Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Reading faces

TCU’s Office of Extended Education used to offer a non-credit course in face reading—I’m not sure what it was really titled, but as I recall the idea was to cram into one two-hour session as much as you need to know about deciphering a person’s personality, honesty, integrity—all those things—from looking at the face.

It put me in mind of my mother who, in her later years, used to scream every time Richard Nixon came on the TV: “Look at that face! Look at those eyes! You can tell how dishonest he is!” Well, turned out Mom was once again right.

I got to thinking about that the other idea when I saw Carly Fiorina on the TV. I abhor Donald Trump’s misogynistic comments on her appearance. Not only were they generally out of line, they have no place in the political arena. But I got to watching Fiorina’s face during interviews—yes, she smiles sometimes, but the smile never reaches her eyes (and so I’m convinced, it never reaches her soul). Based on that highly subjective impression, regardless of the negative things I’ve heard about her, I wouldn’t vote for her. Her face shows no compassion, no human soul within. I suspect she’s an ambitious machine.

Then I got to looking at other candidates, mostly Democratic: Hillary is a puzzle, because sometimes she looks warm and human, she smiles, her eyes sparkle; but other times she has a hard, calculating look about her. Frequently I think media photographers do their best to catch her in a down moment, a not always flattering time. I would vote for her because I think she’s competent, capable, and knowledgeable—and no more or less corrupt than most people in our government. But her face doesn’t always convince me.

On the other hand, both Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden (is he or isn’t he running?) have wide open happy faces. They are people I’d like to sit and visit with. I have great admiration for and faith in both of them. That says nothing about whether or not they could win the nomination.

I didn’t look much at the Republican candidates because to me they all run into a blur of bland—except Donald Trump, whose face always looks angry. What we don’t need is an angry leader. Other than that, the only Republican leader I can single out for my amateur face reading is Mitch McConnell, and thank heavens he’s not a candidate. But to me he always looks like a prissy, disapproving old maid, his mouth drawn into a moue. an expression of distaste. Oh, of course, there’s always John Boehner, who usually looked grim and sad and was on the edge of tears.

Don’t confine yourself to politics—take a close look at your friends. How open are their expressions? How genuine? How welcoming. After the Pope’s visit, which was to me all about compassion, I’m tempted to ask, “How compassionate are your friends?”

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

More happiness?

Not sure I can measure up to another happy post, though it was a great day. Beautiful weather in North Texas, a day when I mostly had the house to myself—no workmen. I could work, fix myself lunch, nap (except somebody came to measure just when I was about to nap). I got a lot of work done, had a happy day.

Neighbor Jay went to get Jacob for me, and Jacob and I sat outside with dogs for a bit. Then he came in and buried himself in his iPad, in spite of my suggestions that he do his homework. So now, at 8:30, he’s reading and we’ve already done spelling.

My back is much better since my brother worked on it, though I still have to overcome the hesitation. Was all geared up for a trip out of the house tonight—I’ve stayed home too long and needed to get out. But my car wouldn’t start. I’d like to believe it’s the battery which is an easy fix with my roadside service policy. But I fear it’s the starter. I will worry about that tomorrow.

Friend Subie picked Jacob and me up for supper at the Old Neighborhood Grill, which was pleasant and interesting—though Jacob got bored and wandered off to watch the baseball game. The crowning blow of the evening came when he dumped a half a big to-go cup of Sprite on the kitchen floor. I gave him towels to clean it up, but I fear my shoes will stick to the floor when I walk in there.

Nice thing about the evening: Jacob is to read 30 minutes every night. It’s happened more than once: “Juju, I don’t have a book in my backpack.” I gave him a y/a book I did about Audie Murphy, and he seems to be enjoying it, asks me questions, wants to talk about it. Thought just now he had found a typo, but I explained the sentence to him—the reference was to small game, and he thought game should be came (which wouldn’t have made any sense at all). One of life’s treasure moments.

Guess it was a good day after all but the car and spilled Sprite make me suspect there’s still a spot on the moon.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Cultivating Cheerfulness

A good friend told me today that my blogs of late have all been downers, complaints of one sort or another. Jordan chimed in with “I’ve tried to talk her out of her depression.” I have mixed feelings about this. Quite honestly, I admit I have whined a bit—my back hurt, my house is in chaos, I got a rejection—and I shared those things. I think each of us have periods of depression and discouragement, and if I’m going to do a personal blog—which mine is, particularly for this year that I’m hoping to compile them—then I think I should be honest about my feelings. Pollyanna isn’t always at home. 

On the other hand, a friend and I were going into a restaurant for lunch the other day, and I saw a woman with multiple physical handicaps pushing a small grocery cart (no matter she was pushing it away from the drive-in window of a liquor store). I looked at my friend and said, “I’m never going to complain again.” Guess I haven’t been good about keeping that resolution, though I know some of my posts have been thoughtful—i.e., the pope’s visit—and some joyful, like last night’s reunion with old friends.

Still, maybe being sure I post positively will help me improve my disposition as I go, and truthfully I’m a happier camper tonight. I think mainly it’s due to the ministrations of my brother, who did a lot of spasm relaxation techniques (lay person’s description) on my low back today—for an hour and a half or so. When he’s working to release your back, his hands may well be on your head, but it’s magic, to me, that he can say, “Yeah, it all goes to that one spot” and point to the place in my low back I knew hurt. I won’t fool—even his low impact techniques sometimes hurt like fury, but by the time I got off the treatment table my back was ever so much improved—pain free. John and Cindy, my sister-in-law, do a two-man technique that involves pushing legs straight in the air and gradually back toward my head. John said I tolerated it well, and Cindy said she couldn’t believe how flexible I was. Music to my ears.

We went to Carshon’s for lunch—best Reuben ever—and as we left, John observed that I was walking pretty well and that the fact I didn’t hurt so soon after treatment was a good sign. Tonight I do feel better than I have in a long time. A bonus; both during treatment and at lunch, I had a great visit with both of them. John asked about my tremor and I said I’d had it for a long time—it’s the reason I don’t take the juice in communion, because I can see grape juice all down the front of whatever I’m wearing. He laughed and laughed, but it’s true. I’ve always had shaky hands. It was that kind of a visit—we caught up on kids and other things.

It was a hectic day at my house with all kinds of workmen, loud saws, and noxious fumes. I can’t tell any progress in the bathroom, except they were under the house and there’s a big hole where the shower will be. But my kitchen counter went in, and I am thrilled with it—it’s going to make my kitchen looks so much lighter and brighter—and speckled as it is, it won’t show every spilled drop of everything like the old counter Formica, a dead, dull gray, did. I stop every time I go in there and admire it. No pictures—I don’t think pictures of vast empty counters tell you much. Lesson learned as I cleared the counters for this work—I have way too much junk in my kitchen. I will be judicious about what I put back.

So here I am, back to being a happy camper. Bear with me, please.


Sunday, September 27, 2015

Remembering when....

What a delightful evening. Carole Tayman and Bill Sheridan, friends from the ‘80s, were in town and came for Sunday supper. In the years when they lived two blocks or so from me, they came for Sunday supper every week. Those were the days when I sometimes had twenty people on Sunday night—my family (you had to have a really good excuse to miss Sunday supper), my brother’s family, and assorted friends. I look back and wonder that I had the energy and imagination to cook all those meals, but at the time I loved it, loved presiding over a full table. I can’t even remember many of the things I served, though I know one night when TCU Press was working on a cookbook of Texas recipes, I fixed a cornbread/hamburger/black-eyed pea dish, and my brother looked at me and asked, “Sis, is the budget the problem?”

One of the dishes I cooked was King Ranch Chicken, and when I asked Carole if there was any particular dish they remembered and wanted, that was it. She had apparently tried to follow my recipe, and it hadn’t come out right (not sure how you can go wrong with that casserole, but ….). It makes a good-sized dish, and I was looking forward to leftovers but there were none—we ended up sharing with some girls helping a friend move into my guest house for a temporary stay. Another story for another time.

But Carole, Bill, and I had the most wonderful time remembering days gone by, catching up on family and friends, nudging each other’s memories—the way Bill used to stand bouncing their daughter when she was an infant (we thought he’d have St. Vitus dance forever), the funny phone message Jamie used to leave on my phone—they called just to hear what he’d said, trips to friends’ ranch in East Texas, Sunday dinners when my brother required each of us to report on our week or tell what we were thankful for,  tree trimming parties and holiday dinners. It made me realize that we had woven our lives together but now that they’ve been away for almost twenty years, we are still family.

Side note: their daughter, my goddaughter, now twenty-seven, was the first to call me Juju, the name that has stuck with most but not all of my grandchildren.

I am blessed with family and extended family and feel so fortunate.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Sometimes Life Rushes at You—or is there a spot on the moon?

            Life surely rushed at me yesterday. Thursday, after some steroids, my hip felt so much better that I thought I was Wonder Woman. Walking the aisles of the grocery stores disabused me of that idea, and I came home with a sore hip and a discouraged soul. Yesterday a good friend (she calls me her Fort Worth mom because her mom is in Canada) took my list and did my Central Market shopping for me. I was grateful for the chance to stay off my feet pretty much.

But early that morning, Lewis Bundock, one of the two brothers doing my remodeling, stuck his head in my office door to say the kitchen counter would go in next Wednesday. My understanding was they wouldn’t even think about the kitchen until the bathroom was complete, but I don’t guess the tile man got that message. I blanched at the idea of having to clean off the counter, but Lewis pointed out I had Monday and Tuesday. Then in a bit he stuck his head in to say change in plans: the counter would go in Monday morning.

I have a longstanding date to cook dinner for friends who will only be in town this weekend. We’ll have supper Sunday night on the deck, since this house is a dirty, dusty mess, and the Bundocks tell me not to think about cleaning it until they’re out of here. It’s so bad I think even the dog is dusty, though neighbor Jay says she’s just graying more. Between the hip and the kitchen counter, Sunday’s dinner looms large—though we do what we have to do and somehow it all gets done.

Then a doctor’s office called to tell me I will have an MRI next Friday. And an agent wrote to decline reading my entire Chicago historical manuscript because she didn’t find the characters came off the page in the sample (a problem to think about much later). My email went crazy. I had planned to write a thousand words that morning—between all that was going on and the never-ending email, I wrote maybe five sentences.

Around 5:30, looking forward to dinner with a friend, I began to worry about why she was so late—perhaps she meant me to meet her instead of picking me up. Turns out someone had pulled out in front of her so sharply that she hit him, had to chase him down though when she got him to stop he was apologetic and said it was all his fault. Let’s hope he sticks to that story with his insurance people. Meantime, she arrived at my house shaken and frustrated and angry at the rigmarole she would now face. We were so late getting to the restaurant that the owner called to make sure I was all right.

Good things about the day: I had a delightful lunch with Melinda at our favorite small Italian place where we always take small bottles of wine—she orders chicken piccata and I always have bresaola served with grana, greens, and a lemony vinaigrette. So good. After I told Melinda all my troubles, they didn’t seem so bad—that’s what friends are for.

Kathie and I had a good dinner and a good visit in spite of her accident. We agreed it was a bad day for both of us—she had other things going on in addition to the accident. She was worried about a museum presentation she’ll give Monday and was worrying ahead to next weekend when she’ll have her son’s family and will, for the first time, babysit a six-year-old girl and three-year-old boy by herself. I told her she’d be fine.

And last night? I wrote a thousand words.

All my troubles shall pass. I know that. Guess I’m just whining.

Friday, September 25, 2015

The Pope and Congress--a first-person account

 As I mentioned yesterday, my friend Carol Roark is in Washington, DC, for three months while her husband, former Texas Congressman Lon Burnam, does some work for the Friends Committee on National Legislation. Here’s Carol’s account of the morning with the Pope at the Capitol, reprinted with her permission. I like the sense of immediacy.

Some of you may think it strange that I would make an effort (getting up at 5 a.m. and arriving at the Capitol by 6 a.m. and then waiting for three hours) to see a Pope. I think I even surprised myself with my degree of interest. Call me perpetually curious -- think that sums it up. The interest that he has sparked by being willing to speak about issues like the Syrian refugee crisis and climate change gives me hope. I don't agree with all of his positions, but I do respect him.

The crowd was very congenial, and I had a great time chatting with my nearby seatmates. Lon and I will likely get together with an attorney who works with the federal court system. She and I had a great time talking, and she is very interested in knowing about what Lon is doing with the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL). Security was so tight that I could walk off and leave my purse on the chair without worrying that anyone would bother it (or snag my seat). They even had border patrol agents from El Paso as part of the security detail - every uniform and flavor of "officer" that you can imagine. I was very lucky that Congressman Marc Veasey's office offered me the one "seated" ticket they had for the lower terrace of the Capitol. It meant that I didn't have to stand for five hours.

The Jumbotron and the crowd fired up with a scene of the Pope greeting well wishers outside the Vatican Embassy. One little kid dropped a piece of paper, and the Pope bent down, picked it up, and handed it back to him. Class act. We watched (much laughter and appreciative head nods) as the entourage made up of huge SUVs escorted the tiny Fiat on its way to the Capitol -- a great visual statement if there ever was one. The Vatican press corps was quite chic -- tailored suits and leather backpacks.

 The Pope gave his speech in English, which meant that he spoke slowly and deliberately. The crowd seemed to hang on every word -- as if waiting for him to mention their favorite issue so they could cheer. At one point, both Boehner and Biden (sitting behind the Pope) were twiddling their thumbs, but someone obviously sent them a message to stop -- because they both stopped at about the same time. As you'll hear in all the news reports, Pope Francis framed his message around the lives and work of four Americans: Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Dorothy Day, and Thomas Merton and the values they advocated.

Lon told Anna Tinsley, a Fort Worth Star-Telegram reporter, that I had been to the speech, so she was eager to talk to me to get a "local" angle. I'm not sure if I'll make the cut for tomorrow's story, but will be interested to see how she interprets what I said -- which was basically that the Pope has an important message to share whether you agree with him or not, and I think it is important to listen to what he has to say.

Photos by Carol Roark

Thursday, September 24, 2015

All hail Papa Francesco

Here I sit, freshly showered, full of the half hamburger I brought home from lunch at the Swiss Pastry Shop (they have the best hamburgers), ready to write a thousand words—my goal for tonight. But instead my mind is on the Pope.

A friend who is in DC for three months wrote that she had been sitting on the steps of the Capitol since 5:30, met many interesting people from all over the country who talked about their reasons for being there, expected to have a good view of the Pope when he arrived. I could almost sense the awe of the occasion from her pictures and text. Pope Francis’ visit to the U.S. is a momentous, attitude-changing event.

I missed most of the Pope’s address today. I heard some in the car—I’ve been told he’s self-conscious about his English, although commentators say he speaks it better than he realizes. I understood individual words (not always easy for the hearing impaired) but I couldn’t put it all together into a continuous thread. I missed the evening news recap—company for happy hour—but found a website that gives valuable insight into many aspects of the Pope’s visit and its impact. If you’re interested, go to  It’s an admittedly liberal site but I think it gives a clear and unbiased look at the Pope and his recent encyclical. Read “The Pope hits a triple hitter.”

I like the Holy Father because he articulates much of what I’ve thought—his concern for humanity over the rules of the church (telling leaders to forget about abortion gay marriage, etc.) and concentrate on helping the poor of God’s people. I have long believed that we are indeed our brother’s keeper—only regret that I don’t act on that enough. And he called today for abolishing the death penalty, which I think is barbaric and a terrible blot on our country’s reputation—especially in Texas. I love that he rides around in the back seat of a Fiat and refuses to wear the traditional red shoes. This is a man whose concern for humanity outweighs his sense of self-importance—rare, I suspect, even in popes.

Sure, I disagree with him on some points, but sometimes I wish he could run for president. I think he outshines our current candidates. And I’m sorry I’m a spectator for this event. I, who hate crowds, would have loved to be in front of the Jumbotron this morning.



Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Good times shared, old times recalled

             Forty years ago I was happily married (or so I thought) with four young children. We had good friends, also happily married (so they thought) with three children about the ages of ours. Both husbands were doctors—I throw that in though I’m not sure what it tells.  The two families shared many dinners, pool parties, holidays—we were close friends.

Then, almost simultaneously, we both divorced. For a year or two, Nancy and I went out to dinner, but we mostly talked about what was wrong with our exes—we had neither one sought the divorce—and I guess that got to be burdensome. She was busy with her work as an OR nurse, eventually in charge of a large staff, and I was working and raising my babies. We drifted apart, and I didn’t hear from her for years. Thirty years we decided today.

A month or so I looked her up in the phone book, called, and she sounded delighted. But it didn’t work out for her to plan a get-together right then. Maybe early last week, she called, and we arranged to have dinner on Friday night. Then a bug of some kind got my stomach, and I had to cancel. So today we finally had lunch. She lives downtown but came to my part of town, and I thought of taking her to a small, quiet sandwich shop—but it was closed. So we went to Carshon’s, the deli where she said she hadn’t been in years. Apparently she had a hunger for corned beef, so all was good.

It was interesting to me that we didn’t do a lot of “Remember when” stuff. We talked about what we’re doing today, what and where our children are, how we like retirement. There was no regret for the past. I found Nancy to be as full of fun, wit and laughter as she always was. At one point she looked at me and said, “We’ve had interesting lives, haven’t we?” and I agreed. Some of our today stories are tinged with sadness, but for the most part we agreed that we are so much better off single and we are happy with our lives.

Yes, we have happy memories but also some unhappy ones, and I’m glad we’ve both put them behind us. Now that we’ve reconnected, I’m sure we’ll see each other again and more often. I told her one mutual friend sent love, and she said, “Oh, I’d love to see her.” So next time I cook for Linda, I’ll invite Nancy.

Reconnecting is really good. Got an old friend you haven’t heard from in years? Give him or her a call. Some people just aren’t good communicators, and whoever it is might be really glad to hear from you. I recommend it.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Short blog on whining

 Short blog tonight because all I would do is whine about my hip and back. Instead of wallowing in my pity party, I’m taking some steps forward. Will have a nerve conduction test on my legs tomorrow; will make arrangements to have another osteopathic treatment; and will make a new physical therapy appointment at the clinic where I went so successfully before.

Today I reached the nadir of my self-pity. Hip hurt so badly I could barely walk, lurching from one solid substance, like a table, to another, like a door frame. Had to ask Jordan to get someone to bring Jacob home. But I know that’s no way to live, and I won’t live like that forever. So I took some positive steps. By this evening, my hip is better, which my brother tells me is just from moving around. However he did agree that maybe I overdid it over the weekend—two grocery stores and the hardware one day, and dinner for four the next. So today I declined, with regret, lunch with two of my very favorite friends.

But I’m moving forward, folks. Just watch my dust. And do you know how wonderful leftover mushroom stroganoff tastes the next day? Oh my. Heavenly.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

A sumptuous supper—or maybe not

There were four of us for supper tonight, and I warned my neighbors it would not be a sumptuous supper—but maybe it turned out that way.  For an appetizer, I split two figs per person, topped with a piece of almost cooked bacon and crumbled goat cheese, and broiled. Forgot the step where you were supposed to drizzle with balsamic, but they were rich and good nonetheless. I got the idea from an online occasional newsletter called Hi-Made Foods. I can’t recommend it enough. They have a restaurant in the Hill Country, though I’m not sure where. But if I’m ever headed that way I’m going to look it up and be sure to eat there. Once again, I forgot to take pictures, and the figs made a lovely platter.

For supper, we had a recipe I’ve been wanting to try—mushroom stroganoff. I got it from the September 2015 issue of Southern Living. All the ingredients of stroganoff but no meat, just lots of mushrooms. Since I’m a great do-it-ahead cook I made the sauce—up to the point of adding sour cream—about five. Then when I reheated it, I thought it too thick, so I added about a half a cup of white wine, heated that, and then added sour cream. Where it called for parsley garnish, I used chives from my herb pots. Delicious, if rich.

So it was a simple meal—appetizer, main dish, salad—but perhaps as Jay said a sumptuous one. I’d fix it all again.

Today is my oldest daughter’s birthday—I won’t embarrass her by saying which one, but I will tell the story that she’s heard too often: she’s the only one of my babies that I know exactly where I was and what I was doing when she was born. I was sitting in the Atlanta airport, waiting to fly to North Carolina to stay at my parents’ house. Megan was a fussy, sickly baby—she certainly taught me what colic is—so they kept her until she was eighteen days old, plenty of time for us to be back home and get that phone call from the Edna Gladney Home. I hate to think if we’d been still in NC when they called. She is one of the treasures of my life.

Other than that, a down day. My hip and my back hurt, and I’m depressed about it, but have to get over whining and wondering if what I really need is counseling. Grateful for Subie who helped fix the appetizers, made the salad, and did most of the dish cleanup. I comfort myself that this too shall pass—I will not live the rest of my life either hurting or being afraid I’m going to hurt any minute.

On that down note, tomorrow will be a better day. God bless, everyone.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

What are you looking forward to?

A good friend asked me the other night over dinner what I was looking forward to this fall. “Any trips?” This is a woman who travels all over the world, sometimes alone, sometimes with a friend. She knows I’m not much on travel, but that was to her the automatic question. Tonight, another friend said, “I get antsy if I don’t travel. I haven’t been anywhere since August.” August? Barely a month ago.

They got me to thinking about what I look forward to, because I suppose everyone has to have something in the wings that pulls them forward. My idea of travel is pretty much limited to visits to my kids, all of whom live in Texas. So I am looking forward to an October visit with my oldest daughter, Megan, and her family in Austin. My former colleague and now good friend, Melinda, and I go for Texas Book Festival. I used to spend Saturday and Sunday working at the festival, but now that I’m retired I leave that to Melinda and I hang out with my family. Megan said this year they’re expecting some humongous number of people at the festival and her advice was to avoid it—I think I’ll do just that. But Melinda and I stop for lunch at carefully picked places on the way down, then have happy hour with a good friend of hers a Z Tejas, and Monday morning breakfast with Barbara Whitehead, who has designed books for TCU Press since I can remember.

But beyond that trip, I look forward to small things. I told Sue (my Canadian daughter) tonight, that I was looking forward to her visit. I’m looking forward to a visit the last weekend of the month from old friends who moved away many years ago. They wrote they’d be in Dallas, and so I invited them for Sunday supper—when their daughter, my godchild, was young they always came for Sunday supper (that girl is now 26 or 27). I asked if there was any special dish they remembered, and got the answer “King Ranch Chicken.” So my menu is already set. It will be good to catch up.

I’m always looking forward to a call from The Millionaire (remember that old TV show?), and more realistically I’m hoping to hear from the agent to whom I sent three chapters, at her request, of my historical novel.

And then there’s a cocktail hour reception to preview the reunion of the cast of Lonseome Dove. Not sure how I got on the invitation list but I did, and Subie and I will go.

Before we know it, Thanksgiving and Christmas will be upon us. I’m thinking this year I might spend Thanksgiving at my brother’s ranch, and then Christmas will be an Alter holiday with all of us together.

Yep, I may not travel much, but there’s a lot ahead to look forward to. And I think that helps keep a person young—something that’s been on my mind lately. After my “Meltdown” post last night I have to report that I am back “at myself” though I wore my back out with trips to two groceries and the hardware store. And that lamb chop that wasn’t last night? I had such a good one tonight, cooked just right on my Jenn-Air grill that I chewed on the bone.

Life is good. Blessings on all of you. What are you looking forward to?

Friday, September 18, 2015


I had a meltdown yesterday, something I rarely have and even more rarely admit to. But this was sort of an eye-opening experience for me—and a reassurance of what I forgot yesterday: this too shall pass.

I didn’t sleep well the night before and woke feeling sick to my stomach in the wee hours—when everything is much worse. Nothing like three o’clock in the morning blues. Yesterday I had no appetite, nothing appealed; I was exhausted; I was depressed, convinced that it was aging, and I would never again have the energy or ambition that I once enjoyed. At first I attributed it to perhaps an extra glass of wine out at dinner the night before and too much rich food—a cheese tray and a fried crab cake with aioli sauce. The best of the cheese was a brie with fig jam—yep, rich.

But when the malaise and stomach instability was still with me last night, I decided it was more. In retrospect, I think the stress of remodeling played into it, along perhaps with dehydration. Then I told myself over-analyzing was destructive, and I would be better today. Not sure myself believed me. Didn’t sleep well again last night—hip and back pain, leg cramps, insomnia. But my stomach seemed to have settled down. Cottage cheese, my comfort food, didn’t work for dinner but I eventually ate half a peach and a piece of chocolate.

Today I was much better—most importantly, my attitude was better. Stomach better but still no interested in food—tea with honey for breakfast, peanut butter toast for lunch. Tonight I thought a nice lean loin pork chop sounded good so I defrosted it—turned out I defrosted a quarter pound of ground pork. Had some lemon/chive pasta in the cupboard and had it with butter and parmesan—plus a banana, to combat the leg cramps I had last night.

So tonight I am convinced I will be “back at myself” tomorrow, with an appetite and an ambition to write and, barring back pain, my usual energy which, okay, isn’t what it was twenty years ago.

So what did I learn? This too shall pass is really true. No, I can’t do what I did twenty years ago. And, yes, I have to pay attention to my body—hydration, diet, wine consumption, sleep.

I am blessed with children who care. Jordan tried talking me through the depths, she practically poured lemon water down my throat, she called to see how I felt. My oldest son from Tomball called twice last night and once again tonight. How can I stay down in the dumps with such loving care?

I’m back to knowing that I am blessed and a bit embarrassed that I gave in to a meltdown so easily. But as son Colin said to me, “We all have days like that.” Probably true, so if this confession helps someone else, I’ll be glad.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

But it's not Sunday!

Jordan took this picture because when she first looked into the darkened sanctuary, her thought was, “But, Mom, it’s not Sunday.” I was there to take Jacob for acolyte training, and while the organist was explaining the chancel, parts of the service, etc. to Jacob, I sat in a far corner pew. There’s something quite comforting about an empty sanctuary with afternoon light streaming through the stained glass. It hadn’t been a good day, and I sat in the silence and talked to the Lord about that, asked for his help.

Jacob kept this appointment only under threats and duress. He was not going to do it. Couldn’t we just not show up (I said his mom was meeting us and he said he didn’t care) and explain Sunday that he didn’t want to do it. I said no. The organist, who walked him through things, was good with him, and by the time he was robed and handed the whatever-it-is that lights the candles, he was quite enjoying himself. His mom came along, and since acolytes usually work in pairs, she was his partner. They walked up and down the center aisle, climbed the steps to the chancel, lit candles, practiced sitting in the correct seats simultaneously. Jordan’s comment after three trips: “That’s really a long aisle.”

There are strict requirements for an acolyte—hair brushed (his curly mop was wild and adorable after a day at school, but he was headed for a haircut), dress shoes (he had on sneakers), and I presume proper clothing under the robe. Through third grade many kids come to church in shorts and a collared shirt but Jordan says fourth grade is a transition year.

I’m proud of Jacob and of his dad, who is now a deacon in the church. When I was growing up on the South Side of Chicago, church was an important part of my life, particularly my social life. I like to see that tradition carried on.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015


They dismantled my bathroom today—took out the commode and sink (now sitting in my driveway by the garage), took out all the drawers from the built-ins (drawers will be rebuilt and re-installed) and disconnected all water. It was relatively painless, though I hear tomorrow and Friday when they pull the tile will be noisy. Meantime, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve started toward that bathroom.

I am now confined to the small—really small—bathroom off my office, which is crowded with all the stuff I cannot live without for one day. Reminds me of when I travel and am appalled at all the cosmetics and stuff a lady of my age carts around. One son-in-law always says, “What have you in here? Books?” Well, maybe that too. But I’m trying to get accustomed to this new arrangement and figure out the best way to place things.

Today, to top it off, I fell. Now, mind you, I was sitting down when I fell. Friend Betty asked how I could do that, and I said I guess only I was capable of it. But my favorite comb fell behind a flimsy wire shelf thing beneath the sink. I sat down on the floor, Indian-style, to retrieve it, reached, didn’t get it, and somehow fell backwards—I guess momentum. But I whacked my head on the closet door, which brought Jacob running. And then I couldn’t get up.

To be fair, there isn’t much maneuvering space in there. I finally worked around until I was on my knees, held on to the sink and the commode, and still couldn’t get my legs to push myself up. Jacob stood watching all this and said, “Juju, if you’re not up in five minutes, I’m calling 911.” I told him no, to call his mother, but I did struggle to my feet.  Truth be told, I was alarmed at how weak I perceived my legs to be, so the incident left me shaken.

Dinner at a nice restaurant with friends cheered me greatly, but then I thought I had trouble getting up from the chair and that discouraged me. Came home, went about my business, and it dawned on me I got up and down from my desk chair several times and from the toilet once without even thinking about it. I’ve got to stop over-thinking this leg thing.

Tell me again, please, why I wanted to redo my bathroom. Too late now though.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

It’s no joke, folks

Everyone has thoughts on Trump, pro and con, so I feel a bit presumptuous putting mine in print. But here goes. He scares the living you-know-what out of me. Jacob asks his dad repeatedly, “But what if Trump does become president,” and Christian repeats, “Let me assure you that won’t happen.” But each time he says it, a niggling thought in the back of my mind says, “But what if?” Many voices predict that Trumps meteoric rise will crash and burn any day—but it hasn’t happened yet.

I had my hair cut today, and my stylist, who is a friend, and I were imagining Donald Trump sitting next to Russia’s Putin at a summit meeting—what a battle of the egos that would be. Rosa has definite political opinions, so when the subject came up, I said, “I don’t know where you stand on Trump.” She laughed, raised her hand, and said, “Hello! I was born in Mexico!” I’d forgotten to figure that into the discussion.

I saw on Facebook tonight a woman dressed for Trump’s Dallas appearance last night. She wore a sundress made of squares of portraits of Trump. As a friend of mine commented, “There are no words.” Other posts showed people, mostly women, with equal fervor for the Donald. Is there something about a misogynist that is particularly appealing to women? If so, I missed out on that gene.

Even Bobby Jindal declares he is a madman, though that gives one pause for thought—the pot calling the kettle black. I thought the Miss America candidate—was it Miss Alabama?—put it best when she said “He is an entertainer.” Political column after column has pointed out that he has no plan (beyond that darn wall in Mexico—and I hear the Mexicans would welcome it to keep spring break troublemakers from the States out). His speech in Dallas was a rambling, disconnected diatribe of name-dropping. No substance at all. I was cheered that the protestors outside greatly outnumbered the cheerleaders inside.

His outrageous attitudes and words frighten me because I fear some people think, “Isn’t he a hoot? I’m going to vote for him just for the heck of it!” I read an editorial recently that suggested to some extent that’s how the country elected George W. Bush—on his good-old-boy charm and persuasiveness, certainly not on his political career, his business failures, or his military record—the latter two should be an embarrassment. So haven’t we learned? Would we elect a comedian because he’s persuasive and charming and overwhelming? Would we overlook the facts that he’s declared bankruptcy (I think three times), knows nothing about government, international relations, is a racist and a bigot?

Dear Lord, I pray that the owners of all the sensible voices I hear around me will cast their votes in the next presidential election.


Sunday, September 13, 2015

In Defense of Sloppy Joe

For Labor Day, the group of neighbors and former neighbors and whoever that congregates at my house planned a potluck supper. I proposed to cook sloppy Joe, so that no one would have to be out in the heat grilling hamburgers. Not a good idea—one dear friend said she really didn’t care for sloppy Joe. So we had hamburgers, Jay seasoned them, and Christian cooked them. And they were among the best burgers I’ve ever had. Christian fussed a little because everyone would be inside and he’d be outside cooking. As it turned out, most of the men went outside to kibbitz, and he had plenty of company. The men unanimously agreed that it was the swan song of my grill—an expensive Weber 15 years ago. My contractor says a good cleaning might save it, and he’ll look.

But meantime, I didn’t get my sloppy Joe. I’m not exactly sure what real sloppy Joe is. Apparently recipes are all over the place with bell pepper, lots of ketchup, sometimes vinegar, sometimes brown sugar, who knows. Mine isn’t really a sloppy Joe recipe—in the cookbook, A Jug of Wine, it’s called a wine stew. I used to fix it for the kids when they were young, and because it has hamburger I called I sloppy Joe. Sometimes we ate it on buns; sometimes in bowls like a stew—that sort of depended on who was watching their carb intake at the time.

Once Megan asked for the recipe and cooked it for Brandon, who said, “It’s really good, but it’s not sloppy Joe.” Megan wrote me caustically that apparently she was the only one who grew up thinking red wine was an essential ingredient of sloppy Joe.

After I couldn’t fix it on Labor Day, of course I got a hunger for it. So tonight, just for me, I fixed a batch of sloppy Joe. So good! If Jacob, my non-meat-eater, happens to be here for a meal, I know he’ll eat it—he loves it. But I enjoyed it tonight—actually could have eaten a second sandwich but will refrain—and I’ll have leftovers tomorrow.

So here’s my version of the recipe (I always change things) should you care to try sloppy Joe that is really wine stew. Call it whatever but enjoy.

Judy’s sloppy Joe

1 lb. ground beef

1 15-oz. can of beans (any kind you want), rinsed and drained

½ c. chopped onion

½ c. diced celery

2 Tbsp. bacon drippings (If you can bring yourself to use it in this health-conscious age, use vegetable oil, but the bacon flavor really makes a difference.)

¼ c. ketchup

1½ Tbsp. Worcestershire

Dash of Tabasco

1 tsp. salt

⅛ tsp. pepper

¼ tsp. oregano

¼ c. dry red wine

1 Tbsp. A-1 sauce (If I don’t have this, omit it; I can never tell the difference.)

Cook onion in bacon drippings. Add beef and brown. Add remaining ingredients and simmer 20 to 30 minutes.



Saturday, September 12, 2015

Football and a rant

This is going to turn into a political rant, so if you want to move on now, I understand. But first I have to say that I have never seen so much purple in a grocery store as I saw this morning—all young men. One group in purple shirts and khaki pants, another in white, long-sleeved shirts with astounding purple jeans—I pretty quickly decided they were part of a pledge class. And assorted purple shirts throughout the store. I’ve heard that people who like purple are kinder and more intelligent—hope that’s true.

As if I didn’t know, the young man who carried my groceries told me it was the opening home game. I knew—mostly because a friend was taking Jacob. I’m not much of a football fan but I am glad they won 70-7 today. I think it a bit unfair to match Stephen F. Austin against such a powerful rival, but what do I know about football.

Now, with my local family all glued to the Baylor game at their house, I’m quietly at home. There’s something nice about breakfast for dinner, and I just had bacon and poached eggs on cheese toast. Next door, the MSU/LSU game is on a big outdoor screen, so should I want some football all I have to do is turn around and look out the window. My neighbor has a smashing new deck that he built himself, and he sets a huge screen up in the yard. He was cordial about telling me to come over any time, but I’d hardly fit in that crowd—young medical people barely out of their twenties if that. Nice neighbors though. And obviously football season is all around me.

My rant: I am outraged at the conservative policy to defeat Planned Parenthood. Boehner and his cronies know the funding bill, calling for cutting all funding to PP, will not pass the Senate, and should it, the President will veto it, thereby again shutting down the government at great cost to the nation and to many individuals. But then, they figure, the public will think it’s all the Democrats fault. How na├»ve can they be? Yes, the far right will sing that song but it is so far from the truth that it seems like dirty politics (is there any other kind these days?). All this based on videos which have been proven false. There was a hearing on Capitol Hill to explore Planned Parenthood—but no representatives of the organization were invited or allowed to attend.  The House committee entitled the hearing “Exploring the Horrific Practices of the Nation’s Largest Abortion Provider.” Sure, an unbiased exploration of facts.

Don’t know for sure but I doubt PP is the nation’s largest provider, since abortions are 3% of their mission. It’s called “Don’t tell me about the good they do because my mind is made up, and I don’t want to hear!” We simply cannot let these people determine the future of our country.

See the steam coming out of my ears?

But let me add a positive note: I have tremendous admiration for Bernie Sanders for his refusal to cast aspersions on Hillary Clinton and to voice anything but praise for her. Now that’s politics as it should be.



Friday, September 11, 2015

A somber day of remembrance

Reminders of 9/11 have been everywhere today—on the TV and radio, in the newspapers, on Facebook, and in our hearts. As if we could ever forget, we have seen a barrage of photos of the horror and heard again first-person survivor accounts. In some ways I think the most eloquent tribute came from a friend who said she would post no pictures of planes or towers but simply say that the best way to honor those who died is to vow to respond in love, not hate, and to build bridges, not bombs. We will never forget.

But we have forgotten the sense of unity that brought the country together in the aftermath of that horrible, unbelievable day. People sensed that we were all in this together, and they reached out to each other. Since then, we have become, perhaps more than in decades, a people divided by race, religion, gender, origin. We have been manipulated by fear, instead of, as we did that day, vowing to stand up for our country and our fellow countrymen. We have forgotten that America is a melting pot. I pray to God that we can recover that sense and work together in brotherhood.

Son-in-law Christian came in tonight for a glass of wine with Jordan, me, and a neighbor. He proposed a toast to all who had lost their lives that day and we observed a moment of silence.

Although I have had enough of those fear-inspiring pictures, I have to say that my favorite picture of the day was of the sixteen-year-old Labrador, the oldest surviving rescue dog who participated in the mission to save people at the World Trade Towers. I hear he was treated to a plane ride, a limousine, a suite, and a hot dog for dinner. Love it!

My favorite story to come out of the horror came from a flight attendant on a plane headed to the US when they were told air space was closed and to land at the nearest airfield. They landed at Gander, Newfoundland, along with over 50 other planes. Gander, a town of 10,000 some, suddenly had an equal number of refugees on their hands. Towns within a radius of 75 kilometers opened schools and other public building for shelters; the elderly were housed in private homes, as was one very pregnant woman who was in a home directly across from a medical clinic. The people cooked for their guests and took them on tours. By the time, the passengers were able to leave Gander, they had bonded into one big family. And it was all amazingly organized—all passengers returned to their correct planes.

Those are wonderful stories to come out of a horrific event. Let’s all take them to heart and practice the same kind of humanity in our daily lives—especially in this contentious election season.

Blessings to all.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Nine-year-olds, school, and clearing out for remodeling

Today started off brilliantly as I sailed into the ophthalmologist’s office for my 9:30 appointment. Only trouble is the appointment is at 8:40 tomorrow. Subie had dropped me off so I wouldn’t have to drive home with dilated eyes—when I called her she laughed aloud and said the cleaning she went to pick up wasn’t ready either. “I hope this isn’t an omen for the day.” It wasn’t for me, except that I forgot to take my purse off my shoulder before unfastening my seat belt to get out of the car and got thoroughly tangled.

This afternoon I had not four but two nine-year-olds—much easier. They spent their time outside decimating the reptile population. Caught a lizard, a gecko and a small snake. Baird, our guest, apparently knows a lot about nature, so it was a good learning experience for Jacob. Baird has a brother and lives on a street with lots of kids, so he spends his afternoons outdoors compared to Jacob who, unless he brings someone home, has no one around and comes in and does homework and watches TV. So it was a good afternoon. Baird took the snake home, and Jacob kept the gecko and lizard in a plastic bag with grass and stuff, with air holes punched in it. His mom said via phone that no, it was staying at Juju’s which caused me some indignation. But a few minutes ago, Jacob told me he let the creatures go, and I praised him. Baird apparently has terrariums for his finds, and Jacob is welcome to go visit them.

I talked to another mother from Jacob’s class about the flipped classroom. My daughter-in-law, Lisa, explained this to me—she teaches 7th grade math. The kids take home a video which is essentially the lecture the teacher would have given. Then the next day they do the homework resulting from that video, with the teacher right there to explain, correct, and help. Sounds like a wonderful plan to me.

Jacob, my picky eater, had two hot dogs, two helpings of chips, an entire broccoli crown, and a chocolate brownie for supper. I asked if I could check to see if his leg is hollow, and he replied, “At least I ate.” Find the things that kid likes, and he eats a ton. He came home from camp telling me proudly he’d learned to eat hamburgers—but I’ve seen no evidence of it since.

The evening settled down into spelling and reading, and I began work on the bathroom. At least I have a better grasp of what I need to do, but it is work best done in the early morning when my back feels good. I did make a start on the medicine chest and sort of line up what needs to be done in my mind. Not many free mornings to work on it between now and the dismantling. I’m beginning to see the enormity of this whole thing.

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

A Kick in the Pants

Bathroom as it looks today
Not tided up for a picture
Note the wonderful beveled mirror--it stays
Sometimes we need a kick in the pants to jolt us out of our self-absorption. Just got the call I’ve been waiting for—they will start tearing out my bathroom next week. Means I’ll spend the weekend hauling stuff out, sorting and purging, putting what I need in the small half/bath. I’ll have to learn to go to that bath in the middle of the night, adjust my whole pattern. Then, when they tear the kitchen apart, I won’t be able to cook, etc. The contractors, Bundock Construction, have kept this house running for over twenty years, and the assure me we're not doing this for resale value--we're doing it to give me a safe bathroom. Tub goes away, and I'll have a walk-in shower.

We are keeping the built-ins
so typical of a house the age of mine
Suddenly I feel all this will energize me, push me out of my lingering depression over my foot and leg. I spend too much time wondering if I hurt because I don’t walk or I don’t walk because I hurt. I know many have much more severe pain and worse problems than I can even imagine, and I’m looking forward to a doctor’s appointment Monday, hoping for diagnostic as well as therapeutic effects. But meantime, this has given me a great sense of optimism.

Big problem: keeping the dog safely corralled with all the workmen coming in and out of the house—and keeping the house reasonably clean as they cart out tile and spread dust everywhere. It’s going to be an experience and a challenge, just what I need.

Also keeping the wonderful old
medicine chest and
the relatively new sink
I’ve heard that rats don’t like commotion. In fact, I read a post that said to just bang on the ceiling if you hear rats in your attic. I think I have them—again!—because Sophie stands in the hallway and barks at the ceiling. So I’m counting on the construction commotion top chase them away. A side benefit you might say.

I probably won’t get much writing done, but who knows? With all the commotion, I may just retreat to my office, and with the renewed energy, write an entire novel while they redo my bathroom. But how will I get my afternoon nap?

For distraction this afternoon, I had four screaming nine-year-old boys—chaos! They didn’t want snacks, just wanted water, and I left them in the family room (or whatever we’re calling it these days) with frequent trips to check. At one point, Jacob told me, “Juju, we’re having a boy talk.” I asked if that meant I should leave and he said yes. Of course, when Jordan got here, they were starving—ended up eating cheese toast and hot dogs.

Ended the day with a nice supper with Betty at Fixture—we split nachos with brie and cranberry salsa and truffle mac and cheese—an odd combination but good. Because there seemed to be a breeze, we ate outside (much easier on my ears) which was pleasant. Then the rain came, at first gentle and then fairly steady, and everything turned steamy and hot.

They promise a cold front tonight—I thought it was last night.

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Ho, hum! Just another day

Ho, hum! The day after Labor Day and not much is new. A huge crowd greeted Kim Davis when she got out of jail, hailing her as a martyr for religious freedom. To me, the most interesting thing about that is that both Mike Huckabee and Ted Cruz were on hand to greet her, and Huckabee managed to body block Cruz out of the publicity. No small trick that. One of the Republican candidates (who can keep them straight?) is saying that the killing of a Houston-area law enforcement officer is directly the fault of President Obama. Why not? He’s been blamed for everything else. Dick Cheney is pushing for war with Iran but meanwhile some country is about to indict him—and Halliburton—for bribery. Donald Trump claims his prestigious prep school was every bit as hard as Vietnam—that ought to win him the veteran vote. See? Nothing changes.

Locally the big news is an expected wet cold front. I may wait up until two a.m. to see if it really arrives. Early September is soon for a permanent cool down but a little relief will be nice.

Busy day—breakfast with the Book Ladies, who sometimes talk about books and lots of the time don’t. They’ve been doing that for at least twenty years, probably more, and I look forward to those monthly meetings—and treating myself to an egg on buttered toast. Supposed to go to lunch with my former colleague and now good friend Melinda, but she was overwhelmed with a project—so I offered her lunch at home. Nice to know I can whip together a pretty, ladylike luncheon with little planning. We had chilled salmon (out of the can but that good kind I order from the Northwest) on a bed of lettuce, with cherry tomatoes and hard-boiled eggs, potato salad from last night, and cantaloupe and raspberries. Looked pretty and tasted delicious. For supper, I went to pick up Phil and his dog, since Subie wasn’t going, and we met the neighbors at the Grill. I had my heart set on a loaded baked potato—but they didn’t have any! So I ordered cheese grits—who knew they had peppers in them? The conversation and laughter made up for my lightweight dinner—which was probably good for me.

Jordan and Christian are down to one car again, so she will take mine in the morning. A good plan because it forces me to stay home and work.

A friends asked me the other day what I was looking forward to—a trip, a special event? I said not really anything—Christmas is too far away to think about. Maybe that’s why today seems humdrum—I need some anticipation!

Sweet dreams, y’all!

Monday, September 07, 2015

The Treasure of Neighbors

My close circle of neighbors celebrated Labor Day today with the traditional potluck cookout. Turned out to be a farewell party for my grill, which the gentlemen—who did the grilling—declared was on its last legs. I told Jay I wanted my hamburger rare, and he said he didn’t think they could do it any other way. Failing or not, the grill—and the men gathered around it—produced some mighty tasty burgers. We had cole slaw, ranch beans, potato salad, all the fixings for burgers, and rich brownies for dessert. A fitting end to summer.

But more important we were all gathered together. I love these people and feel so supported and loved by them. We are a motley crew, ranging in age from nine-year-old Jacob—who goes off and does his own thing—to David Halbower who is in his nineties. Although not neighbors, my daughter, son-in-law and Jacob are always included in the group, as is a former neighbor and her partner—new since the days she lived next door to me. The group includes Jay, who calls himself my other son because neither of my sons live here and he’s the one I call on often to do boy chores; Greg, who keeps my yard and lawn respectable and has a fine sense about plants—to Greg, you never pull a plant out as long as its green; if it’s a weed, it becomes compost. His wife, Jaimie, a wonderful cook, complains that he thinks everything becomes compost. Christian is always ready to do small chores, and I realize I can no longer do big groups without Jordan’s help.  She’s the most efficient hostess I know—but, hey, look where she learned. Subie and Phil are longtime friends returned to FW after a 20-year absence, and I am so glad to have them back and in the neighborhood. Sophie is glad when they visit, because they bring two labs—Phil’s relatively new seeing-eye dog and the one who retired last winter. Santiago is too old to play but wants constant tummy rubs; Porter will run and play with Sophie, and she ends up exhausted. Sue calls me her Fort Worth mom since her mom lives in Ottawa, Canada, and I have fallen in love with Teddy, her love. These people help me keep my house running and my spirits up, all with a lighthearted banter and teasing—and sometimes more household advice than I need.
When they’re all together, I can’t hear any conversation, and I sort of sit back and smile at them, like a benevolent old lady—good gravy! Is that what I’ve become?

I realized again tonight the benefits of potluck—I only had to make potato salad, put out plastic plates and flatware and glasses—yes, we recycle. Everyone takes their own dishes home. Easy peasy, especially with Jordan keeping up with the kitchen as she goes. Kudos to Jay for seasoning the hamburgers and to Christian for cooking them. A lovely evening.

And thanks to all these wonderful people for keeping me in their midst. I’m in awe of my blessings.

Sunday, September 06, 2015

My get-up-and-go has went

I planned all along for a quiet day at home today. I talked to the Lord about it and asked his forgiveness for not going to church. I needed a day without challenges, a day when I could sit and my desk and work, not feeding people, not having to meet deadlines or the end of the school day or be somewhere at a certain time. A day when I could be me.

But even with that comforting plan in mind I was surprised at my lack of energy this morning. I told myself I’d water the plants later—it’s 9 p.m. and I haven’t done it yet. I did go out and get the Sunday paper—which no longer takes a satisfying hour to read. After the paper, Facebook and email, I planned to dig into the novel I have halfway written. I suddenly can see the overall arc of the story and some stunning (well, I think they are!) scenes to add.

Bt my day didn’t quite work out that way. Morning household chores took longer than I thought—though now I can’t even recall what they were except watering house plants and folding the cleaning rags I’d washed. Back at my desk, I finished uploading the formatted manuscript for Murder at Peacock Mansion to Amazon’s CreateSpace—the print division. That was a major accomplishment. Yesterday I’d spent too many hours on it, only to find out that CreateSpace doesn’t like Explorer and I had to do it in Google Chrome.

Then a friend asked if she could send me her manuscript to read for tense changes. I at first put her off because I couldn’t meet her deadline—this Friday. She stretched it a bit, and I said sure. She sent it immediately, and there went my day. I was absolutely hooked. I should say this is a writer with a major reputation for both cozy mysteries and historical fiction—I can’t tell you the project, because it is too far yet from publication, but I will when appropriate because I am absolutely engaged. I am also learning from her about the process of self-publishing like the big guys. I fear I have a long way to go, but in my defense I will say she has an agent and she doesn’t upload her own manuscripts—the agent does that for her.

Took time out during the day—in bits and spurts—to make potato salad for ten for tomorrow night’s potluck cookout with my neighbors. It will be here, of course, so I’m doubly grateful that Jordan is back from Alaska and will help me. I did get out plastic plates and flatware and napkins but other than the potato salad (which was a big chore) I have done nothing to prepare. Not sure what else I need to do.

A word about the potato salad—it’s the County Line recipe (all over the internet). I first tasted it at a relative’s wedding celebration and truthfully, I made a pig of myself I ate so many helpings. It has a ton of dill pickle relish in it, which I would tell you I don’t like, but it is so addictive. Look it up online. For an expected ten people, I made half a batch.

So that was my day—a pleasant one, my energy and enthusiasm returned, and I expect to be, as a good friend says, “back at myself” tomorrow. But it sure was a nice day—with good leftovers in the fridge for my lunch and supper.

Saturday, September 05, 2015

I don't give a fig...or maybe I do

Another part of summer almost passed me by—the deliciousness of figs. There’s a bit of history here. When my parent retired to North Carolina, they had a huge row of fig bushes, so tall we used to put my oldest son on the top of our van too pick the fruit from the top. Mom served them many ways—I especially remember stewed—and I didn’t much think I cared for them.

I have a fig bush tucked away in a corner of the house in the back yard. For years, it bore a little fruit—not much but a little. And the birds and squirrels usually beat me to the figs before they ripened. One years it was an infestation of rats. My daughter was sitting on the deck, late at night, and asked, “Do you hear that squeaking?” I said I did, and she said, “It’s rats.” I dismissed it—what did she know about rats? Turned out she was right—they would boldly steal figs in front of us, or we’d see them running in the trees at night. My friend Elizabeth, who lived in the garage apartment for a while, would look out and see them frolicking in the yard in mid-day. Once one fell out of a tree and missed Elizabeth’s wine glass by inches. By the time I called an exterminator, the figs were gone. Now, the tree doesn’t bear—maybe it was the trim it got last year or the year before, and maybe it’s the fact that it’s tucked away in the shadiest corner and gets no sun. I stopped worrying—or thinking—about figs.

Until a few days ago the newspaper had a recipe for fig salad with gorgonzola toast. I decided to make it for a Saturday night dinner guest. The same night I found the recipe, my friend Gayla came to pick up her new dog and took me for an elegant dinner that included a fig and grilled plum salad—divine!

So tonight I fixed the recipe—it called for making a dressing of figs with balsamic vinegar, olive oil, Dijon, salt and pepper—and water if it was too thick. Next time I think I’d forego the dressing and just use a light vinaigrette. But the combination of figs and gorgonzola toast was magic. We had also fixed ourselves a sort of chacuterie/antipasto platter—salami, cheese, chopped liver, deviled eggs. But I was full from the salad. Lots of leftovers for tomorrow.

I’m sad that figs are going out of season just when I discovered how wonderful they are.

Friday, September 04, 2015

Where Has Summer Gone?

Is it Indian summer yet? Somehow I can’t shed my summer afternoon sleepiness. The last two days, Jacob went home with buddies, and I came home, fresh from a nap, and promptly went back to bed. Today I slept at least another hour.

Somehow this summer I seem to have forgotten how to do Texas summers. Now that it’s almost over—Labor Day marks the unofficial end for most of us—I’m back in the swing of things. I’ve always, every summer, watered my porch plants first thing. This year, my coleus (I have a shady porch) spoke to me in no uncertain terms about its need for water. Jordan would come by in the late afternoon and stop to water before she came in the house. Finally, about the first of August, I got in the swing of things and watered every morning. Yesterday because of an appt. that required an early departure, I forgot. By evening one coleus in particular looked pitiful—though this morning when I went out to water it had perked up a bit.

Usually in summer, my front porch and the windows in the family room are alive with geckos. This summer, my theme song is “Where have all the geckos gone?” I did finally see on fat little translucent fellow on the window in the family room. When it’s dark and the outdoor lights are on, their little bodies are translucent. Once I had a gecko in my bathroom—every morning when I sat on the commode, he’d come out to visit. I miss him, and I can’t help wondering if the disappearance of geckos is like the threat to bees—due to all those pesticides we use.

Another summer thing I forgot—fruit salads, with all the wonderful summer fruits. I’m not much on watermelon but I love a good, sweet cantaloupe, with halved strawberries, sliced peaches, blueberries, and sliced bananas. Yet, it’s only been the last two or three weeks that I’ve made fruit salads, and I noticed this weekend that the blueberries were sometimes a little tart. I never put raspberries in salads because they’re fragile and tend to get overwhelmed—besides I hide them in the back of the fridge for myself. I don’t buy mango either, as it’s so hard to cut up and the already cut-up fruit in the grocery tends to be under-ripe. But I’ve let the best pf summer foods slip by except for corn on the cob.

In the spring it was usually too wet to be on the deck; then it was too hot. We’ve gotten no use out of it since early spring, and I’m hoping fall will bring deck weather. Jacob suggested tonight he’d like to get rid of the table and chairs so it could be a play deck. Not likely. Weather had also prevented me from putting the top down on my convertible, though that’s no unusual for Texas summers. Lately, I can tell summer is beginning to leave because if I have to go somewhere early, I drive with the top down—it has a lovely, soothing effect.

Will I miss summer? Not the heat, nor the drought that is back upon us. But the fruits and vegetables and the light summer meals? Those long afternoon naps and lazy days in which I still got a lot done? Yes, I’ll miss those.

But the October’s bright blue skies are pretty neat. And I have some fall flowers about to bloom in my front yard.