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


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.