An Experience You Don’t Want to Miss

My most excellent husband is continually surprising me–he led me recently to a meat cheese trayrenovated 1940’s farm house out in the country not too far from us here in our little community of Fulshear…it was in Sealy, Texas.  I hope you’re close enough to chance a trip to discover what you’ve been missing..

The inside of this unprepossessing little building delivers a sophisticated breath of fresh air. Subtle lighting, small group seating, soft music, linen tablecloths, candlelight and unique chandeliers…and an ambiance that lends itself to an afternoon of tasting the most excellent locally grown wines as well as a delicious domestic and international selection.  My own personal favorite is YBR’s own Symphony, “a hybrid mix of the Moscat and Granache Gris grapes, a  harmonious balance of sweetness and acidity that creates an angelic, noble, and slightly bubbly wine.” (their description)…hard to beat. There’s also plenty of comfortable outdoor seating, a plus for entertaining.  And Saturday evenings with live music will certainly increase the quality of your stay at YBR.

The waLambrm and enchanting hostess who came out to greet us was a comely blonde with a personable manner who will ensure that you’re a welcome friend before you leave.  Denyce Treybig, the owner of YBR, is very well spoken with a soft manner and welcoming smile. She knows her wines.

We introduced ourselves and began to converse when I saw something unexpected–a menu!   From a hidden little treasure of a winery they’ve expanded to a restaurant!

Denyce has added a gem: an experienced, forward-thinking chef (Chef Ken—we were lucky enough to meet him) who is passionate about culinary arts.  Ken is a master at the Texas Filet, perfectly seasoned and grilled to the exact degree of tenderness and flavor that you prefer.  Whether you’re fond of flatbreads, simple meat and cheese trays, Seared Tuna, New Zealand Lamb, or simply the JUICIEST half pound Burger that you have ever seen (and fries that people drive out from Houston to enjoy) you will agree with us that the Yellow Brick Road is a worthwhile stop on the path of a satisfying and memorable journey.


“The winery sits on an estate right off of Interstate 10 in Sealy, 20 miles West of Katy and 20 miles East of Columbus, only 50 minutes West of downtown Houston overlooking 50 acres, and just 35 minutes away from West Houston. The Yellow Brick Road Winery is a Texas owned and operated vineyard and winery and we are committed to growing and blending varieties best suited for the soil and climate.    In addition to the wines made on the premises, Yellow Brick Road Winery carries other Texan made wiposternes, domestic wines and international wines.”
The menu changes frequently complete with fantastic desserts…call ahead or come check it out, and while you decide, have a sip of the unbeatable Chocolate Wine…like a “liquid tootsie roll.”

Stop by and share in this well-kept (but not for long) secret tucked away in Sealy, Texas.   And yes, I’ve gotta say it, “Follow the Yellow Brick Road!”



Major Industry in the Window Well

My big brother and I had a thriving transport industry when I was small back in 1957.  Our Dad sold construction machinery so our interests often led in that direction.  Our new white brick house in the Gardenside neighborhood of Lexington, Kentucky had a basement below ground. To allow natural light Window wellinto the basement, there were windows which were slightly below ground, and had corrugated wells or shells that surrounded them.   These mysterious apertures were always lending themselves to mischief and made great hiding places.

The Christmas when Mike received a crane and dump truck was unexpectedly warm and a temporary reprieve from the snow temporarily so we played outside every day.  After learning to maneuver the crane and operate the bed of the dump truck, we had to find ways to put them to use.  We gathered sticks, and  piles of leaves and were making a general mess when we discovered the gravel down in the window wells.  We hauled the gravel out of the well bucket by bucket, filling up the dump truck, till Mom said we had to stop and put it all back and smooth it out again.  This stymied our plans so we had to get really resourceful for new materials to haul.

Our cat had kittens a few weeks prior to this, so it occurred to Mike to go into the Kitten Delivery business.  He set up shop in the back yard, making all those amazing mouth noises that little boys devise for their major machines, cranking it out and running it around with vigor.  He would call out the orders as they came in from our demanding imaginary customers and get ready to deliver his product without delay.

It was always my job to jump down into the well, which seemed 10 feet deep to me at the ripe age of 4.  I would kneel down and capture a squirming kitten (placed there earlier by yours truly much to the chagrin of their Mama cat), then yell to the foreman (much older Joe Mike the master craftman–who was 7) to reel the bucket down.  He loved that steel Tonka Crane that he’d received from Santa that year, and he would turn the hand crank that lowered the black steel basket down into the well with enthusiasm–sometimes cracking a kitten in the head, or plopping onto the unsuspecting little critter like a giant black claw.

I would close the claw, tuck the little creature into the basket that it made, and yell, “Geronimo!” releasing the basket to watch it go toddling skyward to be dumped into the bed of his dump truck for hauling away.  This was a slow and precarious process, as the cargo tended to pop out out of the truck bed almost immediately to go exploring.

We kept at it  until the Mama cat had enough, coming to rescue her little band  Her bleating meows alerted our Mom, who caught us and put a stop to our innocent feline torture trials.  We found other uses for tCrane piche crane and dump truck after that, just as adventurous as you’d imagine would come from the mind of a precocious 7-year-old.  But that Kitten Transport Delivery service was probably the best time we had that Christmas and a memory that hasn’t faded in almost 60 years.

Turning Pages

Last time I was here, it was New Years’.  Life has been moving fast.

Now it happens that I’m ready to turn another page this week, and begin a brand new career.  I’m excited, and anxious to begin.  I won’t belabor the “God thing” (as people describe it) that brought me and this opportunity together.  I’ll just say that each time I bowed to what I believed God wanted for me in spite of what I wanted, another ‘miraculous’ happening occurred.  And now I find myself bent for the world of medical billing again, with the freedom to research and dig and pursue every facet of the work that I love–and that I’ve proven to be pretty adept at.

I was blessed beyond measure back in January to be selected to work for the local bank.  I learned a few of the multiple steps involved in clearing deposits, validating checks, and verifying and identifying documents related to new accounts, forged checks, wire transfers. etc..  While the work was originally totally foreign to me, I learned quickly and enjoyed the process.  I found the rest of the team I came to know were kind, and most of them helpful and welcoming.  As the process became routine, our personalities were revealed, the typical insecurities and posturing rising to the surface, but all in all it was an experience that I enjoyed and will carry its finer points with me into my new endeavors.

One memory that I will treasure in a special way:  the laugh of Joy, my supervisor.  She mentors, encourages and teaches.  She measures and delegates, carefully shaping and pointing her employees to a higher goal, excellence in action.  But her laugh.  She laughs at the slightest provocation, an unfettered, bubbling laughter that ripples over onto her staff.  I remember working like a fury during daily closing, trying to hustle and endure to the end when I would hear the pure peals of her joy-filled laughter lifting my spirits and making the work–sorry to repeat myself–a pure joy.

I remember that back on January 1 I asked, “What’s Next, Father?”  I still ask that question every day, and wait patiently now for His answers.  They’re sure to come.  Not early but certainly not late.  He has always been and will continue to answer me  “just in the nick of time.”

Planning Around Thanksgiving

Veggiful Pasta SaladYou’re having turkey for Thanksgiving on Thursday, right?  Well, that’s okay.  Most of us are.  What about before?  And after?  Sometimes that gets lost in the shuffle.  Yet  I like to try to make a firm contrast to the menus for the week so that the turkey stands out like crazy.

Pre-Turkey, we go for a veggie day, so while I’m chopping all those ingredients for the turkey dinner, I manage to combine a large Veggiful Pasta Salad (recipe follows).  We live on that for a day or two.  Then after The Day, when everyone’s sick of turkey and the inevitable leftovers, I have all the ingredients ready for a Mexican buffet–just as completely DIFFERENT from Turkey as you can get.

While you’re chopping everything but the kitchen sink to add to the typical Thanksgiving dishes, plan ahead and chop enough for the Pasta Salad and the Mexican buffet; you’ll be so glad you did.

As for the Mexican buffet, I won’t provide exact amounts, but the gist of the idea is this:

Pile up one end of your buffet or kitchen table with a huge bin of tortilla chips, a covered stack of warmed flour tortillas (or whole wheat, or spinach or whatever type you prefer).  That will begin your journey down the row as you select what pleases you from the following selection:

–A pan of browned ground beef that’s seasoned with chili powder, cumin, chopped onion or onion powder, garlic, and if you like heat add smoked paprika (if done ahead this is a breeze to thaw out–put the cooled meat mixture into a zip lock freezer bag, mashed as FLAT as possible and freeze–it will be a breeze to thaw in a pan of hot water in just a few minute when you’re ready for it).

–Grated cheese of your choice

–Chopped onions

–Chopped tomatoes

–Chopped jalapenos

–Chopped or sliced black olives,

–Sliced avocados or guacamole

–Freshly chopped lettuce

and any other condiments you prefer on top of nachos

I recommend you add a bowl of chopped pecans and a bowl of coconut to your buffet–really elevates the usual nachos or taco salad

–Your favorite salsa to top it off and to dip chips in try:

–My favorite dip, a brick of creamed cheese popped into a mixer bowl with enough picante sauce to thin it to your desired consistency.

And as for dessert, you can go elaborate if you’re up to it this close to the holidays, or just place a bowl of chocolate covered mints at the end of the table and allow the food to be the star.

BEFORE Turkey day, we always go vegetarian (actually, no one at my house knows this; but if they will think back, we never have anything substantial other than soup or veggie pasta on the day before The Day).

My Best Dependable Veggiful Pasta Salad

Here again, I’m sorry, Friends, I don’t measure.  I boil a bag of my favorite pasta (the 3 colored corkscrew) according to package directions; drain and then drizzle with olive oil  and toss to combine.   Allow the pasta to cool, covered, while you throw together either 1) all the veggies in your fridge that you wish would go away, and whatever packages in the pantry still have just a half cup left in them.  Or 2) about 1/2 cup to 1 cup of each of the following ingredients, chopped into varying shapes: (all are raw)

Broccoli                                   Carrots                   Cauliflower

Bell Peppers in 3 colors           Onions                    Zucchini

Frozen English Peas                Chopped Pecans (or whichever nut you have on hand, but I like their flavor the best)

Dried Cranberries–or blueberries or raisins if you don’t want cranberries

Chopped oranges or tangerines or apples, whichever sounds good to you

Don’t skimp on the sweet stuff…the twang from the berries and citrus really makes a complete flavor profile with the pungent dressing and the smooth background of the pasta.

When you toss the pasta and veggies, the dressing you’re going to mix into them varies.  Either be a wimp and use lots of Ranch dressing, the boring American favorite (just add extra dill).  Or use a good Italian dressing–if you add in a large spoonful of mayonnaise with the Italian it will coat the pasta and veggies better.

I also like Catalina dressing or Russian by themselves or mixed with mayonnaise to taste.  Now, I say these last three because they’re easiest to describe when someone needs amounts.  The actual dressing that I love to use is:

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

1/4 cup lemon juice

2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

plenty of garlic powder (1/2 tsp or hopefully more) , 1-2 teaspoons paprika, a big dollop (1 tsp) of oregano, a shake of  smoked paprika, a teaspoonful or so of sugar, 1 tsp of salt, 1/2 tsp of black pepper, then taste and see if it needs anything else.

And if you have Anti-Vegetarians in the house, throw in a few shakes of REAL bacon bits and you’ve conquered that argument.  A few cubes of Cheddar, American, or Smoked Gouda or a spoonful of Parmesan will do the same thing.

Mix like crazy, then allow it to sit if you can leave it alone for an hour or so.  I’ll cover my Tupperware bowl with the lid, and chill but pick up and shake really hard a time or two over the next few hours till meal time.

ANY substitutions are welcome; after all, it’s YOUR salad.  If you have corn, or yellow squash, or green beans–hey, it all works.  Just toss it in.

A bit of forethought food-wise will help to get your holiday a bit closer to worry-free.  After all, that’s what we want, the chance to celebrate and relax without a lot of work that makes it seem tedious.  So plan ahead, enjoy your Veggiful Pasta Salad, that wonderful Traditional Tom Turkey, and then the easiest Mexican buffet you’ll ever serve!  (anybody for turkey nacho’s?)

Bon Appetit and may God bless you as you give Thanks for all that He’s created and continues to provide.

…His Blessed Kid

Ballads of the 1920’s…Vernon Dalhart

American singer and songwriter Vernon Dalhart ...

American singer and songwriter Vernon Dalhart (1883-1948) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My last post mentioned one of the old 78 rpm records that I grew up listening to, and as I just learned more about the gentleman who sang it, I thought I’d share the interesting growth of his career and his impact on country music and music publishing as a whole.  The following is excerpted from the YouTube website below one of his recordings:

“Vernon Dalhart (April 6 ,1883 – Sept.14,1948)  was a popular United States singer and songwriter of the early decades of the 20th century. He is a major influence in the field of Country Music.

Dalhart was born Marion Try Slaughter in Marion County, Jefferson, Texas. He took his stage-name from two towns, Vernon and Dalhart in Texas, between which he punched cattle in the 1890s. Dalhart’s father, Robert Marion Slaughter was killed in a fight with his brother-in-law, Bob Castleberry, when Vernon was age 10.

When Vernon was 12 or 13, the family moved from Jefferson to Dallas, Texas. Vernon, who already could play the jew’s harp and harmonica, received vocal training at the Dallas Conservatory of Music.

He saw an advertisement in the local paper for singers and applied and was auditioned by Thomas Alva Edison; he would thereafter make numerous records for Edison Records. From 1916 until 1923, using numerous pseudonyms, he made over 400 recordings of light classical music and early dance band vocals for various record labels. He was already an established singer when he made his first country music recordings which cemented his place in music history.

Dalhart’s 1924 recording of “The Wreck of the Old 97” – a classic American railroad ballad about the September 27, 1903 derailment of Southern Railway Fast Mail train No. 97 near Danville, Virginia – for the Victor Talking Machine Company, became a runaway hit, alerting the national record companies to the existence of a sizable market for country-style vocals. It became the first southern song to become a national success. The double-sided single eventually sold more than seven million copies, a colossal amount for a mid-1920s recording. It was the best-selling single to its time, and was the biggest-selling non-holiday record in the first seventy years of recorded music.

Research by Billboard statistician Joel Whitburn determined “The Prisoner’s Song” to have been a #1 hit for 12 weeks in 1925-26. In 1998, “The Prisoner’s Song” was honored with a Grammy Hall of Fame Award and the Recording Industry Association of America named it one of the Songs of the Century.”

Please spend a few moments listening to a few of the hits recorded by Mr. Dalhart on You Tube. There have since been a Broadway musical and several movies showing different treatments of the story of Floyd Collins’ death.  Yet however you think of Mr. Dalhart, the voice is a classic, the music a tribute to our country’s cultural concerns back in the 1920’s.

Like Fishing? Help me Fish Up an Old 78!

Old Congolese 78 rpm records, being the three ...

One of my better memories of growing up in the countryside near Lexington, Kentucky was learning all the words to my parents’ “platters”—their collection of 78 rpm records.

Songs I learned included Blueberry Hill by Fats Domino, The Death of Floyd Collins sung by Vernon Dalhart, (see my next post) hits by the Andrews Sisters like Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy, big bands numbers like Tuxedo Junction, just a really eclectic mix of all my parents’ favorites.

Mom let me spend hours in my chair.  A slightly hyper three year old, I loved hanging sideways in the old maple Boston Rocker, head hanging off the edge, turning the world upside down, playing the 78 RPM records (and later 33 RPM albums) on the victrola.

I was careful with them, almost never let one get scratched, and didn’t play tem too loudly for her comfort.  In point of fact, I think she loved it when I turned them up louder occasionally. I’d sing along to my heart’s content, the little performer in training unaware of the young housewife listening in.

One record, black with a red label, was titled, “The Fishing Song” and was sung by a female, possibly a black woman by her inflection.  She had a trio of back-up singers who were all guys.  I don’t know if my brother has the records now or not, but I haven’t heard the song played in 30 years or so.  I’ve tried googling it, searching through ITunes too, to no avail.  So we’re going on my memory here.

I could sing it for you, but I’ll spare you the pain.  The tune sounded like a swing number, you know, a big band type of sound.  I remember a bass fiddle emphasizing the beat, and the words to the tune went like this:

Once upon a time a little boy was going fishin’ and he asked a little girl to come along,

She said, “Wait till I run and ask my Mommy.’  Presently she came back and sang this song:

‘Mama told me I couldn’t go fishin’ with you.

‘Mama told me I couldn’t go fishing with you.

‘She said us women get the blame when men start playin’ that fishing game, that’s why

‘Mama won’t let me go fishing with you.’  (here the guys echoed “fishin’ with you”)

The trio of guys sings,

‘Hey, Girl, don’t you hear what your Mama say,

‘We’ll do this thing our way,

‘We’ll drive down to old Cape Cod,

‘Cause I’ve got a real nice fishin’ rod,’

(next phrase simultaneous with the girl’s) ‘Hey, Girl, why don’t you let me go fishing with you’

Girls’ line intermingled with the guys’: ‘Oh, no! Unh Uh!  I cain’t fish with you today!’ (echo) ‘Not today’

‘Papa took Mama fishing on the Rio Grande.

‘Papa took Mama fishing on the Rio Grande.

‘He said we’ll catch us a big walleye, well,

‘The fish got away but here am I, that’s why Mama won’t let me go fishing with you.’

‘Mama told me I can’t go fishin’ with you,

‘Mama told me I can’t go fishin’ with you,

‘She said those lines ain’t always made of twine, and

P’apa had more than fishin’ on his mind,’

The whole group ends with a descending trill: “That’s just why I can’t go fishing today……”

I know for sure the song’s title is “The Fishing Song”. I’d like to know the singer, the record label, and where to get a copy of it if possible.  So if you have any idea who sang this please let me know.  Otherwise…beware that Fishing Game!

That Wonderful Language of Toddlers

Shannon, Ivy, Jenni, Jack, and SethYesterday I read a blog about the wonderful language of toddlers.  She’s absolutely right!  (read Texana’s Kitchen) I loved the inventive language that my five children created.  They had special names for their favorite foods, for their toys, and sometimes for family friends, names you hoped they wouldn’t repeat in public.

Yes, there were 5.  The oldest, a boy, produced the coolest games for his siblings to take part in.  He also had a special knack for sounds.  First it was a simple karate-type sound, the ones you make if you’re about 7 and trying to sound like Bruce Lee, you know?  The “ayyy-waaahh” sound?  Then for a while it was “psyche”, drawn out into two or three syllables; the list of his “words” grew to about 25 by the time he reached high school…

Then the twins, boy and girl, were a year younger and worked in tandem with the youngest set of twins, two little girls, 22 months younger.  The games that they invented to play when amusing themselves were the most interesting:  Space Pup was a hero-based game, but my favorite was The Grand Egg (a blog for another day).

We had our share of the typical “hang-coater” to hold our t-shirts in the closet; meatballs and bisketti with tomato sauce; and our own family ‘coined’ words like Swamp Water for mixed fruit juice (that frequently turns a yucky muddy brown when grape juice and citrus are involved), and the Pacmans that we would occasionally have for a quick supper:  mind you, it was back in the feed-everyone-for-a-buck-and-the-heck-with-nutrition-days…

Take five slices of bologna, use a large drinking straw to poke a hole just off-center, split about 1/2 inch from the edge of the slice for a mouth, toss into a hot iron skillet, and as they shrink a bit and curl up, voila, you have a Pacman face complete with smile.  Flip to complete heating for about 30 seconds more, then toss onto mayonnaise-covered bread for an easy (and greasy) open-faced sandwich loved by all our tiny ones. (We were simple folk and easy to please…after all, this was back in the mid-70’s),

Then there was the “Friggible-did game.”  Invented by their Dad during play time:   he would pretend to have a puppet-hand–you know, touching thumb to the four fingers as if you had a puppet pulled over your hand and were making it talk–and as he picked imaginary “things” out of the air with this puppet-hand, he would say, “ere you go, here’s a Friggible-did”.  I have no idea what a friggible-did is.  But we had lots of them, and the kids seemed to be delighted and terrified of them at the same time.

A treasured memory of mine was a trip to the “5 and 10” or our 1970’s version of Walmart, so the kids could spend their allowance. The oldest, Jack, purchased feathers to help him in his constant arrow building (he was a skilled bow and arrow maker from the age of 4 or so).  Seth, his younger brother, would purchase Garfield books or playing cards for a game with the other twins.  His twin Ivy liked cotton candy and purchased those little foil packets that tasted nowhere near what actual cotton candy is supposed to taste like.  Little Shannon, the youngest twin loved lemon salt and if I didn’t watch her, would buy packets of it to empty onto her palm and then lick from her hand along with all the germs they warn you about now. Shannon’s twin, Jenni was a tad shy.  I mean, actually, saying she was shy was like saying the moon is “far away”.  Jenni would panic if I asked her to simply walk up to the counter at McDonald’s and order an ice cream cone.  A trait this extrovert simply couldn’t relate to at the time.  But since those days, I’ve come a long way, I’d have compassion on that little girl today if she hesitated to try new things.

So on this occasion when asked to select a toy or treat and purchase it by herself, she got all agitated, and hung back from the others when they checked out with their treasures.  I wandered through the tiny store in search of her, and found her stressing out–as much as a four-year old can stress.  I asked her what was going on; and she BEGGED me to take her selection, a small book of paper dolls, up to the cash register for her.  She knew the rules, she had to go through the motions herself.

As she begged, in obvious distress, she said in that precious little, pleading voice:

“But Mommy, why won’t you take this money and pay the lady at the castrator for me?”

This is what actually turns mothers gray.  The super-human effort not to fall down laughing at the priceless sincere “mis-speaks” of their children.  So at that point, I simply had to.  I acquiesced, and paid the lady at the castrator for her, and gave her a much-needed hug.  Lessons in independence could wait for another day.