Great Gifts


Great Gifts


This was a wonderful Christmas season for me which culminated with a visit to Susan’s home in Austin on Christmas Day where we began the festivities with raw oysters and champagne provided and served by her son and son-in-law.  Gift exchange around the Christmas tree followed.

As one approaches (or has attained) the age of 70, consumable gifts are often the most desirable, and I again received lots of those gifts this year:  a box of grapefruit from Pittman and Davis, pecans from San Saba, Texas and Georgia, homemade jalapeno jelly, tomato jam and pickled okra and several bottles of wine.   I also got some sweets which I really tried to share with others.–Too tempting to have in the house!  I ordered coffee, dark chocolate and almonds from Equal Exchange which is a Fair Trade worker-owned co-op which distributes a variety of organic products produced by farmers in Africa, Asia and Latin America.  I think they also offer tea and cocoa.  I sent grapefruit and oranges to family members as well.–Have you noticed that we give things we like to receive?

In case you’re wondering what I’m doing with all those pecans I got, I found this recipe.  The result is even more tempting than sweets for me!–I’d better give them away.

Toasted Pecans from Cotton Country

12 cups pecan halves

1 stick butter


Place pecans in a 17 x 12 inch pan in a 300 degree oven.  Toast 30 minutes to dry; then add 1 stick butter, sliced.  Let pecans get completely greasy, stirring once or twice.  After pecans and butter have mixed well, sprinkle with salt generously and stir very often sprinkling with salt each time as all the salt does not stick to the pecans.  Toast pecans one hour or more to desired taste and until butter has been absorbed.

Good Advice


I bought a book titled Shopping for the Real You by Andrea Pflaumer.  There are a few gems in the book.  One point that the author makes is the importance of a good haircut and good shoes.  While I’ve always subscribed to the merits of a good haircut, I’ve been lax in the purchase of shoes.  I’ve bought several inexpensive pairs that aren’t really that comfortable, or I’ve bought a pair that’s fills only a need for a special occasion.  Here’s what Andrea writes:

“Years ago there was an article in Town & Country magazine that ran down the principles of making a home look affluent and refined.  If you did just two things, the piece said, you could achieve the look of elegance.  Lay out the money for expensive picture framing and good Persian carpets.  I would say dressing well follows a similar rule.  If you splurge on only two things make them the things people see framing you face and anchoring you to the ground:  your hair and your shoes.  Well cut, healthy hair will make any outfit look better and will make you feel good inside.  Well-made beautiful shoes will do the same.  More important, they will likely be comfortable which can definitely show on the outside.”

I’m going to make an appointment for a hair cut this week, and I’m turning over a new leaf in 2016.  From now on I’m shopping only for well-made beautiful shoes.  I’m sure my feet will appreciate this resolution!   It also conforms to our original goals:  buy less but better.  Happy New Year!


Poached, Fried, Boiled or Scrambled


Several years ago, eating eggs (particularly egg yolks) fell out of favor, but it turns out that eggs are an excellent food.  They are good for our skin and our eyes because they provide two key nutrients:  choline and lutein.  It seems that choline, a member of the B vitamin family, helps our bodies maintain proper levels of other B vitamins.  Our skin needs B vitamins to  produce energy and manufacture collagen and elastin, those two substances that seem to dwindle with age.  Lutein is another great reason to eat eggs.  It preserves skin’s elasticity and prevents free radical damage to skin cells.  Lutein is also essential for maintaining good vision and helping to prevent macular degeneration.  An egg a day can boost your lutein levels by 26%. Impressive!  I just tried the recipe below:  eggs with the bonus of veggies!

Italian Vegetable Custard

4 eggs

½ c. flour

2 c. coarsely shredded yellow summer squash

1 c. coarsely shredded zucchini

½ c. Kalamata olives, divided

2 T. grated Parmesan cheese

1 t. dried basil leaves

½ t. garlic salt

6 very thin tomato slices

1 small onion, think sliced and separated into rings

½ c shredded Monterey Jack cheese (2 oz.)

Heat oven to 450 degrees.  Beat eggs and flour in medium bowl until smooth.  Add yellow squash and zucchini and ¼ c. olives, mixing well.  Spread in greased 8-inch square pan.  Bake just until custard is set, about 10 min.  Mix Parmesan cheese, basil and garlic salt; sprinkle over custard.  Top evenly with tomato, remaining olives, onion and Jack cheese.  Bake until cheese is melted, about 4 min.  Serves 4 generously.

Daylilies–One of My Favorites

Great Color!

Great Color!


According to few plants are as rugged, widely adapted, or versatile as daylilies (hermerocallis).   They require little care, multiply freely and tolerate a variety of conditions–full sun to light shade, dry or poor soil.  The colors are myriad:   pale yellow (almost white), gold, orange, bronze, rusty red, purple.  There are many daylily collectors that know the names of their special plants.    While I can appreciate those special blossoms and their often creative names, I’m not a collector.  I value daylilies for their impact on the landscape.  I love the splashes of color that a clump of daylilies adds to the garden.  May is the best month for them in Texas.  I prefer the yellows, bronzes and oranges.  Their blooms are particularly nice when paired with the blue lily of the nile (agapanthus) or plumbago if you have a sunny spot.  I have finally learned that it’s most effective to repeat plants in your garden.  I have daylilies scattered throughout.  They are so rewarding, blooming dependably every year, and since they multiply and need to be divided periodically, there are often plants to share with friends and neighbors. They can be planted at any time of the year but preferably February through April or September and October.  Regrettably the individual blossom lasts only one day (hence the name), but  usually one bloom follows another for a colorful show.  If you don’t already have this great plant in your garden, find someone who does and ask them to share.  I believe the blossoms are edible.  Hmmm, I’m afraid deer may know that too!

Hooray for Nuts & Seeds


Do you like nuts and seeds?  If not, you may want to learn to like them.  It seems that people who eat nuts face a lower risk of weight gain, type 2 diabetes and heart disease.  Nuts provide protein, healthy fat and fiber.

Almonds and sunflower seeds boost fiber intake significantly. An equivalent serving of pistachios and pecans offers an effective alternative.

Experts tell us that we need fat as part of our diet.  Walnuts and flax seeds, in particular, boost our healthy fat intake because they contain alpha-linolenic acid, a type of omega-3 fatty acid. This type of fat helps maintain brain function, nourishes your red blood cells and helps fight excess inflammation.  Sounds good! Select English walnuts to boost your omega-3 intake.  Flax seeds also provide a rich source of omega-3s.

I eat almost any kind of nut though pecans are my favorite.  I also eat sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds; however, I’ve never eaten flax seeds.  How do you eat them?  I believe a flax seed is about the size of a sesame seed.  Apparently you can sprinkle them on cereal or your salad, add them to a smoothie or add the ground form to baked goods like muffins, breads and pancakes.  I think you can also take ground flaxseed in the form of a pill.—Not too appealing.  Nutritionists also advocate eating chia seeds and sesame seeds.–I haven’t eaten chia seeds, and about the only sesame seeds I’ve eaten have been on top of a hamburger bun.   Again, these seeds can be sprinkled on a variety of foods.  You can also eat sesame paste (tahini) spread on toast or crackers.  I might try that.  Studies show that sesame oil may improve brain health.—Who doesn’t want that?  I believe I had some oil, but I failed to use it before it became rancid.  Time for a new bottle because  I’m ready to expand my variety of seed intake and reap the benefits!

Best Medicine?


Research shows that women who walk three hours a week lower their risk of heart attack, coronary death and stroke by 34 to 35 percent.  Where are my shoes?  A woman who lives down the street from me walks six miles six days a week, and I recently met a man who walks two hours every day.  Impressive!  According to the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety, walking increases bone density, manages the negative effects of osteoarthritis and eases back pain.

The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention and the Surgeon General recommend taking 10,000 steps a day which translates to about five miles.  The pace of the walk should be between 90 and 110 steps per minute which is pretty brisk.

Not only does walking result in better health and a longer and fitter life, it also makes for a sunnier outlook.  Walking, particularly when walking with good company and in pleasant surroundings, reduces depression and anxiety. Walkers also tend to be good sleepers.

As to what to wear for the daily walk, don a hat, sunscreen and sunglasses.  Your skin and your eyes will thank you for that protection!  Comfortable shoes will keep your feet happy too.

Walking seems to have it all. Simple and natural, it doesn’t require any instruction or skill. It can be a very modest form of exercise or it can demand enough skill and intensity to be an Olympic sport. You can walk alone for solitude or with friends for companionship. You can walk indoors on a treadmill (not my favorite) or outside in the city or country, at home or away. You can get all the benefits of moderate exercise with a very low risk of injury. And to boot, walking is inexpensive. All things considered, Hippocrates was right:  “Walking is a man’s (or woman’s) best medicine”.

Beans–and More Beans


Pinto beans, lima beans, cannellini beans, black beans, kidney beans, garbanzo beans, navy beans—they’re the staples of my diet!  We all know that beans are an anti-inflammatory food, high in fiber and a great source of protein.  I eat dried pinto and/or dried lima beans every week.  I also eat canned black beans in salads.  I’m not too fond of chick peas (there’s something about the texture.), but I love hummus.

For a quick dip, purée a 15-ounce can of chick peas (drained), ¼ cup fat-free plain Greek yogurt with olive oil, minced garlic, lemon juice, parsley, salt and pepper to taste, and a dash of paprika. Serve with toasted whole wheat pita triangles and fresh vegetables for dipping.

In Texas we eat black-eyed peas, which are actually beans, on New Year’s Day for luck, but many of us eat them year round.  I’ve also added dried lentils to my diet.  No soaking required!  Have you noticed canary beans (also known as mayacoba beans) in the rice/bean aisle at the grocery store?  I think they’re from Peru.  Reportedly canary beans have a unique taste and can be substituted for pinto beans in recipes that call for that ingredient.

Peanuts, which are high in healthy fat, magnesium and fiber,  are considered a bean because  they are in the legume family.  My favorite peanut butter (Laura Scudder’s) contains only peanuts and salt.  A spoonful (or two) of peanut butter makes a great snack.  Yum!

Beans are healthy, versatile and affordable and a food you can always have on hand.  Guess I’ll keep eating them, and I think I’ll try the recipe below.

Smoky Black Bean Soup from Eating Well

1 lb. dried black beans, soaked overnight

2 T extra-virgin olive oil

2 medium onions, chopped (reserve 1/3 c. for garnish)

1 red bell pepper, chopped

2 stalks celery, chopped

1 jalapeno pepper, seeded & chopped

3 large cloves garlic, minced

1 T ground cumin

4 c water

2 c brewed coffee

1 bay leaf

1 t salt, more if needed

Sour cream or plain Greek yogurt & chopped cilantro for garnish.

Sautee onions, peppers, celery & garlic in oil.  Add cumin and cook a minute more.  Add remaining ingredients except garnishes.  Cover and simmer until beans are soft.

Volunteering–Good for Your Health?


Everyday Health reports that most of us know that if we eat our fruit and veggies, exercise often, and avoid smoking, we have a better chance of living longer and healthier lives. But you may not know that regularly giving to others should perhaps be added to that healthy checklist.  Volunteering is associated with lower depression, increased well-being, and a 22 percent reduction in the risk of dying.  Wow!  That’s impressive!  With those benefits there should be no shortage of volunteers.

Studies show that for those who are 55 or older these benefits are particularly remarkable. Perhaps those of us in that age group are often retired or experiencing the “empty nest” syndrome.  We can begin to doubt our self worth and question our purpose, slipping into a habit of putting entirely too much focus on self. Boooring, tiresome (and unhealthy) for ourselves and for those around us!

Research indicates that benefits are optimized when you volunteer in a minimum of two endeavors.  There are so many opportunities that finding two places in which to serve should be quite easy:  in schools, in programs that serve the needy, in arts organizations, in your church, in neighborhood projects or clubs.  The list goes on and on.  What are your interests or passions?  Your time and your talent can make a real difference in the life of an individual and in the life of your community.

If you want to live a longer, happier, and healthier life, take all the usual precautions and then … take the challenge.  Get out there and share your time with those who need it. Where do I sign up?




Attracting butterflies!

Attracting butterflies!

Need a black & white accessory?

Need a black & white accessory?


When did American women stop wearing hats and why?  Did that accessory go out of vogue in the late 50′s?  mid 60′s?  Remember Jackie’s pillbox?  The hats worn today include a billed unisex gimme cap, a winter cap to wear when walking, running or skiing or a brimmed straw to be worn at the pool or beach–casual wear to be worn with casual clothes.  You might see one or two pastel creations on Easter Sunday, but during the rest of the year that hat (and any others) sit on the shelf in the closet.  Maybe we’ve discarded a really fun and important part of our wardrobe.  A hat can complete an outfit.  A hat can add a flattering color near the face, camouflage  a bad hair day, keep your head warm, protect you from the sun, lift your spirits.  When you’re down in the dumps, go buy a new hat!  I wonder if there are still millineries in the U.S.  In New York perhaps?  The women of the British royal family seem to wear hats.   The queen must have dozens!  Of course, there is the Kentucky Derby, but how often does one attend that event?

I’d like to resurrect the wearing of hats on certain occasions or in certain settings:  church services, daytime weddings, funerals, lunching at a nice restaurant, setting sail on a fabulous cruise, attending a daytime party, going up in a hot air balloon and certainly, celebrating National Hat Day which I just discovered is tomorrow, Jan. 15, which is remarkable!  I’m having lunch with a friend tomorrow, and I’m definitely wearing a hat!  How about you?



On this last day of 2014,  I am remembering some of the special events of this year.  One of the most recent was the pinning ceremony that

we attended for our youngest daughter on December 11th.  She graduated from Texas Woman’s University in Houston having earned a

BS degree with a major in nursing.  The ceremony was very meaningful, and I was priviledged to get to “pin” her.  I am impressed with the

community that she will share with other nurses.  Afterwards we celebrated with champagne and dinner with family who were able to attend

We are very proud of her!


And of course Christmas!  We were in Dallas this year at our older daughter and son-in-law’s home.  Their house was very festive and of

course the grandchildren created excitement.  There were 11 of us, 4 grandchildren and 7 adults.  Dinner was delicious and comfortably

informal. For our dining entertainment, our oldest grandson read Knock Knock jokes and riddles  aloud from his Boys Life magazine.  And in

typical fashion the children came and went from the dinner table because the presents under the tree were more interesting.  After the presents

were opened and dessert eaten we concluded the evening with dancing by the granddaughters, ages almost- 3 and 19 months.  The dancers

were undaunted by our younger grandson’s attempt to blast them with a fancy ray gun that he got earlier as a present.  Such good memories!

As the 2015 rapidly approaches, I want to echo my sisters’ resolutions to enjoy friends and family more in the new year!