Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Bad Week Continues

Today, my disasters were all electronic. This morning, I moved the family room TV just a skosh so that it would more face my exercise bycicle--and it quit totally. I exercised without TV, although I had the newspaper for company. Except that today's dwindling newspapers don't occupy enough time for a good workout. I spent almost an hour on the phone this afternoon with the Dish people who finally concluded that the problem was with the TV. It's not a very old TV, and I would hope not. But I'm stymied. At first, the Dish connection in my study--more important than the famiy room to me--didn't work, but after all the things the Dish people told me to do, it's back on. I'm a confessed news junkie, and if I can't watch TV I'll go bananas. Terrible to be so dependent on TVs and computers, but I confess--I am.
Then tonight my computer went crazy. I was looking up things on amazon, when it froze. Ctrl-alt-delete did nothing, turning it off did nothing. Then it began to end programs by itself, but I couldn't use the mouse--the arrow didn't go anywhere. This is where I learned another lesson in patience--it's not my strong suit, and I learn those lessons all the time. I finally just sort of waited it out until it told me that Windows was exiting. Oh, yes, the picture on my remote monitor was sideways--a lovely vision of myself and my brother sitting on the loveseat on the porch, with 3-week-old Kegan (he's now six or seven months) sprawled in my lap sideways. Only you had to tilt your head to see it sensibly. When the computer finally turned itself off, and I could reboot, all seemed well, and John and Kegan and I were once again right side up.
I'm giving up and going to bed.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

What a week!

It's been one of those weeks when I should better have stayed in bed on Monday morning. As I struggled down the driveway that morning, loaded down with a book bag, purse, gate opener, keys, etc., my cell phone rang. Frantic rush to put everything down and answer it. The doctor's office: the place on my arm they biopsied would have to come off. So I made an appointment for the next morning, but the disquiet of it stayed with me on Monday. Tuesday I was a tad apprehensive--I knew it was caught early, a slow-growing cancer, but still when someone's about to carve into your arm, you can't help but feel a bit of trepidation. All went well, and I had no pain even when the anaesthetic wore off. Today it's more tender, but I have been using my arm instead of guarding it as I did yesterday.
Then this morning I had to have my annual echocardiogram--not a big deal, certainly far from painful, but disquieting, especially when the tech turns the volume on and you hear your heart beating. You can't help but lie there and think, "Is that regular? What's that swoosh sound?" It's the same feeling those of us who are airplane-naive feel when a plane makes a strange noise. But I survived that, too, and go back Monday for the results. Once again disquieting. I hope all is well, but there's always a chance you'll get bad news.
Then this afternoon the retirement home where my cousin lives in Toronto called. Bottom line is that her dementia is getting much worse, and they can no longer safely handle her. A nursing home is the next step, but the process is long. Since I hold power of attorney over her affairs, they're faxing me a bunch of paper work to begin the process. It seems, among other things, she talks loudly--to herself a lot but sometimes abusively to other residents. And she flairs in temper. I have not seen Jenny since we were teenagers, but I am the only relative left, except for our aunt who is 96 and declares herself unable to think about Jenny's problems. So I am left with words my dad said to me probably almost 50 years ago: "If anything happens to us, you will take care of Jenny won't you?" All these years later, those words echo in my brain, and I do my best long-distance.
Tonight my friend Betty and I went to a tiny restaurant that it seems is more fashionable than we thought--clearly the place to be seen, and we almost didn't get in because we had no reservations. But we enjoyed a great meal of Caesar salad and rigatoni Bolognese, and I've decided this is an evening to pamper myself--no work. Surely the rest of the week will be better.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Sunday night supper

This is unapologetically a cooking blog (it's not called Judy's Stew for nothing!). In my family when I was young Sunday night supper was special. Dad built a fire in the fireplace, and Mom wheeled the teacart in front of it. They sat in their chairs, and my brother and I perched on footstools around the table. We had supper, not dinner--a spinach souffle (how John hated that!), a cheese strata, something simple. I often feel the urge to cook something special for myself on Sunday night, though I go beyond Mom's simple supper.
Today I went to Central Market, but I couldn't decide between Dover sole and lamb chops, so I bought both. Tonight I mashed that lone potato that had been looking at me--the mashed potatoes at Thanksgiving dinner were so good I wanted more--and heated up a small bit of creamed corn that was in the fridge. Then I made a blue cheese salad. But the piece de resistance was the sole--I lightly floured it, sauteed it in butter and olive oil, and then poured lemon juice into the drippings and put that over the fish--such a treat.
It would be a perfect meal if topped off with Hagen Daz extra light mint chocolate chip ice cream, but I can't get Central Market to carry it any more. Oh well, I don't need dessert anyway. Back to my book explaining vaccines to third graders--yikes! And tomorrow, after this lovely holiday where I've slept sinfully late every morning, it's back to working out at 6 a.m. and going to the office by 8. Thank goodness Christmas looms.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

A rainy Saturday

Saturday night, and I'm watching a wonderful new program on PBS--"Celtic Woman." It's full of Celtic music--women singing and dancing and the most amazing woman dancing and playing the violin. Talk about multitasking--a much more difficult version of the old rub-your-belly and pat-your-head routine! But the music strikes a chord with me.
Earlier my neighbor, Sue, and her parents, visiting from Canada, came for barbeque and beans and we had a lively time with talk ranging from pets to religion and politics. I had the Christmas lights on and a fire in the fireplace, so we were cozy. Outside it was cold and rainy. When I let Scooby in tonight he was soaking wet--usually he doesn't get wet because he hides in his doghouse. I don't know what dragged him out into the rain tonight, but he was very glad to be inside.
This morning was one of those times I had to force myself to the grocery store--staying home, even staying in bed, was an enormous temptation. I went to the grocery and hardware and forgot about the other errands I intended to do. I'll save them for a sunny day. Tomorrow is supposed to be equally unpleasant--I'm to meet a friend for brunch and then go to Central Market for a few things. I really need to do some outdoor chores--pull up the basil which didn't survive the cold snap and put new decorations on my car, but those too will have to wait for better weather.
Meantime I'm enjoying the high clear sweet voices of the Celtic singers and the warmth of my house. Wish I had something more significant to say, but it's been that kind of a day.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Follow Your Passion--Installmant Two

Yesterday my horoscope said that I should listen to my own thoughts because inside my practical exterior is a philosophical person. Well, I'd been feeling philosophical anyway and meant to post last night but enjoyed my granddaughters too much. But that follow your passion idea is still on my mind.
After my brother, John, read my first post on the subject, he called to say he knew exactly what in my life I was talking about. And then we talked about it. It was, of course, a time when I lacked the courage or conviction or whatever to pledge myself to a man I loved very much but of whom my famiily did not approve because of religious differences. So of course I've wondered about what might have been--but also realized that I have four wonderful children and a rewarding career I wouldn't have had if I'd taken that fork in the road. But then I got to thinking about him. Would his life have been better or worse if Ihad followed him? I've had contact with him quite a few years ago, and he seemed to have had a good life with a successful careeer and a close family, though he wasn't ecstatic about life in general. Perhaps now, in his 70s, he's more content.
And then because I'd been talking to John I remember something he'd said to me one day--that all of us have those "three o'clock in the morning" thought where we think, "Ooops. Wish I hadn't done that one." And some have a lot more of those thoughts, with reason, than others. I think those thoughts too often have to do with relationships and folowing your heart and sometimes mistaking passion for where your heart would lead you. Sometimes I think the Lord rescued me from making a lot of bad mistakes along the way--with the result that I have more rewards in terms of family, friends, and career than I perhaps deserve.
Philosophy aside, I have had a lovely Thanksgiving and hope everyone else has too. I'm in Frisco with Jamie and Mel, Maddie and Edie. Mel cooked a wonderful traditional dinner, and we all ate way too much. We had dinner about 2 or 2:30, cleaned up and went to see Mr. Magorium, which was cute--some of the effects were really magical. I had tried to stay home and read, but when an 8-year-old pouts and says, "Please go with us, Juju" there's no choice.
Tonight the weather forecasts are full of snow, although mostly to the west, and freezes. And two days ago it was 84! Tonight when we went out I bundled up because I expected this Arctic cold, but it wasn't that bad. Who knows what the weekend will bring.
Thanksgiving is behind us, and even though it was early this year, it means that Christmas is just around the corner.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Following Your Passion

A young man whose face and name have become famliar on local NBC TV newscasts has announced he will leave his television career to tour with a rock band that plays a funky mixture of reggae, rock, and calypso. He says the people at the station were wonderful and supportive, but his parents were less enthusiastic and his mother expects him to turn into a "dreadlocked, crazed man." I can understand his parents' concern, but he's young, apparently unfettered so far, and he's taking a now-or-never chance. More power to him. Sometimes I wish I had done that. The announcement this morning got me to thinking about all the times I've taken the safe, "wise" course. There was one big time when I truly didn't follow my heart, and I've wondered many times in the years and years since what my life would have been like if I hadn't be too fearful to take that leap. Those that held me back were sure they were helping me, but sometimes I'm not so sure.
Would I take that kind of a leap today? I'd love to think once again unfettered I might--but the truth is my passion is right where I am. What would I run to? I have my family--the most important thing to me--my home, my job, my writing. If I had to take a leap to recover those things, yes I'd do it in a heartbeat. But go for something new? No, I'm too lucky to be living my passion.
Hats off and Godspeed to Nigel Wheeler. Check out his band at

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Another food day--and Christmas

Well, I always rail about how early Christmas decoratons go up and how the season starts earlier each year. I've noticed this year that Christmas party invitations come earlier. But in spite of all that, I found myself decorating for Christmas tonight. Jordan and Christian came to take down my Christmas things from the attic--an appalling collection of boxes, grocery sacks, and black plastic bags. When they had them strewn all over the guest room, I intended to start wrapping the presents laid out on the bed. But I simply couldn't walk around those bags and boxes on the floor, and so I began to decorate. Kept telling myself I'd just do a bit more--but now I have a lot done. The ordinary things are put away (it will take me until spring to find them) and Christmas things are on most but not all of the usual surfaces. I haven't done pine cones and greens yet, but I'm close. And wrapping? I have enough for three or four years. All I need is Scotch tape and I'm in business.

Such a lazy day. Spent a long time with the Sunday paper. To me one of life's luxuries is to read the paper leisurely with a cup of coffee and the Sunday morning talk shows. Went to church, came home to a quick lunch, a bit of reading, and then a nice nap. Jordan and Jacob came about 3:30, and by the time Christian got here at 4:30 we had dinner almost ready. A marinated pork tenderloin from Central Market (I got it free on one of their spend $40 and get a free tenderloin offers)--cooked it just the way they recommend, and it was wonderful, flavorful and tender. I have a horror of getting meats like that overcooked. I had the Southwestern potatoes from yesterday, and Jacob ate two whole potatoes. His father ate two plus a bowl of leftover stuffing that wouldn't fit into the skins. I fixed my favorite blue cheese salad dressing, a recipe I found years ago in a magazine, periodically forget, and then rediscover and wonder why I don't fix it every day. Here it is: rub a wooden salad bowl with a cut garlic clove, salt (I am a devotee of kosher salt now), and dry mustrd. Add a hunk of blue cheese and then some vinegar--careful here because you have to add more oil than vinegar and if you add too much you'll end up with salad soup. Mash the cheese and vinegar into a paste, and then whisk in about twice as much oil as the vinegar you put in. Add cut lettuce and croutons and toss. So good.
Off to bed early. Lazy days make me tired.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

A Food Day

This has been a food day, which is appropriate for this blog since it's as much about cooking as writing--and grandchildren, though the latter tend to take over. Jordan is on the South Beach diet, and they are coming for an early Sunday supper so that she and Christian can get down my Christmas wrappings and decorations--I do not go in my attic if I can avoid it and do not go at all when I'm home alone. I have visions of falling, breaking a leg, and lying unfound for days. So it's a pain for Jordan and Christian, but they've been doing it for several years now. I mentioned that I had a pork tenderloin in the freezer (I'm trying to eat from the freezer and clean it out) and I'd do Southwestern twice-baked potatoes to go with it. Jordan was a bit put out--she can't eat the potatoes. They're not on the diet.
Today since Christian was going to be at work this evening I told Jord I was going to get myself a splurge of a lamb chop, and if she wanted I'd get one for her too. They are those wonderful thick (and not cheap) loin chops from Central Market. I bought three, and when she arrived I explained that I was really trying to support her diet so I had a variety of fresh vegetables for her to choose from. Baby beets with greens (as I suspected she doesn't eat beets), carrots I could steam (carrots are not on the diet nor is corn which I had planned to cook tomorrow), green beans, peas (not on the diet and she doesn't like them), and broccoli. She chose broccoli, which I steamed. But she didn't eat it all, and I said no problem I'd save it for Christian tomorrow night. She looked at me in horror, "He won't eat broccoli!" I swear--meal planning is a lot harder than it should be. But she'll saute it with red wine and mushrooms tomorrow night for herself and me (South Beach has some pretty good stuff on it!). Christian will have to do with potatoes and salad. Jordan was jealous tonight that I went ahead and heated one of the stuffed potatoes for myself (they're medium red potatoes so not huge) but I did. "Jacob will eat potato," she said, and I replied, "It has green chiles in it." Turns out he loved it and kept pointing for more.
After dinner, because it's dark, Jacob thinks it's time to go to bed. Jordan emphatically does NOT want him to do that, because he's been getting up at 5 a.m. So she took him home for bath and play--"I'll try to keep him awake until at least 8," she said. So they've gone, the kitchen is cleaned, and I've settled down with a cat at my elbow who desperately wants affection.
A while back I bought three Scottish mysteries, sort of in anticipation of the trip next spring. The first one was okay; I gave up on the second, though it is by an author lauded as the master of Scottish PI fiction. Now I'm trying to read the third--a police procedural set in Aberdeen, where we plan to go. Rough going, and I am not drawn in. I guess I like cozies too well. I have two books squirreled away to take to Frisco this week when I go to have Thanksgiving dinner with Jamie and his family. I had offered to make Jamie a sweet potatoe/pecan pie because he loves sweet potato pie, but I specified I would NOT bring it on the train. So maybe the pie goes by the wayside--I am going on the train, and he wants mashed sweet potatoes with marshmallows, like his grandmother used to make. I told him she always put bourbon in them, but he wasn't interested in the bourbon or cloves--wants butter and cinnamon.
Tonight seems to me a good night to relax and watch the food channel. Right now I'm watching some guy try to be funny while brining a turkey.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Vaccines and chefs

Life is not always fair. Last week I had that stomach thing, and this week it's that scratchy throat, head cold kind of thing. I really don't feel bad, but today whenever I opened my mouth, I squeaked, and I found that depressing. Megan called in the morning, and when she heard my voice she said, "Mom, why don't you let Susan answer the phone?" Stubborn is my middle name--I kept croaking out, "TCU Press. This is Judy Alter."
Came home at noon and got really busy. I've finished another chef's profile, this on Lanny Lancarte who two years ago opened a "high end" Mexican restaurant, blending French techniques with Mexican ingredients and coming up with dishes like you've never tasted before. He and Jordan went to middle school together, and it's been fun to follow his career.
Then I added some more, quite a bit more, to my vaccines manuscript and discovered that though I haven't said everything, it's already too long. So as usual with a children's manuscript, slimpifying and cutting are in the future. But it's a great feeling to have a rough draft.
Jamie called tonight, and I am going to Frisco for Thanksgiving. I had offered to make a sweet potato/pecan pie but did refuse to take it on the train. He isn't so much interested in the pie but wants sweet potatoes with marshmallows when I get over there. No bourbon, though I always used to put bourbon in them. I think I'll just give up the idea of dessert--nobody eats it on Thanksgiving anyway.
Had dinner tonight with good friends Elizabeth and Weldon--she was a work-study student (nontraditional) in our office for over two years. As she reminded me tonight, it's been over twelve years ago! But I love it that I've kept up the friendship with her and welcomed Weldon when he came into her life. My friend Carol Roark happened into the restaurant, and she joined us. A thoroughly pleasant evening--though I still croaked and squeaked. I'm better at home where I don't have to talk to the dog and cat.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Being a grandmother

Maybe this is a decadent week all together. I am not as pushed at work as usual and have taken advantage of that to come home at noon two days in a row. I'm nursing an annoying scratchy throat and cough--don't feel bad, just have those othersome symptoms. Today I kept Jacob for two hours while his mama went to the doctor. He is tireless! If he's inside, he wants to be outside; outside, he wants to be in. Really he wants to open the door and walk up the step countless times. I did take him out on the porch--built barricades of porch furniture so he wouldn't tumble down the steps. But I thought he'd enjoy seeing the kids leave the school across the street, and he did. He waved and waved--I swear the kid will be a politician--and it didn't seem to bother him that no one waved back. Bothered me though. I wanted to shout, "Don't you see how cute he is? Wave, for goodness sake!" By supper time Jacob had a major meltdown--he loves to suck on lemons, and his mom forgot he has a cut on his hand and gave him a lemon slice from her plate of salmon. Predictable results--he screamed and screamed . . . and then screamed some more. When we finally got him settled down, he ate an entire chicken thigh and lots of salmon, plus broccoli. Good eater. They were both tired--Jacob rubbing his eyes and Jordan rolling hers heavenward--so they went home early.
I had a letter to the editor in the newspaper today. Always fun--I usually hear from one or more people, liberal friends all, saying how much they liked my letter. This was about the futility of writing my Congressmen in a state where they all follow the White House line.
Last night I was far from decadent. I wrote about 1500 words, nearly half of a children's text on vaccines. I thought I had it all laid out in my mind, but when I got to writing I found that it was not nearly so straightforward. I think tonight I'll put it aside.
Last night I also finished the Margaret Truman mystery I was reading--Murder at the Opera. I really do like her books. Next I want to investigate the new subgenre of gardening mysteries. Susan Wittig Albert is probably the leading name, but there are others.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

A decadent Sunday and other pleasures

This has been a decadent Sunday. Jordan and I took Jacob to breakfast at Lucille's Stateside Bistro. In a restaurant, Jacob is sort of like a political candidate--he smiles and waves at everyone with complete confidence that the only reason they are there is to see him. He paid little attention to his food until we were through--and then he decided to eat everything in front of him. This afternoon I had a bit of wine and chocolate and a nice nap, and then tonight I had a sip of wine on the front porch with my neighbor--it's as warm as early September but the early dark makes you know winter is coming even if the temperature doesn't. Tonight I plan to finish the Margaret Truman novel I started yesterday--yeah, a decadent but lovely Sunday.
I'm in an accomplishing mood, after being sure Christmas would sneak up on me unawares. My freezer now holds a cheeseball and two sets of cookies; my Christmas card envelopes are addressed, as are the envelopes for a Christmas party; Christmas presents are spread out on the guest bed, waiting to be wrapped--Jordan will come Tuesday to get down my Christmas stuff. In turn I'll feed her salmon and broccoli--she's on South Beach. And I did a lot of those little things that boggle this weekend--packed up some of Jordan's china so I could put the new china I bought on that shelf, found a place for some new books, and swore that I would weed my bookcase. I am being overrun with books--and parting with any one is so hard!
What mood I'm not in is a go-to-church mood, and I'm a bit puzzled about that. It's not a lack of faith or a change in faith, and I am well aware that faith is best nurtured in a community of faith. I know those arguments and believe them, and I value the support and warm friendship I feel at my church. Yet I can find more things to do on Sunday. I think a real part of it is that I am tired of going to church alone. Someday, I'm sure, Jordan and Christian will put Jacob in Sunday school, and start going to church--you can't put a child in church without attending yourself--and I have friends who intend to start going to my church. When they do maybe I will. Meantime, my conscience bothers me--but not enough. I've talked to the Lord about it but I have no idea what his response is.
Busy week coming up with lots of work at the office but not many extracurricular activities, which is good. Oh, yes, TCU Press had a signing yesterday--13 of the 14 contributors to Grace & Gumption: Stories of Fort Worth Women were in Barnes & Noble signing the book. We sold an astounding 72 copies in the first hour, sent out for another 12 copies, and sold all but two of those. Read about it at
Have a blessed week.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Random Thoughts

I'm watching Bill Moyers interview Thomas Cahill, author of How the Irish Saved Civilzation and other important books. Cahill is writing a book now on the death penalty, a departure in subject matter for him. He's following one Texas case of a man executed in 2004, and he makes a lot of good points--change in society comes not from governments from movements within countries (such as Desmond Tutu and his group in Africa), that the urge for violence, to execute is some primitive instinct that lingers in all of us but the mark of civilization is to live in peace. Lots of lessons for our country, domestically and internationally. Cahill is a learned, erudite and completely accessible and likeable man. And as a longtime opponent to the death penalty, I applaud his views--and his forthcoming book.
Met another likeable man today--one of our authors who came all the way from Wyoming to take the office staff to lunch (he'd already sent us a beautiful bouquet) and sign his new novel at three bookstores. I wondered a bit--he has been so persistent about promotion, although he's done it all himself and on his own nickel, that I feared he might be pushy. He turned out to be a really nice, down to earth guy who has done some amazing things--like starting a radio station in a small Alaskan town where he taught English for some 25 years. Bob Cherry's novel, Moving Serafina, is set in his native West Texas and is well done (of course it is or we wouldn't have published it!). But it's a pleasure when an author turns out to be so pleasant to work with and so willing. I bet his book will sell well. What an author is willing to do makes all the difference.
I got in the Christmas mode today. Did my first baking--oatmeal brown sugar bars with dried cranberries, a bit of orange juice, chocolate bits, and pecan pieces (I'm relishing the crumbs that didn't cut smoothly.) Then I emptied what I call my "gift closet" onto the guest bed--of course, I found things I'd forgotten I'd bought and had no idea who I intended them for. I try to keep a list on my computer but it usually gets away from me. I also found I had three and four gifts for some people who are easy to buy for--the kind that so many things you see strike you as "just right" for them--and none for some of the not-so-easy people in my family. I know my early start on the holidays frustrates some of my family who do things at the last minute--Megan, I'm sure, has barely begun to think about shopping--but it's the way I get things done. By the week before Chirstmas I predict I'll be all done and back to working on my writing.
I am, with many thanks to the powers that be, back to myself after whatever bug hit me earlier in the week. It's like coming out of a great fog but it sure feels good. Tomorrow is a luncheon with all the contributors to Grace & Gumption: Stories of Fort Worth Women followed by a signing with all of us at a nearby Barnes & Noble. Should be fun.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Sick days

Yesterday was not my finest day. Monday night, really about 1 a.m. Tuesday, some sort of intestinal but attacked me and I got no sleep the rest of the night. Yesterday I wandered around like a zombie, though I did manage to change the bed and do a wash, take the garbage carts to the street, shower and wash my hair, and answer a few emails. But I kept going back to bed. when I was up, I thought I wanted to be down; when I was down, I thought I wanted to be up (down generally won). Went to bed at 5:30 last night, and except for brief upright periods, stayed there until 7:30 this morning. It's funny what a day like that does to you--kind of draws you into yourself so that you can't imgine ever feeling different or ever caring about what's going on in the larger world.
Today I am feeling much better (although my stomach hasn't quite gotten that message--I'm eating lots of yogurt and drinking ginger ale, the remedy from my childhood.) But I'm more on top of my world, dealing with office issues, writing a short piece, etc. My normal routine would have been to rush back to work but maybe age does bring a bit of wisdom. When I got up this morning, I thought, "No, I'll give myself one more day." And at 1:30 I have already had one nap and am about to take another.
Back to the world tomorrow.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Grandkids, weddings, and leftovers

By all reports the Texas Book Festival was, more than anything else, almost unbearably hot. Various presses display their books in large white temporary tents, and I've been in those tens when they were wet and freezing. This year, they were sweltering. Still, even with crowds in the thousands, it sounds a little more peaceful than Saturday night at my house. Five of my grandchildren and two sets of their parents were here. Four of those kids are four and under so there was lots of yelling and running and occasional tears and metldowns. It was a lovely, happy, absolutely exhausting time. Jordan left Jacob with us while she went to a birthday dinner, so we all took turns watching him--he is busier than the proverbial one-armed paper hanger. Jamie, whose girls are four and eight now, said, "I'd forgotten how tiring it is." Then, almost puzzled, he said, "I don't remember the girls being that busy." Jacob is used to my house being a lot quieter, and he loved every minute of the fun but by the time his mommy came his eyes were glazed over and he pointed to the door, as if to say, 'Okay, let's go now."
Sunday we went to breakfast which stretched into an hour-and-a-half and then to the bookstore and by then it was time for everyone to clean up for my sister-in-law's wedding reception. I was one proud mom with the five parents and five grandchildren sitting at the table with me. Kristine, the bride, said it really delighted her to look over and see our branch of the family there. It's nice to see someone look as radiantly happy as she did, and I'm delighted that both she and my brother have built new happy lives and marriages for themselves. There were funny moments--when the bride and groom were about to cut the cake and everyone stood around watching them, three-year-old Sawyer ran right up to the table like he was going to taste the icing. Megan crept up to get him. And there was a moment of crisis--Jordan in the lady's room with a baby with a dirty diaper, no wipes, no paper towels, trying to call our cell phones (none of us had them on). She got so distracted chasing Jacob, she left for my house, set off the alarm, and had to deal with the police. It was not her day. But it was Kristine's day, and here's to her happiness.
We planned to come home and eat leftovers before everyone departed for their own homes but we ate too much at the reception--good appetizers, veggies, cheese, etc. There were artichoke bottoms garnished with chopped tomato and herbs. Edie dumped the tomatoes (which she used to love) off about five of them and ate the artichoke part. And the cake! Ford and Sawyer ate chunks of icing off their mother's fork, and Sawyer ate his own piece of cake.
We were too full and too tired by 6 p.m. to think about barbecue--the Austin family left, Christian came by for two seconds, and they all left. I was home alone with way too much barbcue and a big bunch of marinated vegetables, to say nothing of brownies and a tub of ice cream that I don't want! I sent an SOS to Sue next door to send over her kids to collect it. I'll have to deal with the barbecue somehow.
By 7 p.m., the house was pretty much in order--the little kids do a great job of taking it apart and the big kids are equally good at putting it back together again. I sat at my desk eating veggies (the same kind that Madde ate for breakfast, a huge bowl!) and a half a barbecue sandwich and reflected on a truly great, if short, weekend.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Blogs, cooking--and an almost disappointment

Yesterday I accomplished two big things. At the office I created the official TCU Press blog, "The Bookish Frog" ( and even at home I continued to fiddle with it. I was inordinately proud of myself for learning to add hit counters to that site and this one, put in links to other blogs, etc. I know blogs can be complicated and there are people who make a science out of managing their blog. I tend to do what I do with all computer technology--learn just enough to get by. When I get stymied, I sit at my office desk and yell, "Melinda!" She always rescues me.
Yesterday I heard from one of the people for whom managing a blog is a science. Her name is Cheryl, and she manages a western romance writers blog called Petticoats and Pistols ( She asked me to be a guest blogger in February and explained the technicalities--sending a picture or telling her where she can "grab" it on the net. She also talked about the relative merits of varous site counters, which took a bit of the wind out of my sails because I felt lucky just to have discovered how to do any old one.
Cooking was my other accomplishment yesterday. I made a huge pot of crockpot barbecue (even made a double batch of sauce) and a large salad of marinated vegetables, which all my kids and most of my grandkids love. By the end of the day, the kitchen was clean, barbecue and sauce was in the fridge along with the vegetables, plastic plates ready--all set to go. My plan included asking grandchildren to make brownies and sour cream dip when they get here. Effortless entertaining--well, not really, yesterday was a long kitchen day and my back ached at the end of it.
But this morning Megan called from Austin to announce she thought she had strep throat and they probably wouldn't come. She was terribly disappointed, and so was I. She went to the doctor--and called a while later to say it's not strep and they are coming. Meantime I had jumped the gun and alerted Jordan and Jamie that the Austin group wasn't coming, so I had to reverse course and say it was a false alarm. One-year-old Ford has a cold, though, and Jordan is not so sure about her plan to leave Jacob here while she goes to a friend's birthday dinner. Knowing Megan, she had not even thought about packing for herself or the boys (except to lay out the book I asked her to bring) so she said it would be "hours" before they left (this at 11 a.m. to a mother who firmly believes trips should start no later than 7 a.m.). She had said, "Don't freeze the barbecue--we're coming" but then I asked if they'd be here for dinner and got the disconcerting answer, "We'll try." I'm practicing my relaxed mode--que sera, sera.
I have a new children's book assignment. I was offered a choice of a long list of topics in three areas, and I chose medicine and the specific topic of vaccines. It's a fairly short book and shouldn't be hard--there's lots of valid information on the web--but it's due mid-January. With the holidays looming between now and then I decided I could only take one topic. After all I have to put together a tree trimming party, wrap presents (most are purchased), and, of course, worry a lot about getting everything done. My prediction: I will have it all done the week before Christmas and spend that week working on the vaccine project.
I'm also working away at my small book on Great Texas Chefs and having lots of fun. I have no idea how to gauge length--recipes do take a lot of pages. I've done several--have to track down the chefs and get their approval. This project got me into correspondence with a woman whose cookbook I admire above all others: Terry Thompson-Anderson and Texas on a Plate.
Enough. I'm going to start reading about vaccines and not even wonder when my wandering family will get here.
You know, I could pack myself and two kids for an overnight trip in half an hour--hour at the most! Oops, there I go again!