Sunday, March 22, 2015

A Lifetime Spent Sharing the Gift of Music



A Lifetime Spent Sharing the Gift of Music
 
I love my church family.  I grew up in my church and my parents and Grandparents did as well. We have what we call the "Morgan" pew where we have "staked our claim" since the church building was built! I don't feel territorial about it and I certainly don't mind if visitors get there before me but on days I get "My" pew, I feel at home.  Over the years almost an entire generation has transitioned into heaven but I can close my eyes and see each one sitting in "Their" pew from days gone by.
 
Linda has been our organist and pianist for as long as I can remember. I can remember her mother taking care of me when I was in the nursery department in my church. Linda's Mom always made me feel secure and loved.
 
I am not sure when Linda actually became our organist but I don't really have a memory without her sitting at our organ in the front of the church.
 
Linda is a gentle soul. She is quiet and soft spoken. You would never hear a boastful word spoken by her. She is graceful and when her mouth smiles, her eyes smile too.  She is witty and I really enjoy being in her company. She is always faithful in every way but prefers being behind the scenes.
 
It is a different story when Linda sits at the organ or piano. Her soul is revealed in all of its beauty and splendor. Her musical understanding is beyond a talent. Her instrumental ability sets the entire tone for our congregation and our worship through music.
 
I love to worship The Lord through music and to have someone that can evoke such emotion through their music like Linda is a blessing for a church.
 


I recently thought about all of the practice it takes for Linda to prepare each week. She prepares at home, she prepares with the choir, I have seen her practice in the sancutary throughout the week. When I was teaching Sunday school, every few months I would bring my preschool class into the sanctuary to see her practicing before the morning worship time. She would show them how the organ worked and let each child press on the pedals. Precious memories for me thinking about the little children and how they loved this!
 


I was able to tell Linda a few weeks ago how I appreciated her and thanked her for sharing the gift with us that God had given her.
 
I feel that Linda's Mother made me feel safe and secure in the nursery many years ago and today, Linda makes me feel safe and secure in The Lord through her music. 
 
Do you have someone in your life that has made a difference but haven't told them about it? I feel so good that I was able to thank Linda so that she will know she is truly appreciated. Kindly spoken words make such a difference.  I encourage you to take a look around and find someone that has inspired you or has made a difference in your life and let them know. Do it today!

A good place to start is your church. What about the people that do the little things that are really big things: the baptismal committee, those that prepare the Lord's Supper observance, the ones that serve in the nursery during the worship service, the long-time secretaries that are so trustworthy, the dedicated ones that serve in the kitchen, the faithfull members that are always there, rain or shine. One time, we had a cricket problem in our church. My friend Kathy would arrive early each Sunday morning for "Cricket Patrol" so that all of the crickets that had ventured in since the custodian left on Friday would disappear before members and guests arrived on Sunday morning! All of these individual dependable servants that make the whole body of the church. For each of them, I am grateful and today I am especially grateful for Linda. She made me look closer and appreciate more deeply, every member of my church.

Today she played both the organ and the piano.  I watched as her quiet, gentle spirit praised The Lord through Song. Tears streamed down my cheeks as we sang the words, "All that thrills my souls is Jesus, He is more than life to me. And the fairest of Ten Thousand, in my blessed Lord I see." I was able to freely worship to my deepest depths, praising my Lord surrounded by all of the people I love, accompanied by the sweet, sweet, spirit of music. Thank you Linda!

Monday, March 2, 2015

The Day I Learned about Eugene Butler



Eugene Butler
 (1894–1995)


I had the most interesting day today! I am a new member of the Dallas Agricultural Club. I have attended the last several meetings and today our meeting was in the Livestock Offices at Fair Park in Dallas.

Inside the main room is the Texas Heritage Hall of Honor, Portraits of honored recipients of this title line the walls of the room.  I had been in this room before when I was serving as a FFA and 4H Public Speaking Judge during the State Fair of Texas. Today was different. It was a relaxed atmosphere and I arrived a little early in order to mingle and meet more of the Dallas Agricultural Club members.

I struck up a conversation with a woman I liked from the first glance. She and I visited a minute and then we joined forces to assist in making sure everything was ready for our lunch. When we finished getting the tea ready we started to visit again.  She pointed to a portrait on the wall.  It was a photo of Eugene Butler. She told me how she knew him.  He had been a charter member and historian for the Dallas Agricultural club!  He was also the editor for the Texas edition of Progressive Farmer for over 50 years!

Butler was also a founder of Southern Living Magazine!!! The magazine was started in 1966 by The Progressive Farmer Company. When she told me this, my jaw dropped! This was so interesting to me! Southern Living has always been my favorite magazine! I never knew the Texas connection with Southern Living! What a great tidbit of information for me to digest! 

She went on to explain about this special man and his love for Agriculture.  He was so intelligent and used his talents contributing to the betterment of agriculture through his work, activism, research and leadership. He lived his live devoted to making things better in the field of Agriculture.




I sm so glad I attended the meeting today! Now, each time I visit and look at the Texas Heritage Hall of Honor, I am going to learn more about the honorees on the wall!

The Dallas Agricultural Club is such a good group.  It's mission: Promoting Agricultural Awareness and Providing industry updates for our members.

Meetings are the first Monday of each month and our website touts that we are "The Original Noonday Luncheon Club of the World." Membership is open to any and all who wish to learn more about and/or promote agriculture. 

I feel honored to be a part of this group.  It is a group of men and women dedicated to promoting agriculture. Each time we meet I come away feeling like I am being mentored and I feel enriched learning through the experiences and knowledge of these who share my passion for agriculture! My goal now is to learn more about the history of the Dallas Agricultural Club and get to know each and every member!

On top of my experience learning about Eugene Butler, we enjoyed a program of Legislative Updates by Texas Farm Bureau Field Representative Roger Hall and we also met the newest Dallas AgriLife Extension Agent, Elizabeth Rudd. 



After the meeting I drove through Fair Park and the Texas Star Ferris Wheel sat silently in the cool air.  When I had first arrived I thought the fairgrounds looked so desolate. When I left I had the feeling of joy I get when I am at the State Fair with thousands of others there with me! Today was a great day indeed!

To learn more about the Dallas Agricultural Club visit: http://dallasagriculturalclub.com/


Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Waco Hippodrome Theatre - Dining in Downtown Waco



Waco Hippodrome Theatre
Dining in Downtown Waco





I experienced such a fun lunch today, I decided I had to write about it! I had a very eventful morning full of meetings and appointments so it was 1:30 p.m. before I had a chance to think about lunch. The Hippodrome was on my bucket list so I drove to downtown Waco on Austin Avenue and crossed my fingers it would be open!

After being seated on the second floor, I was presented with a fun menu full of items named after movies.  There was a good selection of items and I was torn between a burger, a salad or tacos. I wanted to try something new and different for my taste buds so I selected the Urban Cowboy Tacos.
After settling in I started to take in the view. I had asked if there was window seating available and ended up with the best seat in the house! The Hippodrome sign sat right outside my window and Austin Avenue was below.  The restaurant is on the second floor of the theatre. I felt like I was on vacation.  Austin Avenue was active with business people in suits as well as pedestrians that I could tell were sight-seeing.  I became completely immersed with the scene below.  Waco transportation buses that look just like Trolley cars would whiz by and then there would be joggers, dog walkers and everything you would expect to see in a city that is thriving.

I felt I was watching a live movie scene and just on the other side of the dining room wall, a film was showing for people taking in an afternoon movie.  After my meal I peeked into the theatre and saw a group of women enjoying the movie and eating as well. You can enjoy your entire meal while watching a movie.  That is what I want to try on my next visit. Or maybe I'll come back at night for the fine dining menu. Austin Avenue at night is gorgeous and the Waco Hippodrome Sign illuminates the street in  an invigorating way! I talked with the Box Office Manager briefly and he told me about the menu that is being planned that will offer  Pork Belly and other adventurous thrillers so stay tuned!

My Urban Cowboy Tacos were filled with Brisket, Pickled Red Onion, Mustard Slaw, and Cotija Cheese. They were served with salsa and fresh made tortillas chips from Jesse's Tortilla Factory just minutes away! The food was great and the service superb. At this late lunch time the crowd was thinning so my waiter gave me just the right amount of special attention.

This is a photo of the lobby when you enter the Hippodrome Theatre.  The architecture and design is beautiful.
The outside walk is lined with stars which are a special touch.

The Hippodrome is just one of the exciting things about Downtown Waco. Please visit their website to learn more about it at www.wacohippodrometheatre.com It is unique and when you combine that with good service and food, you have all of the makings of a Star!
The Waco Hippodrome also boasts a Texas Historical Marker stating it was opened in 1914 and showed silent movies, vaudeville shows and a variety of civic events.  The website goes into more details about famous visitors including Elvis Presley and John Wayne!

Today I can tell you the charming appeal of The Hippodrome Theatre impressed me. While I was gazing out the window I remembered a meal my husband I had on the second floor of a building in Santa Fe as well as a time we dined overlooking New Orleans below us. Today in Waco, Texas I felt I was as much on vacation as I was at both of these other times that came to my mind and I was completely alone on this trip! What a great escape from a busy day and to be able to be at a restaurant while dining and not even realize you are dining alone? That is a treat!

Thank you Waco Hippodrome! I will see you again soon! 

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Life Lessons Learned - Integration Done Well

Life Lessons Learned - Integration Done Well
My Fifth Grade Class
I am in the center with the knee-high blue socks and I still remember that dress. It was Red, White, and Blue. Jeffery is sitting on stage right above me.

Miss Gladys Scott
I grew up in a small Texas town.  I went to an all white school until I was in 5th grade in 1971 when School Desegregation began in my school.  The first week of school in 5th grade out on the playground, a boy named Jeffery and I were talking in a group. Somehow during the conversation he called me a "Cracker."  I had no idea what a Cracker was, had never heard it before, but I didn't like the way he said it so I responded by calling him the "N" word. He puffed up and slapped me. I slapped him back and just when we were really about to get into it, Miss Scott, the Principal came out of nowhere, grabbed both of us by our arms and dragged us off the playground into our school and planted us side-by-side in her office!

Miss Scott had been my Principal since first grade. I feared her!  She was rare! She was a woman in a Man's world!  All of the other Principals in our town were male. She was the only female Principal I knew and I think even all of the other Principals in town feared her! She ruled through fear and was the keeper of Pandora's Box! If you did something really bad, you got your name put in Pandora's Box!  I knew that day that Jeffery and I had sealed our fate because on that day, two more names would go into the abyss of Pandora's Box!


We sat in her office while she explained our behavior would not be tolerated.  I remember being so confused.  I really wasn't mad a Jeffery and I don't think he was mad at me. I think we were both just curious and had been testing the waters of Integration.


Next, the worst thing that could possibly happen, happened! Miss Scott called our Mothers!  Our mothers arrived at school, and Miss Scott sent both of us home with them for the rest of the day!


You know, 5th grade was a long time ago. I am now 53 years old and I remember that day as if it were yesterday.  On that day, I learned how it felt to be judged and taunted by another person unjustly because of the color of one's skin.  Jeffery and I continued through school, graduated together and still, after all of these years, are friends.  We keep up with each other through Facebook and I regard him as one of my dearest friends.


I am thankful for Miss Scott and how she knew immediately how to handle us equally, let us know we were wrong and how our behavior was not acceptable. That is all it took because we both felt we were treated fairly. We learned a life lesson and were the ones that set the standard for how others were to be treated and how discipline would be enforced in our school from that day forward!


I think it was an advantage for us too that we grew up in a small town. We knew everyone in our grade as well as everyone in our entire school. High School housed everyone from 9-12th grade. We were all one group and because it was not such a large school, we interacted with everyone and and discord within the group was not ever really of a racial nature.  We all made the same mistakes one makes growing up, we all shared our triumphs when it came to school loyalty and pride, and rivalry between other schools, you could certainly count on all of us standing together as one! That bond remains with all of us today. Integration worked for our small town in Texas and for that, I am thankful.


A couple of years ago, one of my sons joined a prestigious country club.  He had worked there as a cart boy during college and then played professional golf for three years after graduation.  He was able to become a member of the country club and this was a milestone for him.  He invited my husband and me to dinner with him there one night.  We were so excited.  I told everyone where we were going!  We arrived, he gave us a tour, and then we started to the dining room.  There was a sign as the base of the stairway that said, "Men's Smoker Evening."  My son went upstairs and soon returned. He said it was a Men Only evening and the other dining facilities at the club were closed that night.  He immediately said he would take us somewhere else to eat.  I told he and my husband to go on upstairs, I would be fine and for them to enjoy themselves.  They both hesitated.  I understood.  If it had been a "Girls Night Out" party and the tables were turned I don't think they would have been offended so I wasn't really offended at all. I think different groups deserve to be unique and there are times when I prefer being with an all female group.  I sat downstairs and did some people watching which I love to do and my son and husband returned in about half an hour and all was well.


That evening, although I was fine with the circumstances, was the first time in my life I had ever known what it was like to be excluded because of one's gender.  I had been so excited about being there as my son's guest. He had no idea it was Men's night and he was so embarrassed for me. That made it worse for me because I felt singled out even more. Again, I have no problem with Men's Smoker Nights. I am glad this evening unfolded the way it did because it gave me the experience of exclusion in a way that would make me stronger, more compassionate and understanding. I had always been included. I had always been invited to parties, was elected as a cheerleader, was always elected as a class officer, was Most Beautiful of my class two years in a row, and inclusion was standard for me. It was good for me to get a dose of exclusion. Another life lesson learned.


In today's society I am bothered with tension of racial and social unrest.  I long for people like Miss Scott. I feel we need people like Miss Scott to grab us, pull us out of the group on the playground and plant us in a Principal's office to think about how our words and actions affect others. I also think we need more people to be acceptable of people groups. It is alright to have seperate groups as long as they are not practicing exclusion with malice. There is right and there is wrong.  To be discrimated against because of one's color, gender or in any other way that makes that person feel segregated is unacceptable.


I feel that all boils down to what lies within each one of us. We all know how it feels to be singled out as being different and we all know the hurt that comes when one feels excluded.  Now, more than ever we need to be mindful of that and consider others in a way so that every one of us will feel validated.  We need to be more consious about this when raising our young so that the cycle will halt. There are plenty of other things we are facing in our communities, our nation, and in our world to let this undermine us when during these times of unrest it is more important than ever to be standing together as "We the People" - united as one.   


The years passed in my small Texas town and Miss Scott continued to be in my life. She was a member of my church.  As a grown woman I began to realize how she really was someone that broke through glass ceilings. She was an administrator when most women in education at that time were teachers.  Through my church I developed a relationship with her as a friend. I was able to tell her how she had influenced my life and I even wrote a letter to her sharing about how I admired her. I thanked her for teaching me life lessons. She died only a couple of years ago after living a long full life. I will forever be thankful for having Gladys Scott in my life.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Beef Avocado Cream Tacos - My El Chico Recipe Contest Winner!

Beef Avocado Cream Tacos

1 pound ground beef
1 ounce taco seasoning mix
12 soft flour tortillas or crispy corn taco shells
¼ cup shredded cheddar cheese
½ cup shredded lettuce
½ cup diced tomatoes

Brown ground beef in skillet and drain off excess liquid. Add one ounce of desired taco seasoning mix and ½ cup water. Stir and simmer until water has evaporated.

Avocado Cream:
1 jalapeno  pepper
1/4 cup cilantro
1/4 of fresh lime - juice only
pinch of salt
pinch of pepper
4 ounces cream cheese
1 ripe Avocado


Cut jalapeno in half, seed and trim.  Place in mini food processor along with cilantro, salt, pepper and lime juice. Pulse until finely chopped. Add cream cheese and pulse again until smooth. Add flesh of avocado and pulse until creamy.

Build tacos as desired with beef, cheese, lettuce, tomato and top with Avocado Cream.  For hard taco shells, the avocado cream is best when added on top of meat before lettuce, tomatoes and cheese. For soft tacos, the avocado cream is best spread on tortilla first before adding meat and other ingredients. It is also great on chicken or fish tacos or dolloped on as a topping for a taco salad.


I entered an El Chico Recipe Contest....and won!

El Chico sponsored a contest asking for Taco recipes.  I nearly didn't enter because I was about to leave town and had a lot of things to do but decided to take the time to enter and submitted my recipe. A few weeks after the contest ended I received the following message: 

I couldn't believe it! I was told that my recipe was the winner and that my Beef Avocado Cream Tacos would be served in all El Chico Restaurants! 
El Chico designed these cool announcements that looked like flour tortillas and placed them on every table in their restaurants. They folded in two so that they looked like a taco shell! 
Here is a picture of the announcements at the El Chico Cafe in Waco, Texas!  I thought that was such a cute and fun way to market and promote my dish! 
The first time I went to El Chico to try my tacos the local newspaper came and interviewed me and the restaurant manager. I took my family with me and it was a night I will never forget as we enjoyed our meal and I posed for photos! I really felt honored.

I was out of town on business a few days later and my phone started buzzing early one morning.  Everyone was texting and posting photos on my social media pages letting me know my article had made the front page of the Waco Tribune Herald newspaper! I was in Austin by myself and couldn't get a hard copy of the newspaper and there was no one around to hear my good news. That was a very strange feeling! It was my big day and I was by myself.
Soon after my newspaper article I received a call and was asked by Emily Iazzetti to make my Beef Avocado Cream Tacos live on the Moms Everyday KWTX-TV show.  It was so much fun! I wasn't anxious or nervous at all. I just embraced the moment and really enjoyed myself!

After that, I was featured in a few more newspapers with my recipe and one of my friends lovingly nicknamed me "The Taco Chick!"  
El Chico sent me a chef apron to wear when I was on television and I was proud to wear it.  For months, every time my friends or family visited El Chico, I received a text photo of my tacos or would be tagged on Facebook in a picture of them enjoying my tacos. It was such fun time.  My recipe was on their menu for the next six months.
Now you know my little story about my Beef Avocado Cream Tacos and how I became the Taco Chick! I thought I was too busy to enter the contest but decided to take just a few minutes to e-mail my recipe and that spur-of-the-moment decision changed my life! I am certainly not famous but it was the first time my passion for cooking was really rewarded and it refueled my desire to experiment with recipes and share them. To be recognized and acknowledged by a restaurant like El Chico, the most historically famous establishment for Tex-Mex food started by Mama Cuellar, made me very proud.  I have now been recognized a few times in places I never dreamed anyone knew me and it was all because of my little moment in time with my tacos.

I hope you try these tacos and enjoy them. The recipe is simple, just like most of the best things in life!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Jalapeño Cauliflower Soup


 Jalapeño Cauliflower Soup

1 large head Cauliflower
1/2 Cup chopped fresh Cilantro - reserve 2 Tablespoons
1/4 Cup diced pickled Jalapeño peppers - reserve 1 Tablespoon
2 Onions - peeled and quartered
2 medium Potatoes - peeled and quartered
32 oz Chicken Broth
1-1/2 Cups Water
1/2 Cup Butter
1/2 teaspoon Jalapeño Salt
1 teaspoon Pepper
1/4 teaspoon Nutmeg
1/2 Cup grated Cheddar Cheese

Bring water to boil in soup pot. Add washed, rough-chopped Cauliflower, Onions and Potatoes.  Boil for 5-7 minutes and add Chicken Broth and Butter. Reduce to low heat, and add jalapeño salt, pepper and nutmeg. Stir and add Jalapeño peppers. Cook another 10 minutes or until liquid reduces enough so that soup will have a thick consistency when blended.  Remove from heat and semi-puree with immersion blender.  Add cheese, and remainder of fresh cilantro and blend until desired consistency. Stir in remainder of diced jalapeño peppers and serve. 

I garnished mine with a few more jalapeño peppers, a leaf or two of fresh cilantro and a few diced bell peppers. 

You also might like more or less cheese in it or even add a little sour cream or milk. Experiment and see what tastes best to you! Enjoy! 

Fiesta Brand makes the Jalapeño Salt we like.  It is also a great steak seasoning!

The diced jalapeño peppers I like are made by Mt. Olive. 

My daughter-in-law makes a delicious cauliflower soup and that has ham in it and potato flakes.  I didn't have ham or potato flakes so I experimented this morning with the ingredients I had on hand and came up with this recipe.  I invited my Mom over for lunch after we went to church and the two of us really enjoyed this.  My youngest son stopped by today and had some with me for supper. He loved it too!  I think I have a new recipe for soup I will use again and again! I hope you enjoy it too! 

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

"Sic 'Em Bears" Claw Cookies and Dr. Pepper Hour



"Sic 'Em Bears" Claw Cookies
and Dr. Pepper Hour



One of the first things your learn at Baylor University is how to do a proper Sic 'em Bears! Grab your knee with your right hand,  then raise raise your hand into the air. Shake it with spirit and as you shake your Bear claw you yell, "Heyyy....Sic 'em!!!" and swipe your claw down and across and then yell "Bears!" as you draw your claw back up! 

I decided I must make some Sic 'Em Bear Claw Cookies for a tailgate party I was having at home.  

I was challenged by Southern Living and Blue Diamond Almonds to be creative with Blue Diamond Almonds, create Game Day Snacks, and serve the either at home on Game Day or at a Tailgating Event.  I also shared my photos on Social Media with the hashtag #gamedaysnack.  I enjoyed preparing for parties every week and tying them in with a Baylor University theme.


Since 1953 Dr. Pepper Hour has been a tradition at Baylor University. Each week students, faculty and staff gather to socialize while enjoying a Dr. Pepper Float. I have always enjoyed Dr. Pepper Hour at Baylor so I thought it would be fun to serve Dr. Pepper Floats with the "Sic 'Em Bear" Claw cookies at my party! I put a couple of scoops of Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream into a glass, added Dr. Pepper and sprinkled some chopped Blue Diamond Almonds on top! The cookies and the floats were the perfect pair!  


Sic 'Em Bear Claw Cookies

1 package of Betty Crocker Double Chocolate Chunk Cookie Mix

Blue Diamond Smokehouse Almonds

I cannot make Double Chocolate Chunk cookies better than Betty Crocker! I believe that if someone does something better than you can do it, make it their way and give them credit! Betty Crocker has this recipe down so go with her and use her Cookie Mix to make your cookies!

Prepare the cookie dough as per directions in a bowl and then put the dough into the refrigerator for 30 minutes.  Preheat oven according to directions.  Remove dough from refrigerator and shape 2-3 tablespoons into a ball. Place on cookie sheet and slightly press down until the ball is flattened a bit.  Take 4 Blue Diamond Smokehouse Almonds and place slightly inside the edge like "claws" would be on a bear paw.  Bake according to instructions. Let cool and carefully remove from baking sheet.  

The salty, smoked almonds taste very good with the chocolatey sweetness of the cookies!

These would be perfect for any Baylor Tailgate Party or on a Camping Trip or  Zoo Visit!