Monday, November 30, 2015

A pirate's life for me

I have always loved the Texas Renaissance Festival and enjoyed an adventurous, cold day there the final weekend. Lords, Ladies, jousters, barbarians and turkey leg proprietors will just have to wait another year to set up booths and camps.
My daughter asked me to go and I gave her a big, fat “Yes!”
People always ask if you went in costume. In my one-day’s notice, I did gather some “earthy” robes and some jewelry I’d purchased over past festivals. But it was too cold for costuming for us. I had a sweat shirt, rain jacket and other layers over my festive garb. We went back to the car for a minute and Jasmine found her dad’s overcoat was in the car, so we took turns with that. There were gloves in the pocket. We had been sharing my fingerless gloves, one on each hand. So then we traded off wearing one of each, so we’d have at least one warmer hand at a time.
Jasmine’s friend Meghan and her mother joined us and this girl showed up as a pirate in a red dress under a black corseted overcoat and glittery eye makeup. It was awfully fun to be with someone who would not break character because of a little drop in temperature.
Even when it was downright misting on our heads, we still rate the Texas Renaissance Festival as “aces.

Traveling with the folks
“Planes, Canes, and Automobiles: Connecting With Your Aging Parents Through Travel” is a checklist, with anecdotes plans for trips of a lifetime.
Say you want to take the parents back to the old country and now there are concerns about their medications, level of fatigue, etc. Valerie M. Grubb tells you how to get there from here.
I want her to plan my trip abroad. Let’s go to Europe. All of it, Valerie.
I loved the story about a clever child who had arranged for wheelchair transport at the airport, etc. Turns out Mom was very insulted at the notion. Wheelchairs are for “old” people, she announced. There are ways to have these talks ahead of time, and this book could save relationships. No need to “stew” for the duration of your travels. It should be a time of incredible new memories.
From simple things, like getting your parent a fanny pack and going over the contents of keys and maps and medications daily, to arranging for additional nights for layovers and medical travel insurance, this book will get you ready to go. And get back home.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Vanilla: Put it in my stocking

Thinking holidays? Think giving. Here’s a really wide array of ideas:

Rethink Vanilla
The cookbook "Vanilla a Table: The essence of exquisite cooking from the world's best chefs" is Natasha MacAller's opening of the universe of vanilla. I wish I would've thought of that comment, but it is written right on the cover. It's true that she has made me think of vanilla in a completely different way. Recipes for vanilla sugar, vanilla salt, vanilla syrup and vanilla vinegar are the bases for many a recipe.
But have you thought of Vanilla Candied a Bacon Bits? Vanilla in civiche? With cocoa nib crusted foie gras? Are you hearing this? It is revolutionary.
Try vanilla and orange juice to bring out the sweetness of lobster.
I have never before constructed a fennel flan. When I do I will be reaching for vanilla oil. There are pages of savory options before even getting to desserts. We know what vanilla will do for bread pudding, roasted pineapple and butterscotch pudding. This book has opened my eyes to the pod and what it can do for meats.
This book tells vanilla's story. Give the book to someone who loves to cook. Someone who loves to cook for you.

Okay, Brio healthy ice cream, now at Central Markets across Texas, is not for leaving under the tree, but you can surely enjoy some by your tree as you relax after shopping. It comes in the flavors you want and offers 6 grams of protein per serving, a rich dose of calcium, magnesium and vitamin D as well as 24 other vitamins and minerals, the inclusion of Omega 3-6-9 and prebiotic fiber, and a powerful boost of antioxidants like vitamins A, C and E as well as selenium. The individual servings range from 160 to 170 calories and have half the fat,  75 percent  less cholesterol and 10 percent less sugar than similar flavors of super premium ice cream. I’m sweet on the coffee flavor while my husband likes Spring Strawberry. They’re smooth and do the trick without the guilt trip. Other flavors are Tropical mango, vanilla caramel and mellow dark chocolate. You can currently order Brio online at  (MSRP $1.99) 4 oz cup.

Skin care
For the girls: Girls just want to have clear skin. Moms know this. Texas-based dermatologist Carole Aponte, M.D. and CEO Kelly Barker, developed P.R.E.P. Cosmetics (, the first dermatologist-founded, tested and recommended skincare line created for girls.
I’m pretty sure that if these women experience Texas weather, their products are good for these girls. I’ve been playing with the Purifying Daily Cleanser myself and it’s working for me.
The founders are encouraging young girls to take ownership of their skin and educate them on the dangers of sun exposure. See, nobody cared about that when we were young. The line includes SPF 30 Face + Body Lotion and SPF 15 Lip Gloss
For the women: Remember that old Saturday Night Live commercial for the product that is both a dessert topping and a floor wax? It came to mind when I heard about a serious, actual development from Grohen Technologies Ltd. Their line includes a blue vial of Intensive Facial Revitalizer Complex, made with seven natural oils including Evening of Primrose, Cucumber and Tea Tree. It feels good going on and I can’t get enough of it.
This line also includes a Feminine Wash that foams to clean the face and feminine areas. There’s a loofah and a microfiber sponge that comes from each use. The paperwork explains how the line’s renewal complex works in detail. Look it up. This is a gifting idea for someone who would not buy it for herself.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Garth House benefit is for the children

Garth House benefit is for the children

It’s not every day the Garth House is decked with lights, filled with music and couples in finery.
But it is always filled with love. Garth House is where children can feel support as they tell their story of abuse to professionals who can help. It’s a important service that everyone whishes was not needed. Listen to the statistics and know that dollars raised are being put to good use.
Pour Les Enfants observed a 25th anniversary of a well-run gala for good on Thursday. A tent goes up in the street and the auction items come out. Everything fro LSU and Aggie gift bags to huge Darth Vadar figures raised silent auction interest, then another tent with chandeliers set a magical mood as the live auction offered packages such as Up on the Rooftop, a Mildred Building wine party with a  presentation on antiques courtesy of Finders Fayre.
That would have been my pick, but the turkey hunt in Arkansas seemed popular, too.
The menu included a salad with dried cranberries, apples, walnuts and feta cheese; mayhaw-glazed pork loin and green beans with roasted garlic and orange zest Best meal I ever had in a tent.
Marion Tanner, executive director, said all these donations and bids are set in motion to help the all-too-many children the Garth House helps each year.
I thank those who work with the children, and those who bid generously to support this mission.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Goodwill toward a good book, good causes

The Christmas d├ęcor will come and go, but that wall of books at the back of the shiny, new Goodwill Industries should remain full.
“They seem to like every single thing we put out,” Gwendolyn Simon, the enthusiastic store manager, said.
Clothes and wares were sorted in colorful ways and employees dashed about, eager to serve, the day I dropped by. I attended the ground breaking as a Greater Port Arthur Chamber of Commerce Ambassador and wanted to stop by to see the completed store, at 4352 FM 365.
Simon said clothes are  popular, and that back wall of books gets lots of attention.
“We have a great selection of books,” she said, and credited CEO Randy Jones for the big display, because of his love of reading.
She also mentioned Jones visits the stores and jumps in to help on the floor.
Then I called up Jones and chatted with him. Sounds like he does love a good book, and helping people in need. Everybody knows Goodwill is all about training and supporting people in our community. You can help by shopping as well as cleaning out our closets and garages to donate what can become someone else’s treasure.
“Our community supports us a great deal,” Simon said.

Give a goat, or some nice jewelry
We’re Americans. Of course we like stuff.
World Vision offers 6-year-old Chania of Burundi as a “cover girl” of their catalogue. She helps her family tend the fields and they could use a goat.
You can give that goat, or a well, for the holidays in a loved-one’s name. Or maybe, as Americans, you can browse that World Vision catalogue/website and order up some Vietnamese totes embroidered by disabled women for your bohemian niece and Capiz shell coasters made by Filipino artisans that would be just right for those pool parties your sister hosts.
Items, like the well-made and detailed bracelet I’m wearing as I type this are billed as momentos for gifts made for specific needs. It’s that word “specific” that brings additional joy to donations, because this organization looks to be getting funds to the right places. The product is weighty and classic and durable. Here’s the description:
Help where it's needed most — AND receive a gift for yourself or someone you care about! Your gift to help where most needed will address specific, urgent needs that might otherwise go unmet for a child, family, or community. As a memento of this gift, you'll receive this gorgeous, adjustable silver cuff bracelet with an intricately laced vine pattern, designed by artisans in Old Delhi, India. This stunning piece is the result of once-mistreated jewelry makers banding together to support their families through fair trade practices.”
There’s a range of very tempting goods that will make shoppers – I should say givers – very joyful this holiday season.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

McKinney is “magical” fun in North Texas

       When someone mentioned I should see the Croatian Village model while in McKinney, I was wondering if it was a tabletop LEGO model.
       I was headed to this near-Dallas area with my husband and asked a pro to point me to good times.
       Adriatica is a life-sized spread filled with beautiful homes, eateries and a lake, all designed with old-world charm. A tower and a chapel highlight the landscape. My favorite part is brick homes that have spaces for spiritual quotes built right into the outer walls. It’s beautiful.
       Here’s a funny bit. I did see a LEGO model of a church altar. Talk about detail. It was in the office of St. Gabriel the Archangel Catholic Church in McKinney. I attended morning Mass and a talk there and met some very hospitable people who loved sharing McKinney with me.
       We were treated to Spoon’s, in the town square. It was kind of crowded, so we were shown around back to the “Garage” section where coffee comes in compact and SUV sizes to go with the theme. A plate of migas later and it was time for more adventures.
       The town square is bustling with antique, clothing and gift shops. At Mom&Popcorn we tasted a Frito Pie blend. It’s hard to top the McKinney, with a sweet and spicy snap.
       Main Street Magic shop was another hot tip. We got a magic trick from David Grubbs, who offered quite a production and history talk to our party of four. Grubbs has great stories and happened to have a magic industry magazine with the store featured on the front cover.
       McKinney is a sprawling city with a long list of major employers and neighborhoods of spanking new homes spread out over the hills. Even the fast food restaurants are have designer, stony exteriors. The best part of this visit was meeting some of the people who call it home.