Tuesday, June 30, 2009
I thought Jordan and Jacob were coming for supper tonight, but luckily I hadn't done much advance preparation for a lovely meal. It turned out Jordan was going to a happy hour and I was feeding Jacob. She did come back a little after 7:30 and eat her dinner, which made Jacob finish a bit more of his. Lesson learned: don't give him blue berries with his dinner. I had been doing that because he loves them and they're good for him, but he eats the blueberries and ignores the broccoli, mashed potatoes, and chopped sirloin.
Two weeks from today is my last day as director of the press. I will still be doing contract work, primarily acquisitions but maybe some editing, but I will no longer be "the director." It's a funny feeling, and yet I'm looking forward to retirement with a great deal of joy.
Monday, June 29, 2009
But recipes get me into trouble. Instead of losing weight last week, I gained over a pound. I thought I'd been pretty good until the weekend, but that must have been enough to get me into trouble. Still, I was astounded when I stepped on the scales this morning. It can't have been the two handfuls of potato chips I ate at the party Saturday night. Maybe it was the salmon croquettes--another of Mom's recipes and a perennial favorite of mine. I gave a bit to Jacob Saturday night, and he said, "It's good, Juju!" And then I had one for lunch in a sandwich--add points for bread and mayo. And last night I fixed us lamb burgers with buns--okay, I really went over on points. So today I was fairly careful.
Last night we had a sort of late b'day dinner for Jacob because my present for him finally arrived. It's a Spiderman (what else?) water slide but of course he wasn't much impressed last night. Jordan just called to say that at 8:30 they hadn't had dinner, hadn't done anything but play with the water slide--and Jacob absolutely was having the best time ever. Nice to score a home run from time to time.
Sunday, June 28, 2009
Just after this Jacob slid on the rug in front of him and kicked up a corner; I tripped on it and went flying so hard that I had to sit there a minute. He kept saying, "I want to help you up," and holding out his little hands, which gave me a vision of both of us going down in the other direction. Landed on an elbow and a knee which hurt at the time but now are fine. But I apparently pulled muscles in my back, so that it hurts to stand up, turn a certain way, etc. Most of all it scared me. I predict a long nap coming.
This has been another cooking weekend. I worked much of yesterday morning making mashed potatoes and salmon cakes--I ate a salmon cake and Jacob ate a small portion of one. One will make my favorite sandwich at lunch, and Jordan will take one home tonight for her lunch tomorrow. Jordan and Addie came back from the party after eleven last night, having eaten pizza and not interested in my cooking. We sat on the porch for one last sip of wine, and it was most pleasant. Jacob, bless him, slept until 8:15. Apparently he does better at my house about sleeping late and using the potty. No wonder I'm proud.
Hope I do better with a cooking audience tonight. I spent part of the morning mixing lamb burgers (they have mint in them) and making a French potato salad (vinaigrette, no mayo). Still have last night's broccoli, which Christian won't eat, but he'll eat the spinach/red onion salad that goes on the burgers.
Doing a lot with recipes lately as we're editing Grace & Gumption: The Cookbook. Katie's editing text, and I'm scurrying around helping one contributor get recipes from Mexican American restaurants--she says it's very hard because so few are written down. This morning Carol, who wrote the career women chapter, brought me the recipes (original plus Carol's version) of recipes from an African American woman who made a career for herself as a chef and caterer in the 1950s and '60s. I particularly remember her frozen chili biscuits when I first moved here--you just popped them in the oven and you had an appetizer. Carol never could find the recipe, so I'm going to call some other old-timers and make sure I't not imagining things. I may take a crack at the recipes today--or I may read a novel that someone sent us to reprint.
Later: my lamburgers, mixed with mint and paprika, topped with a salad of spinach and feta, were a success--and delicous if I do say so, so now I'm way over my Weight Watchers points for the day, because we also had potato salad with vinaigrette dressing. But it was good. Jacob was full of himself, mostly because his daddy was here, and he laughed and played and screamed and swept the floor endlessly--we kept having to tell him the floor only, not walls or tables. My potty training of earlier has gone to pot (sorry about that pun) but maybe it will have some longlasting effect. And he gave sweet kisses and hugs as he left.
When I got up from my long and happy nap, I thought my back was better, but soon realized it had stiffened up while I lay there. But now, by the time I've moved around a lot, it really is better. Christian fixed my alarm system for me, and all seems well.
Back to reading and a lazy evening.
Saturday, June 27, 2009
Have I done a thing today that makes me feel like an author or intellectual person? Nope, except I'm still reading the mystery set in Norway--got to finish it before I go to sleep. And Lisa, with her mother born in Norway and the Norwegian relatives who visit every year, has got to read it. It's The Body in the Fjord by Katharine Hall Page. Full of Norwegian culture and food--the latter being why I started it.
Friday, June 26, 2009
I bought some new gray pants, thinking they'd replace the worn ones I wear around the house, but they are so neat and make me look so skinny that they'll become daytime wear. For the first time today I could see that I was losing weight, and it felt good.
I have decided I'm going to coast through these last two and a half weeks of work--this morning I got my hair cut at 8:30 (it's finally really taking shape as longer hair, and I love the cut!) and then I went to Central Market because it's between the haircut place and the office. So I didn't get to work until ten o'clock. Had to call Melinda to come help me in with groceries. I can feel myself moving away, detaching from work--and strangely, I can feel myself learning to slow down. And so far I like it a lot. It was a good day--one of those when I woke up feeling good about myself and my world. Such a pleasure, because I haven't always felt that way in recent months. And tomorrow? I can sleep in!
Thursday, June 25, 2009
My computer acting really weird and I give up. Goodnight.
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
I printed out directions today for getting my phone set to receive my emails. It once was, but TCU changed the domain or server or something, and now it doesn't get them. Even Jamie couldn't figure it out this weekend, though he kept saying, "I did it before. I don't know why I can't do it now." So I brought the directions home to work with it, but you know what? I haven't had the courage to try, and by now, it's late at night and I'm just going to read. Christian is coming for supper Sunday night--I finally have Jacob's b'day present, so we'll have a belated b'day party for him--and maybe he can program my phone. He's smart about such things.
With apologies to Melinda, I also haven't gotten to the proofs for her book on Texas wineries, but I'm just not going to try tonight. It's late and I wouldn't be bright about proofing.
Had a nice dinner with Betty at the restaurant where we usually order and split the tapas platter--only tonight it was stuffed peppers (I hate peppers) and clams (never eaten them, not sure about them, though I do love shellfish and seafood). We split trout with cream sauce, mashed potatoes, and steamed vegetables. I only ate a tiny bit of the potatoes, and the whole meal came in under my Weight Watchers points--okay, I neglected to tell the computer about the cream sauce because I didn't know how to classify it and besides, it wasn't that much! The restaurant where we went, Sapristi, specializes in mussels, which Charles loves. I have promised to take him soon. The first time I took him there for mussels, he was puzzled by the menu--there was green sauce, white sauce, red sauce, and so on. When the waitress asked what he wanted, he said, "I don't know. They didn't come in colors when I was a kid."
Three more weeks, to the day, until I retire. I'm beginning to get excited about it--and my balance has greatly improved. I think retirement really will be a new adventure--and I won't have to keep learning new technology. As I filed some stuff today, I thought "Who's going to take care of these things when I'm out of here?" but I also felt a sense of relief that it wouldn't be me.
Monday, June 22, 2009
In Albany we had lunch at a place witha limited menu--either turkey legs or hamburgers. We had the latter, though it's not on my diet, but it was grilled outdoors and was absolutely wonderful. Then we shopped, something Jeannie is better at than I am, and from 1-3 I signed books at the Lynch Line Bookstore. They had a variety of my books, and I sold some of all--19 in total. Surprise: this man walked in who looked really familiar but he was wearing a gimme cap and was certainly out of context. I stared at him and he said, "You don't know who I am, do you?" Just then it dawned on me, and I said, "Yeah, I do, but why are you here?" It was my longtime bank advisor and turns out he grew up in Albany and had brought his grandkids for the annual outdoor pageant called Fandangle. The town was full of tourists there for Fandangle, which is why it was a good time to sign. all in all I sold 19 books, which I consider a good days work. Jeannie and I had been there for a signing and gone to Fandangle and eaten BBQ on the grounds of the courthouse two years ago and still remember it all fondly.
Then whoosh back to Fort Worth for Jacob's third b'day party--about 30 adults and who knows how many kids of all ages. Jord has cheese, crackers, dips, etc. and someone brought taquitos (I later figured out that meal cost me as many Weight Watchers points as the elegant dinner I'd had at Central Market a couple of weeks ago!). About 8:30 Jamie was ready to go, and we went by my house to feed animals and pick up my suitcase. Then off to Frisco, five exhuasted people by the time we got there.
Sunday was Father's Day, and the girls had planned their dad's day--lunch wherever he wanted it, then a movie he wanted to see (Eddie Murphy in Imagine That). They had also made him, on the computer, a booklet of poems and letters about why they loved him. Here he is reading it, if I can get the picture positioned in the right place. His choice of restaurants was the India Palace--now I would tell you I don't eat Indian food. Way too spicy, but Jamie was there to tell me which things were mild, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. And I loved the movie, though the only time I go to a movie is with them, and they choose movies with a six- and ten-year-old in mind, so they're right up my alley. It was funny and touching, and I enjoyed it. Then to Barnes & Noble to browse--six-year-old Edie got her first chapter books and spent dinner reading one, carefully saying the words out loud to herself as she read and often spelling a word to ask what it meant. Maddie got the first in a series I've heard good things about, The MagicKeepers. She likes the fantasy and semi-fantasy and is an avid read.
Then off to an Irish pub for dinner--I felt like I was having a gastronomic tour. Jame talked me into corned beef, mashed potatoes, and boiled cabbage--then sent his half of the corned beef back because it was dry. I ate mine with horseradish sauce and enjoyed it. Not sure I liked boiled cabbage that much.
We finally met Jordan and Christian at a point between Coppell where they'd been and Frisco, and we all headed home about 8:45. I was exhausted, and so were the Burton crew except Jacob who crowed and screamed until his mother did the ultimate bad--stuck a pacifier in his mouth! Still I got sweet kisses and hugs when I got out of the car abut 9:30. And it took me two hours to settled in and go to bed. No wonder I slept in a bit this morning.
My really good news. I lost another pound plus last week, so now I've lost 7.9 lbs. Do you think I could call it an even 8 lbs?
I'm still tired but still relishing what a wonderful weekend it was.
And today I had lunch with a friend who was once my physician and is now a friend. We hadn't seen each other in a long time but had been emailing, and today we had a lively conversation--about families, medicine, medical economics, the government health plan, etc. Lots of fun, and I'm grateful for a new friend.
Friday, June 19, 2009
So all thoughts of work went out of my mind tonight. I did odd jobs, like laundry, writing a short piece for the TCU Press newsletter, ordering books for my Kindle--on the topic I want to explore: the use of food in mysteries. It's so prevalent these days, I'm curious about why it works so well and wondering if I should jump into the overcrowded pool. Earlier this week I queried the company that has had my first mystery for six months with no response and got--no response. So my evening project has been revising the sequel but I have given it up for this evening and probably until Monday evening. Good thing to let it burble in the back of my mind.
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Anxiety aside I decided to devote the evening to the novel. Fred has given me his notes and that gives me new impetus. I'm starting reading at the beginning, and you know what? It's not at all bad. I like the tone, the people (who by now are family). But I'm sure most writers feel that way--when you first write it, you think it's worthless, but as you rework it, it grows on you. I do that even with my occasional columns for the Dallas Morning News.
Last night, I took my courage in my hand and queried the publisher who has had my first novel for six months. Haven't heard, and don't quite know what I'll do if I get a negative reply, though I read on the Sisters in Crime listserv all the time about authors who have "fulls" (as in full manuscripts opposed to partials) out on request and then are rejected. When I wrote about the American West, that never happened, so this is all new territory--but then I had an agent and now I don't. In any case, I'm rereading the second one with an eye to writing out the references to the first one and making it first in the series, just in case. There was an editor interested in the premise of the second one but not the first some time ago, so I might do that.
At any rate, it feels good to be back at my writing and realize it's not drivel.
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
On the other side, when I moved in, the owners lived there with small children who used to stand in our shared driveways (right by my bedroom) at 6 a.m. on Saturdays and scream, "Daddy, Daddy!" They moved out and rented to a 30-40-ish couple who had two dogs; one, Grant, part wolf, used to howl all the time, and I would rise out of bed saying "Grant, G--dammit!" until my kids laughed and said that was his name. The next tenants were a woman who never ever came out of the house--I suspected she had anxiety problems and wanted to offer to help, but they were so unsociable that I put that thought aside. He had a homemade-looking camper from which he sold golf balls. As one friend said to me, "But, Judy, what's in the golf balls?" And the first time Jamie saw the camper in the driveway, he said, "Oh, Mom, I am so sorry!" The man's worst habit was that he would get a fast-food drink and when he got home just throw the paper cup in the bushes. They also let their recycling bin overflow, so the driveway looked awful. Megan said, "Mom, you don't have to live that way," so I called the landlord and complained. Then came three series of college students--some noisy, some considerate, some very friendly. I did call the police one weeknight when they had a big party in the backyard and started karioke at 11 p.m. I didn't want to get them in trouble--I just wanted them to be quiet. I wasn't the only one who called.
Then my neighbor across the street told me a divorced mother with two young children was moving in. I groaned, thinking of noisy children, but Alex and Hunter are a delight. They were soon in and out of my house, especially when my Frisco granddaughters were here, and were very familiar with my refrigerator. To this day, they call me Juju as my grandchildren do. And Sue, their mother, is a true delight and a good friend--we drink a lot of wine and talk about life, men (she's more interested than I am), books, and food on long summer evenings.
And the four of us--me, Jay, Susan, and Sue--have become like a small social unit, often sharing drinks or dinner, though almost always on my porch. It is so wonderful to have good neighbors and to know that I can count on them in times of trouble. I am blessed.
A problem with Kindle: the last two books I posted abut, The School of Essential Ingredients and Justice at Guantanamo, turned out to be ones I want in m private library. I asked Megan for Kristine's book for my birthday and ordered a used copy of the other "in new condition."
And a problem with Weight Watchers: the last two days, in spite of having done so well last week, I have really cut into my bonus points, though I would tell you I ate lightly. A veggie sandwich at lunch today did me in because it had cheese and avocado, even though I didn't eat the bread; tuna nicoise tonight was also more points than I needed, and when I added a couple of glasses of wine, there I was over my limit. My most low-point meal: smoked salmon, hearts of palm, grape tomatoes, and either raspberries or blueberries. But that can get monotonous. Who would ever thought I'd get tired of smoked salmon?
Monday, June 15, 2009
What Kirstine reveals about Guantanamo makes real the things we've all heard vaguely--the physical mistreatment--aside from torture, prisoners were at first kept in out door cages with extreme high and low temperatures, a slop bucket, and bright lights 24 hours a day. More importantly, they were denied not only internationally agreed up human rights, but the rights guaranteed in the American constitution. The Kuwaiti men were not allowed to contact their families, never saw a religious counselor of their faith, and at first were not allowed the Koran, which was as badly abused as the prisoners. Basically, they were treated like animals, not individual humans. It's an appalling indictment of America, it's leaership--yes, the Bush administration--and the courts, which always seemed to side with the government. The victories for prisoners were hard won, few, and often overturned.
Kristine's voice rivets you to the book, as she interweaves her personal life--backpacking all over the world, including a rigorous trip in Peruvian mountians, marriage and divorce, a new love that didn't seem to be working out, and then a most happy marriage, her victories as a triathlete (I have one in my family so I now how hard that is!). Throughout she comments on how often she is the only woman in the room, on the case, etc., and how this needs to change. And she ends the book on a note of hope that America will recover its moral strength and position int he world.
Kristine is an amazing woman and she tells her story well. Even if you think reading about Guantanamo would be hard, this is worth it. And probaby should be on everyone's reading list.
As to my nice day, my balance was much better, I got a lot done in the office and am beginning to think about clearing our my personal belongings and cleaning out my desk and files--I already sent a batch of "memoir" files to the Southwest Writers Collection at Texas State University-San Marcos which has my papers--no one can understand how important I feel that a literary archive wants my papers. Wow! Me? I had lunch with a good friend, and a productive but low-key afternoon at home, with a good nap and delicious leftovers from last night for dinner.
Then Sue next door emailed me that her son, Hunter, liked what I said about him in my blog last night--after all, he ate squash and meatloaf with chicken livers in it (Jordan emailed this morning to ask, "Why would you put chicken livers in a meatloaf?"). Then Sue said she gave me a "shout out" (that's a term I don't know--Canadian or just a new trendy one?) on her blog tonight. I read it and was overwhelmed with her praise. At the risk of self-promotion, which I seem to do a lot of these days re the cookbook, check out "Replete Life." If you enter that on google, her blog is the first choice to come up.
Sunday, June 14, 2009
This morning, while cooking, I watched a squirrel madly trying to get at my bird feeder, which is pretty much squirrel-resistant. But oh, he was persistent. At one point I looked out to see it swinging wildly, something no bird would have caused. Then I saw him, poised on the tree above it, trying to figure it out. He knocked the lid aside but the tube is too small for him, and he'd have no footing. On his next try he firmly replaced the lid and saved me the trouble. I guess he finally gave up. They are such pests--I noticed one frequently on the front porch and finally figured he had found the way to dislodge the lid to the can where I store bird seed. So I locked it.
I looked out in front this morning to see a flag waving on a pole by my driveway--surprise. Last year for my July b'day Jay and Susan gave me a year of flags (the local Rotary does it on national holidays) but somehow the flags never appeared, and I didn't know who to call. So today, almost a year later, I had my first flag--and I had forgotten that it's Flag Day, though I should remember because it is also Jeannie's birthday. Happy birthday to Jeannie who is in Santa Fe.
My friend Jim Lee has just returned from visiting a lady friend in Tennessee and he reports that they have "As seen on TV" stores there. You know all those adds for vegetable choppers, collapsible hangers that will organize your closet, potions that will remove scratches from your car, and the like? You can actually buy them at this store. Sounds like terrific fun to me, because sometimes I'm really intrigued but I would feel like a chump ordering it from the given 800 number. Maybe the stores will expand to Texas. A good idea on someone's part.
And a food hint: ever get sick from potato salad taken on a picnic and left out too long? I read on an email today that an expert at a mayo factory says that mayo has such a high (or low or whatever) ph factor that it won't spoil, bacteria can't flourish in it. It's likely the onions. If you cut into an onion, you shouldn't put it in a baggie and store in the refrigerator--it's already been contaminated. I do that all the time and have never gotten sick, but now I'm rethinking the habit--except somebody's going to have to grow smaller red onions. And if it isn't the onion, it's the potatoes. That's what experts look for in cases of food poisoning. I think it's one of those things I'd be happier not knowing. I'm always very careful of mayo.
Saturday, June 13, 2009
Kathleen Flinn, a writer in her mid-thirties, enrolled in Le Cordon Bleu (Colin and Lisa took a one-day class there on a European trip, but I'm sure it was very different). Flinn was supported in this decision by a boyfriend who put his own life on hold to move to Paris with her. In this memoir, often in the first person, she recounts her cooking experiences, her growing involvement with Mike (and eventual marriage), and their explorations of Paris. It all adds up to fascinating reading, though the cooking parts were the most interesting to me. The cuisine is classic French of course, complicated, with sauce after sauce, meat stuffed with meat. And the chefs are demanding and relentless in their criticism, often humiliating a student when their creation turns out to be less than perfect. Once in Basic, a chef tells her she's wasting her time. (I know I couldn't handle that part!). There are three levels--Basic, Intermediate, and Superior. And Flinn, now Mrs. Kozar, makes it all the way through Superior, but not without some very bad moments--like the time when as a Superior student she forgot to pre-heat her plate, a basic lesson from Basic. One bonus: students may take home what they cooked that day for dinner, though sometimes she gives her food to homless people. Mike sometimes longs for pizza, especially after three consecutive meals of stuffed veal as she prepares for her Superior final, which she ends up taking while deathly ill. And she and Mike cope with houseguests, some unwanted and rude. But she tells it all easily and with humor.
A recipe ends each short chapter--many are the Cordon Bleu recipes, way too complicated even for my love of cooking, but some are from friends and one, when she has the grippe (French for flu) is for basic chicken soup. Did I learn much useful about cooking from this book? No, but I sure wish I could bone a whole chicken, let a lone a turkey, with the skin intact. But did I enjoy reading it. Yes, a whole lot.
Oh, and the sharper knife--it's not that it hurts less when you cut yourself (some Cordon Bleu students suffer lots of cuts and burns) but that chopping an onion makes you cry less. In the end, it's pretty clear she will go back to journalism, but she has followed her passion for cooking and concludes that "the sharper your knife" also means that you can cut away those things that get in the way of your passion and of living your life the way it's meant to be lived. I think I need a sharper knife.
Tonight I gave myself permission to beg off an evening to which I had basically invited myself. I got an invitation to an exhibit opening at a small museum in Weatherford, called friends who I knew would be going, and they said they'd be delighted to pick me up. But today was an off day--in spite of starting it with a most cheerful Jacob--and I was antsy much of the day. Part of me dreaded going to the opening, thinking about the rough parking lot I'd have to negotiate, the fact that I'd only know two or three people, the fact that truly it was an exercise in putting myself out there when I'd be happier at home. But then of course guilt crept in--if I am not careful, I will become a recluse in retirement. Home is so comfortable. Finally, though, I gave myself permission to do what felt right, stayed home with a cold chopped sirloin sandwich, a glass of wine, and a bowl of raspberries. Oh, that's another thing--the exhibit was on rodeo, which I would have enjoyed, but they were serving barbecue--definitely not on Weight Watchers. I think my trouble is less that I decided not to go but that I agonize so over such decisions. That's where I need the sharper knife.
Friday, June 12, 2009
Tonight it was threatening again, though the storm went south of us--we got thunder, lightning, and a wee bit of rain. But I have Jacob tonight, and when I asked him if he liked storms, he said they were scary. And then there's Scooby who is terrified. So in an unprecedented mix, I brought Scooby in. Well, Jacob is also scared of Scooby and whined every time the dog started toward him; Scooby was nervous and anxious because he was confined to the playroom instead of the office where he usually spends his evenings. And the two of them were making me uncomfortable, so I put Scooby in the office. Jacob immediately wanted to go see "Puppy"--I have the hardest time teaching him the dog's name. They got acquainted through the French doors, and I thought I'd never get Jacob away. Now, all is peaceful--the storm has passed, Jacob is in his bed talking, and Scooby is sleeping at my feet in the office.
How could I forget to announce on my blog that I'm retiring July 15. I announced it to my boss probably two months ago, but she asked me to wait until June 1 to turn in my letter and to keep it fairly quiet until then. I guess that's why I forgot that now I can tell the world. I will still have a connection to the press--doing acquisitions and some event planning--but there willl be an interim director and then a permanent one. We'll see if the permanent director wants me involved or not. People ask my plans, and I say I have none. I'll write, I'll play, go to lunch with friends, and visit grandchildren whenever feasible. And I'll not feel that I have to pop out of bed at 6:30. I'll have to watch my budget--my pension just took a rather large hit and I will get a fraction of my usual pay from TCU. But I can be frugal--I've done it most of my life and only in the last three to four years had disposable cash. It was a treat, but now it's over. I'm still looking forward to the freedom. Maybe I'll even clean out my overflowing bookshelves and my stuffed clothes closets.
I've worked at TCU Press 28 years and it's been a great run. I've made wonderful friends, met some famous people, worked on some really wonderful books and truly enjoyed it. But everyone always said I'd know when the time came--and a wake-up call from two of my closest friends told me it was time. Jeannie picked me up at the train station one day when I'd been in Dallas, took one look at me--a mess of anxiety--and sweet Jeannie gave me a stern lecture, telling me that I had to retire. She and Jean were worried about me. Every time I talked about the office, I tensed up. And I immediately took that to heart. So I'm off on another of life's adventures--and I fully expect my balance to get better and my anxiety to decrease, though maybe not right away. Retirement is a huge change in life, and I'll have to adjust.
Thursday, June 11, 2009
Jeannie and I had lunch at Nonna Tata, where I had braseola, which I love. It's the beef version of prosciutto and comes dressed in olve oil and lemon with shaved grana cheese--and a good vinegar-based potato salad on the side. Jeannie had spaghetti puttanesca, which I like a lot but is too spicy there for me--I have to make my own. It was a combination thank you for my party and happy birthday luncheon for Jeannie.
Tonight Betty and I went to Ellerbe's, a new restaurant attractively carved out of an old gas station. The patio seating is under the roof of the old drive-through part where gas pumps once were and is beautifully landscaped. Although it looked like it could rain, it didn't, and it was a pleasant patio evening. The restaurant has only been open three days, but they already have repeat customers. We split an entree as we often do--pecan-crusted halibut with greens (maybe collard?) and risotto, and it was wonderful, the fish moist and yet flaky, the crust thin and just enough to be pleasant, the risotto creamy and delicious. I often skip risotto because of the clories but this was a small helping by the time we split and irresisitibly good. Passed on appetizers and dessert. Ellerbe's should do well in our neighborhood which sprouts new and exciting restaurants all the time, but it is pricey. Lunch entrees range around ten dollars; tonight we had the cheapest chardonnay on the menu, Wild Horse at nine dollars a glass. The fish was twenty-six dollars. I really wanted the lamb chops but Betty didn't want to split that, and I didn't want to pay thirty-one dollars for an entree, even though it would feed me for two nights. We won't go back too often, but we'll go back!
So now I'm going to spend my evening reading The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry, about a young woman's experience at Le Cordon Bleu.
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
My neighbor Sue called to say she was staying in Dallas at her office until the storm passed. "If you were out in this," she told me, "I'd worry." So she didn't want me to worry about her and has promised to call when she gets home. It's so wonderful to be surrounded by people who care about me and who I care about.
Today I went to the retirees lunch of TCOM (Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine, now part of the University of North Texas Health Center System). Charles likes me to go with him, which I appreciate, and since he has quit driving, I picked him up. There are only two or three people I remember from the old days, but I had a good time talking to two ladies next to me who had worked with the Institute for Human Fitness and knew my brother. I regaled them with the story of how the institute was born in meetings in my living room and while the men met and discussed fitness, my friend Anne, who lived with us then, and I cooked the most lavish rich desserts we could imagine. Those fitness experts devoured them. I always remember Anne's husband at a child's birthday party, his plate loaded with cake and ice cream, asking plaintively, "Don't you have any diet Coke?"
The luncheon speakers were a bit long but very interesting and for once I was really tuned into the talks--I often tune them out. The statistics on how TCOM has grown in 40 years are remarkable from 100 students to over 1400 next fall, millions in research grants, etc.--and to think I was there at the very beginning. The main speaker talked about our failing health care system, insisting that money isn't the way to fix it--electronic connections and cooperation are the way to save millions, and so is education, preventive health, etc. Most interesting.
I'm reading another cooking book, this about a young American woman's experience at Cordon Bleu. I'll report soon.
Tuesday, June 09, 2009
Monday, June 08, 2009
Lunch with Jean, who leaves this week for an almost three-week trip to England, a nap, and then out to Arlington with Carol Roark for dinner at Kathie Lang's. Carol, who works in Dallas, took the train to FW and then came to get me, was also exhausted, having gotten home from New Mexico and eleven last night and gotten up at her usual five or five-thirty this morning. So we didn't stay long. But Kathie fixed, as usual, a wonderful summer meal--chicken salad, herbed tomatoes, and sauteed asparagus. I tried to ignore the blue cheese in the appetizer tray and eat only the raspberries and pear slices but had to have some of the blue cheese--the tray looked so pretty and was such a tasteful combination. I'm going to remember that one. We three old friends had a good visit that ranged over everything from anticipated babies to aging parents--neither one of which relates to me at the time.
Bummer news of the week: I gained three ounces last week, going the wrong way. I am definitely on a plateau! But I think that's not bad considering the extravagant cooking class dinner I had and last night's pasta supper, before which I nibbled too liberally on the manchego cheese. So I'm off to a better start this week, I hope.
Sunday, June 07, 2009
I got a bit cranky yesterday when I found the cat on the kitchen counter eating off lunch plates I had left unscraped while I saw Jordan and Jacob to their car--it crossed my mind she might eat the tuna that Jacob left behind but she didn't. She ate the hearts of palm that Jordan left untouched and I was going to save. A cat eating hearts of palm?
I get a little cranky when I think of tomorrow morning's 7:30 dental appointment to have a crown replaced, and during the school year I got a lot cranky and downright rude when some parent parks across my driveway to let the little darlings out or lets them out in the middle of the street just behind me as I start to back out--what are they thinking? At least I don't have to worry about that for a couple of months--school's out!
On the whole, though, I don't think crankiness is my natural state. A lot more things make me happy, like cooking for friends. I've spent part of the morning making salad dressisng (a recipe from the cooking class earlier in the week) and chopping--fruit for fruit salad, mushrooms and scallions for a pasta dish the kids call "Green Noodles." The recipe originated when my brother was dating his first wife and she invited him to dinner, only to find she didn't have any money for groceries. She cooked with what she had in the cupboard and fridge--isn't that how the whores of, where is it? Venice?--invented puttenesca sauce? Anyway, she put butter and lemon in a skillet, added cooked spaghetti, and that was hit. Over the years I've changed it until today I use spinach tagliatelle and add sliced mushrooms, chopped scallions, canned artichoke hearts, an ice cub of pesto from my freezer, and fresh grated grana cheese.
One thing that has brought me great joy this weekend--I've been having an email corresponce with my oldest granddaughter, 10-year-old Maddie. It started when I emailed her about how excited Jacob got when he noticed a picture of Maddie and Edie that has been on my side table for months! He apparently just saw it. Maddie answered, and then wrote me about her new internet research project she and her dad are doing and then she even left a comment on my blog about our common woes with cilantro plants. Such fun.
Saturday, June 06, 2009
The narrative flashes back and forth in time as we meet various members of the cooking class, sit in on the classes, and learn each participant's back story. There's the devoted older couple, Helen and Carl, but we gradually learn, first from his point of view and then hers, that their marriage has not always been smooth; there's Isabelle, the older woman who once comes to class on the wrong night and is invited to dinner by the gentle, kind, and intuitive Lillian, and whose mind wanders in the tangled garden of her memory, sometimes with sharp clarity. And Tom, enveloped in a cloud of sadness over his wife's death, and Chloe, young and trying to find her way in life only to discover it through food. Antonia is from Italy, irresisitibly attractive and earthy in her reaction to the foods, and Ian, who goes about learning to cook in the scientific way a software engineer would, but he finally invites Antonia to a spontaneous dinner that he fixes. Bauermeister takes us inside all their heads, so that they tell their own story, though we never learn much about her story after childhood. Still she owns a successful restaurant, and she shepherds people carefully, believing spices can wake up a memory, heal a heart. You can't help but want to be in her cooking class.
If there are no recipes in this book, it's because food, for Lillian, is not an intellectual or scientific exercise. It's about the senses--taste and texture, smell and sound. At one point she passes around good olive oil for the students to dip their finger in and taste, followed by good, dark aged balsamic vinegar. The class makes fondue, pasta, eats chocolate, drinks wine--all about watching the ingredients flow together and sensing when it is right.
It is also a book of beautiful, sensuous writing. Prosciutto wrapped around melon is "a whisper of salt against the dense sweet fruit," and the wine afterward "crisp, like coming up to the surface of water to breathe." When she is learning to cook, Lillian makes a cream sauce filled with "disconcerting pockets of flour, like bills in your mailbox when you had hoped for a love letter." Metaphor piles on metaphor and yet such figurative, imaginative writing works perfectly in this book.
I am a person who enjoys food unbashedly (which makes Weight Watchers hard for me) but I hope Bauermeister's book will stay with me and change me, for it's about slowing down to enjoy the sense of the moment. Something I've need to do all my life and am hoping retirement will teach me. I want to savor the food I love slowly--but also other things: the company of my children and grandchildren, Jacob this morning as he demanded I come sit next to him on the couch so we could have conversations about nothing, my dog begging to be loved, or my cat lying contentedly by my keyboard, or a hilarious trip to the grocery store this morning with Jordan and Jacob, Jacob sitting in the cart and calling to me across aisles. I sometimes let the good times of life just roll over me. Lillian would never approve.
Friday, June 05, 2009
Wednesday a friend gave me flowers cut from her magnolia bush--I didn't know they were anything but trees, but Greg, my great yard man, said he wanted to look at them and see what kind of magnolia they are (I didn't know there were different kinds either). I keep wanting to plant something along the hurricane fence of the dog yard, where it will get plenty of sun. But I know better than to let honeysuckle get a hold.
My cousin in Canada, for whom I am the only living relative and hold power of attorney, was moved today from a private retirement home to a provincial nursing home. She is apparently difficult and had gotten too hard for the retirement folks to handle, plus this will slow the drain on her resources--she is now living off the principal and not the income of her trust, though she doesn't understand this and keeps writing checks, some good sized, to animal welfare groups. I am hoping this will be a move for the better, but I know it will be difficult--she won't understand and will be angry. The people at the new home that I've talked to are lovely and friendly but amazed when they ask when I last saw Jenny and I say I was about 14. Jenny's been bipolar--I don't know the specific diagnosis--since her late teens (she's just that much older than I). She hasn't had a happy life, and it makes me sad. But without me, she would have no one looking after her welfare or finances, and I remember my dad when I was a teenager saying, "You will look after Jenny, won't you?" So I'm fulfilling the promise as best I can long distance. I cannot understand Jenny on the phone, but I will call the nurses' station tonight and ask how the transfer went. And I asked everyone to assure her that I thought this was for the best.
My quandry: a man called me today who had been referred by one of the writers for Fort Worth's Star-Telegram. He has written a book about the rush to produce nuclear weapons during the Cold War and its effect on the people who worked to make them. My understanding was that he wanted me to edit and write a blurb, so I asked if he objected to $20 an hour, which is less than I would normally charge. He said "Just to read it?" But it's 650 pages about a subject on which I have no expertise. I think that will be one of the perils of retirement--people will think I have all that free time and won't mind reading their manuscripts, etc. But careful reading of 650 pages would take a big chunk out of my time. And I do want to free lance, not give away whatever talents I have. But the man sounded so astounded that I am feeling a bit guilty--or greedy.
It's Friday night, which usually means Jacob is here. I can hear him playing in his bed though he's not singing tonight. We had hot dogs for dinner--chicken for him and lowfat Hebrew National for me, but he had a small new potato with nonfat yogurt, which I didn't have, and when he didn't eat it, I found myself taking bites. Surely I don't have to count those on Weight Watchers! I also snatched some blueberries off his plate because he didn't seem interested. The last few days, after the debacle of the cooking class, I have done really well on my Weight Watchers points. Monday will tell if I've lost weight or gained--oh my! You're only supposed to weigh once a week. Sometimes the suspense is too much.
Tuesday, June 02, 2009
I've met and corresponded with Terry--she came to our Autograph Extravaganza once to sign her beautiful book, Texas on a Plate, and then I included her in my small book, Great Texas Chefs. So it was particularly important to me to go to the class tonight, and I enjoyed it thoroughly (wished I'd worn my hearing aids, because I really had to concentrate).
Terry's recipes are really complicated, and I don't know that I'll duplicate them. One from Texas on a Plate that I've always wanted to try is quail with pepper and coffee gravy.
I am not even going to try to enter this evening's meal in Weight Watchers. As one of the servers said to me, "Honey, you've eaten all your points for the week tonight." And I probably did. But it was sure good.
Monday, June 01, 2009
If I'm worried about not being occupied in retirement, I should take heart from today. I had lunch with Fred, my mentor, and we had a lively discussion about books and the like, barely got home and Jeannie called, ready to go to Bed, Bath & Beyond, so I got desperately needed new rugs for the bathroom. Then when I came home there was an endless stream of e-mails, bills to pay, stuff to do. Finally got to my nap at 4:30. Now it's 9:30 and I have yet to pick up the book I'm reading--okay, turn on the Kindle. I've checked Facebook and the blogs I follow and written this blog post and talked on the phone--and where does the time go?
I did widen my circle today, walking half a block to work because they'd cordoned off our parking lot to restripe it, then walking across the empty parking lot and across the street with Fred without holding on (except for curbs), going with Jeannie without holding on in the parking lot, and walking down the sidewalk tonight to meet and visit witha neighbor--who wanted to know what I thought about our church turmoil. That's what I have to do--a little bit at a time.
I'm about to ordered a panic device that I can use if I fall--it calls five people, so I'll choose Jordan and Christian, because they're here in town and have keys to the house, my neighbor Susan who is home a lot and has a key, Jeannie (I'll have to give her a key) and 911. I emailed the kids about it and they have had a field day on the email laughing about the senile things I've already done and applying to me the things my mom did after she went downhill. Still, they think it's a good idea. My friend Fran just got one and has been hounding me to do it. Since I fell a couple of times in the backyard, I really do think it's a good idea. And no, it doesn't make me feel old--just reminds me that I live alone.