Wednesday, April 28, 2010

It's a Start

The last couple of weeks were a blur as I feverishly worked on getting the annual Frankum reunion newsletter completed. I've been fighting some deadline or another for the last month or so and this was the last of them for awhile. It was with relief that I finished the newsletter on Sunday afternoon, several days before I was set to deliver it to the reunion.

That done, I enjoyed a couple of days with nothing hanging over my head needing to be done. May is looming, the worst work month of the year for me, and I was glad to have a couple of days to catch my breath. Not that catching my breath is easy these days. The lush wildflower season has been wonderful, but it has also wrecked havoc with my allergies. I hate to see them fading, but I have this small hope that maybe I'll stop sneezing in another week or two.

I have been observing the small cluster of bluebonnets across the road from the house since they first put on their spring finery. This is the first time I have paid attention to what happens when the bloom begins to fade and the first time I have had the chance to watch the process up close instead of speeding past them on the highway.

The blooms are almost gone, but in their place are the seed pods. I am hoping I'm around when they burst and scatter their seeds for next year's crop. I've heard they make a noticeable popping sound when it happens and I think we are very, very close.

Yesterday evening when I got home from work, I decided to mow the yard/dandelion crop before I collapsed on the couch. I was zipping around the yard on the riding mower, carefully avoiding my few winecups, when I got a big surprise. There in the middle of the yard was a solitary bluebonnet plant and it was still in bloom.

I've tried many times to plant bluebonnet seeds and get a start of them in my yard and have had no luck at all. I've come to the conclusion that you have to let Nature take its course and I was delighted to find this Lone Bluebonnet waving in the breeze. I carefully mowed around it and hope that it will bear some strong seeds. Maybe next year there will be two or three more and in a few years I will have that stand of bluebonnets in my yard that I have always longed for.

One step at a time. It's my motto these days.


Saturday, April 17, 2010

Wending My Way

Today was DAR meeting day and instead of our usual speaker appearing to us in the community room of the First National Bank, we took a field trip. I was looking forward to this event, even though I was not entirely sure what the subject of our excursion was all about.

We met in Serbin, once a thriving little town and now a small community, to visit the Texas Wendish Heritage Museum. The first question everyone had on their mind was, "What is a Wend?" It turns out that there is not an easy answer to that question. The Wends were a group with Slavic origins who came to Texas from Lusatia, an area that is now part of Germany and that borders Poland on the northern part and Czechslovakia on the southern part. They were not German, nor Polish, nor Czechslovakian, but their own unique group with their own unique language. In the 1850s, a group emmigrated to Texas, seeking to escape pressure that was being applied by the Prussians to speak German rather than their own unique Wendish language and to give up their "pure" Lutheran religious practices in favor of the Evangelical Reform Lutheran church.

Arriving in Texas in 1854, they purchased a league of land in Lee County, subdivided it into farms, setting aside a portion where the town of Serbin was established. They joined the Missouri Synod Lutheran Church and built the St. Paul's Lutheran Church which is currently being restored and is one of the "painted churches" in Texas. Most painted churches are Catholic, so this church is another unique aspect to Wendish history.

The heritage museum complex consists of several buildings. We met in a building that had once been a school run by the church. When it was decided to build a new school, the building was moved down the street and joined the heritage center complex. The building is also the place where a group of women meet weekly and make noodles, which are extremely popular with local folks in the know. There were ribbons and trophys and other awards on display to give evidence to their skill in noodle making. My attention was caught by a picture on the wall entitled "Oodles of Noodles". The walls were lined with plastic bins holding bags of noodles, so "Oodles of Noodles" was a very appropriate sentiment.

The buildings of the complex are connected by covered walkways or by stone paths and as we headed to the museum after our meeting, we were treated with the sight of bushes of antique roses, lush iris beds and an assortment of Texas wildflowers.

Arriving at the museum proper, we were greeted by a friendly docent who gave us an overview of the Wends' history before we toured the exhibits. The displays were fascinating. I especially enjoyed the photos and stories relating to the Wendish wedding traditions.

Across another walkway was a building that houses items that have been donated by Wendish families to document the way of life of those early emigrants. I love early Texas antiques and was fascinated by the tools and everyday items on display. I was particularly taken with a gorgeous golden oak pump organ. If there had been any way to tuck it under my jacket and hightail it, I would have been tempted.

Down a stone path were two log cabins and I was reminded of the log cabin that stands in the background of a photo taken in Red Rock where my great-grandparents Frankum and great-great-grandfather Lentz are standing in its front yard about 1900. As I looked inside, I tried to imagine how one managed to raise a family in such stark conditions.

After we toured the heritage complex, we returned to the old school room to eat our picnic lunches and we chatted about ancestors and hobbies and enjoyed an hour of getting to know each other.

On the way back to the highway, I drove down to St. Paul's Lutheran Church to take a look at the restoration project. The docent had told us the church had suffered foundation problems as a result of an ill-conceived drainage system and will eventually take more than $1 million to return to its former glory.

Even in its current state of construction disarray, you can see the fine bones of its foundation. It is going to be a beautiful building again someday. (Notice the painted designs on the ceiling.)

It was a thoroughly enjoyable morning and I expressed my opinion to our regent, who seemed almost surprised at my enthusiasm. It was her idea that we make this field trip and she has taken some grief and criticism since she took the position of regent. I'm not at all sure about all the political undertones to the unsettled waters and I plan to stay out of it. However, today she made one of her members happy by introducing her to a museum that I wish I had discovered a long time ago. Judging by the friendly chatter during our lunch, I think there were other folks in attendance today who enjoyed themselves as much as I did.

Last, but not least, I discovered in the museum gift shop a set of Lee County cemetery books that I have long wished I had in my own library. And now I do. This gal departed for home completely satisfied with the time spent in little Serbin.


Saturday, April 10, 2010

Profiles High and Low

We had company this week in the person of a Yorkshire Terrier named Clyde. He boarded with us while his folks were out of town. This was the second time he had camped with us and he and Mojo and Coco seemed to remember each other and, for the most part, got along fine. There was a little bit of jockeying for top dog position, but Mojo let him know pretty quickly that visitors had better toe the line. Even so, Mojo was remarkably tolerant with regard to having another male in the house and even allowed Clyde some daily time in Mommy's lap for cuddles and reassurance that his folks would be back before long.

Clyde was much calmer on this visit, but I still hesitated to go off to the office and leave him unsupervised, so I opted to work the three days of his stay from home. All three of the dogs snored on their respective beds spotted around my desk and we enjoyed periodic walks in the perfect spring weather when Mommy needed a break to clear her head. It sure does make for less stressful days when I can sleep a little later, avoid the long commute and work without interruption from phones and traffic in the hall. We all enjoyed the break in routine.

(Be that as it may, once Clyde departed for home, my two collapsed and have slept solidly for the better part of the last 24 hours and I hear Clyde did much the same. The cats were overjoyed to get their house back. Clyde hates cats and they were sequestered to either the guest bedroom or the garage for the duration of his stay.)

As opposed to the low profile I kept with the office this week, my home profile is beginning to rise. On Friday I attended the monthly meeting of the local chapter of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas and turned in my application for membership. I've since heard from the registrar that my papers are in order and she is preparing to mail it on to headquarters. This is only the third meeting I've attended and many of the ladies are already beginning to call me by name without having to stop and think about it, and the registrar has publicly called attention to some research I shared with her about a family connection we share. Not a bad way to begin to get recognized as a qualified family historian,

Later that afternoon I went to the members' preview of the regular Spring book sale held at the Bastrop Public Library. One of the volunteers on duty was a fellow member of the DAR. This morning I went to the monthly meeting of the Smithville Genealogical Society for an excellent presentation by a gentleman from the General Land Office. I am also beginning to be recognized by members of this group and the regent of the DAR, who arrived late, made her way to a seat next to me. I'm beginning to feel like I'm gaining acceptance into the various local historical groups.

After the meeting, I spent a few minutes checking out one of my favorite antique shops in downtown Smithville and found a couple of history books that were too cheaply priced to turn down and that led to a conversation with the shop owner's husband who also collects local history books. We compared notes on lucky finds, chatted about mutual acquaintances and he took my name and number to have on hand should a particular book I'm seeking become available.

I made a brief stop at the Alum Creek Cemetery on the way home to take some pictures of a gorgeous patch of phlox.

After such a satisfying start to the weekend, I improved on the day by settling down with my stack of newly acquired books, indulging in a brief nap with the dogs, catching up on missed episodes of "The Mentalist" and pondering what course to take for the reunion newsletter due next month.

Rest, relaxation, and a heavy dose of history. My kind of weekend.


Monday, April 05, 2010

Spring Vacation 2010, Day 7

All good things must come to an end and the last day of vacation fell on the eve of my birthday. It also just happened to be Easter Sunday. In honor of my impending birthday, little brother and sister-in-law made reservations at the Hyatt Lost Pines for their elaborate Easter brunch. From the highway entrance, you drive a good ways before reaching the hotel and on both sides of the road were the thickest and brightest bluebonnets and Indian paintbrushes I've seen yet this season. I've always felt like bluebonnets and paintbrushes are my personal birthday presents from Mother Nature and she is outdoing herself this year.

The Hyatt knows how to put on an elaborate brunch. There was food to suit every palate, from salads to grilled vegetables to seafood to prime rib to omelets to French toast. We started with a bottle of champagne and proceeded to sample as many foods as we could hold. It was all fantastic and ended with a dessert bar that was to die for. Since everyone knows that birthday calories don't count, I threw caution to the wind and enjoyed myself thoroughly. We even had a band providing entertainment.

On the way out of the resort, we stopped for more flower pictures and then headed to McDade to check out a new Renaissance Faire that was winding up its first year.

The Sherwood Forest Faire has gotten off to a good start and I hope it will continue to grow and improve in the coming years. It reminded me and David of the early days of the Texas Renaissance Fair before that operation got so big that it lost much of its charm for us. We visited artists (I picked up a coffee mug and David got me a lovely hummingbird made of 5 different kinds of wood), listened to musicians, watched some belly dancers, met an owl and a vulture at the falconry exhibit, and in general just had a great time.

As a last vacation fling, I indulged in a henna tattoo. (It should be with me for a couple of weeks. That's as permanent a commitment I can make in the matter of body art.)

Spring Vacation 2010 was a definite success. Now I have to go back to work and rest up.


Sunday, April 04, 2010

Spring Vacation 2010, Days 4 thru 6

Once we got home from our long day of antiquing, we staggered into the house and collapsed. I had made spaghetti sauce the night before, when I still had some steam left in me, and while I got ready to assemble the spaghetti, Suzanne made a salad. I had a box of frozen cheeze toast and got that ready to pop in the oven.

I had remembered to get everything we needed. Except the spaghetti.

I usually have 4 or 5 boxes of spaghetti on hand and all I could find was a piece of a box. We held a conference and decided it was not going to be enough and we would have to make a dash to the store. We also had a meeting of the minds and decided as long as we were going to be out, we might as well pick up a bottle of wine to go with our spaghetti. Lana had been telling us about a wine she had discovered that she said would be great with spaghetti. Before you could say "Gewurztraminer" (the category of wine she recommended), the three of us piled back into the car and headed off for a quick stop at HEB for spaghetti and then a not so quick stop at Spec's for wine.

To make a long story short, after much deliberation and the assistance of a knowledgeable clerk, we each bought a bottle of wine and made a bee-line for home. It wasn't long before we were sitting down to our spaghetti, salad, toast and wine. We were soon replete with food and still working on the wine.

There is nothing quite as enjoyable as the rare opportunity to gather a group of long-time girl friends in a quiet retreat for a nice long chat about life. We were happily tired from our long rambling day, our stomachs were content from good food, our mood was mellowed by the good wine and we sat and talked long into the night. Conversation was followed by a good night's sleep.

Friday morning we were finding it hard to bring our visit to a close and we decided to have one last antique ramble before we said our goodbyes. We piled in our respective cars and formed a caravan to the Elgin Antique Mall. We spent another couple of hours exploring there and both Lana and I indulged in one more purchase each. She acquired another child's miniature in the Jewel Tea china pattern and I found a child's miniature pottery crock in a style that complements my collection of McDade pottery. We finally parted company about noon and went our separate ways, after declaring our intentions of regrouping for another go at the Round Top Fair next year.

When I got back home, I could feel the fatigue beginning to set in, so after walking the dogs, they and I all piled back into bed and spent the remainder of the day reading, watching tv and periodically dozing off.

On Saturday, I spent the majority of the day trying to convince myself I should get up and do something productive and failing miserably. Aside from a brief spurt of energy late in the day when I mowed the yard, I decided it would be a good idea to rest up.

Because I had a date for a last day of fun and frivolity on Sunday.


Saturday, April 03, 2010

Spring Vacation 2010, Day 4

The second day of our Round Top adventure dawned with aching muscles and stiffness in our joints, but determination of spirit. Suzanne arrived to join the fun and we voted to take a vehicle with more hauling space - just in case. Plus, it was a good excuse to ride in Lana's new red Ford Edge. (Nice car.)

On antiquing day two we decided to start with the official Round Top show. Many years ago you had to bounce to four different sites to take full advantage of the entrance fee, but thanks to management schisms and new construction, the traditional show takes place primarily in one location. We headed to the Big Red Barn in our brand new Big Red Taxi.

The vendors who take part in the Round Top fair have completely different offerings from what we had seen at Cole's Antique Barn the day before. If I had to sum up the differences in as few words as possible, I guess it would be early 20th century vs. Colonial American and European. The vendors at Cole's have primarily the former while the vendors at the Big Red Barn have primarily the latter. It's fun to see this alternative antique perspective, especially if you are a fan of Antiques Roadshow, but it was pretty clear from the beginning that my checkbook was safe here. After the previous day, that was a nice feeling.

A couple of hours later we headed to the Folk Art Fair. Lana and I had made a very quick stop there on the way home the previous day, 15 minutes before they were closing, and had quickly decided it warranted a closer look. She had purses calling her and I had embroidered Mexican dresses calling me.

Many years ago the embroidered Mexican dress was incredibly popular in Texas and every Texas gal had at least one. This was about the same time that Mother and George were making periodic trips to south Texas and they would cross the border and bring a pile of dresses back home with them. Mother and I both had several and Mother helped keep some of her teacher buddies supplied as well. Gradually they had gone out of style and I had not seen them available anywhere in a long time.

It looks like the embroidered Mexican dress is making a bit of a comeback and one of the vendors at the Folk Art Fair had some of the prettiest ones I've ever seen. After drooling over the available stock, I decided that I would be happier with a blouse than a dress. I tried on a variety of colors, knowing full well that I would most probably bring home a red one. Which I did. And, by the way, the current price is a far cry from the average $10-15 per dress we paid twenty years ago.

I expect that this blouse with a pair of jeans will get a lot of outings this summer.

I believe it may have been at this point that Lana began to cave in to temptation. She had made her initial purchase at the Big Red Barn of some vintage textiles and now she was beginning to find greyhounds.

Lana is heavily involved in greyhound rescue, finding homes for retired racing and breeding greyhounds. She had told me to be sure and keep my eyes open for greyhounds and I had not expected we were going to encounter so many greyhounds in one day. I don't think she did either. There were Staffordshire greyhounds and bronze greyhounds and concrete greyhounds and tapestry greyhounds. There were greyhounds everywhere. She acquired a brass greyhound figurine at our first stop of the day and she wasn't through yet.

We had decided to make our next stop at Marburger Farm, a large gathering of vendors in both tents and permanent buildings who sell a wide variety of antiques. We had been there about an hour when Lana made her big find - a coffee table that consisted of a metal sculpture of three greyhounds holding a glass circular table top. She had the same look on her face that I had had the day before when I spotted the vanity. We had barely completed that transaction before we happened into a booth of vintage evening wear and she snagged a glittery purple outfit.

We were all dragging badly by the time we pulled out of Marburger Farm. We were also getting close to the official closing time for most of the fair locations, but we had about an hour to spare. Suzanne and I have both had considerable luck at the independent La Bahia show, so we decided to spend our last hour there. I was willing, but a little apprehensive. I've found way too many things I've had to have there.

This year was no exception, but at least it was a small find. A gentleman from Kansas was set up in the annex with a great assortment of vintage books. I was relieved that I did not see anything I wanted. However, just as he said he was giving sizeable discounts, I glanced over and saw a book I've been looking for and had not been able to find. I am a long-term fan of a local author, Susan Wittig Albert, and recently met her at a book-signing in Smithville. I have several autographed first editions of her China Bayles mystery series and hard cover copies of most of the series. After meeting Mrs. Albert, I had decided to replace the few volumes that I owned in paperback with hard cover copies and had been successful in locating replacement volumes of all but one, which apparently had had a limited printing in hard cover. There the missing volume sat, and it was autographed to boot. He made good on his offer of a discount, knocking $10 off the asking price and I was able to put that hunt to rest.

By 5 o'clock, when the vendors began to close up shop, we were all groaning as we crawled into our vehicle and headed for home.

Our day was not over yet.