Sunday, May 31, 2015

My catastrophes continue

Earlier this week, I tried to open one of the French doors to my study--it was stuck, swollen I presume by the humidity. I did what my contractor told me--pushed down on the handle, in order to push in. Only the handle came off in my hand. This is a catastrophe on several levels--the doorknobs are antique, so you can't just go to the hardware and replace the broken part. The study is where I leave Sophie when I'm gone and she doesn't want to be outside--she's definitely an indoor dog. She knows how to bang one door open unless I put several strong rubber bands linking the two doorknobs (classy system, don't you think?). Lewis Bundock is supposed to come back tomorrow with an electrician to install the new TV in the back room, and he'll bring a part he thought he had at home for the doorknob. So wonderful to have someone who takes care of my house and knows about old houses (mine was built in 1922).
I mentioned on Facebook this morning that a brand new 16 oz. container of cottage cheese jumped out of the refrigerator and flew all over the kitchen. I put Sophie in the office and cleaned it up as best I could. Then she came along behind me and cleaned the rest. Some had fallen inside the fridge, and I thought I'd gotten it all, but tonight with the fridge open  I noticed a friend's seeing eye dog industriously licking at the bottom. Good thing I'm not a germaphobe.
This afternoon I mostly had dinner cooked--lemon potato salad, roasted corn salad, oven friend chicken (it wasn't crispy enough) and butter-sautéed radishes and kale. The latter was really an experiment and met with mixed response. But I was doing something in the kitchen--maybe swishing out the sink--and the bottom part of the faucet came off in my hand. The whole thing is unusable--leaks water under the sink and out onto the floor. Called the plumber to get my name on the list for tomorrow.
Meantime there were eight people for dinner--we resorted to plastic plates, paper plates for appetizers, and my neighbors took the silverware home to wash. I guess I can get by in the morning, but I'm so used to washing my hair the sink. And it's wonderful to have friends who take such things in stride. I'm feeling fortunate but tired tonight.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

The Two Ps

Two Ps dominated my life today--proofing and potato salad (must be an indication of versatility). I am slowly proofing the copy for a digital version of my 1995 novel about Jessie Benton Fremont, wife of the flamboyant (and sometimes foolish) explorer, John Charles Fremont. She was ahead of her time as a woman but chafed at the restrictions placed on her. While Fremont went off to explore California and fulfill "manifest destiny," she was at home running her father's household and then writing up her husband's reports. I'm struck by the difference in language between this and my contemporary mysteries, but I was writing in first person from the viewpoint of a woman in the mid--to-late nineteenth century, and of course she spoke more formally, with more restraint.
The novel is based on thorough research but one incident I read today almost made me teary. Jessie's mother was a chronic invalid but fairly early in the book (200 pages out of 475) she begins to have a series of small strokes or TIAs (trans-ischemic accidents--the term was unknown in that day). Clearly, those episodes were based on memories of going through that with my mom--the arm that grew suddenly heavy, the convulsive shudders, the confusion. It all came rushing back to me. Jessie was the primary caretaker and that, too, was familiar, as was her hidden desire to shake her mother and say, "Mom, just be yourself!" Oh, how I wanted that.
The potato salad consumed most of my morning, I love potato salad of almost any kind--don't much like what they serve in BBQ joints. Then again, one of my favorites is County Line Potato Salad from the Austin/San Antonio BBQ places. You can find the recipe online--it takes an amazing quantity of dill pickle relish but even if you don't like the relish, you'll like this. It takes four large Idaho potatoes; you boil, chill and then peel. So much easier.
The recipe I used today calls for peeling and dressing still-warm potatoes, which is a bit of a pain and often hard on the fingertips. But I persevered, although I may have let the potatoes get a bit cool. The dressing is mainly vegetable oil and lemon juice. My potatoes were larger than usual, so I may have to add more dressing tomorrow before serving. I also made a salad of corn, black beans, radishes (Christian loves them), with a mayo dressing slightly touched with vinegar and flavored with chopped basil from my front porch herb garden. Enough standing. I'll set the table for eight tomorrow.
Here's the recipe for the potato salad, given to me by friend Sue Winter. I hope she won't mind my sharing it.

Lemon Potato Salad
6 medium red potatoes
1 small onion, diced
1/2 cup celery, diced
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
2 Tbsp. grated lemon peel, fresh
3-4 Tbsp. lemon juice, fresh
3-4 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 Tbsp. salt (don't skimp)
1/4 tsp. pepper
Boil potatoes until tender. Drain. Peel and dice while warm. Add onions. Pour sauce over warm potatoes and onions and coat well. Add celery and parsley. Chill. Serves eight.
The original recipe calls for a small jar of pimiento, which I don't particularly care for (though I love pimiento cheese). Add if you want, when you add celery and parsley.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Nothing to say

I think I just went three nights without blogging--unusual for me. But in truth, I had nothing to say. Oh,  I could comment on Dennis Hastert and his troubles but what's the sense? He's dug his own hole and may be digging it deeper. And I could comment on my strong objections to open carry in Texas, especially the idea of "forcing" private schools to comply. What is this with government, particularly state governments, forcing their own morality and standards on everyone? I thought this was the land of the free. But then, if you read my blog at all, you know how I feel about these things, so why should I repeat. Facebook daily gives me things to rant about--Scott Walker's latest bill practically legitimatizing incest, a church scorning a woman for wanting an annulment from her pedophile husband. And the list goes on. It makes you think we live in the best of times, the worst of times.
I could tell you my horror at the flooding in my state. I have never seen anything like this in the 50 years I've lived here. I'm both repelled and fascinated by the TV coverage--Lake Lewisville is slowly backing up into the yard of a friend, and I can't imagine how she feels. I pray for the souls of those washed away in Wimberley, lost in Houston, and other places. Some rivers flood frequently, but we are having floods in unexpected places, and after three years of bemoaning dramatically low lake levels, we have lakes so full they're open the overflow gates. How would I feel if I lived in the path of those released waters? My oldest son and his family lives on a pond/lake that is creeping into their yard and the other day the road our was impassable.
I tend to believe with those who say this is Mother Nature's payback--climate change (scoff all you want--it's undeniable), fracking, pipelines, all the things we're doing to the earth which was God's gift to us. Years before it was fashionable to think about such things, I used to worry that we were covering the earth's surface with concrete--all those parking lots--and not allowing it to breathe, expand and contract in a natural way.
To me, it's sort of convoluted--we have a generation of politicians who put their pocketbooks ahead of public concern and any thought of the future. Don't they have children and grandchildren? Don't they worry about those young ones inheriting their folly, let alone debt. Oops, I've veered off into a political diatribe...but I feel so strongly about some of these points.
On the other hand, for all the worries about the crowded field of Republican presidential candidates and what some of them would do if elected, and for all the worries about ISIS and international problems, I kind of do believe we live in the best of times--our country is flourishing economically, employment is up, public confidence is up. We are a fortunate people.
So maybe tomorrow I'll have something wonderful to comment on--or maybe I'll tell you about the joys (?) of physical therapy.

Monday, May 25, 2015

The temptation to be a recluse

Holiday weekends are sometimes long for people who live alone--friends are busy with families, my local family often has plans (like the PGA tournament this weekend). I had Jacob for company Friday night and part of Saturday, company for brunch Sunday. But my lunch plans for Monday fell through and I didn't have much work on my desk. It looked like a long day inside looking at the rain.
Two things happened: Jordan asked Sunday night if I wanted to go to brunch with them to meet friends (their friends are incredibly nice to me) and several projects, one big, landed on my desk this morning. I decided I'd change my mind about going to brunch and stay home--after all, I was used to being home alone from Saturday and most of Sunday.
But then I thought when you're tempted to stay home is when you should get out of the house. I went with them to Joe T.'s, had huevos ranchero and enjoyed the company, saw Jacob's signed golf ball and pictures of his hat and glove, signed by the winner. Jordan came in for a few minutes when we got home, and then I got back to work.
I find when I stay home a lot, it's hard for me to make myself go out, even for things I enjoy. In fact doing just that after being home sick for a week accounted for my last fall, the one that sent me into physical therapy. It's so easy for me to wrap myself in a cocoon and stay home.
At the same time, I'm a social being by nature, and I need to get out of the house. One friend said I bring people to me rather than going out after them, and that's something I must work on. It's like a lot of things, like my walking exercises--you have to take it one day at a time, and instead of drawing the circle tighter around you, always push at its limits.
The comparison to my physical therapy is apt too. I have too many people willing to help me. Sunday in the rain the newspaper  was in a place that was hard for me to get to. I decided to go down the driveway and approach it from the street, but I had one of those moments--instinct or fear turned me back, and then I was mad at myself. The friends who came for brunch brought my paper in and assured me they were glad I didn't go get it.
Today at Joe T.'s I was walking on a brick walkway--sometimes uneven surfaces make me less certain but this really wasn't bad. But because either Jacob or Jordan were next to me, I held on to them. I've got to learn to think of my cane as the person I'm holding on to. Beating myself up about that one too.
Enough with the confessions.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

In the news...

The news is interesting lately. A Seattle couple left their entire estate--$847,237+ to the U.S. Government in gratitude for the opportunity of living in this country. Both were immigrants--he from Nazi Germany, she from Ireland--and had no family at all. Many of us, myself included, spend so much time moaning about what's wrong with this country--tax cuts for the rich, cuts on all kinds of aid to the poor, silly laws about food stamps and groceries, guns all around us--that maybe we should stop and take a break to think how lucky we are to live in this country. Most of us have food and shelter, we're safe, and as a friend reminded me today, some people would kill for a chance to come to this country. I for one am going to work on gratitude while continuing to fight to make our country the best it can be for all citizens. There is a discouraging note: some economist or such authority noted that at the rate the U.S. spends money, that legacy will be spent in 31 seconds. But it's the gesture that matters.
In new from France grocers are now by law not allowed to discard outdated food--they must either donate it to feed the poor or to be made into animal food. This was on Facebook, and most comments were enthusiastic. I was a bit dismayed by one that said it made so much sense it will never happen in America. That's the attitude I'm talking about above. I do actually know a man who buys industrial waste for conversion into animal food. It's a small step but a start.
And in news that I find really important, Nebraska lawmakers have voted to ban the death penalty, on the grounds that no one has the right to take another life. Maybe we're moving toward being more humane.
The Maldives is (are?) being taken over--by the ocean. The tiny group of islands in the Indian Ocean may be the first country to disappear into the ocean. It has 200 inhabited islands, and tourism is the biggest business--it's lush and tropical. I saw nothing linking this to global warming or climate change, but one can't help but wonder.
Meanwhile, we in North Texas share their concern. We're being taken over by storms, torrential rains, and floods. Major highways are under water, some lakes are above their capacity, river are overflowing. In central Texas, hit particularly hard, a family of four disappeared when the house they were staying in was swept away by water; the father was found and is intensive care. The mother and two young children have not been found. Others in that some town had to be rescued by boat. Be careful out there folks--and don't drive into water. It amazes me how many people you see being rescued from low-water crossings and flooded intersections, in spite of all the warnings. Sometimes people who try to beat low-water crossings aren't lucky enough to be rescued.
Jokes abound--I saw a picture of an ark, and there are lots of pleas for whoever is praying for rain to please stop. Of course, by August, we'll wish we had it. Meantime, we wish there was a way to send it to California.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Awesome dinner--to me

At a loss for something to have for dinner besides a half a pimiento cheese sandwich, I fixed a dinner that I thought was awesome--and would have sent son-in-law Christian running for Whataburger. Creamed tuna on toast and shredded zucchini, a la Julia Child. I know, most people equate creamed tuna either with the tuna casserole of their childhood (I can make a killer tuna casserole) or creamed chipped beef on toast (SOS in the army). I can make a pretty good version of that too!
First the zucchini which a neighbor brought me--it comes in her weekly vegetable delivery, and she's allergic. I used the large hole shredder and ended up with what I thought was too much--but I ate every bite. Just sauté in a bit of butter and olive oil adding salt and pepper--it will get weepy at first and then soak up the liquid. Don't let it stick to the pan. Doesn't take long to soften shredded zucchini.
Creamed things are a  problem for me because I don't keep milk on hand. Every time grandchildren are coming I dutifully buy milk, and when they leave I either send it home with Jordan or throw it out. I've also stopped buying them orange juice.
Anyway, back to tuna--I made a roux of butter and flour but didn't brown it, adding chardonnay by bits until I had a fairly thick sauce (1 Tbsp. butter and 1 Tbsp. flour), then threw in a dollop of sour cream and the tuna. If I'd had green peas, I'd have added them, but I was out. Again, salt and pepper and you're done. I served it on crisp toasted French bread. Both were delicious.
Speaking of peas, a new favorite dish of mine is, I think, standard in the British Isles--pea mash. Just take some of those good, petite frozen peas (not the pale green canned) and sauté in butter. When they're soft, mash with the back of a wooden spoon. Keep mashing until you have a fairly even consistency. Salt, pepper, and you're done.
I seem to be in for easy cooking these days. 

Friday, May 22, 2015

Bone-weary tired

This is my not stodgy, not an old person's car--eleven years old with 31,000+ miles!
Bone tired. You  ever feel that way? That's how I feel tonight. I've done a lot of running around this week that I'd rather not do. I'd like to be home at my computer, but I took the dog to the vet for an annual check-up, went to physical therapy which is always tiring, went out to lunch twice and dinner once (all of which I enjoyed), had Jacob overnight three nights (which means I don't sleep as well even though I love having him here--mostly), got a haircut, went to the grocery, took the car to be repaired (predictably it cost four times what I anticipated) and went to a doctor's appointment. Maybe it was the nap I took this afternoon that made me lose my oomph--slept so soundly that the alarm was a great intrusion. Woke up to go get Jacob--who promptly went home to play with a friend. Should have gone back to bed.
The weather doesn't help. By now, everyone knows about the monsoon season we're having--22+ inches, more than all of last year. And it's supposed to rain at least until mid-week. Sometimes a gentle rain is comforting, but we've had sudden heavy downbursts--they don't last long, but they're intense. Plants and lawns are loving it. People not so much. We're beginning to long for sunshine and to feel moldy; crops are dying from too much water. It's been a great drought-breaker, with lakes a year ago almost empty now overflowing.
Texas novelist Elmer Kelton's most significant work was the novel The Time It Never Rained, but he later wrote an article titled "The Time It Always Rained." Writing mostly from sheepmen's point of view, Elmer stressed the difficulty for animal raisers. I wish he were here today to give us his view on this deluge.
To make it worse, this is the weekend of the PGA tournament at Colonial Country Club (sponsors change occasionally and I can't remember what we're calling it this year--it will always be Colonial to me). I don't know much about golf, but I imagine a soggy course is a real problem for golfers. And surely it discourages both real golf fans and those who go to drink beer and ogle the women--a Colonial tradition. However, if traffic is an indicator, it hasn't discouraged many people--traffic is as always a mess anywhere near the golf course. Streets closed, etc. This morning I thought I'd be smart and cut through a shopping village parking lot--blocked off with an official man patrolling. Had to retrace my steps. And my favorite way to come and go to West Fort Worth is blocked. This evening to avoid University Drive, I went almost downtown to get to White Settlement and retrieve my repaired car.
So glad to have my Beetle back. Grateful for the loan of a Passat but it felt stodgy and stiff to me, and I was never comfortable driving it. A friend told me in Germany all the old people drive Passats--oh good, just what I needed to know.
Enough rambling. I'm going to go fix breakfast for dinner--scrambled eggs and bacon. It's one of Jacob's favorites.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Taking a new road

I debated about blogging about this, because I try not to blog a lot about my writing career. But a timeline I recently saw said on the road to self-publication the first thing to do is tell family and friends. So here I am to say I'm going off in two new directions next fall: I will self-publish my historical novel, "The Gilded Cage." Yes, I know there are other novels by that name, but it's so apt. I've had some success with similar novels before, about extraordinary women of the American West, but this is different. It's a fictional biography of Bertha Honore (Cissy) Palmer and her husband, Potter Palmer of the Palmer House Hotel in Chicago.
I'm fascinated for two reasons: I grew up on Chicago's South side, Hyde Park/Kenwood to be specific, close to the grounds of the 1893 Columbian Exposition--rumor has it that the 1892 house in which I was raised was built for the exposition. As I delved into that story, I became more fascinated than ever at the amazing amount of talent showcased there, everything from scholars like Frederick Jackson Turner and Henry Adams to sculpture by St. Gaudens and art by Mary Cassett--to the Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, the original Ferris Wheel, and the scandalous "Little Egypt" where there was--gasp!--belly dancing.
And Cissy Palmer herself was an unusual and strong woman. Born and married into wealth, she was among the first to see the connection between wealth and philanthropy. Yes, her husband gave generously to various causes, but Cissy was the one who attended women's meetings, supported women's causes, traveled among the shanties of West Chicago to distribute help, worked at Hull House, Jane Addams' famous community shelter for immigrant women. The crowning glory of Cissy's career came whens she was elected President of the Lady Managers of the Exposition, responsible for the design, decoration, maintenance, and operation of the Women's Building.
I've turned the entire story into fiction, invented scenes and dialog and characters while sticking with the people who were really there. Most notably, I've injected a note of decorous romantic attraction, which I'm sure never existed. It all comes to a head the last night of the exposition.
The manuscript is with an editor and the idea with a cover designer. All plans can go awry of course,, but I hope to publish in October--so make your list of Christmas gifts. It will be in e-book and trade paper simultaneously.
And I'm equally excited about the book that Texas Tech Press is publishing in November: Texas is
Chili Country. I absolutely love the cover they've designed for it. The book is a light-hearted but documented look at the history of chili and the popularity of chili cook-offs today, with the granddaddy of them all at Terlingua each November. There are photos and recipes galore, along with chapters on beans and beer. Yes, I know--purists will not stand for beans in their chili, but they're often a side dish. And who can have chili without beer? I was lucky to have the cooperation of several good people in the compilation of this book, and I really look forward to some chili cook-off signing parties.
For those of you who like Kelly O'Connell and her Fairmount neighborhood or Kate and the Blue Plate Café, don't despair. There will be a third Blue Plate mystery in March or April 2016. Kelly will be back sometime, and so will Susan Hogan of The Perfect Coed.
As I said, plans can go awry, but there are my goals. Over the summer, I'll be blogging about Chicago history and chili recipes. Nothing like diversity in your writing.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Touring Ireland: Sit Back and Enjoy Your Trip

Please welcome my Wednesday guest, Maggie King, a lover of all things Irish. Maggie is the author of Murder at the Book Group, published in 2014 by Simon and Schuster Pocket Books. She contributed the short story, “A Not So Genteel Murder,” to the Sisters in Crime anthology Virginia is for Mysteries. She is a member of Sisters in Crime and the American Association of University Women and has worked as a software developer, retail sales manager, and customer service supervisor.

Maggie graduated from Elizabeth Seton College and earned a B.S. degree in Business Administration from Rochester Institute of Technology. She has called New Jersey, Massachusetts, and California home. These days she lives in Richmond, Virginia with her husband, Glen, and cats, Morris and Olive.

Ireland. This verdant and magical land with its charming people and troubled history has been described countless times in literature and film. You’ve probably seen more movies and television shows with Irish settings than you realize: Angela’s Ashes, The Boxer, Circle of Friends, The Commitments, The Crying Game, Michael Collins, My Left Foot, Ryan’s Daughter, and The Snapper, to name a few.

When I’m planning a trip I enjoy watching movies and shows produced by my potential hosts and set in their homeland. By the time I visited Ireland in 2007, I’d seen the above films plus a few more.

And when I returned home, I continued my tour of the Emerald Isle as an armchair traveler. For your own tour, I recommend the following:

Father Ted follows the hilarious adventures of three Roman Catholic priests who, due to “improprieties” in their pasts, have been banished to a parish on the fictional Craggy Island, off Ireland’s west coast. The show is laugh-out-loud funny but sometimes crosses the line into poor taste. If you tend to be refined, you may want to skip this one.

Ballykissangel, filmed in Avoca, a picturesque Irish village in County Wicklow, revolves around a young English Roman Catholic priest as he becomes part of a rural community. The show captures the delightful Irish spirit and the stories, with their ensemble cast of well-drawn characters who captivate viewers from the get-go.

Single-Handed is a gritty police drama set and filmed in the west of Ireland. It features Sergeant Jack Driscoll, a member of the Garda (police) and one of the grimmest characters in the history of television anywhere. The breathtaking scenery in Single-Handed belies the darkness of the stories and the evil they evoke.

Once, a film set in Dublin, is based on the true story of musical collaborators Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová. What makes this delightful film extra special for me is that I can spot the restaurant Kafka is the background of one of the scenes. My husband and I enjoyed a wonderful dinner at Kafka (in fact, we enjoyed great dinners all over Ireland, especially at the pubs).

The Irish R.M. is set at the turn of the 20th century and filmed in Kildare, Wicklow, and various locations in the West of Ireland. This comedy-drama series stars Peter Bowles and is based on stories written by Anglo-Irish novelists E. Somerville and M.Ross. If you’re knowledgeable of Ireland’s history with England, you’re sure to enjoy this one.

I also like to read books, especially mysteries, set in other places. So it’s no surprise that my fictitious characters share my passion. The Murder on Tour book group is the travel-themed group featured in Murder at the Book Group, my debut mystery. The members each read a different mystery based on a geographical setting, and gather to “booktalk” their selections—a fancy way of saying they give oral book reports, reminiscent of grade school.

When the group becomes skittish about reading murder mysteries after one of its members is killed, they transition to a film group, also with a travel theme—and no murders!

Here is a list of Irish films in chronological order:

Irish films and shows from Netflix:

Do you enjoy movies and TV shows set in other lands? Please share  your favorites.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Poor Waco...and poor Texas

The city of Waco seems doomed to bad publicity. Over a century ago, they had journalist William Cowper Brann in their midst, publishing his Iconoclast newspaper and savagely attacking Baptists, Episcopalians, the British and black people. The city, home of Baylor, the state's most revered Baptist university, could hardly stand it. Then Brann published evidence that Baylor officials had been importing young South American girls as house maids and that one young girl had been impregnated by someone from a prominent Baylor family. Scandal! Brann was silenced when a Baylor supporter shot him in the back. Fort Worth's own Jerry Flemmons wrote a one-man play featuring Brann.
Waco probably had other scandals in between but the one that really caught national attention was the raid on the Branch Davidian compound. David Koresh, a charismatic self-anointed leader of the sect, was accused of child abuse and statutory rape. When an attempt was made to serve warrants, federal agents were fired upon. Ultimately ATF agents raided the compound, losing four of their own men and killing several Branch Davidians. Ultimately they burned the compound, killing men, women and children. It's a blot on Waco, a blot on US law enforcement, and a cautionary tale about extreme religious sects.
Then they had the Western White House in nearby Crawford, which was a blessing, a tourist attraction, and a source of pride--except it drew many protestors of the war in Iraq until the Bush ranch was nearly besieged. I'm not sure the protestors were dealt any compassion, but the whole thing blew over. And today you rarely hear of the Bush family going to the ranch.
And now--Waco has the biker rumble, which has made national headlines. While police described it as one of the worst bloodbaths they've ever seen, some complain that the bikers were treated leniently--not handcuffed, allowed to keep their cell phones. That apparently ended when 170-some were indicted for organized crime activity and murder and were put under a million-dollar bond.
The question is what will happen next. Apparently rumors are flying that there will be a retaliatory rumble, and law enforcement is readying all its resources. Wouldn't surprise me if the rumble took place somewhere totally different. But meanwhile the fight that took nine lives, wounded I don't know how many others, gives Waco (and Texas) yet another black eye.
Just when things in Texas aren't going well--depending on your point of view. If current legislature passes--and apparently it will--even unconvicted criminals (how do you tell the difference?) will be able to walk the streets carrying any manner of guns they want, and police can't question them until they catch them in a criminal act. Is that locking the barn after the horse is gone? There will be a ban on banning fracking--cities can no longer determine the policy for their own boundaries--just when all scientific evidence points to the dangers of fracking and its part in causing earthquakes. And clergy cannot be forced to perform same-sex marriages--which looks like it's headed for a national law.
Texas is and always had been a nation onto itself. But our national reputation is getting ludicrous. I need to re-study the glorious history of this state to remind myself why I stay here...and hope good times will be here again. Meantime I'm not moving to Waco.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Dogs on my mind

Today was Sophie's birthday, which I totally forgot about until I woke up this morning (that's okay, I also totally forgot that if I'd stayed married, Saturday would have marked 51 years--oh good gracious!). By coincidence, I made an appointment for Sophie's annual checkup today, and I'm pleased to report that she's in excellent health--a little dry skin and a little tartar on her teeth, nothing to worry about--I should have such minor problems.
But somehow tonight I got to thinking about the dogs I've owned and loved over the years. There have been a lot of them, and I loved them all but a few stand out. When I was quite young and terrified of dogs, my parents bought my brother a collie mix named Timmy--a female, no doubt a rescue dog. Someplace I have a wonderful picture of Timmy and me, sitting on a dune in the Indiana Dunes State Park, looking out over Lake Michigan. That particular spot is where I often go in my mind when I want to go to a place of calm and peace--and I take Timmy with me.
And then there was Shea, a beautiful mahogany tri-color male collie. When we were in Kirksville, Missouri, friends were going abroad for a year and asked us to keep him. Ever after when they came back, Shea would run away to our house. When we were moving to Texas, we gathered our nerves and asked if we could take him. The owner said, "Thank God. I thought you'd never ask." Shea was a magnificent, dignified gentleman.
At the same time my brother had a German Shepherd who would follow him to class. The professor would order him to take the dog outside; the next time someone opened the door, King was back upstairs at John's feet. Finally after this went on for a while, John said, "Sir, if you'll let him stay, he'll sit quietly at my feet." And he did.
Jacob with Scooby
We had all kinds of dogs when the children were little, but I think they most remember Claudine, the Irish Wolfhound and the most gentle giant I ever knew. A true sweetheart who had a litter while she was with us and had one limp puppy--she knew better than me and kept trying to bury it in sofa cushions or something because she knew it would die. I wore it on my chest so the motion and heat would revive it. It didn't work. The bigger the dog, the shorter the life--we lost Claudine at nine to cancer.
Along the way there were Cairns (the only other small dogs I ever owned) and Bearded Collies but the other dog who holds a special place in my heart is Scooby, my rescue Aussie. So gentle, so grateful for love. He'd been a junkyard dog and abused, and he had a lot of baggage, but he was a love.
I've always had big dogs, so Sophie is a bit of shock to me--she's medium, weighs 32 lbs. as of today--but in some ways she has a small dog temperament. Excitability, high-pitched barking when she feels it's called for. But I adore her and I think it's mutual (she's asleep at my feet right now) and I wouldn't trade for her. She has a long line of beloved dogs behind her.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Distant thunder

I just heard, I think, distant thunder. We're supposed to get storms tonight, with the greatest likelihood between 11 p.m. and 1 p.m. Jacob is here, and I'm going to try to get him asleep before that--we both tend to stay up late when it's not a school night. But if he's asleep he won't be frightened by the storms. I on the other hand may stand at the front door and watch in fascination.
There's a nice companionship about having Jacob here. He ate his dinner at the coffee table, and I ate at my desk. We don't talk much--his conversation consists of "Is there anything more to eat?" and "I'm hungry." I surprised him with three Girl Scout thin mint cookies, and his eyes widened, "Three?" He sorely misses the Blue Bell ice cream that came in individual servings. But even if we don't talk much, we each know the other is there.
There was a video on Facebook of my Austin grandson, Sawyer, playing guitar with a band. Jacob decided Sawyer was really good, the singer not so much. We also decided we can see Sawyer's future, and Jacob insisted on adding "To be continued" to the message I sent. My grandchildren are all so different. Morgan in Tomball just skipped a level and advanced in her karate training, and her eight-year-old brother, small for his age, tried out at the coach's suggestion and made the 11-year-old soccer team. He's a killer on the soccer field, and that coach knows it. Jacob's baseball team lost last night but aren't out of the playoffs yet--at least one more game to go.
I fixed his kind of dinner tonight--corn on the cob and broccoli, and he ate two helpings of each. Our meat was Taylor's Pork Roll. I recently rediscovered it. Colin used it for eggs Benedict (instead of Canadian bacon) over Mother's Day, and it was delicious. I had some one evening later, sautéed. So I thought I'd try it on Jacob--fixed two pieces for each of us. He ate one and said he liked it okay, but he didn't want any more. I ate his other one. Somewhere in my past I've had Taylor's Pork Roll, but I can't put my finger on it. I want to say in graduate school in Missouri, but my brother doesn't remember it, and we were in the same small town in those days.
Which brings me to a coincidence: at the postal station in the local hardware today, the clerk was complaining her plants were drowning. "I'm from Missouri, and this is Missouri weather, not Texas." So I said I'd gone to school in Missouri, and it turns out we were about thirty miles--and a lot of years--apart. I told her the one thing I remember about her town of Macon, a restaurant, and she said it had re-opened after a fire. Small world.
It's been a lazy day, and I've enjoyed it. Some work, but not much. A grocery trip plus post office plus cleaners. Long nap. I love weekends, which strikes me as funny since I'm retired and theoretically weekends are no different than weekdays. Doesn't work out that way.
And that, my friends, is enough trivia about my life. Hope you all have a good weekend. Stay safe, those of you in the path of storms.

Friday, May 15, 2015

At the Water’s Edge by Sara Gruen—a book review

I wanted to read this book because the blurb billed it as about a search for the Lochness monster. As many of you know, I am fascinated by Scotland, all things Scottish (okay, even haggis), and particularly Lochness. The ancestral lands of the MacBean clan (of which I am a member) lie in the hills above Lochness, and I’ve been there.
Nessie is almost a deus ex machina in this excellent novel, with its hints of the paranormal. The story features Ellis and Maddie Hyde and Ellis’ best friend, Hank. Ellis and Hank could be straight out of an F. Scott Fitzgerald novel moved into the 1940s and WWII. Both 4-F. Ellis has disgraced himself in his father’s eyes and been cut off from family funds, so he decides the thing to do is go to Scotland and solve the mystery of the Lochness monster, a mystery his father tried desperately to solve years earlier, failed, and made enemies among the locals. Ellis has no trouble convincing his wife and Hank to go along with the scheme and the three carefree partiers set off for Scotland.
But this is less a novel about Nessie, than it is about Maddie, who tells it in her own voice. It’s about her growth in maturity, compassion, and understanding of other worlds than that of privilege which she married into, about discovering a world beyond that she has known in her marriage. Ellis and Hank have no comprehension of the horrors of the war that rages on continents near them, although there are occasional air raid alerts in the small Highlands village. They stay in an inn which is clearly not up to their standards—either in accommodations or service. But while the “boys” are off chasing monsters, Maddie gradually comes to know the villagers and the starkly beautiful land around her and becomes fast friends with two young women who work at the inn. The story unfolds from there—one of love, and growth contrasted with selfish self-interest. I was drawn into its world, stealing every minute I could to read. Maddie almost become my alter ego.
Not so the “boys,” who remained spoiled, petulant and deceiving. They still referred to the innkeeper at “the help” and urged Maddie not to become too friendly. Gradually Maddie grows away from her two companions and closer to the Scottish people around her.
No spoilers. It’s a story with tragedy, passionate love, war, danger, and intrigue. But it held me spellbound. My only complaint is that while the war was always omnipresent, in the conclusion suddenly too much focus is on the details of the end of the war and the discovery of concentration camps--really removed from the world of the novel--and there is too much afterstory—but that would be another spoiler.
Nessie? Maybe she’s real, maybe not. It’s enigmatic. But strange things happen at the water’s edge of Lochness. I’d give this one four stars and recommend it highly.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Playing like an executive

I don't like to fly--I do it when I really really want to be someplace, but it makes me anxious days in advance. I don't like to drive on the highway. I don't do it. Period. So travel by myself is limited. Yet I have kids in Houston, Austin and Frisco that I'd like to see. Okay, Frisco is close enough that Jamie comes to get me or, as he did the other day, comes to visit. But Houston and Austin are problems.
So, I was delighted that a company named Vonlane has instituted "executive" bus service between Dallas and Houston and Dallas and Austin. Sixteen very comfortable seats that adjust however you want them, complimentary drinks (including wine) and snacks and, if you're traveling at mealtime, a sandwich. Wifi connections and all kinds of other complimentary service, all provided by a solicitous attendant.
There was much discussion in my living room over proper attired for an executive bus. No, I could not wear jeans. No, I could not wear leggings (I did--an outfit with leggings). I saw no men in suits, two that looked like businessmen in slacks and dress shirts. Other than that, all kinds of garb. I needn't have worried.
I took the bus to Houston last Friday. Had a couple glasses of wine, read, napped and the three-and-a-half hours went by quickly. Only problem was my own fault--I went to the restroom in Houston Friday evening stop-and-go traffic, came out and was chatting with the attendant, probably talking with my hands instead of holding on, and when the bus stopped suddenly I fell backward, landing like a turtle on my back. The attendant hovered over me, while a  young man tried to put his arms under my shoulders and pull me up. I said I needed to get on my knees, which I did in spite of the crowded space. Then I could pull myself up, putting one hand in the sink in the service station. My head was a little tender, and for a couple of days my ribs were sore. But I wasn't hurt. A bit embarrassed however.
Jordan, my travel agent daughter, told me an executive with the company called and told her I'd fallen, wanted to know if I was all right. Obviously, he was warding off a lawsuit, but I still thought it was nice attention to detail.
Coming back the bus wasn't full, and I had a double seat to myself. Took a nap, with my shawl wrapped around me--and the attendant came and put a blanket over my lap. Lunch was delicious chicken salad on a croissant. And the bus was really early getting into Dallas.
Did I feel like an executive? No, but I felt luxurious and pampered. I'm a Vonlane fan from now on.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Mothering - part two

I've always said what goes around comes around, and that was certainly true for me and motherhood this Mother's Day. I had wonderful visits with both my sons. Took an "executive" bus from Dallas to Houston Friday (that is in itself an experience that deserves a separate post) to spend a long weekend with my oldest, Colin, his wife, Lisa and nine-year-old Morgan and eight-year-old Kegan. Had a great time--good family time, sleeping late, allowing myself to be lazy, pampering myself by not helping with dishes, etc--read two good books, had happy hour by the lake (which is really high), fiddled with email but no serious work.
And ate. Lisa had written to ask what I wanted her to have on hand--my serious answer was green tea and cottage cheese. But then I added a tongue-in-cheek list: caviar, eggs Benedict, smoked salmon, and Cakebread chardonnay. And they got it all except the caviar! We had eggs Benedict Saturday morning, smoked salmon and cream cheese for Sunday brunch, grilled and baked salmon for Sunday supper (with the Cakebread, which really is several cuts above my usual box wine). Colin warned me Friday to be prepared to ignore my diet.
Friday night we went to a popular Mexican restaurant near their house, ate on the patio and laughed a lot. Lisa told me to lean in close to Colin for a picture; when I turned toward him, he was truly "in my face" and startled me so I jumped back, resulting in the two pictures above. Another wonderful photo opp came on Saturday when we went for ice cream cones in "old" Tomball--really charming part of town. I haven't eaten an ice cream cone in forever, but it was fun with grandkids.
Monday I spoke about writing and being an author to four groups of fourth-graders, beginning with Morgan's class. My granddaughter was an excellent escort, taking me from room to room, setting up a display of books, sitting patiently through each presentation. Lunch in the cafeteria with Kegan, and I was ready to go home for a long nap.
Tuesday Colin drove me to the bus, and Jamie met me in Dallas. He brought me to Fort Worth, stayed all afternoon, alternately playing with Jacob and working on his computer. About six he took me to dinner, and we had such good, in-depth conversations that we didn't leave the restaurant until 8:30. Then he came in and we kept talking until I finally said, "You better head back to Dallas." I love those long visits with him--sometimes we relive the kids' childhood, doing lots of "Remember when....?"
Now I need a daughter weekend. But I do feel like maybe I was a good mother after all.


Saturday, May 09, 2015

Thoughts on mothering

Like everyone else, my thoughts are on motherhood this weekend, not just my mother but the chain of mothering in my family. My own mother was a wonderful, warm, joyful person—my favorite memories are of her telling funny stories—some about family, some on herself, and some on me. She’d laugh till the tears rolled down her cheeks. Like the time I put nine tsp. of baking soda in a cake and served it to my parents; she was astounded, until she checked the recipe—it was a typo. Or the time she was worrying about feeding a friend while at the same time signing an important document that guaranteed she was legally responsible—she signed it Alice P. Mac, went to check the toast, and came back to write Bread. (Our name was MacBain.) Or the time she found herself in the middle seat of our station wagon, between two toddler grandchildren—the harder they screamed, the harder she laughed. She taught me to cook, she tried to teach me to be a lady, and she taught me both love and strength. In her mid-eighties she slipped into dementia due to small strokes. I’m sure it was distressing to her, and I know it was terribly distressing to my brother and me. Sometimes I feel the disturbing memories of those few years get between me and all the joy and laughter of my life with her up until then, and I struggle to reclaim the wonderful woman who raised me. She's been gone almost thirty years.

Do I miss her? Not in the usual sense. She is with me. Often when I wake in the night or early morning I’m aware of a presence in the house. In rapid order, I discount the peacefully sleeping dog, the grandson who is not under my roof that night, and I realize that my mom is in the guest room. Watching over me. She is with me when I cook something or do some other small thing I learned from her or I quote one of her many favorite aphorisms. My mom is like the angel that sits on my shoulder—she may frown occasionally but generally I think she’s happy. I talk to her a lot, but she doesn't answer.

Motherhood was not something that came naturally to me—I assumed it would happen but I didn’t think much about it. Only it didn’t happen, and my husband and I adopted four children. By the time the oldest was twelve and the youngest six, I was divorced and raising them alone. I would not trade for the richness of that experience, though I don’t think I was a particularly good mother. There’s so much I didn’t do—homework, discipline, etc. though I did feed them regular, healthy meals, see that they had nice clothes, lived in a nice house, and were loved by lots of adults. They tell me I just don’t remember the small things. They are wonderful adults, all happily married and parents now, and when people praise me for the good job I did, I say it was just luck. But I love them all fiercely and rarely miss an opportunity to be with one of more of them.

Now I have two daughters and two daughters-in-law who are mothers to my seven grandchildren. Each has her own style, and sometimes I am full of praise, while other times I bite my tongue. It ain’t easy, this mothering thing. There’s a fine line between too little and too much, and nobody sees it quite the same way. I used to get so frustrated when my mom, in her dotage, would jump one of my kids, and I’d say, “Please, Mom, I’ll discipline them.” She’d retort, “Well, then, do it.” One of the memories I’d like to discard, and one of the reasons I try to button my lip, even when I simply think a child should say “Please” and “thank you.” I keep Jacob, my youngest daughter’s son, a lot, and she sometimes says, “What is wrong with you? You’d never let me do that.” So he gets more strictness than the other whom I only see on visits. But my grandchildren are growing up to be fine, well-loved children.

The chain of mothering goes on, and I feel we are blessed, even if it always surprises me a bit—so unexpected. I probably took my mom for granted but I never expected to be a mom myself, let alone a grandmother. It all pleases me a lot, and I feel we are blessed as a family.



Thursday, May 07, 2015

So much to worry about, or Texas, My Texas

It's a wonder I can get anything done these days, there's so much for me to worry about. I don't know if you share my worries, but here goes:
The Jade Helm 15 takeover of Texas. Plans to herd people into WalMarts with tunnels don't alarm me at all, nor do the rumors that President Obama wants to take over Texas. For heaven's sake, we're such a troublesome state, why would he want it. Besides, he's already stuck with us. We're part of the Union. What worries me is the outlandish reaction in Texas, principally the governor calling out Texas militia to "monitor" the Federal troops. Is that like sending a gnat against an elephant? Besides, my understanding is that Texas troops always cooperate with the Federal in the annual training exercises that have been going on for years. Texas guys act as liaison. So why the paranoia now?
And then there's that regrettable incident in Garland, an ISIS attack on an exhibit of cartoons of Mohammed. I doubt the organized ISIS in the Mideast ordered this attack--I think it was more individuals who wanted to be associated with ISIS. What worries me much more is the group that sponsored the exhibit. What a dumb, classless idea. Why antagonize people? Free speech my foot. Free speech should be accompanied with common sense and some sense of integrity. I still remember and resent the exhibit that had a crucifix in a jar of urine. Why do people feel obligated to go out of their way to offend those who don't share their particularly beliefs?
And then there's the anxiously anticipated SCOTUS decision on gay marriage, and the GOP war on women which yes, I do believe exists. They want submissive women, with no equal pay and no rights over their own bodies. For me, I am at an age and position where none of that affects me, but I have daughters and granddaughters, and I will continue to speak out for them.
I have been told for these opinion that I should go back to Chicago and live with libtards where I'd be comfortable. My reply is that I have lived in Texas 51 years. It's my home, and I love this state. Its history and legends have crept into my soul and provided the basis for much of my professional career. My home, family, and friends are here, and I'm not leaving--though I know people who have let politics drive them out of the state. I'm staying, and I'm going to speak my mind. I find a lot of sympathetic souls in this state--if all Texans voted, the state would turn as blue as the Caribbean ocean.
But when I get down about all this and more, I think about how gorgeous spring in Texas is, especially this year when we've been blessed with rain. Everything right now is green and lush (don't ask me in August). The days get longer, walkers are out in the neighborhood, children are shouting and playing, I can sit on my deck with a book and a glass of wine and contemplate all the trees and greenery around me. And thinks of some of the heroes of this state, from Sam Houston to LBJ to the late and much lamented Speaker Jim Wright. I can think of strong Texas women like Barbara Jordan and Ann Richards and Molly Ivins--they make me proud to be a Texan No, I'm not leaving.

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Technology almost defeats me

What a twenty-four hours! Yesterday afternoon, my printer wouldn't work because it told me the yellow cartridge was damaged. Bought a new one and installed it, and still the same message. After much frustration on a site I thought was Hewlett Packard and was really JustAnswer--and $26.00--I was told to clean the cartridge bottom and the carrier. Worked like a charm. And  you know what? That was a lot easier than hauling the printer down to Staples.
My cell phone wouldn't access my bank so I could digitally deposit some checks--bank's advice was not helpful. Christian asked me this morning how I fixed it, and I told him I turned the phone off and then back on. But I had two checks to deposit--one a nice refund from the IRS--and it still wouldn't take it, so Christian went off to deposit it.
My final trauma was that my publisher sent me a zip file of all the various forms of my new novel, Desperate for Death. I couldn't do a thing with it--have found that problem before--and Christian told me you need a special program to open zip files. So I sent it to Melinda at TCU Press and she decompressed them and sent me individual files, most of which I couldn't open--mobi for Kindle, and others for various digital platforms. All I really got was the cover and the pdf.
Still, Christian was my tecchie hero for the day. And I wish I could find the funny picture of him in a fringed Mexican hat clowning around--he swears it was taken at 10:30 in the morning yesterday.
So this morning I was riding high--thought I had all my tecchie problems solved--but the printer told me it was out of paper when it clearly wasn't. I hadn't got the back tray or whatever on properly. Fought with it for a long while...and managed to set off my emergency alarm, on a bracelet, so the alarm service kept demanding to know if I was all right, making me repeat after them that I was all right, making me repeat my address, etc.
Tonight I think I'm all over those problems. And other than that, it was a good day. Got a caricature of me that I'd ordered and will work into the blog sometime soon; got the cover to my chili book, Texas is Chili Country, which is due in November--the cover is really great. Good lunch with one friend and good dinner with another. My cup runneth over...and I am sleepy.

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Hip, hip, hooray! A new book launched today

Desperate for Death, the sixth Kelly O'Connell Mystery, launched today as an e-book, with print to follow. It's a tangled tale of arson, stalking, a missing young girl, two men using the same name, a surprise inheritance, and, as usual, Kelly in danger--only this time she has a very special reason to survive. And she knows she must protect her daughters. Still all the pieces in the puzzle don't fit together, no matter how hard she tries. It might be the most complicated of Kelly's adventures yet, but in some ways it's the wackiest too. I had a lot of fun writing it.
I'm laughing at myself tonight. All my writing life, I've wanted to write mysteries. But for many years, I thought someone else wrote those--they were over there on another shelf. I wrote about the American West, primarily the experiences of women in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. I was a western author and have received some nice recognition for my work in that field. But, always, on the side, I was reading mysteries--mostly cozies, mostly contemporary. I'm not as schooled in the Agatha Christie canon or other of the British greats as I should be and sometimes I feel like an interloper. I also don't follow a lot of the advice given in various blogs and online classes and the like. I mostly just bumble my way through, writing as it comes to me. The one piece of advice I always keep in mind came from Elmer Kelton, the late great Texas novelist, who always advised authors to "listen to your characters--they'll tell you where your story is going." I'll never reach Elmer's status, but that's advice I try to follow.
When I first joined Sisters in Crime, and the sub-group Guppies (Going to be Published), I was amazed at the new and knowledgeable world I had fallen into. Although my apprenticeship was shorter than some, I still regret the wasted time--querying about 20 agents to no avail, leaving the manuscript with one publisher for a year while they kept saying they were close to a decision (a big no-no I've since learned--give them a deadline), signing a year's contract with an agent who went from enthusiastic to indifferent (another no-no--don't tie your work up). By good fortune I hooked up with Turquoise Morning Press and publisher Kim Jacobs who has been very good to me. I'm sorry that this is our last book together, because she is taking the press in another direction and will no longer be publishing mysteries. But she will always have my gratitude. I'm not sure what's coming next but I did self-publish a stand-alone, The Perfect Coed, and I have a sequel about half-finished; I've finished a draft of the third in my Blue Plate Café Mysteries, and I just sent a Chicago historical to an editor. So yes, there will be more Judy Alter books.
Why am I laughing? Because six years ago I told myself if I could just get one mystery in print, I'd be happy. I now have six in the Kelly O'Connell series, two in the Blue Plate Café series, the one stand-alone. I've done all right in six years, and I plan to keep on doing it. Changes in the publishing world, as well as retirement, have made all this possible, but that's another story.
Thanks to all of you who have supported my books and, I hope, enjoyed them.

Sunday, May 03, 2015

A light bulb goes on in my head

An absolutely gorgeous day--sunny, just the right temperature, little wind. I spent most of it inside but went out to the deck tonight with Sophie,, a glass of wine, and a good book (Sarah Gruen's At the Edge of the Water). My house is surrounded by old, tall trees--yes a worry, especially during storms--but so wonderful to sit and contemplate. When Sophie lay still by me, I thought about how lucky I am--but then she got anxious for her evening treat.
A day spent at home alone is a good time for introspection, and this afternoon a light bulb came on in my head--well, rather two. As some of you know, I've been having what I call a rough patch with my two longtime friends, anxiety and balance. It dawned on me tonight that I see those increasing difficulties as signs of aging--and I'm not read to age yet. I guess I always hear time's winged chariot at my back...but I'm not ready to acknowledge it. And hiding at home, fearing to go out, is a great way to welcome aging. The physical therapist talks about challenge, and I'm going to challenge myself more. In spite of all my fears, I've always come out smelling like a rose. I saw a picture of a woman in her nineties doing yoga--well I may not do that, but I don't have to give in to age even though I'm on the downward side of my seventies.
The other light bulb had to do with the fact that I've now mapped out my literary life for the next year at least--Desperate for Death should come out this week, I've set the wheels rolling to self-publish my Chicago historical in the fall, so that gives me two books for the year--a reasonable number to keep my name in front of my small buy loyal following.
And Murder at the Mansion waits for me to edit. I've not been in a hurry to get back to it, because I don't want it out before late winter/early spring 2016. But maybe I'll change that, might even look for a new publisher instead of self-publishing. And there's always the sequel to The Perfect Coed to finish. I've been acting like I'm at loose ends--which doesn't sit well with me--and I'm going to get over that and fill my desk with projects. Maybe I should try short stories again.
Will these two light bulbs bring instant change? I doubt it. I think it's a long road, but I'm on my way. One thing physical therapy has taught me that helps with the aging thing--I didn't realize I was shuffling like an old lady, and now I'm very conscious of bending my knees and lifting my feet well off the floor. It's those little changes.
Now, back to that book.

Saturday, May 02, 2015

High Times in Cowtown

Hard to tell who had more fun in Cowtown tonight. Jordan cut short her Florida trip to come home and accompany Christian to the Cowtown Ball. I thought it would be in one of the luxury hotels, but from this photo it appears not. My cute Cowtown couple. I'll have to get details tomorrow.
Meantime I was having a lovely relaxed dinner on the deck with neighbors Jay and Susan. They trimmed back the logustrums that border our properties and took one new low limb off the oak tree which is mine and intrudes on their property. And then they apologized for being so slow to do it!
So as a thank you, I fixed a special dinner--salmon in anchovy butter (I completely forgot the capers but sometimes I think anchovies and capers fight for dominance--tonight the anchovies were definitely there but subtle). I splurged on Coho salmon. Appetizer was a spinach/artichoke dip from Reese that I found once in my grocery store. Apparently it  was a one-time special, so I got three jars but have never found it again. Got to look for it.  As a side dish I fixed something I'd wanted to do for a along time--creamed new potatoes and green peas. Wonderful! But I'm afraid I made enough for Coxie's Army. Jay, who scorns leftovers. took some home for his Monday night supper.

Susan took this picture of her plate. Jay took several that picturesquely included the bread, but when he sent them to me, they were all sideways, and I had no idea how to turn them. So that was our dinner.
It was a lovely night to sit on the deck--just the right temperature. Sophie loved being out there with us though she occasionally got a bit demanding--her dinner, which was out in my office, but she doesn't like to eat alone,, and then her evening treat which she thinks follows dinner. But Jay threw her ball, and she ran around the yard and enjoyed the company. So did I.
I am so blessed with neighbors, friends and family--whenever I get a bit blue about my aching back or my lack of confidence in walking, I remind myself how much I have to be grateful for.

Friday, May 01, 2015

Two Steps Forward

Today was a carnivore's delight--and I usually eat lots of fish, not much meat. But I went to the local deli with a friend for lunch and had a tongue sandwich. Okay, call me weird, but I love corned tongue, probably because I grew up eating it. I have friends who can barely have lunch with me when I order it.
Tonight another friend and I went to the Modern Museum of Art, and we both ordered lamb chops. I brought one of mine home (they were double chops) for a sandwich tomorrow--nothing like a cold lamb sandwich with mayo. These were served with wonderfully delicate and crisp green peas, carrots, baby green beans, and radishes on a bed of green pea puree--and it was really a thin puree. Delicious but a real extravagance. Still I enjoyed it.
Took my two steps forward today, if you remember last night's blog. Went to the grocery store with no untoward incidents--feeling fairly confident. But tonight I dreaded the walk across the long plaza entrance to the Modern and then across the huge marble-floored lobby. Did all of it without holding on to anyone--so that was my two steps forward and a bit boost to myself-confidence, plus a really good dinner.
Many of my Sisters in Crime friends are at the Malice Domestic conference in Bethesda this weekend, at a Hyatt Regency. There have been posts about acrophobia and HyattRegencey hotels, and I'm here to sympathize. I once spent five nights on the 16th floor of a Hyatt with a three--year-old--"Oh, ma'am, there's no way your child could climb that railing"--hah! They didn't know Colin. Once I rode up in one of those abominable glass elevators and asked a friend to hold my two-year old so I could face the doors and not see the world falling away. When the elevator opened at our floor, he said, "Judy, could you take your child now?" And waiting for me in the room with my parents was a six-month old. There was a balcony on the street side of our suite and that awful open atrium on the other side. Needless to say I was a nervous wreck the whole time. Who first designed those blasted open atrium hotels with glass elevators? Think of all that wasted space they could have used for rooms. On Maui I was so relieved that our room was in the annex--low class, I know, but so much more secure. And if you went out on the balcony (only second floor) and held your head just right, you could see the ocean. My best say in a Hyatt.
Okay, enough about me and my phobias. I'm going to settle down, after a happy day, and read At the Water's Edge by Sarah Gruen (\Water for Elephants and other titles). This one is about a spoiled American couple who go to search or Nessie, the Lochness monster, and how she grows and changes in the process.
Happy weekend to all.