Lipsync Challenge was posted. It is so cute. Plus, this is another reason to be thankful. I live in such a great town, with friendly folks, nice neighbors, and lots of things to do. Everyone did a great job on the video. Check it out…

https://www.facebook.com/mckinneypolice/videos/801896940020018/

Yes, there’s a lot to be thankful for. Have a terrific Thankful Thursday, Y’all.

Wednesday:) What’s Cookin’ Miss Toni?

18 Jul

“If the oven is on and the house doesn’t smell like brownies, it goes without saying, there must be some wonderful hand-painted wine glasses baking in there.”

~ Toni Armenta Andrukaitis

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I almost feel guilty turning on the oven on these excruciatingly hot days, but an artist’s gotta do what an artist’s gotta do. I know that’s not proper grammar, maybe the gas fumes and heat exhaustion have gone to my head.

These hazy lazy blazing hot days of summer have kept me mostly indoors. The lazier I got, the more guilty I felt sitting around. So, I decided that I needed to do a little painting. I have some gifts and donation items I needed to get working on. I have a dear friend that just moved, and I think she needs some hand-painted wine glasses as a house warming. (All the houses are pretty warm these days.) Also, my friend Mary, from church, asked if I’d donate some items for the Bella House Gala and Silent Auction.

My studio/crap room is upstairs, and I don’t keep the air conditioning cranked up on the second floor, as I rarely go up there. Literally, I was working in a sweat shop. I could have lowered the air, but I figured it would only be for a few hours, why bother. Well, I was sweatin’ up a storm. Good for the artistic soul.

I am so lucky to have this great workspace upstairs. I can leave the mess and go downstairs and not worry about it. I’m not even going to show you my media/crap room where shelves and shelves of supplies are not so neatly housed. It might scare you or someone might call for an artist intervention. (Other artists understand.)

Here’s what’s cookin’. A dozen tall wine goblets. The glass paint needs to cure, then placed in a cold oven, bake at 350 for 30 minutes, then cool without opening the door for a few hours. This helps the paint set. But, they still should be hand washed. The crafters rule is…hand-made, hand-wash.

These beauties will find a few good homes to go to.

Tuesday:) Taking Ladders Into My Own Hands

18 Jul

“Challenges are gifts that force us to search for a new center of gravity. Don’t fight them. Just find a new way to stand.”

~Oprah Winfrey

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No, that wasn’t a typo… I want to talk about taking ladders into your own hands. Women often rely on men to take care of tough tasks or heavy lifting. I was married for 39 years to a man who traveled all the time, and when he wasn’t traveling, he was gone golfing, or fishing or… well, into some other things or people that I won’t get into. As a result, I became pretty self-reliant when it came to tedious tasks and emergencies around the house. It was good training for my new independent life.

A few days ago, I was on the phone with my sister when I heard that old familiar chirping sound of the smoke alarm warning low battery. She was concerned about me and suggested I find a neighbor or friend to climb the ladder for me. I wasn’t sure which of the many alarms was chirping, and if it was one of those really high obscure hard to get to devices, I assured her that I’d ask for help. She said, “I don’t want you climbing up on a ladder. You could fall.” I told her that if it was one of the high hard to get to batteries, I’d drive over to my local fire station and recruit a cute fireman for help.

I went upstairs and listened for the source of the intermittent chirp. It was on the ceiling above my work table where I paint. I got a new 9 volt battery, checked the charge on my tongue, (learned that trick) grabbed the ladder out of the walk-in attic, and put my cell phone in my pocket…just in case I fell. I was determined to change it myself. It wasn’t easy because I had to climb up to the third step to see the opening of the detector, and it was really hard to open. I went up and down the ladder several times, getting a flashlight, then a screwdriver to open the hard plastic, and then a couple of times to rest my arms. And let’s not forget trying to balance and take a selfie at the same time.

After much frustration, I was able to open, replace the battery, and close it up. Then, I kept my fingers crossed when I pushed the reset check button. It squealed and said, “Warning, warning…” I have a talking device. But, I got ‘er done. I was very proud of myself.

It wasn’t the first nor be the last time that “I will take ladders into my own hands.”

Montage Monday:) A Week In A Really Hot Peek

17 Jul

“Texas…was evidently the only place in the known universe, including Louisiana, that actually got hotter after the sun went down.”

Kathleen Kent

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Wow! It’s been really hot here in Texas, and it’s only going to get hotter. It’s pretty sad when your evening prayers start out with, “Dear Lord, thank you for air conditioning and ice cubes.” Even though it’s pretty hot, life goes on and so do I. I am blessed.

A week in a peek… friends, lunches, cold beer, concerts, cooking, baking, awesome firefighters, and an adorable grand-baby.

Yep! It’s gonna be a long hot summer.

Sunday Sermon and Other Stuff

16 Jul

“My mission is to be a positive, uplifting, constructive, and healing influence in the lives of those I touch.”

Laurie Buchanan, PhD

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A scorching hot Sunday here, but the air conditioning is always cranked up and welcoming inside St. Gabriel’s.

Today’s Gospel was the story of Jesus sending out the apostles with the power to cure the sick and drive out demons. They were sent out with no money, food, or extra clothing, and were to rely only the kindness of strangers for lodging and food.

Jesus summoned the Twelve and began to send them out two by two

and gave them authority over unclean spirits.

He instructed them to take nothing for the journey

but a walking stick—

no food, no sack, no money in their belts.

They were, however, to wear sandals

but not a second tunic.

He said to them,

“Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave.

Whatever place does not welcome you or listen to you,

leave there and shake the dust off your feet

in testimony against them.”

So they went off and preached repentance.

The Twelve drove out many demons,

and they anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.

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My take on it… We come into this world with nothing, and once we start accumulating things and stuff, sometimes those things become distracting. Like the apostles, we can focus on our goals, our missions, and our dreams if we aren’t constantly distracted by all the “stuff”.

Speaking of focus, I often get distracted by stuff. To be honest, I tend to procrastinate. So, I have my little tricks to help me complete my tasks and meet my goals. For example, while I was doing my housework on Monday, I did some laundry, cleaned the bathrooms, but didn’t get around to vacuuming. I decided to leave the vacuum in the middle of the hallway as a reminder. Unfortunately, I got distracted by lunches with friends, walks, baking, shopping and “stuff,” I walked around and bumped into that darn vacuum all week.

I decided that today was the day I either vacuum or put the obstacle back in the closet. Seeing as I’M NO QUITTER, I finally vacuumed all the rugs and carpets, then parked the machine back in the closet. DONE!

Truth be told, cleaning and housework are not a priority for me. My focus is my family, friendships, faith, my art and writing, sharing, but most of all, trying to enjoy this very short life that I have been blessed with. That’s what is most important.

And most of all…“My mission is to be a positive, uplifting, constructive, and healing influence in the lives of those I touch.”

Laurie Buchanan, PhD