Monday, February 1, 2016

Sheet Rock Dust & Puppy Breath

 Just found this old blog post that I'd never gotten around to posting. This was written over a year ago in 2014!   Normally, I'd just delete it, but although the information is outdated, the message is timeless.  GOD knew I needed to hear it today and hopefully there is someone else out there who may need to hear it as well.  So, here it goes:

I love it when the Holy Spirit opens our eyes to something that we didn't realize about ourselves.   This morning, I'm walking around an hour after I woke up wondering why I'm still in pain.   I have autoimmune issues, one of which is RA.  For some, it makes our joints get really stiff & painful anytime you are still, which is why it's hard to take long trips in a car or sleep all night long.   I don't talk about things like this much, so listen up.  LOL    I felt led to share what I learned about myself this morning & maybe God is talking to you too.    Anyway...back to my story...

Usually, when I wake up, I have to take a pain pill immediately.  Then I try to get up & stretch a little.  No matter what I do in the morning, it takes a good 20-30 minutes before I'm out of pain enough to get rolling along.  So.... this morning I was still in pain after an hour!  Things begin running through my head that could be causing my pain to a cold front moving through? what did I do yesterday that would have aggravated my joints?   As I mentally clicked possible reasons off of the list that was internally playing in my head, I realized that none of those applied.  Which usually is NOT good news.  Because sometimes it means the last thing on my list:  Am I getting ready for a flare?    For the uninitiated folks to autoimmune disease, a "flare" is a period of time during which your disease comes out of remission and begins exhibiting symptoms, despite your medication regime or treatment plan.    Well, as I was thinking & walking, I happen to glance down & see my pain pill on the floor next to my bed.  Yes, the very same pill that I thought I'd taken an hour ago.     This illustrated to me a truth about myself that I needed to hear today.   Sometimes we go along "wallowing" in pain (emotional or physical) without doing anything constructive toward releasing ourselves from that pain.  

You see, I've been wallowing lately.   A lot.    Currently I have very unsuccessfully been dodging the emotional pain of dealing with 2 of my 3 sons moving hundreds of miles away to different states.  Add that to the fact that I had to retire at the beginning of the year so I have all this time on my hands now. I feel like I'm walking around with a hole in my heart.   I knew this day was coming.  Or, at least, for one of them I did.  My youngest son, a 2nd Lt. in the USAF went to college on a military academic scholarship. I knew it was his dream to become a pilot someday.  I also knew that, as nice as it was to get a free LSU Engineering Degree,  the time would come that he would have to pay the piper.    Thank goodness it's something he's well suited for and that fits the desires of his heart.   The 5 years of his undergraduate degree should have fully prepared me for D-Day (aka Departure Day), but it was still painful as his momma to see my children move away.   Throw in with that my middle son's sudden departure immediately after graduating with his Master's Degree in Social Work from LSU.   I always knew there was a possibility that he'd move away.   What I didn't know was that it would be so soon.  He was keeping his options open and it just so happened a door opened in Chicago, IL.    Again, I'm so happy for both of them to become who they wanted to become when they grew up.   That being said, as any nurturing mother will tell you, it's just plain old sad to see them leave.   Especially when we know it's likely to be a permanent thing.       I did what I call my "World Mom-ination Tour" this past summer.   Six weeks out from back surgery, I got on a plane to Chicago & spent a week with Son #2.   I spent most of the time trying to figure out how to get from point A to point B in the Windy City.  Very little time sight seeing and not a lot of one-on-one time with him, but it was still wonderful just to see his face every day. Plus I got to spend time with my granddog, Opie at Chicago's Dog Beach..that's right a beach just for dogs!! Remind me why don't we have those down here in the south??   Anyway... I digress...

   I then flew directly from  Chicago  to Oklahoma to spend a week with Son #3.   He is in a very rigorous, time demanding, flight school so I spent most of my time enjoying the solitude of the beautiful place where he lives. Also, cooking some great wintertime soups & meals that I froze for him to have.  I also spent a lot of time on the ground trying to pick out which plane he was flying overhead.  I was grateful just to be in the same house as him for several days and the tiny bit of time we had was so precious to me.  

  It gave me satisfaction and peace beyond description to spend time with them both.   I'm currently saving for my next tour.    That being said, I'm so thankful for my oldest son, my beautiful DIL and my two grandsons who live five minutes from me.    Although they lived in an adjoining state previously, I think I always knew in my heart that they'd eventually come home.   Justin has always been a Louisiana country boy at heart.  He loves the south, the outdoors, and family.  I honestly think we'd be packing our bags to find somewhere else to move if they weren't here.  But back to my story.....

Lately, I've been filling my time with chaos. Just anything to take my mind off the emptiness and pain inside.  I'm keeping my self busy so I DON'T have to deal with it.   Oh, you know, little things like tearing walls out of my house or having puppies.  LOL   My husband finally jumped into that kitchen renovation that he's been promising me for the past 6 years, so every crack & crevice in my house is currently filled with sheet rock dust AND my precious Harley, the super wiener dog, just gave birth to 3 precious puppies in an emergency C-Section!  Like I said, chaos!  But more about both of those huge things in my life later....  

My precious Beau, Breesie-Pey & Jax!

For now, I just know that God is telling me to lean into Him.   He and I will figure out together what I can fill this hole in my heart up with, as well as the extra time I have.  I'm sure it'll be something that will be challenging, hopefully help animals and people alike, and be satisfying.   Most of all, I hope it glorifies Him.   For now, I'm gonna just sustain myself on puppy breath and schedule that long overdue eye doctor appointment so I can actually SEE a pill if I drop it on the floor!  

Take good care,

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Beignets, Boys & Blogs

Soooo, today was the day I promised myself I'd post a long overdue blog post.  Despite the fact that the weather outside is, indeed, frightful, I'm determined to do it. But it seemed like the deck was stacked against me from the start.  I just had too many things going on.  For example, those of us living in the deep south laugh when we get 2 drops of ice on the ground, because we basically shut EVERYTHING down. (In all fairness, it's mainly because we don't have the proper infrastructure to handle ice on our roads, bridges etc. since it is rarely below 60 degrees in February!)   With the slight chance of ice here overnight,  all the schools closed down today.  All that to say, that since the schools were closed today, I am keeping my 2 grandsons.  Normally, this would be enough of an excuse to put off, yet again, working on my blog.   But, like I said, I'm DETERMINED!  Initially I was planning to write with an awesome opinion piece...but I was sidetracked and here I am posting a recipe instead.  After getting the text asking me to babysit, I immediately was distracted by the thought of what to cook for my grandsons, Eddie (age 8) and Noah (age 5), for breakfast.   Soon after, an old friend posted pictures of some beignets he'd fried up for supper.   My mouth immediately began to water & I pulled up the recipe from Southern Living that I'd been wanting to try.     For those of you unfamiliar with beignets, they are the deep fried little pillows of dough that are crispy on the outside & soft/mostly hollow on the inside.   Dusted with a generous amount of powdered sugar, they have long been my favorite breakfast food.  They are in the doughnut family.   I remember my mom making these for breakfast when I was growing up & I'd literally eat them until I felt sick!   These bits of fried, delicious dough are a part of the local cuisine here in Louisiana.  If you ever visit New Orleans, it's required that you go the french quarter & eat a big plate of them at Cafe' du Monde.   They are world famous for serving wonderful beignets & awesome cafe au lait/chicory coffee & hot chocolate.   They are especially great after a night of eating, drinking & making merriment in the quarter.  In the past, I would fry them up for my  sons in the morning occasionally, just like my mom.  Admittedly, they are very messy..but your kids will LOVE you for making them.  We always used a box mix from our local grocery store by Cafe du Monde.  You basically mix it with water & it makes a dough.   (You can check your local grocer, although I feel certain that unless you are south of the Mason-Dixon line, it probably won't be there.)    The box mix isn't half bad; but, like anything else, I figured making them from scratch would be much better.   I was NOT wrong!   Unless I'm in a real pinch, I'll never use the box mix again.    It does take some forethought to make the dough ahead of time.  This particular recipe recommends keeping the dough refrigerated from 4-24 hours in advance of making them.    Normally, I would try several recipes before I land on my "go to" one.  However, on this very rare occasion, I landed on "the one" first try!   Since I'm no stranger to the gold standard for beignets (the aforesaid Cafe du Monde), I can attest that they are probably the best, most delicious & authentic beignets I've ever had using this recipe.  But what do you expect from Southern Living?   They are usually spot on when it comes to recipes.  I found the original recipe here:   You can either click on that link OR you can use my instructions below.  I've written in some personal cooking notes.  So, without further delay, here we go. 
This is the goal for the donuts to have a light, pillowy/hollow center & perfectly crispy on the outside.

Don't be stingy with the powdered sugar... dust PLENTY of it onto the warm beignets!

First, I gathered all of my ingredients. Nothing worse then getting half way through a new recipe only to learn you are out of something.   Here's what you'll need, listed in order:

-1 envelope of active dry yeast (1/4 oz)  (make sure to check the expiration date!)
-1/2 cup warm water (105 to 115 degrees)
-1 tsp. granulated sugar &
-1/2 cup granulated sugar
-1 cup evaporated milk
-2 large eggs (slightly beaten)
-1 tsp salt

-1 cup hot water (about 115 degrees) -NOTE: DO NOT will kill the yeast!
-1/4 cup of shortening (yep, that's right.. lard, fat, or otherwise known by us southerners as simply "crisco".)
-6 1/2 to 7 cups of flour (what kind? I'm not sure..the recipe didn't specify so I used 1/2 self-rising & half all purpose; although I think all-purpose is default if you don't know.)

-Enough cooking oil for 2 to 3 inch depth in dutch oven (I use Canola) 

Now that you have it all gathered, here's what to do with all that stuff:

Stage One (Making the Yeast Mixture):

Combine the yeast package with 1/2 cup of warm water (105 to 115 degrees) & 1 tsp. granulated sugar in the bowl of a heavy-duty mixing stand.  NOTE:  Don't try to use the mixer to do'll be a mess..just use a large wooden spoon.   Let stand for 5 minutes.   Another note:  I used hot tap water.  Being the food geek I am, I used my candy thermometer to make sure the water was hot enough to activate the yeast, but NOT hot enough to damage it.    After the 5 minutes has elapsed, ADD 1 cup of evaporated milk, 2 large eggs (slightly beaten), 1 tsp of salt & 1/2 cup of granulated sugar.  Again, I did not use the mixer, I just used the wooden spoon again. NOTE:  I did NOT have evaporated milk in my pantry & it was cold, wet & late & I was much too lazy to drive to the grocery, so I substituted heavy cream.  I googled substitutions for evaporated milk & got several suggestions but decided to just use the heavy cream.  Evaporated milk is simply milk that's been cooked down to remove some of the water content.  I have no idea how this affected my final product, but they were quite delicious!  

Stage Two (Forming the Beignet Dough):

Microwave 1 cup of water until hot (about 115 degrees F) MAKE SURE NOT TO get it too will kill the yeast.  I used hot tap water & zapped it for about 30 seconds.   Stir in 1/4 cup of shortening until melted.  NOTE:  My shortening never did melt entirely & I had read somewhere that if the water was overheated it would kill the yeast so I erred on the side of caution.  Again, I used my trusty thermometer again!   I think my water was around 115-120 degrees F.   I did break up the crisco a bit & just continued to stir until it was mostly melted.   After it's mostly melted, add this water/crisco mixture to the yeast mixture in the mixing bowl.  Beat at LOW SPEED, gradually adding 4 cups of flour, until smooth.  (NOTE: Remember to stop a few times & scrape the sides & bottom of bowl)Gradually add another 2 1/2 to 3 cups more flour, beating until a sticky dough forms.  (I used about another 2 3/4 cups of flour.  Remember this is one dough that you WANT to stay sticky.  Also, I always try to beat dough the least amount of time required so make sure you have your flour pre-measured & nearby so that you won't have to beat it too much.  I don't know if this would affect this recipe, but it's just a habit for me since several of my go-to recipes forbid too much beating of the dough!    Transfer this sticky dough to a pre-oiled bowl.  Turn the dough in bowl to oil the entire dough.  Cover the bowl & chill for 4 to 24 hours in fridge.  

Step 3:  Roll & Cut the Dough:

Turn dough out onto a well floured surface, roll to 1/4 inch thickness & cut into minimum 2 1/2 inch squares.  They don't have to be perfectly square.   Make sure to make them AT LEAST 2 1/2 inches.  Making them any smaller will not result in a big-fluffy beignet with a wonderful hollow pocket inside.    Also, don't be stingy on the flour...remember this a  STICKY dough... once you get them cut up, make sure to spread flour on any surface you put them on... For example, I like to pile mine on a plate to sit beside the hot oil...if you aren't careful, they will stick together.  

Step 4:  Fry Until Golden Brown:

Pour oil to depth of at least 2 to 3 inches in a dutch oven.  Heat to 360 degrees (USE A THERMOMETER!)   The easiest way to mess up beignets is trying to fry them in oil that's too cold or too hot!    Fry dough in batches of 3 or 4 for 2 to 3 minutes each side until golden brown. KEEP an eye on doesn't take very long at all!  As soon as they start turning golden brown, flip them to the other side.  Once they are golden on both sides, remove immediately from oil.  It's EASY to overcook!  
 Drain on wire wrack & dust immediately with a GENEROUS portion of powdered sugar!  
I use a cooling wire wrack to drain mine with paper towels underneath..but my momma used to throw hers down into a paper bag filled with powdered sugar.  I think they were a bit oilier, but still delicious without as much of a mess.   But if you have the time for clean-up I'd drain on wire wrack for sure.

As you can plainly see, my grandsons, Eddie & Noah, thoroughly enjoyed their beignets today!  These Texas babies are now full-blown Louisiana boys...they asked for cafe au lait to go with them!  Over the course of today, they ate every last beignet!  Poor Poppa Day wanted some this morning, but alas, there is nothing but a few crumbs & some powdered sugar left on the plate.

Don't be intimidated by these delicious southern classic doughnuts!   Create a new family tradition by having a beignet morning!    Your kids and grands will LOVE You for it!

Take good care,

Monday, December 9, 2013

Holly Jolly Shotwell Family Christmas?

There is a quote in Jim Carrey's version of the Grinch when he asks:  "Are you having a holly-jolly Christmas?".  This is just before he hatches his infamous evil plot to steal the Who's beloved Christmas.    Since I watch this movie at least five times every holiday season (my grandsons are now quite obsessed with it as well), I can pretty much quote it verbatim.  This quote reminds me that, as much as I hate to admit it, I may NOT be having a holly-jolly Christmas this year.    I LOVE Christmas.  Always have.   But despite myself, I keep letting my heart remember that in just a few weeks, my youngest son & his wife will be moving 700 miles away; and only six short months later, my middle son will also be moving away to parts unknown.     I know what you're thinking.....the same thing I keep telling myself...ENJOY THE MOMENT!   I'm trying!    I raised my kids with the mantra of following their bliss and becoming the men that their hearts desired to be.  I want them to be the very best version of themselves.   I constantly told them that they were the ONLY person who could stop them from achieving their dreams.  And believe me, I WANT them to be happy.   If being happy means moving out into the world and exploring their options, then that's exactly what I want them to do.      That being said, I just never envisioned my family being anything other than the typical family.  A family just like the one I grew up in.  I & all three of my siblings live within 15 minutes of my parents.  We all obediently provided my parents with a whole passel of beautiful grandchildren.   Family gatherings are full of cousins playing together & family frolicking.    

I guess that's how I have always envisioned my life too.   I figured, since I had my children young, I'd be a young grandmother with a station wagon (or it's modern-day, video laden, SUV equivalent) with 8 or 10 beautiful little bright-eyed cherubs, which my children would dutifully provided.  Just like a Hallmark movie, my sons would show up on Thanksgiving Day with their beautiful wives & pink-cheeked children in tow, dressed adorably, carrying a covered casserole.    Then we'd all say grace and discuss the wonderful things going on in their lives over dinner.  Stuff like, oh, I don't know..the new house they were building or their new book being released, or something equally as interesting.   We'd part company by promising to see one another the next Sunday at our regular Sunday family dinner.  You know, the regular family dinner for which they'd rather stick a needle in their eye than to miss, because they just love being around their family THAT much.   

Well, I'm here to tell you that life is NOT a Hallmark movie & my family is NOT the Hallmark family I'd envisioned.   In fact, I'd describe my family as more akin to the tv show, "Modern Family".   And even though I sometimes still daydream about that hallmark version of the family, I wouldn't trade the one I have for all the tea in china!   My family in a nutshell:

* I only have 2 grandchildren, and the prospects of have anymore, anytime soon, are somewhat dismal.   Don't get me wrong. My grandsons are the loves of my life!   They OWN my heart; and, they are so full of cuteness, I probably couldn't STAND it if they were any cuter!   I also have 3 grand-dogs, all of which I regularly see & dog-sit.  They love to come play with my 3 kid-dogs.  And, if you know me, you'd know that is almost as joyful! 

*There are no ideallic regular Sunday dinners.  In fact, I can BARELY get all of their feet under the same table at Thanksgiving.  Between everyone's busy schedules & in-laws, I seem to always be the one at the bottom of the list.    

*I do now have the 2 beautiful daughter-in-laws.   My middle son is gay, so hopefully someday I'll also have a handsome son-in-law, but for now, he's still looking. (Who knew I'd someday have a SON-in-law?-life sure is full of surprises!)   On the bright side, they DO bring covered casseroles upon request. 

My problem with this Christmas is that it's the last one for which all of my children will be living in the same state.   My middle son finishes his graduate degree in social work in May and plans to move out of state shortly thereafter.  My youngest son is reporting for duty to flight school in the United States Air Force in January, 2014, and will be serving for the next 10 years, at least, as a pilot & officer in the USAF.  In fact, we move he & my daughter-in-law to Oklahoma a few short weeks after Christmas.      My brain has known that these moves were coming, but the closer they get, the more my heart is just not prepared.  

What happened?   This is NOT the Hallmark Shotwell family that I'd always dreamed about!   But, after turning 51 this year, I've been thinking a lot lately about what my life will be about for the next 20 years.  What am I meant to do with this life?   I know that part of my purpose here (and by "here" I mean on this earth), was to raise my sons & help them become good people.  People who contribute good things to the world & help others.   But that's done now.   I know I didn't do a perfect job, but hopefully I had a hand in making them the awesome men they are today (and I'm not saying that about them just because I'm their momma.  If they were little butts, I'd tell you ;0).   I like to think that part of the reason they are all moving in the first place, is because of my encouragement to them to reach for their dreams.    I recently read a quote by Maria Shriver that really struck a nerve, "You have to be willing to let go of the life you planned in order to make the life you're meant to live."   That hits me square between the eyes!   So, this Christmas will not only be about giving gifts for me. It will also be a time for giving UP some old, worn-out, unrealistic dreams.   I'm letting GO of them. My plan this Christmas is to FULLY EMBRACE this crazy, wonderful, beautiful thing called MY FAMILY.   I LOVE the fact that I have 2 exceptionally loving adopted grandsons, 3 awesome grand-dogs, 3 sons who are all LSU graduates & who are each doing EXACTLY what they set out to do in their lives & careers, 2 beautiful daughter in laws who I adore, and of course my best friend & love of my life... my husband of over 30 years.   

I'm determined to look on the positive side.  I'll be doing a LOT of traveling in the coming months and years.   I LOVE to travel, so that'll work out great.     I'll BEG my children to strive to gather together at least ONCE a year, no matter what.    The hardest part of my dream to let go of is having a bunch of grandkids, but I steal every moment I can with the 2 I have & I've "adopted" some others that aren't mine in a legal sense.  I have to admit; however, that I  haven't given up on the idea of having at least ONE cute little granddaughter (preferably named "Abigail" after her adoring Doda)----WHAT?   A GIRL CAN DREAM!! 

I wish you & yours a very Merry Christmas, full of blessings, love & laughter!  

Take good care,


Here is a look at my beautiful family, sans my 3 grand-dogs & 3 kid-dogs:

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Road Less Traveled

When Frost penned the words to his famous poem, I'm certain the "road less traveled" wasn't the context in which I write today.  That being said, I think the less traveled road can mean many things to many people.   I recently had an epiphany about a very important part of my life: that of being a mom.   Like many women, being a mother is THE most important part of my life.  It's the job I've worked harder at than any other.  It's also the job that I've probably screwed up the most.   Even so, at the end of my life,  at the very least, I hope my sons look back and realize that they were cherished.   I hope they realize that, although imperfect, my job as their momma was THE most precious thing to me.   Each of our children come with their own set of struggles and challenges.   Some more than others.    Out of my 3 sons, my middle son, Garrett, probably had the most uphill climb on his way from childhood to adulthood.   It just seems like he always had a roadblock in so many areas of his life.   Even so, from childhood epilepsy to dyslexia, he always seemed to rise above and find his way through it.    But it wasn't until adulthood that he finally faced down one of his biggest challenges in his life.   Garrett is a gay man.    I won't go into his story in detail.  That is HIS story to tell, not mine.  But as his mother, I'd like to share some of the things I learned about being his mom.    I won't pretend that it was an easy thing to process.   As parents, we tend to picture our children having a traditional adult life, including a spouse (generally someone of the opposite sex) and 2.5 children.   It wasn't until last weekend that I realized that I have not only processed Garrett's lifestyle, but have FULLY embraced it.     

We were attending an out of town wedding with Garrett and one of his best friends, Lauren.    On the way home from the wedding we were discussing marriage.  Garrett made a comment that struck me.   He said "I wish I weren't gay."    I'd actually heard him say this before, but not until that very moment did it really sink in.   He was being fully sincere.  Despite what I guess some folks believe, gay people don't CHOOSE to be that way.    It was one of those Oprah moments.   Immediately my mind asked myself "Do I wish he weren't gay?".    A year ago, I'm sure I would have answered YES!  I wish he weren't gay. While I'd accepted his life choices, I think deep down I was still carrying a bit of sadness for him.  Sadness for all the years that he kept this secret and the stress and fear that I know he carried around being unable to share with anyone.  I wish I would have been able to help carry that secret and take the burden off of him.  I look back at his adolescence and realize now that he struggled with happiness, in no small part due to this secret.   I also had sadness for prejudices that I know he encounters in this world.  No mother wants their child to be thought less of or encounter any hatred or bigotry.    I once had a friend tell me that their child being gay was one of their greatest fears.   Really?    Not them being a rapist, drug addict, murderer,  cheater, a bigot?    There are lots of bad things a person can be.  Being gay is NOT one of them.   But this attitude doesn't really surprise me.  There is much ignorance surrounding the gay culture and what it actually means to be gay.   Anyway...back to my "Aha" moment.     It wasn't until Garrett made that statement that I realized I'm actually HAPPY Garrett is EXACTLY the person he was born to be.   I wouldn't change him one bit!   For any of you who ever wondered or questioned whether a person is born gay, let me clear it up for you.   Garrett was BORN gay.  I raised 3 sons & I can promise you that Garrett was exactly who he is from the moment he drew his first breath.    I would NEVER try to push my belief system on anyone else.    Others are free to believe in any laws, rules, or sins they choose to.   But for me, I know that GOD has given me permission and  a directive to LOVE my children, UNCONDITIONALLY, just like He loves me.     Garrett has certainly taken the road less traveled and I, as his mother, have struggled at times because I can't remove all the bumps in that road.  But it's exactly those rough patches that have made him the man he is today.  That man is one of the bravest, strongest & most loving human beings I've had the privilege to know.    It's been my privilege to be his mom.     So I guess that makes me taking a road less traveled as well.   I'm the mom who is HAPPY that her son is gay &  HAPPY that he has the strength to live his life on purpose, and nobody is more surprised about it than I am. 

Monday, January 28, 2013


My family loves ANYTHING apple.  We love apples like Bubba Gump loves shrimp!   Apple pie, apple fritters, apple cake, apple dumplings....oh well, you get the picture. 

I found this quick recipe on Pinterest (in various forms).  This is the one I used & it was simply delish. I topped it off with some fresh vanilla ice cream I had made the night before in my new ice cream maker which my mom bought me for Christmas.    The hubs & my grandson, Eddie, literally were licking their bowls!!   


FAUX Apple Crepes. 
  Okay--here is the recipe:   Important part is to let them sit in the sauce for at least 45 mins: 

  • Faux Apple Crepes
1 pkg FLOUR tortillas
1 can apple pie filling
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup water
cinnamon to taste

Spray 9X11 pyrex dish with pam or butter... fill centers of approx 6-8 medium sized tortillas with apple filling (divide evenly)--sprinkle with cinnamon to taste & roll up, putting seam side down. Heat butter, both sugars & water on stove..bring to boil & simmer for 3 minutes. Pour OVER rolled up tortillas. LET SIT FOR AT LEAST 45 minutes. This softens the tortillas. Bake 350 degrees for 25 mins OR until slightly brown. SERVE while warm TOPPED with vanilla ice-cream.. YUMMY & DELISH. I actually make extra topping sometimes to scoop over ice-cream.


Take good care,

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Gary's Letter to Lucy

Any of you that know my husband, knows that he does not emote.  He doesn't share his feelings.  He doesn't do therapy.   He's not a very touchy-feely kinda person.    We have been crushed the past few days since our sweet baby dog, Lucy was killed in a horrible accident.    My grief comes in waves, but it's been so hard to watch what he has suffered as well.   This is something he wrote this morning.  I've been married to him for 32 years & known him for longer.    I was amazed & so proud of him for putting these feelings on paper.   Here is what he wrote:

Lucy’s Thanksgiving

Where to start??…..I guess at the beginning. About four years ago, my wife, Cindy, brought home a tiny black & tan miniature Doxie. Cute as she was, I immediately did not want anything to do with her. We already have a red mini-dox and a full-grown golden lab. What in the world would we do with another inside dog and the better question was WHY?

I was angry and wanted nothing to do with her. We normally sit down and make those types of decisions together. But this time Cindy went out, on her own, and made this life decision without my input or consent. MAD was not the word. Furious would probably be accurate for the Grinch that I was.  It was nearing Christmas Day that year, so I would have to say that I was truly Mr. Grinch himself, green as all get-out. I did not want this dog and wanted Cindy to take her back where she got her.  Also, our red mini-dox, Trixie, did not like her either. She growled and barked at her, and even a snip if she got too close. How dare this new little rat-looking dog come in and hone in on our turf. Who does she think she is?

My Wife has always been a very smart woman. She was no different when she made this decision. When she told me her name was Lucy, it was like a dagger in my heart.  What could I do? I couldn't refuse this little rat-looking dog now. You see, my mother’s name was Lucille and Lucy was named after her. My mother passed away in 1998 and I loved her dearly.  It’s been hard.   Truth be known, I probably should have gone to grief counseling  when she passed away, but I did not go. I bottled that up, only to share it with Cindy from time to time. It has been the hardest thing in the world to deal for me- Ever!

Anyway, here is Lucy, a happy go-lucky, energetic puppy that I had to accept, but wanted nothing to do with.  She would try to play with Trixie and fall back with a growl or a snip. With time, Trixie warmed up to Lucy a little at a time. Lucy would always try to get Trixie to play, biting her leg or the skin around her neck. Not real biting, but play biting. Eventually, Trixie became a mother figure to Lucy. Trixie loved her dearly and enjoyed daily playtime with Lucy.

Lucy tried her magic on me. Trying to warm up to me but huh, who does she think she is? I'm not Trixie. She would not be able to manipulate me into caring for her.  But she was persistent.  She would come up to my leg and put her little paws on my feet at first as if she was treeing a squirrel. If I was on the floor doing anything she would ALWAYS come over and lick me dead square on the lips! Ugggggggg dog kisses. This little rat-looking dog was becoming cute. What am I turning soft? Get a grip Gary!

 What can I say?  Lucy got into my heart deeper than anybody other than my immediate family. You see, if you know me, then you know that is not an easy task. I am not an easy person to get to know, or befriend but if you are one of the chosen few, you are there for LIFE! And I do mean LIFE! I have a lot of people that I know and like but I have very few “life friends”. I value and cherish friendship. It's not a word I take lightly and it's not something I do willy-nilly.  So, if you’re in, it's till death and I would literally take a bullet for you.

Anyway, as I was saying, Lucy got into my heart and was truly THIS man’s best friend. She grew from a hand-sized rat to a cute little loving dog. She was My Best Friend!

Second to being in my lap, Lucy loved the outdoors. She was just like her best friend or Daddy as I became known to her. She couldn't wait to go outside in the mornings to sniff out and chase the squirrels that taunted her on a daily basis. She must have tree'd thousands of squirrels. She loved it and the squirrels did too.!  They were really just playing with each other to have fun. They were equal in abilities as they would run about the same speeds.

Cindy would let her outside every evening before I came home so she could greet me with Lucy loving. We live in a rural area where trees are throughout the yard. Our drive is concreted about 3/4 of the way to the road and limestone after that to the road. As I pull into the driveway everyday, Lucy would bark and run to the end of the concrete jumping up and down. I taught her not to come past the concrete as I did not want her to get close to the road. She always ran and waited for me at that spot.

Once I got the Lucy love inside, of course, I had to share with her dog-mates, Trixie and Gus. But Lucy made sure she got the most loving as she would literally nudge my hand away from the other dogs to her. She loved to settle into my lap in my "nest", aka: my recliner. That was the spot she enjoyed the most and I would have to say- in my nest, on my lap, in my Heart!

Trixie has always been a jumper, she actually used to be like super dog. She used to jump, flatfooted over three feet high before back surgery. And know she can still jump two feet. Anyway Lucy would watch and try but it was known around Shotwell Manor that black dogs can't jump. Lol   Recently, instead of picking her up to put her in the nest, I thought I would teach her to jump. I would put my hands down beside her as guard rails and cup my hands to where she could jump into my hands. She began jumping very short distances at first then higher and higher until one evening Cindy and I were watching our evening episode of Seinfeld and she did it! She jumped all the way to the chair by herself! Cindy and I both saw this at the same time. It was like a baby taking their first steps.

We were so proud of her major accomplishment and you could tell that she was as well. She would continue to jump into the chair and even to the sofa. It's like our Grandsons say when they accomplish a major feat- I DID IT! And she did.

I was at work Tuesday morning on November 20th and my neighbor, Jim, called me on my cell phone. Jim never calls unless it’s something important so I answer the phone. A conversation I wish on no one. Jim hated to tell me but Lucy had gotten hit by car out by the road and had passed away. I was shocked, stunned, and in disbelief. I immediately left work on the way home. I even called Jim back to make sure he was sure. Unfortunately, it was so. How would I tell Cindy that Lucy had passed away?  It was not easy at all but all I could do was to tell her straight up.

Neither of us took this well at all. Our little baby was too young to be gone. We both cried and cried. This was not in the plan for Lucy to be out of our lives so soon.  We had the daunting task of selecting a resting spot for our sweet little Lucy. We picked out a spot in the back yard under a tree, near the pond where she would always chase squirrels. This was not an easy task but I would have no one else prepare and put Lucy in her final resting spot. She was special to us and she deserved the very best and that is what she got. We can see Lucy’s resting spot from the kitchen window where I  drink coffee in the mornings and read the paper overlooking the pond where she would tree squirrels every day.

This Thanksgiving Day, I  thank God for all the blessings in my life & there are many! My wife, kids, and grandkids, but I want to thank God for sending Lucy to my life for the four years we had her to soften up this ole Grinch heart. She showed me love and friendship that is immeasurable. I'm sure I'm still Grinch-worthy, but not nearly as much due to loving kindness of a dear sweet little dog named Lucy that my dear wife had the forethought and wisdom to bring home.

Lucy, as the tears flow like rivers you will be greatly missed and we will always love you for the unconditional love you shared with us only to remind us of our Father’s unconditional love.

Love Daddy

Lucy 2008-2012

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Sweet Lucy

My sweet baby girl :)
Lucy...the tears are unending...I miss you so much.   Can't wait to see you again someday my sweet little four-legged soul.   You are our baby always.  xxoo Mommy & Daddy

Lulu LOVED the beach!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012


I have such wonderful memories of Halloween.  Just one look at an old Halloween cutout decoration makes me warm & fuzzy inside.  We had such little entertainment available to us back in the day.   I think the beautiful harvest moon & the fall weather also helps color all of my trick-or-treat memories "happy" as well.   I grew up in a big old 200+ year old house and our Halloweens were filled with great treats & fun with the neighborhood kids.     It's one of my very favorite times of the year.   Of course I have great memories of my own children & their fun Halloween escapades.

Nowadays I'm combining 2 of my favorite things:   being a Doda & enjoying Halloween!    I'm so very happy that my grandsons now live back in Louisiana (where they belong).  

Who wouldn't be overjoyed with being Doda to Captain America & Spiderman? Each one of these little boys own 1/2 of my heart!        

Eddie & Noah aka:  Captain America & Spiderman

I always loved it when my momma sent things to school that I was able to pass out to the kids in my class.   I always tried to be a room mother or helper at school with my boys & now I get to do things like this for my grandsons!  Being a grandmother is such a joy!   

This year, I decided to make some homemade, from scratch, caramel popcorn balls.   I started out with cooking popcorn the old fashioned microwave-nuked-kernels for my grandsons.   Honestly, it had been so long since I didn't opt for the push-button popcorn packages that I couldn't remember how to pop popcorn on the stove top.   I found this awesome "no fail" Perfect Popcorn recipe & it worked out beautifully.   This recipe was borrowed from http://www.simply    Check out their website for some other great stuff.   


*3 TB canola or peanut oil (high smoke point oil)
*1/3 cup high quality popcorn kernels
*1  3 quart covered saucepan
*2 TB or more (to taste) real butter
* salt to taste

1.  Heat oil in 3 qt saucepan on MEDIUM high heat.
2.  Put 3 or 4 kernels into the oil & cover the pan.
3. When the kernels pop, add the rest of the 1/3 cup of popcorn kernels in an even layer.  Add salt to taste at this point. It will infuse into the popcorn as it pops.   Cover, REMOVE FROM HEAT, and count 30 seconds.  (This method heats the oil to the correct temperature, then waiting 30 seconds brings all of the other kernels to a near-popping temperature so that when put back on the heat, they all pop about the same time.
4.  Return the pan to the heat.  The popcorn should begin popping soon, and all at once.  Once the popping begins in earnest, gently shake the pan by moving it back & forth over the burner.  Try to keep the lid slightly ajar to let the steam escape.  This will make a crispier popcorn product.   Once the popping slows to several seconds between pops, remove the pan from the heat, remove lid & immediately dump popcorn into a wide mouthed bown.    HARDLY any unpopped kernels will be left with this method. 
5.  If you are adding butter, you can melt into pan while it's still hot & pour over popped corn.

This recipe is AH-MAZING!   In fact, I don't think I'll ever buy microwave popcorn again.  

Next step is to make a batch of my BASIC CARAMEL SAUCE.  This recipe I've had for years & is great on ANYTHING!    I use it with apple pies for a delish finish.  


*4 TB butter (I used salted but either is fine)
*1 CUP packed light brown sugar
*1/2 CUP corn syrup (lite)
*7 OUNCE sweetened condensed milk (this is 1/2 can)
*2 TSP pure vanilla extract


1.  Combine butter, sugar & corn syrup in small, heavy, saucepan over MEDIUM heat & cook, stirring occasionally.  Once butter has melted bring it to a boil.  Add condensed milk & continue to boil for 5 minutes.   Continuing to stir to prevent scorching.  Remove from heat & stir in the vanilla extract.    Stir until smooth.  



I poured the sauce over approximately 10 cups of popped corn.  Stir GENTLY until covered & once it's cool enough to touch, butter your hands & roll into balls (whatever size you desire).  Place the balls on a buttered sheet of wax paper until cooled.  This is what it will look like once it's stirred together well.     The freshness of these scratch methods really come thru... they are simply delicious, if I say so myself (which I just did)! 


Since I was making them for my grandsons friends I decided to make them a bit smaller than usual & inserted small sticks. 

I put them in some cute Halloween cupcake liners & small plastic bags.   Here is the end result.   They are gonna be so excited to pass out to all their classmates tomorrow!    I'm also so very thankful to have a beautiful daughter-in-law who lets me be a Super Doda to my heart's content!!

I'm looking forward to donning my Witchie-Poo costume tomorrow night during the harvest moon & going over to pass out candy at my son & daughter-in-law's house while they bring the kids trick-or-treating.   

 I hope you all have a wonderful time & enjoy this fun holiday! 

Take good care,