Thursday, September 26, 2013

Two Roosters

We can now say with confidence that we have two roosters (and eight hens). We have suspected this for several weeks, but it wasn't until they started to crow that we were sure. Now it seems they crow all the time.

Silly me, I thought a rooster only crowed once a day at dawn. Well, I now know that roosters will crow at random times throughout the day. And since we have two roosters, they seem to like to outdo each other in a crowing match to impress the girls.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Belated Reception

We recently had a belated reception to celebrate the marriage of Bride and Groom back in June. Since the wedding was small, we wanted to have a larger reception. We chose a holiday weekend, hoping it would be more convenient for guests to attend. Anticipating a good attendance, we knew it would have to be outdoors.

I was finally persuaded to try something new by sending out "evites" using a service called Paperless Post. Bride came up with the design and organized the mailing list. Between the two families, around 300 people were invited, both near and far. With online responses, it was easy to keep track of numbers. There was even an "app" for our iPhones.

Back in June, it seemed reasonable to think that by Labor Day the weather would be cooler. We grossly underestimated the length of a Texas summer. It seemed to me that as the attendance increased, the temperature rose. The forecast for that day was 100 degrees and sunny.

We reused most of the wedding decorations. We borrowed the same tables from Neighbor. We rented the same poles for the lights and a few tableclothes. We used the same Christmas lights. 

Honey put together more beautiful flowers. Men from church smoked the brisket. We borrowed rustic benches from a family at church. We iced soft drinks and water in old cattle troughs. We stocked a freezer full of individual ice creams. We filled buckets with popcorn. We decorated a "photo booth" area on the side of the garage - for silly or serious photos. We served the food as a buffet on the back deck. Ladies brought delicious pies and desserts.

Some of my family came to stay for the weekend and were a tremendous help. We only thought we could do it all by ourselves - until they arrived.

We think about 130 people came. It was wonderful to see so many friends and family. We dearly appreciated their efforts to get here and stand around in the blazing heat. We wished we could have had more time together.

Since I was too busy preparing food and overseeing the process, I forgot to take any photos. Thankfully, Daughter took some and has said I can use them.

We used all available shade. We set up the welcome area in the driveway.

We had a popcorn "bar" with lots of toppings.

We had outdoor games: horseshoes, bean bag toss, checkers and dominoes.

Bride and groom rented a bouncy castle for the children.

Guests gathered under the shade of the oak trees.

Groom made a giant jenga game to play.

The giant jenga was very popular. It was in the shade.

Silly cousins at the photo booth.

The tables were mostly in the shade behind the house. Cattle troughs had the icy drinks.

It was great to meet so many of Groom's family. Some came as far as Oklahoma, Tennessee and Florida.

Wilted tomato hydroponics in the foreground - Party going on in the background.

Most guests began to leave around dark and we started the clean up.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013


We have a big over-sized tapestry that we bought for a big over-sized house we used to live in. It seemed to fit in that house. But after downsizing and moving a couple of times, the tapestry has been packed away for almost four years in a huge zip bag. We would never be able to sell it for a fair price, so we have decided to keep it.

Since we hope to stay here awhile, I thought it was time to hang it somewhere. There was really only one wall big enough for it and it just happens to be in the master bedroom. Lucky me.

So after waiting for him a few days, Guv'nor encouraged me to have a go hanging it by myself.

I couldn't remember just how big it was, so I got it out and spread it across the floor. I measured it as best I could. Then I measured the wall, taking into account the switches and the plugs. I moved things out of the way and brought in the ladders. I ended up needing three ladders. I never seem to be able to use a ladder without banging my leg or pinching my finger.

Thankfully the back of the tapestry had hanging hooks that were 10" apart. So I decided to use simple picture hooks which we already had. This saved me a couple of trips to Home Depot for supplies.

After setting up the ladders, measuring, drawing a line, measuring, moving the ladders, and nailing in the hooks, I was ready to lift the tapestry and start hanging. This is where I had to enlist the help of Son for a few minutes. It was surprisingly easy to hang once we started. I only had to move a couple of hooks to make it hang evenly.

The last thing I did was to stretch it slightly and tack the edges to the wall. This helped to smooth out the creases where it had been folded up for four years. It's not perfect, but will be fine until we get around to painting the room.

It almost feels like I sleep in Sherwood Forest.

I think the Priors were Longhorn fans - at least this brown reminds me of that color.

The tapestry barely fit across the floor so I could measure it. It was 13' wide.

The hanging bars were spaced evenly about 10" apart.

Measuring the height was more difficult since there wasn't enough room to unfold it on the floor.

I got out my handy dandy Home Depot apron to put my tools in.

We had plenty of picture hanging hooks. I used the ones at the top.

I measured 2" down from the moulding and drew a line. Then I made a mark every 10".

I nailed a picture hook on the line at the mark.

I nailed the hooks at the 10" marks.

I had to use the extension ladder for the section over the dresser.

We had to use a third ladder when it came time to hang the tapestry.

I used small nails to tack the edges.

By stretching it slightly, the creases are less noticeable.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Junk Car

Son's old car finally died the other day. I was just thankful that he made it home that last day.

It was an old car when he got it three years ago - 1998 Buick with 80k miles. It was an old lady car. And supposedly an old lady had been the only owner. Yeah.

Everything had gone wrong with it. I'm not very mechanical, but the main problem was something with the engine that was going to be too expensive to repair - something cracked or loose. There was no acceleration. It took a few miles to build up speed and most cars behind him were not very understanding. The engine would just decide to switch off at random times, including the freeway at rush hour. When this happened, the power steering and brakes would be lost. The air conditioning didn't work well - a huge problem in 100 degree heat - and would screech very loudly most of the time. Some fan wouldn't switch off which caused the battery to run down. The suspension was gone and it was bouncy. The brakes were spongy and screechy. The brake pads were gone. The air bags had been disabled. The rear view mirror was super glued to the windscreen. The radio didn't work. The power windows were broken. The body was rusty. The tires were bald. The hub caps were missing. Shall I go on? It would probably be easier to list what did work.

It might be funny if it weren't so sad and dangerous. And I'm not exaggerating.

The last problem was burning oil and terrible gas mileage. He phoned that day to say he had just filled the gas tank and within 50 miles was already down to a 1/4 tank. Oh, and there was black smoke coming out the exhaust and he could smell gas. I said, "Get home!"

We then were the owners of a junk car as it sat in the driveway for a few weeks. And we didn't want to become that stereotypical rural property with the four broken down cars in the yard. We had to get rid of it.

After a little searching, Son found an auto salvage company that offered to not only pick it up but give him a few hundred dollars for the car. After a couple of weeks of waiting and nagging, the car was still in the driveway. Son said it wasn't as easy as it sounded. He had booked several appointments but they hadn't come. So with a big party planned on the property in a few days, I took over. After all, I thought, how hard could it be?

Son gave me the numbers and I phoned Rusty's Auto Salvage, supposedly a local company, to find out when they might be coming to pick up the car. After choosing from the menu options, my call being transferred, being put on hold a few times, I finally spoke to a real person in a noisy call center in New York somewhere. So much for the local company.

I must explain at this point that we do not have a land line and have poor cell phone service in our rural location. So if we want to carry on a conversation without being disconnected, we have to go out on the front porch. Did I mention the 100 degree weather?

After giving Rusty the car details, phone number, and reference number, I was transferred to the second "local" company. This time it was called American River Auto Dismantling. I forgot to ask where they were located. I went through the same routine - choosing the menu option, transferred, put on hold then finally spoke to a real person in a noisy call center. I confirmed the details and was given a stock number, and transferred again.

The third company was at least in Texas, so I was getting closer. It was called Insurance Auto Auction. So with the stock number I was able to verify that, yes, they did have a pick up scheduled for the car the following morning. It had been dispatched to the fourth company - a towing company.

So the following morning, I phoned the auction company to confirm the pickup and offer directions. I was told the driver was on the way, had GPS, and would phone if he got lost. I told them, well he will get lost then because our address does not track correctly on any system. Oh well, I tried.

I had urgent things to do that morning, with a big party in just a few days, so left Son in charge of making sure the car was taken away. Thankfully, the tow truck did eventually arrive and did take the car away. We were the second pickup of the day. The driver was new, apparently, and didn't speak much English. But the car was gone when I got home. And the check cleared the bank. Whew.

So now, when we drive past those properties with all the broken down cars in the yard, I have a little more sympathy for them. A little.

We did not want to look like this property down the road. Yes, that's a tree growing under the car.

The tow truck finally arrived. We were the second pickup of the day.

The tow bar was used for the car.

It took some maneuvering to get the car in the right spot.

The front of the car was put on the tow bar.

Here's Son's car being strapped on and taken away. Finally.

Thanks to Son for the photos.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Dry Town

Our little Town is a dry town. Being "dry" means that alcoholic beverages cannot be sold within the city limits. It doesn't mean that you can't buy it elsewhere and bring it into town. If you were to drive through town, it wouldn't be obvious except by the lack of liquor stores. 

This is the first time we've lived in a dry area. My mother used to talk about growing up in a dry county. This is such a different lifestyle to city living with a pub on every corner. We appreciate the dryness since we don't personally drink alcohol. I think it says more about the local community being composed of mostly religious people that don't drink. I wonder if it makes the local law enforcement's job easier.

I was curious about how common this might be, so I decided to Google it. I found a map that shows it is mostly common in the southern states. See the map here.

The local Mexican restaurant gets around the city ordinance by providing beer and margaritas for a small "donation".

If someone is really wanting to buy alcohol, then all they have to do is go just outside the city limits where they'll find a store.

The local Mexican restaurant has a small selection of beer.

I'm guessing the donations are by the honor system.

This store is just outside the city limits.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Zucchini Bread

I've been making zucchini bread lately, so I thought I'd share my recipe. It's the same recipe I've used for about 35 years. I think I originally got it from a college friend. It uses a couple of good sized zucchini. The cinnamon and cloves reminds me of Christmas.

I found a recipe for chocolate zucchini bread which I think I'll try next. I'm also on the lookout for a good recipe that uses yellow squash to make a cake.

2/3 cup shortening
2-2/3 cups sugar
4 eggs
3 cups shredded zucchini
2/3 cup water
3-1/3 cups flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1-1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground cloves
2 tsp. vanilla
2/3 cup chopped nuts
2/3 cup raisins

Cream the shortening and the sugar first in a large bowl. Add eggs, water and vanilla. Mix all the dry ingredients together, then add to bowl.  Lastly, add the zucchini and mix lightly until incorporated. Pour into greased loaf pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 60-70 minutes until wooden pick comes clean. Cool on racks slightly before removing from pans. When wrapped and refrigerated, bread will last at least a week. It gets better after a few days.

Here's my handwritten recipe. I have changed up the method over the years.

I put 1/3 cup water in the measuring cup first which makes it easier to measure the shortening.

It takes quite a lot of sugar to counteract the bitterness of the zucchini.

I used farm eggs.

I used the same cup to measure the water.

This time I used a mixture of white and whole wheat flour.

Add all the dry ingredients together.

I used a hand grater and one very large zucchini. I don't peel the zucchini.

I cut off the end and discard it.

The zucchini is very watery.

I discard the other end, too.

I only roughly measure the grated zucchini.

This is what the batter looks like before the zucchini.

I add the zucchini last.

This is what the batter looks like after the zucchini is added.

I used two glass loaf pans this time.

I divided the batter into the two pans.

Bake for about an hour, then cool on racks before turning out.