Saturday, June 30, 2018

A perfectly lovely Saturday

For the first time all week, I had a whole day at home to myself—not need to rush to eat breakfast, shampoo my hair, get ready for the day. I could, and did, move at slow speed. But I had promised myself I would get some work done.

I spent a lot of time exploring Kindle ads and decided that the system to really boost your book sales is so complicated and takes so much time that I’d rather write and read. I have tried one tentative ad, but the more I read today the more I thought my ad would be inconsequential. If you feel inclined to search for cozy mystery on Kindle in the next few days, you should get a blurb for Murder at the Bus Depot—but it will be way down on the list of titles you see. I shall settle happily back into semi-obscurity.

Then I read for a while on a book I’m reading for a competition and found myself increasingly caught up in it. It’s a novel about incest and paranormal experiences—I think. Both subjects that I would not choose. But it’s well handled, and I’m hooked.

After lunch I tried to write on the novel I just started—I think I got maybe 500 words, but they were wishy-washy. I was talking to Christian, who was watering the yard, and I was sleepy, and I could just feel that the words weren’t right. Took a nap, got up and erased all those words, and wrote a thousand new words that are much better. My lesson? Listen to your instinct. There are times the writing just doesn’t flow. Of course, getting the wrong words down may fuel going back and getting it right. Who knows?

Tonight, a lovely peaceful dinner at the Fort Worth Club, thanks to Subie and Phil Green. A rare treat for me—steak and a huge baked potato. So good, and I got to bring part of the steak home for my lunch tomorrow. Great conversation with longtime friends. I’m feeling very spoiled and lucky in life.

Tomorrow we move into July, the month in which I turn eighty years old. Yikes! Taking my blue hair with me into the next decade.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Theology, politics, and the journalists

How Jordan is spending her day
My day

 Every morning I start my day with an online meditation from theologian Richard Rohr. Most days his words help balance me and send me in the direction I want to go. This morning, he wrote about the difference between restorative and exploitive systems of government. Restorative philosophies seek as the name implies to restore earth’s natural resources, from environmental to human. It cares for rivers and lakes and pristine wildernesses, just as it cares for the poor, the sick, the homeless. It builds toward a future. An exploitive government uses up all resources for satisfaction in the moment, with no thought for the future. It ignores all but the rich, whom it coddles, and it destroys the environment for the sake of immediate wealth.

Guess which one I think we’re living in now?

Then a bit later I read an essay about former President Obama’s expected return to politics, in some degree, for the mid-term elections. He was quoted as saying this is not, should not be a dog-eat-dog world in which people are angry all the time. Probably he’s an idealist, but if he can help us restore a bit of loving kindness to our world, I’ll be ever so grateful.

None of us should think we’re helpless in the mess that has become our country these days. We can each begin with kindness and an absence of anger to those around us, even those with whom we bitterly disagree. We can erase anger from our lives, though it isn’t easy. The absence of anger does have great health benefits.

And that brings my thoughts to the sad, sad case of the five journalists killed in Maryland yesterday. The tragedy is horrendous, made even worse if possible by the timing. Trumpf had just called journalists enemies of the people—not of the government, mind you, but of the people. One of his sycophants—apparently a person of some notoriety that I have never heard of and can’t remember or spell his last name; he’s Milo somebody—said he couldn’t wait for people to begin shooting journalists.

And then bam! Five dead.

Liberals were quick to claim that Trump and this Milo person have blood on their hands for inciting violence. That may well yet prove true, and it is horrendous that the president of our country says such things. But if we’re honest, this particular shooting was a grudge act, anger against the specific paper, fueled not by Trumpf’s words or Milo’s but by the obsessive hate of one individual who had been nursing his anger for years.

In these outrageous days, it’s too easy for those of us who resist to leap to blame everything on the president, be he legitimate or not. But if we would strengthen our argument, we must curb the anger and stick to logic, to rational arguments. It is right and good to defend journalists in the face of the awful attacks being hurled at them; it is not right to blame this one episode on Trumpf’s words.

Many will disagree with me. Bring it on. With logic, not anger, please.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Mud, memories, and words

Jamie and Melanie
Our sprinkler system goes off in the early morning on Thursdays and Sundays. For some reason known only to her, Sophie chooses Thursdays as her mornings to go wild in the yard chasing squirrels and, sometimes, chasing her own tail. She’s always so exuberant, has so much fun just racing in circles that I hate to put the kibosh on it, but this morning I looked out to see her running back and forth, kicking up wet earth as she went, and leaving the sidewalk really muddy. If that was what the sidewalk looked like, what would my floor look like? Yep, I had to mop. Mopping is not one of my major skills, so it still looks streaked. I’m counting on time to soften that look.

A sudden reminder: twenty-one years ago today, Jamie and Mel married at Robert Carr Chapel on the TCU campus. Jame is the third of my children but the first married and the first to have children. I am overwhelmed with a flood of memories of that day and of all the major milestones and small good times since. So proud of them, the life they’ve built together, and the two super daughters they’ve raised. Can I sneak a moment of blatant self-pride for having raised such a neat son?

I did it today—no, I didn’t streak my hair again. But I took the plunge and put those first words of a new novel on paper, 1200 of them. That’s a huge step. I’m sort of in-between with my fall publications—need to start promoting the novel, Contract for Chaos, but waiting to schedule cover reveal. And the cookbook, scheduled for November, is with a designer. So I can’t do much but bits here and there. If you get my newsletter, you’ll get a sneak preview of both covers, plus a recipe from the cookbook. Just write to me at and I’ll see that you get a copy promptly.

But meanwhile, those first words—on another Blue Plate Café Mystery. No title yet, except that it will follow the pattern of the series and be “Murder at ????” I know it will involve an incident from real life when a fiend of mine had her lunch interrupted by a home intruder, and I sort of think there will be a wedding, but “Murder at the Wedding” doesn’t have good karma, so I’ll work on that. As a friend of mine says, “It’s early days.” I work best if I just plunge in and begin, so as yet I’m not sure what the story will be about. Hmmm, maybe there’s a jealous ex-wife involved.

Lunch at Carshon’s, the local deli, with one of those friends who won’t back out of my driveway, so I drove. Nice visit catching up. Tonight, leftovers, and a book I’m not sure I’m wild about reading. Win some, lose some.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

A birthday dinner

Wednesday night means Betty and Judy go to dinner. No question about where to go tonight. Friend Jeannie, with whom we always celebrate our June and July birthdays, invited us to see her new penthouse at Trinity Terrace and then have dinner on the sixteenth floor. Jean, who’s been joining us for dinner lately, went with us—a jolly foursome of older ladies who don’t feel so old. Hope we don’t look it either.

Got to admit I’m one of those who is afraid of heights—it’s not enough to say I don’t like them. I’m terrified, and I panic, sweaty palms, light head, and all. Christian teased me that I would have to “gut up” and do the elevator, which I didn’t mind at all if I wasn’t the only one riding it.

The penthouse has a northern view—you really feel like you can see forever (what’s that line from Oklahoma?) but the patio is, ahem, small. No way I was setting foot on it. The way Christian described it, I thought it would be deep, and I could hang back. Nope. I looked from the safety of the living room. The apartment is spacious and lovely, with a kitchen I’d love to have—probably half as big as my whole cottage.

Jeannie’s dog apparently loves it. I asked about midnight trips outside but apparently, they haven’t happened yet. Mabel, a poodle/cocker mix, knows to sit back and wait for the elevator, to stay in the back of the elevator until Jeannie tells her to come, and just where to go for the dog area. She loves high-rise living.

Dinner was amazing—we each had a different salad, and I don’t know which was best, but my Caesar salad was one of the best I’ve ever had. Plenty of very flavorful dressing. Others had the caprese salad, with a grilled peach no less; a wedge salad, and the crab bisque in a bread bowl. All
four of us had the scallops on risotto, an appetizer, for our entrée, and we split a sinfully rich piece of chocolate cake with a mocha icing in which the coffee flavor was strong. A fine meal in good company, impeccable service. And they’re used to dealing with walkers, etc. When I went to the restroom I was figuring out how to open the door and not lose my balance—a voice behind me pointed out the handicap button. Just push it and pouf! The door opens. Every public restroom should have that.

We came home overstuffed and lazy. Would I live there? No. I wouldn’t want to live that high off the ground. I like having my doors open and letting my dog run in and out. But Jeannie is in her element and loves it. She’s met people, made friends, involved herself in activities. What’s sauce for the goose and so on….

I’d like to visit real often—and she has promised that we can.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

That Niggling Sense of Unease

June 26, 2018

Sophie and her cousin Cricket in a dull moment
at the cottage
Sophie has the right approach to life, I’ve decided. If there’s nothing interesting, she sleeps—on the floor, on the couch, in a ridiculous position in a chair. She sleeps. If a squirrel invades her back yard, she’s on it in a flash. If someone comes to visit, she’s Miss Personality. But home, alone, with me, she sleeps. She never feels that niggling sense of unease that I do.

That sense was strong with me when I came home from the dentist today, so I sat and thought about what was causing it, and I identified three things:

I lost a ski from my walker, the insert that makes the legs glide along smoothly. When I stashed the walker in the car, I had both skis; when I pulled it out, both were missing. A girl had come out from the dentist’s office to make sure I didn’t fall, and together we found one ski on the floor of the car. She replaced that and searched and searched but couldn’t find the other. So I limped around with an unbalanced walker. I have other skis, but they probably aren’t the same thickness, etc., and the balance will be off.

Second source of unease: I thought I was just going for a cleaning, but the dentist announced that I need three small cavities filled. I fear that his definition of small and mine vary significantly. The last time I had a “small” cavity filled I thought I was going to die. My A Fib was undiagnosed at the time but going wild, so that I thought my heart would beat out of my chest, and when I was tilted back I thought I’d drown in my own drool. The hygienist promised she would make it better, but when they offered me an appointment tomorrow I said, “No. Later.” So I go back July 9.

The SCOTUS ruling on the travel ban was the third thing that upset me because I think it goes against every principle this country was founded on and because it demonstrates what Gorsuch is doing to the high court. That was further emphasized today in rulings on abortion (those pretend clinics that exist to talk women out of abortions don’t have to advertise that they have no medical facilities or personnel) and the ruling that essentially allows gerrymandering to discriminate against minority voters. Welcome to Trump’s world.

Justices Sotomayer and Ginsburg wrote a rational dissenting opinion to the travel ban, tracing its origins clearly to Trump’s anti-Muslim campaign speeches and early presidential attempts to float travel bans against Muslims. Now he’s succeeded in banning “terrorist” countries (in some of which we created the terrorism) but it’s really disguised religious (and racist) prejudice. The United States was founded on the principle of religious freedom, welcoming all of any faith. How far we have fallen and how quickly.

I think I’ll just go quietly to sleep. I’m sure Sophie will wake me if anything exciting happens.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Did you read Little House on the Prairie?

Big flap today in an online listserv to which I belong but which I won’t name. It seems that the American Library Association has voted to rename what was previously the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award as the Children’s Literature Legacy Award, because the Little House books contain racial stereotypes and slurs. Well, I never thought about it before, but yes they do: most Indians are bad (and they’re never Natives) and blacks are highly suspect. No, there’s no suggestion of censoring the books—except that changing the name of the award is in itself a form of censorship.

Folks wrote in to passionately attack of defend that decision. So I can’t resist chipping in with my two cents. First of all, the new name is institutionally dull, while naming the award for a beloved children’s writer gives it a certain vibrancy.

Beyond that, I have watched with dismay as favorite books were removed from some school library shelves—most of the Twain canon, To Kill a Mockingbird, and others. I was once told that one of my young-adult books would be removed if the superintendent of a certain school district knew it contained the ethnic slur, “kike.” Which brings to mind what a historian and beloved friend of mine, C. L. Sonnichsen, always claimed a book had to be—appropriate to time and place. Writing in the late nineteenth century, I would never have used the term kike in a contemporary book, but mine was a historical novel. The term was common, if deplorable, in early nineteenth-century East Texas when many Jewish immigrants landed at Galveston and made their way north into East Texas. To disallow it is to change history—and we can’t do that.

There’s that old saying, “He who doesn’t know history is doomed to repeat its mistakes.” By sanitizing literature, we rob out children of the rich history that books provide. The canon of literature has created the culture we enjoy today—you cannot understand slavery or the American South today without reading Twain. You really cannot understand the western settlement experience without reading Wilder—yes, settlers were invading lands held by the Native Americans, but they didn’t know better. The concept of manifest destiny was alive and well, and they thought they were fulfilling the promise of the new land. Can we not let children read that and help them through the difficult passages?

One story circulated today was of a eight-year-old Native American girl who read Wilder and burst into tears because of the attitude toward her people. Instead of damning the books, could we not explain to that child that was the attitude of the day and we have made much progress to overcome it, but we still have miles to go? Put it in context. Ah, there’s the key—context.

And in this rush to sanitize Wilder, critics overlook the positive values of the Little House books—the emphasis on fortitude, self-reliance, persistence, all those values American are supposed to cherish.

I am afraid in our zeal for political correctness we will sanitize all of western civilization’s literature and rob it of it richness and glory. No, I wouldn’t use such terminology in a book set in today;s world, but neither will I condemn the writers who came before me and on whose contributions to tradition I build my works.

A little common sense, please.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Computer church and a cooking experiments gone somewhat awry

Sort of a lazy Sunday. The kids didn’t make it in time to get ready for church but in the afternoon,  they took Jacob to the Water Gardens, which he apparently enjoyed. Since we didn’t go to church, I “attended” via livestreaming on my computer. The audio kept cutting out and then, just before the prayer, cut completely. I gave up and went back to my book, but always with the nagging sense I should be doing something else. I kept switching back to church—so frustrating to watch the minister preach and not be able to know what he was saying. I wished I was good at reading lips.

Finally, toward the end of the sermon, I got out of the program, logged in again, and lo and behold! There was sound! I backed it up, heard the whole sermon and the closing portions of the service. It was a good message about trusting, not just having faith, but trusting. Russ Peterman used the example of high wire artists—an apt one. But I thought the message was particularly timely in these difficult days in our country.

Computer work, reading, and stuff until it was time to cook dinner. Of course, I experimented, and I did it with an unreasonable conviction Christian wouldn’t like the dinner. He loved it! I made steak haiche au poivre—a French, dressed-up version of chopped steak that is supposed to make you think you’re eating steak when all you can afford is ground sirloin. The meat had butter, onion, Parmesan, egg, salt, and finely diced mushrooms in it. Christian does not eat mushrooms, but I figured they would never be detected, and they do keep the meat moist. First thing he said was, “How do you keep the patties so moist? When I do them in the skillet, they’re always dry.” So I confessed.

The recipe calls for using dried porcini, which I didn’t, and for making porcini butter of some of the mushrooms plus the soaking liquid. I sautéed the leftover mushrooms for Jordan and me. Then you top the patties with a salsa verde—onions soaked in red wine vinegar, chopped capers, a bit of salt, a lot of chopped parsley (forgot to buy it and used dried, but, reconstituted, it was pretty good).

You can see I played with the recipe a lot, but what I discovered is that it is not a suitable recipe for a tiny kitchen. I had to send the green beans in for Christian to cook in the house. Even so I had to juggle cooking the meat patties, sautéing the mushrooms, and making the hot salsa. I had done the mushrooms ahead—I’m a big “do what you can ahead” kind of cook. But still I cooked the meat, put it in the toaster oven to stay warm, and started the salsa. I know better than that—if I use the hot plate and the toaster at the same time it blows a fuse. One very frustrated Jordan because I can’t make it out behind the cottage to flip the breaker.

Meanwhile Christian was making green beans. I had pre-boiled them, so all he had to do was sauté the shallot I had chopped in butter, add the green beans, and dress with a splash of lemon. And bring it out to the cottage.

All very good but too complicated for a gourmet on a hot plate. Not going in the cookbook, but Christian liked it so well he took the recipe inside. We did linger after dinner—at least Christian and I did, talking about food, immigration, and fence repair. A thoroughly lovely evening. And I hate to say this, but I was glad Jacob was out with friends—he’d have hated the dinner.

Tomorrow? Terrific leftovers. I love cold meat patties.

Saturday, June 23, 2018


June 23, 2018

One of my sons is, as I write, researching some stuff for me to help me with investments and a medical alert band of some kind. Since he’s devoting part of his Saturday to that, I’m hesitant to diss on sons, and yet this week I’ve thought several times of that old refrain, “A son is a son/ Until he takes a wife/A daughter is a daughter/All of her life.” I’ve so enjoyed having both my daughters around this week.

Of course, Jordan and I see more of each other than probably either one of us need, though it’s a good relationship. Oh, we have our moments, but mostly we laugh and share, and I am blessed that if I need a caretaker, she’s it. But Megan’s visits from Austin are a treat. She was here from Saturday to Wednesday, flew to Houston Wednesday night and back Friday night to retrieve her youngest child. This morning they left for Austin to celebrate older son, Sawyer, and his fourteenth birthday. Fourteen? Really? I remember when she oh so tentatively told me she was pregnant. My first clue? We were at my favorite upscale Italian restaurant in Austin, and she declined a glass of wine. What, I wondered, is wrong with that child?

A confession that my daughters may not welcome. It takes me a day or two to adjust to having them here together. I so delight in their company, and they shower me with love and caring. But there’s also a bit of criticism—why is your hair towel in the kitchen (because I wash my hair in the sink), that’s not the way I cut an avocado (well, it’s the way I do it). Little things. They don’t amount to jack. But I’m sort of aware they’re watching me, looking out to make sure I’m stylishly dressed, stuff like that. And so I’m straining to be on my best behavior, showing them how great I am for my age. It’s like there’s an unspoken elephant in the room (that darn elephant sure gets around).

Driving was part of it this time. Megan was comfortable with my driving but worried about my getting in and out of the cottage and the car by myself. A legitimate worry. So one day she watched, and I did fine. Friday, Jordan agreed that I could pick up a friend for lunch—big adventure. I drove us to a restaurant, parallel parked on a busy street, did just fine. Baby steps but I felt good about it.

We didn’t get the lunches out that I enjoy this time, nor the closet cleaning that Megan is so good at (Jordan is too but she doesn’t have the time). Megan, with a new law firm, had to work at her computer all day every day. But we had lovely dinners and evenings.

In July my whole family will be here (big birthday), and my kids and I will be together in Chicago over Labor Day. So I can’t complain I don’t see them much. But I am particularly grateful for Megan’s fairly frequent visits.

And, of course, for Jordan’s constant and steadying presence. How lucky, blessed, whatever I am.

Tonight I settled down with a good book and a wonderful dinner—zucchini cut in wedges and sautéed in butter, a sautéed lamb chop doused with anchovy butter. Delicious, but a bit sloppy to eat.

A bit of food trivia I just learned: do you love the wasabi at a sushi place? It’s probably (we hope) made from a root vegetable. But what you buy in a tube in the grocery has none of the root. It’s basically horseradish, mustard, and green food coloring. And oh my! Is it potent! I about killed myself with a cheese spread last night. I put wasabi in the middle of a log of goat cheese, rolled the reconstructed log in toasted sesame seeds, and splashed it with soy. But the wasabi burned my throat, my nose, and my eyes. Whew! And I usually love it with sushi.

That’s the kind of trivia or hint you’ll find in my forthcoming cookbook, Gourmet on a Hot Plate, due out in early November so you can use it for Christmas gifts.

Night, all!

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Rain, blessed rain

I woke this morning to foggy windows and an almost-chilly cottage. Last night just as I was going to bed the wind picked up and rain came down—real rain, not the tentative sprinkles we’ve seen for the last couple of days. This was hard, soaking rain that would do the gardens good and made the world smell of wet earth. Sophie and I sat in the open doorway for too long, soaking in the smell and the wetness. And then I slept soundly, much later in the morning than usual. I feel refreshed, as though I can take on the heat of the coming summer.

My mom was a great advocate of catching more flies with a teaspoon of sugar than a cup of vinegar. I put her philosophy into use today. Jordan’s been having a difficult time with the local chain pharmacy where I’ve had my business for years. Yesterday, she tried to return something I had been told I could take back, but she was refused. She announced we were going up there tomorrow, shopping day, to demand the refund and then we were taking our business elsewhere. I hated that because they have all my records and all my various physicians show them as the pharmacy of record.

Today I called, said I was sorry to bother the pharmacist, did he have time to listen, apologized for seeming difficult, said I didn’t mind going elsewhere but I hated to leave behind a reputation as difficult. Result: we can return the drops today while he’s on duty, and he marked my account for no automatic refills (a big part of the problem).

Reminded me of what I read somewhere today: The literal translation of namaste is “the divine spark within me salutes the divine spark within you.” If more people dealt with each other that way, the world would be a different place. I’m not saying either the pharmacist or I had to salute the divine spark, just suggesting we recognized the good in each other, instead of the instant anger. I think you only say “Namaste” when you sincerely mean it.

I’ve been enjoying the last of the salmon Megan brought. Yesterday, I had a salad plate with cold salmon and mayo—Megan had the same but my daughters both heat meat, won’t eat it cold. I love it cold. Today I made salmon salad. Jordan laughed because she had heated and finished her lunch while I was still chopping celery, cucumber, and scallion for my salad. But it was good. I love leftovers (Jay, are you reading this?).

Tonight, Betty and I had another of our dining adventures, and I have to eat a little crow about this one. The owners of an upscale contemporary Mexican restaurant got health conscience and converted the restaurant to healthy foods, probably at least three years ago. With a kind of false bravado, I thought I don’t like kale and quinoa and I’m not going there. But tonight, we went, and it was terrific. Betty had shrimp tacos, I had a good beef burger with yucca fries (couldn’t tell the difference, and the aioli was delicious), and we shared churros. And drank some wine. A fine meal. Now we want to go back for the bison tacos. Shows you about dining with an open mind. I heartily recommend Righteous Foods.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Jacob is twelve

What can you say about twelve-year-old boys?

Jacob was up early on his twelfth birthday to open his gifts. Sweet boy did not open mine but brought it out to the cottage to open with me. Nothing remarkable—a “collar” shirt he can wear to church and school (I had promised I would not get underwear even though his mom had put it on his list). But he got a gaming system as his “big” present, and I have promised to buy a game.

Tonight, the birthday party—a game truck parked outside the house and a bunch of boys (and
, I think, at least one girl) swarmed out for two hours of games, though they kept sneaking back into the house for more pizza. Then, back in the house for cupcakes. Meanwhile, while they  were playing, adults ate snacks and a large pasta salad I made today. I asked how many I should count on and was told anywhere from five to fifteen. Throwing my hands in the air, I used a large package of fusilli (those twisted spirals) and a whole rotisseries chicken breast (I am so glad you can now buy the breast and not the whole bird—makes it easier and less wasteful but I still hate boning and dicing it). Threw in halved cherry tomatoes, diced celery and scallions (the hostess rejected my suggestion of green peas).

Of course, Jacob’s birthday made me nostalgic. I have favorites among my grandchildren—this one is the favorite for one reason, that one for another. But Jacob is the one I am closest to because I’ve seen most almost every day of his life. Fun to go throw various stages with him—the cuddly toddler, the slightly apprehensive kindergartner, the kid who was my dinner pal and slept with me until he was ten, and now, the slightly blasé, slightly sophisticated young man. Waiting for the next phase—so much excitement around the corner for him.

Another biggie today—my first solo adventure in the car. My daughters tell me my driving is fine, but they worry about my getting in and out of the car without someone there. So today, with Megan at home working, I went to a local mechanic’s shop to have coolant added. A small, insignificant trip but another of those baby steps. It struck me how comfortable I felt about driving, without someone watching my every move. I am investigating a wrist alarm that I can wear, which is probably a good idea anyway.

I heard the story yesterday of a woman in her late eighties who refused to have someone live with her, to use a walker or even a cane, to wear an alarm. She fell between her garage and her house and apparently died of results of the fall. I promise not to let my pride make me foolish. My doctor says if I fall again I might well be bedridden. I am grateful for all the concern and intend to take care. But I want my freedom and independence.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Ho, hum, and it’s not even summer yet

I was astonished to realize today that is isn’t officially summer yet. Not until Thursday, but yet it’s been hot for, well, it seems like forever. Today in the late afternoon we got some rain—not much. I looked at the walkway from the cottage to the house and could see a clear line of demarcation where the rain stopped. Odd, I thought, that it rained in the back half of our tiny yard but not the front. The driveway though was wet all the way to the street, and I figured that it was such a light, gentle, brief rain that it didn’t make it through the leaves of the tree that hangs over house and deck. Megan reported it was raining harder at Montgomery Mall when she took the boys for a treat after camp, and a friend in a different direction reported that it rained briefly at her house. We’ll take whatever.

A second day, for me, of sorting files, doing long overdue office chores. Spent a bit of time going through recipe files and discarding ones that, though intriguing, I knew I would never try. Dishes that feed ten or twelve, or things the kids won’t eat but I discarded the recipes—and the days of big cooking—farewell with some regret. Then I sorted my out-of-pocket medical expenses since January to submit them to my supplementary insurance program. All that kind of stuff that you put off forever and then feel so righteous when you get it done. It’s also part of my reassessment program—I’m putting my writing on the back burner, where I hope to heaven it’s simmering but I’m not actively thinking about it.

Maybe the most interesting thing I saw today was a squirrel trying desperately to get into the chicken yard. He darted back and forth, scratched, and obviously worried about the chicken wire keeping him from whatever food he thought lay on the ground. Until on of the chickens got tired of him and one headed his way flapping her wings. The squirrel scooted away as fast as he could. I’m sure the chicken, envying his freedom, thought some critters don’t know when they have it well off. I think that about people, myself included, frequently. I haven’t seen the predator in the tree for some time now—I think it decimated the baby squirrel population and moved on. But I do enjoy watching the chickens. The other morning, I was alarmed to see two of them on top of their large cage instead of in it, but they were soon back in place, and I decided all was well. My neighbors might get weary of my chicken alerts when I don’t really know what’s going on.

Happy hour tonight with a woman I met because she wanted to write. As we talked, we discovered that she was a sorority sister of Megan’s at TCU, although a year or two older. Then she and Jordan met through an entirely different connection. There definitely is not two degrees of separation in our part of Fort Worth. Her first book, a children’s book, is coming out tomorrow—more about that in a future installment.

We had salmon for dinner, not an unusual menu these days. But this was special salmon—Megan and/or Ford caught it on a trip to Alaska a year ago. It was flash frozen, shipped home, and has been vacuum sealed in their freezer ever since. She brought it frozen, and last night put it in my fridge to defrost. At 10:45, I opened the refrigerator and was attacked by a solidly frozen hunk of salmon—quite a start. She and Ford got to telling tales of their adventure with good friends who live in Alaska—it included an encounter with a bear on a residential street. I gather in Anchorage that’s as common as deer are in some Central Texas communities. And we get excited if we see a coyote or fox in our Fort Worth neighborhood.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Old friends and an old restaurant

What if I told you I was going to take you to a restaurant the has been in business without changing the menu since 1935—that’s not too far short of a century. One that has only two dinner entrees, covers almost a square city block, doesn’t take credit cards, doesn’t take reservations, has long waits, and seats almost a thousand people? If someone told me that, I think I’d say, “No, thanks,” and head for the nearest chain Mexican restaurant.

Yet as Fort Worthians, that’s often the first place we take out of-town guests. It’s where we flock for graduations, wedding rehearsal dinners, reunions, birthdays, and family occasions of all sorts. It is of course Joe T. Garcia’s.

Back in the late 1930s Jessie and Joe Garcia had a small grocery store where workers from the packinghouses often came to buy lunch fixings. Mama Garcia began to serve them her enchiladas and homemade tortillas, and finally Joe Garcia opened a small restaurant—six tables. Longtime Fort Worth residents will remember when the wait line took you through the kitchen, and it was custom to grab a beer as you went by the refrigerator. Joe T.’s has changed a lot since the early days. The health department long ago quashed that walk through the kitchen. Every year until this year a new patio or room has been added. The patio (really several patios) with lush gardens are a main attraction in good weather, and in winter temporary structures on the patio often accommodate the large crowds. The menu never changes—the family dinner or fajitas (more choices are served at lunch).

What also never changes is the charisma.

We went there tonight as a party of eleven—my family and that of a longtime friend. Our kids knew each other when tiny but long since parted ways. One of Linda’s daughters brought her family back for vacation, and Linda and I decided it would be fun to get the girls together. Joe T.’s is of course the place you go for such reunions, and it didn’t disappoint.

There was reminiscing—Megan remembers going to Linda’s house where the girls got into the makeup, and Molly remembers playing in the driveway at our house. There was getting acquainted—Molly’s two daughters are eleven and fourteen and were forthcoming about their schooling. And it was just a good time to be together—at an old familiar restaurant.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Father’s Day for a mother

Megan and I cooked dinner tonight—in truth, she cooked most of it, and we worked some details out as we went. The result was delicious—scallops and mushrooms in a lemon sauce, with a salad dressed in blue cheese vinaigrette. One of the most elegant meals I’ve had in a long time. And fun to do. I loved being in my tiny kitchen with my daughter, both of us trying hard not to trip over each other. The rest of the family went to Concerts in the Garden—Christian’s Father’s Day celebration, complete with dinners from Central Market. But the report we got was that the adults were having a blast, and the boys were bored.

The meal capped an interesting day. We went to church, arrived in good time, and settled in the pew where Jordan began to read the worship bulletin. She suddenly jumped up in alarm—she had just read that Jacob was an acolyte this morning. It was a mad rush, but Christian got him into his robes and to the narthex just in time. You’d never have known, as he walked down the aisle, that he’d been so late nor that he’d blithely told the coordinator, “We forgot.” All ended well.

The sermon was powerful, on the subject that is on so many minds these days—the immigrant children taken from their families. The question the preacher posed was, “What does God want us to do.” Even my visiting eleven-year-old grandson was enthralled. Unfortunately, there is not cut-and-dried easy answer to that question.

We went to a late lunch to celebrate Christian on Father’s Day—and our late lunch turned out to be really late. It was such a long lunch I thought we might stay for supper. Christian chose the restaurant, so I hesitate to be too critical, but it was the slowest service I’ve experienced in forever. Food was okay not great, noise level was high enough that I had a hard time hearing, orders got bungled. Not a place I’ll go back to.

Home and a nice nap, and I was ready to fix dinner with Megan. Blatant self-promotion: the recipes are in my cookbook, due out this fall, Gourmet on a Hot Plate.

And so we head into another week, wondering what will come out of the White House. I for one am looking forward to sitting at my desk and tending to my own worries. And enjoying having Ford and Megan with us. Hope everyone has a good week.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Trying to avoid looking at the awful right in front of us

I hate to go too long without saying hello to my blog friends and posting something, anything. But tonight, I’m afraid of lapsing into yet another rant about immigrant children. The problem, the criticism, the agony, the horror are all over Facebook, and I confess I’ve spent too much time on that website. It cheers me to see the outrage because it reminds me that most people are indeed good souls with compassion. On the other hand, I am reminded of what one TV news anchor said—was it Chuck Todd, one of my least favorites?—that Trump takes up all the air in the room, indeed all the air in the country, until we are forced to focus on him. Which is probably part of his plan.

In spite of the cruelty of Trump and Sessions and the heartbreaking situation of all those children, daily life does go on for most of us. We are tonight awaiting the arrival of Megan, my oldest daughter and second child, with Ford, the youngest of her two sons. They were to arrive tomorrow but decided on the spur of the moment to come tonight. Ford and Jacob will spend the week attending TCU basketball camp. In previous summers, they’ve done the baseball camp, but the little wimps decided they didn’t want to be out in the heat. Then again, who can blame them? It got hot early and stayed there this year. Today was 95, but the week ahead is predicted to stay in the lower 90s. I’ll take any bit of relief.

A working weekend, and I got quite a bit done. The Kelly O’Connell novel is at Amazon to have advanced reading copies made. I must be learning because what I submitted met their criteria the first time around. Yippee! And the cookbook is off to the designer, although I’ve already sent a revised version. Today I was making fromage fort (strong cheese) for happy hour tonight and realized that the recipe in the cookbook lacked a key ingredient—garlic. So I added it and added the pasta salad I’d forgotten and sent it off again. I have promised not to do that to the designer any more, so someone will have to help me with restraint. Now about that recipe for Sauce Gribiche . . . . My trouble in proofing the cookbook is that I came across so many things I want to cook.

The newlyweds from last weekend’s wedding came by for a glass of wine tonight7, and Subie was here too so we had a jolly, impromptu party. Lots of re-living the wedding, tales I hadn’t heard or noticed, identification of people. Fun, except when they get together they all talk at once, and I am never sure of the conversation. Still it was lovely to have them here and see them looking so happy. The bride is a thoroughly modern woman—but she couldn’t wait to take her new husband’s last name. Good for her!

Tomorrow, church, yard work, laziness. In the evening, Jordan and Christian are taking the two boys to Concerts in the Park—it’s Christian’s Father’s Day treat. Megan and I will have dinner in the cottage, and I’ll cook scallops with mushrooms in a lemon sauce. Should be a lovely day.

But in the back of my mind, I still see that Palestinian boy, so terrified, and now that two-year-old Honduran girl whose crying picture has gone viral on the net. How can we be so content, enjoying our daily lives, when there is so much misery in the world, some of it so close to home? I need to go to church tomorrow.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Making war on children

Today on Facebook I saw a picture of an eight-year-old Palestinian boy surrounded by five or six big, burly Israeli soldiers, one pointing a machine gun at the child from perhaps two feet away (actually, if he’d discharged it, he’d probably have killed several of his fellows as well as the poor child). The image of that tear-streaked, terrified face will haunt me forever. The problem of what we as adults do to children is not confined to the southern border of the States.

That is not to say that equally haunting images don’t come from the “camps” into which ICE and Homeland Security have forced “alien” children (no child is alien, for Pete’s sake)—the young boy, about six, clinging to the wire cage while his face is distorted with tears, the terrified children being yanked from their mothers’ arms.

Man’s inhumane cruelty to his fellow man is as old as civilization. Unfortunately, we have not progressed beyond wars, fought mostly for religion and/or greed. I grieve over what men and women do to each other and have done throughout history.

But never in modern history, as far a I know, have adults been so callous in their attitude toward children. And, of course, what’s happening on the Mexico/Texas border is more in our face than the Israeli/ Palestinian conflict, which is in itself an atrocity—don’t get me started on it. My rage for the time is pointed at Trump, Sessions, and ICE.

I am sick to death of people who blithely say, “The law is the law. We are a nation of laws.” Or who argue those “illegal” immigrants could stay in Mexico, where, of course, they would not really be safe from the long arm of gangs and terror from their own countries, let alone those in Mexico. Helpless and penniless, they are easy prey for cartels. Some may have relatives in our country who would shelter them—currently their children, taken from them, are often sent to such relatives.

As for a nation of laws, don’t tell me that when our temporary president flaunts every law written and does so with impunity, supported by the weak spines in the Republican party. We are a nation of laws when it suits the leaders to apply the law; otherwise forget it. Surely, somewhere, someone is compiling a list of laws that Trump has flown in the face of, the lawsuits pending against him. A nation of laws? Led by such a corrupt man? We used to be a nation of laws.

Today AG Beauregard Jeffrey Sessions quoted the Bible to justify taking children from their parents. Of course, the Bible doesn’t address that subject directly—the passage he quoted was about obeying the law, which is a circular argument (or non-argument) because it refers to a flawed interpretation of the law.

I often wonder how ICE enforcers can do what they do—breaking up families, ruining lives. But I guess you look at the Gestapo, and you get a sense of the blind following of a dictator’s rulings. We are too close to that, and I am appalled.

And what is lacking in this whole scenario? Human compassion. What has happened to people that they no longer care about other people, let alone about children. Go ahead, call me a bleeding-heart liberal. I admit it. (I’m also a tree hugger.)

I’m afraid to go to sleep tonight, for fear I’ll see that Palestinian child’s face. He speaks for so many terrified children. What a world.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

A rant and a rave

A day of extremes. Neighbor Mary Dulle went with me, in a Lyft, to get my car from the trim shop. Jordan still doesn’t want me to drive alone, though I think she’s most worried about the getting in and getting out rather than the driving per se. Anyway, Mary was my co-pilot, and she said I done good. I can’t say enough nice things about Joe at West Side Trim—super nice guy.

On the way home, we detoured to CVS to pick up two prescriptions—one for an inexpensive antacid medication and one for gosh-awful expensive eye drops. We went last night, and they weren’t ready. When I got home, I called to sort things out, and they said the one was ready. No telling how it got ready in the five minutes it took us to get home.

A few days ago, they told me since I’m in the dreaded donut hole, the eye drops would be $280. I balked, called the doctor’s office, and was told yes, I need them, but I could find a coupon on the drug’s web page and get them for $50. Found no such coupon but did find one promising 75% savings.

When I asked for the drops today I was told $180 (not sure where we dropped $100) and I said confidently that I had a coupon, which I presented. With the coupon the cost was $500+. It seems the $180 was still with my insurance, while the coupon reverts to the manufacturer’s price. I went with the $180—and the $4 antacid.

Got home to find the eye drop package contained not one but three containers! I didn’t want three, certainly didn’t want to pay for them! Called, and CVS will take the two untouched ones back. Is your head spinning yet? Mine still is.

Tonight’s dinner made up for the angst of the eye drops. Betty, Jean and I went to a funky new place called La Zona/Hotel Madrid. Open only for a month, it’s in an aged building the waiter told us used to be a barber shop, but I think I remember a used car lot. The small interior was literally decorated with broad brush strokes. Tables are long and communal. A full-service bar takes up a large portion of the space.

The menu has a selection of traditional tapas, several pizzas, large shared salads, and three dessert items. Betty and Jean shared a chicken/pesto pizza, but I ordered the marinated white anchovies—a favorite of mine. We split a wonderful salad, the Sophie, three ways—it has apple and avocado, mixed greens, and a good dressing. Betty had the wedding cake for dessert—dressed with an apricot brandy sauce—and I had flan. Good food, fun décor, a bit noisy but bearable.

There’s a large patio that would be great on a cooler night, and a small building where churros are served. I call it one of the more fun additions to Magnolia Avenue.

Monday, June 11, 2018

A whole day spent reading

Sophie at her leisure
This pose always cracks me up, 
but it means that she' feels perfectly safe and relaxed
It’s not quite as decadent as the header sounds. I was not reading Silver Screen and eating bonbons—references that may be too old for many of you but always signified the useless, idle life to me. I was reading a novel, one of four books on my desk to be read for a competition by July 15. I was slow getting started on them, picked up one and couldn’t get into it, feeling daunted by the idea of four books. So I chose a different starting point.

A third of the way in, it dawned on my I’m reading a romance—me, who’s used to the tensions of mysteries. Granted, this is a romance set against WWII in England and could stand more tension, but it’s about people and their feelings and eventually I was hooked. So now I’m avidly reading. Since the contest is involved, I consider this work. Soothes my Puritanical conscience to look at it that way.

I did take one giant leap forward on my own work this morning. Formatted, to the best of my pitiful ability, the manuscript for Contract for Chaos, the next Kelly O’Connell Mystery due out September 20, this year. Submitted it to CreateSpace for publication on Amazon and am awaiting their always helpful critique and suggestions. I think by now I’m an old pro at submissions, but it took me four or five tries before I got the details right. And I don’t even know if I did then.

Also, and this is a biggie, I took my car for the final repair today—gluing the back window to the canvas convertible top. They tell me it probably won’t last. They have to do it on a hot day and stretch the canvas. In winter, when things shrink with the cold, it will pop loose. But I figure by then I’ll know how much I drive and whether or not it’s worth popping for a whole new top. Jordan went with me this morning, because she still doesn’t want me driving alone. The driving part is okay, but the business of getting out of the cottage with walker, to the car, folding the walker, and getting settled to drive still needs practice and work. Baby steps. I’ll get there.

Naughty Sophie! Tonight, I put a piece of good sourdough out to thaw, so I could toast it for my dinner. I made a large batch of salmon dip for two parties over the weekend and was going to have leftovers on toast with asparagus on top. But when I went to fix my supper, the bread was gone. I looked in the toaster oven—no, I hadn’t put it there. Finally, it dawned on me the only possible answer was that I left it too close to the edge of my butcher block, and she got it. She did not have the grace to look one bit guilty.

Going back to my book. ‘Night all.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Whoosh! What a weekend

Even being on the fringes of the wedding party, it was quite a weekend, what with the happy hour Friday night, the ceremony and dinner Saturday night, and tonight the bride’s parents for dinner. I loved every minute of it.

Friday and Saturday nights I met and talked with so many interesting people. I’m in awe at the wide range of Sue and Teddy’s friends and the warm wonder of their families. I think by Saturday night I had pretty much figured out who was who, including the man who rode his motorcycle here from British Columbia to be part of the wedding. But the food was good, the company excellent, and it was all lovely. When I said classy, Sue said, “That’s what we were going for.” She got it in spades.

Today our highlight was that Jacob came home from five days in D.C. as the guest of his buddy, Adam Veasy, and Adam’s parents, Mark and Tonya. He talked to me about it for five minutes and then he was off to a Christian music concert, but he said the best part was wandering around and seeing the city. I’m sure, thanks to Congressman Veasy, he got an insider’s view of things. He sent a few pictures, but they haven’t filtered down to me so far. I am glad to have him back in Texas, even if he’s so busy I rarely see him. But I’m so grateful he had the experience of our capitol.

I spent the day cooking and fiddling. Made a chicken casserole, decided it wasn’t big enough, and added more chicken and sauce. Good thing because there was very little left. It's a chicken/mushroom/avocado casserole in a sauce of mayonnaise, white wine, and sour cream.  I wasn’t really pleased with it—it wasn’t as creamy as I remembered from previous times, although our guests were complimentary. Now if I were really an experimental cook, I’d get some cream cheese in these to strengthen what is supposed to be a rich, creamy sauce.

Cathy and Bob Lyon, Sue’s parents, are from Ottawa, Ontario, and since the newlyweds were presumably hibernating somewhere, we asked the parents to dinner. They are, by now, old friends. I remember when Sue moved in next door, at least twelve years ago. I saw Bob in the driveway and asked if he was my new neighbor. He replied that he was my new neighbor’s father. We’ve been friends every since, and it was fun to rehash the wedding with them tonight. Friends Subie and Phil Green also joined us for dinner, and they added immensely to lively conversation, which ranged from oil pipelines to ticks.

So tomorrow it’s back to work, and I have a lot on my desk, plus taking my car for its final repair. The world goes on, but it’s nice to have had a whirlwind in the middle of our dailyness. Fun to sit here tonight, with the patio door open, and hear the fireworks from the Concerts in the Park. 

Saturday, June 09, 2018

I always cry at weddings

The newlyweds just after the ceremony
with maid of honor, minister nd best man
Tonight was no exception As the ceremony ended, I felt tears rolling gently down my cheeks. Sue and Teddy married in what can only be described as a classy ceremony. At the Fort Worth Club at 5:00 p.m.. A relatively small group gathered, some fifty-plus people. The ceremony was in a small room off the grill, fitted with a runner and twelve chairs for family, two flower arrangements on pedestals in place of an altar. A young man played the bass, a woman sang—“Love Me Tender,” was one of the selections. Sue’s daughter was her maid of honor, and her son walked her down the aisle. Teddy’s daughter sat next to me in the front row.

Teddy and Sue wrote their own vows, which made the brief ceremony even more meaningful. Her son later said to me, “Wow! That was quick. I couldn’t believe it was over so fast.” But they packed a lot of love and emotion into those few minutes. Clearly these are mature people who have thought about their commitment and made it gladly, willingly, with their eyes wide open.

Afterward there was a cocktail hour with wonderful hors d’oeuvres—strawberry and brie on raisin toast squares and warm duck comfit crostini with brie, passed by waiters. A seated dinner, with designated seating, followed—spinach salad, beef short ribs, stuffed quail and wonderful vegetables. An assortment of desserts was available for those who wanted to partake.

Music was provided by a gentle trio who played mostly traditional jazz—a keyboardist who was the lead, a bass player and a drummer. When they came back after a short break, I was amused and pleased to see that the keyboardist was a man of at least my age who walked with a walker. Reinforced my determination that I can do anything on a walker.

As at the pre-party last night, I found myself rooted in one spot because of my mobility problems. But it was okay. People came to talk to me, and I met some lovely people—some from Canada, where Sue came from; some from Teddy’s stomping grounds in California. Made me think how wonderful it is that these two ended up together in Texas. And also made for a sociable and happy evening.

I go out a fair amount, but in this my new life I don’t go to truly classy events like this often, and I enjoyed every minute of it. It was sparse, clean, and lovely, spoke of good taste. Here’s a toast to the bride and groom—may they have many more happy years ahead of them.

Several asked tonight how I knew the bride or groom. Sue and her children lived next door to me when the children were young. They were here for several years, though now I can’t tell you when or how long, but I think Hunter was in pre-K and they stayed through his fifth grade year. He just graduated from high school Sue’s parents live in Ottawa, Ontario, so somewhere along the line she dubbed me her Fort Worth mom because her own mom was so far away. That became the way I explained my presence to people tonight.

Now I’m looking forward to a wedding rehash with the newlyweds when they settle back to earth. Want to hear what went right, what was funny, who such and such was, and all that. Meantime I’ll savor the memory of a truly love wedding and a lovely evening.
Jordan and me with the newlyweds

Friday, June 08, 2018

I did it!

For some time, I’ve been toying with the idea of a temporary color streak in my hair. My oldest granddaughter encouraged me; Jordan was skeptical; good friend Subie was downright astounded and incredulous, and kept asking, “Why?” I had no answer except that it was a whim and something that would brighten my life.

Things seemed to come together. Jordan’s friend (and mine) Marj brought over the color a few nights ago, and Rosa, who so kindly makes house calls to cut my hair since I can’t drive, agreed to do it. She seemed to think it was a good idea. Rosa was scheduled to come this morning—perfect timing. She asked how many streaks I wanted. I had only thought of one, but I paled a bit when she suggested four, and we settled on two. She could not stay to rinse it off, but she gave me instructions. And above you see the result—maybe a bit more color than I meant and maybe darker, but it will fade quickly.

I debuted the color tonight at a lovely event—a happy hour gathering to celebrate the forthcoming marriage of my special friends Sue and Teddy tomorrow night. Maybe it was the crowd, mostly a fifty-ish group, but the reaction, even from people I’d never met, was enthusiastic. A neighbor even brought one of the serving people over because she wanted to see it. I didn’t get a frown or disapproving look all evening, and I got lots of compliments. When we went to Hoffbrau for dinner, the first thing the waitress said was, “I love your hair!”

The happy bride, me, and Jordan
Of course, my hair was not the main event tonight. Sue and Teddy and their obvious happiness was. Many people were from out of town; others were people I’d heard Sue mention but never met. Fun to put names and faces together and to meet people who had connections to Jordan and Christian. It was also a joy to visit with Sue’s parents, Bob and Cathy Lyon of Ottawa, Ontario, who are by now old friends. It was one of those stand-and-mingle events, and of course I can’t do that, especially not with a glass of wine, but people were so kind that I rarely found myself alone on that couch.

At one point, Sue looked at Christian and said, “I’m so happy.” That said it all. They are a lovely couple who found each other later rather than earlier, and I couldn’t be happier for them. 

And tomorrow night, the wedding. Excited for them and looking forward to it.