I’ll just leave this right here… maybe the best collection of famous dancers in the history of movies.
Happy Friday! 😀
Maybe the best collection of dance scenes… ever!
I’ll just leave this right here… maybe the best collection of famous dancers in the history of movies.
Happy Friday! 😀
We’ve lost a true treasure.
The water has been flowing freely in Texas over the past few days from the rain clouds, but today, the water is coming from the tears of many fellow West Texans over the loss of one of our true treasures, pianist and composer Doug Smith, who died in his sleep this week. (A complete list of Doug’s albums can be found at the end of the linked article.)
My family heard Doug play in person on several occasions, usually at church, and I also heard him in concert on another occasion, too. I’m not sure if any music has ever moved me so much as Doug’s music did over the years, and I know I’m not alone in feeling this way, especially today.
The news of his death also hit me yesterday as I remembered what a fan my mother was of Doug and his music. I remember taking her to buy some of his CDs at a local store here a few years ago and remember how thrilled she was to have them and listened to them so often. People young and old alike loved Doug and his music, it seems.
As an avid lover of both music and photography, I found his artistic collaboration with Texas State Photographer, Wyman Meinzer, to be a truly rare work of art that I probably won’t see again in my lifetime, and I think it will go down as one of the best representations of my West Texas home that will ever be created. Any visitor to our area can benefit from first watching this magnificent video to try to first understand the soul of the area and its people that these two gentlemen managed to capture so beautifully.
Often, when we go camping, we listen to Doug’s music. It is such a perfect fit when out in our beautiful Texas State Parks. Many scenes in the “West Texas” video are from those state parks that we visit so often, too. Today, I broke down in tears watching the video again and knowing that half of the artistic duo that created it is now gone from us. That speaks to the impact Doug and his music had on so many of us.
Please take a few minutes today or sometime soon to watch the two videos below. One is the video I spoke of above, the famous “West Texas” video, and the other is an eight minute documentary by Doug himself following his tragic car wreck in 2007 that paralyzed him and took away his ability to play the piano… temporarily. It is an epic story of overcoming adversity and is one that I think you will remember going forward, too.
You will see the West Texas video in its best quality by watching it in full screen mode.
I’m going to listen to Doug’s music this week as I go about my daily chores, and I will pray for his family and all that loved him. They are legion, and some of us feel that we’ve lost part of ourselves in his passing. We mourn both the man and his music today.
Today, it gives me comfort to know that the hands that Doug said he missed a few years ago are once again restored and that there is a piano in Heaven that is once again singing the tunes of the soul of West Texas at the hands of a master with a true gift from God who learned to play the piano by ear. And for all the many, many hours of enjoyment Doug’s music has brought to me, and will continue to do in years to come, I wanted to offer my own little tribute today in gratitude.
I follow Food Network on Facebook, and last Friday, they posted something that gave me a bit of concern, especially for younger cooks or even older cooks who are just now looking into the possibility of cooking the big bird for the first time. I know that feeling all too well. I’ve been there myself, and I suspect many of you have been there, too. I just hate to see anyone stress for no reason over something like this, so I would like to share some helpful information about a particular point they attempted to make on Friday.
In what I believe was an honest attempt to help those who are looking to cook a turkey for the first time, or perhaps cook a better turkey for the first time, someone at Food Network posted a “top ten” list of things *not* to do. Here is a quote of the first item on their list.
Turkey Taboos: 10 things NOT to do this Thanksgiving
1. Use a frozen turkey
While I understand that the taste of a fresh turkey is very likely a fabulous thing, the vast majority of people around this country do not have access to purchase a fresh turkey. And even if they do have a turkey farm nearby, the cost is often quite expensive, sometimes close to $100 for a fresh bird of any size! So, for item #1 on this list of things to not do in preparing a turkey, I think this needs to be considered in the real world where most of us live and certainly not list it as a “taboo.” Good grief! “smh” By the many comments on their post that basically said the same thing I’ve shared, I’m in the majority of folks that disagree with their take on item #1, too.
There is absolutely nothing wrong or bad in preparing a turkey that was first frozen. Let’s let one of Food Network’s own explain this little fact further.
One of Food Network’s most popular, long-time personalities and one of their best chefs, in my opinion, is Alton Brown and his long-running show is Good Eats. I have always enjoyed watching his show over the years because he often shares the science behind his preparation method in an entertaining way. I have also shared here on a couple of occasions that I only use Alton Brown’s turkey preparation recipe when cooking our bird for the holidays because it produces the best turkey I’ve ever eaten.
Alton is on record in the following video (from about five years ago) about fresh vs. frozen turkeys, and I hope that by sharing his video, perhaps a few cooks this year will not waste their time and money in search of a fresh turkey. Hubby and I fell into that trap ourselves a few years ago, and we ended up just purchasing a frozen bird anyway.
Perhaps Food Network should have consulted with one of their most popular chefs before posting item #1 on their list?
And while we’re talking turkey today, here is another great video by Alton that is both entertaining and informative. This is the exact process that I use to prepare our bird. The turkey sits in the brine overnight prior to cooking the next morning, and we put the bucket either in our spare refrigerator or outside with a cover over it on our patio table, as our overnight temperature is often pretty much perfect for this process in late November and December. If the temperature outside is warmer where you live, you might just keep it in your refrigerator overnight in a brining bag or keep it in a brining bag in a well iced cooler overnight. As Alton mentions in the video, the salt concentration will also help to keep bacteria formation down during the brining process, so don’t skimp on the salt that is listed in the recipe. This is one of his classic videos and a spoof on Mystery (Food) Science Theater.
Ree Drummond, aka The Pioneer Woman, also follows this same basic procedure, too. I watched a rerun of one of her earlier Thanksgiving shows on Saturday morning to see how similar her turkey preparation is to Alton Brown’s method, although she basted her turkey every 30 minutes while cooking. My experience with Alton’s recipe is that basting really is not necessary because the bird is so moist without it. No sense making this harder than it needs to be.
Ree’s holiday cookbook is absolutely fabulous, and her Thanksgiving recipes in the book are worth the price of the whole book. Best. Mashed. Potatoes. Ever! I received my cookbook as a thank-you gift from a sweet friend last year, and while I cannot eat these types of foods day in and day out, these recipes are truly wonderful for all of the holidays listed in the book.
Brining is the key, even for a properly thawed frozen turkey. You may also read elsewhere to not brine anything but a fresh turkey. Feel free to just ignore those comments. Just rinse the bird *very well* for several minutes after the brining process. Ree rinses her turkey, then puts it in a separate bucket of cold water for 15 minutes to help rinse away as much of the salt as possible. After rinsing, just pat the turkey very dry before putting it in the oven. The result will be a great entrée that is very moist and flavorful, as long as Alton’s directions are followed according to the recipe at the link below. Don’t forget the covered rest time of 15 minutes after baking, which is important. Seriously, this is absolutely the best turkey we’ve ever had.
There is a good reason why this particular recipe remains one of the top recipes at Food Network’s site year after year. 😉
To see some of my previous detailed posts on preparing a Thanksgiving dinner, just check out the links below. I’ve noticed that some folks have already been doing just that, and I hope my information is helpful to you!
I am sad to hear of the passing of Robin Williams yesterday. It is certainly a tragedy, and I will pray for his family left behind today. Truly, we all were blessed by his talent onscreen for so many years. While I loved his comedy roles so much, I may have actually enjoyed his serious moments on the big screen even more.
This scene in the movie, Dead Poet’s Society, is one of my favorite movie scenes. The timeless words of Walt Whitman are just as timely today as they were when he wrote them over one hundred years ago.
Perhaps we just don’t read enough poetry today. I’m off to find my copy of Leaves of Grass now.
Although I have mixed feelings about doing this, I would like to offer why I chose to share a quick thought on the passing of Robin Williams today, based on a comment that a stranger attempted to leave on this post today. Perhaps I should have included this in my original post, too.
I certainly did not worship or idolize this man. He was just a very talented actor, and he made me laugh more times than I can count. His roles and dialogue sometimes caused me to think a bit. His tortured life mirrored the lives of too many people close to me, especially his life-long struggle with depression and addictions. After dealing quite directly with someone who suffered from a truly life-threatening addiction and another person who has attempted suicide twice, in addition to suffering from depression and addictions, I have a special sympathy for anyone who struggles in this way. I’ve seen this horrible suffering up close, and I’ve felt significant negative effects in my own life, to be sure. I remain assured of my own inability to make it go away in their respective lives, too. I know that it was nothing short of a miracle that Robin managed to have such a successful career and life as he struggled simultaneously with this disease. Seeking good professional help, he successfully overcame it for a very long time, too. He even went overseas many, many times to entertain our troops, much like Bob Hope did in his time.
It truly breaks my heart when anyone with this disease loses their battle in such a heartbreaking way, and today, I wanted to just acknowledge one special moment in his career that particularly spoke to me. Nothing more. The thoughts of one particular commenter (who obviously knows nothing about me) that seemed to insinuate a “worship” relationship, when I simply desired to acknowledge the life (and tragic death) of a fellow human being, are beyond disappointing, if not insulting. Grief for a fellow human being’s struggle and his loved ones now sadly left behind is a loving thing, so I will not publish such negative and judgmental comments here. I have endured suicides of two family members, and I know how the family of Robin Williams feels right now.
So, to the person who attempted to leave such a negative comment here today, please know that I have chosen to not share your comment here for these reasons. Hopefully you will be spared such torture in your own life and the lives of those you love. Sometimes it is best to just keep those negative thoughts to yourself, although I know the temptation is just too much for some to pass up these days.
Dear fellow RVers, have you seen the new Winnebago Brave for 2015?
I am a big fan of retro RVs and trailers, and while we would still likely pass on this one for now, I think Winnebago may find huge success with it. Some fellow RV friends told us about this new model while we were on our trip this past weekend to the mountains, and after Red chewed up the magazine page they gave us with all the information on it, I looked it up online and found this video.
What do you like and dislike about it?
I really like the layout of the cab, living room and kitchen areas, as it is very similar to what we presently have in our motor home but a little more functional, especially the sofa that converts several ways, even to a long table. We also have the pull-down bed over the cab, just like they show in the video, although ours is not electric.
About the only thing I don’t like is the main bedroom configuration, but I think there is another model that has both a slide-out and a better bedroom arrangement, the 27B model. If we happen to find one of these 27B models in good shape a few years down the road, I would definitely consider buying it, if we think we could live with a 26 foot RV instead of our 31 foot RV. I would also prefer one of the other colors, not the Mellow Yellow. The 27B model is so similar to our present configuration, and I think that is why I like it. Having the shower separate from the rest of the bathroom has been so handy for us on so many occasions, especially when our son comes along on a trip. I can see where this model is likely too small for those that travel more than we do or full-time in their RVs.
We are so happy with our present motor home, though, it may be hard to ever part with it, especially since it is completely paid in full and feels like our home away from home now. It’s always fun to look, though!
The most recent “storm” of life has seemingly subsided just a bit, at least for now. At one point early on in the drama of the past three weeks, however, I actually chuckled to myself while sitting with my poor mother in the ER right after her devastating fall. I chuckled because I once again started thinking to myself about Dory in the wonderful animated movie “Finding Nemo” and her hilarious “just keep swimming” scene. I love this movie, and I have identified so many times with Dory’s motto. Just thinking about it has often brought a little sunshine to some pretty gloomy situations, and this was a very gloomy situation indeed.
There was nothing funny at all about my mother’s plight that night, as she learned that one of her worst fears had finally come true with the news that she had fractured her pelvis in three places. I don’t think she really realized how long it would take her to recover from this either, and even now, we still don’t really have clue. I probably had a better idea than she had at the time, though, and I knew it was going to be very, very hard on her. She was living almost independently a few hours earlier, and now she would not even be able to stand up on her own for weeks, or possibly months.
I wanted to just break down in tears as I thought about it all, both from feeling so sorry for her and feeling frustrated by her at the same time. She could have avoided the fall by just using her walker, but she chose to not do that. I had done my part to consistently remind my 92 year-old mother to use her walker, but my comments were always met with her fiercely independent attitude that she didn’t really need it and that we were all just trying to “make an old woman out of her.” Was she paddling down the river of “Denial?” Absolutely. Was there anything I could do to change it? Nope. Now, the damage was done, and it was time for her to deal with her new reality.
“Just keep swimming, just keep swimming, just keep swimming, swimming, swimming…” played on in my head.
It has always been very hard for me to deal with family members and their serious health issues, and I can honestly describe it as a feeling of terror on many occasions, even though the terror was usually raging on the inside, not outside for others to see. Between my children, my husband, my mother, my father, my sister and my brother, who died back in 2007 after many years of complex health issues, I have lost count of how many times I’ve sat in the ER and the hospital with them as they were suffering. I felt so very helpless, and even guilty at times because I have enjoyed good health all of my life and still do. My loved ones have battled many things, and you can see how many instances are even plural, having occurred more than once in the same or different relatives. Their ailments have included cancer, diabetes, amputations, heart failure, heart-bypasses, severe alcohol withdrawal syndromes and subsequent rehabs, bi-polar disorder, severe depression, emergency life-threatening surgeries, attempted suicides, broken bones and chronic asthma attacks. I don’t mean to take away from their issues at all because they have all truly suffered in tremendous ways, and I think that list pretty much speaks to that as well. I just confess that this is something that has never been easy for me to deal with. At all.
(BTW – If you are not already aware, severe alcohol withdrawal syndrome can actually kill a person. My relative came very close to dying – two different times. Please never attempt to withdraw from alcohol addiction on your own or let a loved one give it a try. Get medical help!)
Many of their issues also hit me at times in my own life when my stress level was already elevated. One particularly devastating health situation with a family member happened a week prior to 9/11/01, and I remember thinking that I just might not survive it all at the time. At one point, I felt like I was going to have a heart attack from all the stress, and I finally hit “rock bottom” with my fears. Thankfully, that was when things began to turn around for me personally, as I finally began to release my fears and worries to God in earnest with the continued help of some wonderful Christian friends whose own life examples showed me that it was possible to do that in reality, not to just talk about doing it. They didn’t give up on me, and I will always be grateful for their help.
Since that time, I have been learning to trust God more and more to bring me to a place of peace where it does not literally terrorize me to deal with situations like this anymore. It has not always been easy either. But with his help, I can “keep calm and carry on” most of the time, which is what my family members need from me as they are suffering and which is what I need to stay sane. And through it all, I’ve discovered that I can actually be a competent advocate for them in these situations when they cannot advocate for themselves. Perhaps that has also come with experience through the years, but if my fears were not kept in check, I could not advocate for their care like I can now. And these days, patients need all the advocates they can get, too. That is a discussion for another time, but one I am yet again very aware of with my mother’s recent hospital and skilled nursing stay.
Below are some verses that help get me through tough situations when my old fears want to overtake me once again. They are so precious to me because each one has a special meaning for me now, especially Psalm 34:4 because I truly lived that one in a memorable way after 9/11.
You came near when I called you, and you said, “Do not fear.”
– Lamentations 3:57
Casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.
– 1 Peter 5:7
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
– Hebrews 11:1
Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
– Isaiah 41:10
When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.
– Psalms 56:3
I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.
– Psalms 34:4
How I treasure each and every one of these words during the hard times, especially when dealing with family members and their issues. But oddly enough, I often think about Dory at these times, too. It may seem a bit odd how Dory’s little song reminds me of God’s promises at times like this, but for me, her simple little motto seems to just sum up, in a cute and funny way, everything that God has taught me about dealing with my fears. I am never, ever alone, and he is able to take away my fears and anxieties to let me “just keep swimming” and properly care for myself and those I love when we all need it the most.
For me, this is quite possibly the greatest love story of my life.
“Just keep swimming, just keep swimming, just keep swimming, swimming, swimming…”
I wish you a very Happy Valentine’s Day! Thank you for allowing me to share a piece of my heart with you today.
A few days ago, I wrote an introductory post about our recent trip back to far West Texas, specifically about our overnight stop at Monahans State Park entitled “Camping in the Sand.” This is the second post in this series that I would like to share about far West Texas, a unique and beautiful area that I just adore, specifically about Balmorhea State Park and a magnificent drive on Texas Highway 17 between Balmorhea and Fort Davis.
Feel free to see any photos in a larger size by clicking on them.
We left Monahans State Park around 10:30 am and drove west on I-20 to the Flying J in Pecos for gasoline. The huge Flying J is a great place to stop if traveling by RV because it is an easy “off-and-on” from I-20, and it has two dedicated gasoline lanes just for RVs, along with separate lanes for larger diesel rigs and trucks. They also sell propane, which is located in the left RV lane, and they have a big convenience store and a restaurant on site. After filling up the gas tanks in both the RV and the car, we left the Flying J, turned south on two-lane Texas highway 17, and proceeded to drive south toward the mountains in the distance.
Our next stop was Balmorhea State Park, just four miles past Balmorhea. The tiny town of Balmorhea is home to this small and unique park that draws visitors year-round to its natural warm spring swimming pool that is large enough to hold many happy kids and adults at the same time, but in the winter there are far fewer visitors. We opted to enjoy a leisurely lunch break in the park, since we could get in for free with our Texas State Parks pass, and we also wanted to show the park to our son for the first time. The park is located right on Highway 17, with the park entrance literally just off the road on the left just a few miles out of Balmorhea.
As I mentioned, the main attraction at Balmorhea State Park is the historic San Solomon Springs pool. It is a huge spring-fed pool with a natural rock bottom that was constructed by the CCC, and it remains a constant temperature year-round of about 72 to 76 degrees. Twenty million gallons of fresh spring water flow up from the pool springs each day, and subsequently run off into a canal system into the surrounding area. Parts of the pool are as much as 25 feet deep, and a few adults were testing out their scuba gear as we strolled around the pool just before lunch. Yes, there are live fish in the pool for both swimmers and scuba divers to enjoy! I took a series of three photographs from the far side of the pool and merged them in Photoshop into the panorama photo shown above, as I could not capture the entire pool in just one photo, even with my wide-angle lens.
The pool house has large restrooms and changing areas for both men and women, as well as a concession stand that is open during the high season. Big trees and picnic tables are nearby, in addition to the day use picnic area on the other side of the building.
The Texas State Historical Marker is posted on the wall just as you enter the pool house area.
According to an article on the park’s website, San Solomon Spring “has provided water to travelers for thousands of years.” It is an interesting article and worth the quick read.
Balmorhea State Park has level RV spaces with some of the nicest covered tables that we’ve seen in any state park, and this park would be a great option for a quick overnight stop, since it is right off of Highway 17. Some sites have water only, some have water and electricity, and some have water, electricity, and cable television. There are also both pull-thru sites and back-in sites. We hope to actually stay here in the RV for at least a night or two on a return trip to the area in warmer weather and finally go swimming here. I love to swim, and that big pool is just “calling my name.” Even though I have a picture of my own below, this picture better shows the RV campground in the non-winter months when things are greener.
The park also has several historic cabins to rent that were built in the 1930’s by the CCC. However, a note was posted in the office that all of the kitchen equipment will be removed from the cabins by April, which will no doubt disappoint some people who have stayed there and enjoyed having a kitchen available, but there are some dining options in Balmorhea, as well as at least one grocery store. The cabins are located in a very pretty area of the park, and they are also adjacent to the RV camping area. Both the cabins and the RV campground are within an easy walk of the pool, too.
These historic cabins sit along a canal that leads to a restored wetland area, also called a cienega. According to the park website, there is an underground window at the cienega to view the underwater wildlife, but we still have not taken the time to check it out while on our stops there.
Lodging options are also available a few miles away in Balmorhea. On my first trip to this area several years ago, I actually stayed in a small motel in Balmorhea for a quick overnight stop when no lodging was available in Fort Davis that night, and I would stay there again, if needed. I learned a valuable lesson on that trip, too. Always, always have a confirmed lodging reservation when visiting Fort Davis. Always. I will never make the mistake of traveling to Fort Davis without a reservation again, even for a campsite.
We parked the RV in the day use area in the park, and we enjoyed dining outside for lunch on one of the covered picnic tables nearby, which had a scenic view of the mountains in the distance and the pool next to us. This area was also a good place to walk Girly Girl and let her stretch her legs, even though she was not permitted in the pool area.
One special memory from our lunch stop here was pulling out the Christmas cookies that were leftover from my holiday baking escapades. After we ate a sandwich, we enjoyed a few cookies as well, especially the lemon cookies which were so amazingly good. We then discussed how to ration the lemon cookies that were left, so that we would have some for the rest of the trip. It was pretty funny, as we had plenty of the other cookies left. The battle for the remaining lemon cookies was officially on! Somehow, we managed to ration the lemon cookies over the next few days, leaving one last cookie for our son to enjoy on his birthday on Saturday. He was quite proud to officially claim that last cookie, and I also took his picture holding his “birthday” cookie.
We have only visited this small park in the winter months on our way to Fort Davis, but I have also seen pictures and videos of it during the warmer, greener months, and it is quite pretty, especially if the area has received some beneficial rains. It is truly a little oasis in the desert. Even in the winter, though, I love the uncrowded beauty of this unique and remote area.
After enjoying an hour-long stop here, we then drove out of the park and back onto Highway 17, straight into the Davis Mountains, over the top of Wild Rose Pass, and on to our destination at Davis Mountains State Park. The drive from Balmorhea to Fort Davis and back is one of the prettiest drives ever, and I look forward to driving that particular stretch of road on every trip. If traveling to this area, I highly recommend that travelers driving either direction from Balmorhea to Fort Davis on Highway 17 make this drive during daylight hours to see the magnificent views. I personally think the best time to make this drive to maximize its scenic beauty is when the sun is high in the sky around noontime to properly illuminate the mountains and unique rock formations all around. It is also beautiful during golden hour just before sunset, but it is also more difficult to see the interesting and unique detail in the mountains. I always love a good sunset drive, though, and this one is pretty epic.
I was driving the car on our most recent trip, so I could not take pictures. Below are some of the pictures of this beautiful drive that I have taken on two previous trips over the past two years, including the somewhat famous view of the mountains from Wild Rose Pass, as seen on the return trip from Fort Davis back to Balmorhea. These pictures can’t begin to do justice to the impressive views, but I gave it my best shot.
Thanks for stopping by and watch for more posts here on this unique and scenic area of Texas!