Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Voice in My Head

It is the end of March and that means one thing...

The Round Top Antiques Fair is back and it's time for Cindy's Spring vacation. I try to take a brief holiday every year at this time. It is not only Antiques Fair week, but it is the height of the Texas wildflower season (not so hot this year, but any bluebonnet is a good experience for a Texan), my birthday is just a few days away and a vacation is the best present I can think of, and I have a major work crush looming in May so a little rest beforehand is a very good idea. (I have a whole different batch of good excuses to take a few days off in October when the fall Antiques Fair hits.)

My friend Suzanne and I headed out bright and early this morning for the fair, determined to see how many different locations we could hit before we ran out of steam. If you have never gone to the Round Top Antiques Fair, it is hard to describe. From Warrenton to Round Top to Burton to Carmine to Fayetteville to Shelby, field after field of normally empty land springs forth with tents full of antique dealers from all over the country. To see everything you would have to spend three or four days running non-stop, but we usually pick a day and hit our favorite locations, check out one or two new sites, and then crawl home in late afternoon to collapse into an easy chair with our feet cursing us steadily far into the night.

I have made a lot of purchases at the fair in the 20 or so years I have made this twice annual trek. Anyone who knows me well can attest to my addiction to golden oak furniture and Texas history books. I have purchased oak desks, oak night stands, oak bookcases, oak mirrors, and lots of Texas history books down through the years. I had every intention this year of making another large purchase. I am on the hunt for a couple of nice oak bookcases, preferably with glass doors. We went prepared with a pickup, blankets and bungee cords. And two checkbooks.

We began at my number one favorite location and I had gone exactly two vendors into the first building when I found an oak rocking chair that really spoke to me. I seriously thought I would be bringing home an oak rocking chair, but I was still in good physical and mental shape at that point and reminded myself that I do not particularly like rocking chairs, I already have two rocking chairs and I did not go to the fair with the intention of buying a rocking chair but of buying a bookcase...and I walked on.

One of my favorite vendors who specializes in rare Texana history books recognized me immediately and cheerfully welcomed me, knowing full well he would be selling me something before I left. The only county history that I really wanted was a little pricey, so I settled for a 1939 Austin phone book and a small volume of two stories written by O. Henry and set in the Texas Land Office (O. Henry once upon a time worked at the Texas Land Office). We talked briefly about a book I'm looking for and then I mentioned that I just couldn't talk myself into the Wharton County history this time around. He immediately grabbed the volume, did some calculations, and knocked about 20% off the price. I now own the book I've missed out on several times around on EBAY.

There are three vendors in the same cul de sac of the building who all specialize in golden oak pieces and my first real temptation of the day came when we turned the corner and saw a dark mission style bookcase.

It was a beautiful piece of furniture and I seriously considered bringing it home with me, but something held me back. Around the corner I ran into another oak bookcase that caught my eye.

I probably should have picked this one up. The price was right, but it wasn't what I saw in my mind's eye for either of the spaces I want to fill. I walked on, rounded a corner and came face to face with a beautiful piece that carried a price that was several hundred dollars under what I estimated would be the market value.

I was strongly attracted to this piece that had come from an estate in Indiana. The vendor explained all the unique features of the piece. I was almost sold.

And then the voice in my head started talking.

It sounded very much like my mother. And, in fact, it was my mother.

I learned most of what I know about buying antiques from my mother. This golden oak addiction I suffer was inherited from my mother. I knew she would have appreciated the finer points of this piece, but there were a couple of problems.

First and foremost, the topmost trim was a small stick and ball arch. One of the balls was missing. Secondly, two pieces of a brass railing were in place, but there were holes where another piece was missing. Did either of these flaws affect the practical use of the piece? No. They did, however, affect the value of the piece and that's why it was priced so low. Was it fixable? Yes. Could I camouflage the flaws? Yes. Would it bother me to know the flaws were there even if no one else noticed it? Yes.

Bottom line, I knew that every time I looked at the bookcase in my home, I would hear my mother pointing out the flaws. I knew she would understand the purchase, but bemoan the fact that I had settled for less than perfect.

I had to walk away.

I saw other bookcases throughout the day that I would have been proud to own, but none of them spoke to me like the damaged piece from Indiana.

Somewhere out there is the right piece of furniture. If there is anything else I learned from my mother in the matter of buying antique furniture it is to wait for the piece that really speaks to you and then don't hesitate to buy it when you see it. You may get only one chance at it. Better to do without awhile longer than settle for second best.

So my find for the day was a Wharton County history that I've wanted for a long time. It was enough.


Monday, March 28, 2011

Getting My Irish Up

I have become a big fan of the Bastrop Opera House and the company of players who put on musical and theatrical productions through the year. The setting is a historic building that has been restored to its original beauty after years of service as a movie house, teen center and the like. Today you walk into the entry way and you are greeted by deep red Victorian settees and chairs and by vintage dresses on mannequins. Reproduction tin ceilings (the original tin ceiling in the auditorium remains to display how it really used to be) and reproduction light fixtures set the mood as you pick up your ticket at the window and make your way into the smallish auditorium.

I re-discovered the pleasures of live theater a little over a year ago and have attended quite a few of their productions. Yesterday I caught the last performance of Echoes of Ireland, an original play written by a local couple with strong ties to Ireland. The two of them doubled as cast members in what was a fairly large cast of about 15. The setting was an Irish pub in 1939 and a poetry contest between two clans. Two of the judges had a private bet on the outcome of the contest, the winner of whom would be in possession of a parcel of land that one's ancestor had swindled from the other's ancestor. A secondary story involved a young couple at odds about getting married because the young man did not understand the young woman's need for security, which to her meant holding property in her own name. (Yes, the same property that was the subject of the aforementioned wager. It all works out in the end. For most everyone.)

The primary point of the play was to expose the audience to a wealth of poetry by various Irish poets. Each of the players would take their turn at center stage and dramatically recite poems of Irish humor, of Irish history, of Irish life. At various times the name Cromwell would be uttered, with the result that all 15 or so of the players would simultaneously spit on the floor. A small Celtic band provided opportunity for the singing of Irish folk songs and a little bit of dance. The audience was tapping their feet and clapping their hands on a regular basis. By the end of the performance, we all had a strong urge to speak in a brogue.

I am always pleasantly surprised to see how well the community supports the Opera House. Yesterday's matinee was the final performance for this play and it was very nearly sold out. I certainly enjoyed myself and I'm looking forward to the next play to hit the historic boards. What a nice way to spend a Sunday afternoon.


Saturday, March 26, 2011


This morning I headed to a neighboring town to attend a genealogy society meeting. I had promised myself I would never again attend a meeting of this particular society, but I wanted to hear the speaker they had lined up for this meeting. She spoke at the Smithville genealogy society a couple of weeks ago, but I had been caught up in an unrelenting workload and had been too tired at the time to drag myself out of bed and make the short 11 mile drive.

So, instead, I dragged myself out of bed this morning and drove 30 miles. And I knew when I left the house that I would probably enjoy the speaker but hate the meeting. And so it went.

The two groups are an interesting study in contrast. I regularly attend the meeting in Smithville and thoroughly enjoy myself. The president is a likeable lady who keeps the meeting on track, gets us out in a reasonable amount of time and makes a point to welcome newcomers and invite them to join the e-mail notification list. There are other officers who mingle and make you feel welcome. The folks who attend are polite and respectful and listen attentively to the speaker. Many of them are fellow DAR and DRT members and they know how to conduct themselves at these kind of events.

Then there is the group whose meeting I attended today. No one bothers to speak to a newcomer to make them feel welcome. There is very little structure to the meeting and it can drag on and on and on. But the thing that annoys me the most is a basic lack of respect shown the speaker. People will chat just loud enough to distract the audience. At frequent points in the presentation, various folks will feel compelled to share their own expertise on the subject, usually on a point that the speaker has not yet had a chance to cover. There is a continual popping up and exiting through a noisy door to the restroom area.

I remember when we first moved to Smiley how impressed my father was with the congregation during the delivery of his sermons. He remarked that he had never had a congregation that was so focused. They paid attention. They did not fidget or talk to each other while the preacher was speaking. He said it was almost unsettling the respectful attention they gave him while he spoke. Sitting still and paying attention is what we owe someone who is giving us their time and sharing their knowledge.

Folks today have gotten so used to blurting out their feelings anytime and anywhere - at bursts of 140 characters a pop - that they seem to have lost the point of going to presentations given by persons with specialized knowledge. The idea is to learn, not to have a free-for-all exchange of information. Most speakers offer a period of time at the end of their talk for questions and comments. It would be nice if people would wait for that opportunity to share ideas. They might find that the speaker is going to cover a particular point and there is no need to break into the presentation to "remind" or "educate" the speaker and thereby interrupt the speaker's train of thought.

This very issue is why I no longer attend genealogy seminars. There was a time when I looked forward to a day to spend with a group of folks who were interested in the same hobby, but it seems like nowadays there are those know-it-alls in the audience who just can't keep from showing off how much they know. The thing is, the ones who are so intent on sharing their knowledge are generally the ones who know the least about genealogy.

So, at long last the speaker finished her presentation despite all the help she had received along the way, and the meeting came to enough of a halt that I was able to slink out the side door and make my escape. What should have been a 90-minute meeting had dragged to a stuttering halt in 2-1/2 hours. I was tired and hungry and I headed back to Smithville where I indulged in a wonderful plate of nachos at Pocket's Grill before returning home.

I sincerely hope I get to hear this particular speaker again. She knows a lot about cemeteries and tombstone art and the burial practices of various cultures. I paid attention and I heard her presentation. I wonder if anybody else there did?


Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Weekend Activity List

1. Attend the monthly DAR meeting. Check.

Our speaker was a gentlemen who is on the Smithville Film and Music Commission and who has the inside scoop on the movies and commercials and web movies and video games that are filmed in the Smithville area. You would be surprised how much filming goes on in Smithville, including the movie that took the majority of the awards at the SXSW film festival in Austin this year.

So naturally, I had to go round and visit the house where Hope Floats was filmed. Love that movie.

I then indulged myself with a leisurely drive through historic downtown Smithville, looking at various Victorian houses for sale and wiping the drool off my chin.

2. Spend some time in downtown Smithville,
visiting my favorite antique and gift stores.
Buy something totally unncessary. Check.

I don't know why I keep buying hats. I have yet to wear one and I have to keep them under lock and key or the cats eat the feathers. But I just can't seem to help myself.

3. Run out to Lowe's and pick up tomato and basil plants. Check.

Every year I have to plant a couple of Sweet 100 tomato plants and at least one sweet basil plant. It's the farmer genes in my background, plus I love fresh basil in my spaghetti sauce and vegetable beef soup and I love Sweet 100 cherry tomatoes in my salad. I try to get out to Lowe's or Home Depot early enough that I can find good, hardy plants. Of course, once I'm out there, I fall victim to the call to plant other things. (This year I added a jalapeno plant.)

I also decided on a pot of begonias and a pot of purple petunias in addition to my basil, pepper and tomato plants. I had promised myself that I would not plant pots and pots of things this year because come the May work rush I lose interest and begin to resent having to take care of them. I thought I was doing pretty good this year, when I rounded the corner and ran into something I had to have.

I believe I mentioned last year that Big Foot, the huge split-leaf philodendron that Mother and I bought about 30 years ago, had gotten a bad case of frostbite last winter but still had some life in him. Well, another bad spell of winter weather has pretty nearly done the poor old boy in. When faced with a bank of 1 gallon pots of split-leaf philodendrons in the nursery, I decided I would adopt a new one. (This tendency to compulsively adopt plants, dogs and cats gets me into more trouble.)

By the way, if you have not made your spring trek to the nursery, brace yourself for sticker shock. Prices have sky-rocketed. Apparently the Libyan crisis has affected even the price of tomato and basil plants.

4. Clean the deck, fill the bird feeders,
pull the patio umbrella out of storage. Check.

It has been interesting watching the sparrows and finches inspecting the new deck arrangement. They perch on the tomato cage and peer down, wondering if tomatoes are something that they will like.

A funny thing happened on the way to getting the umbrella put back into place. I had gone to the storage shed to get the umbrella and the chaise lounge cushion. I had retrieved the umbrella and pushed it over the deck rails and went back to the shed to get the cushion. I don't know if I had overlooked it on my first trip or if I had dislodged it when I pulled out the umbrella, but sitting dead-center (no pun intended) in the doorway was an expired mouse. I yelped, not immediately realizing that he was deceased, and jumped backward about 3 feet. The dogs, watching from the deck, decided Mommy had lost her ever-loving mind. I'm sure the neighbors were just nodding their heads in resignation.

I do not like mice, dead or alive.

5. Get two weeks' worth of laundry done.
Fold and put away the laundry.

What can I say? I have a lot of clothes, but eventually you run out of underwear and you can't put it off any longer.

6. Bathe the dogs. Check.

They were not happy about this. But they had followed me every step of the way during my planting and cleaning activities and not only were they smelling pretty gamey, they were too tired to run and hide under the bed.

7. Change the bedding. Check.

Nothing like clean dogs and clean bedding at the same time.

8. Indulge in a big Sunday lunch that
somebody else cooked. Check.

9. Investigate a new antique store between
Bastrop and Smithville. Check.

With a name like Dixie's Den of Antiquities, who could resist? This one will be worth revisiting.

10. Get the floors vacuumed and mopped. Check.
Well sorta.

I got the kitchen and utility room done, which are the worst of the lot considering the cats hang out in there, tossing cat hair in all directions and flinging food every whichaway. Their litter boxes are in the utility room and I have a hard time understanding just how it is they manage to scatter litter to the furthest corner. Cats. Love them or leave them. Or find a good shrink to cure your tendency to take the little heathens in.

I'll tackle another room tomorrow. And another room the next day. By the time I get the rest of the house done, the kitchen and utility rooms will be a wreck again. It never ends.

What I didn't get done.

No genealogy.
No work on the two newsletters that remain on the top of my to-do list.
No cleaning of closets.

Fiddle-dee-dee. I'll think about that tomorrow.


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Spring Poetry

Yes, Spring is my favorite time of year.

Spring, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

I love thee because of the temperate weather that enables my brain to finally thaw and begin functioning again.

I love thee because the mosquitoes have not yet had time to breed and I can spend some time out of doors, at least until the first of the Spring rains comes along.

I especially love thee because I know that in just a few days I will begin seeing bluebonnets and paint brushes popping up for my enjoyment as I commute to and from work. God was having an especially good day the day he created Texas wildflowers.

I love thee because of the variety of birds that appear outside my window to partake of the offerings I put in the feeders on the deck.

I even love thee because of the little flirty squirrel that has set his life goal to the emptying of those feeders before the birds get a chance. He provides raucous laughing that is good for the soul.

But Spring is not without its trials and tribulations.

I do not love thee for the powdery yellow stuff that is floating through the air from the pine trees that surround my home.

I do not love thee for the other yellow stuff that is about to explode from the cedar tree beside the deck.

Spring brings new life to the soul and to the body. But it also brings sneeze attacks and watery eyes.

There is always antihistimines to deal with the cons.

The balance is definitely heavily weighted toward the pros.

For what is a sneeze or two in comparison with the anticipation of things to come?


Saturday, March 12, 2011

Spring Creeps in on Baby Steps

This past week found me on edge and feeling the need to make a change. I've been waiting for that feeling to hit and hoping that Spring would be the catalyst. I've spent the last few months fighting lethargy because it was too cold to go outside and my head was too stuffy with winter allergies to be able to make myself do anything productive inside. There was the odd day that I would suddenly go into a frenzy of house-cleaning, but for the most part I just wanted to hibernate. My weekends were spent reading, napping on the couch with the dogs, occasionally knitting, and wasting a lot of time playing games on Facebook.

So when a co-worker and fellow game-player plopped down in my office this week and announced she was through with the Facebook games, it triggered a sympathetic response on my part. I knew what she was feeling and I knew I, too, needed to stop wasting my time and get back to the things I truly enjoy.

Like blogging. Like genealogical research. Like miniatures.

It's funny when you come to that point and say "no more". This morning, instead of spending the early hours of the morning catching up with the games, I pulled out a pile of family records and starting sorting and filing and the next thing I knew, I was caught up in the Beauchamp family history. Instead of plowing and planting fictitious crops, I was busily dissecting a long bio I had found awhile back and discovering that buried in the middle of it was the name of a direct ancestor I did not yet have. That was way better fun than Farmville.

At mid-morning I stepped outside with the dogs and discovered the weather was perfect for a little bit of yard work. I decided to tackle the nasty photina bushes that line both of my decks. Before I present the after photo, I must explain that I absolutely detest the photina bushes and my aim is not to make them pretty but to make them miserable so they will die and I can stop trimming photina bushes twice a year. The things grow like crazy, sending out branches in all directions and creating a mass of greenery that blocks my view of the woods. If I did not realize how much money was spent on creating this cluster of eyesores, I would have poured stump killer on them long ago. I'm beginning to wonder if ten years is long enough to suffer their presence.

Mojo and Coco watched from the deck, keeping me company while I worked. They were thrilled to be outside in the soft breeze and warm sunshine. I was thrilled when a couple of hours later the bushes surrounding the north deck were under control again.

The first sign of impending Spring arrived in my yard this week when the irises I transplanted a couple of years ago suddenly began blooming. These are the iris bulbs I liberated from an overgrown, forgotten cemetery where they had naturalized and they have proved to be hardy little plants that have already begun multiplying in my flower bed. In a couple of days I will have a solid ring of white blooms. (The second group of bulbs I transplanted last year from another cemetery are not showing any inclination to bloom this year, but they survived the winter and I have hopes that there will be purple blooms next year.)

About the time I wrapped up the first round of photina butchering, I was dehydrated and about to cave in from hunger. My meals of late have been singularly unsatisfying, so I decided to take myself downtown for a good homestyle meal at The Grace Miller Cafe. Bastrop has two places to find a good chicken fried steak. Since I had eaten at Maxine's a couple of weeks ago, I decided it was time to refresh my memory of the version served at Gracie's. I started off with a plate piled high.

When I left, there was maybe a half slice of toast and a half-dozen green breans still on the plate. It was yummy and I have to say that this plate was a whole lot closer to homemade taste than the similar plate I ate at Maxine's. Next time I have a CFS craving, I know where to go.

I had intentions of moseying around town after lunch, but I changed my plans after eavesdropping on a conversation at the next table. As I had left the subdivision, headed downtown, I had passed two fire engines in full siren mode. A new arrival at the cafe had stopped by another table to tell them about a big fire in the depths of the subdivision. Not knowing where or how big the fire was, I decided to head back home - just in case.

On the way out of the cafe, I was struck by the gleaming copper dome of the courthouse nearby. The iPhone camera did not do it justice, but take my word for it, the copper was glinting in the sun like a beacon.

I seriously considered spending the afternoon napping off that huge lunch, but instead the dogs and I set up shop in the front yard this time. While they watched the neighborhood traffic, I moved all the houseplants that have been wintering in the garage out to the porch. Another couple of hours later, we had them all thoroughly watered, the garage swept of dead leaves, the bird bath reinstated, and had tested the riding mower to be sure it was going to start when I next need it.

Tonight we are all pleasantly pooped and satisfied with the way our day went. Tomorrow, if we are not crippled with sore muscles, we will tackle the photina menace on the south side.

Man, I hate those things.

But, oh how I love Spring.