Snakes On A Plain

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Charlotte and I have been redoing the Ranch House now for about a year. It's a definite work in progress, but she's done a great job decorating on a budget and we've even hung curtains without filing divorce papers. 

So, it's all good. 

The biggest challenge we've faced has been letting the various critters in our neck o' the woods know that we're here and we mean bidness. They're welcome to share our little slice of Cranfills Gap paradise so long as they obey The 5 Critter Commandments. 

The 5 Critter Commandments

1. Thou shalt not scare the shit out of me by jumping out of the darkness

2. Thou art not welcome in my house - EVER

3. Thou knows that even if I look cute and cartoon-like, I may be killed if I break commandments #1, #2 and especially #4  

4. Thou shalt not frighten Charlotte

5. Thou knows that if thou art a SNAKE and there is a weapon handy - shotgun, rock, hoe, rocket-propelled grenade launcher - thou will die a very unpleasant death accompanied by the sound of something resembling a three-year-old girl screaming 

I'll take a pair of boots, belt and a nice handbag for Charlotte, please
Snake-533.jpgThe Rattlesnake Whisperer and the reason why we no longer go barefoot at the ranch

The Commandments are non-negotiable, so I was more than a little happy to get a phone call the other day that went something like this: 

Caller: "Mr. Hill, I'm (name redacted to protect the innocent) I was wondering if you'd let me come on to your place and do some rattlesnake huntin'" 

Me: "You want to do WHAT?" 

Caller: "Snakes. I'd like to come on your place with a couple of my friends and hunt rattlesnakes." 

Me: "This some kind of a ranch joke?" 

Caller: "Nope, we like huntin' rattlesnakes. Took over 100 last year and I think we might get some on your place, if you'll let us."


Samuel L. Jackson and I share the same thoughts about snakes

Snakes on a Plane-600.jpgIt's not as big as the one taken at Bob's ranch, but it'll have to do

Since the person whom we shall now call THE RATTLESNAKE WHISPERER was checking every box (except #3) on The 5 Critter Commandments, I agreed. I also told him we didn't subscribe to a "catch & release" program for the snakes and that we "weren't responsible for any accidents." 

"I'm not interested in any snake rehabilitation program," I told the rattlesnake whisperer. "Terminate them with extreme prejudice" (I'd heard that once in a movie and it sounded really badass.) 

"Just to be clear," I said, "Samuel L. Jackson and I share the same thoughts about snakes (Clip NSFW (language)."


I didn't think he'd find anything, because, well, I just DIDN'T.

I was wrong. 

In a couple of hours he wrangled eight of these creatures straight from Hell.

Snake cage-600.jpgThis picture is as close as I want to get to these bastards
Snake cage 2 - 600.jpgThat face on the right side of the picture gave me nightmares for weeks 

Charlotte, who once wore sandals on top of Charlotte Mountain, has forsaken fashion for a pair of snake boots (Kinky, amirite?). She also wants me to look into the cost of mounting a 50 cal. Machine Gun and Flame Thrower to the front grill of the Jeep.   

Texting from Charlotte Mountain-600.jpgCharlotte texting from Charlotte Mountain - pre-rattlesnake boots 

Oh, and one more thing. 

"Call the Rattlesnake Whisperer and tell him something for me," Charlotte said. 

"OK, what..." 

"Tell him he can hunt snakes on our place any time." 

"That sounds like a good plan," I said.

But, until he's gotten rid of every single one, I'm gonna stick with hanging drapes. 


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The List: 11 Mom-Pampering Presents under $150

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My mother Patsy has trouble sitting still. She's always cooking, cleaning or working in her garden. She's known for fussing over my stepfather Ken, fixing goodies for her neighbors (everything from relaxing Bourbon Slushes to three-layer Coconut Cake) and singing in the church choir. So when Mother's Day rolls around, she's often overdue for some tender loving care.

That's why I adore these 11, sure-to-please favorites. Whether mom's hooked on fashion or the latest fiction, there's something here that'll scream "Today's all about you!" And at under $150, these mom-pampering presents will make girls of every age feel oh-so special without blowing your budget.

Coral Crush

Just the thing for summer, the Landmark Mini Fontana Lady Bag lends a show-stopping pop of color to any outfit. This hot, day-to-night option holds all her essentials (think card case, cell, keys, comb, gloss and, of course, travel hairspray).

FashionistasPink Purse - 400.jpg will love its real leather design (feels soooo very soft and gets even more so with use), polished gold hardware and versatility. The strap adjusts easily so mom can toss it over her shoulder, go crossbody, carry it by hand or remove the strap all together for a chic clutch look.

There's an outside, back pocket handy for her phone as well as an inside, zippered pocket. Plus, you can add one or more of her initials in gold, silver or plain embossing for a one-of-a-kind touch.

I was surprised to find this pretty pick online at Lands' End, one of Bob's long-time favorite stops for golf shirts. Who knew they had such fab accessories?

This hot, day-to-night bag from Lands' End lends a show-stopping pop of delicious coral color to any outfit.

I'm nuts about the delicious coral color but this smart little bag also comes in gorgeous bright yellow and brown tones. And it includes a protective storage bag. ($148 bag + optional $6 for personalization with free ground shipping at $50

Uptown Tassels Blue Bag - 300.jpg

If mom craves color in a larger size, the Classic Tassels Tote makes another trendy choice. This roomy, midsize bag works everywhere from the office to errands because there's space for all the basics and then some.

Genuine leather, this beautiful bag features braiding on each side, two, eye-catching tassels and silver hardware. Mom can carry it by hand or sling it over her shoulder using the two top handles. Or, for a more relaxed vibe, add an optional strap that converts it to a crossbody or longer shoulder style. There's an exterior, zippered pocket great for her phone and keys plus interior pouches galore, two of them zippered, and a helpful storage bag.

I adore this fun bag in the striking, ocean blue color. But it's also lovely in black, brown, khaki and orange. And with a little luck, you might get this terrific tote for a steal. It's from, where you can often find amazing jewelry and accessories at blow out prices during daily flash sales. ($93.99 at

This great, midsize bag from works everywhere from the office to errands. The cute-and-comfy shoes are part of Naturalizer's new Bromstad collection.

Something Wild

The elegant Mary clutch could end your hunt for the purr-fect present. This sleek leopard-print purse makes a glam statement whatever the season.

This Jamison Parker stunner is sure to impress.

Leopard Clutch - 600.jpgFaux leather with gleaming gold hardware, this bold bag won't make her choose between her wallet and keys. Its long, lean design means they both fit. A zipper closure underneath the top flap helps protect valuables. Inside, three pouches, one of them zippered, simplify stashing her cell and other necessities.

Great when she's stepping out, this stunner from Jamison Parker is sure to impress whether you choose the golden leopard (my fav!), light gold leopard or black leopard pattern. It comes with its own storage bag and you can get a 40% off coupon by joining their email list. Bonus! ($69.00 at

Layer Up

If bling is mom's thing, one or more of these high-impact statement necklaces from Stella and Dot could make her day:

Somervell: This sparkling prize adds WOW whether worn alone or stacked with other necklaces. The chunky chain is ringed with 11 absolutely gorgeous glass crystals that'll draw attention to her smile. Large links mean the length is easy to change for different necklines. She can wear it as a short collar to glam up a go-to oxford or extend it up to 19" to flirt with a fit-and-flare dress or complement the Sutton necklace below.

Stella and Dot's Somervell necklace adds WOW whether worn alone or layered with other gems.

Gold Stone Necklace - 600.jpgWith three colors available, the only problem is making a decision. I had to have the peach stones/gold chain because it's such a versatile, day-to-night choice. But the clear stones/gold chain and gray stones/silver chain are on my wish list! ($59)

Sutton:: Want a necklace mom can wear FIVE different ways with just about everything? You'll both love the Sutton. Talk about flexible. This five-strand wonder includes both silver and antique gold chains as well as a removable rhinestone strand so it can be dressed up or down.

Mom can keep Stella and Dot's Sutton statement necklace long and glitzy. Nix the rhinestone strand for a more casual feel. Necklace 5 - 300.jpg

Revised Necklace 4 - 175.jpg

Make it a bold bib (with or without sparkle) with the help of an included extender. Or boast the shimmery strand alone for special occasions.

Necklace 1 - 180.jpgNecklace 3 - 180.jpgNecklace 2 - 180.jpg

Although wonderful anytime, the Sutton is an especially fab find for those who enjoy travel. I've already mentally packed it for my next trip. We've booked a 10-day cruise in May and Bob is limiting my luggage. Having one necklace that gives me so many options will be a lifesaver! ($128)

You can order Stella and Dot jewelry, bags and other cool accessories online at Or if you're like me and sometimes need personal attention, work with a stylist like my friend Lesli Bushnell. She knows all the secrets to getting the most from your accessories and can help you save money by hosting a trunk show.

Pretty in Pink

Anyone who enjoys jewelry will appreciate Ooh La La's Abstract Art Print Necklace. Meant to take center stage, this must-have outfit-maker includes 15 pearly pink stones that dangle from a shiny gold chain in a mod flower design.

Ooh La La's Abstract Art Print Necklace dresses up everything from simple T's to maxi dresses.

Necklace-500.jpgShe'll adore the of-the-moment gem color as well as the chain's airy links, which make it simple to adjust for smaller frames like mine. Wonderful for summer, this treasure's all she needs to top off everything from simple T's to maxi dresses. ($26 at

EDT2 100.jpgFlower Power

A blend of two floral scents long associated with affection, L'Occitane's new Neroli & Orchidee Eau de Toilette is a natural for showing mom how much you care.

In this delicious new fragrance, fruity neroli oil from white orange blossoms dances with the utterly feminine essence of white orchids. Light and girly with a hint of citrus, this easy-to-wear scent will help her feel beautiful.

Want a guaranteed homerun? Throw in a relaxing scented candle, shower gel, body milk or perfumed soap from this charming new collection. (Eau de Toilette $75; Scented Candle $30; Shower Gel $18; Body Milk $20; Perfumed Soap $8 at L'Occitane boutiques and where you get free shipping and free returns on orders over $49)

L'Occitane's new Neroli & Orchidee Eau de Toilette is a light, feminine fragrance with a hint of citrus.

By the Book

If mom likes nothing better than losing herself in a good book, she'll be mad about these hot new reads:

Cavendon Hall-1 175.jpgCavendon Hall, Barbara Taylor Bradford

Set on an elegant Yorkshire estate, this captivating historical romance from New York Times bestselling author Barbara Taylor Bradford involves two families: the aristocratic masters of Cavendon Hall, the Inghams, and their loyal servants, the Swanns. Charles Ingham, the sixth Earl of Mowbray, is lord of the manor. He, his wife Felicity and their six children live a life of luxury attended by valet Walter Swann and his seamstress wife Alice.

A must-read for fans of the Downton Abbey era, Bradford's 29th novel follows these two class-driven families for 16 years, from the eve of World War I to the end of the roaring 20s. Full of drama, desire and intrigue, this salute to friendship and family is sure to touch mom's heart. (St. Martin's Press; April 1, 2014; $27.99)I'VE GOT YOU UNDER MY SKIN cover 175.jpg

I've Got You Under My Skin, Mary Higgins Clark

This gripping mystery from New York Times bestselling author Mary Higgins Clark begins when a Manhattan ER doc is murdered in front of his three-year-old son Timmy at a city playground.

Five years later, the killer's piercing blue eyes still haunt Timmy's dreams. Meanwhile, his 36-year-old mother Laurie thinks about murder 24/7. While struggling to help Timmy get past that awful day, she's producing a true-crime TV show surrounding the unsolved killing of a prominent socialite who was found suffocated in her bed 20 years earlier. Reopening the renowned case is sure to give Laurie a hit show but, when filming begins, it's clear many involved in the investigation are hiding secrets. And a pair of blue eyes is watching...

The colorful characters and surprising plot twists in Clark's 33rd thriller make it a ride not to be missed. (Simon & Schuster; April 1, 2014; $26.99)

GEMINI_final 175.jpgGemini, Carol Cassella

Inspired to tell a story from a patient's point of view, bestselling author and practicing anesthesiologist Carol Cassella penned this fascinating medical mystery-love story about an unidentified hit-and-run victim. When something goes wrong in surgery, this Jane Doe is transferred to the care of ICU doctor Charlotte Reese with only tubes keeping her alive.

While treating Jane, Charlotte becomes obsessed with figuring out who she is and what should happen to her if she never regains consciousness. But the closer Charlotte and her journalist boyfriend Eric get to the truth, the more their relationship is tested. They must confront their feelings about life, death, love, marriage, children and their future.

Great for Grey's Anatomy fans and anyone who enjoys a good puzzle, this vivid, Seattle-based tale is an emotional page turner that'll hook mom and keep her guessing to the very end. (Simon & Schuster; March 4, 2014; $25.99)Beauty 175.jpg

Beauty, Frederick Dillen

Corporate undertaker Carol has the job nobody wants. Known as "the Beast," she travels from factory to factory for a New York mergers and acquisitions firm, firing blue-collar workers and selling assets. It's a miserable existence but she hangs on thinking the next "burial" will be her last. Once she's shuttered a seafood plant on Elizabeth Island off the coast of Massachusetts, she'll have her own company to run. But soon after her arrival, Carol's crushed to find she's to lose her job upon returning to New York, and the company she's been promised will go to someone else.

This addictive, Up in the Air-like story from award-winning writer Frederick Dillon centers on a career-focused Boomer Babe who refuses to let corporate big boys steal her dream. Instead, this likeable heroine creates her own second chance by working to save the seafood factory she almost shut down. Partnering with the townspeople, Carol risks her savings and reputation to transform the doomed plant and her life, finding long-awaited romance along the way. (Simon & Schuster; March 4, 2014; $25.00)



We'd like to shout out a big "Thank You" to the brands in this post for providing free samples for review and testing.


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Here's the Dish: Best-Ever Broccoli Rice Casserole

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If you're looking for a super side dish for your Easter table, this Broccoli Rice Casserole is a crowd pleaser. Most everyone in our family adores this cheesy concoction so it's always a hit on holidays.

We've been enjoying Broccoli Rice Casserole since one of my brother's girlfriends got us hooked on it many moons ago. My spin on this classic includes water chestnuts for a little crunch and a touch of hot sauce to make things more interesting. I also like using Success boil-in-bag rice because it's so easy and one bag gives you the perfect amount for this recipe. But you can use any cooked white rice.  

To simplify my life, I usually cook this sensational side the day before, stash it in the fridge and reheat it before everyone arrives. It's wonderful with ham, fish, turkey, most any main dish. And the leftovers (IF there are any) freeze beautifully. 

This cheesy Broccoli Rice Casserole includes water chestnuts for crunch and hot sauce for a little zing.

Broccoli Rice - 600.jpg

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Want some help getting ready for summer? Aveeno invites you to join Charlotte and other bloggers in a commitment to naturally beautiful results. Be a part of the #Aveenodailychallenge by using Aveeno Daily Moisturizing Lotion in combination with a new healthy habit for 3 weeks. Charlotte's exercising 30 minutes every day. Click here to learn more about the challenge and share your progress!

Know someone battling cancer? Baylor Health Care System's Sammons Says... cancer blog is a great place to go for help. Here, you'll find information, resources, physicians, support groups and just about everything you need to help you navigate your way through this illness.


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Senior Forums is a great place to get the news and share views on everything from hobbies and healthcare, to food, family & travel. 

Matt Drudge gets the goods and his site ain't bad either. 

The Huffington Post is the gold standard of political blogs.

You don't have to live in Dallas to enjoy D Magazine.

If The Onion doesn't make you laugh, you're already dead.

It's a Daily Beast and Tina Brown knows how to tame it.

If you're a Mom, or even thinking about it, check out Heather Armstrong's blog.

Dog is man's best friend, but Dr. Marty Becker and Gina Spadafori are dog's best friends. Their pet blog is the best on the net. 

A Baby Boomer Woman's Life After 50 always makes us laugh and think.

The Women On the Web have some terrific contributors.

If you love old films, Turner Classic Movies should be your home page.