Saturday, November 20, 2010

Friday Night Lights, Modern Texas Style

On Thursday night when we arrived in our home away from home, Mineola, TX, the local grocery (Brookshires) was just gearing down from a big "Yellow Jackets" pep rally in their parking lot, complete with a barrel style grill still belching hickory smoke. On Friday at the barbecue restaurant we visited for lunch, we saw a panther (stuffed animal) hanging upside down on a rope, with the banner "Sting the Panthers." The whole restaurant was decorated with signs and banners. Everyone who worked there wore orange Mineola High School football T-shirts. (BTW, I'm not sure why "Yellow Jackets" in Mineola are actually orange, rather than yellow, but I'll answer that question in another post!)

Ah, high school football playoffs. This was the first round (district) and Mineola hasn't been to the playoffs in over 50 years.
The Mineola Yellow Jackets photos are from the Facebook page
"Mineola Yellow Jackets Playoff Run 2010" from fan Carrie Ann Stafford Kerby.

On the other end of the playoff spectrum, our daughter, an English teacher at Rowlett High School in the Garland Independent School System, attended their playoff game. Since they are a large, suburban school in the Dallas area, they played at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, TX. In 2009, one of Rowlett's stars, Marquise Goodwin, graduated and went to The University of Texas, where he is a excellent wide receiver and expected to be a favorite in the 2012 Olympics Track and Field competition. This photo is from her I-Phone as she and her husband walked toward the stadium. Inside, this is what the Rowlett playoffs looked like. (I hadn't realized the giant high def video screen was quite that large!)

Back in Mineola, I wanted to find out how the Yellow Jackets were doing in their playoff quest. I logged onto Facebook and went to the KMOO page. KMOO is the local radio station, located just down Hwy. 69 from us. ( On their FB page, 999kmoo, they had someone updating the scores from not only Mineola, but several other schools as well. (Lindale, for example, is just down Hwy. 69 and is the home of country singer Miranda Lambert.) It was great to be able to get the updates as they happened.

I tried to find the same thing for Rowlett, searching for scores on the Internet after trying in vain on the school district website, the local TV station pages, etc. I could not find the score anywhere. Since we don't get the Dallas TV stations in Mineola, I knew we wouldn't find the scores any other way. My daughter had uploaded her photos to Facebook, but then went silent on the score. Despite all the modern conveniences of the "big city," I couldn't find out if Rowlett was winning or losing!

The Yellow Jackets, on the other hand, took the lead against the Maypearl Panthers and kept it throughout the game. The final score was 34 to 20. Saturday night at the Mineola Country Club (the only place in Mineola where you can get a drink!) we discovered that they are next playing New Boston in Mt. Pleasant. This was from someone we didn't know who used his Blackberry to find out the information when we asked.

It may seem odd that the small town atmosphere of community, school pride and "clothesline gossip" can be found in person and online, but that is definitely the case in Mineola. As I sat in my living room, I felt very connected to the KMOO reporter who updated the scores on Facebook. I didn't have to wait for news of the next playoff matchup; I only had to ask the man across the small bar at the country club. (BTW, this would have been the case if I'd been anywhere in town, I'm sure.) I still don't know the score of the Rowlett game, but I believe they lost. The Yellow Jackets, however, are big winners in my opinion.

I've never mentioned high school football in any of my Harlequin American romances, even though I've created two small Texas towns where it should be a big part of the community. I'm going to remember this experience and try to include the spirit of the season in my fictional Brody's Crossing series. It's just one more way that small towns are special.

I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday with friends or family. I'll be posting some holiday recipes on Dec. 4th, so I hope you'll check back in then.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Best Thanksgivings

A week from today we’ll be gathering around the table with our family and friends, stuffing ourselves like the turkeys we’ll be enjoying. But there’s nothing like a holiday to bring back memories of the past.

Each year when I was a young girl, one of the aunts (my great aunts) or cousins would host Thanksgiving, then another would host Christmas. Those were the two times a year I could count on seeing all my cousins. Sometimes it was our turn, but I liked it best when we went to Aunt Dorothy's house. She and her husband lived on the farm in the big house near Clearwater where Uncle Milt had been born in 1900. For many of those years, it seemed to me that it took most of the day to drive there from our house in Wichita, although it's only about twenty-five miles.

My mom was the designated turkey roaster, and I would awaken on Thanksgiving morning surround by the aroma of turkey. I doubt we ever missed the Macy's Christmas Parade back then, even as we packed up the turkey and other delights to head down the road to our holiday destination. Everyone brought something to eat. Aunt Dorothy's chocolate pie was always in high demand. At her house, there was a huge, solid wood table where the grown ups all sat. There were always at least a dozen of them, laughing and talking as they passed around the food. Kids sat at card tables, sometimes on Sears catalogs to boost us to the right height.

When dinner was over and the women had cleaned up, while the men--mostly farmers--sat in the living room, talking throughout the football games, the decks of cards were pulled out of the drawer in the buffet and the rousing games of pitch began. The games lasted throughout most of the afternoon and into the late evening, long past dark, and I can still hear the sounds of their voices, whooping and hollering at each other over each hand dealt and each card played.

But it was later in the evening that became my favorite as we grew a little older. My three female cousins and I made the table talk. Some call it table knocking, others call it table rapping, but whatever it’s called, the use and purpose is the same. One person on each side, if possible, hands flat on the table top and concentrating so hard that the house should've rocked, we mentally lifted the table on one side/two legs. Questions asked were usually yes or no, or sometimes involved counting. One knock for yes, two knocks for no. The adults eventually grew quiet, ending their last game of pitch to watch us. Uncle Sterl (Aunt Lucy's husband) would hoot and boo at us, convinced that one of us had to be tilting the table. We weren't. "How can we?" we'd ask and show him that the table could rise several inches...with no legs touching the floor. He never did believe us. One of my cousins reminded me recently that one year the table talking was so rambunctious, one of the legs broke!

I miss those holidays, and especially the talking table. We kids grew up and had kids of our own, who now have kids of their own. We made new traditions. My great-aunts, great-uncles, parents, and even a few of the older cousins are gone, but those Thanksgiving and Christmas memories will always be my favorite. If, like Emily in Thornton Wilder’s Our Town, I could choose a time to revisit the past when I'm gone, it would be a holiday at Aunt Dorothy's house.

Have a blessed and wonderful Thanksgiving, everyone!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Thanksgiving Dessert

My husband and I have moved around a lot throughout our twenty-four years of marriage and many times during the holidays we were without family. That's both good and bad. I enjoy being with family but it's a lot more stressful than just spending the day with your husband and kids. When it's just "us" for the holiday I don’t have to clean the house. I don't feel pressured to go all-out on the decorations. And for fun we've been known to have a "non-traditional" meal on occasion. If it were up to our kids we'd have pizza all the time, so they no longer get a vote.

The one thing I've done through the years whether we eat alone or with family is to prepare a special dessert. I love to watch the food network when I can and Paula Deen's show is one of my favorites. Because of Paula I now have a favorite Thanksgiving dessert. If you're looking for a twist on the traditional pumpkin pie you must try Paula's recipe for Pumpkin cheesecake. It's to- die-for. You can find more of Paula's recipes at

No matter who or how you celebrate Thanksgiving this month, I wish you and yours a blessed holiday.

Paula Deen's Pumpkin Cheesecake

• 1 3/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
• 3 tablespoons light brown sugar
• 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 1 stick melted salted butter

• 3 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, at room temperature
• 1 (15-ounce) can pureed pumpkin
• 3 eggs plus 1 egg yolk
• 1/4 cup sour cream
• 1 1/2 cups sugar
• 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 1/8 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg
• 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
• 2 tablespoon all-purpose flour
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

For crust:
In medium bowl, combine crumbs, sugar and cinnamon. Add melted butter. Press down flat into a 9-inch springform pan. Set aside.

For filling:Beat cream cheese until smooth. Add pumpkin puree, eggs, egg yolk, sour cream, sugar and the spices. Add flour and vanilla. Beat together until well combined.

Pour into crust. Spread out evenly and place oven for 1 hour. Remove from the oven and let sit for 15 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 4 hours.


Roughneck Cowboy (Feb 2011)
Rodeo Daddy (April 2011)

Monday, November 15, 2010

Life has been a bit crazy since my last blog

On October 28, our daughter-in-law gave birth to our second granddaughter, Katherine Grace. This is their second daughter plus my older son and his wife have two boys, so Katherine is not my first grandchild, but she’ll probably be our last. Not only does that make her especially precious, but my daughter-in-law invited me into the delivery room. This was the first time I’ve ever been in a delivery room when it wasn’t me delivering and it was quite an experience. I got to watch them clean up the baby and all the hubbub that happens those first few minutes of life. I got to see the expression on my son and daughter-in-law’s faces as they first held their beautiful daughter. I too got to hold her when she was only a few minutes old.

I guess I’m feeling nostalgic, but in addition to our family my best friend and her family were at the hospital to help celebrate Katherine’s birth. Debra and I started 4th grade together and have been best friends ever since. Our kids grew up together and went to the same high school. And Debra babysits both her granddaughter and mine so they are growing up friends. As will her new grandson and Katherine.

That’s three generations of friendship. I feel blessed in so many ways.

Do you have friends who have always been a part of your life? People who you are almost closer to than family? I take that back. Not ALMOST closer to, but actually CLOSER.