Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Stunning Succulents, Brilliant Bromeliads, Dazzling Daylilies

Master Gardener Freddye Kelly dazzled us with pictures of her lush garden and creative garden decor. We also learned factoids about bromeliads, succulents, and daylilies. What Freddye especially likes about all three of these plants is that they are easy to grow and maintain. All three types come in a huge variety of colors, shapes, and textures. Daylilies do not come in true blue, so if anyone wants to be rich, hybridize a true blue daylily! And to top off this great program, we had a drawing for over 15 samples from the Kelly garden including iris, clematis vine, and cashmere bouquet. Thank you for your knowledge and generosity, Freddye. And remember, you are never finished in the garden, so enjoy the process.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

All the World's a Stage

Professor Jeff Wax of the drama department here at Lone Star College – CyFair came to LIFE and turned upside down our concept of what acting is. All you need for acting is a doer, a watcher, and a place. Thus, all the world truly is a stage. And I guess William Shakespeare knew what he was talking about. Jeff even invited two of us to perform! We are excited to see the college performance of the Pulitzer prize-winning play Dinner with Friends by Donald Margulies which features two of Jeff’s students, a professional actress from U of H and our own speech professor Patrick Barton. Here is a picture taken by Jeff at dress rehearsal last night.

Here is what Jeff wrote to his colleagues describing the upcoming performances:

Dear Colleagues,
Our production of Dinner With Friends opens this coming Friday in the Black Box Theater.  There are four performances of the play:
  • Friday, April 11th at 7:30PM
  • Saturday, April 12th at 2:00PM
  • Saturday, April 12th at 7:30PM
  • Sunday, April 13th at 3:00PM

THE PLAY:  Donald Margulies’s Pulitzer prize winning play Dinner with Friends, is a deceptively straightforward, rueful suburban comedy about friendship, divorce and the minefield of middle age; a play that taps into the collective psyches of those of us who came of age in the ’70s.” Gabe and Karen, and Beth and Tom are two married couples whose lives have become inseparable - raising kids together, holidays together and enjoying countless dinner parties - until the day one marriage unexpectedly crumbles. Suddenly the four are forced to investigate their friendship as a group and as individuals, and examine the relationships within their own marriages. What initially seems a rather conventional glimpse at the perils of breaking up becomes an original examination of the terrors of staying together. In short, Dinner with Friends is a modern masterpiece about the path you choose, the millions you don’t and the detours that make it worth the ride.  *Recommended for mature audiences only.*
Please invite your students to attend this wonderful production, which I am confident will provide the opportunity for a stimulating conversation in your classes. Dinner With Friends is so unassuming and beautifully constructed.  It examines the dynamics of old friends, allegiances, love, endurance and the differences we all have faced with crisis.  Flee or fight?  Seek comfort from another or seek solace in solitude?  Blow things up and start over or rebuild what is broken.  It’s about expectations.  It’s about defining and sorting through which ties bind and which ties don’t.  It immerses us in the drama of everyday life. We appreciatively and effortlessly take the ride.  
Dinner With Friends features a strong cast of four actors including our own Patrick Barton.  If you have never seen a Lone Star CyFair theater production I invite you to come out and sample the quality of our work.

I look forward to seeing you at the theater.
All best,
Jeff Wax

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Mason Jar Mania

What a great crowd of crafty community members today at LIFE. Dorrie Scott and Tracy Williams waxed poetic on the wonders of jars and all the myriad things you can do with them. They even created a Pinterest site called Mason Jar Mania. Carol Ann Maurer was particularly thrilled when she won Tracy's peppermint body scrub. Whether you paint your jars or just put a pretty lid on it, you will never be unprepared to give the gift of homemade goodness. You can bake a cake in a jar. You can layer a cookie mix in a jar. You can store crayons in a jar. You can make taco mix in a jar. You can drink out of a jar. You can sprout beans in a jar.

Many thanks to Jason Moulenbelt and Torie Van Wie for their donations to decorate our door prizes.

Carol and her door prize


Peppermint Body Scrub

  • 1 to 1-1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil (or other oil of your choice - grape oil is good because it doesn't have much of a scent)
  • 4-6 drops peppermint oil (or more if you like it more peppermint-y)
If using coconut oil, place in microwave-safe dish and heat until it liquefies (15-30 seconds should do). Combine oil and sugar--adding more sugar if you would like a coarser texture scrub. Add peppermint oil, stir and pour into your storage container. Enjoy your yummy smelling, skin-smoothing body scrub the next time you bathe or shower!

Note: Because you are using a product with oils, it will leave a bit of oil on your tub or shower. Use caution as this might make the tub or shower a bit slippery.

Tracy's Taco Seasoning (adapted from

  • 1 T. chili powder
  • 1-1/2 t. ground cumin
  • 1/4 t. garlic powder
  • 1/4 t. onion powder
  • 1/4 t. cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 t. dried oregano
  • 2-3 grinds of sea salt
  • 1-2 grinds of black pepper
In a small bowl, mix together ingredients. Combine with 1 lb. cooked ground beef and 3/4 cup to 1 cup of water. Simmer 5-10 minutes or until most of the liquid has been absorbed. Serve with your favorite taco toppings!

Tracy's Overnight Refrigerator Oats

  • 1/2 cup rolled oats (not quick oats)
  • 1 tsp. chia seeds
  • 1/2 cup milk (I use unsweetened almond milk)
  • 1/3 cup greek yogurt (I use vanilla flavored--if you don't use one that is sweetened, you might need to add some sort of sweetener to taste)
  • 1/2 cup frozen wild blueberries
Add all ingredients to mason jar. Cover jar with lid and place in refrigerator overnight. Go to bed. Wake up in the morning, open the fridge and enjoy your oats (either cold or heated in the microwave).

Note: After adding ingredients and covering with a lid, you can shake your jar to combine OR you can just leave them layered in the jar and mix with a spoon before serving. Either way works great but the layers are much prettier in the jar!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Indian Food

The library's own Usha Dontharaju shared an amazing brinjal curry and cumin rice dish with us today, further proving her status as one of our favorite presenters! The recipe which Usha worked from can be found on the Edible Garden site, here. Eggplants are known as brinjals in India, and this recipe uses baby brinjals, which can be found at Indian food stores. With humor and helpful tips, Usha talked us through the steps of the recipe and even suggested substitutions or changes for picky eaters. 

The brinjal curry was served along with a simple cumin rice dish made right in front of us. For 2 cups of rice, you heat about 2 teaspoons of oil, then add about a teaspoon of cumin seeds and pour that over the rice, you can even mix in sweet peas if you want. Usha used basmati rice for an especially aromatic and flavorful dish. What a delicious meal and good company to brighten a cloudy day, and I'm sure we'll have Usha back again as soon as possible!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Reflections on Ethiopian Jewry

Suzanne Jacobson, Senior VP of Development at the Jewish Federation of Greater Houston, joined us today to share the more recent history of the Ethiopian Jewish community. The Ethiopian Jewish culture dates back 2500-3000 years, but Suzanne focused on the community's struggles that began in the 1970s, when Ethiopia ended diplomatic ties with Israel. Under the dictatorship of Mengistu Haile Mariam, those Ethiopian Jews who were wanting to leave Ethiopia and make their home in Israel were caught and tortured by the government. It was around this time that it was decided that "The Law of Return" applied to Ethiopian Jews and the Mossad, Israel's foreign intelligence agency, was charged with negotiating with leaders in the region and secretly bringing those from the Ethiopian Jewish community into Israel.

Over several different operations in the next 20 years, Ethiopian Jews were guided into Sudan, where they were then flown to Israel. In 1984, Operation Moses brought close to 6,000 Jews from Ethiopia to Israel. This began one of the most difficult transitions of a group that has ever come to Israel. They went from living in mud huts to an incredibly high-tech and innovative nation, where they were introduced for the first time to things like refrigerators and indoor plumbing. In Ethiopia the men were rural farmers, and upon their move to Israel found it difficult to find their place and support their family in a very different society. While the Ethiopian Jews have faced huge challenges, programs in place to support them and their own efforts have helped them along the way. Suzanne shared the story of a friend of hers, Pnina Tamano-Shata, who became the first female Ethiopian Jew to go to law school, and who was recently elected to the Israeli Parliament.

Thank you to Suzanne for giving us insight into a group of people who have faced tremendous challenges and are working to preserve and honor their culture and heritage.

The Ethiopian National Project
The Jewish Federation of Greater Houston

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Not Fred's First Time at the Rodeo

Lone Star College - CyFair Branch Library was honored today with a talk and book signing by eight-time world title winner Fred Whitfield and his lovely bride, Cassie. Just go to YouTube to see Fred in action. Fred's talk brought out fans of all ages and we were fascinated with all the stories told with humor and candor. We can't wait to read his tell-all book, Gold Buckles Don't Lie. Fred gave us a glimpse into the sometimes glamorous, but mostly grueling world of a rodeo star. We also felt the love and loss Fred had for his favorite horse, Moon. Best of luck at the rodeo this weekend, Fred.

Fred's book, Gold Buckles Don't Lie, can be purchased for $25 at
Fred with rodeo fans Karen Sharp and Abby Ludens

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Mardi Gras Balloon Hats

Cynthia Shade, trainer extraordinaire, helped us celebrate Mardi Gras by demonstrating how to make balloon hats. Cynthia discovered the thrills of balloon twisting when looking for some birthday party ideas for her daughter. She quickly picked up the skill with the help of how to videos on YouTube, and is now a balloon twisting expert.

Our LIFErs had a blast trying their hand at balloon twisting and hat designing. There were, of course, a few pops, but you must be fearless when making balloon shapes! Cynthia even showed some of our more daring audience members how to make balloon flowers, as well. For this demonstration, Cynthia showed us how to make jester hats and we used size 260Q balloons.

Thanks to Cynthia for a wonderfully fun and crafty time! Check out how to videos here!