Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Santa Makes an Early Delivery

Got up this morning and guess what I found under my Christmas tree?

Santa's elves did an outstanding job assembling the Adirondack Cabin Kit I purchased many, many years ago. I made a half-hearted stab at building this little cabin way back when and was horrified by the instructions to cut the pile of individual logs into the appropriate lengths to make staggered edges at the corners. I have killed two scroll saws in my time, but the prospect of all those logs to cut just boggled my crafty mind. I stuffed everything back into the box and put it on the long-range project list.

From time to time I would encounter one of these kits fully assembled in a store and remind myself of the hidden treasure sitting in my garage and then shudder again at the idea of all those logs to cut.

So, when a friend offered to take on the project, I jumped at the chance. I have a seriously intense desire to own a full-size log cabin for my retirement years, but I know that is probably never going to happen, so having a miniature is the next best thing.

I am tickled at the results and eager to begin the painting and finishing phases.

The challenge now is what or who will move into the new dollhouse? I had originally planned for it to be a mountain getaway or bed & breakfast, but I'm not sure. Maybe an Appalachian crafts center? Maybe an early Texas family cabin? (Although it really would need a dogtrot to make that picture authentic.)

Christmas vacation is coming up. Maybe I will spend a few days painting log cabins and churches and completing the Mexican restaurant.

So many little time to work on them. I really need to retire!


Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Further Indulgences

Time is flying these days. Thanksgiving sped by in a blur and was followed immediately by a quick genealogy research trip to Houston. Lana and I spent 3 days in the company of cousin Maxine, talking genealogy non-stop and including one day in the Clayton Library (where I found very little, but enjoyed myself nonetheless). Cousin Maxine is beginning to downsize her massive collection of genealogy books and related materials and sent me home with 3 full boxes to add to my own rapidly growing research library. (My goal for retirement is to have to travel no further than the home office when I get the research itch.)

Headed to Houston, Big Red was fully loaded with our luggage, computer bags, research notebooks, two dog carriers (the dogs having been dropped at the vet's for boarding as we passed through Elgin), a small cooler, a bag of snacks and my sleeping bag. Before we got to our destination, we added 4 bottles of wine acquired from a stop at the Haak Winery in Santa Fe, an errand added to our agenda to fulfill a co-worker's wish for a particular vintage not available in Austin.

When it came time to pack for the return trip, it was a bit of a challenge to fit in an additional 3 boxes of books, but I am a veteran packer and Big Red was soon filled snugly to the rafters. We headed home, shifting gears on the way back to stop at a new dollhouse store on the outskirts of Houston. At least, we thought, anything we bought would be small and there would be no problem fitting it in. What we had not bargained for was a huge used-book store right next door to the dollhouse store. Even with 3 boxes of books weighing down the rear of the car, you can not keep me out of a used book store. Fortunately we kept our miniature impulses pretty much in check, although Lana indulged herself in a small roombox (I managed to talk myself out of the small dollhouse shell that set me drooling) and I acquired a half-dozen paperback books.

We made one final shopping stop at the antique mall in Elgin, where we added yet another few small items to the mix, then picked up the dogs and Dixie at the vet. We had saved the necessary space for Dixie's carrier and we squeezed the dogs back into their carriers, but there was not any space left in Big Red on that final leg home. I had to postpone the purchase of the special cat food I get at the vet's, because there was no way I was going to be able to fit the bag into the car.

With Christmas looming like the sword of Damocles, I have discovered that the ongoing allergy to crowds I have suffered the past year has intensified to the red zone. It is fortunate that I have very few gifts to purchase this year because the malls are out of the question and even the thought of shopping on the Internet is giving me the hives. Instead, while others dash off for lunch hour shopping sprees to the nearby outlet stores, I migrate to the serene quiet of antique stores. (If you are one of the few on my gift list, do not question the musty scent emitting from your package. My shopping is direct from Grandma's attic.)

As usual, I am finding more for myself than for those on the gift list. Yesterday I spent a nice relaxing hour at the Round Rock Antique Mall and came home with three treasures.

Find number one was a perky little vintage hat that fits like it was made for me, which is more rare than you might think. I have a huge head. It is black, edged with sequins and sporting a big net bow at the side.

Treasure number two is a vintage evening bag in perfect condition, heavy with cream seed beads and including an elaborate flower design front and back. (It should go great with that vintage cream suit I picked up recently in Smithville.)

And, finally, a wonderful glass powder box with a clear bottom and cobalt blue glass lid.

You may or may not know that I have a surfeit of cobalt glass tucked away in the storage closet. Mother was an avid collector of cobalt and for many years it was an easy solution for Christmas and birthday shopping to add to her collection. Cobalt glass was not my personal thing, but I've watched for unique pieces for so many years that I continue to naturally gravitate toward them. When I saw this little powder jar, I knew it had to come home with me.

When I bought my little oak vanity last year in Round Top, I began to assemble a dresser set from the antique glass on hand. I decided it was high time some of the pieces I like came out of the storage closet so I could enjoy having it around me. For the tray I decided to use an antique, pressed glass bread tray. I finally have a place to put the cut glass perfume bottle I've owned for years. When it came to an appropriate container for my powder, I had so far been stumped. Now I have the perfect piece to fill that purpose and it also reminds me of many happy antique jaunts with Mother. I am getting much enjoyment from surrounding myself with these little antique pieces and have come to that point in my life where I would rather risk the possibility of breakage than have these little treasures packed away in the closet where they are never seen.

So, to others the holiday season may be about crowded malls. To me, this Christmas is about enjoying the peace and quiet whereever I can find it and enjoying the treasures of hand-me-downs, whether they be second-hand books or vintage clothing or antique glassware dragged out of the storage closet. I love connecting to the past.

Happy Holidays! May your Christmas shopping be as satisfying as mine has been.


Sunday, November 21, 2010

A Kinky Sunday

Today I headed to the Elgin Public Library to attend one of their regular literary events. A few weeks ago I attended a program by Susan Wittig Albert, a local author who writes a mystery series I like, and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. So, when I heard that Kinky Friedman was the featured author for their last event of the year, I decided to attend even though I've never read any of his books.

I wasn't sure what to expect. Kinky Friedman walks to the beat of a different drum and I was a little apprehensive that there could be a low turn out. I think Kinky might not have known what to expect either. I eavesdropped on a conversation between the young couple sitting in front of me and one of the library staff just before the program started. The staffer commented that Kinky was getting ready to come out and was nervous about the coming talk. She said everyone was relieved to see the good crowd that had shown up.

Nobody should have worried. The room wasn't packed, but it was comfortably full. Kinky came in to enthusiastic applause and the atmosphere was like a gathering of good friends. He entertained us with anecdotes and stories for twenty or thirty minutes and then read one of the stories in his new book, Heroes of a Texas Childhood. Everyone was laughing and enjoying themselves.

Afterward just about everyone headed for the line to buy a book, get an autograph, and get a chance to speak to Kinky. I passed the time in the line chatting with a lady who had sat in front of me. We never exchanged names, but we had a good time as we waited our turns.

I passed up the opportunity to have my photo taken with Kinky and the photo I snapped with my cell phone was blurry, so I wasn't able to get a picture for the blog. You will have to make do with visiting his website,

The afternoon was quite enjoyable except for one little cloud on the horizon. Just after I arrived, I headed to the refreshment table and poured myself a small glass of lemonade. And promptly dropped it. I apologized profusely and the ladies were super kind about my clumsy move. I got the idea I might not have been the first one to have a problem. Those glasses were slippery.


Saturday, November 20, 2010

Quilts and Hats and a White Dress

Today's DAR meeting included a program on American Heritage in quilts. A true artist in quilting brought a collection of quilts, quilted vests and quilted wall hangings she had made to illustrate the craft. She had the members oohing and ahing and clapping their approval as she unveiled each of her masterpieces.

I was one of two members elected to help hold up the quilts for display (I think because I was one of the youngest and one of the tallest members at today's meeting). It gave me an opportunity to really examine each of the quilts front and back and they were fantastic specimans. Many had won awards in quilting competitions and one had traveled to Washington D.C. to be included in a national DAR exhibit.

The quilt she used as the focal point throughout the presentation was a pinwheel quilt made with a Texas wildflower fabric.

One of the mini-quilts/wall hangings caught my attention. It spoke directly to the miniaturist in me. Nine miniature vests on "wire" hangers, each opening to reveal a contrasting lining with a watch pocket and a charm that could be tucked into the pocket.

I could almost wish that I had learned to quilt somewhere in my past, but I hate sewing with machine or by hand, so it is a craft that I will never be tempted to add to my resume. But I can sure appreciate good work when I see it and this was an opportunity to see some really fine work. It also has made me ponder how to display some of the quilts in my possession that were made by my grandmother Hodge. I would love to rotate them as coverlets on my bed, but I don't know that they could hold up to the pesky cat problem that persists in my house.

The meeting actually broke up a little early today, so I wandered down the street to check out a couple of my favorite shops in downtown Smithville before heading home. I knew I was in trouble as soon as I stepped inside the door of Feathering Your Nest.

This little store is unique. There is shabby chic combined with Victorian combined with kitschy to be found in the little nooks and crannies. I have frequently picked up items there that I really did not need but just could not resist. One time it was an ostrich feather fan. Another time it was a Battenburg lace parasol that I purchased on a whim and took with me to a grave marker dedication a few months back to use as a sun screen. I figured it would get me some odd looks, but I was really surprised how many of the women attending came up and asked me where they could get one for themselves.

My idea today was to look at hats. There is a "Hats and Bonnets" function of the DRT in the not too distant future and I have been on the lookout for a jaunty chapeau to wear to the event. I was poking my way to the back of the store when I glanced up and saw a beautiful cream suit with lace sleeves and gorgeous rhinestone buttons hanging in one of the bedroom displays. I admired it, looked and did not find a size or price tag, and wandered off, only to return to touch and admire it again. It appeared to be raw silk, or maybe rayon, and it was in beautiful condition if it was a vintage piece.

I knew I did not need this beautiful suit, but I had to know more about it, so I hauled it to the front and quizzed the clerk. Was it vintage? Yes, it belonged to the grandmother of a friend of hers and had just been brought in the previous day. The original owner had been a lawyer's wife, quite well-to-do, and had many of her clothes custom made (which would explain the lack of tags). Did she know what size it was? She thought she had been told it was a 14, but since sizes have changed over time it might be a 12. Could I take it off the hanger and hold it up to see if it might fit? She generously offered to let me try it on in the small restroom at the rear of the store.

I slipped into the blouse and it snuggled against me like it had been made for me. I really did not expect the skirt to fit, but I shucked my jeans and went ahead with the fitting. The skirt fit perfectly. I told myself I had absolutely nothing coming up that would call for such a fancy outfit, but I knew I was sunk. The price was ridiculously low and I figured eventually I would encounter a need to dress up a little. So now I own a cream, possibly silk, suit. Somebody invite me to a fancy dinner.

Having talked myself into an outfit I did not need, I should have known it was one of those days. In the same store I stumbled across a suitcase full of vintage hats (I got the black velvet hat with black net accent) and a new hat of white crochet with purple flowers and feathers. At least I have a need for one of these soon. The bad thing is, once I got home and tried them on, I decided I like the look. One more thing to start paying attention to while out antiquing. I have a feeling that I will be well equipped for Hats and Bonnets luncheons for years to come.

My little spurt of shopping done, I picked up take out Mexican food and headed home. A good day got better with a long nap on the couch. I sure wasn't going to risk another back injury with any old housework.

Tomorrow I have an outing to the Elgin library to attend another author talk and book signing. And maybe a stop at the Antique Mall.


Monday, November 01, 2010

Pushed Out

A person's home is their castle? Hah! Around here the pets rule.

Every step I take in my so-called castle is observed by one or more sets of eyes. Even a trip to the bathroom is supervised as one after the other of my five dictators comes into the room, looks at me thoughtfully, and leaves. My time in the shower is a spectator event, with one cat perched on the toilet lid, another on the bathmat and the third sitting on the sink, while the two dogs make patrols through the house and appear occasionally in the bathroom door to let me know that all is secure.

This weekend I took it easy, trying to coax the unhappy muscles in my back to unkink. I sat down to catch up on the back log of DVR recordings. I had a little bit of trouble seeing the picture.

Getting ready to leave for work is always a challenge. Last week I went to the closet to get a pair of hose out of one of the lingerie bins and ran into a cat who informed me that sandals are still appropriate wear for mid-November.

After dislodging her from her comfortable spot in my hosiery bin, I returned to the bedroom to find that Coco was lying across the outfit I had waiting on the bed.

On those days that I work from home, at least I don't have to wrestle for the clothes to put on my back. I just have to wriggle into the available space in my desk chair.

And the idea I had for putting a comfortable seat in the office for my use to curl up and read? I have yet to find it unoccupied.

After a long day of constantly trying and failing to live up to the expectations of the folks in charge around here, I head to bed and it's a whole 'nother battle to find a place for my weary head.

My home is a castle. I fulfill the roles of chef, laundry maid, jester and general serf. I live to serve.


Saturday, October 23, 2010

Tired and Inspired

Good news! There is art for every taste.

I'm grateful that a co-worker friend of mine happened to notice that today was Art on the Green, held on the lawn of the Bastrop courthouse. I had not gotten around to reading the local paper and had no idea it was taking place. She suggested she drive down and we would go see what there was to see.

It was small, as art fairs go, but full of interesting items for sale, plus live music from the gazebo. While we were there, the Patterson Brothers were performing in a style very reminiscent of the late Rusty Wier. I was tapping my foot and swaying my way from tent to tent, inspecting jewelry, paintings, pottery and sculpture.

I appreciate art, but I don't consider myself an artist. Mother was an artist and could draw anything. She could also take a lump of clay and quickly turn it into a recognizable object. If I attempt to draw anything, it looks like the output of a pre-schooler. Put a lump of clay in my hands and it ends up looking like a lump of clay, but not as pretty as the lump I started with.

My artistic interest runs more to knitting and the ability to create dollhouse vignettes, not that I ever really considered that to be artistic. Until today, that is.

I rounded a corner and entered a tent and was immediately spellbound. One of the artists, a member of the local Arts Guild, works in the medium of dioramas. And her dioramas were miniature vignettes similar to the kinds of displays I create, only they were all designed to fit neatly into standard shadow-box frames. There was a scene of a wheatfield, with a barbed wire fence in the foreground and a rustic red barn in the background. There was a scene depicting a dirt road leading to a covered bridge, with a brick wall and autumn foliage. There were scenes of houses and a garden scene with a tiny gazebo. These were true works of art, with wonderful use of perspective to draw the eye into the scene and lead it into the distance.

I knew I had to have one. I was enchanted with the lady's work and she was delighted to discuss the materials she had used to get the right effects. We discussed scale modeling and she even expressed an interest in seeing my work. I studied each of the dozen or so of these little worlds that were for sale, trying to decide which of them I liked the most. I wanted the wheatfield, because it reminded of me my grandparents' farm. I wanted the covered bridge because the scene was just so perfect. I wanted the garden scene because the little gazebo was complete down to the verdigris roof. I wanted them all.

The one I ended up with was not one I thought I would be bringing home, but I kept returning to it and admiring the unique composition. A window within the window of the frame, and offset on an angle, showing a glimpse of lace curtain and a potted plant beyond.

This encounter with a true artist in my world of miniature vignettes has given me new inspiration. As much as I love dollhouses, I also very much enjoy creating vignettes with a "slice of life" scene. Ideas are beginning to buzz around in my head.

As I wandered around the art show, clutching my prize, I was stopped more than once by other artists inquiring "which one did you get?". They would nod approvingly, then go on to ask, "did you see the one....?". This lady's work had been getting a lot of attention. I am quite pleased with my art acquisition.

From the art show, we strolled downtown, visiting antique shops and dropping into gift shops. When hunger finally caught up with us, we decided to try the new Cajun restaurant. It was a great choice and we left stuffed to our limits with shrimp and boudin balls and dirty rice. We decided we needed to walk some more to compensate for the big meal and wandered into a store that was doling out free wine in real crystal stemware.

It may have been a spur of the moment decision to attend the art fair, but it was an inspired decision. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

Art. It's a good thing.


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Work is Bliss (Sometimes)

I do love the days that I work from home. The top ten reasons I love working from home:

10) I get to sleep an hour later. (No need to jump out of bed and rush around getting dressed.)

9) I can wear shorts and a tee-shirt to the office.

8) Heck, I can wear my nightgown all day if I want.

7) I don't have to make the 110 mile round trip commute. No driving, no tolls, no idiot drivers to contend with, no gas consumption.

6) I don't have to pack a lunch or go out to get lunch. I just have to walk to the kitchen.

5) I can arrange for repairmen or deliveries to arrive on a normal working day. No paying extra for weekends.

4) Five minutes after the end of the work day, I can settle down for a nap.

3) I can watch the roadrunners busy at work just outside my office window.

2) I have a standing appointment twice a month to see my massage therapist at the end of my work day. (She's 5 minutes down the street.)

1) My best assistant is always on the job.


Sunday, October 10, 2010

Weekend Wanderings

Getting a little bit out of chronological order, I will back up to last Sunday and give you a book report.

Back in April of 2009 I wrote about attending a book signing in Smithville where I met a favorite author, Susan Wittig Albert, who lives in Bertram and writes the China Bayles mystery series. I happened to catch wind that she was giving another book talk and signing in Elgin last Sunday, coinciding with the release of not one but two books. I so enjoyed hearing her speak before that I looked forward to another chance to hear some of her stories of how she got into the writing profession.

She was just as entertaining the second time around. She is so down to earth and so full of funny stories that I could have spent the afternoon listening to her. I picked up her two new books, plus a writer's guide on how to jump start your writing. Mrs. Albert is one of the founders of the Story Circle Network which encourages women writers and the writer's guide was a product of her work with that group. I figured it might help me get back into the blog habit, which I've been sadly neglecting of late.

Mrs. Albert has quite a following in Central Texas. Just as in Smithville, the room filled up with folks who were very familiar with her books and kept her busy during the question and answer session following her talk. As I was making my book purchase, I was surprised to hear my name called and there in the front row were two of my fellow DRT members. (We had the opportunity at the DRT meeting this past Friday to compare reading notes and it turns out we have very similar tastes in authors. I got a couple of good author leads from one of the ladies.) As I waited for the talk to begin, a stranger behind me struck up a conversation when she observed that I had selected an unusual cookie from the refreshment table. The cookie obviously contained some kind of herb that was most unusual for a cookie and we speculated on what it might be before moving on to a discussion about her former life as a third grade teacher. It was another of those chance encounters that turned out to be a most entertaining diversion. Afterwards I made a point to inquire about those cookies and discovered they were Butter Basil cookies. They were superb and I would love to have the recipe.

Fast forwarding to this weekend, last night I met up with a group of co-workers and friends of co-workers at a local Sports Bar where we had drinks and appetizers before proceeding on to the Bastrop Opera House to watch one of our own perform in a play. With 20-20 hindsight, I should never have had that frozen margarita. It was v-e-r-y strong and my head was a little bit swimmy when we headed to the theater. I think I would have been okay, except for one thing. The play (actually two one-act plays by Eugene Ionesco) was from the Theater of the Absurd. I had never heard of the Theater of the Absurd and it was quite a shock. The dialogue was incredibly difficult to follow, full of disjointed phrases and illogical thought. With a head clouded with too much tequila, it pretty much sounded like Greek by the time it got to my brain.

I managed to stay with the first play pretty well, even if it didn't make sense. Unfortunately our co-worker was a character in the second play. My head kept getting swimmier and although there were brief pockets of humor that came through clearly (and most of them involved our friend's character), I never did really figure out what was going on and I had a devil of a time staying awake. There was no way I was going to be able to go with my friends for a post theater drink, so I said my good-byes and headed home to bed. While I enjoyed the fellowship of the evening, all I can say is that the Theater of the Absurd will have to get along without me. There for awhile I began to understand what senility feels like from the inside. After reading about the two plays on Wikipedia and learning that they aren't supposed to make sense and that they remain very popular in France, I begin to understand why the French are so enamored of Jerry Lewis. They just have an incredibly odd sense of humor. I'm not sure I would have known what was going on if I had been handed a copy of the plays and could have read along with the performance. Oh, well, one must make a point to seek out new experiences. The experience I gained will lead me to run like crazy in the opposite direction the next time I hear the phrase "Theater of the Absurd".

Just not enough French blood flowing in my veins, I guess.


Saturday, October 09, 2010

The Little Car That Can

Lately I have been fighting some back issues that won't seem to go away. Thanks to a good chiropractor and a good massage therapist, I get periodic relief, but it has become increasingly clear to me that the problem is I spend way too much time in front of a computer.

I had decided that I need a new chair for my home office (and probably one at my work office, as well, but I'm going to see if I can't get the company to pay for that one) that would offer better support for my aging back. This morning when I headed toward the furniture store in Smithville, I did not really think I would find a suitable chair. I had in mind to purchase a new mattress and box spring set. The one I've been sleeping on for the past TWENTY or more years has more than given my money's worth and I made up my mind that I deserved a new bed for my new antique bedstead. And the furniture store was having a great, big sale. I do love sales.

Before I went bed shopping, I strolled around the store to see what else might catch my eye. I had been there less than 5 minutes when I heard a seductive whistle from the vicinity of the office furniture. There sat a beautiful chair that I knew would fit in with my antiques. I sauntered over, gave it a good examination and then sat down. Oh, my goodness. It was soft. It had lumbar support. It had an oak pedestal. It had decorative metal studs. I was in love.

Next to the chair was a very nice barrister's bookcase that was giving me the come-hither, but close examination of it led me to believe I could do better in the bookcase department, so I sat back down for another blissful, cushiony moment and then made myself get up and go in search of the bed department.

After twenty years, I was in for a bit of sticker shock at the current price of mattresses. Once I had recovered from that, I proceeded to lie down, roll around, briefly close my eyes, and savor the comfort of about a dozen mattresses. (I was not the only one performing this weird little ritual. The sale brought out lots and lots of shoppers.) I settled on a mid-price set by Sealy, with a cloud top and a latex foundation. I was very tempted to take a nap right there in the store, it was so comfortable.

The mattress had to be ordered (I get the distinct impression that few people purchase full mattresses these days and in fact even after I specified full, the salesman wrote down queen, which fortunately we discovered before I left the store). The chair, however, was ready to go home with me, provided we could squeeze it into Big Red.

Now, Big Red is deceptive to the casual observer. You would not believe how much you can haul in my baby when you put the back seats down. I had absolute confidence that the chair would slide right in and I would be on my way.

But the awkward angle of the chair back made it impossible to close the hatch top. The men helping me load were standing around considering how easy it would be to disassemble the pedestal and I was getting more apprehensive about how well I would be able to re-assemble it when I got home. That's when I pointed out the nice little anchor rings in the floor of the cargo area and suggested we let me get my bungee cords out of the storage well to hold the hatch down. After all, I only had to drive 11 miles. That was all the go-ahead they needed and before I could blink twice, they had conjured up some twine and had me safe and secure for the ride home.

The only hitch in the whole proceedings was when I unloaded the chair and knocked one of the wooden leg covers off. It took me awhile to figure out how the things fitted onto the metal legs.

I soon had the new member of the household in place and Mojo and I have been trying it out all afternoon. I think it will be a great comfort to my achy back.

The fine weather has brought a resurrection to my soul. After weeks of allergy troubles and back troubles, I have not felt like doing much. But today, once I was home and had Big Red unloaded, I fell in and began clearing out the front flower beds that have gotten so wild over the long, hot summer. While Coco sun-bathed on the back deck, Mojo stood guard as I pulled weeds and cut down errant tree sprouts. We feel a little less like worthless couch potatoes this afternoon. (Coco is still a worthless couch potato. That girl knows how to avoid work in favor of a nice nap in the sun.)

Tonight I head out to see a co-worker in a new play at the Opera House. A group from the office is meeting for some pre-performance appetizers. I fully expect to thoroughly enjoy the evening.

Too bad that the new mattress isn't here yet. It would have been the perfect ending to a very nice day.


Sunday, September 12, 2010


Yesterday I woke up with a major back ache. It has been coming on for several weeks and it finally hit with a vengeance. I've spent most of the weekend in reclining position with either a heating pad or an ice pack on the stubborn muscle that refuses to relax.

I almost decided to pass on the scheduled marker dedication being made by the Baron de Bastrop chapter of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas to honor the only Real Daughter buried in Bastrop County. A Real Daughter is defined as a woman who was a member of DRT and only the first generation away from her patriot ancestor. Bastrop County's real daughter was Mary Turner Billingsley, buried in McDade Cemetery.

At the last minute, I masked the pain with a dose of ibuprofen and headed for McDade.

My recent activity with the DRT and the DAR and the Smithville Genealogy Society and the Bastrop and Elgin Historical Societies means that I am beginning to be recognized by some of the historians of Bastrop County. As soon as I arrived, I had a nice conversation with Audrey Rother, head of the McDade museum and someone who has a lot of knowledge of the McDade Pottery industry founded by my great-great-great-granduncle Mathew Dunkin in the late 1800s. Then I chatted with Evelyn Wolf, our DRT chapter's registrar and who has been heavily involved with documenting Bastrop County history most of her life.

Next, I was surprised to see a distant Mobley cousin, Cathy Smith and her husband Gordon, who not too long ago was a weatherman with an Austin television station. I have visited with Cathy several times in the past, comparing notes on our Mobley connection, but this was the first time I had met Gordon and I thoroughly enjoyed talking to him at the reception following the ceremony. We had a nice, long conversation about the growth of Austin in the past 30 years and about their home they built in the country between Smithville and Bastrop. They are both very nice folks and I'm proud to be related to them.

A nice crowd of about 30 attended the dedication ceremony. The Baron de Bastrop chapter had purchased and applied a special medallion to Mary Turner Billingsley's tombstone.

At the end of the dedication, a gun salute was given by members of the Sons of the Republic of Texas.

This group of men were very sweet and very entertaining. After the ceremony, they posed with various of our chapter's members and with the members of the Billingsley family who attended.

The little lady in the center of the photo is the granddaughter of Mary Billingsley. I regret that I can't remember her name, because later on at the church where the reception was held, she walked into the fellowship hall and made a beeline for me. "Now who are you?", she asked me. I tried to decide how far back to go with my local ancestors to find a reference she might know. I started with my great-grandmother Hodge who lived in McDade most of her life. No, she did not know Cora Hodge, but there were some other Hodges she knew. I jumped a generation and asked if she knew Horace and Lucy Hodge. Her face brightened and she said "Yes, I knew them! They had a bunch of smart kids." We chatted another minute or two about exactly how I fit into the picture and then she moved on to charm some of the other folks in the room.

After grabbing a glass of iced tea and a small snack, I chanced to sit down by a couple of ladies who were talking about the local historical society activities. It was not long before I was in the conversation and it turned out that one of the women was the president of the Elgin Historical Society. When I said I was a member, she immediately demanded to know who I was. I jumped yet another generation and found that she had attended school with my Uncle Larry and she knew my cousin Keri. I had a really good time chatting about some of the things the society is working on.

About the time I ran out of conversation, slaked my thirst with 2 or 3 glasses of iced tea, and felt the ibuprofen beginning to wear off, I made my departure and headed home. The ache in my back reasserted itself and Mojo, Coco, Dixie and I spent the remainder of the day lying in bed and applying heat and ice to that stubborn muscle.

I might have been better off spending the whole day in bed, but I am so glad that I made the trip to McDade. These opportunities to mingle with others interested in local history is a rare treat and a true privilege.


Tuesday, September 07, 2010

New Project

Many of you are aware that I have a secret hoard of dollhouse kits, not to mention the things to put in them if I ever get the things built. Lately I had begun to feel a sense of hopelessness with regard to those boxes of wood pieces. With the way my life has been going the last few years, I no longer have the time that is necessary to construct my little buildings. (I will have no problem keeping busy in my retirement years. All I will have to do is go to the garage and pull out another dollhouse kit.)

The problem is that I really don't care for the construction phase. I like the finishing and decorating phase. But you have to get the things built before you can get to the fun part. So, when the offer came from a friend of a friend a few weeks back to take on the construction phase of a kit or two, allowing me to jump right to the part of the process I like, I jumped at the chance. Today the first of the dollhouses came back home, ready for decorating.

My fingers are already itching to get to work.

Notice the stained glass?

There is even a bell in the belfry.

What I don't know yet is whether this will contain a church scene or whether I will follow the inspiration I received a couple of years back on a visit to Marion, Kentucky. The historical society in Marion has taken over a historic church and turned it into a museum. Lana and I really enjoyed poking through the museum for a couple of hours and while we enjoyed our surroundings, I kept thinking about the church dollhouse kit that was sitting in the corner of the garage. Maybe I will emulate the historical society and create a mini-museum.

I had never seen this particular kit assembled. I had only seen photos. I had no idea what a great dollhouse was hiding in that box in the corner of the garage. Clapboard siding effect is built into the walls. There is a circular window at the top center of the front and the back walls. The windows that march down the side have curved tops. The interior of the building has a cathedral ceiling. The roof and belfrey are covered in wooden shakes. From bottom floor to tip of the belfrey is almost 4 feet.

There is so much potential here. And my mind is abuzz with possibilities. First of all I have to decide what color this little country church is supposed to be.

Many thanks to Bob for the excellent job in assembling this dollhouse. He still has the Adirondack log cabin kit. I can't wait.


Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Have a Seat

Awhile back I decided it was time to find a new sofa for the family room. I was just tired of the sofas we had brought with us from the old house, but I wasn't sure what style I wanted instead. I went ahead and found a new home for the old sofas and in the meantime filled in the empty spaces with the double-sized red chair from the study and two pieces I had purchased on impulse when a local furniture store was going out of business, a red flowered chair and a chaise. I went from having way more seating than I needed to not having enough seating if more than 2 people stopped by for a visit.

Sofa shopping was not as easy as I had thought it would be. It turns out that I really don't like the styles that apparently are very popular these days. I hate, hate, hate recliners, which are now frequently built into sofas. I hate the traditional 3-cushion over-stuffed sofas. While I appreciate the look of a nice leather sofa, I don't want one myself because they seem cold and uninviting. Time passed and I was still making do with my 3 big chairs and losing hope that I would find a sofa that I could embrace with enthusiasm. I even considered buying an antique setee and having it re-upholstered.

A few weeks ago I impulsively stopped at a little furniture store in neighboring Smithville, thinking I would see if they had any bookshelves I could use for the bedroom. I found to my surprise that they carried a wide variety of good brands and that their showroom was about three times what I had expected. I browsed around, finding quite a few things of interest, including bookshelves. I had about decided the sofa issue would have to stay on hold for awhile longer, when I turned the corner and saw exactly what I wanted - a couch with old-fashioned lines that would meld into my eclectic assortment of antiques and also keep company well with the big flowered chair.

I don't know why I didn't buy it immediately, but I left it behind that day. I kept thinking about it, though. This past weekend I decided I should go back and see if it was still there and still spoke to me. It was and it greeted me with a "where the heck have you been?" The time had come and I took the plunge. It was delivered this morning and oozed into place like it was meant to have been here all along.

The rocker you see at the end of the couch was one I fell in love with the minute I saw it. They had just put it on the showroom floor that morning and I guess it was kismet. When I saw it, it fairly screamed at me from across the room. When I sat in it, it hit me in all the right places. I had no hesitation this time and I added it to the day's purchase. I love how it too has old-fashioned lines and how it blends in with both the couch and the chair.

Mojo and I have taken quite a few breaks today and are both delighted with this little rocker. He can sprawl in my lap, get rocked to sleep, and then just barely open his eyes to peer out through the front window and check on things. Coco was delighted with the couch and the way it sets off her tawny beauty to perfection.

I'm just delighted, period. Now if you stop by, there will be a comfortable place to "set a spell".

The cats have been warned they had better not get any ideas about breaking it in. They just gave me their Cheshire cat smiles.


Monday, August 02, 2010

Almost Back to Normal

For weeks I have felt slightly under the weather. Nothing I could put my finger on. Just blah. I'm fairly sure that my problem is rooted in allergies (all this rain we've had - which I'm NOT complaining about - has the mold count way up there) and I finally caved in last week and started taking a daily antihistimine. It was with a great deal of relief that I woke up Saturday morning and felt almost normal.

I decided to take advantage of this rare burst of energy and good feeling and set about getting some long neglected items checked off my to-do list. Bright and early Saturday morning I was out mowing the yard, followed by a half-hour's toil of pulling up clumps of weed grass against the house and wielding my pruning shears against assorted tree sprouts. I was pretty much wiped out by the end of that, but a shower and a bottle of water brought me back to life and I was ready to go again.

I decided it was time to check on the sofa I've had my eye on at the furniture store in Smithville and so long as I was going to Smithville, I figured I might as well check out Antique Row on Main Street. I found a few small items to add to the household, but the highlight of the Main Street tour was walking into a favorite store and spotting the display they had set up just inside the door.

I know you've seen the portrait of the poker-playing dogs somewhere. When I walked into the store, there sat the scene recreated at an antique table. Stuffed dogs were sitting around the table, each with a pile of milk bone chips and each with a card hand. These were Old West gamblers, with a six-shooter sitting at one dog's elbow. A little dog, who needed a book to sit on to bring him to table height, had an ace protruding from the book and ready if he needed it. I took one look, laughed in delight, and was inspired to consider making a miniature of the scene in the near future. (The photo is horrible, but I only had my phone with me.)

I was getting pretty tired after walking up and down Main Street for the better part of an hour and had almost decided maybe I didn't want to go sofa shopping after all, but I forced myself to go on to the furniture store anyway. My sofa was still sitting in the showroom and I was admiring it again and deciding it might be time to take the plunge before someone else bought it out from under me, when the owner himself came up and sweetened the deal. He would let me take advantage of the sale that was to begin this week. I took him up on his offer and began to roam the store while he helped another customer. I should have sat right there on the couch until he was ready to write up my ticket because the next thing I knew I was falling in love with a rocking chair. I ended up arranging for both to be delivered this coming Wednesday. Another item scratched from the to-do list.

After a quick guacamole burger at Pocket's Grille, I headed home and began considering what all had to be moved out of the way before the new furniture arrived. The rest of the weekend was spent carefully shifting furniture around, determined I was not going to throw my back out in the process. The dogs fretted constantly at the disruption. Despite the willing assistance of the three heathen cats, who were delighted at the unexpected activity, I succeeded in clearing space in the living room, but gave out before completing the rearrangement of the bedroom and study. So the order of the week is semi-chaos and we will continue our efforts next weekend.

The dogs were perplexed at the empty family room and even more so when I piled some pillows in the floor, stretched out and spent the last few hours of Sunday watching old movies on DVD. It's been a long, long time since we have spent an evening lying around watching tv. They have just about calmed down at this point - just in time to be upset again when the furniture is delivered.

So far the burst of energy has continued and I am crossing my fingers that the allergies are finally abating and I can get back to a life that has been interrupted. I am grateful for the summer rains, but other than a source of penicillin I am at a loss why we needed molds.


Friday, July 23, 2010

A Pair of Peacocks

About once a month I hit the big Antique Mall in Round Rock at lunch and enjoy a relaxing stroll through the premises. I often leave with some small find - usually a book - and you may recall that last year I found a beautiful oak bedstead that took some finagling to get home. (It was well worth the trouble and I've never regretted adopting it.)

Today I was at loose ends, so I headed to the mall to see what was new. I mean old. For once I had walked most of the building and had not found anything to tempt me.Even the booth that has the great collection of Texas county history books did not cause me to battle with my conscience. I was feeling rather proud of myself.

And then I turned a corner and looked up. I knew I was sunk, even though I initially walked away and continued my prowl, telling myself I was absolutely not going to bring another piece of glass into my house. Lord knows I have enough old glass in the china closets.

But...I went back for a second look. The price was ridiculously low. I walked away again....but walked back and caved in.

When I was a little girl, we would go visit my great Aunt O regularly. She was my Grandmother Wilcoxen's sister and I always considered her the more glamorous of the five sisters. She had fascinating things in her house and I could entertain myself as the adults visited, wandering around the house and carefully touching the snowglobe with the American flag or watching the big ceiling fan or inspecting the items on the buffet in the dining room. Aunt O had a piano, too. And on that piano for many years sat a pair of creamy white peacocks with gold accents. This photo of my Grandpa Wilcoxen sitting on the piano bench includes a glimpse of those white peacocks. (That's Aunt O sitting on the right.)

The subject of those white peacocks came up when I was traveling to the last family reunion with Cousin Glynda. I believe she told me that when they were cleaning out Aunt O's house after her death that the peacocks were unearthed in a box of assorted knick-knacks stored in the garage, but I don't remember what they did with them. I had not thought of those peacocks in years and I had a twinge of regret that I had not been there to put in a bid for them.

Today when I looked up and saw the pair of white peacocks sitting on the top shelf at the mall, I just could not resist, even though I have no place in mind for them. (I can't put them on the piano like I would like to do. The heathen cats would reduce them to white and gold fragments in no time.)

I remarked to the lady at the checkout desk that I had no idea why I was buying these, except they reminded me of my Aunt O. She responded that a lot of what they sold were purchased for similar reasons. Good memories.

They will eventually find their place. And every time I see them, I will see them with the eyes of a little girl wandering through Aunt O's house.


Thursday, July 01, 2010

Retroactive Guilt

I've had some mighty happy little dogs here lately. They really enjoyed having Mom home more or less continually last week. They enjoyed getting an early morning walk and a late evening walk every day. They enjoyed sprawling on the couch or the bed and taking an odd nap here and there. They enjoyed the fact that with a little rest, Mom was less grumpy and more tolerant of the heathen cats.

Even when I went back to work this week, their good moods continued. A night or two ago when we had settled in bed, Mojo began to dance around the bed, flirting with me and sneaking in for quick, slurpy kisses before dodging away. This evening I caught the two of them having a big play. They took up positions on either side of the wall that separates the living room from the study and ran back and forth, each of them trying to catch the other one off guard so they could sneak up on the other's rear. It was pretty funny to watch them racing up and down the wall and peeking around the corner to see if the other one was there.

It wasn't so long ago, you may recall, that Mojo had a hospital stay that I feel sure was brought on by stress. He was edgy and nervous for weeks before then and to see him happy, playful and relaxed is a great relief to me.

I was reminded of how far he has bounced back when I got an email this week from the place where they boarded twice, a week apart, back in May. The facility takes photos of their little charges during their stay. In the past these photos have shown my babies to be relatively peaceful and calmly co-existing with the other furry guests. This time, however, I could immediately see the telltale signs that said all was not well.

Classic Mojo panic. Curled tongue and wide, glassy eyes.

Again, heavy panting and bright eyes.
Coco only looks like this when she's
upset or really hot.

Coco worries about her little brother.

I haven't decided if he's wary, mad or playing here.
At least his tongue isn't hanging out, so maybe he was having fun.

Is my Mommy in there?

Bless their little hearts. They just don't like being away from their Mom and they aren't that crazy about being around other dogs after their unfortunate incident with the German Shepherd last year. Nothing like a little bit of retroactive guilt as I looked through the online photo album and saw their little unhappy faces.

But one photo made me laugh out loud.


Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Vacation Hump Day

So far my vacation from work stress has been an exercise in cleaning out closets and packing boxes for a later trip to the thrift store. In the midst of all that I ended up repacking about a dozen boxes of books that have been the foundation of "Cat Mountain" for the last few months. I wanted all the boxes moved out to the garage until I find the right bookcases for the bedroom. That resulted in numerous trips between the bedroom and the garage. The dogs have been anxious, trying to decide if I'm packing to take a trip or maybe we are moving. So far I've managed to not throw my back out with all the lifting and carrying and the house is beginning to look a little bit less cluttered. The garage? That's a different matter, but at least out of sight is (temporarily) out of mind.

Today I decided to take a vacation from my vacation and go on a hunt for ancestors.

Some years ago I had approached the folks in the District Clerk's office about getting copies of a couple of old divorce case files and had not been successful. At the time those files were stored in the courthouse basement and the gals working the counter were less than enthusiastic about going down to the dark recesses where spiders and other creepy crawlies were busy. I relented and decided to try again another day.

In the intervening years, an annex building was erected and the District Clerk moved into new quarters. I wasn't sure where the really old files were housed these days, but I decided to make another try for those divorces. I arranged for a co-worker who is based in the courthouse to take me over and introduce me to the ladies in the clerk's office. They could not have been more helpful and it turned out that all those lovely old records are now in a nice, well-lighted, spider free vault off the main office. I was invited to "make myself at home" and explore to my heart's content.

So far as the divorce case files were concerned, they were quickly located and copied. Unfortunately, the one criminal case I was after was in a section of files that were missing in action, but you have to expect that some of those old files will be hard to locate and I do have copies of the court minutes for that case so I was not too upset about that.

I proceeded to prowl through piles of ledgers and indexes. I found the Physician's Registry books, but Dr. Henry Hodge once again managed to avoid registration. (I've only caught him in one of those registry books in all the Texas counties the old boy lived in.) On the other hand, I found the registrations for three of the Mayo brothers, one of whom was Dr. Henry's brother-in-law. (And yes, the Mayo family who married into the Huddleston branch of the family and produced at least a half-dozen doctors and dentists, were distant relatives of the Mayo clinic bunch.) Dr. Stephen Mayo, who married Ellen Huddleston, delivered quite a few of my relatives who were born in the Red Rock area, so he is a very important person in the family history.

On one shelf I found a pile of docket ledgers for delinquent tax suits. Well naturally, seeing as how I have spent the last 30 years in the business of delinquent tax collection, I began paging through the books and looking for familiar names. I found a few. My great-great grandmother Hodge had a suit filed against her and so did the brother of my great-great grandfather Frankum. Another suit may or may not involve my great-great grandmother Mason. The cases weren't in the active archives, but my co-worker is going to retrieve the files from that dark basement sometime this week.

As I was flipping through the delinquent tax suit docket, I ran across a surprise. Someone had used the very back portion of the book to log in a few criminal cases. I was idly flipping the pages there when a familiar name jumped out at me. A murder trial in 1905 had a long list of witnesses that included my great-grandfather Burl Mason and his son Henry. That had me flying back to the criminal indexes and court minutes, looking for more information on the murder trial. Again, I hit a sudden brick wall on that case. Only a single sheet was in the file, a call for a body of 40 people for the selection of a jury. I plan to check the newspaper for further information on who was murdered and why Burl and Henry Mason were called as witnesses.

After three hours, my stomach was growling and I called it a day, planning to ponder what else I need to look for and intending to spend another morning there in the near future. I headed for Smithville to eat at my favorite Mexican food joint. I enjoyed reading through the divorce case files while I ate and I am wondering what kind of fur will fly when I divulge the contents of one of them in next year's Frankum reunion newsletter.

To prolong my good morning, I stopped by the furniture store in Smithville and went sofa shopping. Found one, too, but I'm holding off making a commitment just yet.

My morning of lifting heavy books was good preparation for when I got home and began to move the boxes of books to the garage. Cat Mountain was dismantled and relocated before suppertime.

The mid-point of vacation week was satisfaction from start to end.


Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Music Therapy

Back in the early 70s, Kris Kristofferson was not yet a big movie star but he was hot on the outlaw music scene. My father, mother and I were big fans of his music. Mother and I attended three concerts where Kris performed, the first being the very first Willie Nelson 4th of July picnic in Dripping Springs, which I've written about before. That was in 1973. The following two years brought Kris back to Austin, headlining concerts at the old Palmer Auditorium. Both of these events included his then-wife Rita Coolidge. (Willie turned up, too, at least once and maybe both times.) They were knock-out performances, the questionable acoustics of the Palmer notwithstanding. Mother and I were fairly close to the stage on both occasions and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

Back in those days, you could bring a tape recorder and camera into the auditorium and I caught the entire concert on tape the year that Rita was promoting her new album Fall Into Spring. I fell in love with that album and I immediately bought it and played it over and over. Rita was moderately popular, but her big chart climbing hits were yet to come and the album was not a blockbuster. When CDs came along, many of her later albums were released on CD, but Fall Into Spring and the earlier The Lady's Not for Sale (equally great) were never made available. I hung onto my well-played vinyl versions, dragging them out periodically to enjoy them again, which would lead to checking Amazon for any news of their release on CD, always being disappointed.

I do not know why I ran a check on Amazon a few days ago. I had not listened to either album in a long time and had given up hope they would ever be resurrected. I almost did not realize what I was seeing. Both of the coveted albums, plus another I also owned on vinyl were now available on one double CD. I immediately fired off an order and it arrived last Friday evening.

For the two hours following my arrival home, I enjoyed listening to these old friends. I still think Rita's early music is her best work and these albums correspond to the period of time she was sharing a band with Kris. Her perfect voice, framed by outstanding backup musicians, provided me with an evening of pure enjoyment. I've been listening to it on my commute this week, too. It has had a calming effect on me, sort of like slipping into your favorite jeans and sneakers and curling into the corner of the couch. Not a bad tranquilizer.

Look at the prices...what a deal.
And these were the high priced seats.

Kris & Rita, center stage

Now, if only someone would get busy and release Marty Robbins' Devil Woman.


Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Big Foot Lives

Back when we first moved to Bastrop, there was a little five-and-dime store down on Main Street. In the rear of the store was a section where you could pick up a few houseplants and the odd vegetable seedling in spring. Mother and I would hit that little store regularly and one day we decided to pick up a couple of philodendrons. We brought them home and hers can be seen in this old photo taken on her front porch. The philodendron is the one closest to the step, at far left. (The dog in the photo is the infamous Fancy who ruled the house with an iron fist in a velvet paw for 9 years.)

We did not know what we had taken on. The philodendron was of the Monstera variety and it began to grow with a vengence. (Mine disappeared over time, probably a victim of the casual neglect with which I treated plants in those days.) We kept repotting into larger and larger pots, faithfully moving it inside when the threat of frost was upon us. For several years it wintered in the dining room, perched high on the platform created by the top of the closet that had been added in that room years after the house had been built.

When it grew too big for the house, Mother and David would haul it down to Mother's school room for the winter and haul it back home at the end of the semester. Finally, one year we were just tired of trying to find room for it every winter and we contemplated leaving it outside to take its chances. Our neighbor across the street, who has one of the greenest thumbs I've ever seen aside from my grandmother Lucy's, assured us it would do just fine if we just stuck it in the ground and covered it during cold weather. We decided to do just that, and it spent several more years living in the flower bed next to the front porch.

As the plant grew and matured, it developed a large trunk-like base and we began to refer to it as "Big Foot". We were all rather fond of the enormous plant and when we decided to move to our present house, there was no doubt in any of our minds that Big Foot would have to be excavated and relocated as well. By that time, he was well into his twenties.

Big Foot took residence in the flower bed on the north side of the house and once again began to flourish. Every winter, at the first sign of a killer frost, I would faithfully go out and put a big plastic cover over him, weight it down with stones, and ignore him until the frost danger was past. Every year, he would spring out from under the cover with a few wilted leaves, but for the most part just fine and dandy.

This past year, I thought we had lost him. We had an extended period of freezing weather and I had not done as good a job of keeping him adequately covered as I had in years past. When spring arrived and I removed the wrappings, all the leaves were dead and the trunk that had earned him his name was dry and brittle. I felt guilty for not having kept an eye on him through the winter, but my attention had been distracted by Mother's last illness and I had not given him a second thought. Big Foot was dead at the age of approximately 35 years.

I reasoned that it was appropriate that Big Foot had perished in the same winter that we lost Mother. She had been the one who had tended him and coddled him for most of his life. I did not attempt to remove the stump, deciding to leave it for another day when I felt the urge to clean out that flower bed. I had every intention of purchasing another Monstera philodendron to plant in that spot in Mother's and Big Foot's memories.

It had been several weeks since I had spent any time on that side of the house. On Monday I was clearing the dead pine blooms off the deck and emptying pots where other plants had perished in the winter freeze. When I walked down the side of the house to dispose of some trash, I glanced at the place where Big Foot had lived and was amazed to see a couple of great big green leaves waving at me.

On closer inspection I found that new growth was emerging - not from the old trunk, but from a new place a few inches from it. Big Foot Lives! It was like seeing an old friend you thought you had lost forever.

Here's hoping Big Foot's descendants are as sturdy and vigorous as their grandpa.