Friday, November 25, 2011

Taking Their Ball Home

Today, much to my surprise, I'm going to write about football. College football to be precise. Now, normally I avoid watching football games like the plague. I truly have no interest in football. I went to my fair share of football games when I was in junior high and high school, but in my defense, that was because I lived in small town Texas and there was literally nothing else to do on Friday nights in the fall. Plus, I was in the band and it was kind of a requirement that the band be there to march out on the field at halftime and play music. No getting out of it.

In college, though I moved away from the whole football thing. I did attend a couple of football games w/ boyfriends: a few at A&M where I absolutely refused to stand for the games (if you're going to put seats in a stadium, then as far as I'm concerned you should use them), and then a few UT games w/ the guy I eventually married. He still loves watching football. But me? I have no interest.

What I do have an interest in is tradition. Despite the fact that I'm a graduate of the University of Texas and my long-ago refusal to stand at those A&M games I attended my freshman year of college, I have great respect for the traditions at A&M. And the biggest of those traditions died last night with the final UT-A&M football game on Thanksgiving Day. Killed by the ultimate lovers of tradition: Texas A&M.

Years of observing Texas A&M fans has shown me that Aggies are never really comfortable in their skins. For some reason, they have trouble believing that theirs is truly a great university. Maybe it's the way they proclaim their greatness too loudly and too often. There is a defensiveness in the way they do it that makes one look at them and wonder about whether they say it so often to convince themselves. But this time their inferiority complex and tendency to whine (and yes, they do have a general tendency to whine) went too far. Upset over UT's Longhorn Network (and the potential income from said network to UT), the Aggies decided they didn't want to play anymore. So they jumped ship and switched conferences starting next year.

I have no doubt that this move will go down as the biggest Aggie joke in history. How the Aggies, in pursuit of money and a self-perceived lack of respect, killed one of the most cherished bits of its history, a 118 year old friendship/rivalry with UT. I am fairly sure that my Uncle Sam, who attended A&M back in the 1930s, is rolling over in his grave. And the biggest worry the Aggies have right now is not the fact that they didn't saw varsity's horns off last night. It's that they've cut off their nose to spite their face.

Note: One more thing A&M. Y'all might want to look into a new fight song given that the one you've had all this time is focused almost solely on your now non-existent rivalry w/ UT. Seems to me that you've sung "Goodby to Texas University" for the last time.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Don't Even Think About It

Tonight while we were watching TV together, one of those heartwarming Chevy commercials came on. This one was about a couple of brothers who tracked down the Chevy Impala their dad had bought eons ago and how much their dad loved that car and how he hated having to finally trade it in. So, the boys tracked the car down, bought it and surprised their dad with it. As we're watching the end of the commercial, with dear old dad clutching his chest trying not to have a heart attack from the shock of being reunited with his old car, I turned to Larry and said, "Don't even think about ever tracking down the crapvan and surprising me with it. Because I will kill you if you do."

He believes me.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Lessons in Living: Why I Bake Pies

I love pie.

As a very small child, my birthday cake of choice was a pink angel food cake with pink frosting. But as I grew older, I found I preferred a birthday pie to a birthday cake. Usually lemon meringue as I adore lemon. Or chocolate chiffon, which was what my mother usually baked to serve when she hosted her bunco club group when we lived in Falls City. We used to hope against hope that there would be some of that pie left over for us, but it rarely happened.

The person who truly inspired my pie baking was my Aunt Edith. Aunt Edith was married to my mom's brother, Junior, and I remember her as a gentle soul who made quilts and baked pies. She and her sister owned the local dry goods store in Falls City and after I learned to sew, I would frequently drive the 16 miles from Kenedy to shop for fabric at Edith's store.

While I remember Edith for her contributions to my love of sewing, when I think of her, I usually think of her pies. Mom could make a pie, but it wasn't her favorite thing to do. She seemed to think it of it as a struggle and I don't remember her making an many pies, aside from the aforementioned chocolate chiffon. But it seemed that at Aunt Edith's house there was always a pie or pies.*  To me it was a message: pie is possible and you can do it. And I do. In my early pie making attempts I can remember using various packaged pie crust mixes and the ubiquitous ready made crusts. But that wasn't enough for me. So, I taught myself how to make homemade pie crusts. And what a rewarding journey it has been. And no, I don't think it is cheating to use the ready made pie crusts, but only with home made pie crust do you get delectable little leftover bits of pie dough to pop into your mouth. There is a method to my pie madness.

Yesterday I indulged in a positive orgy of pie baking. We held our annual pumpkin carving party for our neighbors and friends and, as has been traditional from the very first party, there was pie for dinner and dessert. Two huge savory pies filled with stew and an apple pie. This year, my daughter-in-law came over to watch me make the apple pie as she is planning on making one when she goes to her family in Seattle for Thanksgiving. We will be having a repeat of apple pie baking this month because the truth of the matter is you can show someone how to bake a pie, but you really learn how make a pie by doing it. And that's the gift Aunt Edith gave me: She let me know baking a pie was as easy as, well, pie and that I could do it. 

There's a scene in the movie Michael, where the characters are gathered in a diner eating all the different types of pie offered and discussing why pie speaks to us. It's one of my favorite movie scenes as it speaks to me about what pie means to me. Pie can be an art form, but it is also the most basic, homely of desserts.

"Pie. Pie. Me oh my. I love pie."

*I could be mistaken about this and I really should ask my cousins if that was really the case.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Past Time for Change

About a week ago, my sister Jane was honored as a 2011 Distinguished Alumna of the University of Texas at Austin. When we first learned that she would be receiving this honor, I did some research on this award and yes, it's a very big deal and everyone in the family is extremely proud of her. Now Jane admits that she is not the typical honoree. In which I mean that she doesn't have an air-conditioned box at the football stadium, hasn't given tons of money to UT, she has only been a member of the Texas Exes alumni association for the last three years, and, up until the awards ceremony, she didn't own any clothing that was burnt orange unless she really liked it or orange was 'in' that year.

So why did they pick her? Well, she does support the School of Communications and has been involved in several things through that school. Like talking to classes when she is in Austin and being a commencement speaker at the School of Communication's graduation ceremonies a few years ago. And she freely credits UT with opening her eyes to a much bigger world than she ever dreamed existed outside of Kenedy, Texas. Add to all that twenty years as editor-in-chief of Woman's Day magazine (preceded by stints as health, beauty and fashion editor at that same publication), and founding the Woman's Day Heart Awards, plus coming up with the idea of wearing red in February to support research and education about women and heart disease. And supporting women's issues and a few other things. Yep, that's all worth some major recognition.

 Jane w/ the siblings and two nieces (aka my daughters).
Jane's the one in the center wearing the burnt orange jacket.

So the entire family gathered in Austin and we celebrated this achievement together. It was a great time and as I said, we are all extremely proud of Jane. But there's just one tiny problem I had with this award. It was given to six people this year and only two of them were women. The award given is a throwback to the early fifties when the award originated: A burnt orange blazer that was obviously created because, back in the time of Ozzie and Harriet, no one could conceive that the award would be given to a woman. That blazer is highly prized by those who 'bleed' burnt orange, but it bothers me as it seems to scream 'men only' club. And given the disparity between the number of men who have received this honor compared to the number of women, it's not really surprising that I feel that way. Here's a fun fact for you: In 2003, all six award recipients were men. Only eight years ago. The most women who have received this honor in a single year is three. The number of women recognized in a single year has never been more than the number of men.

Since 2003, the Texas Exes have tried to make sure that at least one or two women are included in each group. And as much as I'd like to blame the organization because that would be so easy, the truth is we, the alumni of the University of Texas, nominate people for this award. The recipients are chosen from those nominations. And if we aren't nominating women, then women are not going to receive this recognition.

While I'm sure the men who have received this award over the years deserved it, I refuse to believe that there aren't just as many talented, successful women who also deserve it. And it is past time for a change. Quite honestly I had no idea this award existed before Jane received it. I'm betting there are quite a few alums who also have no idea. Especially women, since, let's face it, the Texas Exes are better known for tailgate parties than award ceremonies, and if you're like me, you don't give a damn whether the football team is winning or losing. But now I know and so do you. UT is fond of saying that what starts here, changes the world. So, how about we change the world? Go out there and find those talented, successful women who have a degree from UT and then nominate them for this award. Every year. Here's the link: Texas Exes Alumni Awards. If we all do it, then we can finally give the alumnae of the University of Texas the credit they so richly deserve. And if you are not a UT alum, then take a few minutes to search your college website to find out how you can nominate a deserving woman for that institution's alum awards. I guarantee every college has one.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Crazy Love

In less than 12 hours Larry and I will be loading up the car and heading to Austin to spend the weekend with my family. Not just our kids. I'll be with my 89-year-old mom, my three sisters, my sweet brother, most of their spouses, my nephews, and my children, daughter-in-law and my incubating grandchild (sex of said grandchild to be unveiled at some point during the weekend). No they don't all live in Austin. But we are gathering there for a special reason. Tomorrow night my sister Jane will be honored as a University of Texas Distinguished Alumna. It's a big deal and we are all going to be there for her and celebrate this honor with her. 

I titled this 'Crazy Love' because that's the best way I can think of to describe my siblings' relationship with each other. We're more than a little bit crazy and in our own way, we are crazy about each other. It's not easy. Sometimes it's just plain difficult. But I think we do love each other intensely. Even when we are ticked off beyond all belief at each other, the love is there. I've often thought it would be so much easier if we all didn't care so much. But we do. I can't explain why we are this way. I'm sure a good psychologist could have a field day with our respective history, but as I grow older, I find I don't really care to know why anymore. I just try to accept that this is who we are and to love everyone despite it and because of it.

Tonight my youngest texted me from Austin. She was with a couple of the early arrivals: Mom, my sister Julia, and Mom's good friend Gay, whom we are adopting into the family for all practical purposes. I cannot tell you how badly I wanted to be magically teleported to Austin. I can't wait to get there and be with my family. I want to be there. Now.

It's crazy. And I love it.

Monday, October 10, 2011

A Day Off

I have a day off today thanks to Christopher Columbus.

A day off. What a luxurious thing that is. A whole extra day to spend doing whatever I want to do. I've already slept in today, if you consider getting up at 8:00 instead of 5:00 sleeping in. Right now I'm sitting in my studio contemplating what I will do today.  Here's some of the options: 

Finish making this fabric into a dust ruffle for my mom.

 Choose a paint color for my latest acquisition for my studio.

Begin work on this skirt for my daughter Sara.

Start turning this fabric into an apron, also for Sara.

And then there's lots of other things I want/have to do. Including my drawing class tonight where I will finally start my final project. It's going to be a very busy, very fun day I think. So I'm off to brew a second cup of tea and then it's time to get started!

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Thanks Steve

Tonight I was in the kitchen, waiting for my husband to get ready to walk with me. As I was waiting I was listening to my iPod and dancing happily away, when he walked in and told me, "Steve Jobs has died."

On the off chance you've been living under a rock for the past 25 years or so, Steve Jobs is one of the founders of Apple Computer and was very much the man whose vision brought us not only an incredible line of personal computers with the best operating system around (How good? Well Bill Gates based Windows on it and I personally consider Windows to be a poor shadow of the original concept), but iPods, iPhones, and iPads. He and his company certainly changed how I work. I go way back in the printing/graphic design industry. As a child I watched my father and uncles set type by hand and with a linotype machine. When I was in college, taking advertising design courses, we did layouts by hand using markers and tracing paper, which was then mounted on white board. When I started work at an ad agency in 1979, I would work out the type specs, order the type from a type house, which would send over photo paper galleys coated with wax on the back. These would be cut apart and pasted on white mechanical board, then sent out to a company that made veloxes (again photo paper) which went to the newspapers. All by hand. No email. No or minimal computers except maybe for writing and accounting. Certainly no graphic programs.

I bought my first Mac, a IIci, in 1990, when I was pregnant with my third child. I paid $10,000 total for my set up, which included the IIci with a blazing 4 MB of RAM, a black and white 13" monitor, a grayscale HP scanner, and I believe one of the first HP laser printers (and no, it did not print in color). I would have paid considerably more, but since Larry worked for a company that sold HP, I got a 50% discount on the scanner and the printer.

I also invested in Pagemaker, Photoshop, and Freehand. I took a basic course in Pagemaker and I still remember the first time I went to that class and used a computer. After I got my system, I set it up in our dining room. I remember sitting at the screen, working on a layout, remembering my father setting type on a linotype machine in a crowded, unairconditioned newspaper office in South Texas and I wondered what he would think about me arranging type and graphics into a finished work on this one little machine in my dining room.

Over the years, I've remained loyal to my Macs. I can use a PC, but if I have a choice, I'll always choose a Mac. Always. From the very beginning, Apple embraced and appealed to artists and designers. I also love my iPod and my iPhone. No iPad yet, but it could happen. Designers are drawn to Apple products not just for their ease of use, but for their elegant design. And that elegant design attracts others as well. When I got my first Apple flat screen monitor at work, people would walk into my office and their jaws would literally drop first in awe and then in jealousy.

I truly hope Apple stays true to that vision of seemingly effortless design while continuing to pursue the innovative thinking that Steve Jobs made a priority. That innovative thinking changed my life. I would like to think that somewhere down the road it will someday change the life of my prospective grandchild, if not my own life again.

Rest in peace Steve. And thanks.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Sweet Smell of Ink

I spent much of today doing press checks* on the magazine/annual report I've been working on for several months. As I walked into the press room, I noticed a mat on the floor that was printed with all sorts of warnings about the chemicals used in the press room. It didn't faze me. I took a big breath and inhaled that slightly acrid odor that is unique to printers. I love the smell of printers' ink and press rooms. For me it is total nostalgia, taking me back to my childhood and visits to my father's work, a small town newspaper office. The smell is just the same all these years later. The equipment may be computerized. I may set type on a Mac instead of a linotype machine, but the end result is ink printed on paper and that will always be magic to me.

Yes, I can design a webpage. I have a blog. I social network. I understand the importance of all these new methods of communication. But deep down inside, I will always love the printed word on paper. I love that in this age of internet communication, letterpress is making a comeback. Printing at its most basic is hip now. How cool is that?

Yesterday, I had jury duty and I dutifully went. I sat in the jury assembly room next to a woman who was reading something on an iPad. I had a book. I felt a bit old fashioned for a moment, but then, I thought, no, I'm cool with this. I love my books. I love turning the pages. I love the feel of the paper and the look of the ink on paper. So, do all those who go into work at a printer's each day a favor. Let them continue to love the smell of ink printing on paper. Buy something printed this week. A magazine. A book. Sheet music. A newspaper. A greeting card. And give thanks to Gutenberg for making it all possible.

You can also take the pledge to read the printed word here. I have. I hope you do too.

*For those of you who have no idea what I'm talking about, press checks are exactly that. You go to the printer and look at the job while it is on press to approve the color. If there's a problem, say a photo looks too yellow, the printer can adjust the color on the press until you are happy with it. Once you are happy, you sign the press sheet, and the job is run using the press settings used to produce the approved sheet.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Ten Things I Love About Texas

This is the time of year when I hate living in Texas. Hate! Hate! HATE!!! This abhorrence of my home state is usually brought on by the heat, but certain other things factor in. Such as the beginning of the average Texans' yearly fascination with the sport of football, and the fact that my children (actually this year, it's down to one child) leave me to go back to college. But mostly what makes me feel this way is the unrelenting August heat and the knowledge that I will most likely have to wait until sometime in mid-November before I can wear any sweaters or real fall clothing. Nothing like pulling out a sundress or shorts to wear for our annual pumpkin carving party to make one feel that autumn is really here. So, I have to remind myself why I still live here. It's harder this year because we've had record heat lately. Today was a 'cool' day. It only hit around 102 instead of 108. And when you've been without significant rain for as long as we have, you start to think stupid things like, "Damn those yankees in Vermont! That should have been OUR rain and OUR flood." Like I said, the heat does things to your brain. I mean, look at Rick Perry. He's decided to run for President.*

So, I've decided to make up a list of reasons why I do love Texas. I think I've got 10. If not, add some of your reasons and I'll decide if they are good enough to add to my list. Please note that these are in no particular order. All things are equal more or less in this list.

1. Mexican food. Enchiladas of all sorts. Tacos. Fajitas. Salsa. Guacamole. Tamales. Yes other places have Mexican food, but it's just not the same as good old Tex-Mex.

2. Margaritas. Need I say more?

3. The water towers in the pine trees outside of Bastrop. As one drives back to Houston along Hwy. 71 east of Bastrop, there are several water towers that rise up above the tops of the pine trees in the hills. What makes them special? The fact that they have smiley faces painted on them so that they look like large friendly alien robots. Makes me smile every time I'm on that road.

4. Austin. I love Austin. Specifically Burnet Road with its assorted junk, resale, and antique stores; South Congress with its mix of shops and restaurants which feel like the best small town Main Street ever; the Hyde Park area which is where I'd live (I think) if I lived in Austin, preferably within walking distance of Hyde Park Grill and Mom's Cafe; and the fact that several of my favorite people live there, including my two wonderful daughters.

5. The Commune, aka my neighbors (and a former neighbor). I mean, what would I do without the Commune? If I need to borrow a chocolate fountain, or need a really good salad or the ever sinfully delicious Sin Dip, or a variety of other things, what would I do without the Commune? They need me too for sugar cookies, a place to hang out and drink, and a few other things as well.

6. All my other friends. Y'all know who you are.

7. Rockport, Texas. Home of my mom, my sister Julia, my brother-in-law Steve, my niece Ashley, and a whole lot of other nice people. There's nothing like zipping down to Rockport in my little car and driving over the Copano Bay bridge, then turning off onto Fulton Beach Road towards my mom's little yellow house.

8. The Bay Window and The Bay Window Home. The two best stores in Texas. Both owned by my sister Julia (see above) who has the best eye for cute stuff and the best people working for her. Go. Now. Shop. I've NEVER bought anything back from either of those stores that people didn't ask me where I got it. NEVER.

9. Round Top Antiques Week. Twice a year in and around the Round Top area. I go every year with my friend Janet for a day trip and we have the best time. We've been going to Warrenton, but this autumn, we plan on checking out the Marburger Farms Show.

10. Smithville, Texas. Smithville is a very small little town on the way to Austin on 71 from Houston. I love Smithville because it's downtown area is pretty much antique shops that have extremely reasonably priced goods. For example, I got two of the end tables in my den there and they were extremely good deals. If you like the whole shabby chic look, Smithville is worth a stop. I keep thinking I need to just do a day trip there one of these days as I feel I haven't explored its full potential.

And wow, there's 10 reasons. I did it and I could probably figure out a few more. But I'll leave that to you. The heat is stifling and going to stay that way for a while. Share why you stay.

*An apology to any of you who love Rick Perry, but I just couldn't resist. It's the heat. And the fact that I'm one of those damn liberal Democrats.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Good Dog

Our sheltie, Libby, died unexpectedly yesterday evening.  She went from being fine in the morning, trying to convince our neighbor to play fetch with her, to a bout of wheezing in the afternoon, and then, when I came home from a round of errands, I found her in the den by the back door.

We buried her this morning out behind our garage with a stick and a couple of her toys. Larry and I took turns digging her grave.  At some point, we’ll find a stone to paint w/ her name on it to put out in the garden.

We got Libby about 9 years ago. She was a 3 year old rescue dog who had been given up by her owner who was dying of cancer. Libby (her full name was Lady Liberty) was a dainty little dog and a godsend to us. We had originally gotten a chow/spaniel puppy from the SPCA. Snickers was a beautiful dog, but he had some major aggression issues which ultimately came to a head the day he turned on my youngest and we ended up in the emergency room having dog bites dealt with. So, Snickers had to go. The girls had originally wanted a sheltie, so we started looking for one and found Libby. In the words of my middle child today, Libby was the loudest, smartest, most loyal dog ever. We were her sheep and she never let us forget it. 

Libby loved us all, but her heart truly belonged to my husband Larry. If he was home, she was right by him. If he was in his office working, she was right outside his door, even if the rest of us were home. He was her true love.

I said above that we buried her with a stick. Next to Larry, Libby loved to play fetch. Even after she developed arthritis, she would play fetch obsessively. We’d have to stop her because otherwise she would be limping the next day. Since we have several trees in our yard, she quickly learned about fetching sticks. And it didn’t matter what size the stick was. I’ve seen her bring a two inch long twig over and drop it in front of someone, then wait impatiently for them to throw it for her.  So, we gave her a stick. And I hope that wherever she is, she is running and playing fetch to her heart’s content.

Rest in peace Libby.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Saturday Morning

And my studio is a mess. My daughter's in-progress t-shirt quilt lies on the floor in a bit of a pile. There are two piles of the scraps of the t-shirts used in the quilt. There used to be just one, but last night I came in to watch episodes from the first season of Glee on my Mac and was accompanied by my granddog Toby. So, I grabbed a bunch of the scraps and arranged them on the floor to make a temporary bed for him. He was extremely happy with that arrangement.

In addition to t-shirts everywhere, the parts of my loom are also leaning up against the walls or lying in plastic bags tucked into the shelves and perched on the window sill, awaiting the time when the loom will be reassembled. But I'm not sure I'll make any progress on the loom this weekend because other projects beckon. There is a dining table and four chairs out in the garage which we (Emily and I) have to finish sanding and painting before next weekend, when they will be transported to her new apartment at her school in Austin. I also really need to get into Sara's room and start sorting out all the stuff in there. Some of it will go to Goodwill, other bits need to be put into closets and quite a lot of it needs to be packed up to go with the table and chairs to Austin where Sara plans to live and work this next year.

And in addition to all of this, there is also other work to be done. A photo to be taken at the school at noonish and some freelance work to be done. Errands to run and household tasks that cry to be finished. I'm fairly certain that on Sunday night, there will be tasks left unfinished. But the first thing on my list this morning is mixing up a new batch of sugar water for the hummingbird feeder outside my studio window. Yesterday morning, while typing an email, I looked up and saw my first hummingbird. It was magical. So, I need to replace the food in there (numerous sources say you should replace the mixture every three days) so my little guest will be happy and return.

I must say that I rather like the current untidy state of my studio because it says to me that creative work is being done in this place. The room is being used as it was created to be used. And on this morning, with the sun's light glowing through the trees outside, that makes me very happy.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Working With My Hands

About a week or so ago as I was talking to a few co-workers about some of my projects at home, a couple of them expressed the opinion that some of my interests aren’t exactly, shall we say, normal. Specifically, they expressed their opinions on my current project of restoring a Macomber loom and my eagerness to finish it so I could start weaving on it.  Remarks were made such as ‘if you want fabric, you can buy it at a fabric store’ and a total lack of understanding was shown about how anyone could possibly find standing in a hot garage sanding and refinishing wood fulfilling.

I wasn’t necessarily offended by their comments. I’m used to being considered slightly off centered. Quite honestly, it’s been years since I’ve felt the need to be ‘like everyone else.’ Junior high and part of high school were the last times I felt that way and even then, I definitely marched to the beat of my own drum and did my own thing. What I did feel was sadness for them that none of the joy they get from life is provided by the satisfaction of making something, be it through cooking or building or crafting.  

For me, working with my hands is something that is necessary to my life. Admittedly, I am an artist. I work as a graphic designer. I also write as part of my job. But I need more than just those professional pursuits. And there is something extremely satisfying to me in making something with my hands. Be it a loaf of bread, a dress, or a piece of furniture. I am currently taking great joy in seeing the wood of my loom being transformed under my hands from the dirty, beaten, somewhat water stained pieces that it came to me as into golden, glowing beautiful pieces that reflect the history of the loom. I love taking flour, salt, butter, and water and working them together into a piecrust to be filled with fresh fruit. I love that the rooms in my house have been transformed by paint I have applied, and that for one of those painting projects my hands were joined by the willing hands of my daughters and my friends. What an incredible act of love and generosity that was!

I also love that when I walk on the floor of my studio space, I’m walking on a floor that my husband and I put in together. Yes, it took longer. Yes, we had sore muscles from bending and kneeling on the floor to install it. But it was also a joint goal, a joint venture into the unknown. We had never done a project of this type before and weren’t sure we could do it. But we did jump in and we succeeded. As we also succeeded when we built the table for my studio where I sit typing this and the TV/stereo stand in our den: both pieces that were built by us from my designs.

No, I don’t expect these women to ever understand why I do these things. But I do know that at some point in time they will envy a shawl I’ve woven on my soon to be restored loom. Or more probably, I’ll come in with a cake or similar homemade goodie that they will fall on and devour. And I’ll look at their perfectly manicured hands and smile quietly, knowing that while my hands may not look beautiful, they have the advantage over theirs in being able to create beauty. 

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Introducing the Messiah AKA Rick Perry

(To the tune of Gotta Dance) Gotta Rant!!! Gotta Rant!!! Got to Rant!!!!

Yes, it's another political rant! How lucky can y'all get? Two in a row! But hey, this subject deserves a repeat performance. So, once again, if you can't stand my heat, then you are excused from my kitchen. Come back later though when I've calmed down. And I promise I will. In the meantime, continuing my tradition of giving you someplace to go play safely away from the flames, I'm recommending a trip over to A Novel Woman's blog. She's a lovely Canadian and her latest post has me wanting to spend all my summers up at the lake she's been going to forever with her family.

Anyone left? Oh well, guess I'll just wail to the skies...

As if it couldn't get any worse here in Texas, with the heat and the drought. Our oh so holy governor, Rick Perry, has decided that the Almighty is indeed calling him to be America's salvation and is going to run for President. Yes, you heard it here first. How do I know this? The classic unnamed source within Perry's organization.

Not that this is a surprise. Rick's been praying about it all for quite a while, culminating with a huge prayer service in Houston this past weekend where people were exhorted to pray for the country and somewhat more subtly encouraged to pray for Rick to run.

As much as I'd like to think that the heat in Austin has affected Rick's brain, I'm afraid that he really thinks he has a chance. Even more frightening is the thought that there are other delusional people out there who think he has a chance. After all, enough people voted for him that he defeated Bill White last November in the governor's race. Bill White is a really smart, together guy who did wonders for Houston during his time as mayor. He would have done a great job as governor. But Ricky's sheep bleated all the way to the polls and got him re-elected.

What frightens me most about His Hairness is one of two possibilities. That he actually believes he's being called by God to run for President and that this run (and his possible presidency) are divinely ordained. If that's the case, someone, preferably someone w/ a doctorate in constitutional law, needs to pull this delusional man aside and give him a lesson on separation of church and state. Specifically, that it's illegal to legislate religious belief and observances in this country. Cause it sure seems like the only religion (and constituents) Rick is concerned with is that old time Christian religion and that Rick thinks we should all be praying to the same Deity in the same way. Which is just plain scary on a biblical scale. The second possibility gives me nightmares and, being a basically nice person, I'm not going to impose my nightmare on your REM sleep.

Either way, I'm hoping the voters in the primaries don't just bleat their way to the polls to vote for Rick. Remember people, voting is not something you do without serious thought. And it doesn't  take much of that to see Rick Perry for what he is. A wolf in shepherd's clothing.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Morning Prayer

*Warning: I'm going into rant mode about a certain Republican who is, unfortunately, currently governor of Texas. If that's not your thing this morning, let me give you a few alternate things to look at: Like this hilarious "Facebook post" that gives the entire plot of Harry Potter and the Sorceror's Stone in a series of 'posts' from the main characters. Or if you'd rather go shopping online, here's a link to the coolest, best designed temporary tattoos I've ever seen. I'm seriously considering ordering the Pantone chip ripoff set. Y'all have fun now.

Back to ranting:

I got up this morning, checked out the news on MSNBC online and found this link to a story about Rick Perry, the Governor of Texas, and an event he is having focusing on bringing people back to God and his battle to hold said event against the evil machinations (a lawsuit) of atheists. Really, Rick? Exactly what depths will you sink to in your quest for political power?

For the record, until the past year or so, I can't remember Rick praying in public all that much. He has always been majorly conservative and supportive of all the usual issues that get the conservative, uber religious voters riled up, such as abortion, gay marriage, gay anything, etc. But in the past year, he seems to have stepped up his involvement in anything involving that section of the voting populace, in particular, public praying and attendance at events involving the religious far right. All of Rick's calling on God and God's most fervent fans seems to have a definite purpose, at least to me: Ricky is definitely hoping to show, by his holy devotions, that he is the one called by God to be our next President.

Dear Lord, no. No. No. No.

While I would love to see Rick move out of the Texas Governor's mansion (permanently mind you, not just for restoration purposes), I don't want it to happen because he's changing addresses so he can move into the White House. So here's the deal Rick. You go pray all you want that God will 'call' you to the Presidency. But I'm going to be praying that God shows you a different path. One that's more tolerant. One that is more accepting of people's different beliefs and lifestyles. One that accepts that it's going to take more than prayer of a specific Christian-based belief system to solve the problems we are facing in this country. And one that has you caring more about your current constituents than your political ambitions.

Let us pray.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Why I Love Certain Dirty, Rotten, Cheating Liars

At the beginning of this year, I began a new tradition of sorts. We call it Sunday Supper. It gives us a chance to get together with my son Michael and his wife Sarah, my daughters when they are home, the Commune and various other friends and loved ones. Basically, we get together here at the house, eat supper, then deal the cards.

For various reasons, we've missed a couple of months. So last week I sent out an email to see who could come over on Friday night. I was in the mood to cook up a storm (grilled marinated pork chops and chicken breasts, grilled asparagus, these fabulous cilantro-filled rolls I found in the current issue of Bon Appetit, finished off with a buttermilk/blackberry cake from the same publication. (I'm thinking about adapting the cake by substituting fresh Texas peaches for the blackberries.)

After supper, we cleared off the table and dealt the cards. By popular demand, the game of the evening was one Michael and Sarah had taught us called Bullsh!t. The entire point of the game seems to be to lie and cheat your way to victory. Seriously. As  you go around the table, each player has to lay down cards in order from ace to king. And you must lay down the correct card(s). That's where the fun comes in. Your fellow players have to decide if you are lying. If someone thinks you are lying, a cry of "BS!" will erupt from him. So, you have to either turn the card(s) over to prove you aren't or take all of the cards in the pot. This leads to a lot of lying and cheating.

In our little group, probably no one gets into the lying and cheating more than my neighbor Andy and my daughter-in-law Sarah. They do so much cheating together that we actually said they couldn't sit together on Friday. Not that we enforced it. It wouldn't be any fun. The two of them clumsily pass cards off to each other, put down more cards than they say they are, and rarely put down the right card. Last Friday was no exception. And no one laughed harder about it than Andy. I've never seen him laugh that hard. Play literally stopped as he crossed his arms on the table, laid down his head and laughed until it hurt. It made my day, my week, my month to see everyone laughing and having so much fun.

And that's why I love dirty, rotten, cheating liars. Or at least, certain people of that persuasion.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Vegas Redux

I spent the past week in Vegas again. Some quick observations:

I love the Venetian Hotel complex. It was a much better location for me since I'm on my own all day long (and into the evening) while Larry is attending the conference.

Among my expeditions were a trip to the Fashion Mall (Sur la Table was having a sale!) and to the Forum Shops at Caesar's Palace (Anthropologie was having a sale!).

I had my first chocolate macaroon. It will not be my last.

I have a new favorite pool. Much as I loved the wave pool at Mandalay Bay last summer, there were issues. Like the burning sand giving me a blister on the soles of my feet. And no shade anywhere. But the pools at the Venetian do have shaded areas, particularly the Venezia Tower pool garden where I spent much of my time. Lovely comfy cushioned lounges, water coolers w/ cool water you can help yourself to, and even sunblock if you forget yours up in your room. I did a lot of reading and just relaxing out there.

I discovered that it is possible to go on vacation and forget about work. Last year, I checked my work email the instant we got to the hotel room and set up the laptop. This year, thanks to the gmail account I set up for my personal stuff, I decided that I was not going to check my work email at all. I had set up an out of office message that I would be unavailable until Monday when I returned to work and I knew that everyone had my cell number if a real emergency arose. So, I deliberately did not check the work email. It was the best thing I've ever done for myself in terms of relaxing. And I did relax.

If you have a chance to see the Cirque de Soleil show 'Beatles Love' before it closes in December: go. It's wonderful.

If you ever have a chance to see Paul McCartney in concert: Go. He's wonderful. He may be 69 years old, but the guy can still rock and roll. The concert was one of the main reasons I decided to go back this year with Larry. I'm so glad I got to see it (and so grateful to Larry for making it possible).

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Fighting Dirty

A year ago, our neighbors, the Meiers, sold their house and moved north. Okay, it was just to a vastly overrated planned community in north Houston, but the fact remains that they moved. Away. From us. AKA the commune. And for a freeeway wimp like me (trust me, everyome in Houston should be cheering that I only venture onto  Houston freeways when I have absolutely no choice), it might as well be Siberia. It's been a year and I still haven't gotten over their move. I'm pretty much waiting for the twins to graduate from high school (only 10 years to go) so that they can move back here once they no longer need a decent public school for the boys.

Now a new horror has arisen. For the past few months, our next door neighbors, who we share a double driveway with, who I adore, have been talking about selling their house and moving to a smaller home. They've been talking about it enough that I have been forced to concede that they are serious about this. So, I'm declaring war. And this time around, I'm going to fight dirty. I'm pulling out all the stops.

I started tonight with dinner. Which was a lovely chilled avocado soup, a tomato, basil, and feta cheese tart made with wonderfully ripe tomatoes from the farmer's market, a salad which included mango salsa and corn, shrimp, and steak. All finished off with parfaits of lemon cream and fresh blueberries.

Next up: my homemade scones. I haven't made scones in ages. But I'm going to make them soon. Very soon. And deliver them warm with raspberry jam. I may even attempt homemade butter. If I can find some of those little bottles of champagne, I'll be delivering them with the makings for mimosas.

I just want Sue and Andy to fully understand what they will be giving up if they put their house on the market. And yes, I know I'm being a whiney baby, but if you've ever had neighbors who were not just the people next door, but a part of your family, then you'll understand. I've already lost one our commune familes. I'm not open to losing another. So, it's war. Or rather, not so covert acts of food terrorism. If you can call pulling out all the stops on cooking and delivering it next door an act of terrorism.

I've learned my lesson the hard way. If I had taken the Meier's plan to move seriously and inundated them with freshly baked scones, I might still have them down the street instead of a terrifying (to me) 45 minute drive on some of Houston's finest (that would be sarcasm) freeways.

Monday, May 23, 2011

About Sara

In honor of my daughter Sara's graduation from college, I'm putting her in the spotlight once again.

She is a fiercely loyal, loving friend.

She loves tea. And coffee. And dark chocolate. And brussels sprouts.

And anything pink.

She is amazingly creative. She see the possibilities in things that others don't.

She loves to read and her taste in books is wide-ranging and much more interesting than mine.

She has an amazing inner moral code that she lives by. She stands by her beliefs and lives her life accordingly.

She loves animals. When we finally got our first dog shortly before one of her birthdays (after the kids had been begging us for years to get a dog), when it came time to blow out her candles, she stopped and exclaimed, "I don't know what to wish for now that we have a puppy!"

She truly doesn't care what you believe, who your parents or grandparents are, or how rich or poor you are. At the same time, if you are subject to acts of idiocy (like taking a baseball bat to her side rearview mirror on her car), watch out. I think it was a good thing the idiot who did that didn't hang around to claim credit.

While the sight of a spider might send her screaming for her dad to come dispatch the intruder, Sara is truly one of the most courageous people I know.

She sings like an angel. She doesn't like to sing solo or be the center of attention, but she does sing like an angel. And she loves music.

She doesn't give up on her dreams. Like living in Austin after college. Some of her dreams are still to be created, but I can't wait to see what she dreams next.

And then there is that off kilter sense of humor. Which is aimed at me a little too often, but then I've only myself to blame for encouraging her to develop it.

She encourages me to follow my dreams.

She is beautiful. Inside and out.

And I love her. Always have. Always will.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Good Stuff

A few comments on this week. Warning to my conservative friends. I'm gonna diss the Newt, the Trump and the Sperminator. I'm also going to say some very nice things about a few people at the end. So please bear with me.

Let's start with the Donald. Raise your hand if your fondest wish was for him to just go away and not make a mockery of the 2012 Presidential election. It was certainly one of my fondest wishes. And it came true! Despite Mr. Trump's tough talk and declarations that he would make his financial records public if President Obama released his 'real' birth certificate, it turns out that Mr. Trump's desire to keep his business dealings under wraps was stronger than his desire to fix America. For which I am profoundly grateful.

Moving on to the Newt, one of the highlights of my week was the film showing the Newt being chastised by a fellow Republican party member as being an embarrassment. This right wing and right-thinking gentleman went on to advise the Newt to get out of the Presidential race as quickly as possible to avoid 'making a bigger fool of yourself.' My new fondest wish is that the Newt will take the man's advice. It's truly the best advice he'll receive about his presidential aspirations.

Next up: The Sperminator, aka Arnold, aka Scumbag Cheater. Call me a cynic, but whenever any politician, Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, or what have you, starts ranting talking about family values, the evils of single motherhood, etc., I start to wonder what dirt is hiding under his bed. In the Sperminator's case it was an extramarital affair that resulted in a child. A child who is no doubt freaked out at having his real origins being discussed in the news continuously. So, we've got a guy who's a hypocrite, a liar, and a cheater. And it does make me wonder what other dirt is hiding under his bed.

Finally a few kudos. To the woman who was raped by the head honcho of the IMF for reporting him right away to your coworkers and police. That took great courage and I hope that you know that, as difficult as it is right now, you are an example for all women who have been attacked.

To any friend who helps another through a tough time, thank you on behalf of the person you helped. It's tough out there some days and it's nice not just having a shoulder to cry on, but someone to tell you how terrific you are when you don't feel terrific.

To my sister Jane, congratulations on being named a 2011 Distinguished Alumna by the University of Texas Texas Exes. Can't wait to see how you get out of wearing that burnt orange blazer in October. Read all about it here.

And last, but not least, to my darling daughter Sara, who graduated from the University of Texas today: Congratulations!!! I am so proud of you and I love you more than you can imagine. And who knows, maybe someday you too will be named a Distinguished Alumna of UT and get a burnt orange blazer. Heaven knows, back when Jane graduated, we didn't think that she'd be awarded this honor some day. Oh, and Sara? I'm really, really glad that I didn't have to make a dress for you this time. It was fun the first two times (Middle School and High School), but it was much easier this time to pull out the credit card and order your regalia online. (But I would have made one if one was needed.)

Me, Sara, and her grandmother (aka Gigi, aka Larry's mom) after the University of Texas College of Liberal Arts Commencement Ceremony. It's been a good day.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

I'll Remember

There are certain days and events that are indelibly burned into my memory. I am old enough to remember the day that John F. Kenedy was killed. I am a child of the '60s and the Vietnam War. So, I remember when Robert Kennedy was killed and Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot. When I was growing up the interuption of a TV program for a 'Special Report' immediately evoked fear of the most elemental kind. I know where I was when I heard about the Challenger explosion. I was driving home from Kenedy, Texas where I had been visiting my mom. But 9/11 was beyond all of these. I still remember the surreal silence of no planes flying above our house and comforting my daughter who was frightened and couldn't sleep in that silence.

I will now remember forever sitting in my den hearing President Obama announce that a great evil had been removed from the world. When the news organizations announced that he was going to address the nation on a national security concern, my past experience with this sort of thing tended to the terrified. My stomach sank in a way that is all too familiar. But then, the news reporters began to get hints of what it might be. Could it be that Osama Bin Laden was finally gone? It could.

There are those who say we should not rejoice at the death of another human being. I understand and respect their beliefs. But I'm maybe a little more hardhearted and practical than most. I'm a mother and I have experienced what I call the 'mother grizzly bear' reaction. As in if you threaten or hurt my child, watch out: I am going to come for you. America saw too many of its children die on September 11, 2001, killed by a man who joyfully took credit for the destruction he ordered and only regretted that the death toll wasn't higher. I also seriously doubt that this heinous criminal would have done anything other than fight to the death. I am grateful that we are spared trying him as a war criminal. I'm sorry, but there are those who deserve death for their crimes and Bin Laden freely and gladly claimed responsibility for his and didn't waste a single instant of regret for any of the innocent lives he took. Sometimes the only way to deal with pure evil is to eliminate it totally from the face of the earth and I believe that this man was nothing but evil. He chose his path years ago and the path he chose was a violent one. Justice was done tonight.

To the extraordinarily brave people who made this possible: Thank you. Thank you for your service to America and to the world. And to those who hate in the name of religion. Stop. Now. We must stop using violence and hatred to express our religious beliefs. Only then will we have peace.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Ten Things

1. As of this morning, I was down 10 lbs. It's taken a month and it's not noticeable to anyone but me, but I'm thrilled that I weigh 10 lbs. less.

2. I HATE raking leaves and bagging them. I filled 11 bags with leaves this past weekend. It was what I had to do to be able to plant the flower beds in the back yard. And there are still 3 huge piles of leaves in the backyard and a flower bed that has yet to be cleaned out.

3. I have hopes of finally getting my house clean before Easter. But only if I can stop getting sidetracked by buying plants to fill the flower beds in the back yard.

4. I saw a utility room makeover that used a vintage chandelier for a light fixture and now I'm obsessed with replacing the light fixture in our utility room with something similar. It was just so fun and unexpected. And much better looking than a standard utilitarian light.

5. I hate bathing dogs, but love having clean dogs.

6. Unfortunately, I'm too much of a cheapskate to pay someone to bathe the dogs for me.

7. I have never eaten the ears off my children's chocolate Easter bunnies.

8. That's because I always bought dark chocolate for myself to eat at Easter. Who needs milk chocolate bunny ears when you have dark chocolate waiting in the secret stash?

9. I have managed to keep our kitchen clean for nine days. I don't know that I've ever gone that long keeping the kitchen tidy and free of dirty dishes on the counter. (In my defense, cleaning the kitchen after a 14 hour work day has never been a priority for me. Especially when I have several of those in a row.)

10.  I wish I had the kind of energy that I had last weekend all the time. I could get so much done.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Ugly Truth

Here's the  ugly truth:  I'm seriously overweight. I'm not going to say how much I weighed a couple of weeks ago at my heaviest, but it's pretty bad. And I've been this way for quite a few years. It's been creeping up on me for some time. I've been thinking for several years that I need to stop the increasing poundage creep. Thinking not doing. Quite honestly I'm surprised I haven't had a major issue yet. As in a heart attack, a stroke, or diabetes. I've made a few half-hearted attempts to lose the weight, but never managed to lose much more than a couple of pounds if that before going back to my oversized portions.

For quite a while now, I've been tired of looking in the mirror and not seeing me or rather the me I carry around in my head. I'm tired of denying that I have a serious problem. I'm tired of the problem with the arch of my right foot that has developed and makes me limp like an old woman sometimes. I'm also tired of not having any energy. I'm really tired of seeing clothing that I like and not even bothering to try it on because I know the item in question will look like crap or not fit right. So last week, all of this fear and loathing came to a head. And by some miracle, I got started on a diet and have been losing weight. I think it's for real this time around. I'm down five pounds and even though I thought it would take forever to notice a difference with all the weight I have to lose, I can tell a difference. It's a tiny one, but it's a difference. A tiny victory.

Hopefully, it will continue. I think it will. I'm in what I call the zone. The zone for me is where it's more important to me to lose weight than it is to eat one of the doughnuts down in the coffee bar or to grab a handful of M&Ms as a palliative for the stress I'm under any given day. It's when it's more important for me to enjoy a longer life than enjoy a piece of cheesecake or a large serving of french fries. And at this point in time, this is probably the most important renovation project I've tackled in a long time.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Quick Book Recommendation

Just jumping in with a quick book recommendation. Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenbegger (love that name). Audrey is the author of the much acclaimed The Time Traveler's Wife, which I haven't read (probably because I have a horror of people telling me I "MUST" read a certain book. Silly, I know, but hey, reading is very personal to me.) Anyway this is a lovely haunting ghost story with an interesting twist. I started it yesterday evening and I finished it this afternoon. It's the reason why I didn't get a whole bunch of stuff I intended to do today done.

I found this particular book at the annual used book sale one of the nuns at our school holds to raise money for various causes. In retrospect, I would have happily paid full price for it. As it is, I feel slightly guilty that I got such a steal.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

I Hit "Send"

I've been a member of my church choir for years now. It's been one of my favorite things to do. But this past year, I've just had problems getting myself to practice for a variety of reasons. I seem to not have the energy I used to have. Which means that when I get home from work, especially if I've had to work late, I find that I really don't want to go back out again. Even for choir. I think another reason is that without children at home who have scheduled activities, I'm not in the mood to commit to anything that involves a regular time. I've been doing scheduled activities for years. Now, I don't have to. And finally, I joined choir in order to have something that I did for me. To have time for me. With no children at home, I don't have the need to get out and do something every week that doesn't involve my children. So tonight, instead of going to choir practice, I sent my choir director an email telling her that I was going on hiatus for a while. Through the end of the "singing" season (aka sometime in June after the end of the Easter season). I'll continue to be a cantor and sing with the small a cappella ensemble I'm a member of, but I'm not going to do the main choir for a while.

I stared at the email for a while debating whether I should or would hit "send." I did hit send and moved into another phase of my life.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

It's a Family Thing

Last week, my mom and I taught my daughter Emily how to make an old family recipe. My mom's salmon patties is one of Emily's favorite meals. It's what she wants for her birthday dinners or anytime she has a choice. Since we were with Mom in Rockport for spring break, she asked Mom to make them for her. Instead we taught her how to cook them herself so that when she has her first apartment next year, she'll be able to make them for herself.

I call them my mom's salmon patties, but this recipe has been passed down from my grandmother or maybe even my great-grandmother. It's fairly simple. A basic white sauce of milk, butter and flour, canned salmon, an egg, saltine cracker crumbs, corn meal and oil for frying. I don't know why we love these so, but we do. It's just one of those things we make that say "home." And now, a new generation knows how to make them.

Mom's Salmon Patties

1 cup milk
1 TBSP. butter
2 TBSP flour
1 can pink salmon (large can, not the tuna sized can)
1 egg
crushed saltine cracker crumbs
canola oil

In a large saucepan, combine the milk, butter, and flour over medium heat. Whisk together and stir continuously until the sauce thickens. Add in one can salmon (I typically drain a little of the liquid from the can before adding to the white sauce), and mix in. Remove saucepan from heat and quickly beat in one egg. (This needs to be done quickly so that the egg doesn't scramble.) Add in cracker crumbs until the mixture is just firm enough to form into patties. Form the mixture into oval flattened patties. Coat each pattie with the cornmeal. Heat about 3/16's of an inch of canola oil in a large skillet. Fry the patties on each side. Drain on paper towels and serve with ketchup and worcestershire sauce. Makes about 8 patties and serves 4 to 5 depending on appetites.

A couple of things: These really don't taste near as good the second time around. But then that wasn't a problem for my family when we were growing up. And many times we will add in a smaller can of salmon to make more for a larger crowd. Thankfully this recipe is fairly flexible.

Monday, March 21, 2011

I'm Still Here

When I was a child, I would occasionally 'disappear.' I would go into our living room and curl up pn the floor behind one of the armchairs where no one could see me. Most of the time I wouldn't turn on the light in the room so as to throw off anyone who was looking for me to do some task around the house. I would select a much-loved book from the bookcase and lose myself in reading about different places and different lives. It was bliss to a shy child with an inferiority complex.

I still tend to 'disappear' from time to time. I'll burrow into my home and my family, ignoring the pull of friends and acquaintances. "Where have you been?" and "I haven't seen you in ages," become common responses from my neighbors and friends on catching sight of me out somewhere or pulling into the driveway. For some reason, I have a need to become a hermit every so often and shut myself up and off from my fellow men or anyone who is not immediate family. Lately that's been the case. But don't worry. I'm still here. I'm just wrapped in a cocoon waiting to emerge. (Not as a butterfly, I'm really more of moth.)

Monday, February 21, 2011


From this...
To this.

We finished our new TV cabinet. And we love it. It fits in the room so much better than the big armoire we had in this spot. We are having a bit of trouble believing that we built it from scratch, but I've got photos to prove that we did. Hidden behind the door on the left is the woofer for our speaker system. I designed this so that it would hold the woofer in the cabinet. One less speaker out on the floor. But in case we eventually decide to have a system installed in the ceiling, we put in peg holes in both cabinet door spaces. All of the shelves are adjustable. I wanted this piece to be as flexible as possible.

Not bad for a few weekends of work and a bit of lumber and trim. Now I think I'm going to go watch a movie. And mull over the next project.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Pretty Little Things

It's Saturday morning and I'm sitting in my studio with a mug of tea, attempting to get enough caffeine in my system so I can accomplish all that has to be done today. It's still cold here and there was a sparkling of frost on our cars and on the rooftops this morning. But it's clear it's going to be a very pretty day.

I love being in my studio in the morning. The natural light is beautiful and it makes me want to spend the entire day in here. Preferably while someone else does all the weekend tasks in between bringing me endless cups of tea to me and whatever friends drop by to visit. Unfortunately, that sort of thing happened in a different century.

In the meantime, I have a couple of little things I love to share. First up is the cutest paperclip ever. See:

It's a Mini Cooper paper clip!

This darling little thing came attached to a magazine the Mini Cooper people sent after we bought the Mini. It makes me wonder if the people who work for Mini have these to use on a daily basis. I'd love a little box of them. Do you hear me BMW? You have my address.

Then there are the green glass knobs I bought at Anthropologie this week.

 These are for the cabinet doors on the new TV/media stand we are building. They are perfect for it.

Here's a closer view.

I can't wait to get them on the finished doors. But first I need to finish the doors. Today.

Have a lovely day everyone.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Cold Weather Food

Winter has hit Houston with a vengeance. At school today, there was no power thanks to a rolling blackout that caused an issue of some sort that prevented the power from coming back on. It's currently 33 degrees in our backyard and it will probably make it down into the 20s again tonight. Then we've got a winter mix of sleet, snow, and ice almost certainly starting up tomorrow sometime.

I hit the grocery store to grab a couple of extra bundles of firewood and food so that I won't have to stop tomorrow night. Tonight I ended up making something new: a chicken chili that turned out really good. Here's the recipe, such as it is. As is my habit when I'm improvising in the kitchen, I didn't measure anything. So the measurements below are approximations based on my best guess of how much I used.

Chicken Chili

Two pounds boneless chicken breasts, cut into one inch chunks
Extra virgin olive oil
Cumin (I probably tossed in a total of 2 or so TBSP. I know I used enough to lightly coat the chicken chunks)
Cilantro (I used about a tsp of dried cilantro)
Approx 1/4 tsp paprika
1 large yellow onion chopped
2 poblano peppers seeded and diced
2 tomatillos diced
3 cups low sodium chicken broth
14 oz can fire roasted TexMex tomatoes and green chilis (I used the Walmart Great Value brand)

For serving:

Mexican rice (I used an Old El Paso microwave package)
Grated cheddar cheese
sliced green onion
sour cream

In a stock pot or dutch oven, heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil over medium high heat. Add in the chicken and season with salt, pepper, about half the cumin, cilantro, and paprika. Cook until barely pink on the inside.

Remove the chicken to a bowl and set aside. Add a little more olive oil to the pan and add in the onions, peppers, and tomatillos. Add the rest of the cumin and cilantro and cook until nicely soft. Add the chicken back to the pot, making sure to pour the juices from the chicken back into the pot. Add the chicken broth and the can of tomatoes and green chilis. Simmer for about half an hour.

To serve, put a few spoonfuls of rice in the bottom of a bowl, ladle in the chile and top with grated cheddar, green onions, and a dollop of sour cream. My husband also mentioned that some diced avocado would also be good on top and we're going to try that next time around. I will also probably make a vegan version of this for my daughter Sara by substituting seitan and vegetable broth for the chicken and chicken broth.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Making Progress

It's past time for an update on our latest building project: the new TV/media stand. We are very close to finishing the major construction work and starting to paint. It's been a fair amount of fun to see it come together. And I'm still hopeful that the final cost will come in close to or just over $200. Of course, it helps that we've got paint already. Thankfully, I was able to layout a cutting plan for the main pieces that allowed us to get the most out of a single 4'x8' sheet of 3/4" MDF. And it also helped our work schedule that Lowes cut the 4'x8' sheet into 5 18" x 4' tall strips. That left us with only having to do the shorter cuts with our electric saw.

I did do a lot of the cuts with a very fine saw and our little miter box. All of the molding and the pieces for the  the two door frames were cut by hand. I felt I had more control and precision that way. Here's my daughter Emily helping out cutting a door frame. Unfortunately, that was one of the short pieces that I measured wrong, so her effort was for naught.
On the bright side, she still has the skills she learned building robots in high school.

There's been several challenges in this project. Figuring out how to evenly space and drill the holes in the sides for the adjustable shelves was one. I found a plan online for a jig, but it was a failure. What did work beautifully was Larry's idea of using a scrap from the pegboard we had in the garage. Another challenge was applying the molding. I originally thought we'd attach it using the brad nailer that is powered by our air compressor. But I decided against that because after testing it on a couple of sample bits, I decided that I didn't want to risk ruining the molding by a brad not going in all the way. So, Ms. Control Freak grabbed finish nails and attached it the old fashioned way with a hammer. I did luck out in how well the mitered corners came together and I discovered a new use for painter's tape. Holding the molding in place while I attached it.

So what does it look like now? Like this:

I'm very pleased as is Larry. Next up is to do a finish sand (need to sand over where I filled various holes and dings with wood putty), then move on to priming it. Then we'll do the finishing touches like finishing and attaching the cabinet doors and attaching the back. I am planning on painting it white, but am thinking of painting the interior of the center section (where we'll have two shelves for the various electronics attached to the TV) a pale aqua blue. The cabinet doors will get white tulle curtains instead of glass or a solid filler mainly because I want to put the woofer for the stereo in one of the cabinets and I don't want to have to open the door every time we turn on the stereo.

For now, we're on hold as the temperature outside has dropped below freezing and I refuse to bring it into the house to paint. Sometime this weekend it will warm up during the day and I'll be able to paint in the garage. It may not be done by the Super Bowl, but we'll definitely have it finished by our next Sunday Supper in February.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Front and Center at all Cost has taken a slightly different look at the State of the Union with a story on 'aisle hogs,' members of Congress who scurry into the House chamber early on the day of the State of the Union in order to secure seats on the aisle and those oh so important to their ego seconds on camera as they shake the President's hand on his way to the podium. And who should be second on the list of the top five aisle hogs but Texas and Houston's very own Sheila Jackson Lee? It's enough to make me want to deny being a native Texan.

Furthermore in the updated version I read, it seems that even this article has had no restraining effect on Ms. Lee in her neverending search for facetime on TV. Proving that it's impossible to shame Ms. Lee into forsaking her blatant grabs for attention, she was front and center again tonight getting her moment on camera and in the spotlight with President Obama. On the bright side, she's not my representative. But she is the representative for many of my fellow Houstonians, who, once upon a time had a woman of great principle, Barbara Jordan, looking after their interests in Congress. They deserve better than the grandstanding Lee, who, from what I've been able to tell, has as her first priority her unending quest for attention and feeding the black hole that is her ego.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Here We Go Again...

Evidently it's time for Larry and me to embark on another building project. I thought I would be working on loom as my next major project here at the house, but there's been a change of plans.

A month or so ago, I mentioned to Larry that I was thinking about getting rid of the 'armoire'/entertainment cabinet in the den. This particular piece of furniture is approximately 40" wide, 20" deep and about 7' tall. For a while I've been thinking about what to do with it or about it as it's just a little overpowering in its current location. Plus, I knew that sooner or later Larry would be wanting a larger TV set. Not to mention that from my favorite chair, I can't see about 2 inches or more of the screen due to the way the doors on this piece are designed.

Originally I had thought about finding an old buffet or similar piece that we could repurpose as a TV/media stand. But after spending some time antiquing this weekend and not finding anything that would work, I began to think about designing something that would work for our equipment. The sense of urgency on getting something in place was due to Larry deciding that it was time to go for a bigger set. He found a really good price on one and ending up buying it on Saturday. So, we spent a good part of yesterday afternoon looking online for anything that would fit my aesthetic requirements. Nothing did. So, I sat down with pencil and graph paper and came up with this:
It's a take on a buffet, but it's designed to fit our equipment. The unit measures 52" wide, by 20" deep and 38" high. The box measures 26" high. In the center it has adjustable open shelves that measure 20"wide, and then 2 12" wide doors on either side. The doors will be open frames with curtains of gathered tulle inserted in the openings. It will be trimmed out with molding along the edge of the table top and on the bottom (shown). I plan on painting it white with the center shelving part painted a pale aqua, which will give the den an additional spot of color.

We went out this afternoon and bought the materials. I have done the measurements for the box, so hopefully Larry will be able to make those cuts tomorrow and we'll get the basic box together. We're hoping that we can be ready for me to start painting next weekend.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Effing Elves

Every year it's the same old thing. Come Thanksgiving weekend, I start hauling boxes of Christmas stuff out of the hall closet. And I zip around the house putting up Christmas trees, lights, little stuffed snowmen, switching out my reqular dishes for Christmas dishes, you name it. This year, in a moment of crazed craftiness, I even made poinsettia fabric covered lampshades for my lamps. And it all looks beautiful. Then all of a sudden, it's over. Everything looks tired, the tree is dropping needles faster than a heroin addict, and I have to put all this crap away.

I hate putting away the Christmas stuff. Hate. Hate. Hate. Now putting up Christmas stuff is fun. You get to listen to or sing Christmas carols. You can have White Christmas playing in the dvd. The tree smells wonderful. The poinsettias are beautiful. You can drink eggnog w/ bourbon or hot buttered rum or spiked hot chocolate. But after Christmas? Bah freaking humbug. For starters, I never can figure out a good time to do the deed. I have friends who take the tree down asap after Christmas. Other friends deal with the mess on New Year's day or Epiphany. But we always seem to have stuff going on. And this past season set a record for being busy the week after Christmas. Add in a week like the one I've just been through and I'm desperate for just few elves to zip in after midnight so that I can wake up to a house with nary a shriveled poinsettia petal to be found and a nice, neat hallway closet with everything in its box and each box in its place. But since the chance that a cadre of elves will knock on my door and beg to be allowed to put away my Christmas decorations is nonexistent, I guess I just need to gut up and go start hauling all those boxes and bins out of the hall closet.

Either that or decide I like the way the dining room table looks with piles of Christmas decorations on it and that the dead Christmas tree in the living room adds a nice little redneck touch to the place.