2 points: The American West

Born and bred on the East Coast, we don’t have any memories of playing “cowgirls” when we grew up. Yes, there was the occasional western movie and vague recollections of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, but the one name that stands out the most – ANNIE OAKLEY. An American sharpshooter who joined Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show, she quickly became an international star. We got to visit Annie during our recent trip to The National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame in Fort Worth. This is a beautifully designed museum, with unique displays, films, artifacts and art. (The Hermes scarves lining the staircase were stunning; did you know Hermes started as a harness making store?)

Plus, they have quite a few interactive exhibits for hands-on learning and fun: we posed with Annie (she looks quite disgusted by our antics), while Barbara let loose her inner cowgirl by riding the mechanical bull!

1 point: A+ Ices

We realize it’s a stretch to toss this in here, but we just had to give a shout-out to the AWESOME Ices at Steel City Pops. These pops, inspired by unique sweets called “Mexican paletas” are incredibly fresh and delicious, using all-natural, certified organic ingredients. We were able to design our own dessert by first selecting from a fruity pop, creamy pop, cookie pop or paleo pop and then choosing to dip, dredge, drizzle or dust our pop with all kinds of goodies, such as chocolate, pecans, pistachios, cookie crumbs, etc. We were with our friends from the Cowgirl Museum outing and we all were swooning and smiling over this indulgent but delicious treat. If you don’t have a Steel City Pops store near you, search for “paletas” in your town and you just might get lucky!

1 Point – Cooking with A

As part of our new ABC rule, we decided to do two recipes made with A ingredients. Since Laura has long been intimidated by the idea of using a fresh ARTICHOKE, that was the starting point of our search. However, after perusing many recipes we decided to let intimidation win and found a recipe for an Artichoke Tuna Noodle Casserole, which used artichoke hearts only. Part of what attracted us to this recipe is harkening back to the “olden days” when moms lived by Betty Crocker and regularly made tuna noodle casseroles. While our casserole didn’t taste bad, artichokes were really not the stars of the recipe and really – who wants hot tuna (unless it’s a tuna melt – Barbara’s personal favorite).

More successful was the APPLE BROWN BETTY, a recipe from the Pioneer Woman. Far from being pioneer women ourselves, we were nevertheless attracted to such a simple and sugary recipe. Laura wasn’t totally sold but Barbara loved it and will be making it regularly, so expect some Apple Brown Betty the next time you invite her over!

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ABC LIFE REBOOT

It’s time to start the ABC Life, Round Two.  But before we begin, we wanted to revamp our rules. First, we’ve decided on less More and Less – so much less that we are not doing it at all. Second, we are bringing back our points count as it holds us more accountable for getting things done. If not for the ABC Life, we would be doing the same old thing, not branching out, cancelling plans if they took too much effort, etc. Knowing we have to reach a certain point total helps keep us on track even though we are only accountable to ourselves. So here they are:

2 points – for experiencing something new

It could be a new town, new restaurant, new event or activity.

2 points – for a movie

In “Round Two” we are choosing them by theme (addiction, cowardice, friendship, etc.)

2 points – for a book by an author we have not yet read whose last name begins with the letter

1 point – for cooking with an ingredient beginning with the month’s letter

We’re also going to try to make a new dessert per month.

1 point – for a learning center addition

We want to expand our knowledge always.

1 point – for a craft

(For two people SO un-crafty, this should probably get us 3 points!)

Now for our first A Activity!

2 Points: Today we decided to explore ARGYLE, Texas. We discovered a small town with not much written about its points of interest – mainly because there is not much there. However, on the road leading to Argyle, we stumbled upon a small Farmer’s Market (a weakness for both of the sisters). With a squeal of tires, we took a sharp turn into the market where we were able to buy some of the ingredients for our A recipes and found some great homemade jams, including bourbon and bacon which we were told tastes great on grilled cheese and hamburgers. We continued on into Argyle where we found a cool little area that included Kimzey’s Coffee set in a hobbit-like cottage. Of course, we had to try an “A” muffin. It was an AVOCADO muffin – a little dense but yummy.

In the same area was Gnome Cones.  Surrounded by dozens of cute little gnomes, this small stand offered ices of various fruit flavors served in a gnome cup. It was a very different gimmick but lacking some flavor in our opinion.

The gnome in the black jacket must have had a growth spurt!

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Y/Z

YODELING

Whenever we think of yodeling, we flash back to watching the movie Heidi and little Shirley Temple yodeling (or at least giving it a good try). Naturally, that made us associate yodeling with the Alps. Wrong. True, it takes place there but it’s not just a Swiss thing. It’s found in many places, including in punk and contemporary rock, in French and African music and it’s also home on the range as well.  So we decided to give it a try! There are several tutorials on the web that tout one can learn to yodel in three easy steps. Well, that’s true but not with great results. We tried it. We somewhat succeeded. And, of course, we laughed!

ZIPPER ART

What better way to end the first-round of the ABC life than with zipper art! Just grab a whole bunch of zippers and unleash your creativity. There are quite a few projects that turn zippers into jewelry but most require skill with a needle and thread – a skill we are sorely lacking. However, there’s nothing a little paper, glue and scissors can’t create. This was definitely a fun project and one that would never have occurred without the ABC life! What do you think? 

And as our mom used to say, “if you can’t say anything nice about something then ZIP your lip.”

EATING OUR WAY TO THE END – THIS GO ROUND

We found out that surprisingly there are several restaurants in the Plano area whose name begins with a Y or Z. We sampled food from Yao Fuzi, Zalat Pizza, and Zenna. We enjoyed all three of these cuisines but Zenna will certainly be new on our lunchtime rotation moving forward. For under $7 we had a salad, soup, spring roll, 2 pieces of California roll and tuna sashimi – what a deal!

 

More or less

Laura: More “ZERO Waste Kitchen Habits.”  I’m determined to waste less food in the months ahead. According to Dana Gunders in her “Waste Free Kitchen Handbook,” approximately 40% of all food in the United States is wasted. Yikes! Americans toss an average of $120 a month per household of four of uneaten food. So, that means Kurt and I trash about $60 a month. Sounds about right when I think of the lettuce that wilted, the mushrooms that I didn’t get to use in the dish I never got around to making, the leftovers that were literally left to rot in the fridge…you get the idea, right? Well it’s a matter of buying less, tracking what’s in the refrigerator better and eating what we have. The pantry alone is a gold mine of food waiting to be chosen. I have to start thinking about meals as a means to using what I have. For starters, I will be relying on soups, omelets and salads as a go-to when I need help with this quest.

Laura: Less YELLING.  I’m thinking neither of anyone in particular nor of a specific instance. But please, let’s have less shouting, screaming, yelling. It seems the noise level is being ramped up in TV shows, movies and commercials – as well as at political rallies and public gatherings. Maybe we should try whispering? Wait – what did you say?

Barbara: More ZANY. One thing the ABC life is teaching me is that it is a whole lot of fun to do something zany and now that I have more time I can take advantage of this. After our Goat Yoga experience I had so many people tell me they couldn’t believe I would do such a wacky (I’ll say zany) thing and that it looked like a lot of fun. Well it is! I’ve done some other wacky things in my life – like going door to door in my cousin’s new apartment building asking if the renter had any boys of a particular age, coming off a plane with Laura to meet our friends wearing Barbara and Laura Bush faces (since they call us the Bush sisters) and hanging upside down over a cliff to kiss the Blarney Stone – and sometimes we stifle that part of our personality. But no more!

Barbara: Less ZEALOTS.  I’m not crazy about extremes and it seems that lately everyone with a viewpoint is so ADAMANT about their position and that connects to Laura’s less yelling wish. Let’s just be able to say what we think about something and listen to other viewpoints without such animosity.

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Y’ALL – WE’VE COME TO ZE END OF ZE ALPHABET

Y and Z begged us to be together since they felt that W and X paired up nicely.

YOGOATTA DO THIS!

Once you’ve had a monkey on your head, as we had in Brazil, the next logical step is to have a goat on your back. Goat Yoga has fast become a trend and is as much fun as it sounds. It started in Michigan in 2016 where Lainey Morse lived on a farm with ten goats. She first hosted a goat happy hour for people who were stressed or ill because “it’s impossible to be sad or depressed when there are baby goats jumping around.” At one of her events a yoga instructor asked if she would be interested in mixing in yoga with the goats.  And voilá – Goat Yoga was born.

We checked it out and can attest to the fact that a crowd of about 30 people were constantly laughing and cuddling with our new found friends. Plus we even got in a few yoga moves. 

 

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WRAPPING UP W/X

MORE AND LESS – “W/X ZONE”

Laura – More WATCHFUL. I need to be more in the present, less in my head. I want to take the time to see, hear and smell the roses – which I can only do if I’m in the “now.” When I walk the neighborhood, I want to look around and enjoy what I’m seeing. The squirrels, rabbits and birds are fine with a little eye contact. Maybe, it’s time to resume a project I started long ago (and abandoned for no good reason). It was take a photo of at least one interesting thing per day. That will help me be more watchful wherever I go.

Less WASTE. I have been making inroads but I still have a way to go toward using up the food I have. Whether it’s in the refrigerator, freezer or pantry, I don’t get to it in time to feel that it is still safe and then it’s thrown away. What a waste – of money and resources!  Trying to buy less and go to markets more frequently to accommodate the fewer items purchased per visit. Also I’m tracking what I have through a visual reminder system I’m testing out.  Whatever works – but the goal is to purchase the right amount of food and to use it all up. Who knows…maybe I’ll also resurrect my old book project: Eat Your (Future) Garbage Cookbook.

Barbara – More WEAKNESS. This is not the meaning you are thinking of. As sisters and best friends, Laura and I spend a lot of time together laughing. I’m talking about the full out, fall on the floor, uncontrollable bouts of laughter laughing. It’s so bad we’ve given it a name – The Weakness. Everyone in our family and our close friends can’t help but be familiar with this “affliction” of ours. When we are weak with laughter in the kitchen we can hear from the other room “Oh, they’ve got the weakness again.” Friends have even taken to snapping candid shots of it. But I say, bring it on! Nothing in the world better than laughter!

 

 

 

 

Less WEAKNESS. This time I mean it in the traditional sense of the word. I want to work on weakness of character – having the strength to stand up for what I really want, need or believe in rather than worrying about what someone else would think of me. I’m not really terrible in this regard but there’s always room for improvement.

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WALK ON THE WILD SIDE

We’ve been talking for some time about having a reunion with four great ladies we met on our recent Amazon trip and finally we did it. We met up in Tampa where Jane, Janice and Sandra live and Mary Ann flew in from Wisconsin. Although we had many interesting and thoughtful discussions, much laughter and caipirinhas to drink, our main emphasis was on visiting Zoo Tampa and the Center for Great Apes (CGA) where our Florida friends volunteer their time.

First up was Zoo Tampa . The two highlights there were getting the inside scoop on the orangutans and an up close and personal experience with the tortoises.We were delighted to meet Winston who was the inspiration for Steven Spielberg’s creation of E.T.

The next day we were privileged to spend time at the Center for Great Apes, which is not open to the public. This was a very moving and emotional experience where we felt sad and hopeful at the same time. CGA is a sanctuary for orangutans and chimpanzees that have been rescued from lives of abuse or neglect. Many of these situations were in the entertainment industry. At CGA, they are allowed to live out their lives in an atmosphere of comfort and caring and with no expectations other than to live naturally.

Our biggest takeaway is “what you see is NOT what you get.” When you see a disclaimer that no animal has been harmed in the making of a particular film, it may be the case but it doesn’t tell the true story of what happens to non-domesticated animals before and after the making of the film.

We are so lucky to have met these ladies – new friendships always lead to enriching our lives. All in all, it was a WONDERFUL WEEK.

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W and X

We are in W month but decided to add X as well. It’s hard to do a lot of X activities without cheating by adding an “e” to X and making it an Extra special combination. So we thought we’d combine our W and X into the same month. After all, why should X be lonely?

XO COFFEE COMPANY & BISTRO

It’s very hard to find an X item so we were very lucky to find this cute little coffee house right in our backyard of downtown Plano. We thought it would just be coffee and maybe some little treats, but the real treat was that they had an Xtremely appetizing menu of breakfast and lunch items. Laura had their cappuccino, which she thought was one of the best ever, and Barbara tried the cauliflower bisque since it was a bone chilling day. Although the bisque was an acquired taste, Barbara wound up really enjoying it. The wait staff was very friendly, which added to the experience, so we will be back.

 

 

RESEARCH CENTER -XOX 

In keeping with the XO theme, have you ever thought about the reason people use XOXOX to indicate hugs and kisses at the end of a letter or email? Well, if you’re Barbara you have. X has been used since 1763 to indicate a kiss due to the medieval use of X by illiterates to indicate a signature. X was the symbol of the cross, so signing with an X was indicating “in Christ’s name it is true.” The cross was then kissed to indicate sincerity. The origin of the O is less agreed upon. One theory is that illiterate non-Christians used it instead of an X so as not to be representing Christianity. The O made the jump to being a hug because it was in the shape of two people hugging.

What have YOU been wondering about this month?

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