Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Presentation of $14,045.00 to Driscoll Children's Hospital in July, 2016.

From left: Esther, Dorothy, John Hyde (Director of Major and Planned Gifts), Martha Avery (Vice-President , Development), Richard Harris (Children's Miracle Network Administrator) and Janie.


Beginning in 1982, when we were still just having Christmas open houses to which we invited family and friends, our parents and the three of us made a donation to The Children’s Heart Institute (CHI).  We determined, as a family, that we would give a total of $2.00 for each guest who signed our guestbook, and Dorothy made sure that every man, woman, and child who walked through the door signed! There were over 600 people who came by invitation that Christmas.
That first year, we raised $1,660.00, because many of our friends and family made donations, too. The very next year, the donations totaled $2,300.00 and each year after that, the amount grew larger.
By 1986, we decided to open our home for public tours, charging an admission fee of $4.50. We gave $1.00 of that to CHI.  We still had some open houses to which we invited family and friends, and many of them continued to make donations. Since they didn’t pay to see the house, we continued to give $2.00 for each of them and many of them made donations.
The admission fee was raised a couple of times during the first few years, but we changed it to $8.00 at some point, and that price still stands today.  We have continued to give $1.00 out of each paid admission, and we three still share and give a total of $2.00 for each non-paying guest.  In addition to that, each one of us has always added our own personal donation every season.
In January of 1993, a guest jokingly gave Dorothy a nickel to play the antique organ. Dorothy agreed to put it on the organ, telling the woman that at the end of the season, the nickel would be added to the CHI donations.  However, other guests decided to add to it, and by the end of the season, a grand total of $66.55 had been left on the organ for CHI!  So, instead of adding it to the other donations, we gave it as "The Organ Fund." That became a tradition and continues to this day, started each season by our first group that has been coming every year for 30 years, and have had a standing reservation to be the first tour for over 26 years.
Dr. James W. Simpson, M.D., who was a pediatric cardiologist, head of cardiology at Driscoll Children’s Hospital, and the founder and operator of CHI, passed away in 2002. CHI was phased out in 2009, as Driscoll Children’s Hospital opened facilities to treat children in the Rio Grande Valley.  At that time, we made the decision to continue raising money to help children with heart conditions by benefiting DCH Cardiology Care.
During the 2015 season, our guests left a total of $3,990.46 on the antique pump organ, making a grand total of $78,099.07 through the years. That’s quite a return on a single nickel!
On April 24th, 2016, we had a special Birthday Open House for Esther in celebration of her 85th birthday. We invited family and friends, requesting no gifts, cards, or flowers. We did say that if they wanted to honor Esther, a donation for Driscoll Children’s Hospital could be put in a special basket near the guest book. The donations came not only from those who attended the party, but also from family and friends who were invited, but could not be here. The total amount donated in honor of Esther was $2,000.00! WOW, THANK YOU EVERYONE WHO HONORED ESTHER!
Including the Organ Fund, $1.00 from each paid admission, $2.00 from us for each non-paying guest, donations from family and friends, our personal contributions, and Esther’s birthday donations, we raised $14,045.00 during the 2015 Christmas season.  The grand total from 1982 through the end of the 2015 Christmas season now totals $322,905.00.
Thank you to everyone who visited The Christmas House during our 2015 Christmas season, making the contributions possible, thanks to all of our tour guests who made their own contributions on the organ, and thanks to friends and family who contributed in Esther's honor.  It is more than greatly appreciated by the three of us and by Driscoll Children’s Hospital. It is our prayer that in some small way during all these years, our Christmas House has been instrumental in helping many South Texas children with heart problems.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

A Great Visit with Long-time Friends!

On Thursday morning around 10:00, we checked out of the Holiday Inn Express and met Ann at Cracker Barrel. We enjoyed a leisurely breakfast/lunch and a great visit with her before finally departing and driving back south about 30 miles to McKinney. There we had a wonderful visit with friends who left Premont many years ago to make their home north of Dallas to be near their two children and the grandchildren!

Lou and Nolon Daily welcomed us at their home, and then we drove to their daughter's home just a short distance away where she served dinner. We were joined by the Daily's son, Paul, his wife, Becky, and three of their six sons.

The next morning, we checked out of the TownePlace Suites where we had stayed and began the drive to San Antonio where we had reservations at a Fairfield Inn. Due to highway construction, we arrived ten hours later. It's only a little over 300 miles and is supposed to take about 4 1/2 hours, but traffic on IH 35 between Waco and Temple was horrendous. The highway resembled a parking lot, as the cars in all four lanes were mostly at a standstill. We had not encountered this much trouble when we went to Dallas in March, or even going north on this trip. We were caught in it; there was no way out but to keep on at this slower than a snail's pace!

Since there was more highway construction south of Temple, we decided to head west at Belton, through Killeen, and then on to Lampasas. At Lampasas, we turned south on Hwy. 281. We had planned to eat dinner in San Antonio, but it was getting so late that we decided to stop in Marble Falls  at The Bluebonnet Cafe where we had not eaten in years.

Arriving in San Antonio rather late, we checked into the Fairfield Inn near the airport, and being extremely tired, we went to bed! The next morning, after breakfast at Cracker Barrel, we headed home! The wonderful thing about where we live, is that there is just one stop sign between our ranch and Falfurrias. There are four stop lights between getting off the expressway at our main street (Rice St.) and arrival at H.E.B. (always our main destination). It's wonderful to live in such a rural setting! Visiting in the big cities is nice and entertaining, but it's aways wonderful to get back home!! Give us the country life!

So, this was a very short vacation, but we had fun and really enjoyed the visits with family and friends.

Another Beautiful Day with Ann and Elayne

I don't really think that Elayne was planning to spend another day with us, but we five have such a good time together that we convinced her to come along on our next day's adventure. We went the opposite direction from the day before. This day we went to Whitesboro, which is about 18 miles west of Sherman. We used to have a cousin and her husband who lived there, Frances Minten Johnson and Kenneth Johnson. Frances passed away in 2000 and is buried there. We have lost track of Kenneth, having seen him for the last time about 4 years ago. Kenneth had taken us to the cemetery a number of years ago to visit Frances's grave, so I really thought that I remembered where it was located. It's a small cemetery, and the graves are laid out in a very organized away! We drove all over that cemetery, especially where I thought she is buried. We finally gave up and went back into Whitesboro. I called the funeral home and was told that the city manager would have that info. I called him several times, but he was "not at his desk." I left a message, but he never called back. After lunch, we went to City Hall which was just across the street from where we ate, and there we found the city manager!!  I don't think he ever listened to his voice mail. He was very nice and extremely helpful, finding the information we wanted and giving us a copy of the "map" of the cemetery. We drove out there once again, and there, just where I had thought it should be, IT WAS!! We had driven right by it earlier in the day.

Whitesboro is a little Texas town, but like many others has a plethora of antique shops and boutiques all along their main street! Towns like this are blessed to be near enough to larger towns and cities (Sherman, Dennison, Denton, McKinney, and even on into Dallas). People from larger places flock to these little towns on the weekends to shop and eat! There is a quaint boutique/restaurant/bakery/ice cream parlor called Lovejoy's on Main Street that is a favorite of Ann's, and that's where we had lunch and did a little shopping. We recommend this place, because the food was delicious and the atmosphere very inviting.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

A Beautiful Day with Ann & Elayne

After a night of sweating out the weather, Tuesday, May 10, dawned bright and beautiful! We picked up Ann and her neighbor, Elayne Lemmons, at 10:00 a.m. They had decided that it would be fun to drive to Bonham to visit the Sam Rayburn House Museum.

Click here for link to the home's website.

Photography inside the house was not allowed, but if you go to the website above, there are some photographs there. We had to wear shoe covers while in the house, because all of the rugs on the floor are original ones. Even the tour guide is not allowed to touch anything in the house except the bannister on the stairway which is how you get to the upstairs rooms!  Everything in the house is original and belonged to the Rayburn family. Most old houses were not kept in this perfect condition. Many times furnishings are "like" the ones the family had; but not here!

Back: Elayne Lemmons and Janie Minten
Front: Esther Minten, Ann Atherton, Dorothy Minten

Sam Rayburn Home 

After our most interesting visit in this old, historic home, we drove back to Sherman and then a couple of miles north to Denison, TX. Ann has a wonderful tradition--she takes all of her visitors to Huck's to eat. This was our fourth time to eat there, and the catfish was as good as always!

No, I did not eat all of this. I had some of it for breakfast the next morning! And yes, I did eat the fish breaded in cornmeal!! Steamed catfish just did not sound appetizing, and they don't serve it grilled! While I felt a little guilty eating this, it was REALLY GOOD--in fact, better than just good! It was beyond delicious!  This restaurant is highly recommended! Thank you, Ann, for always taking us for this culinary treat!

Monday, May 16, 2016

On to Sherman, TX!

Monday morning, May 9, 2016, we got up, dressed, and went to the Renaissance Club (concierge lounge) for a great complimentary breakfast--scrambled eggs, grated cheddar cheese, picante sauce, sausage, bacon, fruit, COFFEE, among other things. Of course, they also had lots of high carb foods full of wheat/grains and sugar. But, we did not have a problem finding lots that we could eat that was low carb and wheat/grain/sugar free!! We stayed and talked for a long time with the two ladies who work the "breakfast shift" there. They were so nice, and when they found out that we sing, they asked for a song! So, we sang for them, and got a great ovation from the other guests that were eating breakfast, too. As many of you know, the three of us are so withdrawn and shy---NOT!

We went back to our room, got everything packed up, called downstairs for someone (What do you call them nowadays? It used to be bellboy, but I don't think that's right anymore!!!) to come up and get our luggage and other bags. I went to the parking garage and got our van and brought it around to the front of the hotel. When it was loaded, we started off on our next adventure which was a trip to Sherman and a visit with our cousin, Ann Davis Atherton. Many of you know or know about Mickey Davis Landrum, Ann's sister who lives in Orange, CA. Sherman is about 65 miles north of Dallas, and thank God, the highway construction that has plagued that trip in the past is all finished now! It was smooth sailing up Hwy. 75! 

We had reservations at the Holiday Inn Express in Sherman, so we arrived there, checked in, and rested for a little while. (There is not a Marriott Hotel property in Sherman, but I am also a Holiday Inn Priority Club Member for occasions like this!) It was a very nice hotel and the staff was so friendly and helpful.

We spent the rest of the afternoon and evening with Ann and her husband, Olan. She prepared a wonderfully delicious dinner for us--roast beef, carrots, broccoli, mashed potatoes and gravy (Dorothy's favorite!), and a great salad. Because of everyone's likes and dislikes, she made it a "build your own" salad!! Dorothy likes tomatoes only (no lettuce for her--she says she's not a rabbit!!), Esther can't eat cucumbers, and we can't eat raw onions, so that worked out great! Esther and I had a small serving of the potatoes (just like Mama used to make) but not the gravy! 

We watched the weather alerts on t.v. and on my iPhone, keeping an eye on the radar. The area was under storm watches. We get kind of nervous when they warn of hail and tornadoes, but that is commonplace up there. We prayed a lot, which I know they do, too. We watched a small storm cell that was southwest of Sherman go up into Oklahoma where it grew and spawned three deadly tornadoes that night. A larger storm went below Sherman, but didn't do any damage. We were so grateful that everything missed Sherman, but felt so sorry for the people in Oklahoma who lost loved ones and property! The property can be replaced, but the lives are gone forever! It was rather scary being that close to those storms. We always just hear about them and see them as something that happens far away from where we live! 

We spent the evening visiting and enjoying some music. Ann plays the piano, and of course, she wanted to hear the songs we had been doing for the Christmas House tours. We finally returned to the Holiday Inn Express and went to bed, but it was a lot later than we are used to!! 

Saturday, May 14, 2016

A Short Vacation This Year

The three of us just returned this afternoon (Saturday, May 14th) from a short vacation that began with the May meeting of the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor Board of Trustees in Belton on Friday, May 6th. We left home in our Dodge Grand Caravan minivan on Thursday and drove to Temple where we stayed at the Marriott Fairfield Inn, our home away from home whenever we go to Belton/Temple. Since we spend the whole year making Marriott Rewards Points using our MR Visa Cards and staying at Marriott properties when we're away from home, this trip was a great opportunity to use some of those points for our hotel stays.

On Friday, I (Janie) attended the trustees' meeting while Dorothy and Esther, along with the spouses of the other board members attended a private showing of Miracles from Heaven at a theater in Belton. Their lunch was served at the theater. This was hosted by Julie O'Rear, who is the wife of university president, Randy O'Rear. 

As always, the meetings I attended were great! The school, which is a Texas Baptist University, is the college alma mater of all three of us, so we enjoy the time that we spend on campus three times a year! The blessings, both spiritual and financial, that God is bestowing on our university are a wonder! We praise Him and thank Him for all that He is doing for the university and in the lives of everyone there: first and foremost in the lives of the students, but also the faculty, staff, and administration.

We spent Friday night in Temple, and then traveled on to Dallas on Saturday. Before leaving Temple, we had breakfast at Cracker Barrel. We stopped in Waco and visited Magnolia Market, a retail store owned by Chip and Joanna Gaines, the couple who are The Fixer Uppers on HGTV. A friend had told us about it and said that we would enjoy seeing it. Wow!! They have turned the area near downtown Waco into a retail phenomenon that can be enjoyed by whole families. It is housed in an old grain barn with two huge silos beside it. While we didn't find anything to buy, we did enjoy the visit! It was Mother's Day weekend, and the store and grounds were filled with families!

Knowing that there might be some extensive walking, we took Dorothy's scooter with us. That's the main reason we traveled in our van. So, when we arrived and parked at the Magnolia Market, I was getting the scooter out. It comes apart and folds up; is lightweight, and easy for me to maneuver in and out of the van. However, I had forgotten that I had placed the 18 pound battery under the seat part of the scooter! When I pulled that part toward me to lift it out of the van, I pulled the battery out, and it fell on my right foot!  OUCH! Did that ever hurt!!!!  I was able to stand on it, but I wasn't too sure whether it was broken or just bruised! I continued to put the scooter together so Dorothy could use it, and we went on through the gate and onto the grounds of what used to be a grain barn and two big grain silos. So far, so good! I was able to walk on my foot, even though it was painful.

From there we continued on to Dallas where we checked in to the Renaissance Hotel (Marriott) that is located right by the Dallas Market Center. It was originally a Stouffer Hotel, and over 20 years ago, we used to stay there when our Mother traveled with us. In the years since, we always stay at either the Fairfield Inn or the Courtyard (both Marriotts).

It was really strange to be right there by the World Trade Center and Trade Mart and not go there to order merchandise!  We did that in March as we have been doing for 32 years. However, this trip was not for business, but for pleasure only! We checked in (using Reward's points), and I parked our van in the parking garage. I met Dorothy and Esther in our room on the 26th floor, and we rested for a while. It was a lovely room with plenty of space, and the two double beds were very comfortable! Later, we went downstairs to have dinner at the hotel restaurant. We really didn't want to get in the van to drive anywhere, and besides that, my foot was really hurting. Actually, when we got to our room, I took my sock off and looked at it. My big toe was awful looking. It had bruised, and a huge blood blister had formed right at the base of the toenail on top of my toe. I could not get my shoe back on, so I wore my bedroom slippers to dinner! I put my foot up on the extra chair at our table while we ordered and waited for our food. After eating, we went back up to our room, and I plastered my toe and the top of my foot with Indian Salve (Miracle Salve). I couldn't bend my big toe, and it hurt like the Dickens!! The bruising was terrible.

I am a Lifetime Platinum Marriott Rewards member, so when we stay at one of the more expensive Marriott Hotels, whether we pay or use points, we are automatically upgraded to a room on the concierge level and that includes access to the concierge lounge where they serve a complimentary continental and hot breakfast on Monday through Friday mornings and a light dinner and desserts on Sunday through Thursday evenings. However, the lounges are closed on Friday evenings, all day on Saturdays and Sunday mornings. Gold and Platinum Rewards members are given complimentary continental breakfasts at the hotel restaurant on the weekends. 

The next morning when I got up, I still couldn't bend my toe, it was swollen and bruised, but it wasn't hurting! (That Indian Salve, which is all natural ingredients, really is a miracle! I'll have more to say about that in a future blog.)  We dressed for breakfast, and were downstairs by about 7:00, with me in my bedroom slippers again. We didn't eat too much, since we had plans for brunch at 11:30. We all three needed our coffee, and they also had several different kinds of cheeses, cold meats, chia pudding, and lots of different breads, sweet rolls, etc.!  Dorothy had a small croissant, but Esther and I eat no bread at all, so we just had some cheese and salami. (I tasted the smoked duck, but didn't really like it!) We wanted to be hungry at 11:30!! I did eat some chia pudding.

We went back upstairs to our room and dressed for our next adventure! Thank goodness, the other pair of shoes I had brought along was a pair of sandals! My sore toe was free of anything that would rub against it. 

I had purchased tickets online for us to see Wicked at Dallas Music Hall at the State Fair Grounds. Before each evening performance they serve a buffet dinner in the theatre restaurant, and before matinees (on Saturdays and Sundays) they serve brunch. I had made advance reservations for the three of us to have that meal before the 1:30 performance. That's why we didn't want to eat a large breakfast at the hotel!! The menu was extensive with lots of salads, different kinds of cheeses, scrambled eggs, made to order omelettes, beef, pork, fish, sausage, bacon, vegetables, and the list goes on. The dessert table was groaning and seemed to be the most popular place! Dorothy had some dessert, but Esther and I stay away from sugar and wheat/grains, so that was off limits to us! We did taste the pecan pie, but no crust in that bite! There was fresh fruit, including strawberries and other berries, on the salad bar, so that was our dessert!

We had wonderful seats for the performance. We were within the Producer's Circle, with two of us on the 5th row, just to the left of the center section and one of us (me) on the 7th row right behind the other two (aisle seats with good views). When I ordered our tickets a couple of weeks earlier, there were very few available, as this Mother's Day performance was sold out by the time of the performance! The only place they had three seats together was way in the back or up in the balcony, and we certainly didn't want that! We were very pleased with our seats!

We had seen Wicked in Dallas several years ago and had been wanting to see it again. We were so glad that it was there and we could go on from Belton/Temple to Dallas. If you are not familiar with Wicked, it's the story of what happened in the Land of Oz before Dorothy and Toto arrived. It is a great show! Google it and find out more.

After the show, we drove back to our hotel, rested a while, and then went up one floor (27th) and had a light supper at the concierge lounge, called the Renaissance Club at this hotel. We weren't extremely hungry, and lots of what is served in most eating establishments is full of wheat, but we managed not to go to bed hungry!! 

By the way, my big toe looked awful, but the pain was considerably less!  I rubbed Indian Salve all over it again before I went to bed.