Homesick Texan’s Tamale Pie

This savory dish reminds me of my childhood.  Where I live now, Tex-Mex food is scarce (read non-existent) so I find myself trying to re-create it at home.  While this is not a dish typically served in a Tex-Mex restaurant, it is one set on many tables in my home state of Texas.  Did I mention that I miss Texas?

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. Ground Turkey (or Ground Beef)
  • 1/2 Medium Onion, Chopped
  • 1 Stalk Celery, Chopped
  • 2 lg. Garlic Cloves, Chopped
  • 1/2 Bell Pepper (or 3 Mini Bell Peppers), Chopped
  • 1/2 c. Black Olives, Chopped
  • 1 10 oz. Can Tomatoes with Chilis
  • 1 c. Frozen Yellow Corn
  • 1 t. Chili Powder
  • 1 t. Sweet or Smoky Paprika
  • 1 T. Sugar
  • Salt and Pepper to Taste
  • 1 1/4 c. Monterrey Jack or Cheddar Cheese (or both), Grated
  • 1 box Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix
  • 1 Egg
  • 1/3 c. Milk

Preparation Instructions:

In skillet, brown ground turkey with onion, celery, garlic, and bell pepper.  Drain if necessary.

Tamale Pie - Ground Turkey SauteAdd olives, canned tomatoes, corn, salt, pepper, chili powder, paprika, sugar, and grated cheese.

Freshly grated cheese seems to have more flavor.  This is a mixture of Monterrey Jack and Cheddar.

Freshly grated cheese seems to have more flavor. This is a mixture of Monterrey Jack and Cheddar.

In medium bowl, mix Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix with egg and milk.  Set aside.

Prepare deep dish pie plate by spraying non-stick spray.  Pour meat mixture into the pie dish.

So colorful!

So colorful!

Spoon corn muffin mixture onto the meat mixture.  Gently spread it evenly over the meat.

Tamale Pie - Cornbread ToppingBake in 400 degree oven for around 20 minutes or until golden brown.

Tamale Pie - BakedCut into wedges and serve!  This recipe can be doubled and baked in a 9×13 inch baking dish.

I served this on my fun fiesta-style plates from HEB.  I miss HEB!

I served this on my fun fiesta-style plates from HEB. I miss HEB!

Provecho!

 

 

 

Fourth of July Table Decor


It’s a celebration, Y’all!  America’s turning 239 years old!  Our family is celebrating with ribs, sausage links, potato salad, broccoli salad, watermelon, and sweet iced tea.  We haven’t decided on a dessert yet.  It could be a cookie cake decorated like our flag or an apple or strawberry pie.  Hmmm, decisions…

I love decorating for holidays but I haven’t really collected things to decorate for the 4th of July in a while.  I decided to give myself a $5 spending limit and look for something that inspired me from a thrift store.  I broke my budget…big time.  I came across an adorable teddy bear in a patriotic dress and she became my inspiration for this holiday tablescape.  She cost $6.99.

Teddy Bear Inspiration!

Teddy Bear Inspiration!

I figure I can look for more outfits for my new (old) bear and fit her into other holiday table decor.  Still thrifting, I found the striped “vase” with muted colors and decided to put a few sparklers inside and a greenery ball on top of it.  I don’t care how old I get, I still love sparklers!

Chair DIY Ringling June 2015 183

 

I checked out the linens department and found these navy/cream napkins with stars on them.  How perfect are they?  I kept looking and discovered a couple of yards of striped fabric to use as a table runner.

4th of July Tablescape Plate and Napkin

A small basket holds the iron star found at a flea market last summer, along with a bell (Let freedom ring!) and a greenery ball for a punch of color.  The blue/white polka dot fabric is a scarf I already had.

4th of July Tablescape Basket Contents

I added a picture of my mom and dad in their honor and because I miss them.  Isn’t that picture adorable?  They were newlyweds.

Buffet Style

Buffet Style!

I also found this candle holder and thought it would make a cute napkin holder if I wanted to serve buffet style.  I just love playing around with these things!

I hope you and your family enjoy the celebration of our GREAT country – The United States of America!

In God We Trust!  One Nation Under God!  Indivisible!  God bless America!

What Should I Do After High School? Five Steps to Help You Decide



Are you unsure of what the next step is after High School?  Not sure whether to go to college or not?  Not sure what to major in if you do?  Try the five steps below to help you gain some insight about yourself and to explore the possibilities that are awaiting you.

Step 1:  List

List 10 things that interest you.  Which one interests you the most?

Step 2:  Evaluate

List what you think your strengths and God-given talents are.  Ask parents,           grandparents, family members, or close friends what they see as your greatest strengths and gifts.  Compare.  You may be surprised at what others see in you!

Step 3:  Research

Consider which jobs relate to your interests and ask yourself these questions:

Would I prefer working indoors or outdoors?  Would I prefer working with a set schedule or set my own hours?  Am I a morning person or a night owl? After you have answered these questions do some research.

For a peek at U. S. News & World Reports The 100 Best Jobs click http://www.money.usnews.com/careers/best-jobs/rankings/the-100-best-jobs.

The United States Department of Labor puts out an Occupational Outlook Handbook.  Check out what they list as the fastest growing and new jobs http://www.bls.gov/ooh/.

Image Courtesy of jscreationzs at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image Courtesy of jscreationzs at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Step 4:  Explore

Discuss with others and explore how to achieve your dream job.  There are so many options available!

Did you know that gap years are popular in Europe and Australia?  It’s catching on in the United States.  Taking a gap year before college can be advantageous in many ways. Click http://www.usnews.com/education/blogs/the-college-solution/2010/07/20/8-things-to-know-about-a-gap-year to learn more about what a gap year is. There are companies that can help you plan your gap year.  Follow http://www.americangap.org/planning.php to see an example of one.

Step 5:  Set Goals.

What steps need to be taken in order to reach my goal?  What do I see myself doing in five years?  Ten years?  Write it down!  You are more likely to achieve goals that you have written down.

Try not to feel overwhelmed.  Life is a journey, not a race.  There are things to be learned from every experience.  Draw wisdom from them and make a commitment to be a lifetime learner.  You won’t regret it.

As a Christian, I encourage you to pray about what God wants you to do.  In the words of that great lady, Corrie Ten Boom, “Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.”  May God bless you on your journey!

Jeremiah 29-11

 

Tarpon Springs, Florida Day Trip



If there is one thing I’ve learned living the soccer life, it’s to explore the city where you live and its surrounding areas.  Treat your current living situation as if it is temporary (because sometimes it is) and live like a tourist!

My daughter and I recently went on a day trip to Tarpon Springs, Florida while my husband was away coaching a soccer game.  Since it is located one and a half hours from where we live, this was the perfect spot to go and explore without finding overnight accommodations.  With supposedly the highest percentage of Greek Americans than any city in the U.S. our spirits were high (well, mine were) as we looked forward to immersing ourselves in the closest thing that we were going to see of Greek culture.

We proceeded through town, passing some lovely antique stores that looked promising to explore, but put those aside for another day.  Upon arriving at the Sponge Docks we parked ($3) and proceeded to walk down Dodecanese Blvd.  Along here we found various souvenir-type shops with several of them selling sponges….of ALL shapes and sizes.

Ornamental Sponges

Ornamental Sponges

Tarpon Springs Sponges 2

As always, there were some “interesting” souvenirs offered up to those whose money was burning a hole in his/her pocket.

Gator Claw Back Scratcher

Gator Claw Back Scratcher

While browsing through one of these stores called Spongeorama we entered their Sponge Diving Museum (FREE) in the back of the store.  The museum gives some interesting history on the sponge industry but  is in urgent need of some cleaning and updating.  The store offers a free 20 minute video that also tells about the history.  We skipped the video and continued to explore.

Tarpon Springs - Sponge Bicycle

 

Yia Yia

Yia Yia

Walking along the dock area we found a couple of sponge diving boats that were tied up.

Sponge Diving Boat

Sponge Diving Boat

There are a couple of cruise line companies available to take you out for a sponge-diving demonstration, dolphin watching, and even a lunch or dinner cruise.  We weren’t ready to try out our “sea” legs yet so we continued walking.

Tarpon Springs Sponge Diver Statue

We passed a few Greek restaurants when suddenly I spotted it…the very place where I knew I could find what I was really looking for.

Hellas Bakery

Hellas Bakery

It was mid-afternoon and time for a coffee break and a sweet treat.

Tarpon Springs Bakery Goodies

It all looked so delicious!  I decided to try their Greek coffee and… now let me see…

Baklava

Baklava

There it was – the baklava!  I couldn’t resist it.  The thought of that honey and nuts was what I was craving.  We decided to enjoy it outside at a table.  The coffee had a lot of dregs in the bottom.  They were supposed to be there.  That was something I didn’t know about Greek coffee.  Don’t drink what’s in the bottom of the cup!  Now I know!  The baklava, however, was exquisite.

During the early evening tables were set up by restaurants along the street which had been blocked off.  We had a seat on a bench and enjoyed watching a group of brave souls who were partaking of a free lesson in Greek dancing.  This was followed by a live band playing Greek music while diners enjoyed what looked to be a scrumptious meal with good conversation and laughter.

Tarpon Springs - Greek Bouzouki

Greek Bouzouki

We closed the day out by sharing a Greek Spaghetti meal called Makaronada at Costas Restaurant.  A popular appetizer enjoyed by several in the restaurant was Saganaki – or flaming cheese.  It was a sight to behold!  Maybe we’ll try that next time.  Opa!

 

 

Super Affordable Front Door Decor for Spring



Spring Door Decor

Spring Door Decor

I love to shop Thrift Stores, Goodwill, and Dollar Tree to come up with inexpensive, yet beautiful decorations for my home.  This arrangement cost me around $7 to make using a few things I already had plus a few non-budget breaking finds.

Paris Can – $2.99 from Goodwill

Pussy Willow Stalk – $1 from Dollar Tree

3 White Hydrangea Blooms – $3 from Dollar Tree

2 Ivy Plants – Free, I already had these on hand.  Look at thrift stores to find similar items, which is where I got these a while back.

I stuffed the bottom of the can with newspaper since it is deep.  I then placed some floral foam that I had left over from another arrangement (bought at Dollar Tree some time ago) on top of the newspaper.

I have noticed that many arrangements have a triangle formation so that is what I was shooting for.  I think it could have used one more hydrangea bloom at the bottom but when I went back to Dollar Tree I couldn’t find another one.  Maybe I’ll find something else to put there…a bow, a bird perhaps.  I’ll keep looking!

Don’t be afraid to try creating something.  You might be surprised to find a talent you didn’t know you had.

Happy Spring!

Easter With Mom

Easter came and went, as it tends to do.  I wasn’t prepared for the flooding of grief that I felt.  Yes, I know that we have hope because of Christ’s resurrection.  Yes, I know my mother is in Heaven having a much better time than we are having here on Earth. Yes, I believe that I will see her again one day.   And yet…

But then, during Easter weekend Mom made her presence known to me.  She was in the smell of the eggs boiling on the stove, the crinkle of the newspaper being laid down to dye the eggs.  She was even in the crackle of the candy bags as I opened them and prepared Easter baskets.  She was there telling me that ham is always good for an Easter meal and to make sure to get pictures of everyone in their Easter clothes.

I read a quote that resonated with me soon after the death of both of my parents in the same year.  “There is no experience quite as stunning as when there is nothing where something has always been.  To try and imagine the thing itself, not the hole left behind…especially when that thing has the first face you probably ever saw, spoke the first words you ever heard, and whose touch has comforted and guided and corrected and made you safe since the beginning of time.”  Alexander Levy, The Orphaned Child.

I was stunned when she died.  I am still stunned. It has been one year.  They didn’t tell me how much it would hurt.  They didn’t tell me that I would belong to a new society, the part of society that knows grief and pain.  This society is its own entity.  You only belong to it when you have been through sorrow and grief.  Those who have not experienced it will not understand.  It feels to me like a secret society where only its members can give a nod of understanding to its fellow members.  It is a society to which you have no desire to become a member and yet it is thrust upon you.

There is comfort, though, in the knowledge that my mom will live on…through me, through my children, through our traditions, through our stories.  I want her to know…that I will be expecting her next Easter as well.

Easter circa 1968.  Mom was taking the picture, of course.

Easter circa 1968. Mom was taking the picture, of course. Pictured are: Dad (Pastor Marion Martin), Bobby, Garry, Julie, and Barry. I loved getting a new Easter dress, hat, gloves, and a purse.

For I have satiated the weary soul, and I have replenished every sorrowful heart.  Jeremiah 31:25

 

Banana Walnut Pancakes



My husband woke up with a hankering for pancakes on Saturday.  I, being the thoroughly (and sometimes not) prepared housewife that I am, did not have the usual ingredients on hand when I prepare them from scratch.  So, wanting to make him happy I scrambled around seeing what ingredients I did have and this is the recipe I came up with.

Pancakes 016

Good heavenly days, these were amazing!  I think the Greek vanilla yogurt gave the pancake just the right amount of vanilla essence that pushed the flavor over the top!

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups Heart Healthy Bisquick
  • 1 cup unsweetened Almond Milk
  • 1/4 cup Greek Vanilla Yogurt (plus a little of the liquid that collects on top of yogurt for moisture)
  • 1 egg
  • 2 Bananas, sliced
  • 1/4 cup Chopped Walnuts
  • Caramel Sundae Syrup

Instructions:

  1. Mix together Bisquick, almond milk, yogurt plus liquid, and egg.
  2. Prepare pancakes in non-stick pan or griddle.
  3. Top with sliced bananas, chopped walnuts, and caramel sundae syrup

Buen Provecho!

 

Chulita’s Taco Soup



Chulita’s Taco Soup is one of THE most requested meals in my family.  Its name derives from my oldest son’s nickname for me – Julita (pronounced Chulita by my son).  The ingredients have evolved over the years and this is the most current version of it.  It’s a fairly quick and hearty meal to prepare that you can change up depending what ingredients you have on hand.

I often double the recipe so that my family can have leftovers.  I found out after my sons graduated from high school that they would sell my taco soup at school in exchange for something they didn’t get at home (fried food).  Apparently, this taco soup was a top seller!

Chulita's Taco Soup

 

 

There are certain canned foods that I always keep in my pantry and among those are the necessary ingredients for my taco soup.  For this recipe you can use ground beef or ground turkey.

See?  These are pretty simple ingredients to have handy.

See? These are pretty simple ingredients to have handy.

The Secret Ingredients

The Secret Ingredients

 

Salt and Pepper

Salt and Pepper

Sharp Cheddar - my favorite!

Sharp Cheddar – my favorite!

Chulita’s Taco Soup

Ingredients:

  • 3 lbs. ground beef or ground turkey
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped (optional)
  • 1 15.5 oz. can of yellow hominy, with liquid (may use a can of corn or frozen corn if you prefer)
  • 1 15 oz. can of Ranch Style Beans (or chili beans)
  • 1 14.5 oz. can of fire roasted crushed tomatoes (or regular crushed tomatoes if you prefer)
  • 1 can of water (may add more water depending on how soupy you like your soup)
  • 1 4 oz. can of diced green chilis
  • 1 t. cumin
  • 1 t. Tex Joy Steak Seasoning
  • 1 t. garlic powder (I use chopped garlic and garlic powder)
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 6-8 corn tortillas cut into narrow strips (optional)
  • 8 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (I think pre-shredded cheese loses flavor so I prefer the block cheese)
  • Optional Garnishes – sour cream, avocado chunks, chopped green onions, corn chips, cilantro

Preparation:

  1. Brown meat with onion and garlic.  Drain.
  2. Add seasonings, hominy with its liquid, beans, chilis, tomatoes, and water.  Let simmer 10-15 minutes.
  3. Just before serving, cut tortillas into strips and put into soup.  Alternately, you could cut the tortillas into strips and brown them a little in oil, making a crunchy topping.
  4. Serve over white rice.  Garnish with cheese and other optional garnishes as desired.

Recipe Photos 027

Buen Provecho!

 

 

Packing for Temporary Housing



Packing Up

Packing Up

One of my favorite quotes is from Peter Pan.   It says, “Would you like an adventure now or shall we have our tea first?”  I love tea and adventures!  Moving has certainly given us the opportunity to explore and enjoy new opportunities which I see as adventures.

Our current adventure is taking us from Texas to Florida.  We’re leaving my home state and my older children.  I’m a sad mama.  My baby (she’s 16) is the only child moving with us.  We will be in temporary housing for two months while we look for somewhere to live.   We’ve done this whole thing before and I have learned a few things along the way to make us feel a little more at home while we live in temporary housing.

Although living in a hotel or condominium can be a luxury (housekeeping and maintenance) not to mention the free soap, shampoo, and conditioner (Hey, I love saving money)!, it can feel, well, not so homey.  Here is my not-so-exhaustive list of what I like to bring with me during these times.

Kitchen Essentials

Spices – I bring the ones I use the most.  Since I was leaving Texas I brought along my Southeast Texas staple spice – Texjoy.

Sharp Knife – Knives in a lot of condominiums are not sharp so I have learned to bring my best one.

Measuring Cups and Spoons – While these are not essential, the last two condominiums where we stayed have not provided these.  I brought my own since I do actually use them for baking.

Rice Pot – I cook rice every day the Colombian way.  I have a certain pot that works best.  I know and love this pot.  (It traveled in the spare tire well on the way here.)

Recipes – I have a few favorites that I couldn’t leave behind like Chocolate Sheet Cake (for birthdays) and Pumpkin Bread.

I wish I would have had room for my crock pot.  I’m missing it!

Records and Office Supplies

Passports, Driver’s Licenses, Social Security Cards, Vaccination Records, Medical Records, School Records – These can and should be kept in a safe if one is provided.  Protect your personal information!

Bill File or Notebook with previous and upcoming bill information, Information on movers, Calendar with important dates to remember (Don’t trust your memory because moving is stressful and you need to have reminders in place.)

Scissors, Tape, Pens, Pencils, Paper, Paper Clips, Note Pad – These can be tucked into a small bag or case and will come in handy.

USB Memory Stick – Since most of us don’t travel with our copier/printer you may need to load a file onto this and find an Office Depot or the library where you can get copies or printouts made.  Don’t forget to take some change with you to feed into the printer/copier machine!

Medicines

Prescription Medicines

Pain Relievers, Allergy Medications, Stomach Medicine, Basic First Aid Supplies

Extra Comforts

Yankee Candle – Our family’s favorite scent is Spiced Pumpkin.  This definitely makes us feel like we are at home.

Throw Blanket – These are great to snuggle up in and are usually not provided at a hotel or condominium.

Pillow – My husband takes his pillow everywhere!  If you like your pillow, take it with you.

Bedding – While most places provide bedding, some children might like to have their favorite quilt which can be of great comfort at bedtime.  If you have room for it, go ahead and take it with you.

Toys – A few favorites plus a board game, cards, etc. are great for entertainment.  Try to make this time of transition as fun as possible.

Books – I brought my Bible, Bible Study Guide, Quote Journal, and a few books by some of my favorite authors.  We cannot join the library until we have a permanent address so we have been visiting Thrift Stores to find a few more books to read.  We can always donate them back when we are done with them.

Electronics

Computer/Power Cord

IPad or Tablet/Power Cord

Camera/Charger

Phone/Charger

You get the idea…don’t forget the power cords and chargers!

Extras

Small Sewing Kit

Super Glue

Small Tools

Flashlight

You never know when you will need some of these things.

I’m sure you’ll remember a few things that I’ve left off.  Please share some of your experiences and let me know any of your suggestions.

“Second star to the right and straight on ’til morning!”  ~Peter Pan

Sunset on Anna Maria Island, Florida

Sunset on Anna Maria Island, Florida

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Favorite Color

When I was a little girl my favorite color was sea green.  We used to live in a small town whose utility trucks were that color and every time I would see one of those trucks around town I would yell out, “There’s my favorite color!”  I’m sure there were eye rolls from my brothers because we saw those trucks a lot!

I did not realize I was in the minority with my love for this color until I was in the “Little Miss China” pageant in China, Texas.

The pageant coordinators had us fill out a form with information about ourselves.  When it was my turn to walk on stage I heard myself described.  “Julie has blonde hair and brown eyes.  She enjoys playing with Barbie dolls and riding her bicycle.  When she grows up, Julie wants to be a nurse.  Her favorite color is green.”

I listened as the emcee described the other girls in the pageant.  “Rhonda’s favorite color is pink.  Susan’s favorite color is pink.  Kelly’s favorite color is pink.”  Wait, am I the only one who likes green???

I didn’t get to wear the tiara that day and in my child’s mind I thought that it was probably because I had put the “wrong” color for my favorite color.

Image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

Image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

I had a choice to make after that.  I could either continue choosing sea green as my favorite color or try to fit in by saying that my favorite color was pink.  I chose the former.  Why would anyone want to choose a color from the 24 count box of crayons when you could choose from the 64 count box?

Since those years in the 1970s we have moved on to spectacular crayons with metallic and fluorescent colors as well as scented crayons.  We even have a 120 count crayon box now.  With colors like Unmellow Yellow, Sunglow, Macaroni & Cheese, Atomic Tangerine, Magic Mint, Banana Mania, and Outer Space we see that life really is full of an amazing array of colors.

I kind of see people like crayons.  We are all different shades with various talents and personalities.

Perhaps instead of red, you are closer to a Razzmatazz or instead of green, you are a Screamin’ Green.

Maybe you feel like you don’t fit in that 8 count crayon box.  Have you ever thought that maybe you weren’t meant to?  I don’t think Albert Einstein and Ludwig van Beethoven would have fit in that box.  Do you?

We are all unique with God-given talents and gifts.  We are meant to use the ones He has given to each of us and be a blessing to others.

Mark Twain once said, “We are always more anxious to be distinguished for a talent which we do not possess than to be praised for the fifteen that we do possess.”  Why is that?

There is a place in this world that only you can fill.  Don’t fall into self-doubt.  Embrace your talents.  Use them for the benefit of others.  Be the blessing.

Now, open up that 120 count box of crayons and choose a color!