Tuesday, July 27, 2021

A different kind of a day


There really is more to Irene's story. 
I'm just slow in getting it on paper.
But watch for a tale of a wedding and drug dealers and, oh my!

Not bad, even a little bit good, but different. Those who know me well—and particularly my family, who will groan as they say it—know that I am pretty much a creature of habit. I get up about eight in the morning and go to my desk (okay I do brush my teeth first) with a cup of tea. A light breakfast, usually yogurt, about ten and a light lunch, leftovers if I have them, about twelve-thirty, both eaten at my desk while I work steadily until two or two-thirty. But then it’s a long nap. And after that, I piddle at my desk, following Facebook and reading recipes. It’s taken me five years to get over the idea that dinner must be at six and to adjust to the Burtons’ later schedule of dinner at seven-thirty and beyond.

But today my schedule got thrown into array. Rosa, the wonderful young woman who styles my hair, was coming at eight-fifteen. I got up early, brushed those teeth, cleaned the kitchen, and was all ready. By nine o’clock, I figured that she was not coming, so we talked…and she said she could be here at three-fifteen. Boom! Right in the middle of my nap. But I like Rosa so much, and I am so grateful that she does house calls for me, that I said fine.

I adjusted my schedule. Instead of breakfast and lunch, I indulged in a hearty brunch about eleven-thirty—poached eggs on buttered rye toast with cheddar cheese. Isn’t that called eggs on a raft? Or a Huck Finn? Or something like that. Anyway, it was wonderful. I got in a good morning of writing on the novel that seems endlessly in progress—and is still only half the length of most cozies. Then I took an early nap, so early that a little before two I was up, ready to do—what? My schedule was all thrown off. I did have a lot of housekeeping chores to do, and then it was back to my computer to work on the wip. I somehow have had a burst of energy or imagination or something on that novel (novella?) and am writing furiously.

Rosa did cut my hair—really short, which most of my family and friends like though one friend does not—and then she was gone. It was three-thirty, a time I’d normally be napping. What did I do with myself? Went back for another short nap, but I’d promised Jordan I’d sauté the leftover mushrooms and make more cucumber salad while she was off picking up Jacob from a golf tournament. Guess what? The mushrooms were already sliced, and so was the cucumber, and I had leftover dressing from last night’s cucumber salad. So what to do? I worked on the novel some more.

I don’t think I’ll change my established routine, but it was interesting to me that I got in more writing time today with that revised schedule. Don’t know if it was coincidence, because I’m fired up over the story I’m telling or what.

An odd day too in terms of menu choices. Those eggs for brunch are definitely not on my usual diet, and tonight, while waiting for Jordan to come home, I had some leftover Caesar dip with potato chips—the longer it sits, the stronger the anchovy taste gets, and I think it’s about time to say goodbye to it. But it is so good! And tonight—mushrooms on toast (a British thing, I think, that my mom taught me) and cucumber salad, followed of course by a bit of dark chocolate from Central Market. Admittedly an odd dinner, but it hit my favorite tastes. Jordan asked how I cooked the mushrooms, and I said, “Oh a bit of this and a touch of that.” Actually, olive oil, butter, white wine, garlic salt, and Worcestershire. But I insist you have to put them on toast, preferably rye. The bread soaks up all that good cooking liquid.

So now, as the poets say, the day is waning. I don’t think I have another word in me for Irene’s story tonight. And my kitchen duties are done. I’m off to find a good book from the TBR pile on my Kindle. I started one last night, about Chicago in the nineteenth century and a woman Pinkerton agent, but it was about the seamy side of Chicago—not the history that really grabs me. I have lots of other choices.

Tonight around six we had lots of distant thunder. Sophie laid right by me, but it all came to nothing. Not a drop of rain, and now the thunder is long gone, and the cicadas are singing. Happy summer night.


Monday, July 26, 2021

A mad woman in the kitchen … and some grandmotherly memories


And a few years later--Kegan, Jacob, Ford, and Morgan at Camp Tomball (my Tomball son's home)                                                                       
This popped  up on my computer today
Sawyer, Jacob, and Ford
Today they are seventeen and fifteen--unbelievable!

I am pretty much a by-the-recipe cook. Oh, sure, sometimes I take liberties with the recipe, adjust it this way and that, but I start with somebody else’s idea as a basic road map. Tonight, though, I flew on my own. (I think I’m mixing images there!).

We had a cut-up rotisserie chicken in the freezer, some egg noodles in the drawer, and a can of cream of chicken soup. Basic and easy. I told Jordan I’d make a chicken casserole, using the basic way I make tuna casserole. I assured her she’d eaten a lot of these as a youngster when I was trying to use up turkey left over from a holiday.

My method is pretty simple. I like egg noodles as the starch, but rice is just fine if you prefer that. Boil a cup of white wine (I used one of those airplane size bottles) with some dried herbs—a wild mix, if you want, of thyme, marjoram, oregano, summer savory, etc. Boil this a few minutes until the herbs turn black. Mix together diced meat—whatever you choose—some vegetables, a can of condensed cream of something soup, and the wine mixture.

Tonight I decided to get wildly creative, so I used a package of frozen, roasted Mexican-style corn Jean had brought me from Trader Joe’s. A digression here—I have found a daily cooking bulletin I really like, called Kitchn. I’m sure you can google it and sign up. They have cleaning hints, which I don’t much care about, but I like their recipes and product suggestions. They apparently have ties to Aldi, which they mention occasionally, and Trader Joe’s, which shows up much more often. So I kept a list of Trader Joe’s products I wanted, and one was this corn. I thought I could use half of it and keep the other half frozen, but not so—it had seasoning cubes and a cheese packet, so you were in for the whole thing. I now have half a packet of frozen corn in an icebox dish in the fridge. The other half went in the casserole.

Since the corn sort of set the tone, I only boiled oregano and black pepper in the wine. But I mixed diced chicken, corn, pre-cooked egg noodles, cream of chicken soup together and poured into a casserole dish. Topped with the cheese packet from the corn (cojita, I presume) and tortilla chips—much better suited than the Ritz crackers I had originally intended to use.

When Christian got here, he asked what was for supper, and I said, “An invented casserole.” But he and Jacob were persistent in wanting to know what was in it. Everybody liked it and had seconds. I also made a cucumber salad, with too much dressing—I saved the leftover dressing to put a fresh cucumber in tomorrow.

All in all, I’d declare my wild flight of fancy a success.

Sunday, July 25, 2021

Do you remember chop suey?


Christian's so good chop suey--er, stir fry

I have no idea what made me think of chop suey lately, but that dish—the only Chinese fare we knew when I was a child in the Fifties—lodged itself in the memory section of my brain. As I’ve said probably too often, I grew up in a household of British food, the tone set by my dad and willingly followed by my mom. She cooked roast beef and leg of lamb, with potatoes and green salad. We ate on white linen, with linen napkins and napkin rings to save them from one use to another. Clearly, we did not eat chop suey out of those little white cartons that it came in, and I know we never went to the restaurants with chrome tables and Formica tops. And yet I remember it clearly. Perhaps my mom served it when Dad was out of town or some such—that sounds just like her. She liked to experiment; Dad did not much like experiments, though he was usually gracious about it.

So I did a little research. Wikipedia describes it as American Chinese cuisine—which says to me it’s not authentic Asian. Meat—beef, chicken, shrimp, what have you—with assorted vegetables, all cooked quickly and served over rice. Tales of its origins abound, from Chinese workers on the transcontinental railroad in the nineteenth century to a Chinese restaurant, ready to close for the evening, where it was concocted out of leftovers. One story if that a Chinese cook was forced to serve drunken miners and threw it together to avoid a beating. Whatever its origins, it’s probably not from China and not a high-class meal.

Today you can still buy canned chop suey, principally under the La Choy label. But even on the picture on the can, the vegetables look soggy and tired. Then I began to look at recipes online, and the conclusion I finally reached is that the chop suey of my childhood is today’s stir-fry.

So tonight we had chop suey/stir fry. Christian is in his element cooking Asian foods, and he was looking forward to this, even though it required a grocery trip to find oyster sauce—Central Market didn’t have it, and he went all the way to Whole Foods in Waterside. Christian said the hardest thing about it was chopping—carrots, onion, celery, bok choy, water chestnuts, bamboo, a few mushrooms, some snow peas. I’m sure I’m forgetting something, because it was vegetable heavy. And delicious.

It was the chop suey I remember from childhood—looked, smelled, and tasted like it. I’m sure, however, what I remembered did not have all the fresh vegetables this one did. The only thing we forgot—the chow mein noodles I had stashed in my pantry drawer. Oh well, we can use them another time—they are even good on a tossed salad in place of croutons.

I am so grateful to Christian for indulging my memory. And glad it turned out to be a delicious—what if we had all thought it mediocre?

So after dinner I tried to send an email message to someone, only to find out Outlook required my password. Out of the blue! It wasn’t time to change it or anything, but suddenly no messages would go out. Of course, when I entered my password, the system rejected it. Has it ever worked any other way?

My email is through TCU, so I went through the automatic password change procedure, which is designed, I am sure, to drive you to screaming, hair-pulling lunacy. It rejected every combination I tried, telling me that was a word in the dictionary. Well, I hadn’t read carefully—it doesn’t say it must be a dictionary word, it says it cannot be. What the you know what? I have always used grandchildren’s names or words that meant something to me, so that I could remember them, even in combination with the required capitalization, numbers, and symbols. Now I was reduced to random letters—clearly frustrating. I’m sure I tried ten or twelve times before I finally got the blessed message: password updated.

And then, when I sent the picture of dinner from my phone to my computer, auto-correct changed it to chop duet!

So now, fed, happy, and password updated, I am ready to take on the new week. How about you?

Saturday, July 24, 2021

Saturdays are for reading


My thrown-together from leftovers charcuterie
for old friends who understood and enjoyed 
a lazy Saturday happy hour.

Saturdays always seem like relaxing days to me. During the week, I have few deadlines—most self-imposed—but still they are there, and I feel the obligation to put in six hours at my desk, doing whatever is on the top of the pile, from the work-in-progress to the neighborhood newsletter to the email I promised to send to someone who wants to publish her first cozy.

But Saturday—ah, that’s a day without deadlines. I can sleep later than usual (if Sophie will let me) and piddle around the cottage, doing small chores I put off. It’s amazing how easy it is, even in a small space, to put off hanging up clothes or such.

But today was a good Saturday. Our new handyman came and replaced the torn screen on my patio doors—it’s one of those free-hung that allows Sophie to come and go at will, but the old one was badly patched and torn. Meanwhile, I filled out the contract for serial publication of my Blue Plate Café Mysteries and felt like I had accomplished the work for the day. So it wasn’t self-indulgence to spend much of the day reading.

Several mysteries series are among my favorites, and I think I’ve read most of them. But occasionally, with great glee, I run across a title that I haven’t read. I’ve done that a couple of times with volumes in Susan Wittig Albert’s China Bayles series, and recently I was delighted to find a title in Carolyn Hart’s Death on Demand Bookstore series that was unfamiliar to me: Dead Days of Summer.

If you don’t know the series, it features Annie Darling, owner of the Death on Demand bookstore on Broward’s Rock, an island off the South Carolina Coast, and her adorable, devoted, and wealthy-by-inheritance husband Max Darling. Max is charming and as laid back as Annie is work-driven. In this book, Max is framed for murder, arrested, and agonizing in jail, while Annie is doing just what he fears—exposing herself to great danger in an effort to free him. Hart’s books are always good, and this series features for regular readers a familiar cast of characters. But Hart has ramped up the suspense in this one, and it is truly a page-turner, nail-biter that has kept me engaged most of the day. Carolyn Hart is truly a master of the cozy genre.

And speaking of mystery matters, I see a new trend developing: the serialized novel. Only it’s not new—it’s at least as old as Charles Dickens and probably older. Serialized novels were the craze in the nineteenth century, a fad popularized by Dickens when he published The Pickwick Papers in nineteen installments. While novels were serialized before his 1836 publication, Dickens name is most associated with the trend.

In keeping with the idea that nothing is new or what goes around comes around, serialization is coming back. Several companies, including the publishing division of Amazon, are offering programs for authors. A company that has had some success in serializing romances, is turning to mysteries and has approached me, along with many others. I liked the fact that a personable representative wrote me, rather than Amazon’s apparent attitude of “Come to us if you want to do this—we aren’t soliciting.” So I have tentatively suggested we start with the four novels in the Blue Plate Café Mysteries. They tell me they prefer an entire series, because if they once get a reader interested, they can keep them reading.

So, I’m taking a chance—not a big gamble—and we’ll see what works out. When I went back to compile statistics—word count, year of publication—on the books, I discovered notes on a fifth book in the series. Since I have a history of reviving once-dead projects, I’ll have to investigate that.

Meantime, excuse me, but I have to help Annie get Max out of jail.

Friday, July 23, 2021

A wrap on the birthday—with heartfelt thanks


Celebrating my birthday with Jacob

I want to cast a wide net with my thanks for birthday wishes, because I was flattered, pleased, delighted to hear from so many folks—childhood friends, professional friends and acquaintances, neighbors from the past and present, people I barely know and people I know well (I think). Lots of Facebook friends, which reinforces my belief that for all its algorithms and idiosyncrasies, it’s a good place to be.

Perhaps the most memorable comment came from a Texas author of some repute, who posted, “She wrote me the kindest rejection letter I ever received. I’ve never forgotten it.” It’s nice to know as you grow old that you have made friends and maybe even shown some kindnesses to people along the way

And I talked to all my distant children and had birthday texts from three of the distant grands. Can’t beat that.

It was also a memorable day, as I told Jordan last night, from quiche for breakfast and tuna for lunch to really good fried chicken for dinner. Last night, longtime friends took me and another friend to dinner—Carol, whose birthday comes just a few days before mine, chose the place, with my ready agreement. It’s a restaurant we both like for its authentic, old-fashioned fried chicken—the kind with skin on and bone in (as opposed to that imposter, chicken fried chicken). It comes with seasoned mashed potatoes and green beans cooked the southern way—mushy, as they should be with  fried chicken.

Four friends and birthday celebrants

We four have a long birthday tradition, but of course last year we missed all our birthdays and our non-celebratory dinners, so it was lovely to get together and catch up. We have similar but not identical interests and many years of common friends and activities.

After dinner, Jordan had a cake party, with my favorite chocolate mousse cake from Central Market. Neighbors came over, bringing gorgeous flowers, and we laughed and joked a lot—rehashing Christian’s early career as a child star on TV, opening gifts, and posing for photos—a must in the Burton household.

Highlight of the evening—Jordan and her sister and their families went together to get me the garden cart I’d been wanting. It will allow me to stand while I weed or water or whatever. Made of wood, it’s on wheels, so we can keep it in the driveway which gets full sun on this shady property. and yet move it as needed to accommodate cars and golf practice. It comes unassembled and apparently Jordan and Christian took it was far as they could and are now waiting for tomorrow’s appearance of the handyman. When complete, it is lined, has drainage holes. It now holds two basil plants and two thyme. I’m ready to be in business. Must add chives, but I’m looking forward to a fall crop of green onions and leaf lettuce.

My herb garden to be

I went to bed tired and happy and had fried chicken and chocolate cake for lunch today. It was back to work and routine today—one friend told me not to suffer letdown, but I didn’t. Too many good memories. Took me most of the morning to proof that fat newsletter, and I’m not sure what else I did

But tonight, Jordan put on an amazing spread for a neighbor across the street and her son—dips and cheeses and sausage and veggies. No need for supper.

And here's the immediate, local family who makes all this possible, with grace and smiles and love.

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

The birthday goes on


This birthday bouquet sitting on my desk
bring me great happiness. 

Today I woke up to an email birthday letter from a treasured old friend—I am the godmother of her daughter. She is dear but not a good communicator, so it was special to hear from her. And birthday cards, from everyone from old friends to my insurance agent. This birthday business, even if you do get older, has its definite upside.

Another day of sticking my nose to the computer (is that a strange image—like put your shoulder to the wheel and your nose to the grindstone and now try working in that position?). I figured out my schedule: I work from about 8:00-8:30 in the morning, straight through to about 2:00 p.m., eating lunch, usually leftovers, at my desk. And then, it’s nap time, and serious work for the day is done.

In the late afternoon, I cook and do other household chores, read Facebook which I have learned to studiously ignore when I’m really working, and catch up on emails and other odds and ends. It’s a pretty good schedule for me. Today, two days late, I finally put away the clean laundry that had been sitting on my dresser. It’s so easy to put things like that off.

So this morning, I sent off the neighborhood newsletter and the Lone Star Literary Life column. For tomorrow: my weekly Gourmet on a Hot Plate cooking column. Teaser: it will be about summer sandwiches and salads. We had an old favorite, oft neglected salad tonight, and I’ll include that.

Tonight was fun because for the first time in at least two or three weeks, Jordan and I cooked dinner together. She was my sous chef and made me realize again how wonderful it would have been to have a sous chef all those years ago when I cooked for a large family. We had quiche Lorraine and a salad, so while I was frying bacon, she was grating cheese. While I was putting the quiche together, she was frying more bacon for the salad (oops, spoiler!). It all came together to make a wonderful, light summer supper. Jacob missed it because guess where he was—on a golf course, obviously!

Our family dinners are getting fewer and farther between—the next will be Sunday evening when Christian is going to cook sushi and stir fry. I’m trying to suggest new veggies, so I gave him a recipe tonight that includes bok choy, bean sprouts (which he loves), and bamboo shoots. I already have water chestnuts and chow mein noodles, which I remember from my childhood. Back to Christian and his vegetables—who won’t eat squash or broccoli but loves sprouts? There’s no telling.

But as schedules get busy and family dinners rarer, I’m thinking of things to fix for myself—a tuna noodle dish or creamed tuna on toast (don’t laugh—I really like it!), shakshuka for one, a zucchini stuffed with cheese and bread crumbs. I’ve got a whole wonderful list, which is fun.

I’m almost laughing tonight at Republicans—if you are one, please forgive me. But Steve Scalise of Mississippi, that ardent, outspoken trump follower who learned nothing from a come-to-Jesus moment in which he was shot and came close to dying, has just now had his first covid vaccine shot. You suppose he suddenly saw some light? Like his voters dying?

And then there’s that California genius Kevin McCarthy: he proposed Jim Jordan and Banks, another trumper, for the House select committee and feigned astonishment when Nancy Pelosi rejected them. Said he would withdraw the other nominations and Republicans would have their own investigation. That’s sort of the fox investigating others fox. Translation: Play by my rules and let me win, or I won’t play.

That’s it, folks. My take for the day. Want to know more about today’s politics? Read the daily column by historian Heather Cox Richardson. She never fails to be enlightening. It’s online.

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

The inevitability of birthdays


Birthday happy hour at the cottage
left to right, me, Pru, Victor, and Jordan
Photo by Mary Dulle
I thought I was off-camera, hence no big smile.

You know that old quip about growing older being better than the alternative? That’s kind of how I feel tonight. Friends and family seem determined to mark that I am about to begin yet another journey around the sun, and I am having a long, drawn-out birthday. A pre-celebration weekend at the lake was followed by a neighbors’ happy hour tonight where I was feted (love that word!) with a bountiful charcuterie, plenty of wine, crème brulee, and lots of good discussion. “The girls” as we call them turned our regular happy hour into a truly festive occasion—and Pru’s husband, Victor, joined us so we weren’t all gossipy girls.

This happy hour has a history. Several years ago—I’d say six, seven or eight—Mary Dulle and I used to go on Tuesday night to join several neighbors at the Old Neighborhood Grill. Mary’s husband played—and still does—tennis on Tuesdays. When Jacob was quite young, he joined us, and I have funny stories from those times: like the time I asked if he wanted fries with his grilled cheese and he said yes. But later when I asked if he was going to eat them, he said, “No, they’re bad for you.” Pause. “May I have a cupcake?” He was quite the hit of the table.

There was a regular group—the Alan Barrs, the Paul Harrals, Lyn Willis, and sometimes others drifted by. Of course, at the Grill, you always saw other neighbors you knew, and I was pleased that Tuesday was always meatloaf night. The staff knew and welcomed us, and we all visited. One big neighborhood family.

Somehow it fell apart—I’m not sure of the chronology. With severe hip pain, pre-surgery, it was increasingly difficult for me to get out; Peter sold the Grill; Jacob grew up. Mary and I fell into the habit of having happy hour at my cottage, either inside or, depending on the weather, on the patio. Two or three years ago (who keeps track of these things?), Prudence and her family moved down the block from Mary. There was some unpleasant controversy over a fence, zoning regulations, and flaring tempers. I reached out to Prudence to squelch the unpleasantness and welcome her and her family—four children—to the neighborhood. She came to happy hour one night, and boom! She was a regular. And Jordan began to join us.

Now we are a close-knit group, sharing joys, successes, worries, and more. During pandemic, the others shopped for each other—whoever found Lysol shared it with the group. We celebrate birthdays and other special occasions, but most Tuesday nights we just gather for an hour of talk about whatever. I like it best when we can sit on the patio, and truth be told, it’s cool enough these days, but some of the others are more sensitive—or attractive—to mosquitoes than I am. So tonight, we were indoors.

I am blessed and grateful to have these women as friends who care enough to celebrate with me.

And a good day in other ways: Jacob played in a high school golf tournament today and scored a 77. Pretty darn good for a fifteen-year-old, if you ask me who knows nothing about golf. But even he, who is reluctant to ever say he had a good day on the course, acknowledged it was pretty good and looked pleased when we congratulated him.

And I worked hard this morning and early afternoon, getting my neighborhood newsletter almost done—now waiting on articles and reports from others—and got my Lone Star Literary Life column for August drafted. A lot of detail, intensified by several people who called with last-minute changes or corrections to their contributions. Answering emails kept me busy much of the day. Tomorrow will be a catch-up day as I finish details on the newsletter and edit the column. Plus a bit of cooking.

Life is good, and I am grateful to be growing yet another year older, because, yes, it is much better than the alternative. For the record, the birthday is Thursday, and I will be 83. I am so comforted by Wally Funk who rode Jeff Bezos’ rocket into space today—she’s 82. Of course, she had a lifelong ambition to travel to space, something that is the farthest thing from my mind. Different strokes for different folks.

Monday, July 19, 2021

A plant controversy

Grape hyacinth on my fence

Years ago, during a remodeling, we decided having dogs with access to the main driveway gate was not a good idea. Scooby, my beloved Aussie, would get so frantic if a storm was coming that he’d try to crawl into the gate, and I was afraid he’d get stuck and hurt himself. So, with the help of Lewis Bundock, the wonderful contractor who kept my house in good repair for years, we fenced off the driveway from the yard. Because I was pinching pennies, it was—and is—a four-foot hurricane fence. Not aesthetically pleasing, though I have to admit the openness it offers is a bonus as opposed to a solid wooden fence.

But it’s been an eyesore for years. One year I tried climbing roses, but they died. Then I tried to plant a vegetable garden of sorts in the tiny strip of land on the driveway side of the fence. The onions and lettuce died, even though a neighbor bought all the right soil, etc., and labored long and hard to put that garden in.

So this summer when a neighbor offered the community free grape hyacinth seeds and said they would grow anywhere, I took her up on the offer, with great gratitude. I couldn’t plant them, and I was unsure when anyone else in the household would get around to it. Plus, we had that track record of dead plants.

I mentioned the seeds to the young man who owns the lawn service, and he said, “Give them to me. I’ll have the guys plant them.” And he did—fifty dollars later. My free seeds were suddenly expensive. But I am not complaining, because the vines are growing and I’m quite sure otherwise the seeds would still be on my kitchen shelf.

This week, the vines began to bloom—a lovely, delicate pink, tiny bloom. I am delighted to look out my “garden” window and see them. But controversy has arisen: Christian went online, looked up grape hyacinth, and announced the plant is a creeper, not a climber. I have two amateur opinions that it is grape hyacinth. But if it’s blooming and softening the look of that metal fence, does it really matter? (After too many tries, I have given up trying to get the internet image posted--if you are interested, please google it; believe me, it looks nothing like what's on my fence.)

The vines are all sort of centered on the fence, but I am hopeful that they will branch out laterally as they continue to grow. Or maybe the plant reseeds itself abundantly. I figure we’ll give it a year to see what happens, but so far I am pleased with it.

And the bougainvillea, which seemed to suffer from the harsh winter, even though it was inside, has finally offered a few blooms. The pentas in front of the deck are lush and colorful, and the zoysia grass looks green and even, in spite of dog pee and poop—I despaired of it in the spring but apparently zoysia is slower to fill out than some other grasses. My lawn guy kept saying, “Patience. Give it some time.” He didn’t know, apparently, that patience is almost a useless word to use with me.

The plants—and I—were grateful for the rain this morning. Jacob, playing in a tournament on a golf course, was not so grateful. And now that we’ve gotten the yard in good shape, it’s too hot, humid, and buggy to sit out on the patio—not for me but for almost everyone else.

A handyman came today to look at all the little jobs we have accumulated—the flexible screen on my patio is torn and patched, and I have a replacement, but we needed it installed. Jordan looked but decided it was beyond her pay grade; Jacob inadvertently put a golf ball through one board in the fence beyond the driveway, but I notice tonight the gentleman took the board with him. The back door needs molding replaced where dogs have pawed at it to get inside, and the flag holder on the front porch was installed backward—Jordan claimed that one, but at least she tried. And then there’s a chandelier to be replaced with a ceiling fan and other small things. We miss Lewis Bundock something fierce but will be glad to have a reliable replacement.

And so, summer life rolls on. We are still fortunate with weather, and still grateful. I read with great sympathy and concern about heat and fires in other parts of the country. I worry about my children’s half-sister in California, who was burned out last year, but so far, she had not mentioned fires near them. The abstract horror becomes much more real when it hits someone you care about.

Sweet dreams, everyone—dream of flowers, not fires.

Sunday, July 18, 2021

A getaway and a trip down memory lane


My office at the lake

Who remember those memes posted shortly after President Obama took office that showed a grinning George W. Bush asking, “Miss me yet?” That’s sort of how I feel: “Miss me yet?” I’ve been away for forty-eight hours but for me, who rarely travels, it seems much longer.

Friends gave Jordan access to their lake house, and she planned a family getaway as an early celebration of my upcoming birthday. We left on Friday, and came back today, Sunday—Jordan, Christian, Jacob and a friend, me, and three dogs. Three dogs make it hectic—the yard is not fenced, and they had to be individually walked on the leash. I have to say Sophie behaved like an angel—slept all night in her crate, though I felt half the time she was staring at me on the hide-a-bed directly in front of her. It must have been an effort for her, because she’s been sleeping all afternoon.

Sophie guarding her food from the other dogs

Jordan and I had planned some meals, and we ate well. Big Mac Salad Friday night, wonderful Great Outdoors-style sandwiches for lunch Saturday. She knocked it out of the park with those—even better than what they were modeled on. The secret, we discovered, is a red wine vinaigrette and mayo on the bread to keep it from getting soggy. Friday night, we three adults sat up late having deep philosophical talks about partisan politics, critical race theory, anti-vaxxers, and other matters over which we have no control but lots of opinion.

Jacob and his buddy spent most of Saturday on the water or on the dock. Jacob, who is on the verge of getting his learner’s permit to drive, loves that he is licensed to drive a jet ski or a boat and spends long hours on the jet ski.

Jacob on jet ski

Jordan and Christian spent Saturday afternoon on the dock—not sure if they went on the jet ski but I suspect not. I spent a delightful day reading, napping, and staring at the lake. After a childhood on Lake Michigan and more unsuccessful boat rides than I care to count, I have no desire to be in or on the water, but I love to look at it. So sitting at my computer reading, my eyes would drift to the lake, the long dock, the majestic trees in the front yard. I was reading a fictionalized account about the governess to the little princesses—Elizabeth and Margaret—as they grew up. Found it most interesting, but perhaps more about that another time.

cooking supper with doggie help

Saturday night Christian overcame such troubles as a last-minute run to the grocery store (not that close) for starter fluid and fixed a really good dinner of grilled chicken and a southwestern potato salad that had just a touch of cumin and corn—so good. Friends from across the cake came over, and we celebrated my birthday with chocolate chip cookies and ice cream.

Today I was a bit unreasonable: I wanted to be home for a Zoom program at two o’clock. Christian and I left Jordan and Jacob cleaning the house and made it by a hair’s breadth just before two. The program was on hotels in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago, my childhood home. I was interested in learning about the hotels I remembered and didn’t expect it to begin with the mid-1800s, but it did. It soon made sense, however. Many of the once-grand hotels were built in 1891 in anticipation of the Columbian Exposition which was, of course, in our neighborhood. That history fascinates me still, so I was glad to make the connection. And some of those still stand today—the Del Prado, the Windemere East, the Shoreland. But, their glory faded, they are mostly residential hotels. Still the program brought memories of elegant lunches and cocktail lounges—who goes to a cocktail lounge these days? And then there were down days when Hyde Park was one of the most dangerous areas in the city, a problem countered with an intensive urban renewal program. Once again, I was reminded that I grew up in one of the country’s most interesting and complex neighborhoods.

So I’m home, sleepy—Soph is back asleep again—and resolved to get up and get back to work tomorrow. Hope everyone had as good a weekend as I did.

As for that birthday, I'll be thirty-nine, in spite of what I told Jacob when he asked.

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

A new book coming


A quick note from my publisher, the TwoDot imprint of Globe Pequot, sent me checking listings for my forthcoming nonfiction title, The Most Land, the Best Cattle: the Waggoners of Texas, due out October 1. To my joy, it is available for pre-order on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-a-Million, Bookshop.org, and IndieBound. Probably others, but I did not check beyond these.

The Waggoners have long fascinated me, since my first encounter with the late Electra Waggoner Biggs, a sculptor of some note, in the early 1980s. She was the third generation of Waggoners to live on that vast expanse of land in North Texas—the largest ranch under one fence. Six counties, over 520,000 acres. But more than a story of land and cattle, this is a story of people—some of them admirable, others not so much so, several of them flamboyant and well-known for their excesses, from marriages to famous houses.

Founded in the mid-nineteenth century by Dan Waggoner, a strong stalwart man who personified the stereotype of white settlers who moved ever farther west into Indian lands, he became the patriarch of a family of men who loved horses and cattle, and women who mostly loved money and celebrity. Eventually the family split into factions, and then there was trouble—and lots of lawsuits. The Waggoners may hold the record for litigious families.

Today, for the first time in over 165 years, no Waggoner lives on the land. It has been sold to Stan Kroenke, a billionaire businessman who owns large ranches and sports teams. Change is in the air. If you’re a sentimentalist, you may not see it as progress.

What this book is not: a scholarly study of ranching. It’s more a human story of men, women, horses, and cattle. Red Steagall put it best in his blurb, for which I am ever in his debt: ""The majesty and intrigue of a ranch is of course invested in the land and livestock. But the true soul of a ranching property rests with the humans involved, both staff and owners.  Judy Alter has done a magnificent job of explaining and describing the amazing family of the world famous Waggoner Ranch, all under one fence."

As I work at my desk, I have a huge window immediately to my right. This morning I looked out and saw the mama cardinal on the fence, surveying as though she were queen of all she saw. Well, she is—she and her partner are our resident cardinal family, though by now they’ve raised their family for the year. I watched her, fascinated, and then moved my gaze to the vine on the fence. The seeds were given to me as grape hyacinth, but Christian went online and doesn’t think that’s what they are. Whatever they are, they are suddenly branching out with long tendrils of pale pink blooms. The flowers and the cardinal really made me happy. Unusual, too, for Texas to be this green in late July. I’m loving it. Aren’t you?

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

No use crying over spilt—water!


My thrown-together dinner

A picture I’m glad no one saw. About one o’clock in the morning last night, I crawled into bed, flung the covers over me rather over-dramatically—and heard a great crash. I had just knocked my water tumbler off the nightstand with the comforter. And it was full because I always refresh the ice and add new water on my way to bed. So there I was, using my kiddie broom—it works well from my walker—to sweep up an army of ice cubes and then rushing for towels to soak up the water. Meantime, my feet were wet and cold, and Sophie was looking at me as if to ask, “What in heaven’s name is wrong with you?”

I got it all cleaned up, turned around to look, and saw more ice cubes, so a second sweeping was in order. When I finally got back in bed, I was wide awake and afraid I would be that way all night but sleep and pleasant dreams came. And when I next got out of bed, the floor was dry. Sophie slept in a corner of the bedroom—I think she thought that I was so accident prone, she’d best keep an eye on me.

Fortunately, that did not set the tone for today. I wrote over a thousand words, though I am trying to write not by words but by story told. I may be backing myself into a corner though—I’ve constructed a plot that has to take place in seven days, but I’m already at day five and only have a word count of half a novel. I may be writing a novella. Still, I felt good about the part of the story I got down today.

And I was ambitious in the kitchen, making myself egg salad for lunch. I’ve always made egg salad the way I do chicken, tuna, ham, whatever—mayo, mustard, chopped green onion, a bit of salt and pepper. Sometimes I get it too runny, too much mayo. But I’ve found a recipe that helps me measure precise amounts—for three eggs, two Tbsp mayo and a half tsp. Dijon mustard. No onions but a Tbsp. dill pickle relish. Forgive the pun, but I am relishing that salad.

Tonight the neighbors—Mary and Prudence—came for happy hour, so we heard about Mary’s trip to Hawaii. It was not a happy occasion—the death of her older brother—but she still loved being in Hawaii, where she says the air is so sweet. And from the pictures she posted, she had some good food. And Prudence had stories of shopping for a first communion dress for her second-oldest daughter. Fun to catch up with them.

No dinner plan tonight, so I made myself what one Scottish acquaintance calls a thrown-together supper. I opened one of the last cans of my good salmon from Oregon, sautéed a green onion in olive oil, added the salmon, some capers, some halved cherry tomatoes, salt, pepper, and oregano; removed it from the heat and stirred in some sour cream and lemon juice. Meanwhile I cooked some fettucine, drained it, spooned the salmon mixture over it, topped with generous Parmesan—and there was my thrown-together dinner. You can do almost whatever you want with this, depending on your taste and what’s in your fridge and pantry. Like black olives? Throw some in. Love the heat of peppers? By all means, add them. Let your imagination go wild. I think the key is, though, to start with really good salmon as a base—and no, I don’t think tuna will do the same.

I’m a fairly devoted reader of The New York Times cooking column (and also a follower of the Facebook page they have detached from that is now called Not The New York Times Cooking Community). But sometimes cooking editor Sam Sifton gets a bit too far out for me, especially with Middle Eastern and African recipes—sorry, I know I should have more of an international palate, but the truth is I’m a big advocate of American cooking. So here’s what I found the other day that I am NOT going to cook: cauliflower ceviche with avocado, seaweed, and soy. There are several elements wrong there—just don’t ask me.

Happy dreams, everyone. Dream of loving your neighbor.

Monday, July 12, 2021

Politics, food, and writing—what else is there?

Truly, I have little else to write about today, except politics, food, and writing. Oh, and then there was that wonderful rainstorm this afternoon about 5:00 p.m. By 4:30 the sky to the north and east looked blue-gray but not dark enough to promise rain. Gradually, however, everything darkened, and I began to hear distant thunder.

When the storm came, it was a nice, gentle summer one—we had no lightning here, though nearby areas did, and the thunder was soft and distant enough that Sophie was not overly alarmed. But the good, healing rain came down heavily enough to water things but not so heavily as to damage blooming plants. There was wind, blowing sheets of water across the back yard, and I did fear for the bougainvillea, which is just beginning to bloom again and which was battered a bit. But it seems to have survived. I know in North Fort Worth there was more damage, and I am sorry—but for us, I am grateful for just the right amount of storm. I’ve said it before, but my mom taught us to love a thunderstorm, and that stays with me today.

I’m avidly following the news of the Democratic walkout in Austin today, and I am most angry at Ryan Rusak’s opinion piece in the Star-Telegram where he says Democrats just need to win more elections. How can they, the way Abbott is stacking legislation against them? Although Rusak claims the exodus to D.C is a gift to Abbott, I don’t see it that way. I think this extreme move will spotlight the ways in which Abbott is trying to create a fiefdom here in Texas—and will turn thinking voters against any 2024 presidential hopes he is harboring. Yes, I think there are enough thinking voters in our country.

As for the constitutionality of what the Democrats are seeking—whether or not the DOJ can help them—I am not a constitutional scholar and can’t comment. But I bet that holds true for a lot of those who are commenting.

Abbott has, of course, not commented on the overwhelming numbers of Texans who waited hours in line to testify against his voter suppression bill. But they did, and I hope they were effective, some not testifying until the wee hours. I haven’t heard who testified in favor of it, but I can guess—Abbott, Patrick, and Paxton, the triumvirate of evil in Texas. I’m holding my breath for what happens next.

And on to food. We had ribs last night—with a sauce made of apricot preserves and soy. Awfully good, though there was talk that we should replace baby back ribs with beef next time. I’m not sure the same sauce would work as well on beef—big difference in flavors of the meat.

We must be on an Asian kick, because tonight I fixed an Asian salad—and had a real learning lesson about rice noodles. Watch for it in my Thursday blog from Gourmet on a Hot Plate. Now that I know how to do it properly, I’m anxious to do it again. Maybe I’m hooked on soy.

From a writerly point of view, it was a good day, a satisfying one. The phrase work-in-progress is common among writers, though in my case it was really a misnomer: it should have been something like work-in-limbo. Saying I’d put it aside to simmer in the back of my mind was an elegant excuse—I’d really ignored it, because it puzzled me, and I filled my days with other, less ambitious chores. But today I went back to the rough draft of Irene in Danger, with new ideas for working out a plot point that had been a stumbling block and creating a new conflict between characters. I began, of necessity, at the beginning and am about halfway through re-reading the 27,000 words I had already written, editing and re-writing as I go. It feels good. Please cross your fingers for me.

And that, folks, was my day. How about yours?


Sunday, July 11, 2021

A Sunday lapse, good food, and new resolve


Salmon Nicoise

All my new resolve to get out in the world more—call it quarantine recovery—went out the window this morning. It was to be our first week back in person in church, but I woke early in the morning worrying about it. Would I have the stamina to walk as far as I would have to? That and a thousand other worries, all imaginary, went through my mind. I stayed home.

But I did go to church online, and found it rewarding. The sermon was, “Where does it hurt?” and was about realizing that many around us are in pain and reaching out to them. One point that Russ Peterman made is that you don’t promise people that everything will be all right, nor do you tell them that platitude, “Everything happens for a reason.” Sometimes you just sit and share grief with someone who is suffering.

It made me think of dinner, many years ago, with two dear friends. The book, Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus by John Gray, was the trending pop psychology book at the time, and we were talking about it. Andy said that what the book basically said was that women want to talk about whatever is bothering them; men only want to talk about it if they can fix it. I have thought about the truth of that statement many times over the years.

I think we need different listeners for different aspects of our lives—for instance, I long for another mystery writer with whom I can sit and have an hours-long discussion about where my book is going, where theirs is going, what we think about the market. My kids are good about listening, but wonderful as they are, they don’t really understand. And days like today, I need someone to talk to about the demons that sometimes crop up in my face. There again, those around me mostly don’t understand.

I suggested today to an acquaintance on Facebook who is suffering severe chronic pain and posts about it all the time that she might consult a mental health professional. She was instantly defensive and scornful, demanding why she should talk to strangers who don’t understand. I refrained from pointing out that she talks to strangers all the time, every day, on Facebook, and that a professional would understand much better than those random strangers. Made me think again of the wisdom of today’s sermon. And made me sad for this woman’s suffering.

On a happier note, we have been eating so well. Friday night I made salmon niçoise. You can cater a niçoise plate to your tastes—we left potatoes off mine and artichoke hearts off Christian’s, subbed tiny new asparagus for green beans, deviled the eggs (per Jordan’s request), and so on. What got me was that Christian wanted his salmon on a separate plate so it not touch his lettuce (I had splurged on butter lettuce). He missed the point of the salad. But anyway, I served it with a red wine vinaigrette that was terrific—we have filed it away as a keeper. I had leftovers last night and doused the salmon—Jacob’s piece because he was out with friends when we ate it—with the dressing. Who needs lemon? This was delicious.

Tonight we are having a recipe I found years ago on Mystery Lovers Kitchen. Called Dead Man’s Bones, it’s baby back ribs grilled with a mix of apricot preserves and soy. I have made an interesting cucumber salad to go with it. Cooking is such fun!

And I am looking forward to the week. At long last I have some ideas for the mystery that’s been simmering (I hope) in the back of my brain, and I itch to get back to it. Good times ahead!

Have a great week everyone!

PS: The internet is on a real kick tonight. A passage my son-in-law sent about Libbie Custer and I tried to save as Libbie, ended up labeled Lonnie--Lonnie is my plumber and a nice guy, but .... And then I tried to save salmon nicoise and it came out salmon no pose. Go figure!

Friday, July 09, 2021

Pardon me if I brag a bit


Owen Wister Award for Lifetime Achievement
Western Writers of America

I’ll just put this right out there: there is now a Wikipedia page about me and my career as a writer. Makes me feel like one of the grown-ups!

I’ve used Wikipedia a lot, never scorned it was much as some academics do, recognized it for what it is: a good way to begin research on a project and get an overview. What it is not is a reliable source to quote in a scholarly paper or book. But then again, it’s a great marketing tool.

For years I wondered how you got to the point that Wikipedia decided you deserve a page. Along the way I discovered that’s not how it works. Someone submits a page for you, following Wikipedia’s guidelines. They frown on a subject submitting a page or editing their own page. So here’s what happened.

Facebook from time-to-time posts memories from several years ago—if you follow, FB you know this. Recently they posted a memory about a 2016 trip to Lubbock where I was inducted into the Western Writers of America Hall of Fame. I’m not very good at blowing my own horn—in fact, I’m shy about it—but I decided to share this memory. It’s been a while since I’ve been really active in the western writing community, so a whole new crop of writers has come along to whom I’m unknown, even though I am publishing new books and older titles are being reprinted.. And then there’s the mystery community, where I am definitely on one of the lower rungs of success. It would be nice to let them know of the credibility I have in the western writing world. My motives weren’t exactly pure, but I shared it.

A friend I haven’t seen in thirty years or more contacted me. Suzi Swaim babysat my children when she was in high school, so it was a shock to have her tell me she’s nearing retirement age. No!  She’s still in high school, even though she has a grown son. We have stayed in contact through Facebook, and Suzi said she thought I should have a Wikipedia page and she would do it for me. I was delighted and grateful to say the least and got to work gathering information for her, using friends’ pages as models. And before I knew it, the page was up. Son-in-law Brandon, a software engineer, did some final tweaking like adding dates and the picture he took.

So far, I’ve gotten a good reaction, and I admit it is satisfying to see what I’ve done all these years collected in one place. I’ve never been a good record keeper, so this forced me to organize.

What’s my favorite of my books? Probably the one that diverges from my usual areas—The Gilded Cage, set in Chicago in the latter half of the nineteenth century. And the accomplishment I’m most proud of? Probably the Owen Wister Lifetime Achievement Award from Western Writers of America. It came with a marvelous statue of a buffalo.

It’s been a great ride, and it’s not over yet. I’ve got irons in the fire, ideas in my mind. Meanwhile, here’s a link to the page: Judy Alter - Wikipedia

Wednesday, July 07, 2021

Celebrating a couple of grandsons – and bemoaning my allergies


Here’s my oldest grandson, Sawyer, just turned seventeen, with his new car. Pretty fancy wheels for a kid, but not at all what he wanted at first. A chance encounter led to a great bargain on the car. The previous owner wanted to trade for Sawyer’s dad’s Jeep. Dad was not interested—they were standing in a take-out line at a restaurant—but the guy really wanted to sell or trade this Mercedes. So, they investigated, found it a real bargain compared to what they thought they’d spend on a car for Sawyer, and now he has a Mercedes. I haven’t had a chance to ask him, but I suspect he thought of it at first as a stodgy old-man’s car. Now, he apparently likes it, and his mom, my Megan, says she loves having him driving because he’ll willingly go on errands for her.

I’m really proud of Sawyer this summer anyway. He’s our music kid—studies with Austin School of Rock (guitar and vocals) and plays in a garage band that does well. When this kid found guitar, he really found himself. Now he’s taking an online course in music production and hopes to intern with an Austin producer for part of the summer. I love it when kids find their focus.

And here’s a grinning Jacob, in the car after being picked up from a ten-day camping experience. Jordan and Jacob picked him up in Van in East Texas, but he actually camped in Colorado—a long bus ride away. (Jacob is the one who described it as long and other, less happy terms). He thoroughly enjoyed it, he says, met new friends, played poker (this is what he went to a church camp for?), etc. But no golf, and Jacob is the golfer in the family. He got home last night and spent most of today on a golf course so he could get the “feel” of it—he plays in a tournament in Dallas tomorrow. Another kid whose found his focus.

I wouldn’t want my other two grandsons to feel slighted—Ford, in Austin, and Kegan, in Tomball, are both sports minded and exceedingly good at their chosen sports, but more about them another time. The Tomball Alters are in New York City right now, and the Austin folks will go to Belize to scuba dive next week. Love my family’s travel adventures, as long as I can enjoy them vicariously.

Meanwhile I’m sitting at home nursing allergies—at least that’s what I think it is. I never was allergic to anything until I was in my fifties. One day I felt so awful I dragged myself to the doctor, who cheerfully announced I was suffering from allergies. I was indignant and demanded, “What am I allergic to?” His reply? “Texas.”

Well I guess there’s something in our Texas air the last couple of days because it sure has gotten me in the late afternoon and early evening. My nose runs like the proverbial faucet, my throat is dry, I cough a lot, and I am so sleepy I can’t stand it—and a bit sick to my stomach. Yuck. But by 9:30 or 10:00 I’m back to normal and all is well. I hope this is something fleeting.

I attended a Zoom neighborhood meeting tonight and learned a lesson: when you cough, the camera focuses on you because it apparently doesn’t distinguish between a cough and speech. I quickly muted the audio, but I’m sure my neighbors loved the picture of me with my ever-present Kleenex.

I’m at loose ends, never a good place for me to be. Waiting on a couple of editors to respond to a proposal; waiting on someone else to come back from vacation so I can get access to a file; waiting on a new book to come out in September; waiting to figure out how to edit my new Wikipedia page (more about that another time). I need a new project and am weighing several ideas—a collection of significant blogs, with some gourmet blogs thrown in--do I flatter myself that any are significant?; a new cookbook, though I need a theme—maybe plagiarized recipes (no, I don’t really mean that); reviewing a couple of false starts on mysteries. I recently, inadvertently did some editing and realized how much I like that—shades of my former life. But I have no clients.

Tomorrow I plan to do one of those pro and con list of my options—and to do some serious meal planning for the family, somehow fitting family meals into increasingly busy schedules—Christian’s work is busy, Jordan’s business is rapidly picking up as people begin to travel again, and Jacob has all those golf commitments. I was spoiled during quarantine—they were here every night for supper.

I think I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop—it will, and it will be the right thing. I just don’t know when or what.

Sweet dream, everyone!


Monday, July 05, 2021

Jumbled thoughts after the Fourth


My vicious guard dog

The Fourth of July is America’s most patriotic holiday. We are, most of us, pumped with enthusiasm for God, country, and whatever. This year in many ways it was particularly sweet, since many of us survived the pandemic and the reign of trump. Disease numbers are down, trump loses followers daily, the job numbers are up, and Biden has shown himself to be a real leader and gentleman in his reaction to the Florida condo collapse and a myriad of other problems.

So it was a bit of a shock to wake today to news reports that said there were 400 shootings across the country over the weekend, with 150 deaths. In Fort Worth, we had fourteen shootings with one death—a pretty high record for us. And too many drownings. I have a Facebook friend who lives outside Chicago and constantly bemoans the violence in that city. So do I, because it’s my hometown. But I was a bit pleased tonight to tell him that out of 50 most dangerous cities in the US Chicago is #31. Detroit is #1, no surprise, but I was surprised that Springfield, Missouri is #3. Several Texas cities were ranked, but not Fort Worth.

I read an article today about the rather dramatic uptick in violence in this country, particularly gun violence. It seems that Federal agencies predicted this, even at the beginning of pandemic. Many people have built up such tension--over fear of the virus, social isolation, the encouragement of right-wing violence, all the strains we've been living under--that this outburst was expected. But one sane voice predicted that Americans are resilient, and we will bounce back to a more regular existence. Not sure that includes mass shootings, nor do I think it means we don't have to work for stricter gun control laws, such as the ban on assault rifles and laws that keep guns out of the hands of the mentally unbalanced and the untrained.

People are still complaining today about the noise of fireworks. I am not as bothered as some, but I have had dogs who were terrified, so I recognize that problem, and I can only imagine how traumatic it is for veterans with PTSD. I will say that Sophie was absolutely unfazed and slept through all those that we could hear. I read of a town in Italy that decreed all fireworks would be silent—you get the beautiful visuals without the noise. I didn’t even know they could do that, but I like the idea. The last time I went to a fireworks show, we sat too close for my comfort, and every time one exploded directly overhead, I felt like my heart stopped. At my age, that’s an uncomfortable feeling. You never know when it could be true.

In reflecting on last night, I was amused to realize I have forgotten how good a traditional Fourth dinner can taste. Hot dog with sauerkraut (okay, I know the kraut is not traditional), baked beans (the only can I had was Heinz vegetarian but they tasted just fine), and potato salad. I had beans and potato salad for lunch today. Still good.

Too much of my own company this long weekend, though Sophie has been a good companion. She, that little 30-lb. dog, stood a yard worker off today, barking and feinting a charge or two. He clung to the gate with it half open, ready to make an escape any minute. When I called out for him to please shut the gate, he made no move. Either he was terrified, or he has no English—or both. At any rate, Sophie was very pleased with herself, and I am glad to have her for protection.

I’ll be grateful to get back to sort of routine tomorrow, with a couple of social things planned. Meantime, I am enjoying the slightly cooler weather. Sitting with the patio doors open tonight.

Sweet dreams, everyone.