Wednesday, April 27, 2011


There is a certain fellow who resides in the backyard who thinks he is outsmarting me.

When all is quiet on the deck and the dogs are inside, he jumps from the nearby tree and makes his way down the framework of the now-denuded canopy and helps himself to the contents of one of the bird feeders.

Three of the four bird feeders hanging from the canopy framework are presently full of safflower seeds. Squirrels do not care for safflower seeds.

But this one feeder is filled with corn kernals and sunflower seeds. Just the kind of thing that fills a little squirrel's heart with joy. Not to mention filling his little tummy to a pleasing roundness.

He thinks he is getting away with something. I can tell by the way he looks at me through the kitchen window and flicks his tail. I can tell by the way he lowers his head and gives me that "stop me if you think you can" look.

What he doesn't realize is that I put that feeder out there just for him. And for the lone Blue Jay who is frequenting our yard right now.

I'm not going to tell him. He's having too much fun outsmarting me.

Meanwhile, back inside, I think the cats are plotting something. See the telltale ear posture?

See the glazed, cross-eyed stare?

I may sleep with one eye open tonight.


Saturday, April 23, 2011

Personal Archaeology

I continue to excavate the garage. I think I'm finally beginning to see a dim light at the end of the tunnel. Two more carloads were taken to the thrift store, another box and a half of books were sorted out for the library book sale. The trash dumpster is full and I have two large piles of discards that are ready to fill it back up again after the garbage pickup on Tuesday. All the boxes full of books have been culled down to the volumes I want to keep and all of those have been put into clear bins so I can find what I want when I want it.

On Thursday I had a small air-conditioning crisis and while waiting for the repairman to arrive, my nervous energy led me to clear most of what is stored in the attic down to a level where I could decide what to do with it. All that is left up there now is an odd assortment of chairs that we brought over from my grandmother's house after she died. Getting all the old, unwanted Christmas decorations down led to my donating a large portion of them to the thrift store. I still have a few bins of yarn and magazines to sort through, but I'm able to walk all the way around the parked car now and if I decide to take a ride on my bicycle, I can actually get to it.

One bin I explored contained bits and pieces of old clothing and odds and ends that I thought might come in handy for a Halloween costume. Some years ago the office had quite a high participation in our annual chance to dress up and get a little crazy and I was always game for a chance to make a fool of myself. Sadly, either from our growing too big for such foolishness or the fact that a good number of us have progressed to the age where we just don't feel the need to get silly, there aren't many who still come to work in costume on Halloween. It had been years since I had plowed through all my props and I had forgotten what was in there. There were masks, hats, a grass skirt and a flowered lei. There were also some things that I had worn once upon a time and thought might come in useful for "good old days" costuming.

If you are a lady of a certain age, perhaps you will remember the fuzzy mohair sweaters that were all the rage in the early 1970s. The rich girls swept through school in clouds of soft pink or blue and I was fiercely envious, but they were out of our price range. I ended up with two that I picked up on some clearance rack somewhere, both hideous colors that did nothing for me, but by golly I had mohair sweaters. The mustard yellow one has disintegrated over time, but the green one is still mostly intact.

I found an old knit pantsuit in shades of brown that I dearly loved back when it was in style. Oddly enough, it would probably blend right in with the current wave of mod prints that are popping up everywhere, but I don't think it would fit anymore. I also found a dress that Mother made for me back when prairie dresses were all the rage. While I will never wear it again, I will probably keep it in the back of the closet as a souvenir of those days when most of my clothing was handmade by Mother during the summer vacation. Thanks to her ability with a sewing machine, I was generally in style despite our being financially strapped.

I will also probably hang onto 3 thread-bare shirts. Again, if you are of a certain age, perhaps you remember the fad of embroidered blue chambray shirts. Girls adept at embroidery embellished shirts not only for themselves but for their boyfriends. I made two for myself and one for little brother. All have had the tails worn off them, but I can't bring myself to throw them away because I remember how much fun they were to create.

My favorite was the one with Heathcliff across the back. Mother drew the cartoon cat freehand on the shirt for a guide for me to work.

David's shirt had a nice tropical sunset spread across the back.

I also put smaller motifs all over the shirts, including the cuffs, and the button placket. We who did embroidery were pretty cool wearing our handiwork. For now the shirts will hang in the back of the closet, but I wonder if it would be worthwhile to cut the blocks of embroidery out and create some kind of shadow frame collage. Still pondering.

I did not find just forgotten clothing. I uncovered programs and ticket stubs from concerts and plays attended and long forgotten. I found my Ann Richards bumper sticker and my address book from college days. I found a treasured cookie recipe I had been given by a high school friend, stuck in a cookbook that had lost favor along the way. I had mourned the loss of that cookie recipe for many years.

Excavation is the proper term. I am peeling away layer after layer of my own life and it is amazing to suddenly uncover an item that immediately transports you across time and reminds you vividly of a particular moment in the past. I've found a lot of immaterial detritus that has been discarded, but I've also relocated some lovely memories.


Sunday, April 17, 2011

Play Time

One of the first bright spots of a good week came along on Tuesday as I was making my way home from the office. The curator of the Bastrop County Historical Museum was calling. The previous week I had responded to an email sent to their members looking for locally produced quilts from the 1950s and earlier for a quilt exhibit the museum planned for the month of May. I just happened to have 8 quilts in the closet that Grandmother Lucy Hodge had crafted and I thought they might be of interest. After two weeks with no response, I had almost forgotten the whole thing, figuring they were looking for "art" quilts and not for the everyday family quilts I had inherited.

But, on the contrary, she was very interested in the quilts and we made an appointment for me to bring them in Wednesday afternoon for her to have a closer look. We had a good time pulling out the quilts and talking about family and local history. In the end, she selected three of the quilts to be included in the display.

On Friday, friend Lana came down to spend the night and we had a choice of two events to attend on Saturday. We vacillated between the two choices while indulging ourselves in steaks and baked potatoes at Nancy's Steak House. When we finally went to bed, we still weren't sure which direction we were headed the next morning - to her UDC event or to my DAR event.

Over morning coffee, we finally realized why we had not been able to make up our minds the evening before. We really didn't want to go to either meeting. We were in the mood to run away and play. We've both had too many obligations and too many meetings and too many drains on our mental energy of late. We made the decision to play hooky.

We started with a stop at Starbuck's and then hit the back road to McDade to visit a cemetery and experiment with my new grave dowsing rods. Halfway there, I had a sudden urge to veer off toward the Oak Hill Cemetery so that Lana could see an authentic "scraped" cemetery. As we drove up, we realized that it was an official cemetery cleaning day and a dozen or so folks were busily at work. One of the first people I spotted inside the gate was distant cousin Dorothy, who was holding her own set of dowsing rods. Grabbing the opportunity, we wheedled a dowsing lesson from an expert and in short order I was having a great time witching graves. No one seems to know just how and why grave dowsing/witching works, but it took no time at all for me to become a believer. The rods would cross as soon as I approached a known grave, and the test for male or female (a lone rod swinging to the head or the foot of the grave -foot for male, head for female) was proving to be quite accurate when I would test first and check the name on the headstone afterward.

A couple of the workers decided to test me to see if I was really getting the correct results. One led me to a grave where he knew the man had been buried in reverse position, with his feet at the top of the grave. Sure enough, the rod swung in the opposite direction from what I had been told to expect, confusing me, before he explained that the rod was giving me the correct information. Another led me to a gravesite where I got no reading at all, before she explained that the headstone was a cenotaph and there was no body buried there.

Finally, they took me to a grave containing cremains in an urn mounted on the tombstone. The rods faithfully crossed when positioned directly over the urn and the gender test still proved accurate. We were having a blast, although Lana was having some difficulties with getting the rods to work for her. Dorothy explained that the rods did not work for some people, but she was sure after watching me that I did indeed have the gift for grave witching. Later in the day when we stopped at another cemetery and had another round of practice, Lana was getting better results so we are hoping that her learning curve is just a bit behind mine. After all, I had had some practice locating water lines in the yard beforehand.

From grave dowsing, we embarked on an antiques jaunt in the Round Top area. What a difference a couple of weeks makes. The craziness of the spring Antiques Fair had given way to empty fields and show barns, with only the full time antiques stores open for business. We strolled our way leisurely through the stores on the south side of Carmine before heading down to Round Top for lunch. We had decided to check out Royer's Cafe, a place renown for their pies, arriving at 1pm, not expecting to hit a crowd in the sleepy little town. We were in for a surprise. Royer's was packed with recreational bikers and tourists and we thought we would have to wait for a table. But Royer's is used to this kind of lunch crowd and was introducing customers to each other as they filled every seat at every table. We shared a table and had a nice visit with a couple of ladies from California who were in Texas to visit family. Lana and I shared a great hamburger and then a huge slab of cherry pie with Blue Bell ice cream.

We were full of great food after a morning of great fun and it became perfect when our waiter announced that the pie was on the house because it was our first visit. All I can say is, if you are ever in Round Top and in need of a pie fix, you need to head to Royer's. Yummy!

Our stomachs full and satisfied, we headed back to visit the stores on the north side of Carmine. We did not find a whole lot, but we did find a good buy on some collectible dolls of just the right size for our dollhouse activities and we each took home two.

One final round of antiquing at a coop mall in Giddings ended the day. We headed back to Bastrop, relaxed and contented. We concluded that sometimes you just need to escape your obligations and instead run free and experience the joys of spontaneous life. We had a fantastic day. I plan to make that choice a little more frequently.


Paying the Price, Part 3

Saturday dawned and was cool and clear (at 7am, anyway), and not wishing to venture out and tempt the fates again, I decided to have another go at the garage purging project. I was about 2/3 of the way through the book sorting, and in a couple of hours I had 4 more boxes of books to take to the library for their book sale. I probably should have stopped there and settled for the satisfication factor.

But it was still cool enough that I decided to begin exploring all the plastic storage bins that have lined the garage walls for the last few years. I knew some of them contained my yarn stash overflow and some of them contained old Halloween costumes and props, but I could not for the life of me remember what else I had shoved out of sight and out of mind. I began to spread the contents of a half-dozen large bins all over the driveway.

I was making great progress, finding yet more books, the yarn, the costumes and a lot of junk that went directly into the dumpster or into the thrift store pile. Along the way, I popped an old Renaissance fair flowered garland on my head, clipped an Hawaiian flower over my ear, draped an old scarf around my neck, and had the entire driveway covered with stacks of sorted clutter. I was getting amused, or maybe it was horrified, glances from the neighbors. Hard to say, because they were bolting for their houses before I had the chance to say hello or ask for help.

Along about noon it suddenly got hot and the excavation of the garage was no longer providing me with that sense of satisfaction but more like a feeling of total exhaustion. I had a row of bins that were now filled with items to be delivered to the thrift store, the books for the library boxed and in the car ready for delivery, the remaining books boxed in new, clear bins, and a large bin of items that I needed to think about sitting by the back door where I will have to stumble over them until I can't stand it anymore and finally get down to deciding what to do with them.

I managed to get myself presentable enough to go out for lunch and later deliver the books to the library. It wasn't until I had finished my lunch and getting ready to leave the restaurant that I realized what my morning had done to me. I could barely get myself out of the booth. Every muscle in my body was screaming. I managed to get the books delivered and then I spent the remainder of the day groaning every time I moved.

I had good intentions of resting on Sunday, but the morning dawned cool and clear and my muscles had relaxed just enough to fool me into thinking I was ready to tackle another cleaning project. Before I knew it, I was standing on a step ladder, dismantling the canopy that was disintegrating on the big deck. That one task was enough to send all my muscles back into protesting spasms.

For the next three days I could not move without pain. Fortunately, at that point I guess my guardian angel got back from her vacation, because things began to change for the better.


Friday, April 15, 2011

Paying the Price Part 2

I really did some good planning when I scheduled my spring break. My first day back to work was the day I normally work from home, so I eased back into my normal routine and did not have to venture out until it was time for my chiropractic appointment at the end of the day.

The next day was a normal work day, commuting to and from the office without incident. (The calm before the storm, lulling me into a false sense of all's well.) Then Friday came along and I worked at home again in order to attend the monthly meeting of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas. I stepped out the door, dressed in my Texas flag shirt, jeans and high heels, with about 20 minutes to get to the bank before the meeting began.

And I discovered my front left tire was as flat as the proverbial pancake. I was all dressed up and facing the sweaty task of changing the tire. I debated calling the wrecker, which I had done on a couple of occasions in the past when I drove SUVs. The tires on those things are very nearly too heavy for me to lift. I decided it would be a better idea for me to experience changing a tire on Big Red.

I quickly discovered I did not even know where the spare tire was. I pulled the owner's manual out of the glove box, located the tire and the tire tools (there are a lot of hiding places in that little car), and proceeded to hold the manual with one hand and wield the tire tools with the other. I managed to successfully complete the job in under a half-hour, during the process of which I discovered that the spare was seriously under-inflated. But of course it was.

So I crept out of the subdivision and across the highway to the convenience store, where I discovered the going rate for an air hose these days is $1 for about 5 minutes worth of air. Inflation. (Pun intended.)

One wonders just what in the heck your kharma is up to some days. I had just begun the process of airing up the tire when this car comes up from nowhere to park beside me. The air hose was nowhere near the convenience store or the gas pumps, but rather all the way across the parking lot all by itself. Being the suspicious sort, I prepared to jump up and start screaming if some hulking speciman attempted to acost me, but it was a tiny little woman who sprang from the car and asked if I might have an extra cigarette she could have.

Well, gee, Lady. Wish I could help you since I'm not doing anything else at the moment but buying incredibly expensive air while I'm kneeling on concrete and trying to get a recalcitrant pressure gauge to register ANYTHING, but, sorry, I don't smoke.

Then she wanted to know if my car was electric; oh, no, it's a hybrid, isn't it? At this point I was about ready to insert the uncooperative pressure gauge into her ear, but I was wearing a Texas flag shirt and driving a bright red Prius and would be way too easy to remember for later describing to the police, so I opted for being polite and agreeing with her that yes, the label she was pointing to on the car was indeed correct in describing it as a hybrid. Thankfully, she ran out of steam at that point and got back in the car and drove off.

By this time I had come to the conclusion that my guardian angel was on her own spring break or else my stars were not even close to being aligned.

I drove on to the tire store and delivered Big Red into the capable hands of the service folks, made my way to the waiting room, discovered I was totally dehydrated by that time, and found a lone $1 bill in my purse with which to purchase a bottle of water from the soda machine. Miraculously the bill reader agreed to take my dollar and give me change, but it wasn't feeling like giving me a bottle of water today. Nope, not a diet Coke either. Nope, you ain't getting nothing, Lady.

I think the guy at the service desk knew I was beginning to reach the end of my rope because he brought me a bottle of water from the employee stock. Good people at that store. That's why I keep taking my business there.

After all of this fol-de-rol, you might think I would have headed back to the house and crawled back in bed and kept the covers over my head for the rest of the day. But, I went on to my meeting and arrived in time to attend the business portion of the agenda. After that, I went home and locked myself in the house and decided that discretion was the better part of valor and I would tackle life again the next day.

I should have stayed in bed another day, I think....


Thursday, April 14, 2011

Paying the Price

Ever since the lovely stretch of days that was my own personal spring break, I have been paying the price.

The day following the nice afternoon at Sherwood Forest Faire, I embarked on one of the stupider moves I've made in recent history. Every one of the furry children was due for a shot and/or annual checkup and I decided to haul the entire herd over to Elgin to see the vet en masse. I normally try to make two of these trips a year, once for the cats and once for the dogs, and how I managed to end up with everybody needing a shot at the same time, I do not know. But I decided that I might as well gird my loins and get the whole thing out of the way in one fell swoop, so I loaded 5 pet carriers into the car and pointed the car northward.

I do not have any pets at the moment who are good travelers. The dogs get queasy and nervous and the cats - well, the cats get pissed off. They do not like being removed from their cozy nap perches and crammed into a tiny container and hauled 20 miles for the privilege of getting a needle stuck in their collective hiney. Boo and Dixie generally settle for giving me nasty glowers from the pet carriers and then acting like wild panthers when loosed from their prisons in the exam room. You would not believe how loud Boo can hiss and how far across the room he can spit when he is not pleased. (I have been called on several occasions after dropping him off on the way to work with the plea to be allowed to administer anesthesia to the little devil so they can get whatever needs to be done done.)Dixie is not that bad, but she has perfected the technique of suddenly anchoring her position by digging her rear claws into the stomach of whoever has hold of her. I have several pock marks in my abdominal area where she has pulled that stunt with me.

Then there is Scout. Scout does not suffer in silence. Scout begins to inform me of her displeasure the instant she is placed in the car. She continues to inform me of her wrath with steadily increasing volume for the entire 20 miles. I've tried cajoling her. Yowl. I've tried sternly telling her to cease and desist. YOwl. I've tried ignoring her. YOWL! By the time we reach our destination, Mommy has developed a nervous twitch and a serious need for some soothing liquid tranquilizer.

I at least knew what I was in for, as did the lady doctor we have worked with for many years. The brand new vet assistant was in a state of consternation when she saw us arrive. Five animals for one long appointment was nothing she had experienced before and the thought of putting the cats and the dogs into one exam room together appalled her. She asked the doctor if she should take the dogs into another room and was told that no, it would be okay to put the entire bunch in the large exam room and she would do the exams in the room with the owner. You could tell the assistant thought the doctor was out of her mind. The doctor pointed out that they all lived together in one house and knew how to co-exist peacefully.

And, indeed, we had no problem with the cats getting their exams while the dogs ran around the room getting into everyone's business. The only real trouble was when they hit Boo with the first of three needles and he started his spitting and hissing routine. He was entirely aware of who was the target of his anger and it was not his dog buddies. If he could have drawn some doctor or vet assistant blood, he would have been a very satisfied cat. We did all of us learn a lesson, however. If you are going to give Boo a topical de-wormer treatment, start with that. By the time we reached that point, he let us know in no uncertain terms that he would be taking the life of whoever tried to put that goop on him. (It took two days before he relaxed enough that I finally got the job done in the comfort of home.)

Thankfully all three of the cats are so glad to get past the needle sticks that they all willingly return to their carriers and give me the silent treatment all the way home. (I try to give Scout the idea that this tortures and upsets me.) After paying the bill for this little adventure, I felt rather queasy and annoyed myself.

The last day of my spring break, which was also my birthday, I spent on indulging myself. One of the benefits of reaching the half-century mark (never mind how many years ago) is earning the privilege of joining "Club 50" at Beall's, where I do a lot of my clothes shopping. Every Tuesday we matronly ladies descend on the store, ready to claim our 20% discount on all purchases. I spent a very productive 2 hours there and came home with a nice fat bag full of summer outfits in spring colors.

So ended my official vacation. I got a lot done, ran around and enjoyed myself thoroughly. I was not at all ready to get back to work. I felt good.

That lasted until the next weekend.....


Saturday, April 02, 2011

Faire Thee Well

Day 4 of Cindy's Spring Break found me out at the Sherwood Forest Faire with little brother and sis-in-law. This is a 2-year-old Renaissance Festival located between McDade and Paige. It put on an impressive showing in its first season last year and this year it has made some giant leaps toward establishing itself as an important stop on the Renfest circuit. The food is good, the entertainment is good, the merchants are outstanding and the setting is perfect - less than 30 minutes from my front door. This penultimate day of the 2011 season found a large crowd enjoying themselves on a beautiful spring day.

Many times when I attend a Renaissance Festival, I find nothing to tempt me. Today was not one of those days. Everywhere I turned, I found something interesting. And it is my birthday week, which means I am slanted toward indulging myself and so I did.

I brought home a sun hat, with a crocheted crown and a wide brim. It is guaranteed to survive, and even enjoy, a good dunking in the swimming pool.

One vendor offered a rainbow of shimmery skirts and I knew I had to have one. The tough part was deciding what color. I loved the dark blue, the oxblood (deep red), the copper and the saffron, but the winner was a lovely mauve that shifts from a silvery lilac to a reddish purple with every swish. I can't wait for a good excuse to take this one out of the closet.

Smaller purchases along the way included a tiny wind chime hanging from a tiny Kokopelli, an item that will find its way to the porch of my miniature southwestern store, and a large red pottery coffee mug. (Last year my sole purchase was a big blue coffee mug, which I love, and I have decided to make it a Sherwood Forest Faire tradition to acquire a new big coffee mug every year.)

For lunch, David and Karen had falafel and stuffed grape leaves and I indulged in a Shepherd's pie, which was yummy. We had mead (and David had ale) and for dessert I tried the apple empanada with vanilla ice cream.

From the entertainment options we watched a little bit of comedy, heard some music, watched a jousting exhibition and attended the falconry show. Finally, the three of us took a ride on the giant swing and enjoyed flying out over a green gully. I enjoyed closing my eyes and the sensation of gently flying through the trees.

The last and best of my faire indulgences came as a total surprise. One of the vendors crafts tiny porcelain doll fairies and tiny fairy houses in the same approximate scale of my own miniature work. I was enchanted with the little houses hanging from the branches of the tree in front of her booth. I was more enchanted with a particular house that was on display inside. I wavered about that little house, finally deciding against buying it because I could not immediately figure out a way to display it so that it would maintain its pristine condition. I knew I had to have one of the reasonably priced dolls and I finally settled on little "Violet Rose". She will be the focal point of a vignette in the near future.

I am thoroughly delighted with this little lady and I was very happy to hear that the vendor plans to return next year. Her work is beautiful and imaginative and a pleasant surprise find.

About a half hour later I had figured out a way to display the fairy house that had captured my heart, so I headed back to the shop to make the purchase. Alas, in that short period of time, someone else had snatched the opportunity away from me. Shopping at a faire is like buying antiques...when something speaks to you strongly, don't hesitate too long or you may lose out.

But there's always next year. And I'll be back. This is going to be a regular birthday event, if I have anything to say about it.

Tonight my feet are complaining again, but I care not. I love my cup, I love my skirt, I love my hat and I love little Violet Rose. And I love being out in the beautiful weather in the company of my family enjoying good entertainment and good food. I love that Sherwood Forest Faire coincides with my birthday and offers me a unique way to celebrate!