Tuesday, September 29, 2009

New routine

This morning, I started what I hope will be a new routine--slept until 7:30, and then, after feeding the cat but before brushing my teeth or anything else, I sat at my desk and "free wrote" for 20 minutes. My artist neighbor, Susan, does that every morning for 30 minutes and says it frees up her creativity. Since I'm sort of blocked, I thought it would be a good thing--surprising insights. I wondered a bit how it differs from a blog, but this journal is very private whereas the blog is what I share with the world. I suppose my 20 minutes will lengthen into 30 as I get used to it--that's surely what happened with yoga. After that I got my day going but slowly--let the dog out and fed him, washed my hair and put on makeup, read the paper and emails, and it was almost ten before I got around to doing my yoga. Poor Socorro was trying to clean around me, and we kept ending up in the same room at the same time, but I did close the family room doors and get in a half hour of yoga. By the time I was dressed, it was time to go by the office, pick up my mail, and go to lunch with Melinda. I think that's the pace retirement should be lived at. I'm going to stop rushing myself and start thinking of my fulfilled projects as a blessing, rather than an empty desk.
Pleasant lunch, good nap, and then supper. My dinner pal, Betty, came here for supper since I was keeping Jacob. I fixed a favorite pasta dishes--green (spinach) noodles--but was so distracted by Jacob that I forgot the garlic, forgot the Parmesan. It was still good, lots of sliced mushrooms and hearts of palm in a lemon/butter/pesto sauce. The recipe, which I slowly expanded over the years, is in Cooking My Way Through Life. Betty has long been a fan of Jacob's, and after he got over a bit of shyness, he showed off in full form. After Betty left, he turned into a wild man, but that was okay.
Christian came to get him, and we both struggled with the pack-and-play, trying to get it folded up. We got close but not all the way, and I said we should give up. Frustration does not make for success, so we'll go at it another night. Meantime, it's down enough that Jacob won't announce he wants to sleep in it.
Now for a few peaceful minutes with a book.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Why do I write?

In a guest blog on "Murder *by* Four," Aaron Paul Lazar posed the question, "What motivates you to write?" He lists any number of possible reasons but says that if you simply write to sell a book, you're headed toward disappointment. Since I'm in that dilemma about my writing right now, the question really hit me. I asked my friend Jean today why she weaves--she does these beautiful intricate things with the tiniest threads you've ever seen--and she said she thought she knew. But since she had to reschedule our today's lunch for Wednesday I said we'd talk about it then. That does not, of course, mean that I've given up rattling the topic around in my brain.

I think primarily I write because I can't imagine not writing. I get a bit at odds when I don't have a project on my desk (read now). But, yes, I want to see what I write published. I'm not of the mind that can write, read it with satisfaction, and tuck it away in a closet. So there's a bit of--what?--vanity? involved. No I don't expect to make money, but that's not the same. I've never made much money in spite of all I've written, and I don't aspire to be John Grisham, Sue Grafton, J. A. Jance, Ruth Reichl, or any of the others of my favorite writers. I'm happy with small press and academic press publication. So then comes the questions, why write mysteries? The best answer I can think of is that I get a lot of pleasure being lost in a good mystery, and I'd like to be able to create something that would give others that pleasure. But then ego creeps in again--I think I can do a better job than some of the so-so mysteries I read. I really guess you can't be a writer without an ego. Since I think I'm not egotistoca; in other aras of my life and in fact have a shy side that stays hidden a lot, I think maybe writing is where my ego lives and probably that's healthy.

Fictional mysteries about real-life historical characters are a big deal these days--witness the Jane Austen books and any number of others--and sometimes I think that's where I belong. I have one in mind, but it would take a lot of research--it's an idea that I've played with off and on for several years and, of the possibilities I've come up with in my mind, it's the one that keeps making more sense. I'd just have to buckle down and do the necessary hard work--twenty years ago, working full time and with a houseful of teenagers, such hard work wasn't a problem. Do we really lose that fire as we age? I hope night. I still haven't tried Susan's creative thinking exercise yet, but it might help me.

Meantime I've had a non-writing day. PIddled and did housework all morning--oops, I still have laundry to fold! Went to Jordan's for lunch (carrying my own sandwich and a small bag of hearts of palm). She was home all day with Jacob because he had a slight fever this morning. Except for a brief sinking spell, he seemed fine while I was there. She offered me hummus, which I ate, not realizing how many points it adds. Plus a meatloaf sandwich (who can resist wen there's cold meatloaf in the fridge) and I had to eat a salad tonight to save myself from going way way over the points. None of the tuna I planned.

I'm still pondering, but I will say watching Alton Brown in the kitchen without the sound on is an interesting experience!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Thinking deep thoughts, with a three-year-old around

My neighbor, an artist, once gave me a spiral-bound notebook. She said every morning, before she does anything else, she sits in a chair and writes in a notebook for about half an hour--whatever comes to her. It may be gibberish, it may make sense, she just writes. Her theory is that it loosens her creativity. It's a swell theory, but I always seem to be too busy in the morning, in a hurry to get my hair washed, the animals taken care of, coffee made, so I can settle at my computer, read the paper and read e-mails. Still after my post last night, three ideas came to my mind for future projects, and I decided I would try Susan's theory, arming myself with a legal pad and ball point pen.
Unfortunately, I barely had time to read the paper, straighten the house, do my yoga, and Jacob was here for the day. His mom was sponsoring "An Afternoon of Luxury" at her house, expecting 60 women. When I got the invitation, I said, "Honey, I just don't think I can do that." It would, after all, be all younger women, some of whom I'm very fond of, but more of whom I don't know. And I don't now have the budget for jewelry or a purse or any of the upscale items that would be available. So I tried to decline politely, but she said, "Of course you're not coming. You're keeping Jacob." So Jacob and I had a day together, and it's hard to think deep thoughts with a three-year-old around. Mostly I read, checked my email from time to time, etc., while he watched a DVD, built with blocks, searched for "bad guys" with his plastic rifle from Uncle Jamie, did a little drawing, and tried his hand at a puzzle--his version of working a puzzle is to dump all the pieces on the floor and walk away. For some reason, though I got obsessed with figuring out which of our many puzzles are intact and to my delight two are missing one or two pieces, one six pieces, and one probably 25 (I think I'll throw it away but it was a neat puzzle about Texas)--these are all those big-piece puzzles for little kids. Several are intact, and I kept Jacob away from them, though as he watched me put one together, he kept saying, "Good job, Juju!" I did one Disney puzzle, the one missing six pieces, that seemed to take me forever. I almost called to Frisco for help from Edie--she has always been terrific at putting puzzles together. Other times Jacob would tell me, "Go read your papers," so I read snatches and piece of Simmer Down by Jessica Conant-Park. I think poor Jacob got a little bored--at one point, he asked, "Will you go outside with me?" Well, I can't. In the back, where it's fenced, there's 55 lbs. of over-enthusiastic dog who loves him but would knock him down--and besides, who knows where poop lurks. I hadn't gotten out to clean up today. In the front, there's no fence and a busy street, and I'm afraid Mr. Mischievous Jacob will get away from me. So on a lovely late-summer day, we were both housebound. We did have good naps--Jacob slept hard for 2-1/2 hours and woke up kind of dazed.
I had made a meatloaf yesterday and had it all ready to pop in the oven with baking potatoes. Add a salad and that was dinner for Jacob, Christian and me, and I sent some home for Jordan, though Christian forgot it. I had to call him, and he came back for it.
Now I'm tired, the kind of tired that comes from not having really done much all day. And I have a list of household chores for tomorrow. But it was a nice day.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

A cooking day and my writing dilemma

It's disconcerting to say the least to have a three-year-old look look at you early in the morning and say, "Your house is dirty." I think (hope) he was referring to the permanent gouges in the 80-year-old tile floor in my bathroom. Still, when his mother asked why he said that, I replied, "Because it is." Neat? Yes. Clean? Not quite. Needs a good cleaning.

Today was a cooking day. I had my standard Saturday lunch--tuna salad from the market, grape tomatoes, and hearts of palm. But after a nice nap, I put together a meatloaf for Jacob and Christian tomorrow night. I'll stick it in the oven in the late afternoon, along with some baking potatoes--they can have sour cream, and I'll have yogurt on mine. I wanted to get it all done ahead of time because I'll have Jacob almost all day. But then for supper, I thought of Tod Davies' Jam Today and did not buy fresh seafood, my usual habit when I'm alone on a Saturday night. At first, I told myself I would invent my own meal without going back to read her recipes, but I weakened--I wanted to know what she did with sage and with beets. Central Market always has beets with lovely fresh beets with greens--today, for the first time ever, they had only beets, biggest beets I've ever seen, but no tops. So I roasted them in foil, skinned them, sliced, and while still warm put them in a simple vinaigrette. Hours later, cold, they were delicious and didn't leak red beet juice all over everything on the plate.

I had decided I'd have eggs, so before my neighbor came for a glass of wine, I laid out all my ingredients--three large mushrooms, sliced, some chopped scallions, smashed garlic cloves, butter, some Parmesan to grate, and three slivered sage leaves. Put the eggs out because somewhere I have it in my mind that warm eggs cook better than ones straight from the fridge. When I came to cooking it, I sauteed everything but the eggs and cheese in butter and olive oil. Then added the eggs, a bit of wine, and soft scrambled them--except they got away from me and weren't as creamy as I like them. You really have to watch every minute, and while I grated cheese, they started to turn hard. Still the flavor was good--mushrooms really dominated, along with garlic, but I honestly didn't taste the scallions or sage. I'll have to try the sage trick again--maybe using more. Maybe my sage doesn't have as much flavor. Don't know. Still it was a good supper, and I have come in under my Weight Watchers points--okay, I ate chocolate and got up to my limit. But you don't get credit for unused points, so why not?

I guess you would call me a foodie, though I'm not sure about the term. Central Market has little signs on some products that say "Foodie Choice" or "Foodie Find" and I think they have an army of foodies, who direct customers, etc. But fellow author Sylvia Dickey Smith sent me an article from the Austin American-Statesman about foodies who are sporting tattoos signifying their interest. A cook at Thai Fresh has an avocado on one arm and broccoli on the other; cupcakes are apparently not only popular as a newly rediscovered food but also as a tattoo, and one owner of a cupcake store sports egg beaters--of course, her husband is the tattoo artist. I want my children to rest assured--I will not be doing that.

Last night I wrote a difficult email to an author who had submitted a novel, telling her I didn't think it was for an academic press but more for a commercial one. I could, I said, send it out for critique, but I was fairly sure it would come back with extensive revisions recommended, at the least. She wrote back that she wanted to revise, wanted to make it the best she could, and would appreciate the critique. She said she could have sent it to her mystery publisher, and they would have published as is, but that's not what she wants. I really admire her attitude, so I'm going to send this one on for a second reading, though I indicated what I saw as a few problems.

Which brings me to my own dilemma. A publishing house has had the first in what I hope is a mystery series since January; in June, they asked to keep it a little longer, since they were waiting for a green light to acquire for 2011. I agreed. Last week they said they had only recently gotten the green light and were reading the manuscripts in the queue--mine was at the second level of review (not sure what that means). Meantime I'm not inspired to work on the sequel--although I could. I've cleared my desk of major projects--or at least have them done to a point I'm waiting on others before I can move ahead. So I've sort of got an empty desk--not a feeling I welcome. I can only read so much, and then I begin to feel guilty. I can and should clean closets, bookshelves, and finish the memory book that the kids gave me at retirement--those are probably the things I'll do. But I feel a new idea for a novel rattling around in the back of my brain. It just won't come to the front. Maybe some good cleaning and clearing will also help clear my brain. I do know the new novel will have to do with food.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Star for a Day and a lesson in patience

Today, I taped a show for City Cable TV on Cooking My Way Through Life with Kids and Books. My friend, Shari Barnes, from TCU Human Resources, did the interview, and we had a good time. I had fun at the grocery store this morning, when I asked for fresh bananas--the produce guy had a box right there that were nicely yellow. The ones on the table were mottled brown. He offered to go to the back and get me some green ones, but I said no--and this is what tickles me, playing the grande dame--"I need them for a TV show this afternoon. Those yellow ones will be perfect." Anyway, as part of the show we made a thrown-together fruit salad that is quick, easy and good--1 can pie filling (choose your flavor--I like apricot, but these days all I can find is apple), one 8 oz. pkg. frozen strawberries (I had a big of mixed berries in the freezer and used that but I let it thaw for a day before I cut the strawberries into smaller pieces--cutting frozen strawberries really hurts your hands), 1 8 oz. can pineapple chunks drained, 1/4 cup sugar (could be less). You can make it to that point ahead and refrigerate but just before you serve, add two or three chunked bananas. Makes enough to serve 8-10. I thought Jacob would love it, but he wouldn't touch it and barely ate the sloppy Joe I gave him for his main dishes. Now, lollipop--that was a different matter.
I had a lesson in patience tonight. Jacob can sit on the potty and chat merrily for 20 minutes, assuring you he's not through with his business. At one point I asked him if I could take a nap and he said yes, to close my eyes. Then when he finally decided he was through, it took another twenty minutes to get his underpants on--he would brook no help. He turned them one way and said, "This way?" I'd say, "No, turn them the other way." Then he'd put both legs into one side, and we'd have to start over, with him saying, "This way?" The rewards come when he asks me to "cuddle me" while he's watching TV and then before he goes to sleep. We read three books, cuddled, and it was well after 9:30 before I turned out the light and got my goodnight kiss. My bet? He's still awake at 10. He asked if I was going night-night and I said no, I had work to do. Then he brightened and said, "In the morning, when I wake up, my mommy and daddy will come." I assured him that was true.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

A dull day turned good

One of the chores I hate most in the world is taking my car in to be repaired. But today it was time. The convertible top wouldn't go all the way down, and then, wouldn't come up. If I let it sit, off, for an hour or so it would behave, but I couldn't take the top down to go to the office, grocery, etc. I'm afraid someone will steal my handicapped sticker and that funny fake daisy Megan gave me. What's the use of having a convertiblel if you can't take the top down? The dealership has "fixed" this problem three or four times, but the last three times I tried, no deal. So I took it in today and mentioned that the button that puts all four window down at once stopped working a few days ago, and the things that tells the temperature only worked when I was stopped. When I accelerated, it began to flash the way it does when the top isn't securely down.

Then I came home to a dull day. I wandered, not quite sure what I wanted to do. When I came home last night, e-mails cancelled both my lunch and dinner dates for today (my brother suggested I read my horoscope). Called my neighbor to see if she could do lunch, but she had a conference call from 11:00 until 1:00; called another friend but she had plans. I folded the laundry that had sat in the dryer until it was well wrinkled and then decided what I wanted for lunch was salmon croquettes, so I made them and put them in the fridge. Watered the plants on the porch, did some other chores, promising myself I'd settle down after lunch. Well, then, work hit--a proposal for a mss., a reader who said he'd read another manuscript, an e-mail from my boss about Google, and several other small things--a Google permission from an author and stuff like that. So I dealt with all that, ate a salmon croquette with fresh asparagus and grape tomatoes, and settled down to the manuscript I'm reading.

This evening Betty, who didn't seem to mind that I'd cancelled our dinner for tonight and then rescheduled it, picked me up and took me to get my car--which isn't fixed. They can't figure out which switch it is, but the temperature indicator and the window button now work, so we're making progress. I have to take it back next Tuesday. Betty and I had dinner at Mac's on Seventh, a place she's mentioned a lot and one that's close to the VW dealership. We split a Caesar salad--too much red pepper for me, and I had the scallops appetizer with a dab of a wonderful corn/avocado/lemon salsa, and we split bread pudding (soooo good!) and split a second glass of wine. Felt like we'd splurged in calories and money, but I came in under my Weight Watchers points for the day. I will say that a single serving of bread pudding costs a devastating amount of points! This morning I should have weighed, but I was in such a rush to get the car to VW that I forgot--best, since I'd eaten at Joe T.'s the night before. I'll weigh in the morning.

So now more acquisitions work and then back to the manuscript, feeling happy and full. Retirement is good.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


I wish I understood better how Weight Watchers points work--I went to Joe T.'s and had Mexican food tonight, and one meal ate up half again my daily allowance (I get 19 points and I think the meal was 21.5). Since I've been good most of the week, my weekly total isn't bad. Tomorrow's weigh day, which is an unfortunate circumstance--no time for that extra food to settle in. But my main question is how do they balance activity points against food points--I do have 7 activity points (yeah, I exercised every day), and if you added those to the 22 left in my bonus points, I'd only be down 6 points from a perfect week. I guess it will all tell when I step on the scales tomorrow. Tonight's occasion was a meeting of the Societ of Professional Journalists. My neighbor and friend Carolyn Poirot invited me to accompany her, and I saw lots of people I know, most I hadn't seen in ages. The program was a pair of critics talking, and it was interesing (should have had my hearing aids in!). I was most interested in what Star-Telegram columnist Bud Kennedy said about using Facebook and Twitter--I realize I underuse Facebook in ways that could promote my books, and I signed up on Twitter but have never figured it out.Oh, well, another learning curve.
Several years ago my neighbors bought me a bird feeder, and I loved seeing the birds come and light on it. Of course squirrels got a lot of the food, and then I had rats n my attic. The exterminator said he wouldn't have a bird feeder near the house, but I liked having it outside the kitchen window. Of course, I didn't know the rats were to come when I bought lovely, stylish glass hummingbird feeders for myself and the neighbors as a thank-you. Neither of us have ever had a hummingbird--Jeannie tells me the little fluttery creatures are much more drawn to the cheap, bright plastic kind of feeder. Meantime, mine hangs there, it's once-red fluid now a pale pink, and I need to take it down. But today I looked out the window and saw a hummingbird flitting around my plumbago--I watched for several minutes before he flew away. Next year: more plumbago.
Another bit of trivia: did you know that UNESCO declared Iowa City the third City of Literature in the world, behind Edinburgh and Melbourne--pretty heady company for an Iowa university town. I went to two years of college in Iowa (a small private college) and never went near Iowa City, but of course we've all heard about it's outstanding creative writing programs in the years since (a long time, believe me). Still, who could have imagined it would rank so high? Hurray for the Midwestern prairies!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

My new favorite food book

I just finished reading what may be my all time favorite food book: Jam Today: A Diary of Cooking with What You'e Got by Tod Davies is and isn't a recipe book--okay, I put flags on no less than 20 things I want to try, but only in a few instances are there actual recipes. Mostly it's a one-way conversation, in which she tells us how she decided what to cook for dinner that night, how she chose the ingredients--usually based on what she had (caveat: her husband, a vegetarian, maintains an amazing garden of vegetables and herbs, which helps her a whole lot). But the whole thing is conversational, casual, friendly, as though she's inviting you into her home. They like sage a lot, so she slivers it, browns it in butter, and puts in it a lot of dishes--I have a thriving pot of sage on my front porch that I never do anything with, but I will now. She has lots of recipes for basil--and I have lots of basil, plus my neighbor has a lot more. The first dish I'm going to try is beets and greens--I was raised eating them, and I often cook them for myself, boiling the beets until the skin removes easily, slicing them and reheating with the greens until the greens wilt. I add a bit of butter and some lemon (Jamie used to like them with vinegar, the way his grandmother ate them, but not too long ago, as an adult, he decided he didn't like them any more). But Davies mixes cooled, diced beets (and she roasts rather than boiling) with a homemade vinaigrette, shreds the greens and sautees them, then mixes with olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper.
Davies makes soup--there are at least two recipes for vegetable soup--but she makes it the way I used to when the children were at home. You save a little of this and a little of that--especially water from boiling or steaming vegetables (have you noticed that even when you steam broccoli or asparagus, the water turns green?). When the time is right, she throws it all in the soup pot, with whatever additions she has on hand--potatoes, turnips, yellow squash, lots of herbs.
She likes more hot pepper than I do, so I did skip over several of those recipes. And she uses parsley as lots more than decoration, which is about all I've ever done with it. In fact, at one point, out of lettuce but burdened with a whole lot of both curly and flat-leaf parsley, she makes a parsley salad. (I can never grow it because the slugs, beetles, whatever they are before they turn into butterflies, simply mow it down.) She mentions Welsh rarebit bu doesn't give a recipe--darn, I remember that from my childhood and have one recipe but would welcome another.
At the end of the book, she gives what is the most intriguing recipe of all--Cavalho Concado, or Tired Horses, from her Macanese grandmother. It's an hors d'oevres of ground chuck, flour, soy sauce, green onion, sugar and vinegar, served on small pieces of stale bread--or bread dried out in the oven. Sounds wonderful, but you might not need dinner afterward.
My cooking friends and family should all be warned they're getting this book for Christmas--it's a true treasure. I'll probably blog from time to time about the things I fix following her ideas. But I really want to learn to look in the fridge and on the front porch for herbs (which I underuse) and invent wonderful dishes with what I have. Oh, yes, she uses a lot of pasta, and a lot of farm fresh eggs.
And a note: the title comes from Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass, where the Queen says, "The rule is jam to-morrow and jam yesterday--but never jam to-day." Davies disagrees--and she says her cookbook is not really a cookbook, not really a memoir--it's an answer to the Queen. I like this lady and wish she lived closer than Oregon.
Her method reminds me of Jacques Pepin's fromage fort (strong cheese, I think) which uses all those bits of cheese in your fridge. Just put them in the processor with lots of garlic, fresh ground black pepper, and enough white wine to make it spreadable. If you put in Roquefort or Gorgonzola, that will dominate; if you use other cheeses, the flavor is totally different. It's good either way. Hmmm. I've got a bunch of cheese in the fridge--it may soon be time.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Storms and a good day of work

'Twas a dark and stormy night . . . . No, seriously, it really was. So dark and stormy, with thunder and lightning so close, that I did what I rarely do--turned off the computer, got out candles, matches, and flashlights, and brought the dog in early. He continues to cower in the shower stall in my office bathroom, though the storm has long since passed through. I don't know that we got that much rain but it was a powerful show of thunder and lightning. I can still hear very distant thunder off to the east. With the computer off, I spent a contented hour reading a food book and was a happy camper.
But that's maybe because I made great progress on my chapter of the osteopathic history today--wrote 2200 words (it is supposed to be 3500) and made some contacts with people who can help me. Granted, it's not a polished 2200 words, but I always think if you can get something down in writing (or in a computer file) you're on your way--you have material to work with. I talked today to the first faculty member hired (after the dean), Dr. Elizabeth Harris, and I plan to email her the draft, along with a set of questions. I had arranged to call her Friday, but Friday is shaping up to be a horrendously busy day, and I think I'll have to reschedule.
The college began in makeshift quarters with donated equipment, donated books, most out of date, for the library, an anatomy lab in a garage apartment, etc. In the fall of 1970 it welcomed it's first class--nineteen men and one woman, average age older than that of most beginning medical students. Today it is a modern sprawling complex, covering several square blocks, with another large new classroom building under construction, and I don't know how many students. But it has several schools, such as public health, under the umbrella of the University of North Texas Health Science Center. My chapter is entitled "Humble Beginnings," and they were indeed humble--who would have envisioned the college as it is today? And yet some of the people from those early days remain my heroes--Dr. George Luibel, an old friend of my father's and the man who often trreated my sore back and scolded me for the way I sat (eyes and toes always in the same direction was his dictum), was the one with the vision to found and build a college and to make it work in spite of incredible odds. He's gone now, but he lived to see that his dream was firmly established. He would not like the move today to add an M.D. degree to the curriculum--nor do I. And then Dean Henry Hardt, a retired chemistry professor, former president of the NCAA, and founding president of the Texas Board of Basic Sciences, who came on board as the dean, early on when the school was only a paper college. He inspired all with his grace, wisdom, and kindness. I agree with Libby Harris when she said today she thinks the two of them were the wisest men she ever met in her life. I was pleased to be on the fringes of that beginning--my ex-husband was among the founding faculty and I have been an "osteopathic brat" all my life (yeah, I feel sort of the same way about osteopathic medicine as "army brats" often do about the army). I miss my involvement in the osteopathic profession today. So writing this chapter is really a pleasure--I just worry about getting it right.
I think it's supposed to rain most of tomorrow, and I will stay home and work on that chapter. When Socorro Escobar comes to clean my house, which badly needs it, I'll hide in my office.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Food for thought

Tonight 's dinner was sloppy Joe, an old stand-by recipe.. I make it with ground bison (low fat), beans (good for you), onion, ,canned tomatoes, and a bunch of other things including red wine. I figure it's good but fairly low in calories and fat content. I often eat it in a bowl like stew but tonight, for company, I put it on whole wheat buns. I like it better without the bun. But with salad, and the Weight Watchers hummus Jean brought for an appetizer, it was a great, easy and satisfying meal.
Today I was watching the Food Network--I often keep it on but muted when I work, glancing up every once in a while to see if it's something interesting. But today I had the volume on for one of those programs about how to feed a bunch of people on the cheap. The absolute indifference of these programs to healthy eating amazes me--fatty hamburger, inexpensive cheese, etc. I love to save a penny as much as anyone, especially these days, but I won't sacrifice nutrition and taste. Anyway, this chef said she chose corn tortillas rather than flour because she saved $2.20, but there was no mention of the fact that corn tortillas are much more nutritionally sound. I kind of lost track here, but I think I have to give her credit for making her own tortilla chips out of those corn tortillas. But then she was making salsa and raving about how much she saved by using bottled lime juice instead of buying limes--excuse me? The tastes are worlds apart. I can't imagine using bottled lemon or lime juice--when I do I'll know for sure it's time for the kids to cart me off to the old-folks home.

Next came Paula Deen with her total disregard for fat and calories and her absolutely scrumptious-sounding recipes. Today, she and her son were cooking steaks--the steak she proposed to eat would have fed me for at least four meals. But she was making stuffed zucchini. I often hollow out a boiled zucchini and stuff it with celery, onion, bread crumbs, the scraped-out part of the zucchini, and maybe a little cheese. First of all, Paula roasted the zucchini--much better than boiling--and then instead of bread crumbs she used chicken-flavored stuffing mix. She added spinach--great idea--and sour cream, of course. Oh, well, you would use low-fat. It looked scrumptious, and I plan to go on the food network to find the recipe if I can. Paula was in the next half hour too where she had a guests--I can't even remember what she was serving, except that she pulled out a pan of potatoes au gratin and asked the young man to dish them both up some. When he handed her a plate, she looked at it and said, "Are we on a diet?" It looked like a good helping to me. Lord love her, I don't know why she isn't as big as a barn. Sometimes I get bothered by that kitchy southern-ness, but on the whole I like her. My granddaughter Edie and I started watching the food channel together about three years ago, and apparently she still watches it. She's skinny, too skinny, but I hope she doesn't follow Paula's recipe.
My gripe of the day: the new Cowboy Stadium. There was no news on tonight--it was all the Cowboys big first game in the stadium, and the fans going wild. Get a grip here, people--by the end of the evening, most of you will have spent $500--tickets, parking, food, beer, etc. To me, the stadium is a great big symbol of all that's wrong with our culture these days--the bigger-the-better mentality, Jerry Jones making a fortune off it, when he already has several fortunes and lower middle-class people lost their treasured homes to make way for this monstrosity. Somehow, to me, it's linked to the self-absorption and rudeness that marks so much of our public life today. I did laugh when Jim said at dinner that it was like the '70s all over again. My response was that it was like the bouffant hair that lasted so much longer in Texas than anywhere else. Bigger is better--or that's what a lot of people seem to believe. Don't get me started on secessionists, tea-party people, or rude politicians--my blog would turn into a book.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

A day of small pleasures and accomplishments

My Saturday was to consist of a trip to the grocery store and keeping Jacob tonight, but other things came along. Mary Lu called from Dallas, said she'd be in Fort Worth, and could we have lunch--we did, at Carshon's, the local deli and one of my favorite places. We had a good visit and I had comfort food--a half of an egg-salad sandwich. When I got home I found Fed Ex had delivered an author's revisions to final copy--I swear he just got it yesterday. But I entered the revisions and got the whole project off to the publisher by email. I dealt with two manuscript proposals on my desk and had a long phone conversation with a physician I'd been trying to contact for some time to get information for my chapter in the osteopathic history. He had a couple of wonderful stories that will be great additions, and then we talked about the future of both the local ostoepathic college and the profession. Since osteopathic medicine has always been part of my life, that was really interesting to me.
And I got a good nap, rode my bike before Jacob came, and generally felt well pleased with the world.
Getting Jacob to eat his supper was not such a success--he rummaged in the backpack his mom had brought and found a tiny box of raisings, plus a bag of trail mix which he brought to the dinner table and I finally took away. I think his dinner consisted of a few blueberries and a few green peas (I'll use the rest of the small can for pea salad for lunch tomorrow). I saved his dinner--untouched hamburger with cheese on it--thinking his mom might want to reheat it for lunch tomorrow. Best part of the meal? I let the cheese on his meat (which I cooked longer than mine) melt a bit too much and some dripped into the pan and mixed with some crisp beef crumbles. I scraped the whole thing--less than one good bite--off the pan and saved it until I was doing dishes. So good!
One of my small triumphs was getting Jacob to try raspberries--he declined, saying he had tried them at "my home." Well, I knew better than that, because his mother never buys them. But I popped the last one in my mouth, which of course, led him to say, "I want one!" He ate two--a good start. I'm determined to enlarge his taste beyond that of his parents.
We had a peaceful evening, and as far as I know (and the monitor tells me) he is quietly in bed, leafing through a book. We read one chapter--about pirates--before I said goodnight. Someone wrote me today about learning patience, and I replied that grandchildren can really teach it to you. I've learned to cuddle with Jacob--somthing I rarely had time for with my own children--and to patiently sit with him when he's on the potty, to concentrate on him at meals rather than read a book (well, he's turning to watch the Disney channel all the time). But I am also a firm grandmom--when I tell him something I expect him to obey. We're having a battle now over throwing his sippee cup of milk on the floor when he's through with it. Tonight, he looked at me to see if I was watching and then deliberately dropped it. I told him, in no uncertain terms, how disappointed I was, and he kept saying, "I a good boy." If he does it in the morning, he goes to the time out chair--which he has told me is dirty!

Friday, September 18, 2009

That first sentence . . .

I've mentioned before--probably tiresome times--that a chapter I promised to contribute to the 40-year history of the Texas College of Osteopatic Medicine has been weighing on my conscience. The editors want it in October, which is now getting perilously close. As with many writing projects, if I can get the first sentence, I'm off and going. Today, thanks to a phone conversation with an old acquaintance, I got my first line--in fact about five lines. Now I'm itching to get back to it, because I know at least where the rough draft is going. For a week I'm giving up my work on the Google Book Settlement so I can write this chapter, although today I finally, with help, navigated the Google Book Settlement web page to get an updated list of TCU Press titles which have been scanned--a lot more than I originally thought. In fact, the total is 124. I'll have to dig in and see how many of those authors have responded to my query about having the press reprsent them or representing themselves. But I also did some acquisitions work today--felt so overburdened with Google and manuscripts piling up that I emailed those who submitted and told them it might be three months before I answered. But now, I feel a little silly, because I'm ready to answer two of the queries. Next week, I plan to keep my seat glued to my computer chair and clear up a lot of these projects.
Tonight it's too late to do any of those things. I have been to a lovely dinner party, something I don't often do because I'm not good at night driving and always a bit uncomfortable about going places alone, especially places that I don't know and might have stairs without railings or some other barrier for me. This time I was smart--drove by this morning and checked it out--easy access from the parking area by the garage and, since the house faces a really busy street, I emailed and asked where to park. The hostess, my friend Mary, said to park by the garage and came out to offer me an elbow but I didn't need it. Even left my stick in the car. Piece of cake.
Lovely evening--two other couples (three of the four people from the TCU English Dept.), and we had a lively discussion. In this household, Harry is the cook, though Mary does super-service at serving, clearing, etc. Harry made pork roast with tonnato sauce (tuna and capers) and asparagus. Then they blew my diet with ice cream, but it was good. And pirogues which I love and rarely eat. I was reluctant to break up the party but by 9:30, it was time for me to head home.
Harry has a tremendous collection of cookbooks--I always think I'm over-run by books but he has as many cookbooks as I do total books. He doesn't use them to check recipes as much as he simply reads them, like many people read a novel. I told him about the book I'm reading currently--Jam Today by Tod Davies, a sort of conversational memoir about cooking without recipes, but more about that later in a future blog. I'll go to Central Market tomorrow and probably run into Harry--we often meet there on Saturday mornings.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Work and rain

That's what my life seems to consist of this week--work and rain. Even though they predict an end to rain, it continues--nice cool days but rain! Often not enough for an umbrella--just enough to make me look like a drowned rat. And work--accidentally spent most of the morning at TCU Press yesterday. Got there about 9:30 and got involved until it was time for me to go meet a friend for lunch. Today was staff meeting, but I was out of there pretty quickly after that. I've decided to put the Google Book Settlement aside for a while and concentrate on reading manuscripts that are piling up. Next week, the office staff goes to sales meeting in College Station--meeting at the office at 6:30, so praise be I'm not going! So there's no staff meeting all week, and I hope to put TCU Press pretty much out of mind and concentrate on the chapter I need to do for the history of the Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine. Yesterday I got the manuscript I edited for Texas Tech Press off to the author for his final approval. Wonder if I'll ever get back to writing mysteries.
The only break in my work/rain routine has been meals. Yesterday I met Mary Volcansek, who's pretty much the power behind the Center for Texas Studies ast TCU, and we talked about publishing projects plus, since we're good friends, had a pleasant visit. We ate at the Swiss Pastry Shop where I always order bratwurst, potato salad, and sauerkraut--I do NOT want to talk about what that did to my point count for the day Came home and realized I had 2.5 points left for a glass of wine and supper. Didn't quite make it, but had lost a tiny bit of weight when I weighed this morning.
Today I met Nancy Olson for lunch--we ate at the Modern Museum of Art which has a lovely dining room overlooking a huge pond, lined with gravel and beautifully landscaped. It's fun to sit at the window with the water lappng up right next to you. The Modern is noted for sophisticated food--but I rarely eat there because I don't find much on the menu I want. Today I had a salad with lime-tequila dressing (so far so good) and tortilla strips--well they were hard to eat, and as Nancy said, they went one direction in your mouth while the salad went the other. Nancy and I have been friends since the mid-60s when I first came to Fort Worth. She and Ray have lived in Santa Fe for, oh, at least 15 years now, and I treausre my visits with her. As we were finishing our lunch, she said, "Okay, who haven't we talked about?"
Tonight Betty and I went to the Tokyo Cafe, which is rapidly becoming our favorite--I think I'm addicted to wasabi. But I had miso-cured carpaccio in a sauce of molasses and balsamic vinegar--so good. And then salmon sashimi. I figured I'd had my salad at lunch and could eat protein.
Back to the manuscript I'm reading, which I think is really good. It makes me want to keep reading, and few enough do that.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A delicious day

Every morning in the world I get up, brush my teeth, and wash my hair in the kitchen sink--my dad would spin in his grave at the violation of hygiene, but I don't like to wash it in the shower and get the soap in my eyes. This morning I didn't shampoo, shower, or put on makeup--okay, I did brush my teeth. I didn't change clothes either--just fed the animals, fixed my coffee, and went to my desk wearing the T-shirt I slept in. I've been there most of the day, except for a nap. It was the first day of my retirement, I think, that I stayed home all day with little contact with the outside world, and it was great. Jacob was supposed to come tonight for a couple of hours, and that would have been my contact, but his mom is sick and stayed home.

I'm editing a manuscript from Texas Tech Press, Hotter 'n Pecos, and loving both reading and editing it. I'll finish tonight probably and have it ready to send off Thursday. I love getting absorbed in a project, like I was in this one the last couple of days. Then today I got word that the magazine, Parker County Today, wants to try a monthly cooking column, beginning with their December issue--oh, oh, another October 1 deadline. But I can do it. I'll start going through recipes tonight looking for a Christmas hook that isn't trite and tried.

After a weekend of Mexican food and too much of everything, I ate my healthy Weight Watchers meals today--smoked salmon, hearts of palm, and grape tomatoes for lunch, with 1 oz. of chocolate; chopped sirloin and asparagus and raspberries for supper. I'll ruin it all tomorrow by going to the Swiss Pastry Shop and eating a bratwurst and potato salad for lunch!

It's finally stopped raining and the sun actually came out this afternoon. We prayed for rain--and we got it. It's probably still not enough to break the drought, especially in Central Texas, but still, it's a big help and now it's nice to have a break, with temperatures still in the 80s. September often isn't this cool in Texas, and today was a lovely day. My only regret about my stay-at-home day is that I didn't get out and enjoy the weather and a definite top-down day!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

End of a happy weekend and back to work

The house is quiet, and the girls have all taken their children home. Megan had the longest drive--to Austin--but she reported in when she was about 20 minutes from home and said it wasn't nearly as bad as coming up Friday, which took her an unbelievable five hours. Jordan, Christian, and Jacob came by just before supper to pick up leftover food--taco meat, taco shells, refried beans--all those things I don't want. We went to Joe T.'s for lunch this morning. Christian had hoped to pick up a shift but he didn't, so he got to have lunch with us. I had "the dinner"--cheese enchiladas, small tacos, cheese nachos, guacamole, rice, and beans--but I didn't eat even half of it, and I was full. Sent the tacos, all of the rice, and some of the beans home with Christian. Still by the time supper came along I already had eaten 17 of my 19 daily points, so even though I ate modestly tonight I went 7 points over my daily allottment. I have changed my weigh day from Monday to Thursday--how dumb was that to weigh on Monday, just after the weekend.
We had a good happy morning. Everyone ate Jacob's "awful waffles" and the boys played with those inevitable guns--noisy and loud. Maddie sat at the computer for a long time with Jacob in her lap showing him something that obviously interested him, and Edie made his bed so it would be all ready for him next time he comes to sleep over. I cannot say enough about how good those girls are with their cousins. This morning I heard a little activity, got up to look, and saw Edie had Jacob in the bathroom, taking off his overnight pull-up and sitting him on the potty. Shoot! I can't get him to do that when I first get up. So after that quick look, I went back to bed.
Last year I redid the guest house at some great (to me) expense, and it tickles me that no one stays in it. Of course last night, I wanted all the kids in the house--Mel said the girls could go out there and watch a movie but I really wasn't comfortable with that. They watched the movie on their mom's computer at my desk, after Maddie sweetly said they didn't want to disturb me. They didn't--I loved having them across the desk from me. They ended up sleeping in the guest room where Jacob was on his mattress on the floor, and Mel climbed into the bed later, praying she said that Jacob wouldn't wake up at five; Megan moved the air mattress (with Sawyer) into the living room, so everybody slept cramped when the guest house stayed empty.
After everyone left, I finished straightening the house--they do a good job of cleaning up--and sat at my desk. To my surprise, I jumped into an editing project on my desk and have done 50 pages. It's a book of anecdotes about the oil patch days, and I'm enjoying working on it. A free lance assignment from Texas Tech University Press, which I much appreciate. So I'm feeling good tonight about making progress on the projects on my desk.Hmmm. Tomorrow staff meeting at 8:30. Back into busy retirement.
It has rained all weekend, and we are blessing the moisture. 3.5" yesterday and who knows how much today, though now it has slowed down but everything is very wet! Central Texas, where the drought has been awful, apparently got a lot of rain too and I read that Midlothian, south and east of Fort Worth, got over 8 inches yesterday! Feast or famine.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

A rainy day and five energetic children

When I asked Scooby this morning if he was ready to go out and eat his breakfast, this was his response--crowding himself into the smallest space he could find by his bed. He's no fool--he knew it was raining. Finally about an hour later, he heard children and barked, and I was able to get him out, using a leash. He hates the rain, but with a houseful of children, he can't stay in--he's too excitable and energetic with strangers around. But it was indeed a rainy day, and there went plans for a zoo trip. Megan's boys, Sawyer (5) and Ford (almost 3) were out of control, noisy, fighting, wild--it was chaos. When Jordan and Jacob arrived (Jacob for some inexplicable reason wearing his pumpkin costume from last Halloween which no longer fits him), they decided they had to take their three boys somewhere so they went to Chucky Cheese--as politely as I could, I declined and refroze the hot dogs I had out for lunch. You cannot imagine how I welcomed the peace and quiet and settled down for a bit of work. But just as I was about to fix myself a hot dog, Mel and the girls arrived from Frisco. Mel shares my antipathy to Chucky Cheese, so we had hot dogs and a good visit. Maddie, our voracious reader, built a fort of umbrellas on the front porch and then lay on a towel on the concrete (how uncomfortable is that?) to read. When the Austin boys came back, Maddie organized them into an army with rifles over their shoulders (I forgot to mention they arrived with an arsenal and are very noisy about their guns, plus they swing them around so that I'm sure they'll whack someone or something, like my grandmother's tureen!). All of a sudden it was controlled--I told them I'd pay one dollar to the one who found my monitor, and lo and behold, Sawyer found it under the bed! I paid each of the four--Edie had declined the hunt--fifty cents. Then about three they all left for a play date with a friend of Megan's who used to live in Austin. Oh blessed quiet, I had a good nap and then fixed turkey tacos makings. Christian is off tonight--people don't eat on the patio at Joe T.'s when it's raining--so he came for dinner, but didn't go out with the girls. He played chaffeur.
The girls did finally pull all their cars off the street, and they have it all settled which child will sleep where, but I'll be darned if I know where they are all going to sleep. They've gone out on the town, and Maddie and Edie have gotten the little boys all ready for bed and are watching TV with them. That's all of them above though Edie kind of got cut out of the picture. We miss Lisa and the Houston cousins Morgan and Kegan. Now it's time for me to go say "Bedtime!" I honestly don't know what I'd have done with three little boys myself--I know I raised four children under four but I was a lot younger and had a lot more energy. The big girls love doing this. What a blessing.
All is quiet. Edie is snuggling with Jacob, and Maddie is reading to Sawyer. Ford is sound asleep--I just snuck in and gave him a kiss but he never budged. And Scooby and I are in our quiet hideaway in my office. Although it wears me out, I love having all of them here and a houseful of children. I love the hugs and kisses and, especially with Maddie and more recently Edie, the sense of camaraderie. I am so blessed!

Friday, September 11, 2009

It was a dark and stormy night . . . .and death of a mother

It is truly a dark and stormy night, and Megan is driving from Austin with Sawyer and Ford. The big boys in the family--my sons Colin and Jamie, my son-in-law Brandon and his brother Gavin, are all fishing in Montana. So we're having a girls weekend in Fort Worth, with regrets that Houston is just too far for Lisa to make it and bring Morgan and Kegan. But Megan is having an awful drive--she planned to leave home at 3:30--whether she did or not, I don't know, but at 5:30 she said she was almost to Belton, and I expressed relief that she was past Salado where there was reported to be water on the road. Then she called to say she was still south of Salado, and half an hour later she reported she had moved four miles--massive traffice pile-up. I don't know whether it was due to an accident or just the weather. Last report, she was at West, which is just over an hour from here, so I'm looking for her shortly--it's 8:55 right now. I'm glad she brought sandwiches for the boys, and I have wine and supper waiting for her. Will be much relieved when she gets here.
Tomorrow morning, Mel and her girls, Maddie and Edie, will arrive, and weather permitting they'll all go to the zoo, while Juju goes to Central Market. Then early naps for the little ones and Juju, a play date for the children, tacos for supper, and the big girls will go bar-hopping while Maddie, Edie, and I babysit. I don't think the big girls are much used to bar-hopping these days, and I expect them home early.
Meantime I have work out the kazoo--three major projects due in October, and this weekend will see no work on any of them. But I always make my deadlines, and I will again. Retirement is not for sissies.
Scooby is happily in the house and away from the storms--the skies are still rumbling and thundering. A dark and stormy night indeed . . . .
A friend of Jordan's lost her mother to cancer this week. Jordan and Christian went to the viewing last night (I told Jordan tonight when I pass on, no viewing!) and she went to the funeral today. This morning she sent me an email that made me cry--it said, "I love you Mommie. Going to the funeral of a friend's mother is no fun." Tonight she asked if I had a file on my funeral, and I said yes I do. I want "Amazing Grace," preferably by a bagpiper, and I want "Go my children, with my blessing." I asked her if she'd know what to write for an obituary and she said no, so I need to do that. She and the other children know my parents as Grandmother and Grandfather, but I don't think they've ever thought about their real names, or some of the history of my life before they became a conscioius part of it. And I told her I wanted to stress that I was a mother and grandmother most importantly--author and publisher came after that. My friend Jean said this would make Jordan appreciate me more, but I said Jordan already appreciates me. I believe that, however, it may change her perception. Death is never easy.
And a thought on politics: like much of the nation I'm appalled at Joe Wilson's outburst during President Obama's speech, apology notwithstanding. I wonder what's become of civility in our country, and I am worried--okay terrified--by the partisan split. I read an editorial today that a country divided, like ours, is more vulnerable to terrorist attack--which seems true to me. When did we lose our sense of civility and good manners? A small matter, but I refused to let Jacob come to the dinner table tonight without a shirt on--it seems to me on such small matters the basis of consideration for others is built. What's happened to our society? And how can we fix it?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Retirement is busy

For years, I put off retirement because I was afraid of waking up in the morning and thinking, "Omigosh, what am I going to do today?" Everyone told me that I'd be busier than ever but I couldn't believe it. Last night I told my brother there just aren't enough hours in the day, and he said, "I hate to be one of those people who says I told you so, but I did." So he did--and so did many others. And it's proving true.Yesterday I was a day late and a dollar short all day, so much so that I forgot to bring up my garbage carts from the curb last night and am indebted to my neighbor, Sue, who sent her kids to do it for me.

This morning I was at the office at 8:00 for meetings until 9:45 and spent the rest of the morning working there, until an 11:30 lunch with a friend's brother who has a background in publishing and is interested in the press directorship when it's posted. I couldn't give him any encouragement but I did tell him how the press operated, and he told me where his strengths were. He could well be a viable candidate, and besides that we had a pleasant visit and lunch.

Came home, did emails, slept for an hour, and boom! Jacob was here, which was almost a vacation. He was NOT in a good mood--storms scare him, and he arrived in the middle of one, plus he was tired after a day at school. When he demanded a second cup of milk, I told him his dinner was on the table. He whined and cried and said he didn't want his dinner--he wanted milk. So I ate by myself and pretty soon asked if he didn't want his supper (big deal--pbj sandwich) and he came and ate quite cheerfully. After tht the evening got better, and he was more fun, but mostly he preferred to watch TV, so I got to read. When he left I spent an hour spitting out email after email for the office, and now I'm tired and ready to call it quits. But I'll read for a bit more. There are so many good books out there to read--but I have to clear out my shelves. they're ridiculous, with books stacked every which way. Here's a picture of the sloppily overcrowded shelves in my office--they're the worst, but there are bookshelves, filled to capacity thoroughout my house. Someday, I'm going to reluctantly part with some books. It was one of my retirement resolutions. But not soon.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Weight Watchers, geriatric medicine, and the president's health care speech

Yesterday I really blew my Weight Watchers points by having one egg, one piece of toast, and a bit of butter for breakfast, then a half tongue sandwich for lunch (tongue is really high in points, but I do love it). In the evening I had a really low point supper--a bit of smoked salmon (low points), and hearts of palm, grape tomatoes and blueberries (no points). But today I ate much more and came in one point under my daily allowance: went to the TCOM retirees luncheon with Charles and had a small piece of really good, moist, tender chicken, roasted veggies, and salad (of course I dropped a piece of lettuce, dripping with dressing on the front of my white shirt and wore a stain the rest of the luncheon). Tonight I had a Hebrew National hot dog (no bun) with kraut, German potato salad, and pea salad. If you just put pea salad in the Weight Watchers search it comes up with a lot of points, assuming it has cheese and egg yolk in it, so I listed it by ingredients--egg white only, no cheese, peas, a pinch of dry mustard, a tiny bit of sweet pickle relish and a fourth tsp. of mayonnaise. It was delicious and no damage to my diet.
At the retirees luncheon today, a geriatric physician spoke about the new grant the osteopathic college had gotten to infuse geriatric training into all four years of medical school, residency programs in all specialties, and continuing education for practicing physicians. She talked abut the tsunami of elderly that will hit with the baby boomer generation. I thought I was too old to be a boomer, but they say it covers people born from 1936 to, I think, about 1960, so I squeaked in. The main speaker, however, was her husband, an administrator who specializes in geriatric studies. He emphasized two things: life style and financial arrangements. Apparently we elderly live longer according to our lifestyle choices--movement, diet and exercise, involvement in activities, etc., and we live better if we have planned ahead and made good financial arrangements. He urged people to test-drive their choices--don't sell your house and move into assisted living; keep the house and try assisted living for two or three months. Made good sense to me. It was a long program, but most interesting. He was good, too, at audience involvement, asking everything from how long people had been retired to did they regularly use email. Charles said he did, and I told him he was a cheat.
It was interesting tonight, after that luncheon, to listen to the president's address on health care. I admit I'm not savvy on all the issues, but he sure made good sense to me. Once again, I'm reduced to saying I don't understand it all, but I know something has to be done, and his plan is the best option I've yet heard. I was amused to see that Michelle Obama wore a bright pink outfit--you could easily spot her in the visitors' gallery. But both Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi had on bright red pant suits, so they too really stood out. But don't they know red is the Republican color? I'm not sure but tonight I didn't see as many Republicans sitting on their hands as usual when the Democrats stood to cheer--oh, sure, there were some. I'll be interested to see the feedback from what is called the make-or-break speech in the next few days.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Quick and easy dip

This is the dip that I made for our block party. You just dump all the ingredients into a bowl and mix--be warned, it takes a very large bowl. I used the one I knead bread in.

16 oz. jar salsa--you can use mild, medium, or hot, depending on your taste--I used medium chunky Pace salsa (okay, I've been influence by the Pace ads on TV)
24 oz. sour cram--arghh! Use light sour cream
Small red onion, chopped
1 bunch fresh cilantro leaves chopped--(have you noticed how when you chop them in the blender they go all over the kitchen and you find bits of cilantro for days?) Save out some for sprinkling on top to make it look pretty
1 8 oz. pkg cheddar, shredded (I hate that pre-shredded stuff; use a grater and shred it--it doesn't take long)
15 oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
Tortilla chips

My own note says to cut this in half because it makes enough for Cox's army, but I ignored it Sunday night and made the full recipe. Threw half of it away today (and there were about 15 people at the party) because sour cream dips don't keep well. I had hoped it would keep for this weekend when all but one of my girls come with their children. No way. It didn't taste good the next day.
So now I'm worrying about weekend men to feed four women and five children--most won't be here Friday and those that are will get hot dogs; Saturday I'll fix turkey tacos. Not inventive, but good for children. And my vegetarian granddaughter can have all the taco stuff except the turkey.
Meantime I overate today--an egg with toast for breakfast, half a tongue sandwich for lunch (tongue has lots of Weight Watchers points), and a conservative supper of gravlax, grape tomatoes, and hearts of palm. Too late by that time--the point damage was already done!
Got some work done today for the office, both at home and at the office, finished Bordeaux Betrayal by Ellen Crosby (I like her wine books), had lunch with an author, and am now ready to settle down with a manuscript to read for the press.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Osteopathic Medicine

Today I finally got serious about the chapter I am to contribute, called "Humble Beginnings"--and believe me, they were humble--to the 40-year history of the Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine. Reading the 20-year history, which I wrote, obviously 20 years ago, took me on a real trip down memory lane. As the preface says, I was born into the "osteopathic family" as was my brother: when we were kids we could count 18 D.O.s in the famiily--uncles, fathers, even a cousin or a cousin married to one. John's father was one of four brothers who studied osteopathic medicine; my father was the president of the Chicago College of Osteopathic Medicine for 40 years. No wonder I married an osteopathic student! People today still ask me what osteopthic medicine is, which astonishes me in this day and age. Basically (and if John is reading this i hope he thinks I got it right) it's a system of healing developed by Andrew Taylor Still in the nineteenth century in Kirksville, Missouri. Still discovered, according to legend, that a headache would ease if he lay sideways in a hammock, with his head hanging over the edge and the border of the hammock putting putting pressure on the back of his neck just under his skull. Eventually he came to the theory that many bodily ills were the result of misalignment of the body, hence osteopathic manipulation (of which chiropractic medicine is an offshoot). The theory has been refined over the years, and osteopathic physicians are now trained in all the sophisticated specialties of medicine such as surgery, neurosurgery, orthopedics, and on down a long list (look at the phone book of any large city). Unfortunately, manipulative medicine has disappeared from the repetoire of most D.O. physicians, although that was John's specialty toward the end of his practicing years--he's now ten years or so retired. Theoretically, though, the osteopathic emphasis is on health as a way of life and treating the body so as to achieve maximum well-being rather than treating the disease. Aha! Preventive medicine, which M.D.s came to late in the game.
Back to TCOM--as I reviewed my earlier book, I ran into all kinds of memories and people now gone--George Luibel, who had the idea of a Texas college in the 1960s and the vision to make it work, enlisting two other doctors as co-founders; there was a saying going around in those days, "Let George do it"--and he did! Legislative work, dealings with the American Osteopathic Association, all those things. He was also a good friend of my father's and the man I went to when my back hurt--I can still hear him demand, "Who in the hell taught you to sit that way?" when he discovered me in his waiting room with my feet twisted around each other--his motto was "Eyes and toes in the same direction all the time."
And Ray Stokes, the pr man who was the college's first employee, and did all the organizational work; Dr. Henry Hardt, the first dean, a wonderful man who faced doing what few have done--building a medical school from scratch--and did it with a sweet dispoisition but a German hard-headedness. My good friend Dr. Mary Lu Schunder, who taught anatomy to twenty students that first year in a garage appartment.
I am not really a part of the osteopathic community these days. I've been divorced from my surgeon/husband for almost thirty years, and many of my friends in the profession have died--though I remain close to a few. Wednesday I'll pick up Charles and we'll go to the TCOM retirees lunch--he likes to take me as his guest, and I see a few people there I recognize from the "old days." I guess I'll always think of myself as part of the community, though the college has now grown to a sprawling campus with several hundred students and faculty. From humble beginnings indeed . . . tomorrow I'll call a couple of friends who were students in the second class and try to interview them over the telephone. I'd put this project off, but now I've got my teeth into it, I'm enjoying it. Memory Lane is a good place to stroll.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Blogs and block parties

Thanks to Krista Davis (The Diva Runs Out of Thyme, The Diva Takes the Cake) I was invited to be guest blogger at Mystery Lovers' Kitchen today to answer some questions about my cookbook (http://www.mysteryloverskitchen.com/) Most of the questions were food-related, but one stumped me and still has me puzzling this morning. Why, with my success and awards as a western writer, did I decide to switch to mysteries? The first part is sort of easy--the market for the fiction I was writing disappeared, the editors with whom I had good relationships moved on, and my agent died--I have never found an agent since and got tired of hearing "You write so well, I wish I could sell it." But why mysteries? Because I love to read them and have read some that I thought I could better. But that's a shallow reason for jumping into a large pond. LIke the world of western writing, authors in the mystery field (Sisters in Crime, Guppies) are incredibly supportive of newbies. But the mystery pond (to stick with my metaphor) is deep and cold--I bet it's no exaggeration to say at least a thousand writers, never published, are trying to get an agent at any given time. Think of all those agents fending off submissions--since I do acquisitions for TCU, I know exactly how they feel. It takes me back emotionally to the days in the late '70s when I never had a book published. Many of my fellow Guppies (Going to be Published) make a science out of querying--sending out fifty queries, keeping careful charts of queries, rejects, requests for partials or, blessed moment, a full manuscript. Even then, contract offers are the exception and a cause for great rejoicing among all. Attending cons (conventions) and the like is a good way to meet agents, but it may result in merely a polite request, not one that the agent takes seriously. I've about decided cold querying agents who know nothing about you is an exercise in futility--maybe I lack the persistence that I hear so much about. I had hoped my credentials as a western novelist would transfer but they seem to carry no weight in the mystery world.

Will I give up, with one mystery completed and in the hands of of a small publisher for eight months now and the sequel ready for revision? No, I won't give up, but I don't have the fire in my belly that I did when I started this, and I welcome other projects that take me away, like the cookbook. I did query the publisher in late June and was asked for more time. I would query again but a couple of weeks ago my horoscope said to be patient and not ask a question I might not like the answer too! Wonder how long horoscope advice holds true?

Jacob continued in his exuberantly cheerful and energetic mode this morning, and every time he said "I want" and I got up to get what he wanted--more milk, another waffle, to peepee--my feet ached like anything. He was so cheerful and happy I couldn't complain, and he's far too young to say, "So go get it yourself." So I hobbled on sore feet. At one point he told me he loved Wywy, and I said, "You're so noisy you scare Wywy." He said with a sad look on his face, "I'm not noisy. I'm a good boy." I assured him he was, but his happy noises scared her.

Tonight I truly didn't want to walk two blocks, over rough sidewalk, to the block party--Jay said it was only four houses away, but that's not true. Anyway, he gallantly offered to drive, so off we went and had a great time. It was fun to meet neighbors I never knew, though one knew Jordan and another knew I was at TCU, so as always there are not six degrees of separation in Fort Worth. Everyone brought appetizers, and I ate sparingly, thinking they would not do my diet any good. We sat and visited, though I was fidget-y and ready to go home--it was 10:30 before I got home. I'm not used to staying out that late!

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Mr. Sunshine and a lazy, reading day

Jacob has had some rough days lately, working through something in his little head. But tonight he was Mr. Sunshine, cheery, playful and happy from the moment he walked in. He was excited about his new big boy bed, which he has laden with so many toys there's barely room for him. Periodically during the evening, he would disappear and go to his bed. He was reluctant to actually go to sleep tonight but we made a game (and a song of "Time to go to bed") and he went happily. I haven't looked to see if he's asleep, but I don't hear a peep on the monitor.
Some months ago I noticed that when I turned on my computer I got a picture on the remote monitor but not on the laptop, and I was used to having both. I asked Brandon, but he said it was hard to tell long distance. Not a big deal, since I could still see what I was doing on the remote, which is preferable. Tonight Jacob walked up to the laptop, said, "Your 'puter isn't working," and before I knew it gave it a whack! Guess what--I now have a picture on both screens.
Started the morning by meeting an out-of-town author for breakfast at the grill down the street from my house. Closed. He was waiting in the parking lot. So I said, "Follow me," and led the way to Carshon's deli, my mouth watering for lox and eggs. Closed. So I took him on one more drive (he later claimed he enjoyed the tour) and we ended at Ol' South, where he had a Dutch baby (Jamie's favorite) and I had--oh, splurge!--a blueberry waffle. I'm afraid to count my points for the day, though I had tuna salad and just a bit of potato salad for lunch and for dinner, sauteed scallops, tomatoes and sliced mushrooms--and didn't eat it all. I felt sort of efficient as I fixed two entirely different suppers in about 25 minutes--blueberries, cheese toast, cottage cheese, and green peas for Mr. Sunshine, and my saute plus a bit of reheated squash casserole. Jacob ate all but the cheese toast--apparently his mom doesn't cut it into strips and he wasn't willing to try when I did. I relented anyway and gave him a treat--a half piece of chocolate-banana bread Elizabeth had brought. Forgot how much mess a three-year-old can make with chocolate. He insists now on cleaning himself up, so it's sort of a half-job.
Between breakfast, Barnes & Noble, and the grocery store, I spent the day reading and napping. Lovely. I finished Wormwood by Susan Wittig Albert and have started The Bordeaux Betrayal by Ellen Crosby. Tomorrow night watch for my guest blog at Mystery Lovers' Kitchen. I was scheduled to be a guest later in the fall but they had an emergency, a guest blogger they couldn't find, so at 5:00 I saw an email asking if I could do it by 10:00 (which I think is 9:00 our time). Jacob cooperated beautiully, sitting in my office while I answered the blog questions, so I sent it off by six o'clock.

Friday, September 04, 2009

A food post

Do you remember how good hot dogs are? I rarely eat them, thinking they're not on my diet, but tonight Jordan and Christian and Jacob came for dinner and I grilled Hebrew National hot dogs and made German potato salad. Christian walked in and said, "My favorite potatoes." The hot dog tasted soooo good, with Dijon, kraut and a whole wheat bun. And it wasn't that many Weight Watchers points. One night, months ago, I was having neighbors in for a hot dog dinner, and I have lots of Hebrew National left in my freezer. I'll start eating them now.
The reason for this dinner visit was to fix Jacob a "big boy" bed in what he considers "his" room--my guest room. It messes up the arrangement of furniture, but I hope it will only take a few months before he can sleep on the trundle bed in the famiily room--we stole the mattress for his big boy bed. He seemed thrilled with it. We'll see tomorrow when he comes to spend the night. Ever since he's slept in a big boy bed at home, he has quit the tantrums and trashing the room. I face tomorrow with a bit of trepidation.
Today was a day when I was a day late and a dollar short all day--a haircut, errands to the TCU library, the vet and the grocery took me all morning. Then I came home to watch a webinair on the Google Book Settlement--and ended, as I always do, more confused than ever. I seemed to have a lot of odd ends and bits on my desk to take care of. So tonight I'm going to read that book I keep trying to get back to.
The furor over President Obama's address to school children amazes me, although Christian said tonight that the same thing happened when George W. Bush made the same address early in his administration--has my memory become partisan? I don't remember that at all. But I am appalled by the outrage. My son Jamie put it well on his post on Facebook, saying he thought it was time for that kind of outreach from the White House. Last Sunday on the George Stephanopoulus show George Will, the arch-conservative, was asked a question (about health care, maybe?) which he side-stepped by saying, "We conservatives believe that things are the way are for a reason." Implicit in that, to me, is a resistance to change, when I believe, with many others, that change is healthy and the only way we can move ahead. Is our health care system in trouble? Absolutely. Is the proposed legislation the right answer--who can know, but you have to start somewhere.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

A writer in the famiily and yoga for wimps like me

Today, when I checked phone messages after my nap, there was a breathless message from Maddie, ten years old and my oldest grandchild. Her teacher last year had submitted a shape poem she wrote (around a musical note) to a company that does anthologies of children's poetry, and Maddie just got word that hers would be published, probably next January. When I called back, her mom said that after jumping up and down in excitement, the next thing she did was to say, "I have to call Juju!" I was approriately proud and happy for her when I called back--my goodness, the thrill of publication at the age of ten. The anthologies are sold to libraries, but she assured me would could buy copies. I will have to tell her that I was about her age when I wrote my first short stories--my mom saved them, and I swear I have them someplace, but I wish I knew where. I can still tell you--and do sometimes tell audiences--what the stories were about. Meantime, I'm excited for Maddie. She's a wonderful student--said today yes, she's getting all As in 5th grade--and still such a sweet and loving girl. The girls in that family are coming for our girls weekend the 12th, and Maddie promised to help my babysit.
Jeannie was telling me about a new, young, temporary yoga instructor in the class she takes. She makes them do the table position--from what I know you bend your knees, put your arms down, and lift your torso flat like a table. But then the instructor had them raise on leg straight in the air and hold it for one minute, then extend it for one minute. I will never achieve that and decided I do yoga for wimps, though Elizabeth always tells me, "If it hurts, don't do it." My muscles no longer quiver, except for my legs on down dog. Elizabeth recently had me increase my program to include the mermaid position, the breast stroke (like swimming on the ground) and supine walking. And some days when I do my yoga I am truly worn out. But the table with a leg raised? I don't think so.
Went to a staff meeting today and came home loaded with so much work that my plans to finish that mystery went out the window. I'm now reading the first pages of a manuscript and liking it, but that's an acquisitions problem. Once again, retirement is not dull!

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Jacob in transition

I may have to write a novel with that title. Jacob's father tells me earnestly that the child is in a real period of transition. My diagnosis is that he never went through the terrible twos, so now he's doing it at 3 years, 3 mos. For the past two nights, he has climbed out of his crib (well, I've been saying he should be in a bed) and trashed his room; one night he threw a full-fledged tantrum. I asked about something hurting him, bad dream, and Jordan said no, it was a pure tantrum. So tonight he sleeps in a big boy bed--a mattress on the floor. I was keeping him tonight and Jordan arrived with sweeping orders about how we'd have to rearrange the guest room, move the table (I have no place else to put it), etc. So Friday they're coming to do all that, and we'll put the mattress from the trundle bed in the guest room against one wall. But I had a good taste of Jacob's transition tonight--when they left he screamed and clung to them, would not be held back. They finally made it out the door, and I would venture Jacob screamed for the next twenty minutes (I want my mommy, I want my daddy, I want my Addie--a friend who was with them). I pretty much ignored him. Trying to quiet him, his mom had given him a lollipop and when he finished he sweetly handed the stick to me. Then he announced he wanted another lollipop. I told him I didn't have any, and we were about to eat dinner. If he ate a good dinner (which he didn't) he could have ice cream (which he didn't get). Then he began to scream all over again, and I once again went about the business of fixing supper and ignoring him. He didn't want his supper, but finally came to the table, looked at some squash I'd sauteed and anounced it was yucky. I think he ate one bite of chicken loaf and a few blueberries, but his disposition was better. Throughout the evening, however, he reminded me that he loved his mommy, his daddy, and his Addie but not me. Of course by the time he left I got a sweet hug and kiss and when he was in the car, we had an "I love you!" contest--he considers it a challenge to see who can yell it the loudest. When he left, I felt like I'd been through a tornado, and I'm not nearly as excited about keeping him Saturday as I usually am. This too will pass.
Otherwise the day had one hight point--a lovely lunch on the patio at Ellerbe with my friend, Fred--and one low point--a long dental cleaning appointment. The hygeniest said I had bad staining; I protested I drink one cup of coffee a day and no tea. Suddenly she asked, "Do you eat blueberries!" and I had to confess that I eat a lot of them. So there's the culprit. But as Fred said, he's not giving up blueberries to prevent staining his teeth--me neither.
One good aspect of Jacob's visit was that he finally settled down to watch TV, so I could read Wormwood, the Susan Wittig Albert novel I've been trying to read for days but only fitting in bits and pieces. That's how I'm going to spend the rest of my evening.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

A day to bask in

This morning was my official retirement reception at TCU. I had to be dragged kicking and screaming into this. I told my boss, June Koelker, dean of the library, that I did NOT want a reception. She finally told me she would be criticized if she let me retire, after 28 years with the press and 22 as director, without a reception. So I said okay, how about a morning coffee, which somehow seemed less pretentious to me than an afternoon tea. (Susan asked this morning where the mimosas were!) Susan and Melinda picked me up at home and delivered me to the Kelly Center. And you know what? It was a wonderful affair. There were people there I didn't expect, a lot of TCU people but a lot from outside the university. I was flattered beyond belief. June, who had insisted on this event, was home with the flu--probably swine flu, since we have an outbreak of it on campus, and the provost was kind enough to come but couldn't stay long because the board was in town, so Jim Lee got to be emcee. Well, now, that's another thing--I could have done without a formal program. But Jim called randomly on people to speak extemporaneously, people like Fred Erisman who told Jim he was definitely not going to speak. But they all said lovely and kind things about me--okay, Jeannie told the story about the time I watered her fake phicus tree--and I am in danger of getting the big head. Many brought cards, which I have put in the memory book the kids started for me, and Susan brought the most lovely emboidered guest book which everyone signed, so I have momentos of the day. I got lots of hugs and good wishes and had to explain over and over again that this really was the last time I was retiring, and that I had resisted because I was afraid of waking up in the morning wondering what i'd do with my day--which has not happened so far at all, far from it. Jordan came, although she had to leav early, and endured people who said the last time they saw her she was--and they would make a gesture low to the ground. Someone said, "I never knew she would turn out so pretty," and I said, "Neither did I the first time I saw her." She makes a lovely impression and is so gracious to people--my friend Mary Lu, now distant in Dallas, once said, "Jordan makes you feel like you're the person she's been waiting all day to see." I was sorry none of my other kids were there, but I understand the distance problem. I did display a copy of the cookbook (shameless promotion) and had some of my cookook business cards on hand. I am grateful to June for insisting, and to Susan and Melinda for making it happen, and to Susan for the kind words she said about me and the press.
Afterwards, Jeannie and I ran an errand--she needed to stop at a stationery store and since I actually need new informals, it was a good opportunity. Then we ate an early lunch of sushi. This evening, Betty and I went to Cafe Aspen and I had a hamburger, sans bun. Still, I'm way over on points already for the week. I'm beginning to despair of this diet business.
I am finished with the cookbook, at least for now, and can turn my mind to other projects--next is a 3500-word chapter on the beginnings of the Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine (another pro bono job) but today I actually picked up a paying editorial job from Texas Tech Press. So no, I won't be waking up wondering what to do. Tomorrow, a dental appointment (cleaning only, thank goodness) and lunch with Fred, then Jacob in the evening. No, retirement isn't boring at all. I keep trying to find time to read the book I'm in the middle of!