Friday, December 31, 2010

Looking Back. Looking Forward.

It's early evening on New Year's Eve. What better time to take a quick look back and a peek forward?

2010
My grown son's bedroom was converted into a studio/workspace for me. We did much of the work ourselves with the help of our friends Mike and Sara.

We built  a couple of big planters to go along our fence between the house and garage and installed an irrigation system in our new planters.

Painted all of our old patio furniture.

Filled in the center flower bed on the patio to expand our usable outdoor space and relaid the paving bricks that had buckled due to the roots from the oak trees

Cleaned out our garage.

I started experimenting with some potential projects that I may sell on Etsy.

I took a writing course last winter.

I taught myself how to use Adobe Flash and created an animated Christmas greeting, complete with music for the school -- a major triumph.

Our kids are happy and doing well in their respective pursuits.

And we finally got rid of the crapvan and I got the car I've been wanting for over five years: a cute little red Mini Cooper.

2011

I do have a few specific things I want to get done this year:

I want to finish restoring the large weaving loom I got last year. I've gotten a little bit done, but I'm ready for it to be completely cleaned up and in working shape.

I want to rework how the utility room is set up. Specifically, I want to design and build a custom storage unit to replace the old, battered, less than ideal armoire we are using now to store our small drink fridge and various other items. Especially now that I have a big stand mixer that really needs a convenient storage spot.

I want to finally open a shop on Etsy.

And I want to continue to experiment with my writing and do more on this blog.

Happy New Year y'all.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Austin!

I'm currently in Austin, celebrating Christmas for the third time with Larry's family. We got here yesterday after a fairly hideous start to our trip by driving through heavy rain in Houston. Visibility was practically nil on our way out of town. I'm a bit of an anxious driver at the best of times and so Sara and I were very relieved when the skies cleared around Brookshire. We managed to make up a bit of the time we lost and I was happy to see that my mom's old 1991 Toyota Camry (which I was driving, having grudgingly agreed that Larry could take the Mini), has quite a bit of pep in it still. No wonder Sara and Emily have named that car Apollo. It does take off.

We made it to Austin only a little bit late for lunch (okay, 30 minutes), at my mother-in-law Mildred's house. After lunch w/ the family, we sat around chatting and some of us watched some football game (obviously not me). Then we headed over to my sister-in-law's house. This time I took the Mini and introduced Mildred to its charms. Present opening, game playing (Sequence!), and munching on chips and queso ensued. I have a feeling that I'll be buying an attachment for my new KitchenAid mixer with at least one of the gift cards I got. The big question is going to be which one? I'm currently leaning toward one of the pasta making attachments. Feel free to give me input on this decision.

Today, we're going to an exhibit at the Blanton museum on the UT campus. I've been wanting to go to the Blanton for years, but it seems like most of the time when I'm in Austin, I'm moving my children from one spot to another and never find the time. We are also heading out to Cafe Adobe at some point for dinner (I think). And who knows what else. The good news is that so far we haven't scared my nephew Kevin's girlfriend Katie (who is lovely and fun). The bad news is that we do miss nephew Jonathon (in Egypt) and Michael and Sarah (doing wedding stuff w/ one of their friends). 

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Dear Pioneer Woman: Why the Odds Just Got Better on Your Giveaways

For the past year or so, I've been throwing my hat in the ring when The Pioneer Woman (aka Ree Drummond) has one of her giveaways. Especially when she's giving away a KitchenAid stand mixer. But no more. The odds just improved for the rest of you by one on those giveaways. Why? Because for Christmas this year my family gave me a gorgeous white KitchenAid Pro stand mixer.

Really. See in the photo below? I'm beating eggs w/ cream for scrambled eggs for our Christmas Day brunch. Or rather, I'm drinking tea while the mixer beats eggs with cream.

I also whipped cream with Amaretto for the chocolate waffles we had for brunch and made homemade bread with it yesterday afternoon.

Never did I dream that I would have one of these. I'm still amazed that it's sitting on my kitchen counter. And I have Ree and my daughter-in-law Sarah to thank. Ree, because she got me interested in these lovely mixers due to her recipes and contests, and Sarah for deciding I shouldn't have to wait for spot of good luck to get one. Seems Sarah got the idea after I mentioned that I had entered a pre-Thanksgiving drawing for one. So, she started calling the family to get them in on the act. I knew something was up, but had absolutely no idea what it was. The box showed up all wrapped last week and I still had no idea what it could be. Never did I imagine they would get me one of these mixers. Even when I stooped to snooping enough to test the weight of the box, I still had no clue. The best guess I could come up with was a bunch of bricks with an old-folks home brochure attached. (Two of my children like to threaten me with a life sentence in a nursing home.)

On Christmas Eve, we set up my laptop and got on Skype so we could visit with Michael and Sarah, who were in Seattle with her parents. And after the preliminaries, we got down to business. Mainly seeing the look on my face when I finally unwrapped the box. So, I started tearing off the wrapping paper and literally couldn't believe what I saw. After all, I had already gotten what I thought was my main Christmas gift: a new Mini Cooper. I wasn't supposed to get two fabulous gifts. In fact, I had told my husband he was completely off the hook for anything else, including stuff in my stocking. But this had evidently been planned since before the whole car thing got serious. And now I have two magnificent pieces of machinery.

So, thank you. All of you. Larry, Michael, Sara, Emily, and most especially Sarah. Oh, and you too Ree. I am confident this baby can take on the sugar cookie dough that has burned out three hand mixers. Not to mention lots of other things I've been wanting to try. Like homemade marshmallows. It's a little strange to just stand with a cup of tea in my hand and watch the mixer do the work without having to hold it, but I'm sure I'll get used to it real fast.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Lessons in Living: Catherine Russell

This is the stocking Catherine Russell made for me a long, long, time ago.



These are ornaments that she made. Aren't they cute? They go on my tree every year and I think of her when I pull them out of the box.



Catherine was one of my mother's fellow 4th grade teachers in Kenedy. And Catherine is one of the reasons I have learned to make things with my hands.

Catherine loved crafting things. She was particularly partial to anything involving sequins and beads. I can remember a time when she was into Faberge type eggs. Mom has one that she did w/ a tiny Nativity scene set inside. The outside is covered with little fake pearls. She also did appliques, and needlework. I was absolutely fascinated by how she could make such pretty things out of things like felt, styrofoam balls, yarn, and various sparkly stuff.

Catherine was, in many ways, very no nonsense. I remember her as being barely over 5 feet tall, stout, with  flyaway blondish hair that was a law unto itself. To be honest, the kids at school did not mess with Mrs. Russell. We were more than a little afraid of her. Her husband went by his initials which were G.D. and I can remember her telling my mom about an encounter she had w/ some repairman or clerk who didn't seem to think that dealing with Catherine's complaint was a priority. "I'm Mrs. G.D. Russell," she told him, "and G.D. stands for just what you think it does."

But thanks to her friendship with my mom, I got to see another side of her. The side that liked to make pretty things and the incredibly generous woman who shared her creations with her friends. Her church in Kenedy would have a bazaar and Catherine always contributed her creations to it. And even though I never had her as a teacher in a class, she taught me that you can learn how to anything with your hands. And while I don't blow out eggs and turn them into beaded wonders, I do weave cloth, sew, and make my living as a graphic designer. Over the years, I've taught myself how to knit, embroider, needlepoint, etc. And part of my interest in things of this sort is a direct result of knowing Catherine and seeing all the different things she would make with her hands. So wherever you are Catherine, thank you for teaching me that making time for creative endeavors is important and to not be afraid to try my hand at something new. You may not have been my classroom teacher and you never taught me math or English, but you taught me something much more important:  How to live a creative life.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

My Christmas Project

Normally the lamps in my den look like this:

Plain Jane lamp shades

 In years past I would have been perfectly happy with my lamp shades over Christmas. But in November, I went to the Houston Quilt Show. And in the course of wandering around all the vendor booths at the show, I happened upon a couple who were selling what had to be the cutest lamp shades in the world, covered with old Christmas tablecloths and trimmed with red and green braid. I totally fell in love with these lamp shades. I knew that they were just what I needed this year in my pale vintage green den. But I needed three shades and those babies weren't cheap. I had a very vivid mental image of what Larry's reaction might be if I splurged on those lampshades. I did ask the very nice woman if they had a website and was told that they did not ship anything. So, I decided I needed to take matters into my own fairly crafty hands. After all, I have a studio just perfect for a project like this.

First step was to find lampshades to cover. As it happens, I remembered seeing self-adhesive lampshades at various craft stores. So, I located three of them in the size I needed. Next step was fabric. I looked at a fair amount of new fabric, but nothing looked like the poinsettia Christmas tablecloths the ones I had seen were covered in. So, I went online to Etsy and found the perfect little square vintage tablecloth at a bargain basement price. Once it was delivered, a quick trip to the fabric store netted narrow red cotton binding for the top of the shade and some very delightful red bobble fringe for the bottom of the shade. A bottle of fabric glue and I was ready to go. And the end result is this:

Is this not cute?

The lampshades look just as adorable as I thought they would. I am beyond happy with them.

Is it a bit over the top? Maybe. But it makes me happy. And admit it: You know you wish you had these lampshades too.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Farewell to the Crapvan

About thirteen years ago we bought a used 1996 Dodge Caravan. At the time, it wasn't too bad. I was actually happy with it. And overall, considering the use and abuse we put it through (three teenagers for example), it's been an exceptionally good car. But it did have its problems. Like windshield wipers that we had worked on and replaced so many times that I lost count. The serpentine belt from hell, which would come off if it got a drop of water on it going through a puddle (and we live in Houston where it rains, a lot, and there's a lot of puddles). Or the summers (at least three) that I went through without a functioning air conditioner. And for the past two years, I've lived in fear of the transmission failing completely. So over the last few years it truly earned its nickname of the Crapvan.

For about three or four years, I've been lusting after a Mini Cooper. They are beyond cute, they are the antithesis of a mini van and are just plain fun. Specifically I wanted a red one with a white roof and the sunroof. A CD player would send me over the moon. But I figured with two kids in college, I was pretty much stuck with the crapvan for as long as we could baby it along. So, I'd put "Mini Cooper" on my Christmas list every year, with the result that I have a nice selection of toy Mini Coopers now.

Today, all that changed. Today I got the real thing. It's red and white, has a sunroof and more techy stuff than I ever imagined I'd have in a car. None of the cars I've had to drive have ever had a CD player. This car not only has a CD player, it has BlueTooth, a place to plug in my iPod, etc. I can even change the colors of the little accent lights in the interior. (Currently they are green.)

So, the Crapvan is gone and in it's place is the cutest car imaginable and it's actually mine. Well, mine and the bank. But I'm not going to let them drive it.


Me and my car. We're very happy together

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A Little Something from Grandma

For most of my childhood, at least until sometime in junior high school, my maternal grandmother, Irene Nieschwietz, lived with us. (Mom had to put her into a nursing home the last year or so of Grandma's life and she died the fall I was a freshman in high school). I've always felt blessed by the gift of growing up in a multi-generational household. It was hard for Mom as she had no help from her siblings, but that's another story for another day.

Grandma had already been completely blind for more than a decade when I was born due to a hereditary condition, but in the kitchen at least, it didn't slow her down much. Among the things I remember with great fondness is her gravy. It was wonderful and after she stopped being able to cook and I was subjected to a variety of substances masquerading as gravy, I came to the conclusion that I would have to learn to make gravy myself. I did eventually succeed in that quest. And having learned to make gravy, I marvel that she did it so well without being able to see.

But the one recipe of Grandma's that has been handed down is the one for her fruit salad dressing. you can find a version of her fruit salad at any family gathering during Thanksgiving and Christmas. Each family of cousins has its own version of the fruit salad itself, the most basic of which is the one my siblings and I preferred: diced apples and bananas mixed with the dressing. Some of my aunts added pecans and/or marshmallows. But the key to the salad was the dressing. And I offer it to you here. I served it this past Thanksgiving with a salad consisting of raspberries, blackberries, pears, and bananas. And I served it on the side, not mixed in the salad as, much to my dismay, none of my children have taken to this particular delight. This dressing, more than any other family recipe, brings back memories of the holidays of my childhood.

Irene's Fruit Salad Dressing

3 whole eggs
1/2 C sugar
1/4 C white vinegar
1/2 dry mustard
1/2 tsp. salt
Evaporated milk
Butter

In a mixing bowl, beat the eggs.

In a small saucepan, stir together the sugar, vinegar, mustard, and salt. Bring to a rolling boil. Take the pot off the stove and very slowly add the beaten eggs, stirring constantly with a whisk to keep the eggs from scrambling. Place the saucepan back on low heat and cook, stirring constantly, until thick. Remove from heat. If needed, add a little butter and evaporated milk to thin slightly. (I rarely have to do this step.)

Let cool. You can serve on the side or toss into a fruit salad. Store in the refrigerator. Can be made ahead of time.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thank You

Just a few of the things that I'm thankful for today.

My wonderful children. I am exceptionally blessed with my son, my daughter-in-law, and my two daughters. There were all here today and while they do like to give me a hard time, I know that they love me.

My husband. Yes, even though he's been driving me crazy today and scaring me over what he might buy tomorrow if he goes shopping on Black Friday (he was positively giddy over some of the electronics on sale tomorrow), I am glad that we are still together after all this time. Though I will admit it would be nice if he'd learn how to carve a turkey so I don't have to do it. But then, my daughter-in-law has promised to get a lesson from her dad at Christmas, so even his disinterest in doing the carving is okay tonight.

My neighbors. I love, love, love, the commune. If I need an egg or a hug, they are there for me. Everyone should have friends like these living next door and just down the street.

My choir friends. How cool is it to have friends who love to sing and are good at it. It's like living in Glee. (Only we don't burst into song randomly.)

My co-workers (you know who you are) who keep me sane. Not an easy task. But they are there for me on the rough days and always ready to laugh with me on the good days. I am truly blessed by knowing them.

My mother. Oh, my sweet mother. I am beyond blessed to still have her. She is truly the best mom in the world. I could tell you why, but I have a feeling there's a word limit on these posts.


Happy Thanksgiving y'all.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Acorns Keep Falling on My Head

We have been inundated with acorns this year. For the past month the two oak trees in our back yard have been covering the backyard and driveway with an excess of acorns. We hear the loud cracks as they hit the pavement. At our recent pumpkin carving party, we seriously considered having our guests sign a waver stating they would not sue us if injured by a falling acorn.

We keep thinking that at some point, they'll finally all be off the tree. But it hasn't happened yet and this has been going on for a good month now and shows no sign of stopping. We were just sitting outside by the firepit tonight and every few minutes we'd hear the 'crack' of a falling acorn hitting the patio.

What does this mean? Who knows? I did a tiny bit of research and the Farmer's Almanac says that our area of Texas will have a very wet and cold winter. So, it could be a forecast of a cold winter. Another thing I read said that this is a sign that the trees are going through a stage where they try to ensure the continuation of the species. All I know is I'm tired of the damn things littering up my patio and driveway.

It's All About the Shoes

Look at these.




Aren't they just too cute? I found them this morning on Grace Bonney's DesignSponge site. (Which I consider required reading for keeping up with all sorts of design trends, from home to clothing, to print and web.) The shoes will be available at Moschino in December. I personally can't decide between the pale pink or the bright pink. What I do know is that looking at these makes me want to go shoe shopping for cute little flats. The potential problem with owning a pair of these beauties is that my darling daughters would almost certainly steal them from my closet. And I wouldn't blame them for doing so. Stealing these shoes from someone's closet would be justified larceny.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

November Concert

For the next two nights, I will be rehearsing with my choir for our annual Evening Prayer Service and Concert. For some reason, our choir director is extremely partial to doing a concert in November combined with an evening prayer service, which is devoted to remembering those who have died during the past year.

Yes, it's a bit of a downer. We tend to sing music that verges on the dark side. Requiems and the like. One number we did last year had verses that talked of blood on the moon. Or some such. The verses on that one would give a small child nightmares. Hell, they almost gave me nightmares.

Occasionally I long for the opportunity to sing at a Christmas concert. Or a spring concert. After Easter, not during Lent. Yes, we switched one year and had a concert during Lent. Again with the somber music.

But we do get to sing some beautiful music. This year, our choir is singing four of the movements from Gabriel Faure's Requiem. I love this music. It captures the beauty and majesty of the Catholic requiem service. Though from my reading of the notes in my score, I believe that this particular Requiem was not considered completely kosher, so to speak, by the Catholic church. Seems Faure wrote it the way he thought it should be done and that didn't necessarily conform to the requirements of the liturgy.

No matter. It's beautiful. And hopefully, we'll do it justice. If you are already tired of the Christmas carols playing over the speakers in all the stores, come over to St. Thomas More Catholic Church on Friday night and enjoy some music better suited to the fall season.

Monday, November 08, 2010

A Few More Favorite Things

Sitting outside drinking wine with a fire in the firepit on a cool autumn night.

Eating stew made from the recipe my mom used to make when we were kids.

Neighbors who will accept (or extend) a spur of the moment invitation.

Making progress on one of my long-term projects.

Ideas swirling around my head for things I can create.

Music I'll be singing this week in a concert swirling around my head. Currently playing: Gabriel Faure's Requiem.

The incredibly nice cool weather we've had the last week or so.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Yet Another Exercise in Futility

No, no, no. I'm not going to get political again. This particular exercise in futility is car-related. Or more specifically, Mini Cooper related.

Every so often, I troll through AutoTrader.com to see what's available in used Mini Coopers. After over 20 years of driving three different Chrysler/Dodge minivans, I'm completely over the whole minivan thing. Unfortunately, I'm currently stuck w/ the third van, which I not so lovingly refer to as the Crapvan. It's past it's use by date, but with two children still in college and various other obligations, a car payment is just not something I feel comfortable taking on right now.

But this week, there is a real deal out there. A 2004 with low mileage. And it pretty much has everything I want. It's red w/ a white roof. No racing stripes. Cloth seats (leather seats are a big mistake in Houston during the summer). Sunroof. And this particular model is priced extremely low. Almost low enough to make me seriously consider trying to get it.

So, I stopped by the dealership after work and took a look at it. In fact, I actually sat in it. And with a massive showing of self-control, got out of it and walked away to get in the Crapvan and drive home. It was my car version of when I used to take the girls shopping for formal dresses for dances. We'd almost always see one dress that was fabulous and fabulously out of our price range. But I'd tell them, "Just try it on for funsies." Well, I tried that Mini Cooper on for funsies and it looked wonderful.

I think it's a good thing I didn't ask to drive it. I'd still be driving.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Less Than 24 Hours

It is less than 24 hours until the weekend. Last weekend I spent getting ready for a party at our house. Which was great fun and very satisfying.

But this weekend is about the things I don't have to do. I can do this stuff or I can do nothing. If I opt to do stuff, this is some of the stuff I'm thinking about doing:

Going to the quilt festival.

Cooking a pot of stew.

Planting sweet pea seeds. Along with some other flower seeds and a couple of varities of bulbs.

Sewing.

Working on repairing my large loom.

Sitting outside sipping wine while a fire burns in the fire pit.

I rather like making a "Maybe I'll do this" list. Maybe I'll do it more often.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Somewhere

Somewhere out there tonight, are a mom, a dad, and a brother who are facing getting up in the morning and moving on with their lives without their daughter and sister. The funeral service is over and now they have the heartbreaking task of putting their lives back together. Of getting up each day, putting on the coffee, and heading out the door to work and school. Of coming home each day and dealing with the fact that only three people instead of four will be there for supper.

My heart breaks for them as they face the upcoming holidays and getting through the special days they were looking forward to this year, dealing with the fact that there will be no prom photos this year, no white dress and crown for graduation, no packing for college.

I did not know their daughter. She was one of the over 600 girls in the school where I work. But I mourn her life being cut so tragically and wastefully short. I hurt for her friends and classmates who have learned, in the hardest way possible, that the golden days of their youth can turn to ash in an instant. I pray that her family will have the courage to get up in the morning to this new unwanted reality that has been thrust upon them. And I pray that someday, they will know joy in their lives again because this daughter, sister, friend was, from all accounts, about bringing joy to others.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Exercises in Futility

Since it's election day, it's as good a time as any for me to tilt at a few windmills. I've been feeling a rant coming on for a while now. And it's better for me to get it out and not let it fester. Hopefully, you'll agree that these things should be said. If not, well, it's a free country. Go grab a soapbox and go for it.

  • It's only a couple of days past Halloween and at least 4 weeks to Thanksgiving. Plus it was in the 80s yesterday here in Houston. Please, please, please take down the Christmas decorations. All it does is annoy me to see them up this early.
  • John McCain, I want an apology from you for unleashing Sarah Palin on an unsuspecting nation. What were you thinking? Oh, wait, you weren't. You stupid, stupid man. The worst of it is, I strongly suspect our long national nightmare won't be over for a long, long time as it seems Ms. Palin has no intentions of going away quietly any time soon.
  • And now, speaking directly to Ms. Palin: If your idea of the kind of values America needs is our teen-aged children having babies before they graduate from high school, then skipping out on college to go on reality TV shows, then you are even more out of touch with America than I thought. Do not go portraying yourself as Ms. American Mom when you've got a family situation that is totally and utterly out of control. America, you go ahead and trash Mr. Obama. But if I'm looking for a public servant with family values, I'm going to go with him. I can guarantee you his daughters won't end up on a reality TV show after having a child with an idiot who decides posing nude and hanging out with pornographers is a better way to further his career than going to college.
  • It's time to get serious about gun control. This past weekend, one of the seniors at the school where I work was the victim of a drive-by shooting. She was at a Halloween party, just another teenager on a Friday night. A good kid, looking forward to all the events of her final year of high school and going on to college. And she was killed by an idiot with a grudge and access to a gun. Don't anyone give me that crap about how if someone nearby had had a gun, they could have shot the guy who did it or prevented this tragedy. The only way this tragedy could have been prevented is if the guy who did it had not been able to get his hands on a gun. How many time do I have to say this: No one needs a handgun or an automatic weapon of any kind.

Monday, November 01, 2010

"I See Pumpkins"

That's what my psychic friend from choir told me last Friday night when we were out celebrating a friend's birthday. I had heard about how Beth 'senses' or 'sees' things, but I'd never experienced it for myself. She had taken our friend's hand and was describing what she saw. It's basically smatterings of images and words. So, having had a drink, I reached out my hand and she took it. And told me "I see pumpkins. What is up with that?" Both my husband and I burst out laughing and Larry explained that as soon as pumpkins start appearing in the stores I start to bring them home, a few at a time. It's a bit of an obsession of mine in the fall.

But probably the main reason she saw pumpkins is that this past Saturday we had our annual pumpkin carving party, or as I like to call it, "Small Children with Knives."

Some of the highlights from this year's event:

The twins discovering a squirrel skull next to the driveway as soon as they arrived. They immediately picked it up to show to their mother, leading her to say words she never imagined would come out of her mouth, "Boys, put down the squirrel skull."

My granddog, Laila (a miniature dachschund), zipping around in her banana split costume, much to the delight of the little kids.

The sheer, utter delight of loading up all those little kids on sugar, then sending them home with their parents. One of the twins came in at the start of the party and asked his mom for a cookie. Of course, she said 'No, not until after supper.' I laughed and told her, "Now if he had asked me, the answer would have yes, but if he's stupid enough to ask you instead of me, then too bad."

The terrific pumpkins all lined up and lit with candles.

Watching my various friends, some of whom had never met, making connections and having a wonderful time on a perfect October evening.

It was the best ever. Guess I'll do it again next year.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Haunted

Did I mention that I lived in a haunted house when I was a child? Not that I realized it at the time, but with the approach of Halloween and the upswing in ghostly stories, I tend to think about the home we always refer to as "The Old House." That is how we differentiate it from the house my mother built in Kenedy that we moved into about a year after my father's death.

The Old House is located in a little town called Falls City. According to family lore, the ghost in the house tends to hang out upstairs and walks around. My mother has told me of hearing footsteps upstairs when she knew no one was upstairs. After we moved out of the house, I remember my Aunt Ruth stopped by the house to use the bathroom one Friday on her way from San Antonio to visit us. She heard footsteps upstairs and assuming that some local kids were up there. So, she went into the front hallway and called up the stairs for the culprit(s) to come downstairs right now! And the footsteps did come down the stairs, but no one came with them. So, Ruth turned and ran out of the house and would never go back in there alone again.

I also remember one day at the new house when some of the neighborhood kids were doing the ring the doorbell and run away thing. One of us laughingly suggested that maybe it was the ghost from the Falls City house. My mother literally turned white. The very thought freaked her out.

Strangely enough, my mom has told me that she never heard so much as a creaking board at the old house after my father's death till the day we moved out. Believe me, my mom invented anxiety and I'm sure that being a widow with five children (one an infant) and a blind mother to take care of led to quite a few sleepless nights. But she said she never heard a thing. My personal theory is that my father took the time to inform whoever it is that walks around the house (I suspect it's my great-grandmother) that they needed to cool it until Mom moved out. Or maybe great-grandmother did it on her own. My mother did take care of her for years until she died.

Mom and her siblings eventually sold the old house. Shortly after the sale went through, we heard that the buyers were upset that we had sold them a haunted house. But they must have made peace with the ghost, because one of their children still lives there.

There was at least one ghost sighting at our home in Kenedy though. My older sister told me that on the day of my wedding, she looked out a window to the back yard, which was set up for the reception and she saw our dad walking through the yard. It may just have been that he was on her mind as I was the first of us to marry, but I like to think that he was there for my wedding.

I have not been inside the house in Falls City for decades. But I still dream about it. That house has an emotional hold on me that no other house will ever have. It may or may not be haunted. But I am.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

I've Fallen and I Need a Glass of Iced Tea

While visiting my mom this past weekend, I took on the task of ordering her one of those Lifeline necklaces. A Lifeline necklace is basically a grandma monitor, which calls a family member or EMS when grandma has an issue. Like a fall or, in my mom's case, feeling dizzy because she forgot to take her medicine.

Mom is on board with this plan to give us kids peace of mind, because it will cut down on her fears of not being able to tell us if something is wrong. So, there were no arguments with her about ordering this and I'm fairly certain she'll keep it on all the time.

After I got off the phone with the company on Monday, Mom mentioned that one of her good friends had gotten this device for her then 90ish year old mother a few years ago. The device arrived and Mom's friend and her brother explained to their mom that the point of the device was so that if she needed any help, all she had to do was push the button on the pendant and it would call them. And all was well. Until the day when the son's phone rang showing that it was the lifeline device. He answered it before the local emergency services could answer and asked his mom what was wrong. And she said, "Well, you told me to push this button if I needed something and I need someone to bring me a glass of ice water."

Mom plans on asking for iced tea.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Trying to Come Out of the Grumps

I have been extraordinarily grumpy lately. So much so that I warned my co-workers this morning that I was beyond cranky. I haven't actually gone berserk on anyone yet, but it may be time to come out of this phase. Or at least try.

So, I've decided to take a page from Julie Andrew's book. Or rather the guy who wrote the lyrics for My Favorite Things. And yes, I know. That song's about feeling better when you are afraid. But I figure listing some of my favorite things might work also for when I'm afraid I'm going to take out an innocent bystander.

Here goes:

1. Reading. I adore reading.

2. Glee. Listen people, there's a reason why movie musicals were so popular for so long. When faced with reality, who wouldn't want to escape into a world where it's okay to burst into song and you always sound good when you do so?

3. Chocolate. Preferably dark chocolate.  Yum.

4. Wine. If it's a nice white with a fun well-designed label, even better. (Trust a graphic designer to pick wines based solely on the label design.)

5. Baking stuff from scratch.

6. Cooking for friends.

7. Our annual pumpkin carving party. Where I get to bake from scratch and cook for our friends.

8. Making things.

9. My children. Except when they are threatening me with future residence in a nursing home.

10. Snuggling in the wee hours of the morning when it's raining outside.

11. The commune aka our neighbors.

Hmmm. Maybe I need to just do some of these things.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

A Little Eggplant

The photo below is of a tiny eggplant in my garden. It's the first eggplant I've ever grown. 


Last spring, when Larry and I built the raised beds between our house and garage, I planted a few eggplant seeds along with a fair amount of lettuce, zinnias, cosmos, etc. The eggplant never seemed to do anything, but evidently one seed did take and survived the heat of the summer. I wasn't quite sure what this plant when I noticed it peeking out over all the basil, which has taken over, but before we left for Austin last Friday, I noticed a purple bloom on it. And this is the result of that bloom. A tiny little white eggplant. There are two more on the bush, smaller than this one.

Maybe next spring, I should plant the seeds earlier.

Actually, on my list of things to do this fall is to plant some of the stuff I love that has to be planted in the fall to thrive in Houston. Things like sweet peas and larkspur. And anemones, ranunculus, and grape hyacinth bulbs. But first I've got to clear out the overgrown tomato bushes which have taken over the beds, but not produced any tomatoes to speak of (and those were nabbed by our resident mockingbird).

In the meantime, if anyone wants fresh basil, let me know. I've got tons. It has been my most successful crop besides the jalapeno bush which is currently covered with green and red jalapenos. Y'all can have jalapenos too if you want them.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

It's September, but it's not fall.

It is officially the middle of September, but here in Texas, we are still stuck in summer. On the blogs I follow, such as DesignSponge and several others, they are blogging about fabulous fall stuff to wear, to decorate with, and to do. But I just can't get into it. I'm sweltering here. Temps are down slightly (highs in the low 90s rather than the low 100s), but I'm still wearing sandals. And will be for at least a while. The mosquitos are still biting with a vengeance. And I don't feel like cooking because it's too damn hot.


It's always been like this for me. When I was a child (and we didn't have air conditioning in our school), I would come out dressed for the first day of school in a fall outfit and my mother would have to send me to change because otherwise I would have passed out from the heat. And I would always protest to her that it was September. Which meant that it was FALL. And it was supposed to be COLD! But we lived in South Texas where it only began to cool off in late October, IF we were lucky.

High school was a nightmare. High school in Texas means football. I was in the band and for some unfathomable reason, our band uniforms were made of wool. Yes, you heard me. Wool. Wool pants with a fully lined wool jacket, overlaid by a wool overthinging that fit high around your neck. In Texas. And in September and October when temperatures were not in the 50s, but in the 80s. If we were lucky we may have gotten a cool front and nobody died of heat exhaustion at the game.


Over the years, I've somewhat made my peace with living in a part of the country that doesn't have a proper fall. But fall remains my favorite time of the year. When the first cold front blows in, I will be outside welcoming it with open arms. I will decorate my house with pumpkins and leaves. We will hold our annual pumpkin carving party at the end of October and luckily, this year it falls the day before Halloween, so everyone's pumpkin should be able to survive 24 hours without deteriorating into a mushy, moldy mess before Halloween night. Maybe one day I'll live in a part of the country where fall starts in September, not December and the leaves turn wonderful colors.

I can dream.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Our Own Little Soap Opera or the Story Continues

I was awakened this morning by my mother-in-law telling me it was 6:30 am. Normally I would have snarled at anyone who wakes me up that early on a day when I'm not going to work, but then I remembered: I needed to get to the hospital early in order to make sure I saw Larry's surgeon, who, if all was well, would be discharging Larry from the hospital. So, I lept up, grabbed some orange juice and tried to get out the door as fast as possible. It would have been faster if I still had the long hair which I used to just let dry by itself, but no, I had to blow it dry, flat iron it, etc, cause I'm afraid of what it might look like if I just let it dry by itself at this length.

When I got to Larry's room, I met his new nurse, who, while nice, was no Getta, the lovely woman we had when we originally got to the room. Also, it was Monday morning. Which means that there was more going on and less personal attention. We had gotten a little spoiled by the personal attention we had received over the weekend. And before the morning was over, they were short handed as the secondary nurse had had to leave.

Anyway, we settled in to wait for the doctor. And wait. Larry's mom called wondering where we were. Finally, when they brought Larry his lunch, I decided to try and run down to the cafeteria to get something to eat. I had barely sat down with my lunch when my phone rang. It was Larry and the doctor was there. So, I grabbed my plate and drink and headed back upstairs. Thankfully Larry was finishing up showing his doctor how to set up voice activated dialing on his iPhone.

An hour or so later, we were on our way back to Mildred's house. So far he's doing well. We're going to stay an additional day and go home on Wednesday. He's got a few restrictions, such as he can't lift heavy stuff, or drive for a while, but overall, we are so lucky that he's okay. Big challenge over the next few days is to make sure he does both things the doctor told him to do. He's supposed to rest and walk. I have every confidence in Larry's ability to rest. Getting him to move is another story...

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Best Laid Plans and Why You Shouldn't Count on Them

The plan was that we would get up this morning and hightail it back to Houston, where we would get with a surgeon and get Larry's little gall bladder problem taken care of at home.

What happened was that we woke up this morning and he was running a fever. And our instructions were that if he started running a fever, he was to get to the closest emergency room pronto. So, we went back to Seton Northwest and were greeted by familiar faces, who weren't all that surprised to see us turn up again. 

Thankfully the surgery went well. They were able to do the less invasive laparoscopic procedure, which means Larry will probably be released from the hospital in the morning and I'm hoping he'll feel up to heading back to Houston on Wednesday. 

I have to admit that there were some advantages of doing the surgery here. Mainly that I had Larry's mom and sister keeping me company and giving me support during the operation.  For which I am profoundly grateful.

As for future plans, well for now I'm taking it day by day or even hour by hour. Sitting in a hospital for over 12 hours will do that to you.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Why I Didn't Bake a Birthday Cake for my Mother-in-Law

I was supposed to bake my mother-in-law's 80th birthday cake. We had a small family party planned for her today and I volunteered to bake her the cake of her choice (she choose carrot cake). I found a really yummy recipe and my initial plan was to bake the cake layers at my house earlier this week and transport them to Austin for icing and assembly. It was going to be a lovely cake that would not just taste good, but look good too.

But then I ended up spending every single night (except Friday) working late. And when you get home from work at 9:00 pm, the last thing you want to do is to start grating carrots. No, you want to have a glass of wine and go straight to bed.

So I moved to plan B. I would bake the cake early on Saturday morning in Austin. And I prepared accordingly. When I got home from work on Friday and started to pack, I packed half my kitchen. Or at least it seemed like I did. I had three cloth shopping bags filled with everything from flour to cake pans. I brought my mixer. I brought parchment paper rounds to line my cake pans. I brought every single thing I thought I would possibly need to successfully bake this cake.

I had a plan.

Unfortunately, the universe also had a plan and its plan did not involve measuring flour and sifting confectioner's sugar. It's plan involved my husband waking up at 3 in the morning with severe abdominal pain which sent us to the emergency room here in Austin. Several tests and hours later, we were told that he had gallstones which had decided to take up residence in the neck of his gall bladder and our ER doc was going to be talking to a surgeon who would decide whether he was admitted to the hospital to have said gall bladder removed or if he would be released to have the surgery done quickly after we got back to Houston.

Thankfully he got released. We did get to celebrate his mom's birthday with the rest of the family and thanks to my son and daughter-in-law, there was a carrot cake. On which I put the candles I had brought from Houston, the only item I had brought for my cake-baking which got used.

Hopefully tomorrow morning we will head home to Houston. I've already emailed our family doctor requesting a referral to a surgeon. I'm just hoping we can make it back without having to go to the emergency room again. But right now, I just hope he can get some good sleep tonight.

And that's why I didn't bake a cake for my mother-in-law's birthday.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Want!

I discovered these fabulous little paintings of cakes on Design*Sponge a few weeks ago. As a collector of cake stands and a (usually) fairly successful cake baker (see previous post), I absolutely love these paintings. I can see one or more in my kitchen and or den. Or even in my studio. The paintings are by Paul and Jordan Ferney and are in an exhibit at their studio starting on Friday. Unfortunately for me, the studio is located in San Francisco. Also unfortunately for me, I just blew any chance of purchasing one of these gems by having to pay for yet more repairs to my car. But I can dream.




Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Beauty of Homemade Cake

Well, maybe beauty is the wrong word in this case.

I baked a cake today. The cake was for a friend's birthday dinner. This was a potluck dinner and I was asked to bring dessert because I have a bit of a reputation amongst my friends for baking. So, I decided to make a from scratch (no mix involved in any shape or form) chocolate cake with caramel-milk chocolate icing. It's a truly awesome cake.

Unfortunately, today was not my day. I neglected to take into account that I do live in Texas where the temp today was around 100 degrees. So, when chilling the frosting, I should have allowed a few extra hours. But no. I didn't, so when I took the frosting out of the fridge, it was a little on the runny side. Okay, a lot on the runny side. But I figured it would be okay, if I just hauled the frosting and cake layers to the party and iced the cake there after stowing the icing in our host's freezer for a while.

That was a good theory. But only a theory. Instead of a beautifully iced 3 layer cake, the cake layers started sliding around. And then the top layer started to crack apart. It was a mess. Thankfully I had set the cake up on a disposable cake carrier I bought at a cake supply place near my house. So, seeing my 'masterpiece' falling apart and in imminent danger of sliding off the plate when I removed the dome lid, I decided to turn the whole thing upside down and turn it into a trifle. I was able to do this because I knew that the cake itself was going to taste fabulous. Because I made it and the frosting from scratch. So, while my friend Debbie had perhaps the worst-looking birthday cake ever, it didn't matter. Because everyone agreed that it was one of the best tasting cakes they'd ever had.

Snatching victory from the chocolate mudslide of defeat. That's what I'm all about.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Vegas Redux

Yes, I know. I've been back from Vegas for weeks now and have yet to write about the rest of my trip. Basically, I got back and dived right back into working on the magazine and that's pretty much what I've been doing ever since, with a few small diversions. I even brought home my Mac system from work the week the school was closed and worked during my time off (yes, I know: I suck at taking time off).

But finally, I have some time to regale you with tales of Sin City.

After I arrived and detached myself from my work email, I headed down to the lobby and took a quick look around it and the casino, then I headed outside to check out the pool. The Mandalay Bay prides itself on it's stellar pool area with good cause. Once Larry was released from his conference, we met up downstairs and wandered around. We ended up getting some dinner and spent a little time playing slots, but it had been a long day and Larry had to be up early to get to his first event in the morning, so we had an early night.

Tuesday was pool day. As I said, the Mandalay Bay has a really incredible pool area. If I could have brought anything back from Vegas, (besides scads of money from a slot machine), it would have been their wave pool. Please understand that I am not a pool person. I have never been a good swimmer, rarely put my head underwater, and have never been one to just lay out by the pool and read. I always just figured that if I wanted to lay around and read all day, better to do it inside in the air-conditioning in a comfy chair away from the heat and bugs. So, it came as a surprise to my sister Mary Claire that I spent most of two days out by the pool. But I did and it was wonderful and relaxing.

In the afternoon, I headed out on the tram to check out the strip close to the hotel. First stop on the tram is the Luxor. That's the big, black fake pyramid with the sphinx out front. I went in and wondered around a bit and in that brief bit of time, found myself wondering why anyone would stay there. If you've never been in the Luxor, the pyramid is hollow inside with the hotel rooms lining all four sides. Not a speck of natural light gets in this place. None. So, it's dark w/ a lot of very bad fake Egyption decorations everywhere. I wondered down into the shopping area, which was also dark, depressing, and had a few too many closed up shops. Basically the place was a tomb. And that's when it hit me. It's a pyramid. Pyramids are tombs. Which leads to the question: Why would anyone want to vacation in a fake tomb? According to Larry, it's because anyone can walk into the Luxor and get a room for $40 something. Okay, so it's a cheap tomb. Even ickier.

Next stop on the tram is the Excaliber. Read fake castle. Really fake castle. And yes, I know: Vegas is all about fake. Fake architecture. Fake lashes. Fake boobs. That pretty much sums it up.

I will say that one of the things that surprised me when going down the strip was how close together all of these places are. For some reason, I expected more space between each hotel/casino and I didn't expect them to be so close to the street. Photos of Vegas are obviously deceiving.

One area I did like was downtown Vegas along Fremont St. It's been rejuvenated in recent years. It's a little sleazy with the old casinos opening out to the street. Various versions of Elvis are available for photo ops (what's your favorite Elvis? Young Elvis, Sequined Elvis, or Overweight Elvis?) along with girls dressed up (or rather barely dressed) as Vegas showgirls. We had dinner down there on Thursday night, then had a memorable (for lack of a better word) bus ride back. The memorable part was the two drunk guys who didn't seem to understand that the purpose of public transportation is to transport the public. I know they had a problem because every time the bus stopped to pick up people, they'd start complaining loudly about how the bus was taking forever and getting crowded with all the people they were picking up. We won't even go into their comments about the passengers ethnic makeup. Thankfully, they finally passed out before I lost my temper and berated them for being ignorant fools.

The best part of the trip though was my day trip to the Grand Canyon. But that's a post of its own.

Monday, June 21, 2010

First Impressions

I'm here. And I'm settled into our very nice hotel room. Larry got here several hours before I did and is over at the HP conference, which is the reason we're here.

The flight over was terrific. I had a seat on the right side of the plan which meant that I got to see the Grand Canyon from the air. Fabulous. Actually the terrain we flew over was fascinating. I need to check and take a look at where there's a forest fire in New Mexico or Arizona. I'm assuming it was New Mexico, simply because the mountains were forested heavily. The mountains closer to Las Vegas are bare.

Another surprise was the absolute vast emptiness of the country we flew over. Roads and dwellings disappeared for the most part. At one point flying over an area not too far from where the Grand Canyon started, I could definitely see it as having once been a part of an ocean based on the patterns formed by the earth.

As for Las Vegas, I thought Houston was flat, but Vegas takes the prize. It's just this vast flat plain surrounded by mountains.

In a minute, I'm going to go and explore the hotel before meeting up with Larry later on. I would have already headed out, but I made the mistake of checking my email after I unpacked and had to send several emails out on work issues. Obviously I suck at taking off from work. I will try to do better tomorrow.

Vegas baby...

In about 10 minutes, I'll be leaving for the airport to go to Las Vegas. Larry's been to Vegas quite a bit over the years, but this is my first time to go. I'll be on my own much of the time, due to Larry being busy w/ classes and events at the conference he's attending. Should be interesting.

I never thought of myself as a Vegas kind of person, but who knows? I may love it. On my plans are a day trip to the Grand Canyon. I've been assured by my children that this is a must see ("It's not just a big hole in the ground Mom!"). So, I'll be doing that on Wednesday.

I will have access to a computer, so I'll hopefully be able to post about my adventures.

Off we go!

Saturday, May 01, 2010

It will never be the same

I think I've mentioned before that I live in a commune. At least that's how we refer to our street. In the middle of Houston's urban sprawl we landed on a street that is all about community. And as a result, we developed the commune. A group of five families, of varying ages, who discovered over frozen pizza, wine, and beer around a fire pit, that we could be more than neighbors. We could be family.

As a family we have celebrated births, weddings, graduations, deaths, and just being alive and happy. When I was in the depths of a major depression a few years ago, these wonderful people stood by me and helped me to come out of the darkness and see the good in my life. My children have been blessed by being friends with people of all ages and seeing that friendship is one of life's most precious gifts.

This week, one of our families moved away. I understand why Rick and Lora felt it was time to move. They have two small twin sons and the area in which we live is not known for stellar public schools. The cost of educating children in a private school is unreal. I know. I work for a private school. Plus Rick had a long commute to his job. So, they sold their house and bought a new home north of Houston. Last night, their house was empty. And so is my heart.

I know we will see them, but I will miss them terribly. I will miss seeing the boys playing in the tree in the front yard. I will miss seeing Rick or Lora walk their twin dogs (the best behaved dogs in the world) early in the morning and late at night. I will miss hanging out in their front yard,in their back yard, and at their house. I will miss being able to stop on my way to choir practice and get filled in on what is happening in their lives. I will miss Lora's pork loin and cole slaw (I always refused to get her recipes on the theory that I would never make those dishes as good as she did). I will miss having them show up at my back door.

Because of Lora and Rick, I know how to build a 7 foot tall T-Rex out of paper mache. It was Lora who bought a second hand play fort at a neighborhood garage sale and installed it in my backyard for her boys to play on when we gathered at my house. And I was thrilled because the 'surprise' in my back yard was a second hand play set, not a second hand dinosaur. Because of the twins, I know about the Walter the Farting Dog books, (which I will be buying for my great-nephew this Christmas). And the list goes on and on.

Right now, my friends are working on setting up their new home. I hope that their new neighbors are coming over to welcome them and will help them as they settle in. Rick and Lora's new neighbors need to know that their lives are about to be enriched in ways they never imagined. And Lora and Rick need to know that the instant the boys are out of high school, I expect them to move back down here. I'm marking off the days...

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Done!

Or rather, essentially done. We did the last few major tasks in the new studio today. We installed the small shelves above where the table loom will be stored. We put up the mirrors on the inside of the closet doors. We moved the floor loom back in and it's now waiting for me to start in on its restoration and repair. I also moved in some of the other stuff that needs to go back into the room. I still have boxes to go through and things to put away or toss. But it's basically done. And it looks beautiful. I LOVE this room. It makes me happy.

Another thing that made me happy this weekend was that we got our garage cleaned out. Thanks to Michael and Sarah, we now have a garage we can walk into and locate what we need. We also have a pile of trash piled up in front of our house awaiting pickup by the city trash workers this coming Wednesday. I feel slightly guilty about filling up a landfill with this stuff, but then again, I have a clean garage. I'll live w/ the guilt.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Progress Report

The good news is that the major construction work on the studio is done. The last building project was a stand for my table loom. I had been keeping this loom on my childrens' old play table. It was a less than satisfactory solution, but I just couldn't figure out what I wanted for a stand. I'm glad I waited until we did the studio, because once I got the closet done, I decided I needed a simple stand that would be on castors and enable me to store this loom in the closet. So, I built it one night about a week or so ago. I used the same type of wood and construction techniques as we used on the worktable. I still need to sand and paint it, then we can put the castors on and it will be done.

Here's the loom on the stand in position in the closet. I like that I'll be able to put a storage container under the loom and still roll it out easily when I want to work on it. This shot also shows the pegboard wall we put in the closet to hide the box for the built-in shelving.


This is the finished worktable and the metal draftsman's chair I bought in Warrenton. I do plan on making a cushion for the stool.


The worktable from the shelving side. These are going to come in very handy for in-progress projects.

The chair and table were the idea of my neighbor Sally, who came over to check out progress on the room one night and said, "You know what you need in here? A comfy chair that someone could sit in to knit while other people are working." I found the little table first when I was at Warrenton, and couldn't resist it. After all, the knitter in question will need somewhere to put her wine glass. And it will also do double duty as a night stand when we have to use the room as a guest room. The chair was also bought at Warrenton. I saw it on my first trip, but didn't even ask how much it was. Then I couldn't get it out of my mind. So, a week later, when I was on my way back from Austin with my daughter, we stopped and went looking for the booth where I had seen 'the chair.' Luckily it was stil there and I was able to make a great deal for it. It's extremely comfortable and I love it. The picture above the shelves was another Warrenton purchase.

Another view of the chair and table. The items leaning against the wall are parts from the floor loom, which will go in that space.
I have a lot of small jobs left to do in the studio, plus I haven't even started on restoring the floor loom yet, but we've been taking advantage of some nice weather to take care of another project I dreamed up outside. For many years now, we've had a large assortment of plants in pots lining the iron fence between the house and garage. But while this did occasionally look nice, most of the time that area was a mess and a pain to clean up thanks to the two large oak trees in our back yard. And since this area get some of the best light in our yard, we need it for some of the plants we like to grow. Like tomatoes and peppers. But we've had less than stellar success growing them in pots. So, we decided to build two large planters on either side of the gate.


These are the planters after we finished construction. We used 6"x2"x8' or 10' cedar boards. It was a little tricky to make them fit as we had to build trapezoidal shapes to fit snugly into the two spaces. The finished units are each 18" deep. We stacked the layers on top of each other and fastened them together with metal strips inside the units. We then lined them with weed cloth and filled them with a mixture of old leaves (they'll compost in the units), top soil and garden soil. Then today, we planted them.


Here are the finished units. I love the way they look and the extra space I have for plants. I have a mixture of vegetables, herbs, and flowers in them. We still need to finish installing an irrigation system which will work on a battery-operated timer. Hopefully we'll be able to get that done tomorrow.



Not bad for a week's work. The rest of the backyard will take a little longer. We lost quite a lot to the cold weather we had this year. I'm currently trying to figure out what I want to go along the house where we had some huge hibiscus bushes. I can't say that I will miss the hibiscus as they had gotten out of control. But I am not looking forward to digging their remains up. Whatever goes in that bed will definitely be smaller. For now though, it's time for bed. There's still a lot of things left to be done this weekend.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Latest Photos

A few new photos of the studio.

The worktable in progress.

New shelves.

The sewing machine cabinet's new color.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Progess!

Despite the fact that the laminate floor elves failed to show up to finish the installation of the laminate flooring, Larry and I did finish it up yesterday. And it's beautiful. It was also a lot of hard work, hence our wish that elves would sneak into our home in the dead of night and finish the job for us. However, I'm pretty sure we would do this again, as long as we don't wait until we've gotten too much older. In fact, I'm eager to do the rest of the rooms in the house.

We still need to finish up installing the closet doors and the built-in shelves, but we've decided to wait on that until Mike is free to help us. There's a limit to our skill level. Today we're going to reinstall the venetian blinds and put up the new curtains I found at Ikea. I had planned to sew net curtains, but when I was at Ikea earlier this week, I found these wonderful net curtains, which were exactly what I wanted, for only $5.00. Yes, $5.00 total.

We're heading back to Ikea today to buy the shelving unit I want for the room. We will also be making a stop at Lowe's to get wood for the shelves and more white paint (so I can paint the shelves). So, more photos to come soon!

In the meantime, here's how the room currently looks:


Friday, February 26, 2010

Weekend Plans

Instead of going to the Rodeo Cook-off like every other person in Houston, I will be in my studio priming and painting the ceiling and walls tonight. I need to get this done so we can move on to other jobs that need to be done in order to finish my studio space. Like finishing the closet and shelves construction and installing the laminate flooring. So, off I go to buy primer and paint.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Construction has Started

Thanks to my friends Sara and Mike, my husband Larry, and my son Michael, construction started today on the renovation of Michael's former room which is my future studio. Here's what the room looked like before:

Here's the loom with paint color samples. None of them made the final cut.

This the the room looking toward the window. None of those colors made the final cut either.

This is the closet. With one tiny door and almost 3 feet of closet space on either side of the door.


This is the closet now, with an opening wide enough for 2 30" doors.

This is the closet now looking through the opening in the short wall which will become a built-in book shelf. That's Michael moving lumber so he can take out the rest of the carpet.

I wish I could say I was a major help in the demo work, but really the credit goes to our friend Mike. He came in, measured and started sawing through the sheetrock and taking out 2"x4"s. And then he reused the 2x4s he had removed to brace the new opening. He also came up with a great solution on how to build the bookshelves. We're planning on reusing other materials from the closet. The clothes rod will be cut down and put back and we'll use the old shelf as well. Larry did his bit hauling stuff out, setting up a fan to blow the dust out the window, tearing down sheetrock, and whatever else needed to be done. You've earned your couch time tonight sweetie. Sara was right in there too, hauling stuff and occasionally annoying Mike w/ remarks like, "Are you sure that line is level?"

Major praise also to Michael who removed all of the carpet, padding and furring strips himself while Mike and Larry were at Home Depot picking up molding and other supplies for the project. He's not totally off the hook for the mess he left in that room when he moved out of the house, but he's definitely making progress.

Sara and Mike will be back next weekend to help finish up the construction. In the meantime, I need to start patching the sheetrock and painting. After buying enough paint samples to paint the room in a rainbow of colors, I've finally decided on a color. It's called Coral Brick. It's a much deeper, richer color than I thought I wanted in this room, but I really like it. Now if I could only get my painting helpers (yes, I'm talking to you Sara, Emily, and Maddy), but they are all away at college. So, it's just up to me. But I may break out the painting music mix cd Maddy made back when we painted the kitchen and the den.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Time to Relax

On Friday, I sent to print the winter issue of the magazine I produce twice a year and then promptly collapsed. All my plans to be productive this weekend just withered. But I do not consider this weekend to be a loss. I slept. I read. I puttered around and managed to get things put away where they belong. I got paint samples and painted small sections of different colors I'm considering for my studio so I can make a final color decision. I sang at church. I cooked a wonderful supper for tonight, which we shared with my son and his wife. Made enough to send them home with leftovers and we still have leftovers for later this week. So, no. This weekend was not a loss. It was much needed. As I told Larry when he asked me what my plans were for this weekend, "No, I really don't have any plans. I just need to not need to do anything.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Waiting for the Weekend to Start

I'm waiting for Larry to pick me up from work, so the weekend hasn't officially started yet. The crapvan is in the shop and I'm doing what I do best: fretting over what might be wrong with it and what it's going to cost. However, I am not going to let it stop us from our plans for tonight. We are heading over to Ikea to buy the laminate flooring for my studio. Ikea has a 10% off everything sale running this weekend. Since I'm heading to Austin tomorrow, this is our only chance to go and buy the flooring materials this weekend.

Once we get home, I hope to take another step closer on the studio renovation by getting a stereo system that's been stored in my studio room closet for the past few years out of that closet so Sara can take it with her to school. She's big into listening to music on vinyl and is as excited about having this stereo system in her house as I am about getting it out of my house. It's a win-win.

Anyway, it should be a good weekend between being getting things done at home on the studio, going to Austin and doing things with both daughters, then having a day off on Monday. I really need a 3-day weekend right now. And if I get all the Christmas stuff down finally, I'll really be happy.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

My 'New' Loom



Thought I'd post a photo of the loom as it is right now. It's a Macomber B5 Add a Harness loom. Weaving width is 40 inches and it currently has 4 harnesses. I can add up to 6 more in the future, but for now I will settle for getting it working.

All I've had a chance to do to it so far is to vacuum off the worst of the dirt and debris, cut off the weaving sample that was on it and check it out. Here's what I'm going to have to do to get it into working order:

• Either replace the iron end piece on the cloth beam or replace the entire cloth beam. I'm hoping I can just get the iron part that's broken and replace that.

• Get the rust off of the reed, and various other metal parts of the loom. I've ordered some special rust removing blocks from a woodworking store for that task, though I'm sure I'll be buying naval jelly at some point for the reed. It's completely rusted. I'd just buy a new one, but I'd really like to have two different reeds for this loom which would enable me to vary the yarn I use. I like the idea of using a heavier yarn sometimes.

• Sand down the frame in spots. It's got some water damage here and there that needs to be addressed.

• Replace the aprons on the cloth beam and the warp beam.

• Replace the handle on the warp beam.

• Add more heddles.

• Replace the lease sticks. It only came with one.

• Purchase a raddle for warping the loom.

• Purchase or build an adjustable height bench.

As I get into this project, I may find more to do before it's usable. I still need to unwind and cut the old warp off the warp beam. It's a really heavy well-built loom (the original owner purchased it new in 1974 and I think it has a lot of life in it yet.