Saturday, December 29, 2007

My Own Peculiar Brand of Fun

I've spent the last couple of hours happily digging through a new online database called Footnote. This is a new collaborative effort involving the LDS church, the National Archives, and I'm not sure who else, with a commercial outfit that is digitizing some of their holdings. I've been monitoring the site for awhile, trying to talk myself into buying a year's access to the images and tonight I found something that finally made it a worthwhile investment.

For a couple of years now I've been contemplating a trip to San Saba to obtain a death certificate for my great-great grandfather Frankum. I knew from a cousin that his death certificate was on file in the courthouse there, but for some reason I could not find his name in the state death indexes. Without that magic index reference, I knew I would not be able to get a copy from the State Health Department.

One of the projects in progress at Footnote is the digitization of early Texas birth and death certificates. I was running some idle searches tonight and lo and behold up popped the missing death certificate. I had a subscription to the service in the amount of time it took for me to run upstairs and get my credit card.

I was delighted to find that I now have some official corroboration of James Jefferson Frankum's parents. I knew who they had to be, thanks to extensive census research, but now I have an actual document that gives their names. Yee-haw.

From there, I have spent a couple of hours downloading more early birth and death records for various family members. I've pulled copies of Confederate service records. I've got a nice little stack of paper that has already justified the cost of membership, if you count how much I would have had to pay the State for copies of these records or how much I would have had to pay for gas to go get the records from the pertinent courthouses.

Nothing I like better than a new pile of old records to explore.


Friday, December 28, 2007

Rural Texas is Alive and Well

I am continuing to follow my muse on this holiday vacation. This morning, with nothing particular in mind, I decided to go on a FindaGrave mission to Bateman Cemetery near Red Rock and then head back to Bastrop for a thorough car cleaning. On an impulse, I looked to see if there were any other FindaGrave requests open that would fit into my plans. There was a request open for some Cottle graves in Fayette County near LaGrange. Not exactly on my way, but then what are muses for anyway? I decided I would drive a big circle in the country. It was a beautiful day for a country drive.

The turn for the Fayette County cemetery just happened to be at the same crossroads where the Weikel Bakery is located, so I made my first stop and picked up some breakfast rolls for Mother. The little gift store that is located adjacent to the bakery is never open when I'm there, but the sign said it would be opening that day in just about 5 minutes. So, I sat and drank a cup of coffee, ate half a peanut butter cookie, and then checked out the little store. It was a delight and I purchased several things before I got back on my schedule.

The drive down to Pin Oak Cemetery is through rolling green pasture land. I love the Fayette County country, land of the Round Top Antique Fair (though this was the opposite end of the county from that). The German and Czech settlers knew a good thing when they saw it and proceeded to make it better through generations of farming. The cemetery turned out to be about 1-1/2 miles down a single lane road that had not seen much traffic lately. When I came to the cemetery gate and left the car, there was silence. Nothing could be seen except the cemetery and trees.

The cemetery itself is quite large, but there weren't that many graves. Within the cemetery fence were sub-fenced plots; somewhat like several cemeteries inside one big cemetery. One family would be buried within its own fence and then there would be a large open area before you came to the next little fenced off family plot. I enjoyed the walk in the crisp, cold air. I did not find the graves I was looking for. I enjoyed the second walk around the cemetery. I did not find the graves. By the third time around, I realized that a good number of flat stones had toppled over and were lying flush with the ground, making them difficult to spot. I enjoyed the third walk around the cemetery, this time cutting through the middle open areas. I did not find the graves.

I made an announcement to the silence "if you want me to find you, you had better speak up now!". I made a fourth trek around the cemetery, walking different paths from before. I did not find the graves, but I did find a few interesting stones for unknown soldiers who had died in the area many, many years ago.

By the end of the fourth circuit, I decided the stones were either buried under grass or had deteriorated beyond recognition. I don't regret the trip in the least, because I had a good time being the only soul alive in the middle of a remote area.

A mossy tree in the middle of Pin Oak cemetery.

I decided it would be no fun to retrace my route to LaGrange, so I consulted my Roads of Texas mapbook and figured out a route to Red Rock that would expose me to maximum country road travel. I first made my way to Flatonia, which definitely needs some exploring on another day (antique stores!), then turned north on Highway 95 and drove to Cistern.

Cistern is where my great-grandfather Elmo Hodge was born, so I decided to make a tour of the little burg. I spotted a sign to the Cistern cemeteries, so I drove down the little road and took a few pictures, then spotted another cemetery in the distance and made another stop. Another consult of the mapbook and I found a little road that would take me to Jeddo and McMahan.

This was an inspired choice. The road is perfect rural Texas travel. Just hilly and curvy enough to be interesting without requiring extra caution, lined on either side by green pastures full of picturesque cows and horses, and every so often a great farm house. I've decided that I would love to find an old (but sound) farm house in which to spend my retirement years. One could do worse than retire to rural Fayette County.

In due time, I reached the Bateman cemetery. These graves were easy to locate, so that stop was a success. Back to Bastrop, lunch, a brief stop at Starbucks and then back home. I barely beat the UPS man there. He was delivering my official Christmas present to me - a set of Royal Doulton Old Country Roses flatware. I wasted no time in opening the package and enjoying a fresh look at this indulgence. The cats wasted no time in exploring the package it came in.

A brief dog walk later and we are ready to pile into a big chair with my current genealogical mystery book and take it easy for the rest of the day.

I love driving in the country. Thank God there are parts of Texas where you can still find quality country to enjoy, with lovely old farmhouses and no hideous subdivisions in sight.


Wednesday, December 26, 2007


When Mojo is displeased, there is no doubt about it. He sets up a howl, telling the whole world how he's been mistreated. This frequently happens if his Mom leaves the house and he thinks he should have gone along. He knows when I'm headed to work, which is permissible, and when I'm headed out to work in the yard, where he feels he should be allowed to accompany me. You can hear him expressing himself for several minutes and before long he has Coco crying along in sympathy.

Sometimes he can set up his caterwaul for the simple reason that I left the room and he wanted me to sit and hold him. He will get to howling so hard that when I return, he can't stop himself and will continue his mournful cry until I pick him up. It's not really separation anxiety, but rather a little temper fit when he feels he's been slighted.

(It's no use telling me he's spoiled; I know he's spoiled and I wouldn't have him any other way.)

Anyway, a couple of nights ago he woke the house around 2:00 a.m. with one of his howling fits. It turned out that he was sound asleep and having a bad dream. It wasn't easy to wake him from his nightmare and he was eager to cuddle close and be comforted and assured that he hadn't really been left behind.

It's not easy being a very little boy in a great big world. Of course, he's been a little miffed with me ever since, with the feeling that somehow I've done him a wrong.


Christmas Cleaning, phase 1

We spent Christmas Day cleaning out the china closet under the stairs. It has been a job that I've put off and put off and yesterday I could not take it anymore. So with the background of "The Christmas Story" on TBS, we started hauling things out and separating them into the good stuff, thrift store stuff, fundraiser stuff and trash. I say we, because I had the constant and interested assistance of the heathen cats. They are fascinated by the little room under the stairs that normally is off-limits and they were eager to explore every time my back was turned.

At one point, I decided to move the replacement florescent tube lights I keep on hand for the kitchen to the hot water heater closet. You might have thought I had suddenly produced a rabbit from a hat. Boo and Scout had no idea that there was a room in the house they had not yet seen. They were awe-struck.

At the end of the day I had a straightened china closet, a straightened hutch (the jumble of cookbooks within are in a momentary state of order), a pile of things to take to the thrift store, and two boxes of items I had separated out for my aunt and cousin, who just happened to drop by late in the day to remove them from the premises. The house continues in a state of relative clean. Despite the best efforts of the heathen cats.


Monday, December 24, 2007

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Christmas Scents

I have some very clear memories of Christmas when I was about 4 or 5. Before then Christmas is pretty hazy. Like the slide below:

A Christmas in San Gabriel I don't recall clearly.

The Christmas I remember was at San Gabriel. I don't remember very much about my Christmas at home, but I remember the church activities.

Santa with the church kids.

I can remember that the church prepared a bag of treats for each of the kids. These bags always contained apples, oranges and some candy and maybe a walnut or two. That is what I remember--the combined smell of apples, oranges and Christmas candy. Everytime I am in a store and I get that particular combination of smells, I flash back to San Gabriel.

I remember something else about that Christmas. When Santa handed out the toys to the kids, I got a card of plastic dollhouse furniture. I can remember holding that card so clearly, absolutely delighted to have received that gift. (See, I've always been enamored of dollhouses.)

To me Christmas will always smell like apples and oranges and hard Christmas candy.


Saturday, December 22, 2007


Way back in the dark ages, when I was a student at Mary Hardin-Baylor College circa 1975, I loved the walk across campus from Ruth Stribling dorm to Wells Science Hall. Especially in springtime, the sky would be a vivid blue and the clouds a blinding white. At times the clouds would be what I came to think of as "cotton clouds", because I was reminded of the effect you get when you take a batt of cotton and stretch it out. Everytime I see cotton clouds I flash back to good old MHB. Yesterday, as I left the massage therapist after a W-O-N-D-E-R-F-U-L 90-minutes massage, the sky greeted me with cotton clouds.

I was really floaty after that massage, so the sky seemed to be reaffirming that I should just enjoy floating through the remainder of the day.

Unfortunately I had to make a grocery run. That chore wasn't really so bad, considering I was completely zoned out. There were only two blights on the landscape. One was a hippie dude who kept intersecting my path and was seemingly oblivious that there was anyone else in the store. He would leave his cart directly in the center of the aisle, leaving no room to pass on either side, and then wander off in search of something - possibly hallucinogenic mushrooms. At one point he actually pushed his cart at an angle in front of me (as I was in motion, no less), abandoned it and meandered the opposite way. I was momentarily stunned, then muttered "oh, for crying out loud!", at which point his companion hastened up and moved the cart before I started playing demolition derby. They were lucky I was so out of it or there might have been blood in the aisle.

The second blight on my horizon was as I was unloading the groceries from the cart into my car. At some point either the clerk, or maybe it was me, mishandled the bottle of vinagrette salad dressing and the bottle shattered, soaking the entire sack of groceries with oily, fragrant goo. I gave the clerk the benefit of the doubt and bore the loss, picked the gooey bottle out of the sack and pitched it in a nearby trash container, but by that time the entire car reeked of vinagrette. I thought the mess was pretty well confined to one plastic bag, but this morning the car is still redolent of Italian herbs. Could be worse, I guess.

My cleaning lady did a bang up job yesterday and the house is thoroughly cleansed and I can be lazy without guilt for a day or two. I tested out the Christmas throw received from my friend and it was 100% rat terrier approved.

With very little to do today, except a small bit of cooking and gift wrapping, the three of us plan to float with the clouds as much as possible. The cats would like to join us, but Mojo has spoken and they are forbidden to share in the comfort. Day 2 of vacation is predicted to be a success.


Thursday, December 20, 2007

Now I'm Merry

I am officially on vacation now through the end of the year. Best present I could have. I plan lots of down time, naps with puppy dogs and generally being as lazy as possible. My chiropractor approves of my plan, so I can truthfully say that my doctor told me to do it.

Another bit of good news is that the ailing central heat only needed a small switch replaced for a nominal fee. We now have lots of heat.

The family newsletter is in the mail. Last bit of necessary computer activity for the year.

Christmas gifts all bought (though some are still in transit), non-labor intensive wrapping materials standing ready in the wings, a low labor plan for a Christmas buffet luncheon, and a brand new bottle of amaretto in the cabinet.

I think I just might make it through the holidays.


Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Christmas Hooky

The Christmas spirit just hasn't hit me this year - too tired to care. However, my neighbors have enough for both of us. This picture doesn't do justice, but you can see they have their house draped in white lights and there are two lighted deer in the front who move their heads. Sorta threw the dogs for a loop the first time we went out for a late evening potty trip.

Despite my lack of Christmas cheer, I went on my usual last pre-Christmas shopping jaunt today. I always like to make a last trip after I have all my necessary gifts taken care of and the pressure is off. I always end up buying more gifts when I'm relaxed and able to wander aimlessly around with no particular goal. I decided to go to the San Marcos outlet mall to buy myself a present. Mother started and I am continuing the tradition of buying a piece or two of Royal Doulton Old Country Roses china to add to our collection. This year I decided to indulge myself with a set of their matching flatware.

Just as I reached the exit for the outlet mall, I made an impulsive decision to run down to Gruene. It's been a long time since I visited that little town and it seemed the place to go today. I thoroughly enjoyed checking out the antique store and the Gruene General Store. I've decided that I may just have to go down there some weekend and stay in one of the quaint bed & breakfast inns that have sprung up all around town. Business has definitely increased since I was there last and I found myself hoping that its quaintness isn't on the endangered list.

When I finally made my way to the Outlet Mall, I was surprised to find several stores having "Going Out of Business" sales. I picked up several bargains, but I puzzled over why the sudden departure of these long-time residents. I wonder if other folks have run away from the Christmas crowds as I have, doing their shopping on or other Internet retailers. There were plenty of people at the mall, but I was surprised that I never had any trouble getting a parking space close to the shops I wanted to visit. It was really pretty calm for the last week before Christmas.

I accomplished my goals of purchasing stocking stuffers and flatware (though I had to have it drop-shipped from the main office; they were sold out). My unplanned visit to Gruene was the best part of the day. I almost remembered when shopping was fun.

Tomorrow is my last work day of the year. Last night I finished the annual family newsletter and it will go in the mail tomorrow. Friday morning I have a nice long massage planned to kick off my holiday and I plan to make the most of the opportunity to get some much needed rest.

Ho, ho, ho! (Well, at least I'm trying.)


Monday, December 17, 2007

A Voice Silenced

His popularity was at its peak in the late 70s and through the 80s. I own quite a few of his albums, and while I stopped following his career as closely as I once did, I still enjoy those albums. My favorite was the double "The Innocent Age", that contained "The Leader of the Band" and "Same Old Lang Syne" among other truly wonderful songs that never got the wide-spread play of those two standouts.

Dan Fogelberg died yesterday of prostate cancer at the age of 56. His music never failed to please and at times it had true greatness. May he rest in peace. I, for one, will miss him.


Friday, December 14, 2007

A Case for the X-Files

Scout says that whoever that yellow cat is, it is NOT her brother Boo. She thinks that Boo was abducted by aliens, put through unspeakable tests, and then returned to us in some kind of altered state.

Scout thinks her Mom is incredibly stupid if she hasn't noticed that huge incision in the stranger's belly and the odd way he smells. He may purr like Boo, but that's not Boo.

Scout is not fooled. She tells me that she's checked and he has a weird microchip in his neck. (She's forgotten she has one, too.)

Scout will be stalwart and not accept the alien in our midst. Sooner or later he will be revealed to be the imposter he is.


Thursday, December 13, 2007


I admit that I suffer from obsessive compulsive behavior in some ways. Under control, but still it is there. That's one reason why I persist in appointing myself the company cookbook wrangler.

Speaking of which, early this morning I finally printed off the GOOD copy from which all other copies were to be made. In the past, I have been ultra compulsive and handled the process from start to finish, but I knew this year that I did not have it in me to manage the project without help. So I recruited a helper to do the copying and assist in the binding. She, in turn, recruited a bit more help, so there were several hands in the process.

While they copied, I pre-punched holes in the front and back covers and the clear plastic front overlay cover. I assembled one complete copy so that I could evaluate how well all the different papers and covers went together. The plastic cover was a bit larger than a standard 8-1/2 x 11-inch sheet, so I adjusted the punches to allow the plastic cover to overhang evenly all around. The inner title page, always printed on some kind of seasonal specialty paper, turned out to be slightly smaller than a standard page and I had to re-adjust the punch so that the title sheet was centered against the card stock inner cover. (What can I say? I'm good.)

By the time I had punched 100 back covers, 100 inner front covers, 100 decorative title pages and 100 plastic overlays on the old manual punch/binding machine, the first of the cookbooks were being delivered, pre-punched by my helpers on the newer, electric binding machine. I assembled the first official copy and found myself in an obsessive compulsive quandry. The electric punch was set at a slightly different position from the manual punch I had used for the covers and so the inner pages of the cookbook were not binding squarely to the covers. They were about 1/16th of an inch off and they had already punched about 15 sets.

For possibly the first time in my life, I gave myself a mental shake and said to myself "screw it". Probably nobody but me will ever be aware of this slight flaw. These folks are always very appreciative of my efforts, which gives them a comb-bound cookbook with recipes that have been reworked so as to be understandable to even the least experienced of the group, standardized formatting of measurements and full of decorative graphics. They would have been happy to get a stapled at the corner batch of un-adorned recipes with no editing at all. Of course they've been spoiled at this point, since I'm obsessive compulsive about this project, but I don't think anyone is going to go "eww, the pages aren't square".

With this happy decision made, we managed to get half of the required books bound today. I have lost my primary helper to a vacation day tomorrow, but I hope to get the vast majority of the remaining books done and possibly even delivered before the end of the work day on Friday.

I counted up today and my rough estimate is that I've spent somewhere between 60 and 72 hours on this project. This is my Christmas contribution to my co-workers. I think they are going to be pleased with the result.

Aside from the slightly off-set pages, I am. I'll get over it.


Wednesday, December 12, 2007


Mr. Boo Cat is home again, doing well. He is so happy to be home that he is following me around purring.

All the way home, he informed me of the evil and vile things that had been done to him. It sounded a little bit like the Scarecrow after the encounter with the Flying Monkeys. "First they took my legs off and they threw them over there; then they took my chest out and they threw it over there!"

Scout says he smells bad and has been hissing every time he comes near her. The dogs flooded him with happy kisses and the three of them have been comparing scary operation stories.

To add insult to injury, his belly is naked and it's cold. His front legs have been shaved and he looks goofy.

In a word, the whole experience sucked and he wants the world to know it.

Would that he would realize that the reason it all happened was that he didn't mind his own business and heed the old adage "curiosity killed the cat".


Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Boo Kitty Update

The Boo cat is spending another night in the hospital. His appetite had not returned enough to please his doctor, so she decided to keep him for observation. Hopefully he will get sprung tomorrow afternoon. The word from the receptionist was "he looks ok". I guess that makes me feel better.


Sick Ward

Nothing like a little unplanned surgery to throw a kink in things. Boo cat took sick in the middle of the night Friday, vomited off and on all day Saturday, and continued to feel poorly through Sunday. He was a pitiful ghost of his normal heathen self.

Even though Mom has threatened daily to dismember the little devil, when your little devil is sick, you begin to miss the rotten behavior. I figured it was something he ate or a need for worming. I dropped him off yesterday morning at the vet clinic for an evaluation.

Xrays indicated something in his intestines that wasn't passing through like it should. So off to emergency surgery Monday afternoon. The good news is that he came through with flying colors and should be home sometime today.

He had swallowed a mass of sewing thread that had gummed up his innards. The doctor said she pulled thread out of him for quite awhile before she was satisfied that she had it all. Even so, there is still a bit that had gone on through to the colon and should appear today sometime. He spent the night on fluids and happy meds and if he gets up this morning with a smile on his face, a purr in his heart and an appetite, all should be well. (Now the odd thing is that I don't sew and I thought I had purged the house of Mother's sewing goods. I have no idea where he got hold of thread.)

Scout has been lost without her co-conspiritor. It's amazing how quiet the house has been the last few days. I think I will be glad when he gets home and starts bouncing off the walls again. Turns out that a little devil is a lot of entertainment.


Sunday, December 09, 2007

Last Time (Maybe)

It used to be something I looked forward to every December. The Bastrop County Historical Society hosts a historical homes tour and it was/is a rare opportunity to get inside some of the old Victorian era homes for which Bastrop is somewhat famous.

There is always a house that just overwhelms you with the fabulous interior or for the fabulous way a fading lady has been restored to beauty. The Orgain house on Church Street has been on the tour several times and I usually make those tours because the house is just such a superlative Victorian mansion that was restored sometime back with no expense spared. The old Confederate academy house has also been featured many times and stands out in my memory because of its branching staircase, with two descents from the broad landing. There have been many wonderful houses on the tour during the years, representing a time when craftsmanship meant more than volume and singular character meant more than how fast a house can be thrown up.

I skipped a couple of the recent years because the same houses were being showcased that I had already seen many times. This year I was lured back because there were four houses on the schedule that I had never seen before and one of them belonged to my first step-mother once upon a time. This was well before she became my step-mother, so I had never had the opportunity to see inside until now.

This house was a cheerful yellow at the time she lived there, so it took me a minute before I realized this was the same place. The house has recently received some local notoriety as one of the main location shoots for an upcoming Julia Roberts movie Fireflies in the Garden. Julia's every movement was documented in the local gossip column for several months back in the spring. I will probably have to make a point to see the movie when it comes out, just to see this lovely house in the background.

The interior of the house is a real treasure and well worth the time and price of a ticket to see. Every room's doorway and windows was framed in wood with square corner decorations (can't remember what those are called at the moment). Every doorway had a glass transom. The stairway led to a lovely reading nook, flanked on both sides by huge, airy bedrooms. The upstairs bathroom had been remodeled for the movie shoot and the owners decided they liked it and left it that way, with a glorious claw-foot tub on a raised landing under a roof peak. Hard to envision from that description, but let me just say it reeked of character.

The back of the house has a wide, screened in porch that calls to the incurable reader or knitter. It must be a wonderful place in the spring time. It was by far the best of the tour this year.

I hit five of the nine places on the tour this time around. The musuem is always on the tour and is where I stopped to buy my ticket, so I took the time to drift around and look at the exhibits. It did not take me long to realize that I knew more Bastrop history than the tour hosts who were roaming around, but I always enjoy seeing the musuem and I discovered there are some new items for sale that I will have to go back and obtain on a less active day. They have issued a DVD on the subject of Bastrop's 175th anniversary and there are books, maps, and other tempting things that somehow I do not yet have in my collection of local history.

The Episcopal Church, old First National Bank and Kerr Community Center did not interest me, since I have seen them all on numerous occasions. I did visit 3 more houses on Pecan Street, one of them an active Bed & Breakfast that I could honestly recommend to someone who wanted a nice place to stay in Bastrop. It's quite a nice old house. By the time I had visited the 4th house, I was exhausted from the press of the crowds and the chattering of the tour hosts, so I decided I was done and went on to run my errands.

It's funny how ongoing stress can make being around people an exhaustive process. I just don't have it in me to be sociable these days. I did enjoy a conversation with an old neighbor I encountered at the museum, but that was before the herd of tourists arrived. I contemplated walking the street fair that was being held in downtown, but decided I just could not handle the noise and bustle of a crowd. It takes too much effort to focus and too much effort to remain calm and pleasant, when what I really want to do is snap, "Get out of my way, shut up and leave me alone". I smiled and made nice as long as I was able to and then beat a hasty retreat.

Before I went to the grocery store, I made an impulse stop at the local Hallmark shop. The lady who ran this store for many, many years died this year and I've not been in it since. I was dismayed to discover all the signs that the store is about to shut down. The attendant did not know the future plans, but what she did know and what I observed seems to point that direction. I coveted that little shop and always wished that I could acquire it. I guess it is another sign of my fatigue that I could not even get excited about the idea of calling the owner to see if she would be willing to sell.

Before I could escape back to the safety of home and my babies, I had to negotiate another crowd at the grocery store. At least you don't have to be quite so polite there. Everyone understands you don't want to be there, so a glower isn't taken so badly.

At long last, I was home. It seems odd the changes that age will cause. I used to relish the holiday events in downtown Bastrop. Perhaps I will again, but for now I just don't feel the need to partake. Right now my old dream of a mountain-top cabin in Colorado that is only accessible by snowcat for months on end (but of course well stocked with food and an uninterruptible Internet connection) has resurfaced. I need peace and quiet. Right now my favorite activity is the daily walk I take through the neighborhood with my best friends.


Thursday, December 06, 2007

Twisted Like a Pretzel

It has taken 5 days of marathon typing, but the draft of the cookbook is done. The dogs will be glad when tonight rolls around and I head to the bed at a decent hour. The family newsletter I can type on the laptop while I lean against pillows. The proofing of the cookbook will be postponed until the weekend so I can rest my eyes. You know you are middle aged when you find yourself constantly bending over close to the page to verify whether you are looking at 1/2 or 1/4.

You also know you are middle aged when you can't sleep through the night any longer. When I'm not adjusting the fan on or off because of my internal thermostat issues, I'm having to get up and trek to the bathroom to pacify a nagging bladder. It used to keep quiet through the night, but I guess it figures if I'm going to keep it awake turning the fan on and off, it will retaliate the only way it can.

One benefit of longevity is that I am having to burn some days of vacation this month so I don't lose them. (Twenty years or more of service gets you 4 weeks a year and I never took my fall vacation this year.) Yesterday I went to Austin and followed my old commute route down 6th Street. Traffic has not improved at all, but rather the construction of the toll road has really screwed up Highway 71 at Del Valle. I'm having to drive a nasty area of Highway 79 these days that is also under construction, but it pales in comparison. Add to the traffic woes the Christmas rush and you have a mess.

But it was a beautiful day and I quickly completed my errands and did a little bit of playing at the Antique Mall in Elgin on the way home. Next door to the Antique Mall is a new homemade tamale joint and I picked up a dozen for supper. Funny thing is, when I asked the guy how long they had been there, he told me that was their first day. Until then they had been selling beside the road at the junction of FM1660 and Highway 95, the turn I make to take me through Rices Crossing every day. I had seen them, but never stopped because I have this theory that you can't trust food bought from roadside vendors. They were good tamales and so far I've had no ill effects, so maybe I was wrong about that.


Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Speaking of Hula Hoops

Once upon a time I actually could hula a mean hoop. (Maybe that explains all the trouble I've been having with my hip lately.)


Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Christmas Tunes

Many years ago my office was across from the closet that held the CD-player that played the music while our telephone callers were on hold. I got drafted to swap out CDs from time to time to give a variety of music to our listeners. When December 1st arrived, I would start the Christmas music. The Christmas music owned by the company was pretty stale, so I would switch it out with some of my own collection. Our employees could set their phones to play the music at their desks and they enjoyed having the option to listen to Christmas music during the month.

With that motivation, I kept acquiring new Christmas CDs every year for several years until at the moment I own an obscene amount of Christmas music. Every year I tell myself I will not buy any more Christmas CDs and every year someone comes out with a Christmas album that I can't pass up. I really try, but I just can't help myself.

This year I've already caved and bought 3 Christmas albums. Someone clued me in that Josh Groban had issued a Christmas CD and I decided that I had to have it. That's all I had intended to get, but then I discovered albums by James Taylor and Anne Murray, both of whom I like very much. (And Anne's was a double album, so that makes 4 CDs added to the collection.)

I mean, really, how many versions of "Do You Hear What I Hear?" does one person need? I may be addicted.

Anyway, I've been listening to Christmas music this week, taking a brief break from audiobooks. I really do have some good albums in my collection and I must say that the James Taylor and Josh Groban albums are very, very good additions.

My favorite songs are sprinkled across genres. My number one favorite song is "Greensleeves", so I love every version of "What Child is This?", particularly the instrumentals and especially the version by pianist Liz Story. After that, I love "O Holy Night" by Sandi Patti, "My Prayer" by Celine Dion and Andre Bocelli, "Mary, Did You Know?" by Kathy Mattea, "The Wexford Carol" by anybody and "Christmas Time's A-Comin'" by Emmylou Harris.

And the one that makes me laugh every time is "The Chipmunk Song".

"Me, I want a hoola-hoop..."


Sunday, December 02, 2007

Meant for Me

One of my errands last week was to buy raffle tickets. The local CASA group periodically raffles off playhouses and this year they have two. If there is any justice, I should get one.

The playhouses are built by the High School shop students and are usually based on local historical buildings. They have had some mighty cute playhouses over the years. This year, when I saw the newest offerings, I slipped into the sin of covet. Unfortunately they require you to choose which playhouse drawing you will participate in, so I chose the historic jail for all 5 of my raffle tickets. It is too cute and I would love to see it take up residence in my back yard.

First, here is the real thing. Back when we lived in town, I walked the dogs regularly by this building.

Here is the playhouse version. On the inside, there is actually a tiny jail cell, complete with a sliding hasp lock and that takes up roughly 1/4 of the interior. The "bricks" are blocks of wood. Notice the attention to detail, right down to the historical marker.

The other offering this year is based on a slave's quarters building, which location of the real thing I could not remember in order to snare a photo. It is also as cute as a button, with bead and board paneling on the interior.

I would be just as happy to see it in my back yard, but when forced to choose, I had to go with the jail. I figured it might be just the ticket for dealing with the heathen cats.

The drawing is next Saturday. Cross your fingers for me.


Saturday, December 01, 2007

Over Extending

Every 5 years or so I do something idiotic. I let my co-workers talk me into spear heading another employee cookbook. The first time was back in the early 80s, when the company had maybe 35 employees. Now I find myself working on Volume 7 and the company has about 150 employees. About half of them are participating and over 200 recipes have been turned in.

It's my own fault. I just can't abide turning the job over to someone else, though I did take the precaution of recruiting volunteers for the task of binding and distributing this time around. I have this idea that I'm good at the job and I either don't want to be disappointed that someone else might not do as good a job as I do or I don't want to find out that someone else would do it better. Either way, I am busy sorting recipes and scouring the Internet for Christmas graphics to add atmosphere.

Almost the entire day today I have been hunched over the computer. After a long neighborhood walk, the dogs were content to pile up in the big red chair and nap while I worked. I put a volume of "Are You Being Served?" on the DVD player and had that thoroughly enjoyable insanity to distract and entertain me. The day passed pleasantly and I have completed the draft version of 4 sections of the cookbook. That gets me about half-way through the typing portion of the project. I just might get the bulk of the work done this weekend.

Which would be good, because it suddenly occurred to me that I also have a family newsletter due to go out this month and I haven't even started it. I'm just not happy unless I have deadlines.

Let the Holiday madness begin!