Trick or Treat?

This is not a discussion about the good and bad of celebrating Halloween.

As I child, I loved dressing up and going out  with my siblings and friends.  
And later, when fall festivals and alternative Halloween activities became available, we still took our children into the neighborhood for treats.  

Yesterday, I lugged home a big bag of candy from Walmart.  
We are ready for the dozens of children who will scream at us tonight, "Trick or treat!!"

Last night, I persuaded Larry, my long suffering husband, photo assistant and driver, to go with me scouting Halloween decorations. 
I recently decided to focus on a project of shooting quirky, decorated homes, and this is the perfect time of year to get started.  

So here is what we found in the hour before sunset.

Driving down Garland Avenue, I spotted some orange and black out of the corner of my eye.  
"Turn around, driver!"
We could hardly take in the explosion of Halloween goodness in this yard.  
Mr. Ramsey does this every October, though he told us a heart attack this year meant that he couldn't do as much.  
This is the more subdued version.  
He and his wife expect 2,000 - 3.000 visitors tonight.

He also does it up big at Christmas.  
We will be back.

Here are some other treasures we found.

Whether you greet little ones at your door, 
or hide in the back of your house with all of your lights off,
or go out for dinner, 
or watch the World Series,
have a sweet evening.

The Woman and the Grape

Jody is truly a Renaissance woman.

While I was preparing to write this post,  I was mulling over all her areas of interest and expertise:

arranger of flowers
musician and vocalist
business woman
foundation board chair
Bible study leader
fitness and  wellness expert
source of inspiration and encouragement
hostess with the mostest
wife, mother, grandmother, daughter, sister
kind and generous friend

She can dive into her pantry and refrigerator and produce an impromptu meal for six or more faster than anyone I know.  And it will be delicious.

I have heard that she has driven a truck on a construction site.  I believe it.

And if this weren't enough, she is classy and beautiful.

On this day, she kicked off her Christian Louboutin pumps, grabbed her vintage apron, and dug her hands into a pile of wild grapes.  They had been gathered from Thunder Ranch and were waiting to be made into jam.

Jody makes it look so easy.  I've never canned a day in my life, and I was in awe, watching the process unfold.

Here is how she did it.  
Plus her secret ingredients:  zest for life and all things growing,  and the joy of capturing the delicious summer flavor of a wild grape to share with friends. 

6 cups prepared fruit, about 4 lb. fully ripe grapes
1 cup  water
1 box SURE.JELL Fruit Pectin
1/2 tsp.  butter or margarine
7-1/2 cups sugar, measured into separate bowl

make it

BRING boiling-water canner, half full with water, to simmer. Wash jars and screw bands in hot soapy water; rinse with warm water. Pour boiling water over flat lids in saucepan off the heat. Let stand in hot water until ready to use. Drain well before filling.
SLIP skins from grapes. Finely chop or grind skins; set aside. Mix grape pulp and water in saucepan. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer 5 min. Press through sieve to remove seeds. Combine skins and pulp. Measure exactly 6 cups prepared fruit into 6- or 8-qt. saucepot.
STIR in pectin. Add butter to reduce foaming. Bring mixture to full rolling boil (a boil that doesn't stop bubbling when stirred) on high heat, stirring constantly. Stir in sugar. Return to full rolling boil and boil exactly 1 min., stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Skim off any foam with metal spoon.
LADLE immediately into prepared jars, filling to within 1/8 inch of tops. Wipe jar rims and threads. Cover with two-piece lids. Screw bands tightly. Place jars on elevated rack in canner. Lower rack into canner. (Water must cover jars by 1 to 2 inches. Add boiling water, if necessary.) Cover; bring water to gentle boil. Process 10 min. Remove jars and place upright on towel to cool completely. After jars cool, check seals by pressing middles of lids with finger. (If lids spring back, lids are not sealed and refrigeration is necessary.)

You called in distress and I delivered you; I answered you in the secret places of thunder.  Psalm 81:7

The Cows and the Mamas

Smack dab in the middle of the bustling suburb of Plano, there is a family owned ranch.   
It is a delightful surprise for those who don't know it's there, and just happen upon it on their way to somewhere else.

On her travels to and from preschool, Piper looks for the cows and the mamas.
You would call them "llamas."

Now that cooler temps are here, we've taken some time on Friday afternoons to stop and visit.

And just to give you an idea how this close this bit of nature is to the hustle and bustle  . . .

At one point, I asked Piper to, "Stand here, please, so I can get you with the llamas."  Not what I had in mind.

PS.  My editor just informed me these are alpacas, not llamas. 
There goes the cute name.  

"Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten in God's sight." (Luke 12:6; cf. Matthew 10:29)

Goin' down to Houston

On Friday, I flew down to Houston for the weekend to visit my friends, Tom and Deb.  I love flying with Southwest Airlines (bags fly free - yay! )

But flying itself is not that much fun anymore.  Have you noticed?  Even though I continue to be enamored by the ease of zipping from one location to another, airports seem more like the bus terminals of my youth.  The crowds, standing room only waiting areas, travelers toting their drinks and sandwiches - you know what I am talking about.

But I digress.

On Sunday, we drove along the coast down to Freeport.  Two years earlier, Hurricane Ike devastated the coast line.  At this time last year, I was in Galveston Island, and the effects of the storm were still evident.

This Sunday, we drove to Freeport.  Roads that had been closed last year are now open, and signs of new life are evident everywhere.

The balmy breeze and gentle sunshine made it a perfect day to be out.
The mosquitoes thought so, too, though you would never have know it from looking at the two buddies above.

.... To give to them beauty instead of ashes, The oil of joy instead of mourning, A covering of praise for a spirit of weakness. Isaiah 61:3
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