Archive | November, 2018

Thankful Thursday and Mr. Dan

30 Nov

“Goodness is about character – integrity, honesty, kindness, generosity, moral courage, and the like. More than anything else, it is about how we treat other people.”

~Dennis Prager

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This is an oldie but a goodie story that I share every year about this time. It all started several years ago, maybe six or seven, maybe more.An artist friend called me and said an elderly gentleman was looking for an artist that could paint on porcelain or China. And I quote, ” The elderly gentleman had an artist who painted bluebonnets on a white porcelain gift for his wife for Christmas every year.He has been giving his wife this gift for fifty years. She passed away, but he wants to continue having this gift made.”

Well, my hear was aching. The poor man misses his wife and wants to continue the tradition. I called Mr. Dan and agreed to meet with him to see if I could help. We met at Snug, and he brought a few examples of previous projects. Yep, I could do that.

I found a beautiful white glass gift box at an antique store, painted and inscribed on the bottom per his request, to Sue Love Dan, I called Mr. Dan a week later to tell him the project was finished and we could meet. We met at Chicken Express for the exchange, as he was on his way to the square. I gave him the gift and he loved it, I melted with sadness for his loss.

He thanked me, took out his wallet and asked how much he owed me, I said, “One big hug. I refuse to take your money.” He thanked me profusely and said, “Sue is going to love it. She’s at her sister’s today, so I can hide it before she gets home.”

Ahhhh, the lightbulb went of over my head. His wife hadn’t passed away, but rather the artist who painted the gift every year.

So now, every year, I get a call from Mr. Dan, and I tell my friends, ” Well, I’ve gotta paint some bluebonnets for Mr. Dan’s dead wife who isn’t really dead.”

And every year, Mr. Dan takes out his wallet and tries to pay me. I get my payment of a big hug and a thank you.

Today, I delivered his gift to his house. Here he is putting it in his truck to hide from Sue until Christmas. One of my favorite stories.

Wednesday:) What’s Cookin’ Miss Toni?

29 Nov

“Cooking is like painting or writing a song. Just as there are only so many notes or colors, there are only so many flavors – it’s how you combine them that sets you apart.”

~Wolfgang Puck

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I like this quote. Not only is cooking like painting, but with me, I also paint my wine glasses and vases and then cook them. I like to cook and bake and paint. A win-win.

A while back, I painted a couple of martini glasses for my friend Jerry. He collects martini glasses. So, I thought for Christmas, I’d give a couple of matching wine glasses. I had already painted two, which were the prototype or practice before I painted the fancy martini glasses. But, I was afraid that if I gave those two away, I’d forget how I painted them for future reference, so I painted a few more to have in my collection.

I finished painting late last night, or rather, early this morning. They needed to air dry a while, and they are in the oven now. Heat setting at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

Besides painting and baking, I also did a little cooking. I love to cook. Really, I do. I’m not fond of the clean up, but that’s all part of the experience. I had a few girlfriends over for lunch today, and I’ll admit I tend to go a little overboard.

I prepared a build your own taco buffet extravaganza. It’s difficult to know what everyone likes, so it’s best to let them help themselves. Do you think this was enough for four ladies?

Of course, the special secret ingredient to any Mexican meal is Bernard’s world famous salsa. David and Michele Bernard are not only good friends, but they make the best salsa that I’ve ever had. With all this food, needless to say, there were a few leftovers.

Tuesday:) Toni’s Gettin’ ‘Er Done

28 Nov

“You know that wonderful feeling of accomplishing all your goals and checking off all the things on your to-do list? Yah…me neither!”

~Toni Armenta Andrukaitis

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Today, all the stars seemed to align and I got a lot of tedious and long overdue tasks accomplished. Of course, there is always so much more to do, but it was a good day.

I woke up at 6:58 am, just two minutes before my alarm was set to squeal. I was just in time to turn it off and reset it for 8. It was cold and windy, so I decided to skip zumba and just take the dog for a long walk. I was meeting Mary from church for coffee at 9:30. She is not only my good friend, but also my annulment advisor. We’ve been working on getting all the paperwork and documents together for well over a year and a half. I’m the one who procrastinated filling out all the tedious forms and answering 22 pages of difficult questions. Mary just needed to check and comment. We’ve met many times to go over things, and she kept nudging me to get ‘er done.

It felt like such a weight off my shoulders. All the hard part is done, and Mary took the fat folder and will submit the forms. Then, we just wait. For those of you non-Catholics, according to the church, although I have a civil divorce decree, in the eyes of the church, I am still considered married. I don’t want that. I can’t live with that.

After we chatted and exchanged Christmas gifts, I ran over to the store and visited with Miss Karri over at Papa Murphy’s pizza. Next stop, the dreaded Social Security Office. I was there yesterday, and they said I needed more time to fill out paperwork to receive social security benefits, so come back tomorrow. It was already 3:30 and they closed at 4. Lucky me.

Today, I got there at 12:30 and only had to wait…. 3 hours. (Sarcasm) For a while, I thought they forgot about me. I wasn’t the only one dozing off between staring into space and the listening to the mean security guard shouting, “Silence your cell phones, stand away from the door, don’t lean on the counter, lower your voice!!!”

The good news is, I’m all set, and in January I’ll be receiving a social security check. Between that and my shiny blue medicare card, I’m officially OLD.

When I got to my car, I realized that I hadn’t eaten in about 20 hours, so I rummaged all around and found a solitary cracker. That’s it, but it helped. I stopped at the book store and found a cute Disney book for my granddaughter. Then I stopped for gas at Walmart. I was so excited because the price has really dropped, AND I used a gift card that reduced it 3 cents more.

I came home, fed and walked the dog, and did a few chores and paid a few bills. I was so wound up and pleased with my accomplishments that I forgot to eat. I looked in the fridge and decided to make a cucumber salad, quick and easy.

Literally, I just peeled and cut up a cucumber and put some ranch dressing on it. I’ve got so much more to get done before the day is over. Ah, but it was a wonderful productive day. I’m just gettin’ ‘er done. Life is good.

Monday Memories:) Tommy’s Back In Town

27 Nov

“Nothing is ever really lost to us as long as we remember it.”

― Lucy Maud Montgomery

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Normally I have a montage Monday post, but today, when I was looking at my Facebook page, my friend Sherri posted a picture of a street musician sitting on a bench on the Square. I was so excited! It was my old friend Tommy.

I met Tommy a few years back while I was strolling the Square. He was playing his guitar on a bench outside of Snug, so I sat next to him and chatted when he took a break. I hadn’t seen him in a couple of years, and I started to worry that Tommy might have gone to the big music hall in the sky. He was a wandering minstrel that never put down roots or had a permanent job, just wandered around the country. I was so pleased to see that he was alive and well and back in McKinney. (Photo: Sherri Murphy)

Yay! Tommy’s back in town.

Here’s the story and poem I wrote a few years back when I first met Tommy.

Thought I’d share this story with all of you. )

TOMMY AND MABLE

Tommy sat on the cold metal bench outside a little coffee shop in downtown McKinney. His raspy muffled voice crooned a soft country song, while aged yet agile fingers strummed across the well worn strings of a blue acoustic guitar. Salt and pepper hair brushed across a ruddy bearded face as a crisp north wind kicked up. Tommy reached over to secure the two wrinkled dollar bills flapping inside the open guitar case. He carefully tucked the ends of the bills under the small stack of prized CDs bearing his image and that of Mable, his faithful companion of thirty-seven years.

Johnny Cash’s, “Ring of Fire,” soulfully echoed across the Square, and Tommy’s foot tapped along with each rhythmic beat. I dragged a wooden chair across the brick sidewalk, and then parked myself a couple feet away from the real-life Texas troubadour. I enjoyed each rendition of old familiar tunes, as well as the original compositions inspired by nearly forty years of life on the road.

“Tommy, would you mind telling me a little bit about yourself, ” I asked when he took his first cigarette break. “Where are you from?”

“I was born in McKinney, Texas. Haven’t been back here in over thirty years.” His tone and demeanor became a bit more serious when he described his early childhood.

“Yep, I was born right here in McKinney. My folks got killed when I was thirteen. They wanted to put me in foster care, so I took off and rode the rails. Never looked back. Been traveling ’round the country ever since.”

His eyes brightened and a little crooked smile appeared when he started talking about Mable. “We’ve been together for thirty-seven years now. I was rummaging around in a dumpster looking for cans one day, when I ran across this old black guitar with a broken neck. She was in bad shape, but I fixed her up with some glue and tightened up her strings.”

The adventures were mixed with making new friends and happy times, sprinkled with the hard hungry days.

“We’ve walked across all these forty-eight states, just playing music for folks and living off what they put in my guitar case.”

Tommy went on to describe the nomadic life of a traveling troubadour. “I’ve never run into anyone else who does this. It’s an honest livin’. I don’t beg. I just play my music and if folks like what they hear, they drop a dollar or two in my case. Sometimes I’d ride the rails from one town to the next or just walk ’till I couldn’t walk no more.”

I listened as he carefully crushed the tiny cigarette butt beneath his worn out walking shoe and tossed it in the trash can beside the bench. “I don’t stay in one town for more than a few days. Never had a wife or kids. Wouldn’t be right, with me movin’ round so much. Wouldn’t change a thing if I could.”

When I asked about Mable, he said she was named after his beloved grandmother. The old black acoustic guitar with hundreds of scrawled signatures from front to back, now sat in the window of Snug on the Square, just a few feet away. I asked if I could take a picture of him and Mable, so he walked over and took her out of the window. I could see the jagged repair on her neck and her strings were missing.

“Mable’s retired. When you retire a guitar, you take off the strings. Need ’em for the next one.” Then he pointed out the spot where Elvis had scribbled his name one rainy night in ’69 in Mobile, Alabama. But, he was just as proud of the signatures from a group of women that signed her after a Susan B. Koman walk a few years back.

“ I decided that it all began here, so it should end here. I’m leaving Mable with Sandra and these nice folks. I know they’ll take good care of her.”

Tommy mentioned that when he came back to McKinney after being gone for so long, he strolled along the unfamiliar streets and asked around at a few shops and restaurants downtown to see if he could set up somewhere and play his guitar. Sandra Nichols, owner of Snug on the Square, was the only one who welcomed him and treated him with respect. “That’s when I knew my Mable would have a good home and a good family right here. They’re going to keep her right there in the window.”

I was intrigued by the story of Tommy and old Mable, especially the long and loving relationship the two shared. So, of course, I was curious about the new acoustic.

“Tommy, what’s the name of your new guitar? I was sure it would be another interesting story.

He turned his whiskered face and answered, “Haven’t named her yet. She’s gotta earn it.”

After taking a few pictures and recording a couple segments of Tommy serenading and smiling at passers-by, I said farewell to the wandering minstrel from McKinney. I shook his talented weathered hand and dropped all the cash I had in the old black guitar case. Who knows when Tommy will be passing this way again?

Tommy and Mable

With silver hair and a crooked smile

Strumming tunes that make you want to sit awhile

As you tap your toes and start to sing along

He shares each word, and has lived each song

His guitar is closer than any family

And the road, the only home he’ll ever see

But he and Mable have a need to play

Her frame is worn and her strings won’t stay

They’ve seen the whole country from east to west

And the town they’re in, is the one that’s best

Mable’s been signed by many a star

Even Elvis scrawled his name on that old guitar

But the real country singer never settles down

‘Cause there’s another ballad and another town.

Toni Andrukaitis

Sunday Sermon and Other Stuff

26 Nov

“Integrity is telling myself the truth. And honesty is telling the truth to other people.”

― Spencer Johnson

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Friday and Saturday were gorgeous sunny warm days here in North Texas. I’m so glad that I got to visit the square for all the holiday festivities both days. This morning, I woke to a cold morning with gale force winds that could topple over a redwood tree. Well, I’m exaggerating a little, but not much. I took the dog for a blustery walk, then off to church early to greet before Mass. It was a little humorous because everyone walking into church this morning had a goodly shove into the door by Mother Nature.

My little friend Liam always has the biggest grin on his face when he runs up to the door to see if Miss Toni has a little something for him in her pocket.

Today’s Gospel was about Pilate asking Jesus if He thought himself king of the Jews, and Jesus replied that His kingdom was not of this earth.

“For this I was born and for this I came into the world,

to testify to the truth.

Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”

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My take on it… anyone who tells the truth, any honest, just and loving person, these are the people who are living the best life here on earth and who will inherit eternal life one day. But most of all, the person who you must be most honest to is yourself. And, the person you must love and respect the most is yourself.

After Mass, I stopped for coffee at McD with Mr. Jerry, then home to walk the dog again. A few kitchen chores later, I was off to lunch with Miss Zelda. Instead of our usual Olive Garden, I suggested the new adorable cafe up the road from me, The Bluebird Cottage and Cafe…at 3711 FM 1461, McKinney. The cafe serves pastries, cakes, paninis, sandwiches, soups and salads as well as coffee, tea, juices and more.

Adorable café in a farmhouse on one acre with a wraparound porch serving soups, salads, sandwiches, paninis, specialty espresso and tea drinks, pastries and cakes all homemade!! Offering some dishes that are Keto friendly, low carb, gluten free and vegan!

The effervescent owner, Sabrina Parker, stopped by our table a few times to see how we were enjoying our meal. I had ordered the quinoa salad, and it was soooo delicious, I couldn’t stop raving about it, nor could I finish the whole big plate full. I got a to-go box.

Before we left, Sabrina asked if I’d like an extra container to take home. They were closing soon and she said that they’d have to make a fresh batch in the morning. Well, I couldn’t turn down her kind offer. Yummy!

The rest of my evening was mixed with more dog walking, a few phone calls, and my factor part of Sunday…FaceTime with my adorable grand-daughter.

Saturday on the Square:) Home for the Holidays

25 Nov

“If you can’t get home for the holidays, bring a little holiday into your home.”

~Toni Armenta Andrukaitis

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A lot of fun this weekend on the Square for Home for the Holidays. It was great bumping into friends, fun food, firemen, music, and my favorite part… my annual photo with the Grinch.

Friday night, Miss Erma, Sherri and I enjoyed a concert by “Asleep at the Wheel.” The tree was lit up and beautiful. It was packed.

Miss Kathy was in her adorable Sweet Spot Bakery cupcake mobile.

Gary Williamson had his amazing paper sculptures.

The Square is all lit up and decorated, it’s like something out of a Hallmark Christmas Special.

Today, I got to see a lot of friends and cool sights while roaming around.

Lynda Kingsley was painting her cool alcohol ink coasters and paintings.

Last but not least, my buddy the Grinch.

Friday:) McKinney Firefighters Home Safe

24 Nov

“Nothing cries out for compassion, concern, and danger as a fire engine screams by carrying firefighters ready to do battle without flinching from any demand.” ~Byron Pulsifer

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Our McKinney and North Texas firefighters arrived home safely in time for Thanksgiving. They traveled to and spent ten days helping to battle the devastating California fires. They left their families and friends, not knowing what they would be up against or what life threatening danger they would encounter. Everyone here in McKinney is proud of their selfless act of kindness.

These are just a few of the firefighter in our community who risk their lives every day for us. This is why I like to take brownies or cookies or cupcakes to my local fire stations.

Yesterday, when I stopped at our new Station #9 with brownies and a hand-painted ornament, I asked them about their Christmas tree. They said they didn’t have one yet. I’m going to have to post something on Nextdoor and Facebook and see if we can’t get these guys a tree.

Then, I had this great idea. I took them a special Fire Station #9 ornament for their first year, so why couldn’t our friends and neighbors here in McKinney all stop by sometime before Christmas and bring a special ornament for their tree? The coolest part would be if maybe the kids could make a homemade ornament with 2018 on it so it would make their tree even more special. I think I’m going to do that.

This is the ornament I made. Poppies this year. I remember a few years back when guys at Station #5 were all reassigned, no one knew where the tree was. I posted something on Facebook, and within a day, the station received a beautiful live tree.

So, here’s the deal. You don’t have to live in McKinney. Why don’t you take a homemade ornament or some baked goods or just a card of appreciation to your local fire station? I know they would appreciate it.

Thursday:) Thankful and Blessed

23 Nov

“When you rise in the morning, give thanks for the light, for your life, for your strength. Give thanks for your food and for the joy of living. If you see no reason to give thanks, the fault lies in yourself.”

~Tecumseh

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This morning, my friend Mary texted me asking if I was going to 10 o’clock Mass. She thought it would be nice to greet together at the door like we do on Sunday. I really didn’t plan on it, although it crossed my mind all week. I do have a lot to be thankful for on this beautiful Thanksgiving day. So, I said sure.

It was a beautiful morning, and I didn’t expect many people at church because I thought most folks would be out of town, over to family gatherings or busy cooking. To my surprise, the church was packed and it was a wonderful service. Everyone was there for the same reason. To say thank you to the one who deserves the thanks. It was nice.

Mary and I stopped for coffee at McDonald’s and chatted for about an hour. I scurried home to get a couple of batches of brownies in the oven. While the brownies were in the oven, I returned my son’s call. Both my boys called while I was at church. Matt is in California and his new job is going well. Joe said that the baby was napping and he’d call later when she woke up so we could FaceTime.

A nice long chat with Matt while the brownies baked, (one batch had cut up Snickers) Then, a nice FaceTime visit with my grand-daughter after her nap.

My Thanksgiving was already wonderful. The brownies finally cooled enough to cut and put on a tray, so I drove over to Station 9. Last week when I stopped by, the firemen said if I didn’t have plans for Thanksgiving, I was more than welcome to join them. I thought that was sweet. When I arrived, the place was hopping with visitors, family and kids. They thanked me for the brownies and again, said that I could come back for dinner. Aw! That was so nice. But, I did have plans.

Oh, and I also brought a hand-painted ornament that said FIRE STATION #9 2018. This will be their first Christmas in this brand new station. I asked if they had a tree. They looked at each other quite perplexed. I guess they hadn’t thought about that yet. No, they didn’t have one yet. Hmm? We’ll have to check on that.

A little while later, my dear friends Sherri and Michael picked me up and we went to have Thanksgiving dinner at their daughter’s house, with all the family, in-laws, out-laws, family and friends.

Sherri and Michael always invite me to spend holidays with her family. I guess we are kinda family, just not by blood.

These are the days I really count my blessings. I started out by thanking God for my blessings, then spent the rest of the day being blessed with truly wonderful friends. I am thankful and blessed.

Wednesday:) What Ya Been Up To, Miss Toni?

22 Nov

“I want to make things of quality. I’m a big believer in handmade, tactile, crafted pieces. I want to keep that tradition alive.”

~Zac Posen

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My passions and talents are writing, cooking, baking, painting, and creating hand-made gifts. Well, there is so much more, but I’m trying to be modest. Not working, is it?

But, the favorite part of having these talents is sharing them. I’ve been working with my friend Mary, from St. Gabriel’s, on some projects for the Bella House. They are having their Gala on December 1st, and they’re trying to get out their newsletter about the Gala and other upcoming events. I offered to look over all the future writing projects, newsletters, and press releases, and do some editing and offer some suggestions.

Of course, when I heard about the Gala, I asked if they needed any donations for the silent auction. Usually I donate a hand-painted vase or a couple of wine glasses or a framed watercolor print. For this event, near and dear to my heart, I wanted to do something special and different. I put together three baskets, each containing a bottle of wine and four different hand-painted wine glasses. When I have friends over, it’s fun to serve wine in a bunch of different painted glasses, then this way if you set your glass down, you remember if you had the red roses or the bluebonnets.

The hardest part was getting that tricky cellophane around or over the oddly shaped baskets and getting the sticky packing tape onto the right spots, for a nice presentation. I needed a couple extra pairs of hands, which I didn’t have. It took a long time and a few expletives, but I got them done. Mary loved them, and hopefully they will do well at the auction.

Now that I’m done writing, back up to my craft room to paint more of my world famous Christmas ornaments. (I told you modesty was not my suit.)

Tuesday:) Tapping St. Francis

21 Nov

“It is no use walking anywhere to preach unless our walking is our preaching.”

~Francis of Assisi

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As you may already know, I walk pretty much every day, all year round, in the horrendous summer heat and in the biting bitter cold. That’s just what I do. I’m a creature of habit, this morning, I said, “OK Google, what’s the temperature?” I’ve got one of those cute little thingies that you talk to. She said, “The current temperature in McKinney is 48 degrees.” I tell her thank you and say out loud,”Not too bad,” But, when she says 32 degrees, I do not thank her and a few expletives are uttered,

I always like to know how to dress for my morning walk. Today required a sweater, hat, gloves, and my warm Norte Dame jacket. I observe many traditions, silly and otherwise. One thing I do on my walk is, when I pass by Miss Bernadine’s house a couple of blocks away, I stop and pat the head her St. Francis statue that sits in her front flower bed. He also holds three small birds in his hand. I give each a tap, one, two, three.

Today, I laughed out loud when I went to pat St. Francis. Miss Bernadine had put on his warm winter hat and coat for the winter. A couple of years ago, I had made a joke about how poor St. Francis might be getting cold out there and he should wear a Santa hat. So, now when the weather gets cold, this is what she does. Isn’t he cute?

I just giggled and patted him on the head. A couple of the birds were tucked under his warm coat, so I didn’t disturb them.

A few blocks later, I sensed a shadow flutter by my face, maybe a falling leaf. Nope, it was a butterfly, and it fluttered past my face and legs as I walked. It’s too cold for butterflies. My angel perhaps.

Then, not to be incomplete, I found yet another lucky penny in the street when I crossed the road. All my blessings, my signs, and another beautiful lucky day.

As St. Francis said, let your walking be your preaching. My interpretation… live by example, not by preaching.