Thursday, December 31, 2009


Changing all aspects of our lives from living like paupers to becoming royalty.
December 31, 2009

Occasionally I have mentioned that I am working on the Princess Plan. Some of you are very familiar with my Princess Plan, but others have never heard of it. Since it is the beginning of a new year everyone is making plans for what they want to accomplish in the New Year. Myself included. I’ve drug out the Princess Plan and dusted it off. I had started it this time last year and was doing so very well on it until we got the BIG HIT from Murphy in late February, I think it’s still a good plan. So here are the basics of it.

The premise of the Princess Plan came from my realizing that clutter in all avenues of our lives was making us live like paupers. Think about it. If your home is in a mess you can’t find things, so you purchase another item to replace the one you can’t find because it’s easier. You can’t find a bill, you clutter your finances with late fees. How often has clutter caused an item to be ruined?

No menu plan, you tend to eat out and clutter your finances more.

Financial clutter aka: debt causes you to have cluttered emotions, which will clutter your relationships with friends and family it’s all connected and as a result you live like a pauper in at least one area of your life. I’m tired of being a pauper, I want to be the princess my Papa always called me. So I developed this plan and as long as I stick to it I find that we are slowly working our way toward living like royalty in all aspects of our lives.

When I set it up I used the Royal theme to help title and give substances to each aspect. You can use different titles or whatever. This is my personal plan and how I set it up.

I tend to work in twelves when making lists so I started with twelve basic goals. As always in my life this is NOT a to do list, but a goal list. I am not a person who works well with demands, a list that is titled “TO DO” sounds like a demand to my brain, so I set goals. The world will not end if I don’t get a goal done, but I will be very proud if I do.

I am a list person, meaning I work better if I have a list to follow. Some people hate lists, so they would just forget setting up the outline as I have it. And just work in general, but for those of us who need a list Here’s how it goes.

Twelve works well for the Princess Plan because then I can work some on each of the 12 main goals a month.

So I took those original twelve goals and broke it down to a certain amount to do each month for 12 months. In my example I will take the goal I have to “totally clean and organize the whole house.” That is an overall goal and looking at it in that HUGE lump is pretty daunting. But when I break the house down to twelve areas to work on solid one area a month it becomes a little more manageable. So the CASTLE segment was born.

Once you have determined the 12 segments for your house then break those 12 segments into four parts per segment—one for each week of the month.

Those four parts get broken into seven goals, one for each day. With details on EXACTLY how I want to do that day’s jobs. It sounds hard but if you set it all down to paper in an outline format you’ll see it’s “just a little” each day. Like I said I’m a list person, so I include EVERYTHING in my overall master goal list, right down to how I will dispose of the clutter I find as I go DAILY. As each of the sections is completed then it’s just a matter of keeping it picked up daily after that segment is completed to get to my goal. Being the S.H.E. (Sidetracked Home Executive) that I am I know that I will tend to put up just a few things in other areas daily too so by the time I get to the last area it will be fairly simple to do.

Just as Dave Ramsey suggests starting with the smallest debt and snowballing up to the largest to keep giving yourself a reward of seeing accomplishment to encourage you to move on to the next one I suggest starting with the easiest area to fix first, say your cleanest or smallest room and then trying to take care of removing 5-10 items daily from the remaining areas of the original 12 so by the time you get to the room from HELL there will be so little left in it you will find it a snap (after all you will have removed permanently 240-480 minimum items from that room already).

Here’s the outline I mentioned I use.

THE ROYAL CASTLE: goal to totally clean and organize it by year’s end.

I. Kitchen by the week

A.-D Break the kitchen into four segments to do one segment a week

1-7 Break the week segments into 7 parts (One part for each day)

a. Break it down into EXACT steps of how you will do that day’s goals, remember to include taking 10 items PERMANENTLY out of each of the remaining areas.

II. Master bedroom by the week

III. Repeat with the other segments for the year in this category. So you will complete one area a month.

Now go down your original list and do a similar outline for each of the other eleven areas. So you will actually be doing 12 different small type segments a day. The 12 items might be finances, exercise, cleaning various buildings, preparing for Christmas/birthdays whatever the “clutter is in your life.

My annual list? It’s below. If we do #7 like we want then my outline will need to be adjusted accordingly because it’s a little hard to clean at home when you are three states away. #12 is going to be the hardest to do with our current state of employment, but remember this is a goal list. The world will not end if it doesn’t happen. It would simply be a wonderful reward to work toward, we all LOVE Walt Disney World and haven’t been in four years, we miss it deeply.

It will of course not happen if our finances do not improve, it is a reward goal. The apple hanging from the string so to speak. We all need a reward to work toward. It will get the exact same type of monthly, weekly, daily breakdown the other areas will get, but they will be appropriate for it. Money will only be put back for the trip AFTER we are actually doing great on our finances again. The only money in the beginning that will be put back will be the change from our pockets once a week. If we see we are not going to be able to make the December 2010 trip we all desire all the put back money will make a great snowball payment. (which is what will most likely happen).

Annual goals:

1. Totally clean and organized the house—THE ROYALS CASTLE

2. Sell off all excess items, vehicles, critters, etc. THE ROYAL TREASURERY

3. Garden year round successfully HER MAJESTY’S GARDEN

4. Preserve all excess foods, get to the point that we only grocery shop for the very basics we cannot produce ourselves.THE ROYAL PANTRY

5. Clean, organize, repair, and paint the garage THE OUTER KINGDOM BUILDINGS

6. Clean, organize, repair, and paint all out buildings, pens, and porches THE OUTER KINGDOM POULTRY

7. Mystery shop five days a week, traveling whenever we can. THE ROYAL TREASURERY

8. Take all excess weight off of all three of us THE ROYALS

9. Lay in two years worth of firewood HEAT FOR THE QUEEN/DRAGON’S BREATH

10. Reduce our debt by at least one half THE ROYAL TREASURERY PART II

11. Go to entirely scratch cooking THE PANTRY OF THE ROYALS

12. Go to Walt Disney World on a cash basis PARTY TIME!—THE ROYAL BALL!

So that’s the basics of the Princess Plan, will we accomplish it all? Not if Murphy has anything to say about it, but then Murphy can be defeated it just takes an “I can” attitude. I am realistic about this, finances being our biggest problem right now, but as I tell myself and the guys “this too shall pass”. After all we are so much better off than others we have blessings galore and most important, we have each other.

So, now I challenge you to make your own Princess/Prince plan. What are your goals, what will you achieve in 2010.

Jan whose family is so much closer after the BIG Murphy visit and who wishes you a Happy New Year in OK

Friday, December 25, 2009



December 24, 2009, Christmas Eve

Twelve years have passed since that first Christmas here. Much has changed, we have suffered the loss of many of the characters, both human and animal, since then. As the sleet falls heavily outside I think of them.

Gone are Aunt Evelyn, Grandma Felicia, my father in law Alvin, and both the beloved granddoggers Katie and Mr. Erik they are all sorely missed. My mother in law now lives with my sister in law and the bad roads will keep us from seeing her for a few days. Her gift is purchased, but I have yet to wrap it. I’ll do that tonight when I am wrapping the homemade gifts for my husband and son.

On that Christmas 12 years ago the house was heavily decorated both inside and out. We’ve not done that this year, none of us had the time or the mind set to do it. The lack of decoration is not a new thing, slowly as time has progressed over this dozen years we’ve put less and less into our decorating. Often not returning home from a trip to Walt Disney World in Florida until just before Christmas, so it was just a rush partial put up of the tree. We had discussed doing it tonight, but the idea of chancing the icy walk to and from the garage to get it seems too dangerous. We do not need a tree to celebrate Christmas, all we need is each other.

This Christmas things are even more different, we agreed back in November that all gifts had to be homemade from things we already had on hand, the only exception to the rule were two gifts I had purchased earlier in the year, that totaled less than $15. Finances are tight, but our faith and family are strong.

I set a budget for Christmas to total less than $50 including the meal and the two gifts already purchased. I have came in under budget because of a very good deal on both the turkey and the ham. The two of them total less than $15 and I already had all the makings for the rest of the meal in my food storage. I’m pretty proud of how well we’ve been doing up to this point with Gary’s early “retirement”. So far we are still current on all the bills, that has been a true blessing, something to celebrate at Christmas.

In the kitchen the dishwasher is humming, on a half load of dishes. Murphy has visited yet again and for some reason anything put on the top shelf of the dishwasher does not come clean. So we don’t even bother to load that part right now. Gary and Sean will tear the dishwasher apart soon to see what the problem is and hopefully fix it.

Gary has the house warm and toasty with the last of the firewood he cut before Murphy took the big chainsaw away. Hopefully this sleet/snow storm will not knock the power out because any firewood cutting we have to do must be done with the tiny limb cutting chain saw until the big one is repaired. Gary thinks it’s a fuel line that will need replaced and the roads are bad, so that will have to wait. Thanks Murphy, you've been so generous this last few months.

Outside the new sump pump is working, after Murphy pulled another trick earlier this week and killed the old one. This seems to be a recurring Christmas theme. The water only got to 1” this time before it was discovered and the pump replaced.

Murphy, the old Grinch, has been trying hard to steal our Christmas this year, but we Patterson’s are not quitters.

We’ve kept the computers and printers humming to create one of a kind Christmas gifts for each other. As I type Gary is finishing up a super-imposed collage photo for Sean. It is an 8 X 10 photo of his cat Murray Mugillacuty “dreaming” about the other pets on the ranch. I’ll add a copy to the blog when I post this. It will probably be hard for you to see because there is so much on it, but I’ll tell you who is who anyway.

Of course the center figure is my grandkitty, Murray. Starting at the top left and moving clockwise is Lizzie, Magellan Goose with Mama Amy Kitty under him, grandkitty Gypsy Skeeter, Drifter Moon, Jolie Marie, Greystoke Goose, Jellybean and last but not least Misty Georgia. Gary is framing it for Sean’s desk at work. Sean is very fond of all the critters so I think he’ll like it. He’s been mentioning he needed to take photos of the critters to work for his desk.

With the help of a “must purchase” full reimbursement mystery shop I spent no cash to purchase Sean a battery for his X box controller. It was kind of a cheat, but the deal was we could spend no cash and technically I didn’t. He has not been able to use that controller for more than a few minutes for at a time because its battery is worn out. He’s been grumbling about that, so it should bring him some enjoyment.

Sean and I are working together on a gift for Gary, who is trying to teach himself to play bluegrass music on his acoustic guitar. I located free sheet music and companion mp3 files on the internet as well as how to instructions and downloaded those at the library. I’ve printed all the sheet music and will bind it in a decorated 3 ring notebook from my stash of scrounged notebooks. The cover is “scraps” of torn sheet music done in a random way with the words “BLUE GRASS” cut out of card stock on it.

Sean is burning the mp3s and lessons to cds and dvds for me. He’s designing the cover for the the jewel cases and printing those as well. He found some how to videos on line that he is putting into format for Gary’s Ipod from him. He is also giving him his hand exerciser and music stand to have as his. It’s a re-gift of sorts, but a good gift. Before finances got tight Gary had talked about purchasing these items for himself.

Along with these gifts we’ll be giving Gary the $10 guitar stand I caught on a great sale in the late fall. That was one of the two things I had caught on sale.

The two men will share the long cuffed fireplace gloves I caught on another sale before the agreement. They are both always getting soot on their clothes or worse yet burned because their work gloves are too short cuffed for the job.

We’ll see what their imaginations have came up with for me, tomorrow. Both have been working very secretly today.

These are all simple gifts, but they are gifts from the heart, which is what we all wanted this year.

For the dogs I have pigs feet from a butchering thawing for them for a Christmas gift. A couple of minutes with fabric scraps at the sewing machine and there will be five new catnip toys for the cats.

Tonight’s supper will be our traditional Christmas Eve We started this a few years before my father in law passed. Alvin always said that by Christmas he was tired of traditional holiday meals of turkey and ham, that he’d much rather have Mexican food. So we had started having him and my mother in law over for an enchilada dinner on Christmas Eve each year so they could visit on Christmas day with some of the other kids.
Tonight’s supper menu is: (recipes to follow)

Cheese and Onion/Dairy-free Chicken and “Sour Cream” Enchiladas

Refried Beans

Mexican Rice

Tossed Salad

Iced Tea

Sopapillas and Honey

Please note that I do use canned enchilada sauce because I simply have not developed a good homemade one that can be made as cheaply as purchasing a can YET. If you have a good enchilada sauce recipe please post it in the comments section below.

I am sorry but this is a meal I basically cook by feel, so all measurements are sort of guess work.


Corn tortillas

Cheddar Cheese, grated (you can use dairy free cheese for these if desired

Onion, finely chopped

1 can Old El Paso Enchilada Sauce

Cooking Spray

Cooking oil, optional.

Before you start have all your ingredients ready. I set them up in the order I will be using them.

1. A plate to nuke the tortilla on

2. A shallow flat dish (I use a pie plate) in which I have poured the can of enchilada sauce. This needs to be big enough you can put the tortilla in flat and then turn it over to coat the tortilla

3. A plate to lay the tortilla on to fill it and roll it up with the cheese and onion sitting next to it.

4. The baking dish.

Spray the baking dish on both bottom and sides. Preheat the oven to 375 F.

To soften the corn tortillas you have two choices. You can either heat the optional cooking oil in a  skillet and then dip the tortilla in quickly to soften it to continue to the next step. OR you can simply microwave the corn tortillas approximately 15 seconds to soften it. Either way you need the corn tortilla to be pliable. It is best to do the tortillas one at a time.

Cook the tortillas by the method of your choice (I nuke ours to help cut the calories).

Place the soft tortilla in the enchilada sauce then turn it over quickly to coat both sides of the tortilla.

Place the tortilla on the next plate and place the desired amount of cheese slightly off center (remember you are going to roll these up and you want to capture the filling inside) sprinkle a little of the chopped onion on top of the cheese. Then roll the tortilla up to where the cheese and onion are captured inside the tortilla. Place seam side down in the baking dish.

Pour remaining enchilada sauce over the top of the pan of enchilada, top with more grated cheese and bake at 375 for 15-20 minutes or until all the cheese is melted.


Using the same method to do the tortillas as above I fill them with a combination of the onion, dairy-free sour cream (I use Tofutti brand), shredded cooked chicken and onions, sometimes with a little chopped black olive) then continue as with the cheese/onion ones either omitting the grated cheese on top or using dairy-free cheddar or pepper jack cheese.

JP NOTE: ds does not care for onions so I leave those out of his and mark his by sticking a tooth pick in the no onion ones for him to eat.


4 C cooked pinto beans, mashed with a small amount of the bean soup liquid

Cumin, Chili seasoning/powder, garlic (either powder or finely minced) onion (either powder or finely minced) all to taste

Enough cooking oil to coat the bottom of the cooking skillet to about 1/8 inch.

Heat the oil to “sizzle” in a skillet.

While heating mix the remaining ingredients together well in a bowl.

Once the oil is hot (375 F) place all the bean mixture in the skillet at once and “fry”, stirring constantly stirring the oil into the bean mixture. Cook until the desired consistency.


4 C cooked cold rice (I usually have cooked “leftover” rice in my freezer just for this purpose—well and for fried rice meals too)

Cumin, Chili seasoning/powder, garlic (either powder or finely minced) onion (either powder or finely minced) all to taste

Corn if desired

Chopped bell pepper if desired

Enough cooking oil to coat the bottom of the cooking skillet to about 1/8 inch.

Heat the oil to “sizzle” (375 F)  in a skillet.

While heating mix the remaining ingredients together well in a bowl.

Once the oil is hot place all the rice mixture in the skillet and stir fry until hot.


7 C all purpose flour

4 tablespoons sugar

8 teaspoons baking powder

4 teaspoons salt

¼ c shortening.

In a large bowl, combine dry ingredients and mix well. I use a wire whisk for this job. Cut in the shortening until it is well mixed in. Store in a labeled and dated airtight container in a cool dry place. Best if used within 10-12 weeks.


¼ c butter

2 c sopapilla mix

1 ½ tsp baking powder

Approximately 2/3 c milk

Coarse salt

Preheat oven to 450 F Melt butter in an 8 inch square baking pan while preheating the oven. Watch closely so it doesn’t burn, remove from oven as soon as the butter melts.

In a medium bowl mix the mix and baking powder together well. Stir in just enough milk to form a soft ball. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Knewad 8-10 times. Roll out dough to an 8 inch square, which should make it about ½ inch thick.

Cut in half. Cut each half into 4” x 1” strips. Dip each strip into the melted butter. Place in the pan with strips slightly touching. Sprinkle with the coarse salt. Bake 15-20 minutes until golden brown.


2 c sopapilla mix

2/3 c water

Oil for frying

In a medium bowl combine the mix and water to form a ball. Adjust water or mix as needed to make the dough ball easy to work with. On a lightly floured surface knead the dough 8-10 times. Divide into 8 pieces. Roll out each piece to a 6 inch circle. Set aside. Cover with a cloth to keep from drying out to much. If using for a taco you may want to form the dough to a slight bowl shape before frying. You could to this by forming it over an upside down bowl.

Heat frying oil to 375. Fry the totada/taco bowl until golden brown on both sides.

For tostada top with heated refried beans, grated cheese, shredded lettuce, chopped tomatoes, salt and pepper to taste, black olives or topping of choice.

For tacos use your favorite taco fillings, we use the Moo-Gurgle filling I’ve previously posted.


2 c sopapilla mix

About 2/3 c water

Oil for frying

Powdered sugar for garnish

Honey if desired.

In a medium bowl, combine mix and water. Mix until dough clings together, adjust water mix ratio if needed. Knead dough 8-10 times on a lightly floured surface. Cover and let rest for 20 minutes. Roll the dough out very thin then cut into 3 -4 inch squares. Heat 2-3 inch deep oil in a frying pan or use a deep fat fryer to 375 F. Fry until golden brown on one side, then using tongs turn over the sopapilla and continue frying until golden brown on that side as well. Sprinkle with powdered sugar. Serve hot with honey if desired. Makes about 20.

Christmas Day:

We slept in, with no little ones in the house and over a foot of snow outside we all decided this was the thing we wanted to do. We slept quite late. Then exchanged our gifts. The guys did quite well by me.

Dh remembered I had a large collage frame that I purchased a couple of years ago that I had been wanting to fill with various photos and hang over the tv. He found all the photos, printed and mounted them for me. It was a big job. He promises to hang it this next week. I’m thrilled with it!!

Ds gathered how to videos and sheet music to match up for me to learn to play the Dulcimer that I traded for many years ago but never learned how to play. He would like for us to start a new family tradition of the three of us playing music together on the holiday. So I have 1 year to learn at least some basic Christmas tunes. LOL! He says he’ll tune it for me. I think it will be fun to learn.

After a very late traditional breakfast of biscuits and gravy we realized that by the time I cooked the turkey that was not quite thawed it would be very, very late in the evening. So a vote was taken and we all decided we wanted to be total bums for at least one day. The turkey went back in the refrigerator to cook tomorrow.

We’ve had a very relaxing day of the guys playing video games together, me cheering them on while working on my garden plans for next year. A very unique Christmas I know, but it was so nice to just relax and not stress.

Outside over a foot of snow lays on top of 2 inches of ice, inside the fireplace is warm and cozy and we are all content. Snacking and relaxing as Christmas movies play on the tv in the evening hours.

It’s been a very good holiday.

Jan who thinks this non-commercial Christmas was a very good idea in OK



A blast from the past story.

If you have been on yahoo lists with me for a long time chances are you have read this story before. I’ve posted it more than once. If not here is the background on it. We moved to the ranch mid November 1997, by Christmas the main unpacking was done, but there were still much to be done. Yet we were determined to have a big country Christmas in our new home. Of course nothing went exactly as planned.

December 25, 1997

Let me tell you about the adventures of Christmas at the Patterson Rock and Tree Ranch.

On the day before Christmas Eve, Ma Patterson (that being me) spent the day baking, spit shining and doing all her little Suzy homemaker things. Pa Patterson (my hairy other half) came in and worked like a Trojan unpacking and wrapping for all those evening hours into the wee small hours of the morning.

On Christmas Eve, Ma and Pa loaded up and headed toward the big town of Norman to fetch their young'n Sean, and the granddoggers Katie and Erik. They arrived at Sean's homestead about 20 minutes ahead of his return from the wilds of the battle zone known as Toys R Us'n.

Bedraggled, looking rode hard and put up wet he quickly gathered his gear, whistled for his team of fine sled dogs and away we headed for the wilds of Wellston, aka: Grandpa and Grandma Patterson's. Arriving after the dinner hour for the rest of the clan our hearty trio wolfed down a good Christmas repast, then scurried to see what Santa had deposited under the tree for them.

All was good, Ma received a beautiful new home for her snow village and a good Rubbermaid barn bird feeder. Pa a gift certificate for do-dads for his favorite toy, the computer, and the young'n got a nice sweater and baseball cap. We were all down right pleased.

Shortly afterwards we scurried back to the ranch. After all, there were stockings to be hung, and critters to feed.

We tumbled to bed shortly after midnight and had a good night’s rest. A good thing for the next day had much in store for us.

Santa gifted us greatly and we were again, much pleased. But the Grinch had made a visit or two as well. At first it was considered minor problems. Ma spilled a little ham juice on the kitchen carpet. No problem, it was quickly cleaned and we moved on. Pa readied the fire in the Ashley, to keep all guests comfy cozy in the sun room if they should desire to get away from the hub bub of the main house.

Ma's grandmother and sibling arrived early, and were quickly underfoot in the kitchen, progress slowed to nearly a screeching stop. Finally, brother Jerry Earl was put to polishing silver on one end of the kitchen, Grandmother Felicia was put in the dining room filling relish plates and a rhythm of cooking and good spirits set in. On a break from the cooking a tour was given of the new homestead. Felicia was impressed, but noticed a slight line of water in the basement. Ma took a peek, “Uhhh, Pa, the water is rising, it is no longer a mere dampness around the edge” she said.

Pa replied he would check it in a minute.

Back in the kitchen the potatoes were peeled and the peelings fed to the goat under the sink. The goat didn't like them and brown murky water proceeded to back up in the next sink. Okay, we can handle this, Pa will plunger it when he takes a break from moving boxes in the sun room.

A voice was heard saying "I thought you said it was just a little water! It's an inch deep down here". Out to the back deck he flew. The sump pump was trying, but not working. Maybe the line is blocked? Out to the field with the granddoggers following along. No water could be found coming out of the line.

Grandma and Grandpa Patterson, with Aunt Evelyn arrived just then. Grandpa checks the basement, we are now up to three inches of water and it's rising quickly! Luckily, most of the
things are up off the floor, but even those are starting to get soggy around the edges.

Ma calls the previous owners and says “ HELP!!! The back up sump pump is not the same and the water is gaining.” Pa takes over phone, Ma rushes back to kitchen where more water
is now backed up in the sink.

Pa comes in and says "Katie is limping" Sean goes to check. A little blood and a limp,

barbed wire? We decide to keep an eye on her. Pa and Grandpa work feverishly trading out pumps and adapting the new one for the old set up.

Miss Dale calls to say she has a few minor problems and says she'll be late for lunch. That's okay, lunch was late for lunch. Finally at 1:30 we set down for the noon meal. As we are all on our second plateful someone asks where the stuffing is? IN THE OVEN!!!!! A quick scurry to the kitchen rescues the stuffing in the nick of time. Miss Dale arrives just in time for fresh from the oven stuffing.

Another check of Miss Katie, the limp is worse and she's definitely showing pain. Ma checks the granddogger and fears a break. A call to the local vet (7 miles away) arranges a meeting on this Christmas Day. $74 later Ma and Sean with a gift wrapped, splinted, drugged up Katie return to the
ranch. No break, just a badly bruised leg muscle from her new found freedom of running free in the country. The vet agrees that she's overweight and sent lower fat dog food home with us. Our peg legged Kate follows everyone who ventures out doors, looking extremely pitiful and in massive pain. Begging for treats to ease her pain.

Back at ranch, Grandma Felicia and Jerry have left, taking only part of their gifts with them (fleeing for their lives I do believe). Miss Dale and Grandma Pauline have made a valiant effort to clean the kitchen, but the sink and goat are still rebellious. So all they could do was fill the dishwasher and make massive stacks of the remaining dishes. Ma's had it, plunger in hand she attacks the belligerent goat. It surrenders, and all backed up water quickly vanishes.

The new sump pump working, Grandpa Alvin decides it's time to form a bucket brigade for the close to 4 inches of water in the basement. Soon all hands, dressed in their Christmas finery, are using 5 gallon buckets passed from person to person to the shower to remove the lower level of the indoor pool. This is continued until all backs have given out. We are down to less than an

inch. It is decided to rest awhile.

Evelyn, Pauline and Alvin leave. Aunt Faye and Uncle Tom arrive, offering all sorts of good intentioned advice on everything from water removal to weight loss. Clean up from the havoc of the day progresses slowly, no return to the basement while they are here can occur, the sump pump is humming. At 7:00 we lean gratefully against the door as the last guest leaves the drive. It has been a long hard day. A peek into the basement shows no increase in the water level. Pa wearily climbs the stairs to spend a wee bit of time with the young'n and Ma tries clearing the kitchen a bit more.

The bed beckoned us early, and we stayed there late the next morn. A quick peek into the basement revealed that the sump pump had pulled nearly all of the water back out of the basement, a cheer was heard. Much fabric will need to be laundered and dried, and we had to cancel our order for trout to stock the new cement pond, but a sewing room is much more needed than a 7th pond on the ranch.

Outside, pain pill in hand Ma ventured, whistling and searching, no granddoggers to be seen. Finally here they come from the back 40. Erik in the lead, a graceful Katie running full speed ahead, with NO SPLINT. No sign of pain, (the vet said it would take 2 weeks to heal) and no limp.

Back in the kitchen Pa peers into the over-stuffed refrigerator, and announces there's nothing in there to eat. Ma threatens his life. A vote was taken, we were both still too tired to deal with the day. Back to bed! Where we hid out most of the day, having snoring competitions.

Sean, who had spent the night on the computer, took advantage of the quiet to sleep until the late afternoon hours as well.

Once all were awake, a vote was taken and a journey to the local burger joint was made. So here it is late in the evening, the basement is dry, Kate is miraculously healed and all is well.

Hope your Christmas was a bit calmer than ours. Jan who just knows she’s going to love living in the country in OK

Wednesday, December 16, 2009



As I entered a small store in our little town I was greeted with “Hi, how you doing?” by a small man who I will call T. J. to protect his privacy.

“Just fine T.J., how are you today?”

“I’m ah, ah fine.” He responded then smiled brightly as he held the door open for me and offered me a shopping cart to put my work materials in.

As I went about the job I was there to do I thought about T.J. and what I knew about him. It was surprisingly little. I thought back to when I first moved here going on 13 years ago and how two different people “warned” me about T.J. being a little different.

Therefore, the first time he approached me I was a bit on guard not knowing what they meant, until he spoke. Yes, T.J. is a little different. He’s an honest caring soul. He likes everyone and strives hard to make sure everyone likes him. He is helpful, caring, and gentle. A rare commodity in this day and age.

Over the years I have had many conversations with T.J. the words spoken are often the same. We speak about general things, the weather, his new rings, his health, and the nice people of our small town. The conversations are always short, he never wants to be a bother. He is a true gentleman, he holds doors for everyone, and offers to carry packages for you. He is trusted by everyone that knows him. He generally cannot remember your name. To him I am the nice lady with the pretty dog that rides in my big pickup to the post office. He remembers the dog and tells me “You have the dog with two different eyes when he sees me.

I always respond “Yes, you are right T.J. she has one brown eye, one blue one.” He smiles and says “That’s uh, uh right.” Then smiles and says “She’s a good dog, pretty too.” This makes me smile too. I find him to be refreshingly different and I like his priorities in life. A nice dog is important. After the exchange of a few pleasantries he will say “Bye-bye now” and we will move on our separate ways.

As I set about my task at hand I heard the cashier of the store ask T.J. to let her know if anyone came to the cash register to be checked out, then reminded him he was indoors and he might want to take off his jacket. She does so with tenderness in her voice.

T.J. said “Yes, Ma’am” and immediately took off his jacket, neatly folds it and lays it in the small shopping cart behind him, where it would not be in anyone’s way. He, as always, is dressed in clean well pressed clothes, a button down shirt over a white t-shirt, both of which are tucked into his jeans which are held firm at his waist with a snug fitting belt.

Then he stationed himself at the door where he could see the cash register and still open the door for all that entered or exited. Each person was greeted with the same phrase “Hi, how you doing?” Then offers them a shopping cart, which he took out of the cart que for them.

As they left he would say “Thank you for coming.” When someone approached the register to be checked out he would leave his post just long enough to go to the front of the aisle that the cashier was working on to say “You have a customer.” Then immediately back to the door. He never left his post. He put up the shopping cart for the customer when they were finished with it. Then held the door open for them so they could exit easily telling them "Bye-bye now."

As various town folks came and went from this small store each would greet T.J. with a kind word. All called him by name in a kind voice. Some offered rides to different locations and activities with the local churches and school, for T.J. does not drive. Some inquired about his health, others it was simply a kind word. All were rewarded with a bright smile as he responded in his slow precise speech.

I mused as I watched these activities and thought about how many hundreds of times I had seen them repeated. Not just at this store, because he did not work there, he simply volunteered his services. I had seen time and time again all over the tiny town shop keepers, bank and postal employees, send him on small errands. Perhaps to deliver a  note or package to another shop keeper, to pick up a carry out from the local Mom and Pop burger joint or get change from the bank. He sweeps up here and there and always with that bright smile shining. All know and trust T.J. and yes, we all love this special needs man in our own way. He is after all T.J. We would not be the same without him in our lives. He has enriched all of our souls.

We are blessed to have him here in our little town. He shows us that goodness comes in all shapes, sizes and abilities. T. J. thrives here because we are a small town. He can walk safely to and from where ever he goes without a “guardian”. He can live independently and have pride in doing so.

Gray is showing in T.J.’s dark hair now, it makes me wonder how old he is. I know he’s had some heart trouble and cannot imagine our little town without him. I pray we will be blessed with him for a long time yet, because we as a town need the hope T.J. holds for all of us.

He asks nothing of any of us, and gives us all so much every day.

Yes T.J. is different, and I thank the Lord he is because he shows us the true meaning of God’s love and Christmas all year round.

Jan who is very thankful to have met T.J. that bright fall day so many years ago in OK

Sunday, December 6, 2009


Includes recipe for Corn Dog and Wacky Cake Master Mixes, Uses and Variations

December 6, 2009

In an effort to be as frugal as possible  we, as adults, decided to go non-cash for birthdays and Christmas this year. It’s a bit of a challenge, but we are celebrating with gifts of love instead of cash. We are also on the Dave Ramsey “Beans and Rice, Rice and Beans meal plan.” Meaning we are purchasing as little as possible in the grocery department and living off our food storage. Some times it’s a bit of a challenge.

Generally for Sean’s birthday we go to a restaurant of his choice, where he picks anything he wants from the menu and then to a movie of his choice. Then home to store purchased gifts.

This year to celebrate Sean’s 35th birthday, yesterday, he slept as late as he wanted instead of getting up to do morning chores with us. He got up around lunch time asking if we had any corn dogs or master mix made up. Nope, but that was no problem. It took only minutes to make up the mix—recipe at end of the post, and then the dogs.

Gary took over making his son’s requested lunch. He fixed the Corn Dogs, Corn Treats and Butterfly potatoes for a wonderful hot fried meal. We know all that fried foods aren’t good for us, but this was to be a special treat day.

A note here. Butterfly Potatoes are like those you see at the fair. The spiral cut super thin potatoes. I am blessed enough that I have a homemade version of the slicer they use to make the cutter for them. We use it often for potatoes (both white and sweet), other root vegetables and onions to make homemade chips and haystack fried onions. I keep telling dh, Gary, he needs to draw up a pattern for one for friends, but so far he’s not done it. If he ever should we will post it. It’s similar to an apple corer/slicer, but cuts  much thinner.

You could use a mandolin slicer set on super thin to do similar flat not spiral chips and onions haystacks, we like the flair of the spiral though.

Once the lunch was finished we all climbed the stairs to Sean’s area to work on his big birthday present. We started this last weekend and worked on it on and off during the week between chores and mystery shops.

For a very long time he’s been wanting to rearrange his room and cull as much as possible from it. He also wanted to remove the old carpeting at his outside door to remove the some of the allergy causing/aggravating dust from his area of the house. It sounds like a simple task until you realize this area is a VERY large room that contains 100’s of books, cds and dvds. Our gift to him was to help him get the room exactly the way he wanted it.

At one point last weekend Gary asked if we could go back to giving him a toy train like we did when he was little. We were very tired at that point. Man that young man has a LOT of books! Four large bookcases worth. Each book is being thoroughly vacuumed for dust as we go. They, along with the cd and dvds will be put back in a precise order per ds’ instructions.

Dh and I had a lot of stuff stored in his walk-in closet as well that we are culling and preparing to sell so it’s been very slow going. We are finally to the put back stage and it is now shaping up quickly. Everything is being organized completely, as ds has requested.

Dinner last night was a homemade version of three way chili using the Master Mix for Moo Gurgle and the Master Mix for Spaghetti Meatballs served on top of either spaghetti noodles or macaroni.  We used macaroni last night because we are out of spaghetti and I didn't want to take time to make some at that point.  I was TIRED. He wanted a Wacky Cake for dessert. Wacky Cake is an eggless chocolate cake that is frosted when hot.

For his birthday movie he actually choose two. One we had not seen, one we had from his vast dvd collection. Sweeny Todd and Monsters vs Aliens—weird combo I know, but we do have a variety of tastes.

I must confess I fell asleep during the Monsters vs Aliens, I’d seen it before, so no matter. The guys woke me up to send me to bed, something about my snoring drowning out the movie. LOL! So three of the cats and I went to bed.

The guys then played X-box until 4:30 am.

Sean said it was a very satisfying birthday, when he crawled out of bed late this afternoon.

Jan who is hoping for a similar day of “gifting” on her birthday January 6th in OK

Now for the recipes:


4 C instant powdered milk

¾ C sugar

2 Tbl salt

4 Tbl baking powder

8 C cornmeal

4 C flour

Mix all ingredients together well, place in an airtight container, label and date. Store in a cool dark place.


Corn Dogs—makes 12-14 Corn dogs

1 C water

2 medium eggs, slightly beaten

¼ C. oil

2 to 2 ¼ cups master mix

1 to 1 ½ pounds frankfurters

Flour for dusting, roughly ½ c

Popscycle sticks

Oil for deep frying.

Preheat your oil to 375. I prefer using a deep fat fryer for this, but they can be done in a deep pan, just be VERY careful you do not boil the oil over on to the stove. Use a DEEP pan. No fires allowed!

Mix the water and eggs together well then slowly stir in the dry mix, blend well. The mixture should be slightly thick, add more water or mix to adjust to the desired thickness as needed.

Dry the franks well. Dust with flour. These are two important steps if you do not dry the franks and then dust them the batter will not stick to them.

Skewer the franks with the popscycle sticks in one end. Set aside, prepare all the franks at once.

Fill a glass that is taller than the franks are long with the batter. Dip the franks in the glass one at a time until well coated. Do this slowly so as to not overflow your batter out of the glass. Once the frank is well coated slowly pull it out of the glass and let the excess drip off back into the glass. Add more batter as needed to the glass.

Quickly, but in a safe manner, place the frank into the smoking hot oil. Cook until golden brown. If your pan is big enough you can cook a few at a time, but you do not want to over crowd them because that will cool your oil too much. Hot oil is essential in a well cooked corn dog.

Remove from oil when golden brown and place on paper towels to drain. Repeat until either the desired number of corn dogs are made OR until you run out of batter. We cook until the batter is all used up then drain and cool the excess corn dogs well. Then they are put in individual freezer bags, labeled and dated for quick meals on the go.


From a frozen state heat in a preheated oven at 375 for 18-20 minutes, or until heated through.

VARIATIONS:--most can be frozen and re-heated as above.

Corn Pups—can be done in a fondue pot if desired

Cut the franks in small sections and simply roll in a bowl of the mix instead of using the dip method (or you can use tooth picks and dip them).

Cocktail Pups—can be done in a fondue pot if desired

Use cocktail wieners instead of frank sections

Sausage dogs—Can be done in a fondue pot if desired

Use segments of any sausage you like, Polish, Kielbsa, Links, etc.

Meatball dogs—can be done in a fondue pot if desired.

Use pre-cooked meatballs—see Meatball Master Mix

Cheddar bites—Use 1 inch squares of your favorite cheese

Veggie Fritters—can be done in a fondue pot as well
Cut up veggies into bite sized pieces, then dip in batter that has been mixed up as for corn dogs. Deep fry until golden brown. Serve with favorite dressing such as Buttermilk Ranch or Chiptole Ranch dressing.

Jalapeno/pepper Poppers

Take any fresh pepper of the hotness desired Jalapeno, Pablano, Bell, Chiptole etc. Slice open and scrape out seeds. I recommend wearing gloves while doing this. Insert a small cube of your favorite cheese (Cheddar, Mozzarella, Cream etc) Fold pepper back over cheese, dip in the batter and fry as you would the corndogs.

Fish/Seafood Nuggets

Dip bite size nuggets into the batter then deep fry until golden brown and fish flakes.


Johnny or Hoe Cakes

Make the mix as above, only add more water, thin to pancake batter consistency and cook like pancakes on a hot griddle.

Corn treats—great way to use up excess batter.

Deep fry drops of the batter as mixed for corndogs until golden brown, salt or season as desired when you first take them out of the oil.—You could do it like a funnel cake too, but not too thick.


Use slightly more water in the mix and bake in a greased pan at 350 for approximately 30 minutes or until golden brown—pan size depends on thickness desired.

VARIATIONS on cornbread:

Corny Cornbread

Add a can of Cream Style corn when adding the egg and water.

Jalapeno Cornbread

Add 1-2 diced jalapeno (or more if desired)

¼-1/2 cup grated mild cheddar cheese to mix.

Hamburger Casserole Cornbread

Make the Jalapeno Cornbread as above but add ½ pound cooked ground beef for an 8 X 8 pan or a 1 pound to a 9 X 13 pan and 1 can of cream style corn. Cook at 350 until golden brown.—This is excellent served with a pot of brown beans.


9 C flour

1 T salt

6 C sugar

¾ C Cocoa

Mix together well. I use a whisk for this task. Place in an airtight container. Label and date. Store in a cool dry place.

To use:

Pre-heat oven to 350.

Place 2 ½ cups of the mix directly into the 9 x 13 baking pan you will bake this in.


6 T. cooking oil

1 T. Vinegar (either white or apple cider will work—I’ve even used rice vinegar in a pinch)

1 tsp vanilla

1 C water

Stir ingredients together well.

Bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes or until done. It is done when a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

While the cake is baking mix together:

2 C powdered sugar

2 T. cocoa

Then mix in until smooth

½ c. butter

2-3 tsp cream

When the cake comes out of the oven pierce it several times with a fork. Then frost immediately with the topping.


Add to the dry mix before adding liquids baking chips such as mini chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, chopped fine candy bars—you know those that you purchased on sale after a holiday, and/or nuts.

A bit of mint extract can be added for a minty version as well.

Serve it a la mode with your favorite ice cream if desired