Sunday, January 31, 2010

Cats and Company

My eighteen-year-old cat, Wywy, has developed strange new habits. I know cats always pick one spot and return to it for a time, maybe months, before they move on to another. Wywy used to sleep on my feet on the bed, but no more--I miss the warmth. Wywy (we have gender confusion here--for the first almost year we thought it was female but now know that he's a male, still we can't stop calling the cat "her"--so bear with me). She has decided the absolute best place in the world to be is my desk--when I work on the keyboard she lays her paws on my arm, then gradually moves onto the keyboard, where she sometimes causes all kinds of havoic. Reading the newspaper is impossible--she lies in the middle of it. And she licks my arm and hand and occasionally takes a nip, which I prefer to assume is a love bite. Occasionally it's a bit stronger, though she never breaks the skin, but I swat her when she does that. When I push her away with determination, she cleans herself--on the desk where I eat a lot of my meals. Not an appetizing thought. I have learned to lock her out at breakfast, when I eat cottage cheese, and lunch, when I often eat tuna salad. She stalks both.
Because of her age, I decided that feeding her on the top of the bathroom drawers was impractical. I started doing that to keep Scooby, the dog, from her food. She used to jump up on the seat inbetween the sets of drawers and then up to the counter where I fed her. Lately she just jumps up on the seat and stares at me, waiting for me to boost her all the way up. So I started putting her food on the floor--figuring I could keep the dog away from it because he has set habits that don't include the bathroom. Well, I put fresh food in the dish on the floor, and she jumps up on the seat and looks at me. I have to pick her up and physically put her down by it. She will actually walk by a dish of fresh cat food to jump on the seat. As I told someone, I don't think she's the brightest star in the sky.
My friend Elizabeth told me they used to have a small set of stairs that they put up by the couch (when they were still letting their dogs on the couch) so the miniature dachsund could climb them to get up. One day she was vacuuming and put the stairs against the wall. The dog climbed them and then looked severely puzzled, like "Where is the couch?"
Company for dinner tonight. I'm on a kick of comfort food, partly due to budget and partly due to the cold weather. So we had meat loaf (I have the best recipe ever!), brussell sprouts cooked with bacon grease (good heavens!), chicken broth, and brown sugar, then sprinkled with crumbled crisp bacon and a cheese-rice casserole.
My friend Barbara gave me this recipe. She and I went to high school together in Chicago, but she has lived in Jackson MS forever. This was from her stepmother, and she calls it Luella's Rice. You mix 1 cup Minute Rice (absolutely the only time I use the stuff), one can cream of celery soup, one cup sour cream, one cup grated cheddar, and one can green chilis. Bake it for 30 minutes at 350. Delicious, not good for you, but I did use Healthy Choice soup and low fat sour cream.
Lovely lively company tonight--my neighbor Sue and my friends Gayland and Katie. Gayland had a harem, but he didn't seem to mind the talk about kids and school and all that. Katie's grandchildren and Sue's youngest child go to the school across the street from our house, and Katie uses my driveway to pick up her grandsons. We all interrupted each other, laughed a lot, and had a jolly time. It was nice to sip wine in front of the fire. I'm a happy camper tonight--and I haven't written a word. Back to that tomorrow.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

A passion for something

Someone posted on the Sisters in Crime list this morning about how difficult it would be to write something you weren't passionate about. Struck a chord with me, because in doing work-for-hire for young readers, I researched and wrote about a lot of subjects I was far from passionate about--surgery, vaccines, passenger ships, the state of Montana, and so on. Now I'm writing the kind of books I love to get lost in--cozy mysteries--and I'm quite passionate about it, even excited about the new one that keeps calling me back even when I think I'll take time to read. It's a joy and a privilege to have something like that in my life.
But it leads to a larger questions. I once had a conversation with good friends, husband and wife, about finding your passion in life. He, a physician, said medicine was his, and we all knew writing and books were mine. But she admitted with regret that she had no real passion--she had dabbled. A good cook, she cooked in a restaurant for a while; she studied social work;  she became a Master Gardener, which is about as close to a passion as she came. Now she's a Buddhist but we're miles apart and don't communicate often  so I don't know how passionate she is about that. I do know people who have no passion in their lives, people who do their jobs because they need to earn a living, and I find that sad. I was so fortunate to spend 28 years doing work I was passionate about (okay, I'm in danger of overdoing that word). But I wonder about people who plod through each day without a consuming interest--have they just not had the right opportunity or have they not reached out to find it?
Oh, we're all passionate about other things. Most of us who are parents and grandparents feel that way about our families, and I for one have a passion for chocolate (and my kids would add white wine). But that all-consuming, this-is-what-I-want-to-do-with-my-life feeling is a blessing.
Passion is of course usually thought to equal sexual activity, but it's so much more than that. I wishs for everyone reading this tonight that there is or you find some passion in your daily life.
On a lighter note, I think the new fad is going to be connecting celebrities by geneaology. I read this morning that President Obama is a 10th cousin of Scott Brown, newly elected senator from Massachusets. We alrleady know that he is distantly related to former vice-president Dick Cheney (why do they all turn out to be Republicans?). But I was in a meeting the other day with a family descended from a Cheney. They live in Fort Worth's most historic black enclave on the east side of town--once a thriving community and now shrunk to a few households. But many of the descendants of Major Cheney still live on the land he once farmed. They eat Sunday dinner together most Sundays, good down-home southern cooking, and they grow their own produce in summer. Their recent triumphs have been getting their Garden of Eden Neighborhood declared a historic site and having a nearby school named after Major Cheney. I jokingly asked about a relationship to the former vice-president, and they said oh, yes, they were kin. They talked freely about white Cheneys and black Cheneys. So they must be related to the presdient too. On a lesser note, I also read that TV host George Stephanopoulus is distantly related to Hillary Clinton. Politically, that's easier to believe. But I can foresee geneaologists digging deep into the ancestry of lots of political figures now. No telling what strange relationships they'll turn up.
This picture, though awfully dark, is the centerpiece of a quilt that Colin and Lisa made me. It contains the MacBain coat of arms surrounded by the clan plaid. Read on for detials.
To me, geneaology is like heavy gardening: I like having it done, but I want someone else to do the work. A distant relative created a family tree for my father's side of the family, from Clan MacBean, and our first ancestor came from Scotland to fight in the war of 1812, on the British side of course. Colin has his sword today, since he seems to be the inheritor of the MacBain tradition. I have wall hangings and rugs that testify to my Scottish background, and Colin has a MacBain plaid tie. Hmmmm--wonder if he ever wears it?

Friday, January 29, 2010

More rain and cold

Weather reports this morning were confusing, but there was no doubt it was raining and very cold. Some reports said freezing by late morning; others said late afternoon; still others said freezing by noon and a warm air mass moving in. None of them were actually right--surprise. But I rushed to the grocery store to get home in case all that wet mess decided to freeze. Then I tentatively cancelled dinner plans to meet good friends, and I'd been so looking forward to the visit, but I wasn't venturing out on ice. Then suggested they drive the VW instead of the Smart Car and pick me up. Then realized, late afternoon, that the streets were perfectly dry so it didn't matter. I'm sure they got tired of my vascillating emails! 37 when I left home (for a restaurant just down the street from me) and 33 when I got home. Supposed to get very cold tonight but no more wetness.
Had a great dinner with Elizabeth and Weldon. She was a student worker in my office, probably 15 years ago--makes us both feel old to talk about it--but she has worked almost ever since graduation for a company that produces manuals for accountants. Plus she re-made herself with Weight Watchers, became an activist for young girls and took Leadership Fort Worth, and became a yoga instructor. I am so proud of her! Weldon is in sales, though like too many these days, he's now looking for a job--there's so much he would be good at. His interests are in classic comic books, Star Trek kind of stuff--all that puzzles me, but I am very fond of him. We had a good dinner at Chadra, the Italian/Lebanese place near me--they shared chicken schwarma and I had kafta--lamb and sirloin in grilled meat sticks--well, they're not hamburgers, not meatballs--shaped like long fat sausages. Very good, brought half of it home.
I am really proud that I am 5700 words into my new mystery. Writing, I've decided, is like unraveling a tangle of string--this thing leads to that, and new ideas pop into your head so that before you know it, you're creating complications, adding characters, fleshing out the bare-bones idea in all kinds of ways. Very satisfying. I'll work more on it tonight.
Right  now, though, I'm glad to be warm and cozy in my robe in my house, my dog and cat with me. Tomorrow is to be cold but dry, and all I have on my agenda is a trip to Central Market. Life is good.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Rain, rain, rain

The prediction for today was one hundred percent chance of rain, and we have really had a steady rain, with thunder--I need to go let Scooby in because thunder and lightning terrify him. It's the kind of day you want to hibernate with a good book, and I've done a bit of that. Reading Leann Sweeney's Pick Your Poison and enjoying it, though I'm about to settle down to work on my own new mystery. Do you suppose rain makes you creative? Or just makes you want to crawl in bed? We'll see. I also went to a looooong staff meeting this morning and have spent half a day on TCU Press business. ready to take a vacation.
I'm not good at analyzing political speeches but it seemed to me that President Obama made good sense last night, especially when he suggested that Republicans be constructive instead of simply trying to block everything the Democrats proposed. I saw a Facebook post the other day that asked, "Since when does the losing party get to block everything the winning party does?" I do think it's time to rewrite the filibuster protocol or whatever. I was pleased to see today that the State of the Union speech got positive ratings with the general public. But it was puzzling to hear commentators say Republicans sat on their hands while Democrats cheered--I thought I saw people on the right standing almost as often as those on the left. I think that whole business of applause ought to be outlawed--the poor president gets to say one sentence, then has to wait while everyone rises to their feet and cheers. For heaven's sake, just let him talk! I don't understand either why everyone is so dissatisfied with the administration--they inherited a load of troubles and have made some good progress forward. For heaven's sake, folks, you can't fix everything at once. I suppose if I was 40 and out of a job I'd be displeased too, but the recession does seem to be easing and the prediction is that people will be going back to work in large numbers. Come on, let's give them a chance! (ooh, I rarely veer off into politics but that's just what came to mind).
Now what comes to mind is I hope it's not icy in the morning. Stay warm and safe, everyone.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

A food day

Other than go to the doctor and a brief stint at the office, what I did today that was of interest was to eat. We had an office lunch at Ellerbe's, an upscale but fine restaurant in Fort Worth. We were celebrating Susan's birthday, and she had panna cotta has a dessert. I had a salad of warm roasted winter vegetables (after checking that there were no roasted peppers in it)--a bit of potato, green beans, squash, carrots, and something that might have been eggplant, all on top of a Caesar salad--so good. Went from high to low tonight. Betty really wanted to go to the Love Shack, a north side restaurant owned by chef Tim Love with a newly opened branch in central Fort Worth. First of all we got lost in all the constructions south of 7th street, particularly a huge retirement community in which streets seemed to wind forever without any exit. Finally found the restaurant but to me it was a disappointment--bare bones service at a walk-up window. Mainly it's a patio restaurant but we thought it was too cool--there were quite a few tables filled outside, and Betty said she saw some old folks like us (but there was live loud music). I thought it was a place for young singles. We stayed inside--just a few tables, disposable everything, stacks of beer cartons as decor. The hamburger was okay but overdone to my taste and they don't cook it any other way. I told Betty she couldn't choose next week.
So now I'm home, ready to watch the State of the Union speech, with my thoughts racing on my new mystery. I didn't seem to get anything done on it today, except in my head, which always makes me worry I'll forget what I had thought.
Tomorrow has a hundred per cent chance of rain. Wish I could stay home all day but I have a nine o'clock staff meeting. Then its home for the day to work on the novel and hibernate.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Good intentions and Bon Appetit

Well, I fully intended to write another four pages this afternoon or tonight, but two hours in the office this morning left me with more work to be done this afternoon and evening, plus I had to tie up some loose ends of my own business. And Christian and Jacob came for leftover sloppy Joe because Mommy is, as Christian says, "working on the beach at Playa del Carmen." She's on a fam trip--a trip to familiarize agents with the various hotels, etc, that they can recommend to clients. It's actually a lot of work, but it also has its benefits--I imagine she was sipping margaritas and eating fresh seafood tonight, while we ate leftover sloppy Joe and canned green beans. One of my less imaginative meals, except that my sloppy Joe is really good.
All evening I'd think I was going to get my desk cleared and go back to the novel, but it was 9:30 before I did that, and my creative juices have run low. I'm having a hard time naming the town where I want to set the mystery--I have a town in mind as a model, but I'm going to make it a little bigger, offering a few more comforts, so I don't want to use the name. Actually there's a cafe there that is also a model for the cafe in my story. Ooops, just gave that away, didn't I? Anyway, the town is not Ben Wheeler, which I've visited often, but a town near there, so I decided to just call it Wheeler. Then I talked to my friend Charles, who for years had a ranch at Ben Wheeler, and he tells me there is already a Wheeler, Texas. The trouble with Texas is that the state has already used all the good names--so many towns, so many names. Back to the drawing board, just when I was getting comfortable with Wheeler.
The real reason I'm not writing at 9:30, beside that I'm sleepy, is that a new copy of Bon Appetit arrived today and it is beckoning me with a cover blurb that promises the ultimate shepherd's pie. If there's anything I love that's it. But I am doing really well on Weight Watchers points this week-maybe if I keep it up, I can have a splurge. Meantime I'm going to read tht recipe and think about who I'd like to share it with.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Starting a new mystery is murder

Sorry for the pun, but I'm 1500 words into a new novel in a different mystery series--not that the first series has sold, but my agent wisely said he wanted to have something in hand in case an editor didn't like the first series but liked my writing. So here I am trying to write a summary of a novel that isn't written. It's an old but true adage that authors must listen to their characters--they'll tell you which way the story is going. So the story in your head is bound to change as you write and your original synopsis or summary won't fit the book. But forge ahead!
I've had these characters and their situation in mind for some time but just wasn't sure of the crime, the victim or the villain. I didn't even have a story in my head, and there I was trying to write a summary of it! Today it's like a light bulb went on. I'd written two pages that I knew were wrong--they had that "And then I . . . and then I . . . and then I" rhythm to them. This morning I reworked those pages and wrote two more (only 68,500 words minimum to go--a discouraging thought). But as I worked I began to think of things that would happen later on, lines that some characters would say. And as I ate lunch I was writing the next scene in my mind--I'll work on it after supper tonight.
I'm not good at writing in long stretches. After an hour I begin to bore myself, so I'm in awe of those writers who spend eight hours a day. But I write fast, and I can do four pages in an hour on a good day. On the other hand, I'm not dedicated enough nor does my life work out so that I write every day, but once I'm into a novel I'm more likely to keep at it daily or almost so. So I have hopes--1500 words isn't much, but it's a start. No, I'm not telling what it's about, but it's something that will allow me to include recipes.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

An unexpected day

My horoscope today said not to sit back and wait for people to come to me but to go out, take a friend to lunch or for a walk, etc. Well, it turned out to be just the opposite. Jordan called about nine, said Jacob's play date was cancelled because he had a slight cough and fever and could they come about eleven to play so she could get out of the house--I swear that's what she said, but she denied it later. I rushed to two grocery stores and was home by 10:30. Jordan appeared with Jacob, his overnight suitcase, pillow and backpack, so naturally I asked if he was spending the night. She said no, but gradually it turned out he was spending the afternoon--she was going to console a friend in trouble and Christian was going to a funeral. So Jacob and I had the afternoon--he was lively and very hard to get down for a nap, but he finally slept two hours, woke up saying he was sad because he didn't feel good, gradually brightened when his mom got here and gave him Motrin. By 6:30, he was swinging from the rafters--and my planned day of working on my second novel was gone (more about that another day).
At lunchtime, my brother called. They were in town and wanted to take me to Carshon's, my favorite deli, for lunch. I had to decline since Jacob was eating his "awful waffle" and I was in the midst of tuna fish. But I really really would have liked to visit with them. If it ever happens again, I'll ask if they have a grandchild's car seat in their car.
Finally Jacob and I each got a long nap, and then I cooked dinner for his parents. He asked me to cuddle him, and I said Iwould in a minute--I had to go start the dinner. So when I came back and asked if he wanted to cuddle, he said, "No, you go cook the dinner some more."
I fixed a favorite of mine and Christian's--German potato salad. The original recipe, found I don't know where, called it Polka Dot Salad, because you cut hot dogs up in it. I've never done that, but did tonight--good Hebrew National dogs.
The potato salad is easy, partly because I buy canned sliced potatoes--cheating, but they hold up better than potatoes you cook yourself. Fry three or four slices of bacon until crisp, remove and drain, and saute chopped scallions and celery in the grease (I can't believe I'm using bacon grease this week when I decided to devote myself to Weight Watchers). Add three Tbsp. flour and stir in; then make a sauce by adding 1/2 parts water and cider vinegar (I think I usually use half a cup of each). The sauce was too thick tonight, and I added a bit more, in proportion. Add 1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard (which I realized I forgot tonight and kept wondering why it looked so pale). Dump in two cans sliced potatoes, the crumbled bacon, and sprinkle with parsley. If adding hot dogs, grill them first (Jacob doesn't like charred hot dogs--thinks they're dirty!) and stir them. Heat until warm and serve. Add some canned green beans--which Christian and Jacob love and I can barely tolerate--and you've got a yummy dinner.
I've been fixing this since my kids were little. Not too many years ago either my niece or nephew tasted it and said, "I remember when you used to cook this." It really is good!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Cookbooks, fair weather, and a sad day

Today I spoke to the PEO chapter to which I belong--because my mother was a dedicated PEO in Chicago, North Carolina, and Fort Worth. The meaning of those initials is secret, but my dad always claimed it stood for "Poor Emancipated Oldsters." For those who don't know, it's an international sisterhood devoted to education for women. Chapter G in Fort Worth invites me to talk about books every so often--sometimes my own, sometimesTCU Press books. Today it was Cooking My Way through Life with Kids and Books. At Christmas, my brother gave me a copy of the cookbook our mother edited for the hospital auxiliary at home--it has, for one thing, my first bit of publication, a recipe for a hot garlic/cheese dip. The cookbook was all handwritten, in the hands of various contributers, so there was my fairly childish signature, "Judy MacBain." Mom had a lot of recipes, plus many of my distant aunts in New York "contributed" recipes in her hand. And then there were various cooking hints from Penelope Jones--who knows where she got that name? Anyway, I took that cookbook today since many of the members remember Mom, and one gave me a picture of Mom and two others taken in the early 1980s. Made me sad, because Mom was still herself then--she looked bright and pretty and with it.
The talk was, I guess, a success--the ladies talked a lot, some remembering Sunday night dinners at my house, one asking how  how my brother was. It sort of became an old-home week for which I had to apologize to the group at large, but they found it interesting. I only sold three books--and of course I wasn't smart enough to take along my cookbook business cards. But I had a good time visiting with old friends (literally and figuratively) that I hadn't seen in a long time. (I don't go to meetings.)
As I left one woman said to me, "It's such a nice day. You should put the top down on your car." And I did just that, driving home through the park, letting the wind blow my hair any whichway.
Tonight Jacob was supposed to stay with me, but he got sick at school. So I'm devoting the evening to organizing tax information for my accountant. I could be working on the blurbs for those two unwritten books and on adding to the two pages I have written on one (all wrong and will need revision) but I know that is still rolling around in my mind and I'm letting it simmer.
It's been a day of bad news: my good friend Gayla, from Texas A&M University Press, has been in Missouri visiting her brother, and he died in the early morning today. My first thought was the Lord sent her up there are the right time--she meant to go earlier but snow and impassable country roads kept her in Texas, and I also thought her brother was hanging on to see her.  She was sobbing when I talked to her but seemed to have plans in her mind. I'll probably see her late in the week when she comes through Dallas on her way home. And then Betty emailed that she was taking her husband to the ER because of chest pains that began Wed. night--apparently they didn't call the doctor until this morning and didn't hear until early afternoon. So I'm hoping to hear that he's all right. It's hard  enough to wrap our minds about the troubles in the world, particulary Haiti--though a few good stories are beginning to come out of there. Wish I was young enough to adopt an orphan and also to adopt one of the eleven lab puppies someone found abandoned on a roadside (I got email pictures of them today and they're adorable!). But when trouble hit close to home, as it has with several dear friends in the last few weeks, it's doubly hard.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Tweeting on Twitter

I signed up for Twitter months ago, but it has baffled me. I only posted five tweets in that whole time--not good use of a social networking tool. So I signed up for an extended education course at TCU--Jamie told me it was eassy to master, and I was wasting my money, but I really think in two hours I learned a whole lot. But I learned about tiny urls among other things, how to RT, what a hash sign is, and so on. Figure that out by myself? Probably never.Almost like an overload of information, that I'll have to process over time and experiment with. On the TIP sheet that my agent sent though, there's a space to indicate if you have a Twitter account--it, like Facebook and this blog, are ways to keep your name before the public and, someday I hope, sell books. But it's also like all the rest of social networking--it takes time. Still I'm going to try to be an active participant.
Of course I'm still puzzled that my children seem to feel obligated to tell the world where they're eating, etc., so you get a minute picture of the day. Oh well, I used to complain I didn't hear from them enough. Now I keep up withthem all the time. Nice to know they're alive and well and happy.
Found lunch money in the laundry today--when I took wet clothes out of the dryer. Fifteen soggy dollars--a ten and five ones--that I laid out on the kitchen counter to dry. And some change--I think I still hear change floating around in the dryer.
Most discouraged when I stepped on the scale this morning. Must have been that chocolate mousse. I'm back to Weight Watchers with a vegeance. I do use my new scale, and today I got out a measuring cup.I'm really going to keep track and be honest, about everything from tuna salad to wine! Salad for lunch--with blue cheese dressing, but it wasn't too bad in points. They served fried pita on the side, which I determined not to eat--but tasted a small piece and ended up eating four small pieces. So good, but not for diets, as Vance, the owner of the restaurant, smilingly agreed.
Warm spell in North Texas, but the stock show has two or three more weeks to go--who knows what can happen?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


Sometimes my desk is empty, except for those projects rattling around in my head. Last weekend, I spent a lot of time reading mysteries--and loved it. Then Tuesday I went to staff meeting and a load of work fell on my head--by working Tuesday and today, I'm almost through the pile but will go in tomorrow. Then today I got a request from a university press to edit a manuscript that sounds interesting--due to get it next week. And my agent requested tip sheets on the second mystery (it's all written but I don't think the blurb is) and on two more books, one a new series, that are so far only vague ideas in my head. So I have some real work cut out for me--and I love it. Going to start on the first page or two of the new mystery tonight because I've been tossing it around in my head when I can't sleep. But I still want to finish the mystery I'm reading--see? There's lots to do, all of it good.
Had lunchtoday with an old friend from the '80s. She's been back in town for two years or more but has been a high school principal with no time. Now she has several part-time jobs (which sound like they keep her busier than ever) but she has time for lunch, so we played catch up. She's always been a supporter of TCU Press--worked there eons ago--and is interested in what's going on. So it was a delightful lunch hour.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Ooops! Chocolate mousse

Betty and I debated where to go for dinner tonight--we wanted to go someplace new, but we didn't want to run into stock show crowds. We finally decided on a bistro down the street from my house, where we both usually like the tapas platter, though you can never tell from day to day what will be offered. Tonight it was smoked salmon on toasts topped with a dab of whipped cream, manchego cheese, mushrooms stuffed with garlicky escargot (whoa! are they high on points if you eat many!), fingerling potatoes in a sauce, and spicy marinated beef that was delicious. We ate, enjoyed and were full when the devil made me do it. I said, "I want chocolate mousse." Betty admonished me that it's not on my diet and I couldn't have it,and I replied, "Let's do it anyway." So I had wonderful dark chocolate mousse, while she had creme brulee, and we each enjoyed our dessert a lot. And yes, it sent me way over points for the day--but the splurge was worth it. I'd been pretty good the rest of the day--the tapas portions of any one food are so small that the points are equally small, and I'd had a conservative lunch. Usually in the evenings, I'm hungry about nine o'clock. I want to nibble and snack--but tonight I don't feel that way at all. Every once in a while, chocolate mousse is worth the price you pay!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Browsing in Barnes & Noble

This morning I had a doctor's appointment, not a bad one, not one to get upset over, but still an office visit is an office visit. So afterward, I treated myself to a long browse in Barnes & Noble where I felt luxurious because I had a nice gift certificate. I looked for authors--those I know from previous books, those whose names I know from Sisters in Crime, one a casual browser had recommended to me the other day. I came away with six cozy mysteries, which should keep me occupied for a long time. Oh, yes, I looked at other sections--new in paperback, etc. Did a "shelf check" to see what TCU Press titles were face out, and glanced at the "Staff Picks." But right  now--maybe it's because it's January and things are slow--I'm in the mood to be buried in a good cozy.
I'm reading Tough Cookie by Sue Mott Davidson, one of a series featuring Goldy Schulz, a caterer in a Colorado mountain town. Having just been to Colorado, I can related to passages about high piles of snow and temperatures of 4 degrees but thankfully not to the accident where she is run off the road. I emailed Colin to ask if we had crossed the Continental Divide and gone through the Eisenhower Tunnel, but he wasn't sure. Davidson's books all come with recipes, and I've flagged three I want to try: Chocolate Coma Cookies, a roast pork tenderloin, and Chesapeake Crab Cakes with Sauce Gribiche, which seems to have a bit of everything in it from lemon to tarragon to mayonnaise. I'll photocopy them. My friend Fred says he and his wife, Patt, have fixed some of Davidson's recipes and enjoyed them greatly.
And I'm beginning to think about the new series I want to try--got to do character profiles, but when I napped this afternoon I know they were in my subconscious.
Wish I could figure how to attach an e-mail cartoon to a blog post, but I can't. I'm sure this will lose in the telling, but a friend sent me a Maxine cartoon in which she said she told her kids she didn't want to live in a vegetative state, hooked up to a machine and dependant on liquid from a bottle. So her kids unplugged her computer and threw out her wine. What she said about them is unprintable! Another friend told me tonight his mother-in-law said she didn't want to have anything to do with hospice care because she'd never known anyone who had a good outcome. Ghoulish humor but pretty funny.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

A lovely lazy day--and more cooking

Today I putzed--it took me most of the morning to read the paper, straighten the house and kitchen, do my yoga, start a laundry, shower--you name it, and it was almost lunch time. I spent much of the afternoon reading July Hyzy's new Eggsecutive Orders, the latest in a series about a White House chef that I really enjoy.I love getting lost in a book that I don't want to see end.
Tonight Jacob brought his parents to supper. When he got here, he was in a foul mood, and he and his dad soon tangled, with the result that Jacob ended up in time-out. Then he declared he didn't like what I served for dinner, until I gave him a special treat of a bowl of blueberries. Then he brightened up, ate the rest of his dinner, and was a delight. It's hard to be three years old, and it's also hard to be the parents of a three-year-old.
I fixed a recipe that had intrigued me but then left me uncertain. You line two baking sheets with foil (should have sprayed Pam on the one with potatoes and carrots). Chop leeks (did you know they cost like gold?) and sweet onion,toss in a tiny bit of oil, put on one rimmed baking sheet, and put it on the top rack of the oven; Cut Yukon Gold potatoes and carrots into chunks, toss in oil,  and put on the other pan, on the lower shelf. Bake at 500 (that's really right!) for 15 minutes. Take out the onions, add a turkey kielbasa in chunks to the potatoes and carrots and bake another 15 minutes. Mix it all together and serve with a sauce of country Dijon, low-fat sour cream and a bit of water to thin. So good! Jacob finally decided he really liked it, especially the sauce.  He and his daddy earned Sandie cookies. And then they put Christmas back up in the attic--Jacob was thrilled to be in the attic.
My desk is almost empty. I've read some manuscsripts and done some snooping and thinking for TCU Press. My agent sent a tip sheet last week that he'll send out with my manuscript, which I take as a good sign, expecially since he hasn't said it needed any editing--maybe that's still to come. So it's time for me to start a new project--and I have a second series in mind. Just need to stop reading other people's books and concentrate on my own--but not tonight.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Green noodles--no, not a Dr. Seuss invention

For years, I've been making my family green noodles. It started out as a dish my ex-sister-in-law served my brother one night when she had nothing in her cabinet--she melted butter, added lemon juice, and tossed in pasta. Over the years I've fiddled and added--I use spinach fettucini, add scallions, sliced mushrooms (they really soak up the lemon), artichoke hearts, and good parmesan. Recently I started adding a cube of pesto from my freezer. But tonight I varied the formula, because Megan had given me some truffle oil for Christmas, and I wanted to use it. So I sauteed a chopped leek (I had an extra one because I need two for tomorrow night), some cut up asparagus I had in the fridge, mushrooms, and used mostly olive oil instead of butter. When that was all sauteed I put in the cooked noodles, tossed it, and drizzle it with truffle oil. So good! Though I think I had been so warned about truffle oil that I was a little tentative--next time I'll use more. Oh, I also used the good Italian olive oil Megan brought me, instead of my grocery-store variety, and I omitted the Parmesan. I'll have to figure Weight Watchers points, but it was awfully good.
A contrast to the meal Jacob and I had last night. I announced a picnic, complete with finger food and disposable plates. I rolled deli turkey slices around low-fat cream cheese and cut them into small pieces (he liked his with ketchup), those sweet little cherub tomatoes, which he loves, and blueberries. He looked at his pickle (I had hearts of palm) and said "I don't like that." And then he asked, "Why are we eating with our fingers?" So much for adding a sense of adventure to supper. But he ate enough to earn two dark chocolate chip/almond/Sandie cookies for dessert--and darn, I ate two also. This morning, barely out of bed, he wanted his "waffle waffle." I started joking about an "awful waffle" but he didn't get it and still calls them "waffle waffles." He ate one at eight and requested two more at ten--and ate every bite!
Tonight I went to see my friend Charles, who is now in hospice care at a local retirement center. I have not gone alone to see him, because he's in the same place where my mom was and where she died. So I dragged friends along for support. But when he told me about hospice on the phone and then said, "Come see me," I knew I had to do it. We had a good visit, and I know people go in and out of hospice, sometimes for a long time, but it's hard for me to think of the world without Charles.
I was a regular churchgoer for years, never missed a Sunday. Then a combination of things made me start staying home, and once you miss a Sunday, it's easy to miss them all. So yesterday I started my move back to church by volunterring to call first-time visitors and offer any information I can about the church. Then Jeannie called--she has been asked to take over the small bookstore and wants companions. I know it's a terrible burden, having watched my mom run a hospital gift shop, but I think I'll probably do it. My way of getting back into the church.
It's been damp and almost but not quite rainy in North Texas--the kind of weather that makes you feel cold, even when you're not. So I'm glad to be home and settled for the night with a book.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Food--maybe my favorite subject

Tonight, Betty and I started out for Aventino's, an Italian restaurant that has recently re-invented itself, but it was dark. So we went across the street to Cafe Aspen, which has also re-invented itself under new management. And we had a wonderful evening. The partitions that previously separated the dining space into booths of six tables each have disappeared, and it's one big dining room, with warm tomato-soup colored tablecloths.And the meu is completely new--sorry, Jeannie, but the chicken-fried lobster is gone. Lots of good things though, with a heavy but gentle use of peppers. Betty had jalopeno soup, which I declared I wouldn't even try, but the owner's wife came by, persuaded me to try a bite, and she was right--the ground almonds and something else in it softened the jalopeno taste, and it was good--I probably wouldn't eat a whole bowl, but a couple of tastes were great.
I wish I had gotten her name--Betty kept saying, "You don't have your hearing aids in, do you?" but I did. Just kept missing things. Anyway, Betty missed her name too, but she stopped by frequently and explained a couple of terms on the menu we didn't know. Betty hadn't heard of quinoa, which I knew was a grain, but this woman explained it much more fully and pronounced it far differently than I had. She also explained a term I cannot spell, pronounce or find in my Food Lover's dictionary, but it amounted to blue corn polenta which is crisped in the oven just before serving. We chatted with her for a long time--I even (must have been the glass of wine) got to telling her how my children had worked at the restaurant and David was a good friend.
Betty had drunken oysters, and I had antelope medallions with that polenta thing I can't pronounce and pear chutney. Delicious. Plus talking to the woman made the evening so interesting. They use fresh local produce, and they want to educate their guests to new tastes and food. She says the chef is having fun teaching the cooks new things--like ground almonds to soften the chili hotness.
For dessert we had a chocolate mousse cake--okay, chocolate is not on my diet, but it was free because I'd seen an ad and I just couldn't resist. We split. The cake had a definite ancho chile bite, but it was absolutely wonderful.
I told Betty we must go back again soon, so she doesn't forget us. I have the feeling they will change the menu often.
Other than that , it was a ho-hum day, although I had a good lunch--wonderful tomato basil soup--and a nice visit with an old friend. Added up some tax stuff (I borrowed an adding machine no one in the office was using), did some acquisitions work, and read. It's not cold in Texas, but it's damp so it makes you feel like you want to be warm and cozy.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Jacob--and lessons in enjoying the present and the past

Jacob came for dinner last night and tonight. Both nights I had drop-in guests for wine, and he was charming, smitten by them. But after dinner tonight he wanted to watch Tarzan and wanted me to cuddle with him.So I lay next to him on the daybed in the playroom and dozed,with a casual leg thrown over mine or a hand holding one of mine, and cuddling up close to that warm little body. Occasionally he'd rouse, look at me, and demand, "Why are your eyes closed?" And I did think he has the sharpest elbows and knees in the world. But it dawned on me that soon, maybe a year, maybe less, maybe a bit more, and he won't want to cuddle with his grandmother. It's a rare treat, and I intend to take advantage of every minute I can and enjoy it while it lasts.
Yesterday I went shopping with Christmas certificates--got some clothes on sale at Coldwater Creek, a couple of books at Barnes & Noble, and a food scale at Williams Sonoma. I think the latter will really help me on Weight Watchers, because a lot of their measurements are in ounces, so last night I measured out 2 oz. of ham (which is plenty) and tonight, 2 oz. of smoked salmon, which I rolled around low-fat cream cheese. I'm thinking I need to stop eating out, eat at home, measure my food, and get serious about losing those extra five lbs. The doctor's scale was not reassuring today, but then I was fully dressed, even with shoes on, and had eaten breakfast.
Today I met with descendants of Major Cheney, who have compiled a history of the Garden of Eden African American community on Fort Worth's East Side. Major Cheney was a major landholder, and many black famlies in that area are related--the great-great-grandson (maybe one more great) told me he wasn't allowed to date locally because he was related to all those folks. He married a lady from Dallas, but he said, "She may still be kin." It's a fascinating story-the community was once quite large but now is down to a few families, and some of the famiily members still live on Major Cheney's land, on which they grow enough produce to feed themselves ever summer. When I mentioned the former vice president, a lively discussion of the white and black Cheneys ensued. I'm really looking forward to reading this manuscript.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Reply to an author

This post is mostly for Denise Weeks, who writes YA fantasy as Shalanna Collins but has at least one mystery, Murder by the Marfa Lights, under her real name. I mentioned last night I was reading the book, she found the blog and was ecstatic that someone was reading her book. She asked several questions and I know of no way to answer except on the blog. So yes, Denise, it's still holding my attention. I found it on the Kindle store when I was browsing the cozy mystery category, and I guess the idea of the Marfa lights, which have always intrigued me, plus my neighbors who talk about Marfa all the time drew me to order it. And, if I remember, the price was low. (I've read a lot on the Sisters in Crime listserv lately about how books priced really cheaply, like 99 cents, do so much better than even those $2.99 ones--volume vs. individual price, and volume wins!). Denise, I'm sorry you didn't spend more time in Marfa, but I'll ask my neighbors about authenticity anyway. Is it available any way except online?
If you were ecstatic to find someone reading your book, I was most pleased to find a new reader for my blog. Did you find the mention on Google Alerts? I find the Alerts service most interesting--some days it picks up my blog; other days, it "alerts" me to sales of my older titles. I'm investigating getting some of my '90s historical fiction up on Kindle. I think it's a great sales tool.
Other than reading Denise's book, I'm a drudge today. Spent the morning at the office but the server was having problems and for most of the morning I couldn't do what I came in to do. But we had a terrific meeeting with an author who is doing a book for 7th graders about the Texas Revolution. Susan, Melinda, and I were really enthusiastic about it. Then the server came back up, and I was able to send out the proposals I wanted to.
And tonight I've been working on taxes--categorizing the expenses from 2009. I can only take so much of that in a spell, so I have lots left to do, but I'm making a dent in it.
I did conquer techbnology today--with help. I now know how to find my VPN connection to TCU and have the link to my desktop installed. The link to my TCU email (instead of the web email I use at home) isn't quite working yet, but I can probably fix that tomorrow. And, wonder of wonders, all by myself, I finally got my cell phone to bring up my e-mail. For a non-techie like me, such small triumphs are really wonderful.
Still a busy week in which I have to get up early every morning--yawn!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Goodbye, ham

I've almost finished the half ham I inherited over New Year's. Made old-fashioned split pea soup tonight--the kind where you add carrots, celery, and an onion studded with cloves. Almost forgot to add the ham bone but got it in eventually. The cloves made it smell so good when cooking. The recipe said 1/2 package would feed eight--I only looked because I needed to know proportion of water to beans. I used almost 3/4 the package; it fed three of us, with no leftovers. Made a salad, served ham salad on crackers for appetizer (said I was going to ham them to death), and the Lindt chocolate truffles I got for Christmas for dessert--got to get all that chocolate out of my house! Next time I make pea soup I'll follow my instinct--and my mom's cooking lessons--rather than the package. But it was so good, with chunks of ham and carrot floating in it. I like a thick split pea soup--sort of like the milkshake the spoon can stand it, so maybe that's why it didn't feed more. When I was a kid, my brother's favorite dish was split pea soup--he was away at boarding school, and we had to have it every time he came home. I hated it! But I think hams in those days (way back in the dark ages) were saltier. Today I love the soup, and I am loving the ham. Have had ham salad a lot. Still have some left, plus a chunk of ham. Haven't decided what to do with it yet. Maybe I'll try Jacob on cubed ham Tuesday night--better than chicken nuggets.
A nice lazy Sunday. My conscience bit me a little about not going to church, but I slept until eight, read the paper, fixed the soup, rode my bike, washed my hair, sent out a query, and it's amazing where the day goes. Today it's warm enough that Scooby spent the day outside--a relief to both of us, I'm sure. Tomorrow, back to work, so tonight I'm going to read and be lazy.
Just finished reaing Deadly Descent by Charlotte Hinger--an old friend from Western Writers of America. I'm much impressed by the way Chalrotte has transitioned from the western (now not much sought after) to the mystery--and combined her love of Kansas, its geography, and its history, with the mystery genre. The novel, her first mystery, is a real page-turner and kept me up far too late last night. I couldn't foresee the end coming--lots of red herrings--but it was a most satisfying conclusion, and I recommend it heartily. Wish I could combine history of the West with mystery, and may still work on that. Now I'm reading Murder by Marfa Lights by Denise Weeks. Must ask my neighbors, who have a home in Marfa, to read it for authenticity. Meantime, barely into it, I find it keeps my attention.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Schmoozing and working

I was included in a delightful supper party tonight, at the home of acquaintances who have a fantastic collection of American artifacts--everything from Texas art to items from South and Latin America to an arrowhead collection which the host re-assembled himself (and labeled) after it arrived in pieces. Their home is full of interesting pieces, but they also own a small museum in Weatherford (about 30 miles from Fort Worth). The Museum of the Americas presents, for instance, an annual Dia de los Muertos exhibition that is beyond compare. And has great opening parties.
I was pleased to be included on the guest list tonight, knowing there would be people I knew and some I didn't. But even in casual conversation with people I'd just met, we discovered degrees of connection--there are not even two degrees of separation in Fort Worth. One woman livesin a house my brother once lived in and seemed to know that about me. I was surprised to see a few people I knew that I didn't know had any connection to the Lawrences. Pleasant crowd in which it was easy to drift from conversation to conversation.
But I also did sosme business--for myself and for TCU Press. Talked to a hoticulturist who wants to write a small book on places to see native plants, an author whose manuscript is late and giving her difficulty, an editor I'd like to free lance for. And maybe found a location for this year's Books and Music in the Garden. All the talk was not only helpful for business, it was interesting. And the horticulturist who knows Greg, who now takes care of my yard. A really nice evening. Social networking at its best--and not on the computer.
Today was still cold, but I put Scooby in his bed and ran a couple of errands. I'm still on my kick of getting things done, loose ends tied up. So I went to a Sprint store, deleted my old e-mail, but have to wait for the TCU help desk to install the new password and server. Then I went to the jewelry store and had a new clasp put on the lovely bracelet Maddie chose for me for Christmas. Wore it proudly tonight, along with the bracelet she made earlier, and got raves.
Came home, proofread the index I'd done last night, and started on the list of cookbooks cited. Also called TIAA-CREF and straightened out confusion (in my mind,not their records) about my annuity and my IRAs. And made the gentleest tiny start toward organizing my tax info. I feel like I'm sailing into the New Year. Still need to finish the cookbook list, but I allowed myself to start reading a new novel.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Maybe the new year has begun

Still cold in North Texas--17 this morning, but I finally got brave, blocked the dog into his cozy bed, and ventured out. I really do okay in the cold--it's the dog I worry about. Don't want to leave him out, can't trust him alone in the house, but he seems to be okay if I put him in his bed and don't stay away too long. Went to the grocery and made a brief stop at the office. I came home to hibernate and suddenly was inspired by the Sisters in Crime listserv--those ladies, and a few men, constantly work at their careers, while I seem to sit and wait for something to happen. I realized I really have a lot to do and should stop sitting here reading mysteries, much as they relate to what I hope is my new career.
First decision: put my '90s historical fiction on KIndle. That's been a big topic on the listserv, and even if I doin't make any money, it seems to me it would be great for name recognition. I investigated a bit, wrote to my former agent to make sure rights have reverted, and then wrote my new agent. Lo, behold, and glory, he said he would take care of that as my agent. Not right away but in a few months (okay that made me a bit nervous!).
Second decision: I did the index recipe tonight for Grace & Gumption: The Cookbook. For those who don't know or remember, TCU Press did a book a couple of years ago titled Grace & Gumption: Stories of Fort Worth Women. Following it up with a cookbook was really my idea, because of my love of not only food but food writing, but it has been fun for all of us. I proofread the pages, then found out that wasn't one of my assigned chores--still my proofreading may help. But my job was to index the recipes, and tonight I've finished that, though I have to proofread. Then I'll make a list of cookbooks consulted, because there were a number of locally published cookbooks that ought to interest Fort Worth women. What really struck me was that when I categorized the recipes, the dessert section was twice as long as any other--what does that tell you about women? Actually, given my druthers in cooking, dessert is the last thing I make. I try to avoid them, am not creative about fixing them, and they never "look pretty" like the ones you see in magazines.
Third decision: I signed up for a class on Twitter. To me it is baffling, but maybe this class will help me make sense of it. It's supposed be a great tool for getting your name out there as an author. I do alright on Facebook though I'm mostly silently--some of my children are on it all the time with baffling messages that I can't understand at all--I've begun to think of some of my own family as aliens from another planet. And who needs to know every place they go all day? Now they've begun posting something from Gowalla and I have no idea what that is. I do strugglel hard to keep up and be computer literate, but it's hard.
Fourth decision: made a committment to do some volunteer work at the church on a weekly basis. Will call first time attendees and possibly take a weekly turn at the reception desk. I need to get back into the life of the church.
Tomorrow: staying home, keeping Scooby out of the cold, and starting to organize my tax info for 2009.
Whew! All this organikzed ambition has tired me out, and I'm going to read the Charlotte Hinger mystery I'm well into and hooked on.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

A hard freeze and feral cats

North Texas takes cold weather seriously. The news this morning was a three-hour special on the "arctic blast" that brought our temperatures into the low 20s and is supposed to get us down to 13 tonight. The news does give us good traffic warnings, etc, but it makes such a big deal of the temperature that it becomes worse, in your mind, than it really is. I feel as I did in Breckenridge--trapped by this monster outside. Actually, like Colorado, this has been a fairly dry cold spell.. It feels cold but not as bone-chilling as some of our wet weather in the 30s. I stayed in today, doing odds and ends, but plan to go to the office for a bit and the grocery tomorrow. My big worry is leaving my dog out--he doesn't do well in the house alone (a mild understatement), although tonight I left him in his bed for two-and-a-half hours, and he was anxious to go out when I got home but fine. This morning when I kept him in he was antsy, not used to being cofined during the day and had energy to run off. I let him out about eleven and when I went to look for him after lunch, he was snoozing in the warm sun. Now he's at my feet, quiet and glad to be in.
Tonight Betty, Jeannie, and I had our belated Christmas dinner at Betty's house. She fixed a feast--appetizers of bacon-wrapped marinated artichokes, a wonderful salad with craizins and a blue cheese dressing, pork tenderloin on polenta, asparagus, and a chocolate trifle with blueberries for dessert. We ate in front of the fire and had a good visit--as Jeannie says, with just the three of us we're free to gossip and talk about anything we want, and we did.
Last April, Betty and her husband, Don, had to put down their aged cat, Maggie, whom both adored. Just when Betty was sunk in despair over that, a mama cat and her kittens appeared in the back yard. They're feral, but Betty and Don have adopted them. They have two houses for them, close together, with the space between covered by a tarp (an old shower curtain). The kittens, now nearly cats, come inside to eat but won't stay long, won't let anyone touch them--although one of the males did one day rub on Betty's leg. Tonight was the first time I've seen them--they're part Siamese and really beautiful. And they seem to love their digs. Betty certainly arranges her life around them, getting up to feed them at 6 a.m. The ways of feral cats are so different from the domesticated animals I know that these cats make a fascinating study in wild life. Trusting, but only to a point. I think there must be a parallel with the homeless people of our world. But this particular family of cats has lucked into the best deal ever--and they have healed Betty. Tonight, with the temperature to go down to 13, they are cozy and comfortable.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Twelfth Night

When I was a young child, we had neighbors who adopted me. They had no children, and I became the child Auntie E. and Uncle Jack never had. He was a great jokester but a true gentleman, always walking me home after visits to their house--where I felt as at home as I did in my own house. Auntie E. was a "lady"--I don't know how to explain that except she was always patrician, regal, all those things, though I suspect she came from rural roots--her sister, who I came to know well, was nothing like that.
Auntie E. instituted a custom that has continued in my family until this day, though I have no idea where she got it. She and Uncle Jack were devout Catholics, but I don't think this came from their church. But on January 6th, the night the three wise men are supposed to have arrived at the manger in Bethlehem with their gifts, Auntie E.always had us gather and each throw a sprig of evergreen on the fire, making a wish, which we could tell no one.
Tonight, sixty or more years later, we followed that ritual in my home. My children grew up with it, though I expect Jordan is the only one who folllows it to this day. Jordan, Christian, Jacob, and my neighbor Susan came for supper--Susan was essential because she had the only live greens, in a wreath that had been given them. I fixed a scalloped potato, ham and cheese casserole, and then we burned our greens. Jacob, who had been really a spoiled rotten brat when he got here, got in the spirit of things and told me he wanted to help me burn my sprig. It was all great fun, and, of course, I can't tellyou my wish--then it would never come true. Fun to think about what a three-year-old might wish. In sum, it was a night of ritual and fellowship and good times.
The arctic freeze that has hit most of the country is due here tonight, and the media have scared us witless with predictions of extreme cold, possible precipitation, etc. I can stand cold but not ice. I had three meetings scheduled for tomorrow and have re-scheduled all of them, partly out of concern for my dog Scooby. I can't leave him out in that cold but can't leave him in without me. Besides, it will be nice to sleep late and get going slowly. I've had to rush every morning this week--how un-retirement is that? I've manuscripts and books to read, email to answer, etc.--and a bit of leftover scalloped potatoe for dinner. I'll be a happy camper.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Food thoughts

My mind still seems to be on food, though I've managed to work my way through the delicious leftovers I had--the ham salad is gone (but not the ham), the chocolate chip bars are all gone but scraps, and I ate the last of the hoppin' John tonight--you know how hot things sometimes get hotter as they sit? The hoppin' John did because it burned my mouth tonight. Those Rotel tomatoes.
I made scalloped potatoes tonight for dinner tomorrow night--Jordan, Christian, Jacob and Susan are coming for Twelfth Night. I put ham and cheese and onions in between the layers of potatoes, followed a recipe carefully (from my mom's old, old, old copy of the Good Housekeeping cookbook--so old it has no spine, half the index pages are missing and so is the front cover but it's still a great reliable guide for basics and I consult it often). Well, even with the recipe it didn't work--when supposedly done, my potatoes were soupy. I turned the oven low and let them bake (and evaporate) another half hour. They seemed lots better but tomorrow, when they're the only dish plus salad, will tell the trick. And there's still a good bit of ham left. I could make more ham salad (I really like it) and a good split pea soup, but no one would eat the latter with me. I love it, my kids all hate it. We'll see.
Meanwhile I have discovered that thin-sliced deli turkey wrapped around a bit of cream cheese makes a delicious low-calorie snack, so I fixed that about 8:30 tonight, with a half glass of wine. Tripped over a rug, spilt the wine everywhere, and went to get paper towels to wipe it up. When I came back Scooby was just finishing the last of my turkey snack and was not at all impressed by the fit I threw. He looked at me as if to say, "You left it here. What's a dog supposed to do?" So now I've refilled the spilled wine glass and fixed another snack and am a bit happier.
Through all this holiday food saga I've been registering Weight Watchers points. Last week when I weighed I'd lost quite a bit and was elated, but Jay reminded me you always lose weight at altitude. In the intervening week, I've gone over points but I've earned enough activity points to balance that--I'm never quite sure how that works. I don't weigh again until Thursday morning, so meanwhile suspense.
Along that line, I had a gyro sandwich in Breckenridge--ate it without the bread--and wanted more. So Jean and I went to Chadra, the local Lebanaese/Italian place, and had Greek wraps and tomato basil soup for lunch. The soup was maybe the best I've ever had, and the gyro was much more generous than the one in Breckenridge. Again, I didn't eat the pita, just the meat, tomato and feta out of the middle. But when I looked gyro up in Weight Watchers, I nearly fainted. I guess my taste for that is squelched for a long time.
Food is on my mind also because I'm proofreading Grace & Gumption: The Cookbook--found out belatedly that proofing wasn't my responsibility, just indexing the recipes (I had thought I had to proof, index names,and index recipes). I proofed anyway because I found lots of things of concern, prime among them amounts that came through as ?. By checking I've found most of them were meant to be 1/2. I've decided also to make a list of cookbooks consulted, because there are some wonderful cookbooks mentioned--many those produced by local women's groups and probably only accessible now in the library. Cookbooks provide a wonderful record of a community, and I'm hoping that's what the G&G Cookbook will do.
Happy cooking! Wish I could find an outlet for some regular food writing. I have always said I travel on my stomach, wondering what wonderful restaurants I can eat in (though that was not true in Breckenridge).Now I'm afraid I live, not exactly for my stomach, but for my taste buds, for the delightful invention of foods I enjoy.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Miscellany on a cold evening

TCU is playing Boise State in the Fiesta Bowl in Phoenix tonight, and I actually have it on the TV, though I don't know enough about football to follow it except when they flash the score and quarter along the bottom. Jean tells me it's a good game, so I'll believe her. I share the antipathy of many humanities scholars toward athletics--they get all the money and we get our programs cut. But I realize this triumphant football season has brought much national attention to TCU and, as our mayor says, to Fort Worth. So today I wore a lilac sweater--closest I could come to purple. And of course I really really want them to win. But every time some loyal football supporter raves about how much money we make from a bowl game, I want to ask about the trickle-down effect to academics. Really, why do we send kids to college: to cheer for a football team or to learn?  I do keep watching the crowd shots to see if I recognize anyone, but so far none.
It's a cold night in North Texas, and I am happy to be inside. Windy and cold even in mid-day today and predicted to get colder as the week goes on. Jordan was right. There is a difference between everyday cold and vacation cold--in Colorado, vacation cold is drier and doesn't seem to bite your bones like this does.
One of my dilemmas is that I have too much good food in my fridge. Tonight my dinner choice was between hoppin' John, which was so good as a leftover last night, and a tuna cake. I chose the tuna cake because it won't keep as long as the ham/pea dish. When I was a child my mom made salmon croquettes, and I adore them to this day. She used ground up saltines to thicken them--never the mashed potatoes recommended by some. All you do is put the canned fish, egg (1 for a 7 oz. can, 2 for a 14 oz. can)  in a bowl; season with salt, pepper, dry mustard, onion, and Worcestershire. Add enough ground crackers to give it substance, shape into patties and saute. Now I do it with that expensive and good tuna I ordered from a small fishery--I think I mentioned it before, but it's a family operation and the dolphins swim alongside their boats, are never caught in their nets. They pack the tuna and it is only cooked once when it goes through the canning process (most tuna is cooked, canned, and cooked again). Pisces tuna (that's the brand) is albacore in water, though the small mom-and-pop operation also offers salmon and other goodies. Tonight I accompanied my tuna cake, liberally doused with lemon, with a huge batch of stir-fried asparagus, mushrooms, and sugar snap peas. Of course then I broke down and ate two chocolate chip squares left in the freezer--I will soon have them finished and out of the way! Though I'm constantly watching my diet, it will be easier with those chocolate bars gone!

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Routine sets in

I've been a drudge this weekend. Spent all of yesterday home alone, working, and much of today. I've read over 200 pages of the manuscript I'm proofing--still have to do several separate indices. It's going to be a pain and an ongoing project. Sometimes I enjoy the work, and sometimes I sneak off to read my latest mystery on the Kindle.
I've also been eating too much, but, gosh, I have all this good stuff in the fridge. Ham salad, which makes a great sandwich; tuna cakes I made last night and served myself with stir-fried asparagus, mushrooms and scallion; hoppin' john on grits. It all tastes so good--my trouble is I like my own cooking.
Today I realized how much time it takes me to get routine things done if I don't have to go anywhere--I got up at 7:30, read the paper, rode my bicycle, picked up a few things around thehouse, showered, shampooed, put on make-up, made the bed and chose clothes for the afternoon--and it was 11:00 o'clock. That's surely no way to set the world on fire. I had an early lunch, early nap, and was dressed and ready at 3:30 when my boss came by. We went to the memorial service for a friend who collapsed and died suddenly Dec. 23 in the Madrid airport--on the way to Venice with his wife for Christmas. I knew Harry Antrim and liked him a lot--the phrase that comes to my mind now when I think of him is "A life well lived." He was passionate about literature and books, cooking, and probably Mary, his wife. I used to meet him on Saturday mornings in Central Market and jokingly ask him what was for dinner--he always had some grand plan. When they were here for tree trimming, he was anxious to get Mary home to the quail he'd coooked. I know Mary much  better and ache for her, but I also trust her to tell me when she needs me--until then I'll leave her alone to deal with what she must face.
I have many good friends who are Episcopalians, but I must confess the service was hard for me to follow. I was constantly going from prayer book to hymnal and lost half the time. I got to thinking every church has its rituals, and I know and love those of my church. But this was too high church, too many prayers by rote. I didn't take communion, because I was cautious about going to the altar, kneeling, etc. Just not the way I'm used to doing things. I sat with friends who were raised in the Catholic Church, and they were able to followo the service much more easily than I was.
Came home to have wine with Sue, my neighbor, who is probably going to move. Her landlady is selling the house, and Sue has found a larger, better house that she can afford. I thinkshe should move, but I will sorely miss her as a neighbor.
So it's been a mixed day--not one of great joy but one with a sense of dealing with what life brings you--and getting a little work done besides. Tomorrow I go to the office and dig into work for sure.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

January 2 starts the New Year, not January 1

My Christmas cactus has been blooming throughout the season but on New Year's Day I noticed this spectacular bloom on it. The picture doesn't do it justice, unfortunately.
I am quite sure the new year begins the day after New Year's Day. January 1 goes by in a haze of ham and black-eyed peas, family and friends. I had Jacob all morning, which was fun. Sometimes he'd watch TV--he particularly liked the Rose Bowl Parade and stood in the kitchen to watch while I cooked. When he went home at noon, I took a long nap. The Jacob brought his parents back and Jay and Susan joined us.  I will modestly say that the Hoppin' John on cheese grits was great. I wore my hearing aids and found everyone so loud I was as confused as when I couldn't hear. It's going to be an adjustment, but I thought how lovely to begin the year with family and friends.
Jay, being one of something like ten children, hates leftovers. When I announced Hoppin' John was in the menu, Susan volunteered the remainder of a ham that had been given them, and Jay arrived with at least half a butt end ham, sweet and good. I put two cups in the entree and there's a still a lot but he refused to take it home (I slilpped Susan some Hoppin' John and cornbread). Hmmm. Ham salad for lunch! The cornbread had yogurt and honey in it--moist and good. The recipe called for an 8-inch skillet but mine is 12-inch, so there were nice thin slices of cornbread.
Today I have "de-Christmassed" the house--a chore I always dread--and figured out I could earn weight watchers points doing housework. They don't exactly list taking down decorations but I figured out some equivalents. It was after all quite a bit of walking and lifting. Actually after an hour and a half the house was mostly back to normal and I had discovered where I hid most of the things that are ordinarily on the mantel and buffet.
TV talk shows are full of resolutions this morning. My own resolution that's a change is to wear the hearing aids. I am sort of amused by people who resolve to lose weight, work out more, etc. Those are ongoing goals of mine, not new resolutions. Included on my list are writing more, taking my craft more seriously, finding new outlets, and treating all others with kindness. But I don't consider those resolutions.
As part of acknowledging that vacation is over and it's back to daily life, I'll spend the afternoon with the manuscript I am to proof and index. Rather than thinking of it as the daily grind, I'm grateful for a house to clean, food to cook, dishes to put away after a dinner party, a manuscript to read, and all the other parts of life. My gosh, I do sound like Pollyanna, don't I?