Sunday, May 31, 2009

NY's Hotel Pierre, talking animals--and retirement

Today in the Cleo Coyle novel I'm reading I came across a description of the Hotel Pierre. I never knew it was so lavish and ritzy. My dad didn't go to NYC often, but when he did, he stayed at the Pierre. Dad was a Scotsman through and through, so I always thought it was a lesser hotel, even though he traveled on an expense account. Apparently not so. I wish he were here so I could ask him about it.
I've discovered a new dislike: novels with talking animals. I've ordered two recently and decided I couldn't read them. One wonderful thing about Kindle is that you can order the first chapter of a novel free; if you don't like it, just erase it. Want to buy it, which is of course what they hope. Go to one-click Kindle shopping. I ordered a sample of one but dumbly ordered and paid for the full text of the other because I'd read good reviews Reviews or not, I couldn't get into it. Never did read Watership Down. I've decided I must use that function of Kindle all the time. I'm notorious (to myself) for buying books I've already read. At Barnes & Noble, they were good about returning them, but there's no such option on Kindle. I thought I'd read all of Cleo Coyle's coffee house mysteries but Latte Trouble didn't sound familiar. I ordered the first chapter and found I hadn't read it, so I've had my nose in it much of the weekend.
Jacob slept till 8:30 this morning and then I had to wake him up singing "Where's Jacob, Where's Jacob?" He woke up with a big grin. I was afraid Jordan would be unhappy if he slept all morning. Tonight Jacob and his parents and I went to Uncle Julio's--Colin worked there forever (I was afraid he was going to be a bartender all his life) and Jordan worked there three years, so it's sort of a sentimental Mexican placer for us. Two glasses of wine and I had to come home and take a nap!
I guess I can make my big announcement now--well, it's big to me--I'm submitting my letter of retirement tomorrow, effective July 15. The powers-that-be have known this for a long time but asked me to hold off. It's been a hard decision to keep quiet because it effects so much of my thinking and planning. No, I don't know who will succeed me--there will be an interim director while they do a national search, but they haven't settled on an interim and the turmoil surrounding that has me in a constant state.
I sat the other night and made a list of my goals for retirement: the first is to conquer my anxiety by slowly widening the circle of things I will do alone. I've had to do that before, and I know it can be done, but it's tough. I don't think I'll have the peace of mind to do it until I'm out of the office. I can start practicing now, because I know I've really drawn that circle more tightly around me. My other goals have to do with seeing more of my other grandchildren--have to find a way to get to Houston and get over the anxiety enough to ride the train to Austin and Dallas. And to do more serious writing--as readers of this blog know, I keep putting off my current work in progress, blaming it partly on not having heard from the publisher who's had the first mystery for almost six months. But I can query them and their answer may give me a hint about which direction to go. I hope to continue my occasional column for the Dallas Morning News and turn my blog into more of a review blog. And maybe do some other free lancing.
After retirement, I will continue to do acquisitions for the press and participate in some event planning, so I won't lose touch comletely. It's a big wrench--I went to work there in the summer of 1982 and became director in 1987. The press is pretty much my baby (aside from my own babies and their children), and many people have said kind things about what I've built it into. Yes, I'm nervous abut leaving it in other hands. But my good friends Jeannie and Jean have convinced me that I have to look after myself first, not the press. And they're right. I've been anxious for months, and when they both said they were worried about me and that every time I talked about the office I tensed up, I decided it was time to listen. My boss keeps asking if I've changed my mind, which is a nice compliment. But been there, done that, and this time I'm not turning back.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Diets and other things

This is Jacob, hard at work in my study, one of his favorite places to be. He knows where "his" paper is (old copy only blank on one side--sometimes he draws on the printed side, makes no matter to him), though he often tries to take my good pens. He wants a Spiderman pen and I'll have to work on that.
As usual I went overboard in the produce department at Central Market, but when Linda from Granbury called to say her husband is in the hospital close to my house and could she drop by, I realized I'd bought all single servings--except one medium large baked potato to share with Jacob tonight (no butter, nonfat yogurt instead of sour cream). All those single servings for healthy, low-point meals. If Linda can leave Rodger, she'll bring her half sandwich left from lunch. I'll assure her that by tomorrow night I can cook her a much better meal if he's still there--and I think he will be.

A diet lunch today was so good I could do this all the time--tuna salad (ok, that counts some points), grape tomatoes (which I can eat like other people eat popcorn), hearts of palm (pricey but I've started splurging on them since I started the diet), and fresh raspberries--all zero points (if you don't eat too much!). I keep ruining by point total by drinking a little wine at lunch and a little more in the evening. Tonight though I had a fine meal and made it under my point limit for the day--a half a baked potato with nonfat yogurt (delicious) and plain cooked broccoli. Jacob was apparently too shy around Linda--didn't eat, except for one bit of broccoli. I'm going to give him his strawberries and blueberries for breakfast and send his half of the potato and broccoli home for his lunch. Other than that, he was charming. When he arrived we sat on the porch and looked for rolypolys again--well, he did. When I declined, he decided it was time to go in. Then of course he came alive about 8:30 tonight when 9:00 is bedtime. I can hear him on the monitor, playing with his toys.
I've had a good day, distracted by reading yet another mystery, Cleo Coyle's Latte Trouble. Not much to do with food but more than I need to know about espresso and likeable characters and a good plot. Work on my own writing? Nope, didn't do any!

Friday, May 29, 2009

Working from home

Today there would be no one else in my office and I had portable work, so I decided to work from home. But then a couple of things popped up that needed to be done at the office, so I went to the grocery and then the office. Then I came home and spent the morning at my desk, doing both office work and my own. But my well planned day went awry when Jordan called at noon and asked if I wanted to nap at her house. Jacob was a school reject, "not feeling well." I said no, but he could nap here, so that's what happened. After he got here he seemed to brighten up and drank milk and water, played a bit, and watched the Disney channel. But good thing that he is, when I said nap time, he toddled off to his bed--and slept not quite three hours. I got in a little more work and a nap, and then his evening babysitter came to take him home.
Good dinner tonight--a lamb chop, which I love anyway. I had seen somewhere something about topping steak with horseradish and goat cheese, and I figured it would work just as well on a chop. It was good but next time I think I'll just stick to goat cheese--great topping for lamb. I think I made it on my Weight Watchers points today.
The mystery that I just finished is State of the Onion, by July Hyzy. The protagonist is an assistant chef at the White House, hoping to be appointed Executive Chef when the current chef-in-charge retires. But events and people keep putting her on the wrong side of things. She runs into terrorists and eventually becomes the target of a hired assassin. Her love interest, one of the president's CIA detail, disapproves of her involvement, even though he also wants to protect her. It's a good mystery, but the glimpses into the White House kitchen are fascinating. If memory serves, author Hyzy eventually got a private tour of the kitchens in the mansion, and she appears to have done her research well. One of the points she makes clear is that the staff begins preparing for state dinners weeks in advance--researching food laws of different cultures (in this book some of the guests are Muslim and some Jewish and for on the actual night their personal chefs are brought in), allergies of the guests, etc. Then sample dishes are presented to the First Lady. Hyzy also points out there are two very different kinds of cooking done--state dinners and the personal preferences of the First Family then in residence--the Kennedys liked haute cuisine, Presidents Carter and Johnson preferred southern cooking, and George W. Bush requested very simple food.
At the back of the book there are recipes--I particularly liked stuffed cucumbers--it's hard--or tedious--on KIndle to go back to the last chapter where the recipes are but I got some ideas. You "stuff" cucumbers for an appetizer, by putting filling between two slices. Sort of a cucumber sandwich without bread! Add garlic and I think pine nuts, though I'm not a fan of the latter.
There is a second book in the series, Hail to the Chef, but I have a sneaky feeling I've read it and will have to wait for the next in the series. A nice thing about Kindle is that you can order the first chapter free to peruse, so I ordered the first chapter to see if I've read it. I've spent way too much money in the past buying books I've already read.
After finishing that book (honest I did work today!) I looked at a sample I'd ordered and decided I didn't want to read it. So no charge incurred--I simply erased it.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Evening musings

I often rave about the view from my front porch, because I find it soothing to sit out there at night, especially in the spring and early summer, and look at all the greenery around me. So here are a couple of shots of what I see (a couple of others didn't come out as scenic as they really are, but sometimes I feel like I'm in a park. Except in the hottest weather, there's a breeze, and it's just a wonderful place to be. I was in the doldrums today, so sitting out there helped. So did coming home from work and making a list of things I want to accomplish. Cleaning closets is on it, but it isn't likely to happen any time soon. One shelf in my closet is so overloaded with bags holding gift wrapping supplies that they keep falling on the floor and I trip over them. Oh, well.
Weight Watchers is only going so-so. I've changed so many habits and cut out so many things I usually eat that I can't believe I'm not perfect, but staying under 19 points is really hard for me (Jeannie gets 22 but she's taller than I am!). I've only lost 5.2 lbs. in 5 weeks, and I looked at my averages today and they don't look good. I almost never stay under the 19, and I use up a lot (but never all) of my bonus points. What are they there for? I could give up my evening wine, but as a friend said to me last night, "You have to have some pleasures left in life." And because I started in the doldrums today, I'm going to defiantly allow myself one small piece of chocolate. But, hey, I'm eating steamed squash without butter, spinach with lemon, tomatoes, and hearts of palm--all point free!
Tonight I've had an inspiration about moving some parts of the end of the current WIP (that's short for Work in Progress, thank you) and that's my project. And then I'm reading a really good novel by Julie Hzyz about a White House chef. I'll report on it as soon as I finish it.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Small and large accomplishments

My small accomlishment that I forgot to announce in yesterday's post is a Weight Watchers report: I lost one ounce last week. But, hey, it's better than gaining. And it was a week fraught with stress in which I decided for several meals to give up the diet. Then I rationalized I had already paid for three months so I'd keep it up but not obsess about it as I was. So for the past two days I've gone slightly over my daily points limit, but I am doing so much better than I did when I look at what I'm eating. I've almost cut out chocolate, no bread and butter late at night, etc. And tonight I had 2 oz. of chicken (ahhh, but it had mushroom/wine gravy on it). Fruit is a problem--adds more points than you'd expect--and today I had half an egg salad sandwich--but egg salad is high. And drinking wine doesn't help, but it soothes the spirit.
A bigger accomplishment: I got to the end of my second mystery tonight. Is it good? No, not yet, but I have hope it will be. And at least I figured out the basic structure, just kinding of putting words on paper. Now I have to go back and make it into a living thing, where the people really come alive. Plotting is always hardest for me, and I'm not sure I've got it right yet, so I may ask my mentor to read it in its raw state. But I feel a sense of accomplishment. It's been almost six months since I submitted the first mystery to a publisher who requires an exclusive--I can't send it to anyone else as long as they have it. I'm hoping that's a good sign. At least they didn't send it back in the next mail. Uncertain about how long to wait before inquiring. I have this superstitious feeling that if I inquire I'll jinx the whole deal.
And the Dallas News editor suggested a column that I'm really interested in working on. And the publisher of What We Eat When We Eat Alone happily agreed to send me a review copy, so maybe that's the first step in turning this blog into a review one--or finding some other avenue to review food writing. I'm up about all this.
A wonderful storm blew in tonight. I know it brought hail in other parts of the county, but just before it hit thunder rumbled and wind blew and I stood out on the porch enjoying it. When I was a kid my family had a cottage at the very foot of Lake Michigan and I loved to watch storms roll in down the length of the lake. I still love it, though I know Texas storms can be dangerous. After I stood and enjoyed for a while, I relented and went to bring Scooby inside. He does not at all share my enjoyment of them--in fact, I used to have to tranquilize him--the problem being the pill took sometimes 4-6 hours to take effect and by then the storm was over. I guess he's more secure now, because lying at my feet seems to be enough tranquilizer for him. The storm has passed now but I understand there are more due during the night. My problem then is always to get Scoob to go out in the morning.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Writing, retirement, Memorial Day

On AgentQuest, the Sisters in Crime listserv for writers not yet published and seeking either an agent or publisher, there's a lot of talk about being in limbo. That's where I am--in limbo. I've had a full manuscript out to a publisher for almost six months--and they request an exclusive, so I cannot try another other avenues. Meantime I've been writing the sequel and am about to finish it and am already worrying about what's next. Today I thought again about food writing--maybe because after two signings my head is big over Cooking My Way Through Life with Books and Kids. But tonight I got out a book I'd read two or three years ago--Will Write for Food. It's a how-to guide for everything from cookbooks to writing fiction with food to restaurant reviewing (which I used to do years ago but am not sure my palate is sophisticated enough these days). I would like, as I said before, to write a review blog or column, about food writing and mysteries with food a primary element. I'm just not sure how to go about it. I think I'll request a review copy of one book I really want to read and see if that works--and gives me ideas. Then there are older books I've enjoyed that I could review--the one mentioned above or Julie and Julia, about the young woman in a tiny New York apartment kitchen who decides to cook every recipes in Julia Child's The Art of Mastering French Cooking, or anything by Ruth Reichel, now editor of Gourmet and formerly restaurant reviewer for, I think, The New York Times. She can be hysterically funny but she's also informative. Maybe what I need to do is apply myself. The mystery writer J. A. Jance once told me, rather peevishly, that the way to write a mystery is to put your bottom in the chair before the computer and go at it (I later learned she had just had a death in the family so I forgive her impatience) but I beg to differ. It's not tht easy--yes, maybe that's the way to write it, but then you have to find agent, publisher, etc. and that's hard and, to me, depends part on luck. But nothing ventured, nothing gained, so I'll keep trying on both fronts.

Meanwhile, I've been practicing for retirement today--slept late and piddled, something it's taken me hard practice to learn to do. I once wrote an article on the art of learning to putz but the editor changed it to putter because of unfortunate Yiddish connotations of the word putz. But anyway, it's the art of learning to do not much. This morning I slept late, lingered over the paper and my low fat breakfast, chunked up some fruit for a salad to take to friends tonight and put together an asparagus dish (you coat asparagus in a little bit of melted butter, top with crumbled goat cheese and bread crumbs and bake for 10 minutes at 400--delicious). Then I did my yoga, read emails and answered some, caught up on blogs and Facebook, and by then it was lunchtime. Read for a while, napped, and got ready to go to dinner.
Jean Walbridge had fixed steak and baked potatoes and sliced tomatoes. I added the aspargus dish and fruit that we had for dessert. All delicious. She served fat-free yogurt with the potatoes and it was great--my deal from now on. The three of us had a pleasant dinner, and Jim showed me the concept--and some samples--of the art he's working on now. Carvings where texture in the wood indicates texture in the coat of animals--like the mane of a lion or the ruff of a buffalo. Fascinating stuff. He showed me pictures of some early American art from which he got the idea. And I laughed to learn that when he has an idea he sketches right away--even on the margins of the program in church. Jim feels about his art like I do about my writing--we do it regardless, because we keep having ideas and because we cannot NOT do it. Jean's form of the addiction is weaving--with very fine yarns, for which I would never have the patience! But we are all three lucky to have found our avocations.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Cookbook/memoir signing

My good friend Jeannie Chaffee had a signing party at her gorgeous home (circa 1920) this afternoon. Jeannie is a professional party giver, and every party she plans has great class. This was no exception--beautiful tiered trays of fruit, cheese and crackers, brownies, and little lemon cakes, white wine and lemonade. Not as many people as we'd hoped showed up but a nice sociable crowd and we had a good time. Several people bought more than one book, which pleased me, and some came all the way from Dallas. It was a lovely event. My longtime friend Mary Lu leafed through looking at pictures and said, "There's a lot of nostalgia there." She has known me and my family since 1970. Another friend was delighted to know that their were recipes in there from my friend Charles' late wife Reva, from the days we used to cook together. And Jeannie herself says she's reading for the story of my life and ignoring the recipes. I certainly do have a lot more of myself invested in this book than in many others I've done.
The pictures above are obviously from the party. The one with the lovely blonde shows me and Jeannie and the table she set. And sorry but you simply have to turn your head to look at Jordan and me because I don't know how to turn the image. One of those computer image things I'll learn one day.

Megan called this morning and said she had planned to surprise me and drive up and then spend the night. But she got loaded down with work and couldn't do it. Then Jamie called. They were due back from DisneyWorld at 1 p.m. yesterday but didn't get home until midnight and he said there was no way they could do it. And Colin called tonight to say he really tried to figure a way to come from Houston but just couldn't, especially since Lisa had a mandatory teachers' workshop yesterday. But the kids all know they're a big part of the book and they wanted to be there for me.
Jordan bless her was there--taking pictures, helping Jeannie, and graciously greeting people. We were supposed to have dinner here afterward, then we were supposed to go to Joe T.'s, then we were back to having dinner here, and finally we ended up taking dinner out to her house where I cooked chicken and a wine/mushroom gravy, made a salad, and dished up some of the fruit from Jeannie's party. So it was a confusing but pleasant evening, and Jordan brought me home nice and early.

Sorry, but this blog is mostly pictures. I'm too tired for deep thoughts.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Another party day

Tonight we had a porch party to eat the leftover chip and dip from last night. Jay and Susan came from next door, and Jordan, her friend Addie, and Jacob were here. We had a delightful time but about eight I realized I couldn't do two nights in a row of nothing but appetizers, so 15 or 20 minutes later I sent Jay and Susan on their way to Chadra and fixed us sirloin patties while Jordan fixed a salad. Jacob had spent the entire evening on the wet end of the porch looking for rolypolys and collecting them. Jordan and Addie and eventually Jay even went down into the garden to search for them and by the end of the evening Addie, who claims she can't stand bugs, was quite casual about rolypolys. A good time was had by all, but by the time we ate I was too hungry and tired to make the red wine/goat cheese sauce I had planned so it was a pretty plain meal. And Jordan couldn't make her Greek salad because she forgot the feta but she said we'd have it tomorrow night, so I guess I'm cooking again. I'll try in the morning to make a champagne/mushroom gravy recipe I've been saving for a long time (substituting white wine) and serve it with chicken and the Greek salad.
And that really was my day other than playing with Jacob a lot this morning. He woke up about eight (very late for him) in really good spirits, asking for a waffle for breakfast, and then wanting me to sit next to him wherever he decided to light. We had long conversations, most of which I understood. Then I went to Central Market, ate lunch, read, and took a long nap. Nice kind of day. Nope, no deep thoughts today.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Book signing

Random images from a book signing that Jordan gave for her friends tonight at my house. Jacob spent the evening in a Spiderman costume (and often with a mask) running around yelling "Yaaah!" at people, after he got over about an hour of shyness. And then he couldn't decide if he wanted to go home or stay with Juju--I'm now listening to him on the monitor. He is not asleep. I think, from the sound, he's playing with his cars.
The party was lots of fun because all the young people were friends of mine too. One, who works with Jamie, brought his wife and came from Dallas--he and Jordan had been high school buddies. Jordan's boss was here, mostly because her daughter and Jordan were friends as very young children and Tori, the daughter, is in one of the pictures in the book. And the lady above is the mother of one of Jordan's friends--she bought the book to encourage her daughter to cook. Several people bought more than one copy, which was encouraging. I have published enough books that it surprises me when people says, "It's not everyday you know someone who has written a book" and similar things. But I admit I have more of myself invested in the cookbook memoir than many of the books I've done.
Tomorrow night--porch party to eat the leftover dips. I asked Jordan what she was doing and she said, "Well, nothing, until Jay invited me to a party on your porch!"
My neighbor, Greg, whom I just met but who is now doing my garden for me, turns out to be lots of fun and very knowledgeable about plants, particularly the native plants that I love. He did a wonderful job of cleaning out beds today, and I think after he's had the garden for a season, it will really show a big change, so I'm excited. I'm going to call tomorrow and ask him and his wife to join us for a porch party.
All is quiet from Jacob and it's probably time for me to go to bed too.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Salsa, friends and a good day

Years ago one of Megan's friends gave me the simplest salsa recipe ever--but I lost it and she doesn't seem to even remember it. It involved some kind of Tomatoes Especial (Hunts, I think) which I can't find anymore. But today I forgot to get salsa for Jordan's girls party tomorrow night, found a basic recipe in Southern Living, and realized I had everything but the jalopenos in my cupboard. So I threw it all in the blender, substituted a can of green chillies for the jalopenos, and added three tablespoons of the juice from pickled jalopenos (I remember that from the earlier recipe). Then I was leery of tasting it, so I'll let Jordan do that tomorrow. If she says it's awful, I'll throw it out and really all I've lost is a couple of cans of diced tomatoes and a can of green chillies. But now I realize I also forgot to get more chips. I'm going to CVS first thing in the morning and since they now carry lots of groceries, I'll hope they have them.
Had dinner with my good friends, Elizabeth and Weldon, tonight--we ate at an upscale bistro and Elizabeth and I splurged on wasabi-crusted scallops. They are both Weight Watchers veterans (Weldon is still doing it) and they were amazed that I only get 19 points a day--that's not much, as those of you who know the system realize. So I've decided to give it up for now. This is a time of tension for me--more about that in a couple of weeks--but I learned long ago that you have to be perfectly right with your world to diet and not have it affect you badly. To this point, it has changed my way of thinking about eating, but I'm not going to be slavish about 19 points. In fact, I just had a piece of chocolate.
New idea: I am fascinated by food writing--not cookbooks, but writing about food. I saw somewhere today a notice of a book about what we eat when we're alone. I know lots of women who don't eat or eat cereal or a pbj or something, and I almost always cook for myself and plan a meal. I think it would be fun to review the book, so I'd like to start a blog reviewing food writing. Have to think about putting that into play.
Meantime I am shameless abut promoting Cooking My Way Through Life--I know the owner and night chef at the bistro where we ate tonight. When she, the chef, came to the table to visit I told her about the book and shamelessly gave her a card. Then Elizabeth wanted several to pass out to friends. I'm learning to be a promoter.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Sundry thoughts

My apologies to G. M. Malliett, even though I didn't criticize Death of a Cozy Writer. My reaction was a purely personal one to the genre. But I have to say she threw in a twist in the plot that was totally unexpected and really got my attention. I won't say more of course because I hate people who give the plot away. I recently was talking to my older daughter, Megan, about Marley and Me. She said she hadn't seen it and I said I wanted to even though it's apparently really heart-wrenching when the dog dies in the end. She got really angry and said, "Don't tell me the end!" And I thought, "Well, Meg, it's about a dog. They don't live that long. Of course he dies in the end, but that's not the point of the movie. It's about what a wild, crazy, loveable dog he was." But back to Death of a Cozy Writer, I won't say any more except to recommend it to all my friends who love Agatha Christie and British cozies. And to add that I'm still reading it.
I am pretty sure G. M. Malliett is a woman (I think her name is Gina) but it made me think of some correspondence I had the other day with a publishing person. When I said my production manager would attend a certain meeting in my place, he wrote back, "Be sure you give him your proxy vote." My production manager is of course Melinda. Gender bias lives on!
An odd note on book reviews: I read today that a reviewer in Russia was sued by an author who claimed the negative review damaged his reputation and caused him and his family emotional and physical suffering (migraines, etc.). He asked for the US equivalent of $150,000 and got $1,000. Both sides are appealing. I'm not a fan of truly negative reviews--they are often more about the reviewer showing off how smart he or she is than about the book, but then again suing a reviewer sets a horrible precedent, even if it is in Russia.
My Frisco family is still at DisneyWorld, and I heard this morning about torrential rains in Florida, but the pictures Jamie posted on Facebook tonight seemed full of sunshine, and the girls certainly looked happy. I joined Facebook to keep up with my children, but I've found lots of other friends on it and am enjoying checking it once or twice a day. One friend has offered to give me a tutorial on using it in a more sophisticated way and I may take him up on it.
Anxiety is still with me. I think I'll call the doctor in the mornng and make an appointment. This is a silly way to live.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Diet Gone awry and other sundry problems

Today I had a wonderful lunch at Nonna Tata--a salad with corn kernels in it and just a bit of balsamic vinaigrette and braseola (the Italian beef version of proscuitto) dressed with lemon and olive oil and thin shavings of grana cheese. It was sided with a vinegary potato salad that I reallly like--so there went points for the diet. Tonight I had leftover filet of sole in a half sandwich with tomato and onion and then went back to finish off the bit of sole that wouldn't fit in the sandwich. And then, by gosh, I decided I was tired of being hungry and ate a piece of chocolate, thereby blowing my points for the day all to smithereens. I suppose it happens to everyone who diets, but I can't help equaiting my mid-day extreme anxiety to the diet, and I'm beginning to wonder if it's wise, notwithstanding the 5 lbs. I've lost.
This morning when I drove up to work, Sandy, one of the two insurance consortium peole who office in our suite, came out to give me a hand in--so thoughtful of her. And once she helped me up the step I walked confidently into the office. She'll never know how much I appreciate the gesture. But when I left for lunch, I went out the other door where the only "open space" is perhaps three feet from a stone wall to a railing--froze, couldn't do it, finally did. Struggled along the fence and then, with difficulty, down the step. Once on the ground, by cars and railing, I was just fine. Jean sat in her car and watched all this, then drove up behind my car--maybe four feet from it. I tried, couldn't walk that four feet, asked her to come get me, and she shook her head--"You can do it." Finally, she back up, drove closer, and of course I walked easily up to the car. It makes no sense, but I am very tired of it. The trouble going in and out of the office is clearly a sign, and the best I can do is laugh about it. Yes, Marcia, I ate a banana at 10:30--no nuts though.
A bright note: the man who has been doing my lawn told me he's going out of the lawn business. I am only partly sorry--I was paying him a lot of money, and he didn't do flower beds, didn't understand flowers, etc. Jay suggested that one of our neighbors (who has a beautiful back yard) does yard work, and so Greg came by tonight. I'm delighted. He told me what he'd do, what he charges (very resonable), and we agreed on native plants, etc. He has apparently watched my front yard as he walked his dog over the years and admird most aspects of it but knew what needed to be cut back, weeded out, etc. He's coming Friday, which couldn't be better because Jordan is bringing 22 women over for a book-signing late Friday afternoon.
Think I"ll go sit on the porch and read--and maybe blow the diet more with an extra glass of wine--and then I'll come in and work. I'm at a difficult part in my novel--but oh so near the end of the first draft. Much more work to be done.

Monday, May 18, 2009

British cozies, recipes, weightloss and a dictionary reader

I'm reading Death of a Cozy Writer by G. M. Malliett, winner of the Agatha Award for a first novel and a nominee for the McCavity and IPPY awards--all big deals among mystery writers. Amazon sales rank it as #6 in British detective mysteries and somewhere around 5,500 in overall sales listing--which is really high. Plus it's gotten great reviews from the major review sources plus a lot of mysteries writers. Praise includes such ideas as it is perfectly written in the Agatha Christie style and the British cozy is alive and well in this one, which is the traditional house party, mostly of unpleasant family members; someone is murdered and a Chief Detective Inspector or whatever the British term is comes riding in. Having heard this much hype about it, I ordered it for my Kindle and started it yesterday--only to be struck by the reason I really don't like British cozies. The language in this one is beautifully used, the wrting wry and full of wit, the characters almost unpleasant enough to be caricatures, and though I'm barely into it I can see the plot will develop well, with several suspects (we all know from the beginning who the victim is). So yes, I'm hooked enough that I'll continue reading. But the truth is I much prefer Cynthia Riggs' Martha's Vineyard series, with its 92-year-old protagonist, or J. A. Jance's two series, one with an Arizona lady sheriff and the other with a world-weary Seattle detective. Why? Because I don't identify with the stereotypical, upper class characters in the British mysteries. I don't understand their bizarre ways--from the daughter who is described as a stupid fat cow to the youngest son who is a failed actor and rapidly deteriorating sot to the oldest son who is cool, calculating and married to a lady with great societal pretensions. It's not my world, and I can't get into that kind of a story. That's why I'm trying to write mysteries about ordinary people in ordinary American cities (and incidentally wrote a difficult scene I'd been dreading last night). Note to self: stop buying British cozies. I have friends who love them, but I don't.
Last night, bored a bit with my reading and having written a thousand words and given out in imagintion, I went through the most recent issue of Bon Appetit, tearing out recipes I'd checked on my first quick run-through and giving others much more careful consideration before I threw the magazine away. I used to save stacks and stacks of them and finally had to bite the bullet and admit that I would never go back to old ones. But now I have this appalling collection of recipes that I've cut out, and I can tell my budget will go all to pot (no pun intended) because there are so many I want to cook and mostly they aren't the kind of thing one cooks for one, though I did find one I may try for myself. Steak with a blue cheese/horseradish sauce--think I could try that on a lamb chop and it would be delicious--and I often cook one loin lamb chop for myself for dinner. But tomato-cucumer gazpacho or creme fraiche (sorry I can't do the accent marks on this program) roasted salmon or asparagus vichyssoise with mint require an audience.
And speaking of food: the good news today is that I've lost 2.1 lbs. in the last week and 5 lbs. overall since I started Weight Watchers--lost for two weeks, gained one, and then lost this week. The hoot is I got an automatic message that I was losing weight too fast which could have disastrous results for my heart rate and all numbers of other things. All I can figure is they recommend you lose 2 lbs. a week, and I went over that and triggered the message. Doesn't seem to me 5 lbs. in four weeks is too fast. I know all too well weight lost quickly is soon regained. But I am laughing. I had lunch today with a friend who asked how you know how to assign points to a food, and I said you have to sort of eyeball how many cups, Tbsp., oz, whatever it is. "Well, what if I have a pastrami and cheese sandwich and assign it three points?" I explained you have to be honest or you're defeating yourself and wasting your money. I'm really trying on that score.
Finally, a tidbit I heard on the news today as I was pulling in the driveway. I have always been fascinated by the book Julie and Julia (of course now I can't find it in its usual place on one of my shelves to give the correct subtitle). It's about a young disenchanted, bored married girl in a tiny apt. with a tiny kitchen in New York who decides to give meaning to her life she'll cook all the recipes in Julia Child's Mastering French Cooking in one year. It's funny and interesting--some of the recipes call for pretty bizarre ingredients--and I enjoyed it thoroughly except that Julie has a potty mouth. Now it's being made into a movie with some popular young actress playing Julie and Meryl Streep as Julia--one of the few movies (along with Marley and Me) that I want to see. But I digress: what I heard on NPR today is that they were about to interview a man who had in one year read through the entire Oxford English Dictionary--some 21,000 pages and I forget how many entries. An astounding feat--but to what purpose? Will he write a book about it? I'm still puzzled.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

A S unday brag

I just have to brag: my son Jamie completed his first Ironman Triathlon--a swim (1.2 miles), a bike ride (56 miles,) and a half-marathon (13 miles), all longer than the sprint and mid-triathlons he's been doing. Jamie did it in 5 hours 29 minutes and looked great in pictures Mel took at his finish. I forget the times of the winners but they were professional athletes. I am very proud of Jaim and just a bit relieved he came through in such good shape. Thanks to Mel for posting on Facebook at the end of the race. The race was--oh, surprise!--at DisneyWorld in Orlando, so they'll stay the rest of the week to let the girls "do" DisneyWorld (and the adults too). They took Maddie when she was three and a half (and Edie was something like six months) so in a sense this is Edie's trip--and Jamie's.
Meantime I was running a race of my own this morning with Jacob, who woke up early and wet. I got going slowly to a chorus of "I want" and decided we must teach the child to say "Please may I have . . . ." The other thing I'm trying to teach him is that if he wants me he should come find me and not stand in he playroom and shout, "Juju!" over and over. Finally once when he said "I want to sit here on your lap and watch TV," I countered with, "Well, I want to go put the clothes in the dryer," and he said, "Oh, okay." I wish someone had been here to take a picture of me at my desk with Jacob on my lap and the cat in my face on the desk, each of them glaring at the other out of jealousy. Jacob firmly believes cats should not be on desks or tables, but I can't convince Wywy at this age. Jordan came for an early lunch, they went home, and I piddled--re-organized the front porch, emptied trash, put fresh linen on my bed and Jacob's bed, etc. and finally took a nap. Had no-point veggies for supper so I'm going to treat myself to a small piece of chocolate, sit on the porch for a bit (may be a bit cool again) and then come in and write. Life is good.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

A nice rainy day and a companionable evening

This morning it was raining, but it was such a gentle, slow rain that you couldn't help but enjoy. I put on a hooded sweatshirt and went off to Central Market. Jacob arrived about noon, sleep and grumpy, for his 24-hour stay. I told him we were having a party that night, and he said, "No!" His father said he needed a nap and would be grumpy until them. But I gave him a sippee cup of milk (the child still wants it warmed!) and pretty soon he announced he wanted "dinner." So I produced a pbj sandwich, of which he ate about half. It was 1:30 before he went down for a nap, and I followed him soon after. I slept a good two hours, but he slept three-and-a-half and woke up grumpy again.
When my neighbors arrived for supper Jacob clung to me like his only anchor in the world. It took him over an hour to loosen up but then he began to play and chase and run with both adults and Sue's kids--Hunter, nine, and Alex, 13, both of whom were very sweet and good with him. Since Jay was going to grill, I sent everyone out to the porch with drinks and chips and salsa; came back in to get something and feed the cat, and they all came trooping back in, announcing it was too cold to eat on the porch. Who can imagine in the middle of May? We had a great dinner--hot dogs, potato salad (courtesy of Jay), Caesar salad (courtesy of Sue), baked beans (courtesy of Bush's beans), etc., with the chips and salsa beforehand. I found a jar of green salsa with jalopenos in my cupboard that was way too hot for me, but Jay brought a delicious avocado/honeydew salsa that was delightful. We had 97% fat free Hebrew National hot dogs--who knew they made a fat free product?--and chicken and turkey dogs. I have a lot of hot dogs in my freezer, but they were good. I ate two of the fat free beef ones (without buns) but have yet to enter my food for the day on the Weight WAtchers point tracker, so I don't know how much damage I did. Sue brought a plate of cookies, and I told Jacob "One cookie!" He came back to say he wanted two. I held firm, fearing he'd be up until midnight. After everyone went home, he said, "Where cookies go?" I thought, after that nap, he might be hard to get to go to sleep, but he went happily, though I can still hear him playing. A thoroughly pleasant evening, and I am blessed to have such good neighbors.
Now I've just got to finish readint that Cynthia Riggs mystery, Deadly Nightshade, that I am sooooo close to finishing.

Friday, May 15, 2009


I woke up happy this morning, hurried through my routine to leave the house at 7:29 and sailed into and through the grocery store (a painful process last week since I've been having lots of "I can't walk from here to there" spells) and went into the office to announce boldly that I could walk again. Got a lot of work done, but when I left to go home, I couldn't make it across the concrete porch or entryway or whatever. Went back and got Melinda, who cheerfully walked me to the railing; after that I was fine. She pointed out that I start out the day in fine shape and fall about in mid-day, and I confessed that I had started to feel uneasy about 11 a.m. "Low blood sugar," she suggested. Made sense to me, and I may call the doctor Monday to ask about it. Meantime, when I get home, have lunch and a glass of wine, I'm fine.
There are some heavy things going on in my life that I'm not free to blog about that might be heightening my anxiety, but then again, I thought Melinda had a point. And the new recurrence sort of corresponds with my beginning of the Weight Watchers program. They say you should always consult your doctor before beginning a diet (especially at my age) and I hadn't done that, thinking Weight Watchers was nothing but good sense. And aside from yesterday's lapse, I'm doing a good job of staying within my allocated points, even with some wine. Tonight I had smoked salmon, hearts of palm, artichoke hearts, steamed squash, cherry tomatoes, and--oh my goodness--raspberries. They're my splurge, but they are sooo good.
And I'm into the final stretch of the mystery, writing the "climactic" scene tonight--not quite through with it, but I'd written 1200 words and decided that was enough taxation on my brain for one night. Fred told me yesterday that from what he's read he thinks it's coming along well. Wish I'd hear from the publisher who has the first one.
Tomorrow I get Jacob from noon Saturday until noon Sunday--the longest stretch I've ever kept him. I know John and Cindy keep their granddaughter, Emery, for days and even a week or so at a time, but I plead there are two of them and one of me (and John admits Cindy does all the work). And Jacob is much more energetic than Emery! Last week he was a whirling dervish. For support, I've invited the neighbors--Jay and Susan, Sue and her kids--for dinner, and Sue is going to bring the beau she's been reluctant to introduce to us. Jay will grill hot dogs and bring potato salad and a fruit salsa, Sue will bring tossed spinach salad and cookies, and I'll provide hot dogs, buns, condiments, and baked beans, plus chips and a more traditional salsa. Once I had a recipe for a great and easy salsa that was I think made from tomato sauce and tomato sauce Imperial plus garlic powder and jalopeno juice--I can now find neither the recipe nor the tomato sauce Imperial. I hope it's a porch night, though it's hard to control Jacob on the porch. If it rains--predicted--we can grill hot dogs on my indoor Jenn-Air. Should be fun.
Sunday Jordan will come about eleven to get her baby and we'll have lunch.

Thursday, May 14, 2009


I have become obsessed with point counting on what I eat. I am absolutely boring to eat with because I'm always wondering about how many points something is. Tonight Betty and I split a wonderful tapas platter--dates wrapped in bacon, lobster salad on corn chips, small pieces of lamb on toast with cucumber/yogurt sauce, fried artichokes, and potato galette. I didn't eat the chips or bread and passed on the potato galette or whatever its called. When I came home and figured it all out, the whole meal was only 4.5 points. But I had a half a tongue sandwich for lunch, so I went just a bit over my points for the day. I told Jeannie the other day she and Jean should be laughing at me--for years I listened to them talk about yoga and thought, "Not for me." Now I'm a devotee. Then when they joined Weight Watchers a few months ago, I scoffed--oh, not aloud to them, but to myself. And now here I am obsessed by it. I think what made the difference was that I discovered I could do it online. Some people need the support of a group, but I don't. Just like I do my yoga and bike riding faithfully, I enter my daily points and really watch it.
I am writing just a bit--trying for a thousand words a night, but--on the mystery. At this point, I"m just putting words on paper, trying to get the story down. Then I'll revise.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

A contented cat

This is Wywy, sleeping on my desk. Usually when she's on my desk, she's in my face (often asking for food) or her tail is swishinh back and forth over my keyboard--makes working difficult. But this afternoon, she was sound asleep, didn't budge when I took the picture. Wywy, now 18 and in good health, is a mis-named cat. Jamie found her as a kitten on a rural road in Minnestoa where someone had put her out to die. He brought her home and kept letting her roam free (I'm a big believer in indoor cats because they have such a much longer life span). I kept telling him not to let her out because she'd get pregnant. When he finally got together the money to take her to the vet, I said, "I don't know why she hasn't gotten pregnant." The vet, by then an old friend (we'd had a lot of animals while the kids grew up and Jamie was then in his early 20s), said, "I can tell you why." Okay, it's hard to tell the gender of cats, but Jamie was embarrassed and said, "Mom, this story never leaves this room." Of course, since, he's laughed about it. But by then we were in the habit of referring to Wywy as "she." When I say "he," Jordan says, "You know how I hate when you do that." Sometimes I refer to her as "She, He, It." When Jamie left home I told him he could go but he couldn't take the cat--she's mine. She is the most affectionate cat I've ever known (never mind that once, enraged at another cat, she bit me when I foolishly picked her up--a bad bite requiring ER trips). She loves on everyone who comes to the house and has particular favorites and particular fans. After some research, I am pretty sure she is part Maine Coon, and they have a reputation for gentleness and affection.
I'm back to watching Weight Watcher points big time, having realized that last week I exceeded my daily points every day but one, although I didn't use up all my bonus points--just a good bunch of them. (I think maybe there's a misleading safety cushion in those points.) Charles is fond of Susan and Melinda in my office, and they think he's wonderful, so today we met him at his favorite restaurant, The Black-Eyed Pea, for veggie plates. The waitresses all know him, and when I saw we were going to be late, I called and asked if Charlie was there. They quickly said yes and told him we were on the way. He was in fine fettle and we had a great time. I refrained from squash casserole--that stuff really costs a lot of points--but had carrots, green beans, black-eyed peas, and mashed potatoes without gravy. Did a trick I learned from Melanie, the southern belle in the family, and put the peas on the mashed potatoes. So good. But my appetite must be shrinking--I couldn't eat it all. Tonight I grilled a quarter lb. of salmon in my Foreman Grill (a wonderful invention though I rarely use it for anything but salmon) and had steamed fresh spinach with lemon. Delicious--and I had enough points left over for a bit of chocolate.
So tonight it's on to write a bit more on the novel and go back to reading my Libbie Custer novel--the difference in voice is still amazing to me.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Weight Watchers and other funny stories

Bummer! When I weighed at the office this morning I had gained, not lost--2 lbs. Jeannie insists I need a scale at home so I can weigh wearing the same thing at the same time once a week. So today she found one--coincidentally a Weight Watchers brand--at Costco and got it for me. It's the sleekest looking thing you ever saw--the plate where you step is glass. But by late afternoon it still showed a gain of a lb. and a half. I am not going to take this seriously until I start weighing on a regular schedule, first thing in the morning, wearng just my T-shirt and pants, and that's not until next Monday. Meantime I did look back at last week, and I almost never stayed on my daily point allowance. Today I've done better--even have 2 pts. left--and managed to have a small piece of chocolate in there. So all in all I've lost 3 lbs. in three weeks. Not as good a record as last week, but . . . .
My neighbor, Sue, had a riotous Mother's Day--had to take the cat to the vet because she'd been in a fight, then had to call the other neighbors, Jay and Susan, to help her get the pain medication into the cat, which resulted in blood all over Sue's son's room. She finally got it all cleaned up, got the kids to bed--they slept with her because the cat was meowing and the dog was barking, and in the middle of the night she heard footsteps in her hall. When she looked (which I might not even have done) she saw a huge Saint Bernard. Her back door hadn't been securely shut and had blown open--she escorted the dog outside and went back to bed but couldn't sleep. We're teasing her about dreams (I had one once in which the stuffed cheetah in my living room, named Clifford, was walking around), and Susan emailed that she thinks we're all crazy. Maybe so.
I'm back to work on the novel, because I have this new idea I want to get to. Last night I started re-reading a book, and, I say this without any modesty, I'd forgotten how good it is--it's my fictional biography of Libbie Custer, told in the first person, and I'd forgotten her voice. I think that depth of voice, that introspection, is what's missing in my mysteries--but then, are cozies introspective? I'm just plugging ahead.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mother's Day

Hope everyone had a good Mother's Day. Mine was long, lazy and pleasant. Jordan said we were all going to Joe T.'s but then Jacob got sick and plans changed. Everyone went to Jordan's house and Christian's father brought food from Joe T.'s but it was 6:45 before we ate. Christian didn't get home until about that time, but Mother's Day is always busy at Joe T's where he waits tables on weekends. For those not from Fort Worth who don't know it's sort of the classic Tex-Mex restaurant in town, best known for a huge sprawling and beautiful patio/garden dining area. There is a menu at Sunday brunch but otherwise your choices are two: fajitas or "the dinner" which consists of nachos, rice, two small tacos, two cheese enchiladas, guacamole and refried beans--definitely not on my diet. Now I have to sign on to Weight Watchers and see how much damage I did.
Otherwise I spent the day piddling, doing this odd chore and that, reading and napping. Heard from all the kids though never did talk to Jamie and family. On this day, my thoughts are with a good friend who lost her mother yesterday, a neighbor whose husband died Thursday, and four women I know little or nothing about--the biological mothers of my children. I wonder what their thoughts are and wish I could tell them what wonderful people those babies have grown to be. Giving up a child can never be easy, but I am sure each made that decision for the best of the baby and I want them to know it was a really good decision. I have wonderful children.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

A lovely day--and some writing thoughts

It was a lovely day. Jacob woke up happy and as full of energy as a whirling dervish. He tries me--when I tell him no, he looks at me as though trying to figure out how serious I am about this, like the fact that a knitting needle is sharp and would hurt Jacob. But when I get stern enough and tell him no--or insist that we're going to change his diaper no matter what he thinks about it--he goes along. This morning he ate waffles and syprup, and I have decided to become the kind of grandmother who feeds them all the sweet things they shouldn't have but love.
After Jordan came to pick up Jacob (he declared he didn't want to leave so Jordan told him we were going shopping and would leave him here and he changed his tune pretty fast), Jeannie and I went to run and play--Tuesday morning, Steinmart, lunch at our favorite sandwich shop (egg salad was soooo good), and Central Market. She was ready to play all afternoon, but I insisted I had to come home and fix dinner for Jean and Jim (Jean just out of the hospital since Thursday) and have a nap.
I fixed chicken packets in foil--Stove Top stuffing, chicken, peas (well I forgot to buy them and used corn with the few peas I had), mushrooms, cream of mushroom soup and a bit of water (next time I think wine might improve the flavor) plus fruit salad and leftover roast broccoflower. For being out of the hospital for two days, Jean looks and sounds terrific but says she is aware that she can tire out quickly. I had made a chicken packet for myself, so that was dinner--with half of it let over.
But all day, while running around, I've been mulling about writing. In an obituary about Bud Shrake, he was quoted as once saying that "we write because that's how we figure out about life and death." The other night, when I had a meeting of the poet and the artist, the poet's wife said, "I write because I can. He writes because he has to." Both those statements have made me think. I have always felt that I write because I have to. I can't imagine a life without writing. But do the things I write help me or my readers figure out life and death and other significant issues? I'm not so sure. I think in some ways the historical fiction I have done may have moved in that direction but not significantly. And the cozies I'm trying to write now? No, they're escape reading, the kind I enjoy. But I once read that when you finish a book you should be in a different place than when you started it--and I don't think that's true about the two mysteries I've tried. Now whether they have value for entertainment may be a different question. The children's books? Yes, I feel they've made a contribution to children's knowledge (albeit without helping them figure out the significant questions about life), so perhaps I've done some good there.
I have an idea floating around in my mind about a novel that may help me explore deeper issues, something that might be of more lasting value. And in my golden years I'd like to do that, I'd like to write one significant thing. Meantime I have that second mystery to finish.
And I've thought that all that is what separates me from Bud Shrake and other writers of his signifigance.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Grandchildren again

I love comments on my blog. I love Charles Rodenberger for writing that he has hated okra ever since he had to pick in on the farm--I assume as a child. I grew up "in the North" and don't remember ever having okra. I do remember though that my ex-husband loved it breaded and fried so one time I tried to fry it in matzo meal, which for some reason was all we had. I still didn't like it. And I appreciate Susan Adcox, whom I don't know but who lives in Texas and has seven grandchildren, for writing me that she has learned being a grandparent is not a 24/7 lovefest.
Tonight, however, has been a lovefest. Jacob arrived in a happy mood, played contentedly for hours in the playroom, barely watched his DVD. I decided to give up on enlarging his gastronomic tastes and gave him a pbj sandwich--he ate two. I am definitely NOT giving him the pureed prunes his mother brought--enough said. Right now I am listening to him on the monitor, talking loudly to himself. Lately he insists on the light staying on in the guest room, which I think keeps him awake longer. After tonight, I'll try the lamp instead of the light, and if that doesn't work I'll put a dimmer switch on the old light switch.
Other than that, it was not a remarkable day. I have no deep thoughts on literature, life, even cooking. I had promised to take a roast chicken tomorrow to my friend Jean, who just got out of the hospital, but I find my time for roasting a chicken running out so I'm going to take foil packets of chicken, a fruit salad, and some of that roasted broccoflower Jacob rejected.
I was saddened today to learn of the death of Bud Shrake, a Texas author who was revered and yet maybe never got the notice he deserved. He shouldn't be compared to Larry McMurtry and Cormac McCarthy--Bud had his own voice and style, and they were powerful. TCU Press reprinted one of his novels, so I had only a slight acquaintance with him--but I remember wry and funny email exchanges. Texas has lost another of its greats. I sometimes wonder if it's another sign of my aging that the people I consider the "greats"--Betsy Colquitt, Lou Rodenberger, Bud Shrake--are dying. Maybe it's time for me to retire and give way to someone who knows the younger writers. All my "connections," are older, as one of my board members pointed out to me about the readers I choose to evaluate manuscripts. There's a whole new generation out there that I know little about.

Thursday, May 07, 2009


I swear I don't understand kids. Jacob arrived tonight in a bad mood. His mom said he needed prunes, but I don't have pureed ones so I cut up some dried ones (and ended up eating three myself). Asked if he wanted to stay and keep me company, he said no. He lay on his daybed watching a DVD but turned away each time I came into the room. I fixed him what I thought was a good healthy meal (Weight Watchers thought it was too)--a bit of chopped sirloin patty, steamed carrots, roast broccoflower, and those cut-up prunes. After I finally lured him to the table, he was upset that there was a fly buzzing around his food--well, no one likes that, but hey, we live in Texas and bugs are a part of life. Then he announced the food was yucky. All in all he ate two bites of the beef.
But he began to liven up, and we did a mighty work in sorting out felt tip coloring pens that were broken--though I'm not sure I have much faith in his criteria. But I threw a lot away. And then he got playful and lively and silly and we had a good time. And when he left he gave me a sweet kiss and hug and then said, "I love you, Juju," something he's just learned to say. Be still my heart!
The roasted broccoflower was an experiment but a good one. You cut it into flowerets, not too big, put in a roasting pan, sprinkled with olive oil, lemon and salt, and roast for 15 minutes. The directions said 500 degree oven, but I always think mine is too hot--I've over-roasted Brussel sprouts--so I did it at 450. And the result was really good. The carrots, with just salt, were good too, though I would have loved a pat of butter--but, hey, I came in under my Weight Watchers point limit for the day, so I'm feeling proud.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

The Poet and the Artist

TCU Press is going to publish a book of children's poetry by the 2005 Texas Poet Laureate, Alan Birkelbach. And my neighbor, Susan, is going to illustrate, so tonight I hosted a meeting of Susan, Alan and his wife, Melinda (production manager and essential to such dealings), and me. Fixed an antipasto tray, served wine, and we sat around with chit-chat for a while. Then we got down to basics of book production--what size book appeals to the 8-10 crowd, etc. I had long held that a large book would look like a pre-school picture book and our target audience wouldn't be interested. Finally we decided on 7x10, which I think is perfect--a standard size, which makes printing a bit cheaper, etc. But the interesting part of the evening came when I asked Alan and Susan if they were ready to talk about individual poems--they sat side by side at the dining table and discussed each poem. Alan had made careful notes of what his vision was, and Susan made notes from what he told her. But the two of them were totally engrossed in their own world, their smiles showing that they were really conecting with each other's ideas. It was fun to watch, and since both poetry and art are far beyond my creative abilities, I was kind of in awe of the way they were able to communicate with each other. Alan says he's looking forward to working with Susan, and she says she's excited about the project. Look for it in bookstores in the early fall of 2010. Title? Ogres Hate Okra.
Maddie read some of the poems and I asked her for a reader's report. She didn't write one, but she did draw me a picture, and Alan was pleased that the poetry had engaged her interest and imagination enough that she wanted to draw a picture.
PS I hate okra too!
Otherwise a mostly uneventful day. I have been trying to get to the grocery for days so went this morning making myself late for work--but I had to buy ingredients for the anitpaso tray, many of which will serve as appetizers now for a dinner party Jordan and Christian are going to Friday night. Now I'm puzzling about how you assign points to an antipasto tray on Weight Watchers, but Ill figure it out.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Home again

Much as I enjoy visiting my children and granchildren, I am always glad to be home again. The girls in Frisco had no school today, so they went with Jamie to take me to the train, and Maddie raced along next to the train as long as she could to wave goodbye. Then they were off for a b'day lunch at a place of her choosing, and later I learned that Jamie, who planned to take them to his office and work, ended up at the Dallas Aquairum with them. Last night we had a b'day dinner for Maddie--leftovers that were very good, but a yellow cake with cream cheese frosting, candles and the whole works. It was, her mom said, her intimate b'day party. Next week is the big shindig.
In spite of b'day cake (1/8 piece) and my disastrous encounters with corned beef hash and a hash brown potato cake, I lost 2.5 lbs. this week, so that makes 4.5 lbs. since I strted Weight Watchers. I am very proud of myself. Today I ate well, except pimiento cheese, even 2 Tbsp. to fill a half sandwich, is a bit heavy in points and so is a lamb chop. I'll need to go back to chicken and fish.
Riding the train from Dallas to FW was difficult for me--I had panic attacks about open space, though in Dallas Jamie made me laugh about them. But in Fort Worth, I steeled myself and worked my way (with suitcase, canvas bag and purse) from tree to tree until I was at the head of the parking lot. Jeannie, meanwhile, had gone over to the train, couldn't find me, went back to her car, and saw me--so she rescued me, by which time I was having one of my can't step from here to there attacks. She gave me a long lecture in the car about changing my lifestyle and how she and Jean were worried about me.
My good friend Jean has had major surgery last week--for a long while she didn't want anyone to talk about it and she still doesn't want visitors. But she's doing very well, still not on even a soft diet, but walking the halls and sounding chipper on the phone. So tonight, on the phone, when I called out of concern for her, she ended up giving me the same lecture Jeannie had. It's so wonderful to have good friends--and I am blessed.
Jean said I sounded much better tonight and I said, "Of course. I'm home and safe." Moksha, the petsitter, said my animals missed me, so now I must go let Scooby in. Wywy has sat on my desk all afternoon. I think he's telling me he's glad I'm back too.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Weaather and shopping with grandkids

It's supposedly stormy in Fort Worth this morning, which makes me worry about my poor Scooby who's so terrified. It always seems to storm when I leave town. In Frisco yesterday we were shopping when it began to pour, followed by thunder and lightning that was spectacular ad close.It was still doing it last night when I went to sleep.
I am not a shopper but shopping with the girls yesterday was fun. I had given Maddie what I thought was a generous gift certificate for Justice, a girls' clothing store I'd never heard of. So off we went, and she picked out six tops. Of course she didn't have nearly enough credit and I was torn between offering to cover the balance and realizing this was a good lesson in reality for her (the attitude both her parents took). So she ended up with one top, earrings, and cut-off jeans. All of this, however, took a loooooong time. Next stop Target, where she had a smaller certificate and bought a metal detector--she plans to pan for gold when we go to Colorado at Christmas but meantime she had fun with it in the house--Jamie hid metal items under throw rugs for her to find. At Target Jamie decided we should decide what was for dinner (Mel had gone on a separate errand) so we spent a lot of time on that because he didn't know what he wanted--finally he made a sort of inside out cordon bleu, steamed squash (delicious and the girls love it) and a big salad. While we were in Target (another loooong time) it really stormed, and when we came out the sirens were blaring.
Somehow I made it just to my allotted 19 points on Weight Watchers in spite of  the sinfully large and delicious corned beef hash (homemade) that I ordered at a local cafe for lunch.
Last night was "movie night," so we watched "The Bride Wars" which was okay--Jamie and Mel laughed harder than the girls and it was eleven before I crawled into bed and finally finished the book I was reading. I still want to write about it but I want to talk to the author first. Meanwwhile Jamie left for a run/ride at seven, Edie and I both got up a little after eight but shes's used to being the first one up, so I caught up on my computer. 
Funny lines from my granddaughters:
When the Target clerk asked Jamie for i.d. so he could buy wine, I laughed that they've even asked me. Maddie assured me  I looked over twenty-one, and I told her what she must say is that I don't look 70 After swearing that I don't, she asked "Would you take 58?" I said definitely, so she said "How about 62?" I told her 58 was better.
Earlier Edie had asked me if I knew a long list of people, like her other grandparents, which of course I do. She ended by asking "Do you know God?" I told her in my heart I do.

Friday, May 01, 2009

A busy day

This will be a short blog, full of typos, because I'm in Frisco at Jamie's house. I came for Maddie's tenth b'day, only to learn that Maddie woke with strep throat this morning. But the day started earlier with a wonderful, exciting meeting with an author (I promised Marcia I'd say that but it was true--she brought her sister Sandy and we all laughed as much as we did work--some of the topics don't bear repeating here, but a good time was had by all.) We went to one of my favorite restaurants for lunch and lingered long and, I'm afraid, loudly. Marcia has truly been an easy and pleasant author to work with, and although I've known her distantly to for years, I have really enjoyed getting to know her so much better over the last year and a half. 
I rode to Dallas with Marcia and Sandy and they delivered me to Jamie's office at the Trade Center in Dallas. So now I've had a nice evening with the Frisco Alters, including Maddie who is already feeling better.
Tomorrow I'll try to blog about an unusual book I've just read and enjoyed. It's given me new thoughts about small press publishing.