Sunday, August 31, 2008

When They Are Good

To paraphrase an old nursery rhyme -

When they are good, they are very, very good.

And when they are bad, they are horrid.

I had such a happy little girl cat this afternoon. For some strange reason I decided to take all my clothes out of the closet, re-install the double clothes rod, and rearrange the shoe racks. Along about mid-way through - when I had a floor full of shoes and empty clothes hangers - I stepped back into the closet and heard the loudest purring you can imagine. Scout was lying under the row of suit jackets I had just hung on the lower rack, purring her little heart out. Nothing she likes better than a big to-do in progress with lots of opportunities for cat meddling. She has prowled and commented and napped and then prowled some more. Even after I was finished, she would step inside the closet and look around with utter satisfaction. I'm thinking in a past life she must have been an Imelda Marcos type.

Now, what I can't figure out is why I can't fit everything back into the closet, even with an extra rod and a big pile of items culled out for the thrift store.


P.S. The cat condo they are sleeping on is on its last legs. During their horrid stages, they zoom to the top, causing the thing to weave back and forth and shudder in protest. There are pieces hanging by a mangled bolt and the whole thing is slightly cockeyed. I'm getting ready to move it to the garage out of sight. They may have a collective hissy fit and insist I buy them a new one. Cat divas. Can't live with them, can't live without them. Well, I could, but life would be awfully dull.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Dinner Guest

Friend squirrel doing what he/she does best. Stealing food from the birds.


Friday, August 29, 2008

I Really Need to Get a Life

I think I've mentioned that I get caught up in computer games every now and then. It usually happens when I'm stressed out and looking for a total escape to another planet. When I can't focus on genealogy and I've been beating my brains out processing bad data and I'm too tired to knit, crochet or work on dollhouses, I have a tendency to fall into the trap of computer games.

During the work crush of July I was spending large chunks of my evenings playing Super Granny 3. This game has approximately 100 levels and the point is to race the little Granny character around the screen saving stray kitties, watering flowers and dodging bulldogs, pink poodles and maniacal robots. Along the way you have to collect enough points to purchase a required piece of equipment to reach the final half-dozen secret levels. I finally completed all the levels about the same time as the work petered out.

I mentioned this weakness at work the other day and was met with gaping mouths. I am something of an oddball at the office. The data processing folks are generally in their 30s and think I'm a grandmotherly type. There are actually two of us fifty-somethings in the group and we've worked together for almost as long as the others have been on earth. We are the wise old folks and it always surprises the youngsters when we reveal our quirky sides.

So I told them about Super Granny 3 and while they were still digesting that, I mentioned that I had played all the levels of Diner Dash (3 different versions), Luxor, Atlantis, and Pirate Poppers. By that time they were trying to decide if I was weird or senile. I got the distinct feeling that their mothers don't play computer games. I care not. I like being eccentric.

Well, along came this week and more stress and guess what? I needed an escape and I dug out an old game that I had not yet mastered - Westward. Being a fan of old Western TV, it's right down my alley. You settle a wilderness. You build housing for your settlers, set up timber camps to accumulate wood for building, dig wells for water, create farms and ranches to generate food, and set up mining camps to dig for gold to buy materials like dynamite for clearing boulders. Along the way you fight outlaws, try to keep your sheriff alive, repair buildings after tornadoes and fire, and suffer drought, famine and plague. Each level has tasks that must be accomplished to advance to the next level. It's a hoot and very addictive.

Needless to say, I am not getting much done this week except resting my brain from an overload of stress. No genealogy is getting done. No housework is getting done. No dogs are getting petted. My book isn't getting read. My bills aren't getting paid.

But my sheriff is still alive. Barely.


Wednesday, August 27, 2008

On the Campaign Trail

To be fair, it was little brother who found this link:

Vote Your Conscience

(When you get there, hit the forward button to start.)


P.S. This is for fun. Not trying to convert anybody to my candidate.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Early Lessons That Stick

Isn't it odd how some things you learn early on remain with you? I was reminded of that this morning as I was listening to an audio book. It was a second hand book that had formerly been part of a lending library. About half-way through the first CD, it started skipping around like crazy. When I examined the CD, I could see finger smudges everywhere. A little cleaning with the cloth I keep in my purse for cleaning my glasses, and all was well.

When we lived in Oak Hill I was 6 years old. My father somehow managed to acquire a very nice stereo console. It wasn't until I was writing this that I realized I have no idea where it came from or how it was paid for, but it stayed with us for many, many years. I believe we kept it until we moved from Smiley to Bastrop, at which time it went to live with my Grandmother Wilcoxen and kept on performing for several more years.

Shortly after the stereo arrived, Daddy took out a membership with Columbia House and started building a record library. It was probably his influence that formed my eclectic taste in music. He bought a lot of Marty Robbins, Andy Williams and Floyd Cramer. He would order sets put out by Reader's Digest that were full of easy listening instrumental and piano. We had a big set of classical pieces performed by the Longines Symphonette. We played the heck out of that stereo and I loved every record in our collection.

I had my own little portable record player that I played endlessly in the back room of that stone parsonage. The room had a bank of windows that looked out on a large back yard and, beyond that, a pasture full of cows and agarita bushes. I would spend hours out there playing my stash of 45s - some that had belonged to Daddy and some that were given to me by a church member. It was that stash that contained I Saw Esau (Sitting on a Seesaw) and Just Walkin' in the Rain, among others. (I can still see those 45s in my mind's eye, stored in their box that had once held a pair of boots. They were scuffed and some were cracked and they followed us as far as Smiley where they ended up in the attic. I think we moved off and left them up there, where they may be till yet.)

For the most part, my personal collection kept me satisfied. But eventually I wanted to listen to Marty and to Andy and to Floyd and to the big orchestral masterpieces.

Daddy gave me permission, but only if I learned to handle the records properly. For the privilege of listening to his records, I learned to pull the records out by the edge and never, never, never touch the grooves where the music lived. When I was finished, I would carefully remove them from the spindle, holding them by the edges, and carefully put them back into their paper sleeve and then into the cardboard outer sleever. I think I could safely swear on a stack of Bibles in court that I have never handled a record in any other way since making that promise so many years ago. I learned that lesson well. As a result, I have several boxes of vinyl LPs in the back of the closet that still play like new, including those original albums we acquired while living in Oak Hill in 1960.

I thought this was the way everybody did it, so I was surprised at the look of amazement on a visiting preacher's face one day when I followed Daddy's instructions to put on a specific record. I guess he was surprised that such a small child could have learned to use such care in handling LPs. Or he was surprised at how much care we took with our records. In any case, he complimented me on knowing what I was doing and it made me feel quite capable. I always did like to feel competent.

I treat my music CDs now with the same care. Awhile back when I bought an audio book at Half-Price Books, they went to get the CDs out of their files (only the empty box and sleeves are on the shelf) and I cringed as I watched the girl pull out each CD and smear her finger prints all over the playing side as she loaded the sleeves. I wanted to ask her if she had been raised in a barn. But I digress.

Every now and then I find myself doing something in a particular way and suddenly realize that I'm doing it that way because it was the way I was taught as a child. Those ingrained routines and procedures have stayed with me because they are the right way to do things.

Our formative years. The scary thing is - for all the good things that have been indelibly carved into our souls, how many of the bad things we do were started way back then as well?


Passing Through

This has been an exhausting week on several levels and my mind just isn't clicking along well enough to create understandable prose.

However, in the midst of gloom is one small ray of sunshine.

The Prius is almost here. The predicted arrival date of December has suddenly been changed to the early part of September. MY car, the one I ordered, is on the assembly line now. It should be in Texas sometime within the next two weeks.

Thank heavens for tiny silver linings in the storm clouds.


Saturday, August 23, 2008


Thanks to our health-worker's needing to make up a sick day, I had the opportunity to go off and putter this clear and pleasant Saturday morning. I decided to go to Elgin and explore my favorite Antique Mall. I got there a little early and so had an opportunity to study the bird nests that had been built in their sign.

The nests in the "e" and "s" look fairly normal, but I'm wondering who or what built the nest in the "q". There are things with teeth in there that look like some kind of big comb. That some little bird managed to wrestle those things into place is fairly amazing. That's a bird I would like to meet, but not in a dark alley at midnight.

It was nice to have a long uninterrupted morning to explore the mall at my leisure. I had promised myself that if I found a certain type of depression glasses, I could get two of them to match the two I already had. One of the ones I already had was the sole survivor of a set of glasses that had belonged to my grandparents. At some point they were put in boxes under the house they lived in out in the country and many of them broke. It's possible some of the other kinfolk have some of them, but we only had the one. The second one had been purchased in an antique store last year. It just recently occurred to me that they were a good match for my Old Country Roses china and I decided I would build a set to use on those rare occasions that the china comes out of the china closet.

I was surprised that I did not find any of the glasses in any of the usual booths that carry depression glass and had about decided I would not be able to add to my collection today, when I turned the corner and found a set of 6 glasses in perfect condition. It didn't take me long to decide to get the entire set. I am delighted, even knowing that my grandmother would probably gag at the price I paid. Knowing her, it's very possible these came free in soap or oatmeal or something and would have meant the same to her as Welch's grape jelly glasses mean to me.

I also found a Nancy Drew book to add to my vintage editions of that series and a True West magazine with an interesting article to add to my knowledge of Custer's activities in the west, which I find of interest since discovering my gg-grandfather fought in the Indian Wars under Custer. I also was able to price some antique oak bedsteads. All in all, a very satisfying morning.

I was back in Bastrop fairly early, so I decided it was a good time to visit the local museum, which is running a display of early local pottery through December. I was the only visitor to the museum for the entire hour I was there and therefore had an opportunity to study the exhibit without distraction, have a long discussion about Bastrop history with the museum custodian and pick up a few items they have for sale that I had not had a chance to acquire yet.

The exhibit was outstanding and I will cover it in more detail in a future installment over on Building Blocks. All of the different incarnations of McDade pottery were represented, including the first of the potters, Matthew Dunkin and his son. Matthew was the brother of my ggg-grandmother Lucretia Dunkin, so I feel a certain proprietory interest in the legacy of McDade pottery. I was also looking for some confirmation that one of the pieces I acquired from Aunt Fay's estate is a Dunkin piece, which is highly collectible. (I think it is.)

The Bastrop museum has come a long way in the past few years and I enjoy going there now. Now the Historical Society acts like true custodians of local history. When we first moved to Bastrop, the collection was a jumbled mess with no organization and very little concern for preservation. It hurt to go there and see the damage being done through ignorance and neglect. Now it's a museum to be proud of.

How lovely to be able to break routine for a few hours.


Friday, August 22, 2008

Vanity Thy Name is Dog

Anybody who says that dogs don't think has never had a dog. I actually read an article by somebody who claimed that dogs don't really know their names, but just learn to respond to a repetitive sound. What a dope.

My dogs know their own names, each other's names, the names of the cats, all the members in the family and who the squirrel is. (They are learning who the deer is.) When I tell them Uncle David is coming, they start watching at the window for his truck to head down the street.

Mojo has a game where he comes down the staircase to just the point where he can peek down into the family room and watch what's going on without any one knowing he's there. Dumb animal? I think not.

Today I bought the two of them new collars. Normally they are very touchy when I remove their collars because they think it's a prelude to a bath. Tonight they caught on immediately that I was transferring their tags to new collars. You should have seen the preening and cavorting that went on when they were re-dressed. It was obvious they thought they were hot stuff.

Dumb? No. Spoiled? Yes.

And smart.


Thursday, August 21, 2008

What a Mess

From my previous posts, you might assume that I can find my way around the kitchen fairly well. Sometimes yes, sometimes no.

I love soup. Periodically I will make a great big pot of soup or stew and eat on it for a week. Sometimes it's tortilla soup, made from the kits you find at H.E.B. Sometimes it's the family stew recipe. Sometimes it's to try a recipe from one of the Peach Tree Tearoom cookbooks. (Just for the record, the recipes in those cookbooks are completely reliable. I've never tried a recipe I didn't like.) Last night I made my bean soup that is adapted from the 15-Bean Cajun Soup mix available in the grocery store. It made a GREAT big pot of soup. I had two bowls for supper.

I normally divide leftover bean soup from the first night into freezer ziploc bags and freeze them to have on hand for nights when I don't feel like cooking. Last night I was too sleepy to deal with that, so I transferred the soup to a big storage bowl to refrigerate overnight. So far, so good.

As I finished up ladling the soup from pan to bowl, there was a little in the bottom of the pan I could not catch with the ladle, so I upended the pan to pour the dregs into the bowl. And I dropped the pan. Into the brimful bowl. With a plop.

You would be amazed at how far bean soup can travel under those circumstances. I was drenched with bean soup from head to toe. Bean soup was dripping off the stove, the nearby cabinets, the wall behind the stove, the door into the utility room and the dogs who had been hovering under my feet. Bean soup was splattered all over the kitchen floor. Even after cleaning up last night, cursing steadily all the while, I still found crusted bean soup everywhere this morning.

Despite all that, I still have a fairly full bowl of bean soup in the fridge. The recipe makes a lot. I'm almost afraid to tackle transferring it to the freezer bags tonight, because it does not do well as a decorative accent in your kitchen. Take my word for it. I know what I'm talking about.


Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Rest of the Story

My Aunt Bettye has filled me in on the history of Dirty Potatoes. It turns out that this recipe also originated with Grandmother Lucy. I'm guessing it was Mother who came up with the name.

When the crop of new potatoes would come in, this was a way to use them for fried potatoes. Normally new potatoes will not fry well because of their higher water content. Coating them with cornmeal and then frying would solve the problem and lend a bit more versatility to their use.

Lucy Hodge was not a fancy cook, but man could she feed a big bunch of folks and have them all leave the table completely satisfied. Even during the depression the family ate well, thanks to her ability to can and preserve what they grew themselves. She always had a wall of shelves full of canned vegetables, preserves and relishes. And she accomplished that over a wood cook stove in the hottest part of the summer every year in a house with no air-conditioning.

I would give up my air-conditioning for the month of August if I could get a supply of her home-made curd once more. No commercial cottage cheese will ever come close to the same taste. You just can't duplicate the flavor that results from milking your own cow, separating the milk and cream yourself, and going through the long and involved process that results in home-made curd.

I'm probably the only grandchild who had the opportunity to churn butter. I may be the only one of her grandchildren that had the opportunity to milk a cow. In both cases, I did not produce much, but I did have the experience. I dare say there aren't many of my age and younger who had that privilege.

I regret that I did not write down the recipe for her okra gumbo. My dad loved her gumbo and when I got older I was pretty fond of it myself. Mother and I learned to make it, but we got out of the habit and now I can't remember much about the process. Maybe one of my aunts can come up with the recipe (hint, hint).

Quite often when we would arrive at their house for an extended visit, we would be greeted with a big roasting pan full of home-made cake doughnuts. Half would be cinnamon sugared and half would be iced. The icing is another recipe lost. It had its own unique flavor that I've never been able to reproduce, even though I'm sure that it consisted of flavorings that would be found in your cabinet at any time, because she kept the basics on hand. Fancy flavorings would have been outside the budget. Those doughnuts were better than anything you can get from Krispy Kreme today.

I could never get a pot roast to come out right until she told me a simple recipe that always succeeded. Season a shoulder roast with salt and pepper (I nowadays sometimes use a packet of dry onion soup mix), put the roast in a deep dish, add water up to about an inch, cover and cook slow. Never fails.

I have a few of her recipes, written in her own hand, but most of what she cooked was in her head and never written down. How I wish I had made it a point to sit down with her and have her dictate those recipes. Who knew how much we would miss them?


Bonus Recipe
Lucy Hodge's Corn Relish

6 green tomatoes, 18 ears of corn (roasting ears), 6 small cabbage heads, 6 onions, 6 green peppers, ½ cup salt. Chop all of the above and cut corn from cob. Put in a large pan. Add 5 cups sugar, 3 cups vinegar, 2 tablespoons mustard, 1 tablespoon celery powder. Combine all and cook at a slow boil for 30 minutes, or until thick. Put in hot jars and seal. Does not have to be pressured in cooker.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Soul Food, Part 2

Another recipe for fried potatoes that seems to exist only within the family is what we refer to as "Dirty Potatoes" and I believe it was my mother who invented it. If you put a plate of Dirty Potatoes in front of my brother and me, we will eat until we can't move.

First you cut your potatoes into rectangular cubes, about 1/2-inch thick by 3/4-inch long. Next you mix up some cornmeal (white or yellow, but yellow is best) and salt and pepper to taste. Wet down your potatoes with a little milk and then toss with the cornmeal mixture. Fry until golden brown.

Messy as all get out to cook. Larrupin' good and well worth the effort. Nowadays we avoid Dirty Potatoes because we have developed a tendency to middle-aged spread. If I'm ever told I have only a few weeks to live, I shall eat chicken-fried steak, dirty potatoes and apple pie ala mode until the end comes.


Sunday, August 17, 2008

Soul Food

I was bad tonight. Earlier today while at the grocery store, I saw a beautiful, tenderized round steak. I decided that tonight I would damn the carbs and enjoy some soul food - chicken-fried steak and cottage fries the way Grandmother Lucy made them. Well, with one exception. I used Crisco instead of lard. But otherwise it's the same meal I ate hundreds of times on the first night of a visit to her house.

Nobody else I know outside of the family makes fries this way. Thin, round cut, and fried to a golden crispy brown. Salted and peppered and served with a little ketchup. Ah, bliss. An heirloom recipe of great sentimental value.


Once a Fan Always a Fan

On the way home Thursday, I did not feel like starting a new audiobook, so I decided to listen to Fresh Air on the public radio station. I was surprised and pleased to find that half the show was devoted to an interview with Glen Campbell, who has just released a new album.

I can remember well when I discovered Glen Campbell. I guess I had heard Gentle On My Mind, but I wasn't yet a real fan. One afternoon we were all sitting on the gym floor waiting for the P.E. class to start when a friend, Melanie, started rhapsodizing about the newcomer to country/pop music charts. She had his album and was so enthused that I decided to check him out for myself. From that point for a period of several years, I was probably in old Glen's top 10 fans. I loved his singing and I loved his guitar playing and I loved his down home good old boy persona. At that time, he wasn't so bad to look at either.

My parents tolerated his presence in my record collection, even though he wasn't country enough to suit them. They watched the Glen Campbell Good Time Hour with me every week. Daddy would always bring home a little something for us when he had been away for a week on a revival visit and one time he brought me a 5x7 print of a drawing of Glen that hung on my bedroom wall for quite some time. I ran across that drawing the other day during one of my closet purges and I still could not let it go, so it's still with me. (True confession time - during my teen period of poster art, my walls were covered with Glen Campbell and Clint Eastwood and a still from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.)

I have a clear memory of one week when Daddy and I were traveling back and forth from Smiley to a revival in Kingsbury. He was commuting nightly for that revival and was hauling me along as his personal pianist. Daddy would skate around the radio dial on the late night trips back home, sometimes listening to country music, sometimes the news, sometimes a Pentecostal preacher (man, I hated those). Even though he was thoroughly sick and tired of Glen's latest, Dreams of the Everyday Housewife, if he should happen to hit a station where it was playing, he would stop and let me listen. I guess he figured it was the least he could do in return for my willingly tagging along all week.

There was one time during my infatuation with Glen that Daddy let me down. We were on holiday in Arkansas and came very close to Delight, where Glen's family lived. Daddy was having one of his grumpy road days and, though he grudgingly asked if I really needed him to go to Delight, I could tell he was not in the mood. I was having a grumpy day myself and was annoyed he didn't realize how much I had been looking forward to that detour and decided to cut off my nose to spite my face. I told him to forget it and then resented the loss of that treat for days. A couple of years ago, when I myself was driving through that area of Arkansas, I came to the approximate same place where a short detour would have taken me to Delight. I balanced that old regret against my desire to get somewhere else and decided that, no, I really did not need to go to Delight. Delight will just have to get along without me.

I stayed a Glen fan even through his dismal attempts at acting in True Grit and Norwood. I may well be the only person alive who remembers Norwood. It wasn't such a bad little movie and I would buy a copy if it came out on DVD, but I'm not holding my breath. I remember choosing to see True Grit over shopping on a Saturday at North Star Mall in San Antonio. David and I went to the cinema while our parents went off on their own for a couple of hours. Norwood I saw at the little theater in Nixon on a Sunday afternoon.

Glen lost favor with me when he started reading his own press, stopped choosing quality over sellability in his song selection, discovered recreational drugs and took up with the wife of Mac Davis. I can forgive a lot, but I adored Mac Davis and it seemed a real betrayal of friendship and of fanship. I began to drift away. The day Glen hooked up with Tanya Tucker, that was it. Our relationship was over.

It's a shame he strayed off his original path. Glen's talent was and still is impressive. As I listened to the interview, they played snatches from his new album and his voice is still pure and clear and his guitar playing just as fine as ever. But I was struck at how old he seemed. He's 72 now and his age is showing. In his defense, the interviewer was somewhat inept in his questioning, but, even so, Glen seemed to miss the point of some of the questions and wander off on his own musings that didn't always pertain to what had been asked. But at the end, when he picked up his guitar, you couldn't spot any degradation of his pickin' ability. He's still one of the best pickers I've ever heard.

And I'm still a fan.


Thursday, August 14, 2008


In my childhood I wore a lot of hand-me-downs and was glad to get them. Finances were tight. Preachers (Daddy) and teachers (Mother) did not make a lot of money and store bought clothes were rare. I was better off than some, however, owing to Mother's sewing ability. There was at least a small, steady trickle of new items in my wardrobe thanks to her. In my early, early childhood, she made most of my clothes. In later years, we would make regular trips to the mill store in New Braunfels, buy a pile of new material, and she would spend the summer at the sewing machine so we could start off the new school year with a few new skirts and blouses to supplement the few store bought basics we could squeeze out of the budget.

I can remember one year when I was blessed with a big bunch of hand me downs from one of the ladies in our church. Her daughter was a sweet girl who was a high school senior when I was in 5th grade. Wanda was a cheerleader, which made her a thing of awe to us girls in grade school. Grades 4 through 12 shared the same building and we would hang around her during class changes and lunch breaks, just glad to be in her presence. Bless her heart, she was patience itself and never once indicated she would rather we stayed on the far side of the campus.

To be honored with the clothes that had hung on Wanda's back was almost more than I could ask for. I wore the tail off those dresses and remember them fondly, particularly a pale pink dress of the softest material that gracefully floated around my body.

I am headed somewhere with this, believe it or not.

I am in the market for a headboard for my bed or a complete bedstead. It's been a very long time since I have had one and I'm undecided about just what it is I'm looking for. I would like to upgrade from a full to a queen-sized bed. But, on the other hand, I would like an antique oak bedstead and if I go the antique route I would need to stick with a full-sized bed. I got to thinking yesterday about second-hand furniture. Which put me in mind of hand-me-down clothes.

While I still don't mind wearing clothes that have been handed down from relatives or well-liked friends, I have an aversion to buying clothes in the thrift or consignment stores. I want to know who wore them before I commit to wearing them myself. Likewise, I am not interested in second-hand furniture from unknown sources, even though I know that many people find wonderful pieces in the thrift stores.

But I caught myself up short yesterday while mulling this over. I have no problem whatsoever snatching up a piece of antique oak furniture and feeling great glee as I do so. I would replace every stick of furniture in my house with antique oak pieces that would be treasured for so long as I had custody of them, if I could afford to do so. Likewise, I would gladly wear a vintage item of clothing purchased in an antique store. So what makes the difference between buying at an antique store and buying at a thrift store?

Age and distance from the original owner. That's all I could come up with. At some point an item stops being second-hand or used and starts being an antique and acquires a patina of desirability. All it takes to change the perspective is a few decades.

They say that an item can be considered an antique when it reaches 50 years of age, which means I am now an antique. I must say, however, that it is still somewhat of a shock to wander around an antique store and spot the very toys that were played to death in my house, with outrageous prices attached to them because they managed to survive to the present.

It almost makes me want to think twice about a few pieces of furniture from my childhood that I am intending to cart to the thrift store in the near future. Almost. But, I guess familiarity breeding contempt is another form of perspective. What I have come to hate, someone else may see the beauty that resides therein. It's all a matter of perspective.


Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Live and Learn

I have two old lamps that I am intending to refurbish with new lampshades. Both of the old shades have a metal "spider" stretching across the top of the shade, just below the edge, that is intended to screw onto the socket that holds the bulb. Both of these lamps have bulbs that hang down, as opposed to pointing upward, from the socket.

Not so difficult, eh? You would be wrong. Nobody carries this style of shade. I can find clip on shades, but only for upward bulb sockets. I can find shades that have the right kind of fitting, but only for upward bulb sockets. I can find shades that require harps and finials. I cannot find the kind of shade I need for these two lamps.

So, I told myself, this is a job for the Internet. You can find anything on the Internet, right?

Well, yes. But first you have to figure out what to call this particular kind of lampshade. There are only about a half-million websites that sell lampshades and very few of them are any better than going to your local Wal-Mart and finding out that all you can find are shades for upward bulb sockets or for lamps with harps and finials.

So I tried Google on the phrase "custom lampshade". Finally I found what I was looking for. One very helpful website included diagrams of the various styles of lampshades you might need. The style I'm seeking is called an UNO lampshade. I have no idea why, but that's what it is. And, apparently, they are out of style. I could find no place to buy an UNO lampshade that wasn't stark white and the wrong size.

Except on those "custom lampshade" websites where you can pay a very pretty penny to have one built especially for you with the fabric of your choice.

The project has been tabled for now, because I have a theory that everything comes back around if you wait a year or so and I'm sure that UNO lampshades for downward bulb sockets will be all the rage in a few more seasons.

I'm no better off in the lampshade department, but now you and I share a little piece of esoteric knowledge to amaze our friends at the next dinner party when you spot an old lamp with an UNO lampshade. I'll bet you are the only one present who will know what to call it.


Friday, August 08, 2008

Pleasant Literary Surprises

You know those books that you've always intended to read and never quite got around to doing so? One of the ones on my list is Treasure Island, by Robert Louis Stevenson. I had a copy in my possession for a long time, but it's long since disappeared and I never got around to reading it. I always figured it would be like any other classic - good, but terrible work to read.

Awhile back I found a copy in the discount audiobooks and picked it up, figuring that someday I would work up the want to to give it a try. This was the week and I'm about half-way through. I am completely enthralled to the point of wishing the commute was a little longer. I should have read the thing back when I was a kid.

If you've ever pondered reading Treasure Island or are a fan of the Pirates of the Carribbean movie franchise, get thee a copy posthaste. It's a keeper.

A second book I've thoroughly enjoyed recently was an impulse audiobook buy, I Feel Bad About My Neck, by Nora Ephron. Ephron was the creative juice behind the movies You've Got Mail, Sleepless in Seattle, and When Harry Met Sally. I know, they are chick flicks, and I personally despise the second one but I love the other two. Anyway, the book consists of essays about her life, about being a woman, and about aging. The woman is funny and truthful. She passes along a journalistic observation from her mother, "everything is copy". Which is definitely something I can attest to. When you begin focusing on keeping a journal/blog, you begin to see stories in even the most mundane events around you. Blogging has helped me stop seeing everything around me as boring or aggravating and helped me find the spark of interest or humor in even the dullest situation.

The rest of the week was a dreary series of chores and work frustrations, but the commutes have been a complete enjoyment thanks to two very different and very good books.


Wednesday, August 06, 2008

We're Better Off...I Think

I have long refused to purchase those fancy retractable leashes because I felt like they were over-priced. However, I gave in today and bought two of them. I am hopeful that this will solve a problem I have with getting my armed pulled out of place. Coco, the little dog with ADD, insists on checking each mailbox we pass and I end up being yanked first left and then right. Every so often, just for fun, she gives a little lurch and scampers away from me to see if I will run with her. I've been concerned she's going to strangle herself.

A secondary issue we've been having is that one of the dogs always wants to walk close to me and the other one is hitting the end of the leash, creating a slack on one hand that I keep tripping on while trying to hang on to the other one. On the way out, it's Coco straining at the far end of the leash and Mojo trotting along at my side. Halfway out they reverse positions when Coco begins to tire and Mojo decides he want to be home NOW.

I am hopeful these new leashes will alleviate the problems. There's 16 feet of play in each of them. That should allow me to walk in the middle of the street while Coco dances back and forth on her mailbox inspections. If one wants to walk close, I can retract to a short length on one hand while extending the other hand to accomodate the other. It's got to be a win-win.


The warnings that come attached to these little beauties are truly frightening. If the cord wraps around your arm or leg, it can cause rope burns. If the cord wraps around your finger and your little darling suddenly takes off, you can amputate your finger. GOOD LORD, AMPUTATE?? If you don't use the attached "safety collar" in addition to the dog's regular collar and the hook comes loose and the cord snaps back, you can lose an eye.

I've seen children using these retractable leashes. I'm thinking there should be some legislation to cover these things. Where does Child Protective Services stand on this hideous issue?

I'm not at all sure I will sleep well tonight knowing how dangerous dog walking can be.


Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Splitting My Personality

The new blog is up and ready to receive visitors. Currently going by the handle Building Blocks. You can find a link to it in the left column. It is still in a development mode, so changes in style and direction can be expected from day to day until I get settled in. All these new options that have been added to the Blogger environment are just too tempting and I keep adding things in and taking things out. I adore the new slideshow option and I hope you like it too.

Some of the initial posts to Building Blocks may sound a bit familiar if you are on the mailing list for Family Reunion. I want to resurrect a few sketches I wrote in years past for the newsletter, adding a bit of polish and new details that have surfaced since they appeared there. This will also give me a chance to begin building sketches for my paternal ancestors on the Wilcoxen side. The greater Wilcoxen clan is so scattered that a newsletter format just never fit the situation. Now I have a way to rectify that omission and get their stories told.

I'm excited to have a new playground. It's been a great distraction to take my mind off this terrible heat wave. My neighbor stopped me yesterday to tell me he had been playing golf in 106 degree heat. I don't know which was more appalling - the number or the fact that he was idiot enough to be out playing golf in that kind of environment. I think playing golf is idiocy in any environment, but at 106 degrees it's insane. I'm barely poking my nose out the door these days.

Perfect weather for blogging.


Monday, August 04, 2008

In the Red and Seeing Red

No, I'm not bankrupt and no, I'm not mad.

I am, however, seeing shades of red everywhere. It appears that I have crossed over into old-ladydom in another way. My favorite color has become red.

You've seen the new red glider.

I've ordered a red car.

In the past two years I have purchased a red loveseat, a red easy chair, red sheets, reupholstered 4 chairs and a bench with new red fabric, taken to wearing red lipstick and, on the rare occasions that I do my nails, red fingernail polish.

Is it just me or does everyone's closet periodically shift color? A few years back I would look in the closet and see shades of beige. Then a period came along when I would look in the closet and there would be not a speck of beige but instead a sea of navy. For a brief period I was in love with shades of teal. I've never had a yellow phase, but only because I'm convinced I look jaundiced when I wear yellow.

Now every third hanger is holding something red. I'm considering hanging drapes at long last and I am being pulled toward deep red. I have my eyes on a bedroom ensemble of red and gold.

And yet, when I'm asked what my favorite color is, I hem and haw. I think I could safely answer that it's red. At least for now.

Getting back to business, you may have noticed some subtle changes in the blog. I've upgraded to a newer version of the software and have some new toys at my disposal. I've created my new blog, which will be a genealogy related blog, and it should be up and running in the near future. I'm still tweaking it a bit. Surprisingly, I chose colors that have nothing to do with red. I've chosen shades of gray and blue, which I hope is not an indication that my love affair with red is on the way out. I'm still about 6-9 months away from taking delivery of the car.


Saturday, August 02, 2008


I was already using Picasa to organize my digital photos. Today, while reading the latest issue of Internet Genealogy, they mentioned a cool function I had not yet explored. You select a group of photos and make a collage. You can make a grid of the photos, or a contact sheet, or a "picture pile" like the above. (Wouldn't this make a neat personalized mousepad?)

You would have to be as familiar with these pictures as I am to identify most of these folks from the small slivers shown of some, but let me just say that they are family. My family.

Speaking of family, I'm working on a new blog idea. Stand by. I hope you will soon have two blogs to read. I know you're thrilled.



(By the way, Picasa is free from Google. It's pretty neat software.)

Up Early

This morning I surprised the dogs with an early morning walk for a change. I normally let myself sleep in a bit on the weekends (which is usually 7am), but this morning I was wide awake at 6:30. I decided rather than stand and watch the dogs ramble slowly around the yard sniffing for armadillos, I would put them on the leash and take a walk. They didn't know quite what to make of it.

I discovered a lot of early Saturday morning life in the neighborhood. Aside from the timed sprinklers firing off right and left. Nothing like a sudden hiss at the level of your ankle to chase the sleep away.

There were other walkers out already, getting their morning constitutional before the sun is fully up. The neighbors around the corner who hang out in their garage were already up watching tv in their garage. (I truly cannot figure those people.) Lots of lights on and breakfast cooking. In fact, there were more signs of life at 6:3o than there were dark houses where folks were sleeping in.

Another TGIS. The good news is that I caught up with the mountain of work before I left the office yesterday. There are only two files waiting to be tackled on Monday morning. I have hopes that the worst of the July/August mailing season has passed. Our missing personnel will be back in action next week which will relieve the pressure even more.

Today will be spent responding to my muses. Perhaps reading, perhaps genealogy, perhaps dollhouses, perhaps napping. No ominous glow of work undone emanating from my briefcase. Perhaps peace and quiet.