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.