Thursday, May 28, 2009


Have I mentioned before how much I hate the month of May? Nothing about this May has changed the status quo.

Yesterday, just about the time I had let my guard down and decided that the May work crunch was indeed over for me, word came that one of the files I processed last week had a problem and I needed to redo it. Normally that would not have upset me too much, but as I dug into the problem I realized that a unique set of circumstances was going to make this a tough issue to resolve. Mind you, my brain had already shut down for May and was intending to coast this week. It did not appreciate hearing an alarm going off and necessitating a return to the front lines.

Still, there was nothing for it but to crank the gears and levers back into motion and I spent the better part of yesterday wrestling with the little programming snare that had landed in my lap. About 5:30 yesterday afternoon I finally had the data whipped back under control and returned to the notice assembly line.

Today was rather uneventful and I was given the good news that the last file was processed and outta here, so I geared down again in relief and have spent the day taking care of routine maintenance issues that get put aside while May is going on.

But wait - the problem file was again a problem at 2:30. WHAT?! I checked everything and all the data was set the way it was supposed to be and my calculations agreed with those of the client, so how could we still have a problem? We had a nervous few minutes until it was determined that our printer had mistakenly reprocessed the old file instead of the new file.

Every May I start out the month looking pretty hale and hearty and by May 31st I look like a trampled on little old lady. One more day and this year's nightmare should definitely be behind me.

On the lighter side, I spent some time this past weekend indulging my whimsy, which I sometimes do after stressful periods.

My mother took one look and said "Oh, my word!". I had several folks comment on this aberrant behavior come Tuesday morning, but they know me well enough to expect this kind of thing every so often. One lady and I laughed over a memory of a former co-worker who had shaken her head in disbelief when her daughter had painted her nails a bluish tint, remarking that "it just doesn't look natural!". When it was pointed out that her own red-laquered nails were no more natural than her daughter's blue ones, she had to reluctantly agree.

Now I just need to find some matching lipstick.


Monday, May 25, 2009

Popcorn and a Movie

As I headed to the theater yesterday, I was trying to remember just when I had last gone to the movies. I don't go very often because nowadays people are so rude. I'm sure everyone has experienced the "smart" man explaining the plot to the "dim" wife who he can't believe is catching the gist of things. Everyone has had their foot trod upon by the woman with the bladder problem. Everyone has heard the cell phone go off and the moron who answers it and carries on a conversation without so much as lowering his voice. Everyone has experienced the giggly group of teenage girls trying to catch the attention of the group of teenage boys.

Who needs it? No movie is enticing enough to tempt me to put up with that kind of atmosphere at $7-10 for the privilege of doing so. I would rather wait for the DVD to be released and enjoy the movie in the comfort of my own easy chair surrounded by the gentle snores of two little dogs sleeping beside me.

But, every so often I decide to take the risk. As I considered, I believe the last movie I went to see was Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and I only went because it was being shown in 3-D at the IMAX theater. I had never been to a 3-D movie before. That was at least two years ago.

Upon consideration, I figured I was fairly safe to go see Angels & Demons at the Sunday matinee. It had been at the local theater for a full week, so it should be a small crowd and there were three other movies showing that would be more likely to tempt the teenagers. I had enjoyed The DaVinci Code and I love Tom Hanks, so I decided to take the chance. I got lucky.

I settled down with a bag of popcorn and a big diet Coke and spent the next two hours being nicely entertained. There were grisly parts, but I had read the book and knew what to expect and Ron Howard generally does these kind of scenes with an elegant touch instead of just painting the screen with blood and gore. The auditorium was only about 1/3 filled with folks about my age, who probably also had waited a week in hopes that the crowd would be less annoying.

The only complaint I had was of my own doing. After swigging down a big drink, I got a bad case of chills about 20 minutes before the end and spent the remainder of the show shivering violently. But no way was I going to miss the ending. I had decided not to refresh my memory of the plot by scanning the book beforehand, which was smart. I only remembered the final plot twist a few minutes before it was revealed, so I was able to enjoy the story as it unfolded with only a dim recognition.

It will probably be another two years before I go again, but I have to say that it was a nice change of pace. Nothing like a darkened theater on a Sunday afternoon in the Texas heat. Reminds me of all those Sunday afternoons growing up, when our parents or the parents of friends would drop us at the little theater in Nixon to spend the afternoon watching the latest Disney or western movie. Those were fun times. Before cell phones and when people were still respectful enough to keep quiet and let everyone enjoy the experience.


Saturday, May 23, 2009

Turquoise Moon Revisited

New minis to add to an existing dollhouse. New camera. Time to revisit my southwestern flavored store, Turquoise Moon.

It started as a plain dollhouse shell that was sitting in a now-defunct store in Fredricksburg, Texas. The trim on the front put me in mind of the stores I liked to frequent on trips to Colorado. I also had quite a nice collection of miniature pottery and southwestern minis collected on those trips west. The name of the shop I borrowed from a little place sitting on the side of the road between Montrose and Ouray, Colorado.

I wanted a store that sold everything, from fine art to Indian kitsch. I decided the good stuff would be upstairs. The room at upper left became the showroom for my pottery collection. The pots came from all over Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico. Some are museum quality pieces and others are just mass produced minis.

The room at upper right has some fine pottery miniatures and my two mini kachinas. A third kachina is in the cabinet because it was an ultra fine miniature with a removeable mask. Brother found that on one of his trips. He also found some mini pottery shards that I also keep in the cabinet to prevent them from disappearing in a tiny crack. The upper rooms also showcase three mini bronzes and a 1/144th scale adobe scene.

The room at lower left is the room of inexpensive tourist fare. Mexican pottery, baskets, Indian rugs and the like. If you aren't an art collector, this is the room where you might find something you could afford.

Last, but not least, is the room at lower right where you would pay for your purchases and shop for Native made jewelry. I found the squash blossom necklace minis in a shop in Santa Fe. They started life as a pair of earrings. I paid a price that was most dear at the time, but I've never regretted the purchase. What is a southwestern store without some silver and turquoise jewelry?

(Look closely at the left of the counter and you will see the tiny dog peering out from behind.)

Next to my knitting shop, Turquoise Moon, is at the top of my favorite projects. I continue to add to it as I find new items that fit its design. It contains some of my best miniatures, including some true works of art. Wish I could shop there.


Friday, May 22, 2009

Coming Up for Air

At precisely 3:30 this afternoon, I completed my portion of the May work crush that descends on a small percentage of our firm every year. In the old days, before our clients became automated, the entire firm would be hard at work all month, performing data entry, manning the printers, shuffling envelopes and carting tray after tray of notices to the post office.

Nowadays the requirements are the same - certain notifications are required by statute to be mailed between May 2nd and May 31st. The number of notices that go out is still enormous. However, thanks to automation and third party mail processors, only a handful of us are still affected by the May madness. Many of our employees have no idea what is going on back in the data processing cave. The old-timers even tend to forget, until they see that manic look on my face along about May 15th and they muse, "oh, yes, it's May, isn't it?" and "not such a big deal anymore, huh?". Well, not for them. For me it's still a mad race from start to finish and there have been many years when I had to work on Memorial Day weekend.

But this year I made it to my personal finish line in time to be able to enjoy the 3-day weekend without any sense of guilt. There are still letters to be generated and sent to the mailing service, but the hard part of getting all the files in from the clients and formatted for processing (my part of the work) is done.

Whooo. Deep breath.

I celebrated by hitting two antique malls on the way home and leisurely browsing my way through without checking my watch or mulling over which files were yet to arrive.

When I got home, I took time to smell the gardenias.

It's hard to make out from this photo, but the gardenia bush at the side of the house has been going crazy this week. Each round of blooms lasts about a day. The brown spots are the previous day's blooms. There are tiny little green buds getting ready to open tomorrow. The scent of gardenia is thick and reminds you of the strong perfume your piano teacher wore on those hot afternoons when the air was still and you thought you would suffocate before your hour was up.

Down the street is a magnolia tree that is also emitting strong, sweet scent. Walking the dogs these days takes us from one pocket of perfume to another. This afternoon I was able to fully enjoy the smells of spring and the anticipation of 3 days of rest.



Monday, May 18, 2009


I am sore and stove up tonight and my poor little dogs are exhausted. What started out as a really nice walk on a lovely afternoon turned into a nightmare just as we were about to turn the last corner toward home.

A lady around the corner had her two dogs out in the yard and not on a leash. Cheerfully calling "don't worry, they won't bother you", she made no move to restrain the German shepherd and the little runt dog that looked something like a corgi. Apparently she was talking through her hat, because one look at us and her dogs were across the yard and the street like a shot, making a dive for my dogs.

And my dogs went into their customary panic when confronted by strange dogs. Thankfully her dogs were more curious than aggressive, but mine didn't know that. I was surrounded by fur and snapping and slobbering and Coco screaming and Mojo hitting the far end of the leash. The woman was trying to catch hers and they were intent on keeping the game going. I confess that I swatted the German shepherd several times, telling him to get away.

The lady is lucky I was too busy to take a swing at her. She was apologizing non-stop and saying "they never do this" and I'm thinking "you are an utter moron, woman" while trying to calm Coco down and trying to locate Mojo in the melee.

Suddenly I realized the leash was wrapping around my ankle (I have a nice cable burn there now) and the handle pulled out of my grasp and Mojo was gone, headed home as fast as his little stubby legs could carry him. The lady was still apologizing as I took off after him, hoping he didn't run out in front of one of the idiot teen-age drivers who barrel up and down our street. My neighbor was trying to figure out how to help, but Mojo was having none of it. Coco, all for running away from the wolf pack, wrapped her leash around a tree and we had to take a few precious seconds to disentangle her before dashing after Mojo again.

The guardian angels were with us. There were no cars coming. The two dogs were brought under control or lost interest in us. Mojo finally stopped and waited for us to catch up and we lurched toward the house and safety.

It took about 20 minutes for the two of them to calm down. Coco was sopping wet where the German shepherd had slobbered all over her, but she was otherwise ok. All the snapping must have been for show, because neither had any bite marks. I'm the only one who has bruises and contusions from the fracas. I have a bruised thumb and the aforementioned cable burn on my leg.

The two kids have been sticking close to me ever since, periodically smelling my leg where the strange dogs had been pressing against me in an attempt to get past. They periodically lean back against me and look at me like they are saying "damn, that was close".

Let me just say that it is not a fun place to be, caught in a snare of retractable leash lines, with two little dogs in an utter state of panic, a corgi bent on starting a rumble, and a German shepherd as big as I am trying to get through my legs to get better acquainted.

I'm still tempted to go over there and punch that woman's lights out.


Sunday, May 17, 2009

An Old Friend

My mother collected several antique clocks when I was young. We have the grandfather clock, which moved in with us in the late 1960s and carried with it quite a story, which I will have to add over on Mother's Words one of these days. It ran like a top for many, many years, but it had some problems. The bottom of the cabinet was worm eaten and we fully expected to get up one morning and find him flat on his face. The winding mechanism was also faulty and had to be handled with care else one of the heavy weights slip and crash to (and through) the floor.

There was the black mantle clock which also ran well for a good long time and then, suddenly, decided it was not going to run any longer. It had a deep "bong, bong" on the hour, which would have been more fitting in the grandfather clock. Grandfather was, instead, a tenor and sounded a high-pitched "ding, ding" when he chose to ring the hour, which wasn't necessarily on the hour. (He was also known to ring thirteen every so often.)

Both of these clocks have recently had some restoration done on them. Grandfather's base was repaired and the winding mechanism fixed. However, he doesn't seem to like where he sits in our present house and refuses to keep running. I hope to find a better place for him one of these days where he might be happier. The black mantle clock runs great when it is in the repairman's shop, but refuses to run when it's home. Again, it is probably a matter of finding the right place in the house where it will be happy.

When I was at my aunt's house last weekend, I visited an oak mantle clock that resided with us for awhile. It has a rich history, having been a family heirloom that survived the 1947 explosion in Texas City. When my parents divorced, it was returned to my aunt for safe-keeping. It still runs and I had the pleasure of listening to it sound the hours the night I spent in her house.

Mother acquired two more oak mantle clocks. One she had repaired and gave to her father. It eventually stopped working and we brought it home and tucked it in the back of a closet. The other ran for awhile, but something broke and it sat still and silent for a long time. When we moved to our new house, it too took up residence in the closet.

While clearing out the closet this weekend, I pulled the two clocks out and gave them a look. The one that had belonged to my grandfather is definitely broken and I'm considering building a miniature clock shop inside its cavity. The other looked perfectly fine and I found myself wondering just what exactly had broken and just how expensive it might be to have it repaired.

It didn't take long to discover that the striking portion of the clock is kaput. The spring must be broken because the key does nothing. However, the spring for the time portion wound easily and I decided to see just how long it would run before it quit.

It's been going for 8-1/2 hours now without missing a beat. I decided to put it in my kitchen area and it has been keeping me company all day as I worked. Its tick-tock is a nice, cheery little addition to the house and I'm hoping it will keep running.

I wish I had tried this earlier. It's been sitting silent for almost ten years now. If it keeps up the good work, I may just have to see about getting the striking mechanism repaired.


Testing, 1, 2, 3

A friend has loaned me his camera to try out. He's wanting to sell it and I'm needing a better one than I have, but not anxious to spend a fortune. I'm thinking we may just be the answer to each other's immediate camera needs.

Naturally I have tried it out with doggie photos, tombstone photos and the possibility of using it as a mobile xerox machine for photos of photos and documents I may encounter in my genealogical endeavors.

This morning we tested it for wildlife photos on the back deck.

Not bad, huh?


Wednesday, May 13, 2009

It Was Worth It

With all the traveling of the last two weekends, the diet went out the window. There is no way you can diet when you are at a family reunion, not to mention that when you are on a long road trip, you eat when and where it is convenient or where nature demands a rest stop. Most normal folks aren't considering their carb intake when they are traveling.

So, I didn't either. I indulged in a hamburger, quesadillas, corn chowder with bite-sized grilled cheese sandwiches (at my aunt's house and boy was it good), potato salad and a small plate with several samples of homemade desserts.

But the absolute best and worst of my trangressions? One of the cousins gave me a buttermilk pie to take home. I've not had a buttermilk pie in many years and I just couldn't say no.

I had good intentions. One slice was what I would allow myself and then I would take the rest of the pie to work.

Oh, my goodness. I had forgotten how wonderful buttermilk pie tastes and this one was one of the good ones. When I was growing up, Daddy was always the buttermilk pie maker at our house while I was the acknowledged expert in the apple pie department. We stuck to our specialties, so I never mastered the technique for buttermilk pie.

No way was I going to deny myself this rare treat, so I have had a slice of buttermilk pie for breakfast every morning this week. I have savored every fork full and I've had not one twinge of regret.

If you know me at all, you know I am under a crushing work load at the moment. It happens every May and I am an exhausted shadow of myself by the time the end of the month arrives. Two weekend trips back to back has contributed to my general state of exhaustion (although I would not have missed either of them). I've decided to ease up on myself until May is over and hit the diet wagon again on June 1st.

Buttermilk pie is so worth a diet hiatus.


Sunday, May 10, 2009

There's No Place Like Home

Answer: Family Reunion

Question: What extracurricular activity does a genealogist look forward to the most?

Just back from the annual Frankum family reunion and it was a rousing success. The core group of the reunion at this point in time are the first cousins who were born to five sisters and one brother: Ivy (my grandmother), Linnie, Ora, Ruby, Sam and Virgie. There were 21 first cousins originally. Five have died, including my father, and two were unable to attend this year. The remaining 14 were present and ready for action.

Hazel, the oldest of the group, is standing in the back row at left and the rest follow chronologically to the youngest of the group, Peggy, sitting at right. These first cousins are a remarkable bunch. Their parents were committed to raising them more like siblings than cousins and the relationship holds to this day. They kid each other, lend sympathetic ears to each other, and love each other without reservation. I have not one doubt that every one of them would come running to the assistance of not only each other, but to the children of the next generation. This is a bunch of people who are the personification of family.

We departed for home this morning, giving and receiving hugs and promising to see each other next year. Cousin Glynda and I rode back home together and took the scenic route, driving past family historic sites, visiting a small country cemetery, and stopping long enough for me to snap a photo of a place I remembered fondly.

The house at the end of this dirt road is not the one that stood when I was a visitor to this place, but the scene is the same. My great aunt and uncle, Ruby and Bill, lived here when I was a little girl and we would come out here for a visit a couple of times a year. The long dirt road was a favorite of mine. I could ride the bicycle they kept down to the main road and back, riding past the pond and the odd cow and revel in the breeze blowing across my face as I enjoyed a sense of independence and freedom. The place still feels like an oasis of peace, far away from the hustle and bustle of Houston, which is only about an hour away.

We arrived home earlier than expected, so I trotted over to check the dogs out of boarding a day early. This time they stayed three nights and I was assured they did just great. They seemed happy and well cared for (even got a bath while they were there). But Mojo said "There's no place like home!" and promptly went to bed for a restorative nap.


Friday, May 08, 2009

Perfect Neighbors

My aunt has the best neighbors I can imagine - short of a herd of rat terriers. Her back yard adjoins a pasture full of beautiful paint horses.

There are adults and there are babies and there are teenagers in the group. They are gorgeous. They were also curious about what on earth I was doing hanging over their fence.

I wouldn't mind some neighbors like this. It would beat the heck out of the guy down the street who works on cars and revs motors during the weekends. And the guy next door who blares his radio as he works outside. And the house full of teenagers down the street who are in and out and in and out and in and out, flush with the power of having obtained their driver licenses.

Wonder how one goes about finding neighbors like these.


Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Tea and Art Enhanced

When I saw the miniature kimono, I knew it was probably going home with me. Even though my "Tea and Art" room was completed long ago and quite full, I just felt like I would have to figure out a way to add the kimono to the scene. It would be such a nice companion to the painting of the Oriental lady in the red kimono that started the whole idea in the first place.

I was sold on the kimono even before I saw the back and the fabulous obi in the contrasting blue.

So the kimono came home with me and tonight I carefully removed the glass cover and began to rearrange. I had two other things to add to the box, so long as I was in there. I had picked up a new Buddha head, which is hard to see here, but it is sitting on the floor in front of the smaller of the glass cases.

And, if you look carefully at the floor beside the kimono, you will see a Siamese cat. I don't know why it had not occurred to me before, but the roombox was missing my signature. I always include an animal of some kind in my scenes and I had overlooked that point with this one. When I considered just what kind of animal would fit, I naturally decided it had to be a Siamese cat.

I'm not sure why I hesitated so long. The kimono was meant to come home with me.


Monday, May 04, 2009

Nothing But the Best for My Kids

Since no one was available to come stay with the children while I was cavorting in Dallas, we tried our second round of boarding. I am pleased to say it was a complete success.

I will stop and remark here that I risked leaving the cats at home alone, since I was only to be gone one night. I had trepidations, but they did very well and not a thing was shredded or knocked over or chewed on. I almost wonder if they realized I was gone. They've taken to sitting on window sills and napping under beds. It's entirely possible they thought I was just in the other room.

Mojo and Coco spent the night at a doggie spa, rather than the vet's. This was an alternate option I decided to try this time in order to be able to pick them up late on Saturday. Boarding at the vet over the weekend is a problem, since they close at noon on Saturday and there is no way to bail the little guys out until Monday morning. I just couldn't do that to them, so we tried Collie Cottage.

Apparently we have hit on a good solution because when I took them out this morning for a last run before I went to work, they offered to get in the car and ride along. They seem to have enjoyed themselves thoroughly and even mixed happily with a labrador and a border collie without going into nervous hysterics. The facility has multiple fenced yards where dogs can be separated if necessary, there is a huge playroom where they can play with the staff, and their personal kennels are roomy and comfy. They are off leash the entire time and have the run of the facility, just as they do at home, only being secured in their kennel at night.

When I picked them up, I chatted for a few minutes with the owner. Mojo kept returning to her for head pats and nose kisses while Coco ran happily around the reception area exploring. They were happy to see me but not delirious like they had been when I picked them up at the vet's.

Yes, it may cost a little more. Sort of like the difference between a Holiday Inn Express and a Hilton. But it takes a load off my mind to know they are happy and getting loads of personal attention.

Maybe I can stop worrying about my kids when I travel and start enjoying myself without guilt.


Sunday, May 03, 2009

Rich Golden Butter

Still on the subject of miniatures, from time to time I find great little pieces to add to a kitchen vignette that is to be constructed inside a wooden breadbox. I have been fortunate to find some really outstanding pieces by talented artists and I'm getting close to putting the whole thing together and finalizing the project.

The trip to Dallas netted me another great addition to the project. If you are a miniaturist, you undoubtedly know about Judee Williamson and her business partner Nicole Walton Marble. Judee is the authority on dressing beds and Nicole works magic with wood. I had no idea that I would be able to afford to add one of their pieces to my collection, but when I passed their booth, I spotted a little butter mold. It reminded me of the full-sized antique butter mold in my own kitchen and it reminded me of my grandmother who made butter and sold it to the local grocery when I was a little girl.

I wavered. I wavered until the lady (who turned out to be Nicole herself) remarked that it was the last one she had. I broke a record pulling the cash from my pocket and the little butter mold came home to take its place in the kitchen project, which I hope to be able to present here soon.

Marvelous piece of work.


Saturday, May 02, 2009

Mini Bliss

Just back from attending the Texas Miniatures Showcase 2009 in Dallas. What fun! The hotel runneth over with other mini-addicts and two large show rooms were packed with dealers who were selling unique mini-treasures you just can't find anywhere else. Well, that's not strictly true since many of the dealers have Internet websites. However, I certainly prefer to see what I'm buying up close before I plunk down my money.

And money I did plunk down. Right and left. I brought in two small sacks to show for it and only another miniaturist can understand the investment that represents. I brought home things to add to almost all my current projects and some of my long since completed projects. (Are projects ever really completed?)

I acquired cakes and sweets to add to my black and white tea room which is the current project in progress.

I acquired a 1/4-inch scale spinning wheel to add as a novelty display in my 1-inch scale knitting shop.

I acquired a cowhide chair, a pair of Talaveras candlesticks and an Indian basket to add to the Southwestern store.

I acquired a pair of Groucho Marx glasses, an oil drum and a still to add to the M*A*S*H mini Swamp I am planning as my next project.

I acquired a Mexican pottery bowl and a pinata for the Mexican Restaurant that is also a current project in progress.

I acquired some landscaping items for the cemetery box, which will soon hit the work table.

I acquired a fancy fireplace for "Inn the Pink", my Bed & Breakfast project.

I acquired some booty and swords for the Pirate ship.

I acquired a line of wash for a washroom project I have in mind.

I acquired a kit for a dollhouse sized terrarium that I have no idea where it will find a home, but I needed that terrarium and the kit was much less expensive than the completed ones they had for sale.

I acquired a couple of cats and a chihuahua.

I acquired a lovely kimono to add to the Oriental art vignette.

And last, but not least, I picked up two and a half years worth of old Nutshell News magazines that predate my several years' worth of issues from the 1970s and 1980s.

Oh, yes, I acquired photos:

My newly acquired stash

An outstanding dollhouse on display that is hard to believe.
It is a mini mansion and contains $5,000 worth of custom stained glass.

The floors are inlaid wood and the curved staircase is to die for.
There is a greenhouse on the top floor with leaded window skylights.
Another dealer had room boxes full of great detail.
I was particularly taken with the Mad Scientist's laboratory.

And I loved the old garage.

This is an event that is great fun for those of us who think tiny. We have been unable to attend the last couple of years because it usually clashes with a family reunion I refuse to miss. The reunion was shifted to a different date this year, so we hustled ourselves to Dallas and drowned our senses with inspiration from the work of true mini artisans who are so talented they almost make you feel like you yourself are all thumbs.

We were delighted to hear that next year's Showcase will be held on a later weekend in May and we will be able to attend again. Can't wait. I will be pooling all loose change beginning today in anticipation.