Tuesday, March 31, 2009

An Outing Day

Jeannie and I had an outing day today. Left about 9:00 a.m. and went to renew my handicapped permit. Since we were already south of the highway, we decided to cut across country, which was fun and interesting, but I suspect we went in circles. Finally found the main highway and went on to Granbury, one of our favorite towns for shopping. Nothing, however, jumped out at either of us, and we saw a lot of stuff that would have just added more clutter to our houses, already cluttered enough. We marveled at how all those stores, with gimmicky stuff, stay in business in this economy. But then we came to a store with 70% off, called Rancho something, and in we went. Jeannie bought vases, baskets, and would have bought two wrought iron lamps but they were already sold. I bought one tiny basket for just under $3 because it reminded me of our friend, Jean. Then we went to the store owned by my longtime friend, Linda. Without prejudice, Almost Heaven is the classiest store on the square. And I found a bird feeder I couldn't do without--it was damaged, so I got a "deal" but later realized putting bird seed out on the porch was an invitation to squirrels and grackles and not the cute little birds I want to feed. We'll see.
We gathered up Linda, ate lunch in the tea room, and went to look at the house she and Rodger have remodeled. The core part was built in the late nineteenth century, and they have done a wonderful job of restoring it. It is absolutely charming, beautiful hardwoods, some woodwork stained dark to match a gorgeous sideboard treatment that is the focus of the dining area, a huge kitchen, and a great patio. The outside is painted a soft moss green, and the whole effect is charming.
Next stop: my brother's ranch in Tolar, about 15 minutes beyond Granbury. He and Cindy had their granddaughter, Emery, and it was a good chance for me to start to get to know her. The pictures above are, left to right, John and me, Jeannie and Linda, and Cindy and Emery. I not sure why Cindy looks so concerned, but I must point out that there are only two bottles of wine on the table because a bee flew into the first one and drowned. After a visit on the porch, we all got into the mule. (I'm spoiled and sat up front, squeezed between John and Cindy, who held Emery--we made the guests, Jeannie and Linda, sit in the back on cushions.) We went to feed the "moos," and had to count cattle forever to get the right number of mamas and babies. Cows all look alike to me, but John and Cindy recognize individuals--that's the one with the sick calf, and that's the gimpy one, and so on. Jeannie and Linda proved adept at jumping out to open and close gates while I, always the city child, sat in the cab. But it was there I got to know Emery, for Cindy kept telling her that I was Aunt Juju, and she finally reached out a tentative hand to explore my leg, my jacket, and, finally, my rings.
The only bad aspect of all this was that both Jeannie and I had started the day with what we thought were more severe allergies than usual. Mine went pretty much away by the time we got on the road and hers disappeared soon after, but mine came back in spades when we sat on the porch and then when we went to feed the cows. So tonight I look like Rudolph, with the reddest nose you've ever seen, and my throat is sore. I'm not sure if I have a cold or it's allergies, but I don't feel great and was sorry that I felt I put a pall on the day, which was truly a lovely day.
I came home thinking I didn't feel well enough to eat, but I reheated the leftover half twice-baked potato, put a small piece of salmon on the George Forman grill with soy, and made a salad of tomato, avocado, blue cheese, and lemon juice--and ate every bite. It was delicious, particularly the salmon. Maybe I'm not as pitiful as I think.
One more day of my mandatory leave, but I sure hope I feel better, as I have a busy first part of the day planned.

Monday, March 30, 2009

A cooking blog

This is a cooking blog because other than fixing myself a really good dinner, my day hasn't amounted to a hill of beans. I slept late, went grocery shopping (that involves two stores), had lunch with an old friend, came home to read e-mails, nap, do my yoga, and so on. A treat: the new Bon Appetit arrived today and I always love to leaf through the new issue--though I doubt I found two things in this one I wanted to cook. By suppertime I didn't feel I had accomplished much, though I'm going back to the novel tonight.
But that good dinner: I sauteed some mushroom slices in olive oil, butter and a little white wine, then sauteed Dover sole and put the mushrooms on top of the fish; reheated a twice-baked potato half I'd bought this morning (only ate half of it, so half awaits me tomorrow), and made my favorite salad--avocado, tomato, blue cheese, and straight lemon juice. Now I'm full and sleepy, but on to work.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Home again, home again

Much as I hate to leave my children and grandchildren, I am always grateful to be home again. I allow myself extra indulgences--an extra long nap, an extra glass of wine, a thrown-together supper, often of sandwiches picked up at the Czech Stop in West, though I'm going to stop that because they use that awful soft white bread I can't stand. And it takes me a long time to catch up on mail, newspapers, various odds and ends, etc. So it's been a lazy day in which I've moved from one world to another, back into my own world. I made an extra effort to love my animals, since Moksha, the pet sitter, e-mailed me frequently about how much they missed me--Wywy seemed to respond, but Scoob was much more interested in the bones I gave him. Moksha took him for his summer haircut, and he looks adorable--so skinny, but so pretty. He had really gotten shaggy over the winter. Of course, then it turned cold, and I worried about him, but he seems fine and tonight is happily in the study with me.

Melinda and I had a uneventful drive home, made good time, stopped only once, and chattered all the way, though not about business. I am still on my five-day mandatory leave and incommunicado with the office. I find it leads to some funny situations and occasional e-mails that if I don't either answer or forward will make people think I'm downright rude. I'm having lunch with an old TCU buddy tomorrow, now retired, but she asked,
"Are you sure it's legitimate for you to talk to me?" I plan to enjoy these three lazy days as much as I can. I've set Wednesday aside to go shopping for herbs--surely we are not going to have any more cold spells. Who ever heard of a frost in late March--okay, lots of people, but it's still unexpected.

Last night Megan's good friend Kristine, she of the garage apt., fixed us an elegant dinner. Kristine's family lives in Alaska, so they send her flash frozen salmon. I'm sure she won't mind if I share her cooking technique. She halves tomatoes (prefers Roma but used grape last night because the Roma were not good), tosses them with salt and pepper, puts fresh sprigs of oregano and basil on them, a generous amount of olive oil, and bakes them long and slow at 275. If Roma, she does them, 3-4 hours. Then she seasons the salmon with all kinds of things--salt, pepper, thyme, oregano, whatever comes handy in that line of seasoning and covers it with olive oil. Sawyer helped her season it and turn it in the olive oil last night and had the best time (a picture may be posted later if Megan sends it to me!). For serving, she tops the salmon with the tomatoes--absolutely delicious. She accompanied that with asparagus and roasted potatoes--sweet and white with onions. A wonderful dinner. The Austin family will not only miss "Aunt Stine" for her wonderful presence but also for her cooking when she returns to D.C. in May. Watch for her book, Justice at Guantanamo: One Woman's Odyssey and her Crusade for Human Rights, by Kristine Huskey, due out in June, I believe. . A lawyer specializing in international human rights, she has been to Guantanamo sixteen times. Wow! I am impressed. I also have a soft spot in my heart for Kristine--she's been family since she and Megan were in law school together.
Well, on to my three free days. Tomorrow, grocery stores and lunch with Jan, of whom I see too little these days. Tuesday, a trip to Granbury with Jeannie and then on to Tolar to drink wine with John and Cindy; and Wednesday, a trip to the nursery and planting herbs. In between, of course, I plan to write the great American novel and sleep a lot.I've thought about that business about the great American novel. I read the posts on Sisters in Crime and realize that most of them are seriously dedicated. Writing takes all their time and energy with little left over for other things. They focus, and they're persistent, and I admire it a lot. Many of them are my age or close to it. And yet I don't share their desperation for publication--of course I want it to happen, and I'll work toward it, but I have so much else going on in my life! I went to Austin loaded with notes on the novel in progress, sure that I would put in a lot of work. I didn't even look at it once. And maybe that's okay. Maybe I can enjoy life day to day and write when I can.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Breakfast with the pajama boys

These are my Austin grandsons, Sawyer and Ford, known as the pajama boys at the local I-Hop where they freqently go for Saturday breakfast. Their dad is hunting this weekend, and their mom and I took them to I-Hop. Now they're in the process of looking for the perfect bubble recipe on the web--apparentlly it involves a bit of glycerin, but Meg go the wrong recipe and it was a bust. We go from giggles to tears rapidly but it's never quiet unless Ford is taking his nap--when I plan to nap too. The boys figured out since I am their mom's mom I must be the boss of her (would it were still true!), since she is the boss of them. So they started calling me, The Big Cheese. Meg is ever so patient with almost everything they do, thuough she draws the line at some things.
It's very cold and windy today, though sunny and pretty and predicted to warm up. As usual I brought the wrong clothes, thinking it would be warm. I'm went to breakfast in a big old jacket of Brandon's and am now sitting in a long-sleeved shirt.
Last night was the Presidential Banquet of Texas State Historical Association. My good friend Fran was going out of office, so she was the honored guest and speaker,and I broke my five-day isolation, with permission, to go to the dinner. I went hesitantly, because I hate to go affairs like that alone, and I had crossed wires with the friends I planned to go with. But I gathered my courage, Megan dropped me off, and I of course had a wonderful time, saw all kinds of people I was delighted to see, met some new ones. I was really privileged to sit at the family table--I love Fran's kids and their families--and had a wonderful time. Only Fran can make a presidential banquet fun--her talk was about one of her East Texas ancestors, and so we had pot roast, mashed potatoes, black-eyed peas, and greens. The dessert was peach cobbler--with an iron skillet at each table and a delicious tub of cinnamon-flavored whipped cream! I was so glad I went!
Meantime I've been reading, answering e-mails (non-office only, of course) and napping and being lazy. Megan and I had a good lunch (with Brandon) and a fun shopping spree. I got some nifty pale green shoes, perfect with my dress for last night. A nice vacation! No working at all!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Vacationing--sort of

Here I am in Austin, staying with Megan and Brandon, Sawyer (almost 5) and Ford, 2. Yesterday Melinda and I had a jinxed trip down--got stopped cold by an accident ahead for 30-40 minutes, got lost twice (once on the same road where we'd gotten lost before). We were almost an hour late for the meeting. All went well though--except for some books that didn't arrive in time for an author signing--and I arrived at Megan's about five.
Both boys had had the throw-ups and went everywhere each carrying their own pot, even in the car. They made it through the night and seemed better this morning, but they clearly had cabin fever--lots of fighting, teasing and tears. Tonight they are much happier and seem fine. Megan has been home, so though I'm sorry the boys were sick, it did have a side benefit. Tomorrow I think she and I will go to lunch and do some other things.
Today I had lunch with a designer who is a longtime personal friend--we talked a little about our respective crafts but mostly we talked about feeding our grandchildren. We've know each other at least 25 years, and it's interesting to see the directions our lives have taken, now with both of us so involved with grandchildren.
Last night when I sat down at my computer I had 103 message, many of which could be read and discarded easily but several that required answers. Took me some of last night and all of this morning. As of midnight last night I am officially incommunicado with my office--until next Thursday. Taking my mandatory five consecutive days out of the office. I think I'll enjoy the time but of course there are some e-mails I itch to answer.
I came down here with great intentions of working on my novel, but so far I don't see it happening.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Birds, travel, and grandsons

I wish I were a better birder, wish I could recognize the various birds that come to my feeder outside the kitchen window (of course, the exterminator tells me that's why I had rats last year and I should put it far away from the house, but then I wouldn't see the birds, and I do enjoy them!). Tonight a small crested fellow came--he had just a bit of red at the back of his head, and his body was striped black and white. He was quite striking though I have no idea who he was. I do get cardinals and bluebirds and robins along with sparrows and other small birds, whose names I'm not sure of. And I often get doves, who are too big for the feeder but still try to eat from it. The library staff at work frequently sends out pictures of birds they've sighted, asking for i.d.--the last was a red-tailed hawk, seen in my neighborhood, though I've not seen it. But recognizing birds is one of the nature lessons I really long to know. I'd also like to be able to recognize more types of trees instantly. I know elm, maple, oak, post oak, redbud, dogwood--and oh, what's the one that turns the beautifl red in the fall? Anyway at my age, my nature education needs improving. And speaking of such, I hear they caught a bobcat in Frisco, north of Main street and west of the freeway--which is exactly where Jamie and Mel and the girls live. I'll have to ask for a report.
At Christmas my neighbors put bright Christmas ornaments in their bird feeder and strung festive lights along the fence between our two houses (there's not much room and neither of us have a scenic view). They've turned out the lights but not filled the bird feeder, which of course makes me feel righteous because I emptied, washed and refilled mine last week. But tonight I also saw some birds pecking away at the leftovers in their tray and completely puzzled by the ornaments. One morning recently I watched a mourning dove sit on their window sill and fly again and again up to the crossbar on their window. They have, courtesy of previous owners, some kind of reflective covering on their windows--the only way to remove it is to hand-scrape inch by inch and in spite of all the wonderful things they've done to their house, they haven't done that yet. So I don't know if the bird was confused by it's own image or what, but it kept flying against that window and I felt so sorry for it.
The reflective stuff on Jay and Susan's windows, along with my new blinds, has led to a funny phenomenon. Now that I keep the blinds open on that side of the house to get the light (several people have remarked lately on the wonderful light in my house, but it was always hidden by those gauzy drapes before!) But when their house is dark, I clearly see the reflection of mine--it looks like their kitchen windows have suddenly developed a lower dimension, which is really my bedroom--I can see the lamp I leave on at night. And in the morning, when I walk from my study to the kitchen, I see my study reflected--it's on a lower level than their house, but it looks so warm and cozy and inviting.
I am not a good traveler. Tomorrow I leave for Austin for five days, and I have to gear myself up for it, even though I'll be with my darling Megan and her family. Tonight she called and said the boys had one request: that I bring my knitting needles and yarn. Hello? Does anyone know how long it's been since I knit? At least 2-1/2 years because the last thing I struggled through was a blanket for Jacob. But apparently the boys want thneeds (google it--comes from a Dr. Seuss book) which are sort of shapeless, so anything I knit will be satisfactory. I put my bag of leftover yarns by the door to go and the knitting needles in my suitcase. Now if I can only remember how to cast on and off . . . .

Monday, March 23, 2009

Dinner for company, a windy day, and a writing insight

Last evening I was expecting company for supper, and I had spent some of Saturday preparing--a fresh green pea soup I thought would be light and airy for spring (medium recipe--I probably won't repeat; okay but bland), a vinaigrette for salad nicoise and some asparagus for the same salad, a cheese spread that I mentioned in my last post. I took my nap earlier than usual yesterday, and when I woke there was a message on the machine saying they had to cancel--both were sick, though with different ailments. So I called Jeannie and Jim and they joined me for supper. We ate on the porch--glorious weather--and had a good visit. We decided we were really sorry our friends were sick, but it all worked out well. My salad nicoise was really good--I ate the leftovers for lunch today. We also splurged--all three of us try to be careful about what we eat, but we had strawberry ice cream with chocolate mint sauce (yummm--just writing about it makes me want some).
Today was another pretty day, not quite as sunny, and very windy, and tomorrow we're to have storms. I always dread the battle to get Scooby outside when it rains or storms, but I can't leave him in when I'm not here. And then possible rain and cooler temps all week. I hope Melinda and I don't have to drive to Austin in the rain Wed. Jordan called this morning from the balcony of her bedrom on the cruise ship--she was staring at the Golden Gate Bridge and had watched the sun come up for her bedroom. Not a bad place to be!
I had a funny dream last night--I was somewhere in the middle of the night watching a play, and the only car I had was a rental VW but it was much smaller than mine. I was so aware that I was missing sleep (I must have a fixation about getting plenty of sleep) that I left the play early, got in this tiny car, and headed home, but I kept running into construction sites and other obstacles and finally ended up where I had started, long after the play was over. But then I was back in my own VW and grateful to be. Moral of this story: a Smart Car is probaby not for me. When I woke from that dream about 4 a.m. I was exhausted and so glad I could go back to sleep. I do sometimes think I wake tired because I've been so busy in my dreams.
I finished the Mary Higgins Clark novel, which was a real cliff-hanger and, as is her style, the villains weren't at all who you expected them to be. But I had an "aha!" moment, one I've had before and keep forgetting: authors like Clark can have all those threads because they write in third person; I unfailingly write in first. My few attempts at third have not been successful, and I end up making the great pronoun/point of view switch, which can be disastrous if you miss a pronoun. So I'm limied to what the main character knows. Some authors, of course, insert a prologue or even a chapter sometimes in another voice, often setting it apart in italics, but I haven't seen the need to do that yet. Conventional wisdom says authors write their first novel in first person and then move on, but lots of cozies are first person, and I'm really more comfortable getting inside the head of my charater. Now that I'm finished with that novel, I really must get back to my own. First, however, I have to post information on the Guppies Small Publishers list--it's taken me forever and the dedicated help of two others on the list to figure out how to do it, but I think I posted information on two publishers this evening--have to check--and have three to go.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

No Neighborhood for Old Women

Yes, that's the title of my work-in-progress, in which a serial killer is stalking old women in an inner city "transitional" neighborhood. Its a cozy, so it's not gruesome like a lot of serial killer fiction, and, yes, the title is a clear play on Cormac McCarthy's most recent, award-winning novel--but it fits the story. I'm excited about this story, more so by the day, so I decided to ask my blog readers for their opinion on the opening. Would you buy it or not? (Be honest!)
Of course, I couldn't figure out how to cut and paste--I know there's a way--so here goes a labor of love: retryping the first page:

Florence Dodson was murdered the same night that Claire Guthrie shot her husband. For me, the story began with Claire, and I put Mrs. Dodson on the back burner in my mind. That turned out to be a mistake--sort of.
I answered the doorbell about 8:30 that July night only to find Claire standing there, holding a gun. Luckily, she didn't have it pointed at me. No, Claire held the gun limply at her side. I really only saw it because the light from our front porch glinted off it.
"Claire?" My voice was tentative.
She didn't answer, didn't move. She seemed almost in a trance.
"Claire?" I repeated.
She stared at me, and yet I felt invisible. "I just shot Jim," she said.
"Shot him? "Is he dead" For a moment I was paralyzed. I knew I should do something, anything, but what, call 911? Rush to Jim's aide? The irreverent thought flitted through my mind that nobody deserved shooting more than Jim Guthrie, to whom I'd taken an instant dislike on our first meeting. I'm sure it was mutual.
"Claire?" I spoke sharply. "Answer me! Does he need help?" Please, God, let her have shot him in the foot or something!
She just stared at me. Finally, slowly, she said, "No. Someone told me I should shoot his sorry ass. And that's what I did. I shot him in the butt."

Let me know what you think. Meantime I've been thinking about the different ways writers approach mystery. On my opening page you can see the two major threads of the novel--an old woman dies, and a woman shoots her husband. There's more of course--Kelly's growing involvement with Mike Shandy, her mom's move to Texas from Illinois, the ongoing antics of her daughters--but there you have the basics.
In the opening of the Mary Higgins Clark novel I'm reading even in the first chapters, the action jumps from scene to unrelated scene, some of them less than a page long. It's like holding a fistful of threads in your hand and wondering how they'll come together. Yet you know Clark will tie them all together. I wonder how she works--does she plot it all out beforehand? It seems to me she'd have to, just to be sure those threads would come together.
I recently had an inquiry from an author who said he preferred to do his own cover art (a big no-no for our production manager) but he knew that comparing his work to professional artists was like telling a chef he worked at McDonald's. I feel the same way in triplicate about even mentioning my writing in the same breath as Clark's, but I could never start out with that many threads, because as I write I have only the vaguest outline of how things are going to happen. After my recent lunch with mentor Fred and a long talk about the possibilities of this novel, I suddenly figured out how some of the pieces are going to fall into place. Still haven't got the big, climactic ending in my mind--and almost 3/4 way through the manuscript. But I sure am having fun.
Still doing chores today--three loads of laundry, watering plants, a yoga workout, company tonight for a simple supper. I don't have time for work some days!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

A busy day doing nothing

Whoosh! I am tired tonight, though I can't tell you what wore me out today--a trip to the grocery, a long time spent trimming porch plants and planting my new cilantro, getting as much ready for tomorrow night's dinner guests as I could. Seems like I kept getting to the point that my back told me to sit down for a while, and so I did.
By five o'clock, I was really tired, so I saw Jay and Susan in the yard and suggested they come for drinks on the porch at six. Meantime I went and rode my bike, but didn't go nearly as far as I usually do. Nor did I get my pulse rate up as high. But it sure felt good to sit on the porch, with a light breeze, and visit. Sue came over to steal some of my rosemary, and so she joined us. We sat for an hour and then I came inside and sauteed some sugar snap peas, grape tomatoes, sliced mushrooms, and one lonely stem of asparagus--it got left out when I cooked and put away the asparagus for tomorrow night! Then I sauteed some Dover sole, and when I took it out of the pan, I deglazed it with white wine and lemon juice. Poured that over the fish, added a little more olive oil to the pan, and sauteed some capers until they opened up. That was an experiment because I want to scatter sauteed capers over the non-traditional version of salad nicoise that I'm doing tomorrow night. Really good.
I'm really back on a writing roll, and it feels so good. This morning, as I lingered in bed as is my Saturday habit, I had all kinds of thoughts about how the plot was going to work out--and when I got up I rushed to put them on paper. So I'm itching to write a scene that's in my head and will do that tonight, though I've also started reading an old Mary Higgins Clark novel I've never read and am itching to keep on with it. Her plots are so complicated, with so many threads going from the very beginning, that it makes me feel amateurish. But I'm not giving up--I'm having fun with this.
I corresponded with an author today who published two books that I thoroughly enjoyed with a small press unknown to me--or so I thought. Turns out they were self-published and the name of the publishing company was a well-chosen ruse. Makes me think two things: I don't want to have to go that way, and there must be lots of writers out there, like this woman, who write really well, absorbing characters and plots, but just don't get the right break in the larger, competitive world of publishing, where agents are inundated with proposals. This author told me she got tired of waiting. I can sympthize.
I had another thought today--I'm beginning to worry less about what I would do in retirement. I was so busy all day, and there are lots of things I've left undone for tomorrow. I think I'd find plenty to do, plus plenty of company. Something to ponder on.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Smart cars and rabbits

Yet another day when life came at me fast. I rushed to work early so I could clear up a bunch of small details before an author appt. at 8:30--I thought it might take a long time, but it was brief, and I found myself with a gap of time before I had to go sell books at 10:15. No one else was in the office, and I didn't feel like starting a new project, so I just piddled and did small stuff that needed to be done--nope, didn't unpack or shelve those books. Went to sell books while Katie Sherrod, editor of Grace & Gumption: Stories of Fort Worth Women, spoke--and one of the hostesses turned out to be a woman who left TCU 15 years ago but of whom I was always fond. So I was delighted to see her again. We sold a good number of books, though I lost count.
Then on to the grocery store and home. I laugh at myself--I'm always rushing around to get home so I can relax. But I did get a good nap today before Elizabeth came for a yoga lesson. She was driving her new smart car, and Jay, Susan, and I all rushed out to examine it. It's wonderful---and I WANT ONE! The passenger compartment is as roomy as my VW and Elizabeth, whose husband dries a VW, said the smart car sits a little higher, which is an advantage. The back is a hatch, with plenty of room for groceries; Elizabeth said they have just ordered a pet liner so you can transport pets back there. Hers is red, but I would probably want the blue. The deluxe model costs about half what my VW cost me. Folks, I am seriously tempted. Only problem is if somewhere on down the road I wanted to transport two grandchildren at once, I couldn't do it; but as it is, I don't have a car seat for them, so never take a child in my car. And there is the fact that the warranty has run out on my VW . . . .
Jordan leaves tomorrow morning (very early) for two days on a fam trip to a new cruise ship out of San Francisco. For those who don't know, fam trips are to familiarize agents with the location or ship or whatever--and they are usually a lot of work, not just relaxing in luxurious settings. But Monday she'll go up to see her dad in Santa Rosa and be home late Tuesday night. Since I leave for Austin early Wed., we will pass like ships in the night. So I went out to have a glass of wine with her. We sat on the patio--their backyard is small and neither of them are really gardeners, but it's lovely and green, with a wide concrete area for Jacob to play on. And best of all, there are wild rabbits. One enjoyed his dinner of grass for about 20 minutes, until Jacob went too close and the rabbit ran into the bushes. I told Jacob we should name him and what name did he want? "Bunny!"
Jacob kept saying he wanted to go to Juju's house, and we tried to explain this was not a good night but he would stay with me soon. But after all those protestations, you think that child would give me a goodbye kiss? Not on your life!
I'm going to write tonight. I've decided there's a difficult scene stuck in my brain, and I need to get it on paper, even if I later go back and insert other material before it. So here goes!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Sometimes Life Comes at You Fast

That's how I've been feeling lately--so much to do, so little time. I looked around the house this morning and realized there were lots of little things I simply hadn't done, none of which would take more than a minute. So today I did some of them--tried to fix the MacBain trivet table that had come apart (got it lightly fixed but a permanent repair will take someone stronger than me), got clean sheets back on Jacob's bed instead of draped over the edge, put away some folded clothes and found the tights I'd been looking for. When I went to the office, I had the same feeling--stacks of unshelved books, a box of books that hadn't even been opened, an absolute mess (for which I am in large part responsible) in the storeroom--I can't seem to keep closets neat. Susan is staying home next week while Melinda and I go to Austin, and she plans to dig in and get all that done.
Yesterday I had lunch and dinner dates, today I had an eleven o'clock meeting at my house (only three of six peole) came, and then lunch; tonight was the Friends of the Library annual dinner, where we awarded the TCU Texas Book Award to Joe Nick Patoski for his biography of Willie Nelson. And a big surprise for me--I was given the Carol Jim Renshaw Award for service to the Friends--a nice engraved lucite award. I was totally surprised, which everyone said later showed on my face. And Melinda knew about it all the time! June, dean of the library, told me she couldn't believe I hadn't gotten it years ago, so that made me feel good too. Apparently the award is a big deal and not given every year.
Pleasant dinner. We sat at the speaker's table--now I know why and why June was so insistent the newspaper photographer get a picture of her, me, the chair of the Friends, and Joe Nick. I sat next to Joe Nick, and he and his wife were most pleasant, interesting people--a lot of publishing talk.
And more good news: I'm on a roll with my mystery with scenes and ideas tumbling out of my fingers. Can't find enough time to write.
A lazy weekend looms--after an author meeting, a book signing at which I collect money, and a trip to the grocery tomorrow. But Saturday only holds a quick trip to Central Market and Sunday, a simple supper for friends. I hope to get some more writing done.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Writing and other stuff

A few days ago, my mentor, Fred, emailed me his comments on my WIP (that's Sisters in Crime lingo for work in progress). He thought it was progressing nicely, pacing was better, I was getting more comfortable with the characters--but one episode bothered him and needed clarification. So night before last I did that, which was fun and I did much more than he originally suggested, quite a bit of rewriting and expanding. But then last night I was back to where I'd gotten stymied--what was going to happen next? I could see events on down the road, but I didn't know how to get to them. So I did what I know to do--I forged ahead and wrote. The general theory--and Fred and I talked about it today--is to write something, anything, with the knowledge you'll rewrite. But that moment of writing will get you off dead center. And already I can see episodes and incidents that need to come before what I wrote last night, so maybe I'm off and running again, if I can keep life from interfering with my writing, which it has a way of doing.
I had lunch with Fred today, and we talked about the ultimate end of my book--I can see two villains, and no one will, I hope, which one puts the main character in danger--and who's guilty of what. Fred thought it was a great idea but tricky to pull off, and that may be what's stopping me. Then we talked about an idea he's working on for either a series of articles or a book--I of course encouraged him to make it a book. Sounds intriguing. He's done two books with TCU Press since he retired, and I'd like to see another one.
So tonight, I'm going to write those missing episodes that are now in my brain. It's really true that once you start writing, it flows, and your characters tell you what's going to happen. Alas, not so for Fred who writes nonfiction and has to do lots of research.
Meantime life has still been getting in my way. Yesterday was Jordan's real birthrday and she looked forward to lunch at Cafe Aspen, our favorite. But in the morning she woke with a painful, scratched eyeball--I've had that in the past, once, and it may well be the most painful episode in my medical history. She thought sure she could go to the doctor, he'd fix it, and she could go on to lunch--so sure, that she took a bag of make-up with her to his office. But he told her to go home and lie down in a dark room. So no lunch. And so far we can't find a time to reschedule.
Yesterday afternoon the AT&T installation person came--maybe the eighth one I've had here. But he fixed the ugly kitchen installation to the best of his ability, and it does look much better--no more looping cord going up the wall. It's much less intrusive. I wonder what Jamie will think of it. The AT&T guy also said not to put the flat screen TV in the bathroom--Jamie gave it to me for Christmas for that purpose--he said the moisture from showers would cause it to crash. I think I'll look for one of those radios that my dad had that plays the audio portion of TV programs. I fervently hope I'm through with AT&T problems!
Today I ran a pharmacy errand on the way to work, spent the morning keying in dull corrections, and had a most enjoyable lunch with Fred. Then raced to pick up Jordan so we could go to the bank and transact some business. Then home for a little work, nap, and exercise--and dinner with Betty. We went to a bistro where one of my former interns is a chef--decided we'd split wasabe scallops. Heather herself brought the plates out, but I took one look at those crab cakes and said no, we'd ordered scallops. In a minute, both the waitress and Heather were back asking what we'd really ordered--I said scallops but it was no problem. We'd eat the crab cakes. Turns out they were scallops, just the biggest I'd ever seen, each the size of a good-sized crab cake, and the brown crust was the wasabe crust. Embarrassed, I said you just can't take unsophisticated diners anywhere, and Heather laughed. But it was a really good dinner, with a goat juice topped broiled tomato and haricot verts. And the scallops were sweet and tender--and not overcooked so they were rubbery. The wasabe touch was just right, though I got one bite that really cleared my sinuses.
Thursday and Friday promise to be a bit hectic too--I tease Charles about being fanatical about getting to bed at 7:30 (he does stay up later for some events) but I find I am getting every bit as fanatical about my nap. Still, so far this week I've worked in a nap and exercise every day. Hope that continues.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Ah, sweet technology!

This morning the kitchen TV would not work--when I pressed 5 and OK, it told me it was Channel 5, NBC, but then it was blank. This, for me, was a serious problem--I like to have the TODAY show on in the kitchen, bathroom, and office as I wander from room to room getting ready for the day. I didn't have time to deal with it this morning, so when I came home this afternoon I called and spent about half an hour in the Phillippines--at least verbally. But it began to work. The woman said they would call back in 30 minutes. Never happened until 8:30 tonight. I figure in the crush in the kitchen last night someone inadvertently messed with the buttons on the remote.
Meantime, Moksha the pet sitter came to meet the animals and see their routine, so I was outside with him and Scooby for a while--and AT&T called twice, both of which I missed. And I couldn't understand the messages they left except that they would call again.
After Moksha left, I tried to turn on the news in the family room and ride my exercise bike. Somehow the bike's time frame had been changed, and the TV said client error or some such. I fiddled with the remote and finally got the TV so it would work--sporadically. The picture would freeze, the sound break up, but I sort of got the gist of what was going on in the world. And the reset bike wasn't really a problem--I still rode my 4.5 miles and sort of calculated the time.
So about 8:30 AT&T called to see if everything was fine, and I told them the new problem. Another half hour in the Phillippines (these people are always so polite and I hate to tell them I can't understand them because they talk too fast). There was a long period when the gentleman on the other end was making "adjustments," and then we waited for the TV to come on. After rebooting three times, it finally did. Another half hour--and patience is not my strong suit.
I think the lesson learned from all this is to hide the remotes and unplug the bicycle whenever kids, big or little, are in the house. Oh, and I found a small white charger plugged into the power strip in my office--I have no idea what it's for and am assuming Jamie left it and will soon miss it.
I really like all electronic things in my house to work perfectly without my having to mess with them. When they're off kilter, I'm most frustrated. Think I need a glass of wine.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Entertaining frenzy

My entertaining frenzy is over. Yesterday's brunch for 11 ladies went well, with much help from Betty who brought plates, napkins, flatware, flowers, champagne, oj, and pie crusts (if I'd had to do the latter, I'd have had store-bought--just not one of my cooking talents). I made breakfast pies of sausage, Rotel tomatoes, and cheese with eggs and milk poured over the top and then more cheese. Very good--Jacob ate a whole piece last night, though he scorned my traditional fruits salad with its canned pie filling base. And I had made prune bread, according to Charles' wife's recipe, so today I sent him off with the second loaf--it makes two, but the ladies only ate one.
Jacob spent the night last night, and we had bad potty episodes--I was a failure at training, but he was so upset I didn't push it. Last night, he had a sore bottom, and this morning he was soaked from head to toe and would NOT let me change him until he had his milk. Result: I have to wash his bedding, plus the comforter on the daybed, which probably needed it anyway before he put a big round wet spot on it. And then when I insisted he had to get out of those clothes he cried in misery. When I asked if we were friends, he said, "No." But he gave me a sweet hug and kiss before he left.
Tonight he was back, along with 16 others--13 adults and four children, the oldest two of which (my granddaughters) eat like adults. It was Jordan's b'day dinner, and we had tacos, her usual request. To my mind, tacos are a lot of trouble--all that chopping. This morning I browned and seasoned the meat--half ground chuck and half buffalo. This afternoon, after fortifying myself with a good long nap, I grated cheese, chopped lettuce and scallions, and left the tomatoes for Jordan. I put out olives and sour cream and refried beans along with all that. And Jordan made queso and brought chips, so it was a feast. Christian had gotten a Black Forest cake--but he left it at home and they didn't have the hamburger Jordan insisted she had to have for the queso, so there went poor Christian back to get all those things.
Still, it was fun. I'm fond of Jordan's friends, but Jay and Susan, Melanie and Jamie and I ended up eating on the porch--a tad cool but not bad, and pleasant conversation.
But then the cleanup--when you have all those people and all those different serving dishes on the table, it's a lot of cleanup. My feet hurt, my back is tired, and, matter of fact, my entire body is tired. I refuse to attribute it to age, but I do wear out more quickly these days. Usually sitting for five minutes to rest my back and my feet pretty much restores me, but tonight everything is clean, the dishwasher is running, and I'll leave putting it away until tomorrow.
Haven't exercised in three days! Awful! Hate it when I do that.
Now I'm going to finish that mystery I've been at for days.

Friday, March 13, 2009

A priceless gift from a granddaughter

Jamie e-mailed today that they had been to the open house at the school Maddie and Edie attend, and in Maddie's school papers he found a paper entitled "My Grandma." He sent me a copy. Maddie wrote about my really important job as an author and some of the books I've written, and then she wrote that I was a cool rode model and she hoped to follow in my footsteps one day. Be still, my heart. Other grandmas out there know how I felt at that moment. This picture of Maddie is about two years old--that baby, Kegan, will be two on Easter, but it's one of the best I have on my computer, and it shows Maddie at one of her many roles--caretaker of her younger cousins. She is so good with them, so loving and caring. I may be repeating myself, but Jamie told her she's the cousin all the rest will think of as an aunt because she takes care of them. She is three years older than her sister, and the rest of the cousins stair-step behind Edie. They are all special, but there is something about Maddie, something destined for a wonderful future. I told her she is my role model because of the whole wide world opening up before her--she's athletic, she does well at school, she cooks, she reads voraciously, and yet she's also into electronic games. Truly, for today's kids like her, the world is their oyster. May they stay blessed and safe. Sometimes when I see pictures of abused or missing children, I can't help thinking about how loved and protected all my grandchildren are (wow, I wandered on that thought, didn't I?).
Today was one of those days that made me so happy when I got home to stay. It was in the upper thirties and wet, wet, wet. And it wasn't a day I could simply go to work and back. At 8 a.m. I left in the dark and rain for a field of vision test--interesting experience--and then went to the office. At 10:30 I had to leave to go to Human Resources for a meeting, and then at 11:30 it was back to my office for a few minutes and then off to Central Market. Drizzling or outright raining all the time, and the temperature in my car never went above 39. Yes, I was glad to get home. Did some work, had a good nap (I haven't yet gotten over my change-of-time need to sleep a lot), set the table for tomorrow's brunch, and am settled at my desk for the evening. My project is to try to post information about small publishers on the web site. It may drive me over the edge.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Small press publishing, newspapers, and comfort food

My mind is on small presses tonight. I had volunteered to research five presses for AgentQuest, the Guppies (Going to be Published) online branch of Sister in Crime. I think many of us are going on the theory that credible agents are bombarded with proposals these days and a cold query isn't likely to go anywhere. It might be better to query small presses who are less likely to be overloaded. What I've learned is that we shouldn't underestimate small prsses--small does not mean they're open to everything. Often they have higher standards (and much more complicated submission procedures) than major presses. Still my first mystery manuscript, Skeleton in a Dead Space, is in the hands of a small publisher as I write and has been for what seems to me a long time but in the publishing world isn't long at all. I queried this press because I had years ago contributed, on request, stories to anthologies they produced (western, not mystery). So I'm hopeful. But researching small presses has been interesting--some want only noir fiction (not quite me), another in Nebraska wants only fiction with a historical slant--and I bet that means northern Midwest. I know at TCU our fiction has to have a Texas slant, and I wouldn't be interested in a novel set in Nebraska. Anyway, after forgetting about this assignment for a while, I have it done and ready to send in.
And I'm researching small presses for another project--the book editor at the Dallas Morning News suggested I do a column on how small Texas presses are faring during this recession or economic downturn or whatever you want to call it. The first three responses I've gotten so far are intersting--publishing, always an iffy business and particularly so for an independent, is holding its own in Texas. Often small presses are one version or another of Mom and Pop operatons, and as one publisher said to me you don't do it for profit, you do it for love. His press is officially going non-profit this year.
Some authors who have hit it big in New York claim that's the only way to go, but I disagree. There are a lot of writers out there with talent, good manuscripts, and good ideas who aren't going to make it in New York, no matter how many conferences they attend, agents they meet, queries they write. I think small presses and even in some cases self-publishing is the answer. Publishing, like everything else is changing--it's no longer the gentlemen's profession that Maxwell Perkins (Thomas Wolfe's editor and the classic of a gentlemanly editor who really edited) once said it was. The major houses are owned by corporations who care much less about literary quality than they do the bottom line. So for those of us who love writing and reading for their own sakes, it's often time to depart the main path.
Time magazine recently published a survey that indicated 10 newspapers most likely to fold or go online only within the year--and the Fort Worth paper was one. The prediction? It would be rolled into the Dallas paper. I talked to an executive at the Star-Telegram this morning who laughed and said, "That's someone who really doesn't know this market." With the arch-rivalry between the two cities, such a merger would never happen. And the Star-Telegram is apparently the flagship of the McClatchey syndicate. In an article this morning, the publisher was quoted as saying when the recession lessens, we will see a more robust paper--good news for those of us who have been complaining about the dearth of contents. Let's hope we get back to the good old days, because I dearly love a cup of coffee and my print copy of the paper.
Another cold, damp day, the kind that chills your bones. Betty and I had sort of skirted around going out to dinner and both decided it was a stay inside night. I made myself what lately I've come to think of as one of my favorite comfort foods--creamed tuna. I make a white sauce (I tried to explain this to Jordan and she instantly gave up), add a little white wine, tuna, peas, corn, and finally grated cheddar. Warm, mild, and good. This time, even with a small can of tuna, it turned out to be more than I could eat.
Most women crave pedicures. Not me. I crave a visit to the podiatrist, and I want to give the profession a plug. Dr. Johnson trims that one toenail that I can do nothing with (and the others too), smooths off the corn on my hammer toe and the rough skin on my bunions, and makes my feet feel like new. I'd go every week if I could; as it is I go every three months and come away feeling like dancing. That's how I feel today. If anyone had ever told me I'd get to the point I can't take of my own feet, I'd have hooted. But too late, I have realized (like a lot of other things) I took them for granted all my life--and I went barefoot way too much. The doctor comforted me by saying a lot of my foot problems are genetic--thanks, Mom, for your bunions, which you always said were because you wore ill-fitting shoes as a child. Now I know better.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

A "salon" evening

For several years I've wanted to start a community support group for TCU Press, not so much to raise money as to spread word and good will (if anybody wanted to make a donation, I'd be grateful). About a year ago I began active planning, and last fall we sent out invitations to join the Bookish Frogs. Well, we couldn't call it Friends, because TCU Press reports to the dean of the library, and they already have a Friends of the Library longstanding organization. We had once had a newsletter called the Bookish Frog, but we got too busy to do much about it, so we stole the name. About 50 people joined, which I thought was a great beginning. We had our first event, a dinner, in January--good attendance, good speaker, and a warmth of friendliness and interest about the whole affair.
One of my thoughts for the group was a series of small evenngs with authors, hosted in people's homes. So tonight I hosted ten people, including our star, author Jack August who has written three books for us--Vision in the Desert: Carl Hayden and the Hydropolitcs of the Southwest; Dividing Western Waters, and the forthcoming (in about a month) Adversity is My Angel, a co-authored autobiography (is there such a thing) of Raul Castro who was the first Hispanic governor of Arizona and ambassador to several South American countries. Jack, a historian, is an expert on water issues in the Southwest, and tonight the conversation ranged widely. Sometimes Jack held the spotlight, and the talk was about his experiences, his issues; other times it ranged over various topics--he had much in common with a couple of people in the group, so other things came up, from Yale to Arizona politics to publishing. Again, the room had a warm comfortable feeling (it was so cold and rainy that a fire in the fireplace was welcome). About 8:45, Jack sensed it was time to draw the evening to an end (I'd been wondering how to do it and bless him for that)--he thanked everyone and said he felt like he'd been to one of Judy's salons. It did have that kind of feel, which is exactly what I wanted. I hope this is the first of many evenings, hosted by other people. We had Dividing Western Waters on the coffee table for people to look at, but this was not an evening to sell books--just to relax and enjoy stimulating conversation, which we really all did.
I made a large pot of coffee, put out a bottle each of red and white wine, and had baked a chocolate bundt cake. Nobody much drank the coffee, but the rest of it disappeared. So now I'm left with a quickly cleaned kitchen and the feeling of a successful event--and a leftover pot of stale coffee. This is one aspect of my work that I like a whole lot!

Monday, March 09, 2009

Time change and the economy

Maybe it's wimpy of me, but I always feel a little fragile when we spring ahead and lose that hour of sleep. I somehow feel I have to take better care of myself--long naps, early to bed, sleep a little later (I allowed myself 15 extra minutes of dozing this morning and liked it so much I'll probably do it tomorrow). This feeling has been heightened by the news that the rate of heart attacks goes up fairly dramatically after the spring loss of an hour's sleep because Americans are already chronically sleep-deprived. I truly don't think that applies to me--I get 7-1/2 - 8 hours a night plus a good nap almost every day. I'm getting downright prickly about protecting my nap time. Jordan wants to bring Jacob at 4 p.m. Saturday to spend the night. I reminded her that I'm giving a brunch that morning and then her b'day dinner the next night for a cast of 16 and said emphatically that I needed my nap and I'd call her when I woke up. She gave a tentative okay, but reminded me once again she had girls coming at 5 p.m. for a party. I will wake up when I wake up!
The benefit of the time change of course is that extra hour of daylight. Yesterday and today the temperature has been in the eighties--though 44 is the predicted high by Thursday. Still I sat on the porch tonight and watched the world go by. My neighborhood is an old one, with trees that arch over the street, and they now have that light green of early spring. It's also a neighborhood where people get out and walk their dogs, or their kids, or just themselves, and runners go by. The street that dead-ends into my house is only two blocks long, with no houses facing it, and yet I am amazed at the amount of traffic. So I sat for a long time tonight and watched the neighborhood go by. It's also the kind of wonderful neighborhood with a strong e-mail system, so if anybody sees a loose dog or a suspicious character, the word is on the Berkeley Buzz in no time. A comforting place ot live.
Today the news and grim predictions about the global economy make me feel fragile too. I've been blessedly insulated from the economic troubles--I have my house and car paid for, a job, a retirement income. But as I watch the news I can't help but wonder when the tentacles of this disaster will begin to reach toward me. So I vow to save more, spend less--and feed 16 people on Sunday? Give me a break! But I think once you feel the caution, you automatically cut back. I know I feel it in my office budget and am issuing all kinds of orders for cutting back as much as we can. We will face an 8% across the board budget cut in June, plus no new positions, which means I can't get Melinda to full time.
The good news? I rode 4.64 miles in 24 minutes tonight with the second degree of resistance. Some days I can get my heart rate up to 95--the other day I hit 105--which is good for me since I take beta blockers. Between the bicycle and the yoga, I'm feeling like one fit grandmother--okay, notice I didn't say trim, just fit.
Tonight with my usual bent toward early preparation, I have coffee cups and other serving pieces out for the Wed. night gathering. All I really have to do is bake the cake, and I hope to do that tomorrow night, if Jacob will comply and watch a DVD. And I even rummaged around in my closest and found I have enough paper plates and napkins for Jordan's dinner, so that comes off my list. Having done all that, I'm going to read a book the reset of the evening.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

More grandkis, food--and only a bit of writing

Jordan and I had a delightful time in Frisco with Jamie and his family--and Jacob was so loved on, he was exhausted. Both girls were delighted to see him. Edie kept giving him kisses and rubbing his head and cuddling close to him while they watched Spiderman (amazing technical effects--I'd seen the beginning but never that spectacular ending!). But Maddie was the little mother--Jamie told her this morning she was the cousin that all the others would think was like an aunt. At the moment she was busily cleaning a sippie cup and putting chocolate milk in it--a rare treat for Jacob. She's a natural born nurturer and really keyed in to Jacob's every need. When Jordan left the breakfast table to go get him dressed, she found Maddie had already dressed him and taken him to the potty again. He was so besotted with Maddie that any time she asked him if he wanted to potty, he did. Steak dinner, good company, a delightful time. I sat in a chair in the rec room last night with a book, but I kept staring at those three children huddled together. Maddie looked at me once and said, "What?" and I just said "I think you're all pretty wonderful." I am truly blessed with family.
Another lazy day--we were home by noon, and I unpacked my suitcase (it's amazing what it takes to be away even for one night), fed my neglected animals, ate some lunch, caught up on emails, and had a good two-hour nap. We lost an hour last night, of course, and I really didn't sleep well but still managed to doze until 7:45, which was 8:45 by this morning. I plan to go to bed early tonight and tomorrow, no one else will be in my office, so---shhh!--I don't plan to break my neck to get there at 8 a.m.
A food note: yesterday while waiting for Jordan to pick me up for the trip, I watched the food channel, and there were Paula Deen and a guest slathering butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon on dough and rolling it up to make breakfast rolls which they then iced (the icing to too much icing on the cake to my mind). I wanted to say, "Come on, Paula, stop acting like that was just invented--I've done it since I was a child." That's how my mom made coffee cakes, Christmas cakes, and pecan rolls, and if I weren't so lazy about rolling out the dough, I'd still be doing it. My kids clamor for home-made rolls, with Grandmother's recipe, at holidays, but it's a lot of work. Mom had what she called "Everlasting Dough" because you didn't have to bake it all at once--you could keep it in the fridge, though it did tend to rise out of its container. I don't know what kind of dough Paula was using, but you can't beat Everlasting Rolls. The recipe, with all its variations, is in my forthcoming cookbook. (A shameless plug!)
I've been reading a lot this weekend--a proposal for a novel, for one. The author sent the whole thing in some time ago, I sent it back with rewrite suggestions, and he sent back the first 50 pages. I was hooked and asked for the remainder, but he has a capitalization disease--capitalizes every other word, and my red pen itched, but I don't make marks on preliminary copy that will go to readers and the board. I sort of think I'll attach a note to the manuscript's trail for whoever edits. That worries me a bit--it's like I want to control every project (whoever edits will no doubt be perfectly capable of fixing those capitals) and I realize someday I have to retire and let go. It can't always be done my way. More's the pity!
I've also been reading an advances of a mystery. Patricia Batta posted on the Sisters in Crime listserv and asked if anyone would be willing to read galleys. I guess I was thinking in terms of proofs, because I thought she wanted a proof reader. Turns out it was a bound advance galley, and she wanted a blurb. That threw me, because I have no published mystery credits, so who am I to blurb a book? I read it, at first thinking how I would have done this and that, but her plotting is really good and I soon got caught up in the story. So tonight I sent off a blurb. I recommend you look for Why Did You Die in the Park soon at your local bookstore or on the Web. Now if I can only do as well. The book is, by the way, proof that you don't always have to hit the big New York publishers--this will come from Lillimar Publishing in Traverse City, Michigan.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Blogging over a nice weekend

When I started this blog, I meant it to be serious--about writing, deep thoughts about writing and so on. I guess I'm not thinking deep thoughts these days because it's morphed into something that's mostly about "What I did today" and grandkids, often with the two mixed. Sometimes when I have a "deep thought" I jot it down for the next blog. One result of this switch to my daily activities is that I find my brother, John--happy birthday to him today!--and my friend Jeannie read the blog daily and feel like they're up on all my news, so I don't talk to them often unless I call. They need to remember I don't know what's going on with them:-)
But today it is all about grandchildren and relaxing. Jacob woke up in a bright mood this morning, ran around the house like a demon, chattering about my bronze buffalo tha he decided was his (his favorite cry is "Mine, mine!") and generally being energetically cheerful. Then suddenly as the energy had come, it vanished, and he lay on the couch watching TV and very docilely let me dress him--which he'd earlier vehementaly refused. Usually when he's here, I'm rushing around trying to get us both ready--him for his parents to pick up and me to head out on errands. But today the errands are all done, and I have this delightful window of time to laze around, watch the cooking channel, read that mystery on my desk, eat an early lunch and take an early nap--and then we're off to Frisco. What a nice day!
Tomorrow maybe I'll have some deep thoughts.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Grandkids, and food, of course

Jacob is coming for his regular Friday night sleepover tonight. His mom was reminding him of that last night while he was eating a piece of cake (not sure of the occasion--maybe a reward for using the potty). He looked up and asked, "Does she have cake?" Jordan called and wanted me to rush out and get cake--I said I'd give him a Girl Scout thin mint out of the freezer. Then Jordan called Jamie, caught all four of them in the car on their way out for supper. She told Jamie to ask the girls if they want Jacob to come spend the night Saturday night. There were shrieks of "Yes," and then Edie, bless her heart, asked, "Is Juju coming too?" Yes, Juju is also going to Frisco though, alas, Christian will not--he's back to working weekends now that the weather is warm and Joe T.'s is serving on the patio.
Jay the neighbor is batching it this week, so he came over for leftover spaghetti and brought a luscious salad. It was in the high 80s yesterday, and we had the first dinner of the season on the porch. An absolutely lovely evening, with not too much breeze. I poured red wine over the once-frozen leftover spaghetti to loosen it up a big, but it was a mistake--the wine flavor didn't have time to cook it and it was too obvious in the pasta.
Since I'm off red meat for a while (after I've eaten all the leftovers) I've had salmon croquettes (a favorite from childhood), tuna salad, and tonight I think I'll make myself some chicken salad and just dice up chicken for Jacob. I got an avocado--he calls it go-go--so I told Melinda we were having go-go for supper, and she laughed. That's her grandson's name for her.
This has been a quiet week, and I've gotten a lot done, caught up on a lot of things, but next week promises to be hectic with entertaining. I'm having a small group of Bookish Frogs, about 12 people, here to meet an author Wed. night. I'll serve one dessert, coffee and wine. Saturday morning is a going-away brunch for Mary Lu, with 12 women, and Sunday--heaven help me--Jordan has requested her birthday dinner, which if I don't watch her will involve a cast of thousands for tacos--all that chopping and shredding! It will all work out, I know, but I'm tired all ready.
Meantime, I should (cross your fingers, please) have a fairly easy evening. Jacob is often so tired after a day at school that he quietly watches DVDs, while I sit at the table in the playroom and read. And tomorrow I have no errands, no grocery store runs, none of that--just a lazy time between when his parents pick up Jacob and we leave for Frisco (after his nap and mine!).

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Good food and bad times

Last night after eating kibbeh at the local Lebanese restaurant (it's seasoned ground beef with pine nuts wrapped in ground lamb and deep fried, served with yogurt cucumber sauce), I was way too full and decided I had eaten way too much red meat in recent days. I can go for long periods on fish and chicken and then, suddenly, my body wants red meat. Today it was different, I suddenly did not want any red meat. Betty and I were going shopping for supplies for a brunch we're giving for a friend who's moving out of town, so after that since we were in that part of town, we had lunch at Neiman's where I gratefully had a half a chicken salad sandwich (theier chicken salad is so good but for some reason they bury a piece of bacon in the middle of the chicken--good but probably not what I'd do) and a small house salad. I came home tonight and froze all those leftovers in my fridge--the heavy spaghetti Bolognese, the corn polenta with buffalo sausage. I ate a small slice of buffalo meatloaf with a big salad and then threw the rest of the meatloaf and bourbon sauce out. Last week, the sauce, then a day old, tasted strongly of bourbon--yummm; tonight the barbecue flavor predominated, and I'm not as fond of that. So tomorrow I think I'll make salmon croquettes.
It's been a day of medical news. Charles' daughter had bypass surgery a week ago today; yesterday they took her back to surgery because they were unable to control the irregular heartbeat, but the surgery didn't fix it. This morning, things looked grim, but tonight they've put in a pacemaker and she is feeling ever so much better. But it's been a worry on my mind for the last few days--I worry for her and for Charles.
Then Christian called about 3 p.m.to say that Joel, the children's father and my ex, was in the hospital with double pneumonia and a urinary infection, and Jordan was too upset to talk so she had him call me. Joel's not that old--younger than me by a year and a half--but he has been in a wheelchair for some time, and I suppose immobility could conribute. I feel confident he'll be all right, but I know it's a scare for his wife and children, mine and the one with the current wife (a daughter I'm quite fond of).
My good news of the day: I rode my stationary bike 4.5 miles in just under twenty-six minutes and got my pulse up to 105 (which is high for someone on beta blockers like I am--so I had a good workout).
Funny news of the day: Morgan (3 years old, Houston grandchild) has a steady beau. I wish I knew how to grab pictures our of emails because I would. They both look so satisfied with themselves, and in one I swear that brazen boy has his arm around my precious granddaughter. Lisa says they're inseperable, and Andy told her they were married. Lisa asked why she wasn't invited to the ceremony.
Lots of work on my desk at the office and some chores at home, so I best get to it.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Random Monday thoughts

NPR gives you great things to think about. This morning as I drove to work I heard Wallace Stegner's son discussing his father's writing habits--no idea what occasioned this discussion. But it seem Stegner wrote on a manual typewriter, never electric but the kind where you have to put real pressure on each key. It gave him time to think about what he was writing, carefully choose and craft his words and sentences--and the care shows in his writing of course. Then tonight, I read a blog by several mystery writers who were discussing funny typos--bowels for bowls in the kitchenware section, pubic for public, etc. Several of them said they make typos because their brains go faster than their fingers. So maybe there's really something to ponder in Stegner's method. Computers make it easy to be quick and glib, to almost write without thinking. Some will say that's letting your creative self go and following where it leads you, sort of like the tried and true theory about letting your characters tell you what they are going to do. All I know is I write too fast--but I rewrite and rewrite, over and over. No, I"m not about to go back to a manual typewriter. I remember those days when if you edited, you had to retype the whole darn book.
Then in a e-mail newsletter this morning, my friend and yoga instructor Elizabeth said she had been interviewing people about whether or not they thought they had courage and just what courage is. A littlel put out that she hadn't asked me, I wrote back that my first instinct was to say I have zip courage, none, not at all, because I am afraid of so many things--elevators, escalators, airplanes if I'm alone, losing my balance, etc. But then I decided maybe I do have courage because I make myself do a lot of the things that bother me. And, I suggested, maybe it took courage to raise four kids by myself. Elizabeth kindly replied she had always thought I had courage--among other things in running TCU Press. Thinking about yourself in terms of courage or lack thereof is an interesting exercise--I suspect men are more likely to say, "Of course, I have courage." But I know a lot that don't.
Jamie came over today to bring me the TV he got me for Christmas--it's to go in the bathroom, but even with an antenna, it gets poor reception, so the bathroom will have to be wired to AT&T U-Verse, like the other TVs in the house. Two installers told me it was impossible but Jamie could easily see a way to do it. Then he noticed the installation in the kitchen and went indignant--the installer tried to come down through the wall and left a 3-inch hole in the plaster--but the cross beams in an old house stymied him, so he put a plastic plate over the hole (it doesn't cover all the scraped paint and you can pull it off with two fingers-- some mouse might just push through it some night!). So now the wire comes into the dining room, snakes along the floor and around the corner into the kitchen, and then is clipped up the wall (with clips that pull right out--stay away, Jacob!), across the counter and makes a big loop under a cabinet. It is unsightly, but I had decided I just had to live with it--TV reception is great. No way. Jamie called U-Verse, told them he was calling for his mom (his exact words made me laugh--"She's not old but she's not the type to complain"). He must have spent 20 minutes on the phone (while we both practiced yoga--he's a lot better than I am). Then I talked to the supervisor of the hour who was most apologetic. They will file a damage claim for the wall and send yet another installer (I think I've had four so far) to do it right. And at that time I'll ask again about the bathroom. The man I talked to almost fell all over himself apologizing and thanking me for my patience and finally said something to the effect of it being really great to see a son stand up for his mom. I agreed. We'll see what happens.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Restaurant day

I felt like I was running a restaurant today--something I've always had a hankering to do but I know is terribly impractical. But I cooked two company meals and enjoyed both of them thoroughly.
Friday Sally Armstrong, a friend of almost forty years, emailed that she would be in town and could we have brunch or lunch. Sally moved to New York City some eight years ago, and her visits back to Texas have been few and hectic, so I have seen little of her, though friends that go to New York frequently keep me up with her doings. I suggested she come along for brunch, and I'd cook. So I fixed the soft polenta/corn dish with sausage (buffalo), tomatoes, feta and cilantro that I'd fixed Jordan and Christian a bit before. I tried to cut it in half and got my water/cornmeal proportons a bit off, so my polenta was more hard than soft, but it was still good. We had a good two-hour visit, not one of those where we spent all the time talking about "Remember when . . . ." but discussing where we are now, what's going on in our lives--all good. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I told her Gayland Pool and Katie Sherrod were coming to dinner tonight, and she asked to be remembered to them.
So when Katie and Gayland arrived, we talked about Sally and the way she always makes her life turn out just right. I laughed and said, "Sally and I both married the wrong men, stayed with it a long time, and now they're handicapped and disabled and we have such wonderful lives." Katie and Gayland laughed aloud. I fixed an experimental Bolognese spaghetti sauce--it had a cup of milk in it for heaven's sake--and said it would either be bland and boring or terrific. They voted for terrific. And I had a really good antipasto platter for an appetizer--salami and provolone, grape tomatoes, hearts of palm, and gherkins. But the best of all was the visiting--they are delightful people and talk ranged over many topics but was never dull.
And that's my day. I did get in a nap, and tonight the dishes are all done--except one pot that's soaking--and the dishwasher will need to be emptied tomorrow. I can't remember when I ran it twice in two days, but I did this weekend.
I called Jamie tonight to see how his girls were--they've had the flu--and he said he'd be in Fort Worth tomorrow but didn't know if he'd have time to see me or not. I said if he did to come to my house for lunch. I have a refrigerator crowded with leftovers--still a bit of meatloaf, half the polenta/sausage casserole, and spaghetti, plus some of the southwestern tuna that I took to Jordan last night. And I'm not even eating dinner at home tomorrow night. I need help with that refrigerator--it's all so good I can't bear to throw it out. I did have to discard some asparagus this week. It had really gotten beyond rescuing but considering the price of asaparagus these days I hated to do it.