Friday, July 29, 2005

What Do You See When You Look At Me?

I saw Fidel Castro walking through a neighborhood in North Austin last night. He was wearing a green & white dress shirt with the sleeves rolled up and dark pants that looked none too clean. He had on his funny little military cap and had a fat cigar clenched in his teeth. He was holding up a battered blue umbrella but the wind was blowing the rain sideways and his shirt was soaked through on one side so that it clung transparently to his wet chest. He paid no attention to me.

I highly doubt Fidel has sneaked into the U.S. and made his way to the wonderful world of Austin, Texas. This look-a-like was simply a weathered, graying Latino walking home in the rain who had no idea someone had noticed him, much less noticed him in detail. Which makes me wonder…what do people see when they look at me?

I think of myself as a young woman even though I’m in my late thirties. When I examine myself, it is more looking at my spirit and not my physical self. I see me as a young brunette, still chubbier than I should be, with fair skin and a pretty smile in a somewhat plain face. I always experience a momentary shock when I realize that the person in the bathroom mirror has laugh lines around her eyes and mouth and worry lines across her forehead. And the hair that I like to think is blonde highlights from all my time in the sun is actually gray, or more accurately, white.

Age is definitely a state of mind. I believe how you feel inside affects your wellbeing just as much as time passing affects the corporal body. I may be 38 in flesh and blood but I’m 26 in essence and attitude.

But what do people see when they look at me? We’re not as invisible as we like to believe. When I’m driving down the street I have no idea who may be on the sidewalk, watching me as I pass. When I’m walking up 6th Street on a mid-morning Starbucks run, laughing with co-workers, is a passing motorist scrutinizing me? Do I look happy? Content? Carefree? Do I look worn and tired? More importantly, can they get a sense of who I am from a six second glance? Do I smile more than frown?

My friends will chuckle as they read this post. They all know I tend to overanalyze the most mundane and unimportant things. But life, and it’s mysteries, fascinates me. And I hope that Fidel made it home safely last night, that he walked up his front steps and opened the door of his house, shaking the wet umbrella off before stepping into a brightly lit and happy place filled with the rich smell of carne guisada bubbling on the stove and tortillas warming, with a wife who, wiping her hands on a dish towel, reaches up to kiss him hello, not mindful of the raindrops at all.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

In Pursuit of Silver Shoes

Today is a much better day. I practiced enough Lamaze breathing yesterday to lower my blood pressure. I'm not terribly happy but I'm calm. Beggars can't be choosers. Instead of sinking further into my inner turmoil, I focused all my energy on the pursuit of silver shoes. I need silver shoes for a wedding next weekend. Yes, it is the last minute. I hate to shop unless it is Central Market or Whole Foods.

My problem is that I can't safely walk in the narrow heeled pretty strappy sandal variety of shoes. I need a heel wider than the width of a pencil eraser in order to be able to walk without fear of spraining an ankle. Seriously, put me in narrow heels, even ones that aren't so high, and my ankles wobble like they're rubber bands. Unfortunately, most of the cute shoes out there in silver do not come with wider heels. And a lot of the silver shoes out there look just like the local strip club has been pre-ordering for the fall season. I saw more lucite heels and rhinestone studded straps in Highland Mall than I’ve ever seen on drag queens at Charlie's.

If I end up with a shorter heel, I have to hem my bridesmaid dress. At $35 for alterations, this is not an attractive option. I don't want to have to pay out more money toward an outfit I'm never going to wear again. So...I may just have to go back to the one store with a silver shoe sporting a chunky 3 1/2" heel. I may be able to get away with not hemming the dress if I have a 3 1/2" heeled shoe. This one isn't a strappy sandal like I wanted but the price is right: inexpensive. The toe is rounded and has a short, covered toe box...a strap across the foot and an ankle strap as well. They are kind of silver satin covered ballroom dance looking shoes. Not too bad. I can always pretend that I saw Jennifer Lopez wear something similar in "Shall We Dance". I'll probably search all over another mall tonight and then return to the store for them only to find my size sold out. My luck!

I almost bought a Hello Kitty purse just to make myself feel better. A co-worker told me she owns one and although I've never seen her's, this one was too cute. A small denim purse with a cheerfully pink Hello Kitty. I needed a feel good purchase, wanted a feel good purchase, demanded a feel good purchase! Alas, no Hello Kitty purse for me at this time. Perhaps I'll find a different feel good purchase at the mall tonight when I'm back on the prowl for silver shoes.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Can Anybody Spare a Valium?

My life is normally calm and peaceful, interrupted only with me-approved moments of crazy fun madness. My life is not supposed to be stressful enough to cause an eruption of zits worthy of 7th grade fame on my face. My life is clearly not intended to leave me feeling so out of sorts that the muscles in my upper back are knotted up to the point that I am hunched over like Quasimodo.

I'm experiencing an interruption in my serenity. My boyfriend, who is my sounding board, is out of town. In other words, I can't easily vent, vent, vent to him as is my habit when life goes wrong. I've blabbed as much as I can to other close friends but I'm still not close to recovering my tranquility.

To add insult to injury, I have nothing at home to read. Reading has always been and will always be my escape from reality. Others reach for a fifth of vodka, I reach toward the bookshelf. Books got me through entire summers during the ugly years: when you didn't fit into any group, you didn't like the friends you had, you couldn't make the friends you wanted, you were smack dab into the middle of the Ugly Duckling stage of growth and you desperately wished you had a different existence. Nope...I can't even get that relief right now. I think I've read every book in my house at least four times.

The karmic wheel needs to turn. I promise to let everyone on the road cut in front of me. I promise to park in the spot farthest from the grocery store door. I promise to think kind thoughts while waiting, waiting, waiting my turn in the copy room at work. But please, O Great Gods Who Control It All, please ease up a bit on me. I need a good night's sleep. No nightmares. No sinking feelings. Please take care of this one issue and give me a tiny break. And a Valium would be nice as well.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Birthday Month is Winding Down

I celebrated the heck out of my birthday this year. This weekend we had birthday bowl-a-rama. Frederick, Jed, Leslie, Caley and I bowled with Darla watching and being the primary Keeper of the Kid. Adrian started off this week with a new round of pink eye and now Darla is convinced she'll be next. Wash your hands, people. Wash your hands.

As is our custom, we did not use our real names for the game. Instead, our screen was a poster board for 80's pop singers or bands. Instead of Kay, I was Wham!. We had Tears for Fears, Pat Benatar, Culture Club and A Flock of Seagulls. We also remembered to start off with our official team cheer but forgot to repeat it before our second game. Our team cheer is ripped off from the Wonder Twins. "Wonder Team powers activate! Form of..." and you go around the circle, each person filling in the blank with whatever image comes to mind. Giant waves and dinosaurs are popular. We totally forgot to end with the communal "And a bucket of water", which I'm blaming for my poor score. Next time, I want our screen names to be famous villains. I'm not sure if I want to be Malificent from Sleeping Beauty or Akasha from Anne Rice's The Queen of the Damned.

Saturday night was spent celebrating someone else's birthday. Todd had his party at the Red Scoot-Inn, a Tejano club on the East side that has a large patio to rent. The beers were cold and cheap and the live music on the patio was fabulous. I extremely enjoyed Steamroller, who delivered some solid rock & roll. Happy birthday, Todd! 'Chelle, you did a great job pulling together the Hittner ist Bach bash. Fun times indeed.

Congratulations, Lance!

"Without heroes, we're all plain people who don't know how far we can go." (Bernard Malamud)

My weekend report is nowhere near as exciting as Lance Armstrong’s. The Austin cyclist has done it again, winning his 7th straight Tour de France. Austin has gone Armstrong wild again, with yellow signs everywhere during the weeks of the Tour. I’ve seen everything from “Go, Lance, Go!” to “Vive La Lance” and “Le Tour de Lance” and signs advertising “The Tour de France Televised Daily Here!” on establishments ranging from sports bars to coffee houses and even at Central Market, where there was a daily podcast as well as the television coverage.

Lance’s latest and final victory as a professional cyclist has not been free of controversy. As usual, newspapers were bringing up dark mutterings of blood doping even up to the last day of the Tour. Lance is probably the most drug tested athlete in history. Funny thing is, all of the tests are negative. Get it, people? He doesn’t use drugs. He doesn’t need to use them. Lance is one of those rare natural athletes who push themselves body and soul to accomplish the goal. He defeated cancer when the odds were extremely low. And he’s won the Tour more times than anyone in the history of the race.

There are also those who dislike Lance because they believe that either a) he did something to warrant his divorce from Kristin, the mother of his son and twin girls and/or b) he is grandstanding and possesses an ego the size of Texas. While I’ve heard the rumors in Austin about the causes of the divorce, the point is, it’s their business. I hope Kristin is dating a wonderful man and is just as happy as Lance & Sheryl. As for the other, if Lance has a big ego, he hasn’t displayed it. He is a much nicer athlete than many professional ones. Think of the NFL, MLB and NBA players who not only need lessons in basic manners but also pepper their sports careers with drug convictions, DWI’s and worse. Lance is friendly and approachable to fans and the press. He’s never been videotaped swearing at photographers or pushing around a cameraman. He acknowledges that he is the best in his sport…if that is what warrants the ego talk, well, hey, the truth is the truth. And I can’t help but admire a man who holds a fondness for Tex Mex food from Chuy's and Shiner Bock beer much less convince Nike to come out with the 10/2 line, where each purchase means the company donates to the Lance Armstrong Foundation.

The city of Austin is already planning the celebration party. Last year a good half mile of Congress Avenue was closed off to accommodate the crowds and live music stage. Everyone from professional artists to kids to adults were enlisted to chalk paint the street with messages such as LiveStrong! The bands performing were Robert Earl Keen, the Steve Miller Band and of course, Sheryl Crow. Lance even sang along on a few songs. The Capitol was lit in yellow, then in blue for the official yellow jersey/LiveStrong colors and the Postal Team. I’m sure this year will be just as festive. After the win yesterday Lance announced to reporters that he and Sheryl were taking the kids to a beach in the South of France for a week, where he intends to sit around in the sand and drink lots of beer before returning home to Austin. The party will be held shortly after his return.

In other bits of Lance trivia, his first Austin home is up for sale. Casa de Linda, named in honor of his mother, is a gorgeous 4,950 square foot house listed at $3.5 million dollars. Anyone need a home with two boat slips and palm trees lining the property?

Saturday, July 23, 2005

There's no place like home! Repeat 3 times and pass me a tortilla .

If I had a pair of ruby red slippers, I'd give them to Frank to wear.  Not because he's nursing a secret compulsion to dress in glittery, spangled shoes, but so I could help hasten the closing process on his newly built condo.  As with any first time buyer of a new home, his frustration level has been slowly increasing since, oh, mid-April.  Not that the condo was supposed to be finished in April, but Frank has been wishing it was completed since then. 

Most of you know he's been officially homeless since the first of July, when all his belongings went into storage.  He stayed with me a few nights before housesitting for a week.  Then bounced around between a few other homes before coming back to mine for the past week or so.  I haven't gotten a good idea of what it would be like to live with him since he's been on call all week.  Scratch that...I've gotten a great idea of what it would be like to live with him while he's on call.  He doesn't get home before I'm already in bed.  Other than that, I don't have a good frame of reference of what it would be like to live with him when he's not on call.  I'd like to imagine it's just like when we're spending time together, only with sleeping involved.  Sleep.  We've had some issues with getting comfortable enough to fall asleep.

I thought we'd have no trouble falling asleep even though both of us are used to sleeping alone.  No problem, I thought.  I like to snuggle.  Um. Yeah, no.  I get hot.  Not as in Mae West/Bette Davis "come up and see me sometime/it's gonna be a bumpy night" hot but creeping from nice cozy touch to a little too wam to a flat out hot flash, generating enough BTU's to power a third world country, full on heatilating.  So the first moments of falling asleep are consumed by the need to feel cool and comfy.  Although, when I'm asleep I must not register temperature.  It seems I slide over in my sleep until I'm touching the person in bed with me either with my fingertips, elbow, knee or foot.  So the lesson here is if you're sleeping next to me, claim your fair share of the bed upon arrival into it.  And feel free to nudge me to roll over.  I'm still not sure we're entirely past the "why can't I fall asleep?" gremlins, but Frank will be gone on a business trip for a week and upon return will (cross your fingers) finalize the paperwork on the condo and collect the keys.  Not that I want him out of my place, but he's so ready to be in his very own home.

Other than the sleeping issues, I've enjoyed having someone else in my apartment.  It would have been even better if Frank could've been home for meals, since I have been deep in the throes of a cooking urge all week.  I've had some fantastic meals without him.  He did get the benefit of leftovers yesterday when I packed his breakfast and lunch.  I sent him off with a PB&J on wheat and a container of calabasita with corn tortillas.

Calabasita is one of those childhood memory foods.  Mom would make it using Mexican squash, also called Tatuma, grown in our garden from seeds her father had given us.  To me, anything my grandfather gave us must be ethnic.  (This is the abuelo who would sign our cards "Grandpo", using the masculine "o" ending for Spanish language words.)  The first time I saw calabasa in the grocery store under it's other name I had an irrational surge of irritation, even though the word calabasa translates simply to squash, not the actual variety of squash I associated it with.  Mom would cut up pork steaks and brown them with a little salt, pepper, comino and a touch of garlic.  While the meat was browning, she'd add chunky pieces of calabasa and about half of a can of corn.  After adjusting the seasonings, Mom would let it cook until the squash was transparent but not falling apart.  We'd make tacos with corn tortillas, usually taking turns flipping the tortillas on the comal.  Simple but so delicious that we'd savor every bite.  My only variation was to make it a little healthier by using center cut pork loin chops instead of the fattier pork steaks.  I admit, the extra fat does make it taste richer, but my version was close enough to the original recipe.

Once Frank closes on his condo I'll have a new kitchen to create in.  I can only hope that my cooking will someday evoke fond memories for someone.  I know it has for me, thinking back over dinners made in Vicki's kitchen, sushi parties thrown at Corrie's, cooking up a storm in Frank & Jessee's old condo and the pizza making lesson at Leslie & Tanya's.  Maybe hosting family dinner night at my apartment would be a good idea.  It would certainly add a feeling of stability and comfort to my home life.  After almost 14 months of never having anyone over to my apartment, Frank has been a welcome addition.  Once he's in his new place I should press on, continue to make my apartment feel like a home by filling it with good friends and good food.  I can dust off some of the recipes that haven't been made in a while, like my roast chicken, shrimp & crawfish etouffe and 'marry me meatloaf' and make some memories. 


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Thursday, July 21, 2005

Butterfish and The Recovery Blues: A Birthday to Remember...if only I could.

My special day was a celebration from the minute I left my apartment in the morning. We did a communal daycare drop off, with Frederick driving the Screaming Yellow Zonker of a Scion, Jed up front and me keeping Adie company in the back seat. He was apparently not in the greatest mood that morning but was all smiles and happy baby by the time I arrived. Adrian gave me my birthday gift—-he was so sweet to make sure The Daddies bought me the new Harry Potter book! After the drop off, we hit Starbucks and Taco Shack, where Freddy had ordered a gazillion tacos for my (surprise!) birthday breakfast at the office.

I was showered with affection all day long. Darla gave me a most fitting birthday card and tucked inside, a Central Market gift certificate. She knows me so well already! Leslie spoiled me with yummy smelling bath products and the coolest refrigerator magnets…made from lesbian pulp fiction book covers. (Frank laughed when I put them up next to the naked man/bondage magnet he gave me earlier in the week). Diverse is the word in my house! Stacie’s box of chocolates were to die for. Let me repeat: To.Die.For. And birthday lunch out at Opal Devine’s with all of the above mentioned folks plus Valerie, Caley and Sarah was fun times indeed. I wore the office birthday tiara as much as possible, considering it is sized for a four year old. And thoroughly enjoyed the chocolate cake handmade by Darla….mmmm it was delicious! I left work feeling completely loved and pampered.

My birthday evening out was fun. I overindulged and paid for it the next day, but it was still a good time. I’m not so sure I’ll be drinking much at happy hour on Friday. The thought of adult beverages is not a good one right now. ::::shudder::::

After a long commute home thanks to bad traffic snarls, I was treated to champagne upon arrival at my apartment. I love champagne! Frank made mimosas as I quickly showered and changed, looking longingly at HP6 and promising myself that I’d get to read it soon. Frank surprised me with dinner at 7 (as in the seven seas), the fairly new restaurant venture of Will Packwood formerly of Emilia’s and Sam Dickey of Granite Café fame. The food was delicious, although I think we were both disappointed in the portion size and the general layout of the restaurant. For those who haven’t heard of 7’s “choose your portion” philosophy, the menu boasts a seafood selection of at least a half dozen different fresh fish starting out at 3 oz portions. That is roughly half the size of a deck of playing cards, for those of you who don’t normally try to envision portion sizes. You choose a fish, choose whether to have it grilled or sautéed, and choose a sauce to accompany it either on the side or already on your plate.

We started off with cocktails and ordered crayfish cakes (in Louisiana we never said crayfish…they were plain and simple crawfish) and the jumbo shrimp scampi & grilled polenta appetizers. The crayfish (snicker) cakes were sublime, slightly spicy thick rounds that were grilled to crunchy perfection. They came with a shredded cole slaw with a vinegary tang to it. Mmmmm. The scampi was ideal, not swimming in oil like some establishments, and the grilled polenta had a wonderful smoky flavor. Frank chose the grilled Ahi tuna with a ginger soy sauce and I decided to try escolar, which the waitress said was also called butterfish, because of its sweet and rich flavor. I chose the lemon thyme beurre blanc, which went perfectly with the fish. We shared a serving of blue cheese baked potatoes, which the waitress assured us would serve two (for the record, it was one potato but since a serving of fish is smaller than your palm, I should have been forewarned). Our food was extremely good, though. And dessert was delightful as well. Gotta love homemade whipped cream.

This morning I did some research on the escolar, since I loved the flavor. I found out that it was once a banned fish by the FDA due to its oils, which the human body cannot process and so will flush from the body, often very quickly. Apparently escolar can prompt violent attacks of diarrhea. Too bad it can’t flush alcohol from your system, that would’ve been a welcomed side effect. Add to my info the fact that escolar is not the same as butterfish, which is also known as Dollarfish, pomfret, Pacific Pompano and skipjack. At any rate, I enjoyed my escolar even if it wasn’t butterfish. We enjoyed the meal but probably won’t go back to 7 anytime soon. The general atmosphere was more café than upscale and if we’re going to spend that amount of money we’d rather do so at Austin Land & Cattle, home of the famous "black and blue" steak.

I enjoyed my evening, doing a jolly good impersonation of a lush and a bumper car all to Frank’s amusement. I had a full-on recovery day and now am back at work. Fun times!

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Happy Birthday, Kim & Kay!

"Age is of no importance unless you are a cheese." (Billie Burke)

This quote by Glinda the Good Witch is listed several different ways, depending upon what quotation site you visit, but no matter how she really said it, the context is the same. Once you are an adult, physical age is not as significant as psychological age. I may be 38 years old today, but I don't feel a day over 26. Kim the Wonder Twin claims her age but I've never been one to stick to mine. Frederick, who helpfully tells everyone I'm older than I am, sent out a departmental email this morning asking everyone to come join me for birthday breakfast tacos and celebrate my 40th birthday. I think it's kinda nice hearing that I look much younger than my age.

I confessed to my sister that I hadn't mailed her birthday card yet. I haven't even bought her gift. Luckily, being twins, she hadn't either. "Wonder Twin powers activate! Form of procrastination!"

I always swear she is the evil twin but now I'm starting to wonder if our roles are changing. Kim has been a member of the St. Louis chapter of ACT UP (AIDs Coalition to Unleash Power) and was asked to join the local Queer Nation group but declined because she isn't queer (they later changed their charter to allow heterosexuals because Kim has such superb fundraising abilities), organized a demonstration at the 1992 Republican National Convention and experienced police brutality up close and personally, was arrested and charged with disturbing the peace after chaining herself and a few others across the doorway of a business that sold sham "HIV Negative" medical I.D. one point in time she had been to more Gay Pride celebrations than I'd been in gay bars. Kim has done the ultimate: Halloween in San Francisco on Polk & Castro Streets. She owned a riding crop before I ever knew there was a use for one outside of equestrian events. Kim was even in the Gay Games IV in NYC (1994)...I think it was as part of a table tennis team but time has blurred my memory. Fast forward 11 years and now she is the wife of a police man and mom of two, has mostly conservative values with a liberal lean to them and practices social work in an eating disorder clinic. I think it's safe to say I've been passed the evil twin torch.

So...happy birthday to the woman who: was born minutes before me and was the only baby our parents thought they were having until the nurse asked the doctor to step back to the table, enjoyed our parents undivided attention for a few weeks before I did due to my lengthier hospital stay while incubating like a featherless baby chick, hardly ever got caught when we were both misbehaving, easily made the honor roll in school, had her driver's license for at least two years before she prodded me out of my laziness by refusing to chauffer me around anymore, dyed her tail purple in the 80's (remember that trend?), didn't kill me when I stole her boyfriend (Ronnie Hall), returned the favor and got engaged to one of mine (Alan Ratliff), learned how to spit, smoke and pick a lock while touring the North American continent for a year with a Catholic international youth ministry team, is the only member of our immediate family to hold both undergrad and graduate degrees, because of the differences in our education now makes more than double my salary, is alternately the wonderful and hateful mother to Michael & Maggie (depending upon if they are in trouble or not) and who is the cop's wife clothed outwardly in respect and dignity and inwardly is wearing a purple boa and sporting a "Hate is not a family value" button.

I know you may not always understand me, but you love me anyway. Happy birthday. 1.4.3.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Tilt-a-Whirl Weekend

My weekend went too fast. If I stop and concentrate, I can fast forward through weekend images in my head at a speed guaranteed to conjure up memories of riding the Tilt-a-Whirl at the Ark-La-Miss Fair.

Friday night was a blur of activity. A group of us gathered at The Gingerman to celebrate Gwen & Jessica's birthdays. Many a pint of beer was consumed, some darts were thrown, interesting topics of conversation were dissected, and you know it's a good night when someone loses a cell phone. Attention, friends of Sean! Please email him your phone number so he can program you into his new cell. After a quick run into Rain to say hello to Jonathon, Darla and I ventured over to the Red Hot party at the Can and visited with Margie, Rose, Big Daddy Steve, Geoff, Andy, Scott & Travis. I saw Josh but he was busy behind the bar and never noticed me behind the sea of straight people. Yes, you read right. There were more straight people at the Can that night than in Apple Bar at any given moment. The Red Hot annual party benefits Project Transitions...judging by the packed house it was a success. I ran an errand for Margie before heading back to Gingerman to pick up Sean and drop him off at his friend's house for dinner (thank you, Darla for keeping me company). Then drove back to the bar and had my second beer of the evening. After an entertaining interlude at Gingerman, I was yawning too much to be good company and went home.

Saturday dawned bright and early. Darla joined me at Town Lake and we did 3 miles. My hammie is still giving me fits but it isn't as bad as Frank'. He ran 5 miles with Hang and Jason before going to spin class. After spin he managed to convince Dan and Dave to run 3 more miles with him. I worked on his hamstring a little that evening when he was in pain. Not like it's going to stop him from going to spin class again today.

I spent the rest of the morning and part of the afternoon finishing the Great Apartment Cleanup. I ended up with three more boxes of stuff for Goodwill. After rearranging the living room, I put my bookshelf together. I was surprised to find that my cookbook collection is smaller than I thought it was. I'm definitely looking to add to it with the purchase of Ina Garten's French cookbook Barefoot in Paris and the cookbook that I should own but haven't bought yet, The Joy of Cooking (not to be confused with the newer edition, The All New, All Purpose Joy of Cooking which has gotten horrible reviews for cutting out the classic recipes in favor of the trendy). I'm waiting to add the 6th Harry Potter book to one of those shelves, too.

Saturday evening I had a few people over to begin birthday celebrations. The festivities will continue through the month with the actual evening of the big day reserved to spend with Frank. Needless to say, I love Birthday Month. We kicked everything off with wine and cheese and laughter. Leslie, Jessica, Frank, Amy, Darla and I had a great time playing Moods, a board game that has you say phrases in a certain mood and everyone who guesses your mood correctly advances toward the finish. Have you ever tried to say "You look like good meatloaf" in a sulky tone? After a hilarious game and finishing off several bottles of wine, we were reduced to being a gang of rogue paparazzi, taking pictures around my apartment with the game phrase cards. The most memorable for me is the one Frank took of all of us girls in my shower and one of us holding the card that said "Come on in, the water is fine." I'll post a few of the more hysterical photos as soon as Leslie e's them to me. We laughed until our sides ached.

In addition to seriously fun times, the wine and cheese were incredible. Jessica and Amy brought an Antinori Campogrande Orvieto Classico, which was a fresh, slightly dry but citrusy white and a Duè Uvè Pinot Grigio/Sauvignon blend that was a lightly sweet, crisp white. They went perfectly with the buttery and velvety St. Andre cheese and the deeply colored, rich Windsor Blue cheese. The Windsor was incredible--the taste exploded on your tongue. Leslie brought a sparkling wine, Martini & Rossi can't go wrong with sweet bubbles! Darla's Pinot Noir didn't get opened but we devoured her brie. Frank's contributions were a Mirassou Pinot Noir, which I've written about before, Danish Blue cheese in all it's sharply aggressive goodness, and slices of a prosciutto & basil mozzarella roll. He also brought me a glorious bouquet of flowers in all the vivid colors I love: magenta, lemony yellow, purple-y blue and more.

Sunday was more of a low key day for me. Frank is on call and ended up with several cases, so he saw the inside of the hospital for most of the day. I was a bit lazy, reading and relaxing and cooking until time to go to the Can. I made a chicken & green chile quiche and a chicken, spinach, tomato quiche that were both very good. I was afraid that I'd made the green chile one too spicy, but both Frank & Frederick said it was perfect. I enjoyed both, and if you'd like the recipe, please email me. I'd be happy to share.

My shift at the bar was mostly uneventful until just before 8pm when one of the go go boys got into an altercation with Margie. I had seen the dancer earlier and was wondering a) why would you want to dance if your knee is messed up to the point that you have to wear a brace with your hotpants, b)what the hell is up with your wide headband and c)why would you come to work strung out? He ordered a burger and began eating out of the chip bowl, a big no no since we don't want people to put their fingers to their lips and then back into the bowl. (Everyone is on their honor that they wash their hands after using the restrooms). Margie asked him not to do eat out of the bowl, and pointed to the plates. The dancer started foaming at the mouth, screaming "Why are you so mean to me! You don"t know me! You don't know who I am!" while we all stared in amused yet horrified fascination. I thought Stoli was going to fall off his stool. He was laughing so hard he was doubled over. Catherine wanted to slap him and had to be reminded that Margie can take care of herself. We all know it's true--if Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy! Unbelievably, Margie didn't deck him. He obviously doesn't know who Margie is in the community. She may be cranky at times, but Margie is an icon. After he fled with his burger, we took turns teasing Margie at every opportunity "why are you so mean to me?!"

I finished up my shift and made my way home, stopping only to fill my gas tank and pay exorbitantly for the privilege. Once home, I found all the candles had been lit and a glass of wine was waiting for me on the table. Ahhhhh, birthday week is good. I thanked Frank and had a quick shower to wash away the smoky cheeseburger grime before indulging. A very nice ending to a very nice weekend! Hope all of you had a great one, too.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Favorite Smells

I kinda feel like this is the sort of post that a middle schooler who has been online since birth would write, but I felt like sharing. So sue me. These are in no particular order.

  1. Old fashioned roses...the kind that aren't floral shop perfectly shaped but are more of an explosion of rosy goodness, cabbage rose, lush thick petals, grown in the backyard kind of roses.
  2. Gardenias. They instantly flash me back to our old house in West Monroe. The gardenia bush was outside of Granny's bedroom and when you stepped out to cut a few blooms, you had to make sure there weren't any snakes sunning themselves on the concrete stoop. Gotta love Louisiana. The only snake I worry about where I live now is my downstairs neighbor...the one with the meth lab.
  3. Newsprint. What can I say? Always loved it, always will.
  4. Polo Blue on Frank. Mmmmmmmmmmmmm.
  5. Sulphur. Mmhmm. Like after you blow out a match, the sticky wet scent of tar being laid on a roof or street or the air after a lightening storm.
  6. Tortillas being warmed on a gas stove.
  7. Coffee percolated over an open camp fire.
  8. Super Elastic Bubble Plastic. Those of you familiar with the gooey substance from a tube that you can blow into "plastic bubbles" know exactly what I'm talking about.
  9. Babies. The sweet, clean, powdery fresh smell of newness in a way that isn't duplicated anywhere else.
  10. Ocean. I drink in the salty, tangy, briny air when standing on the beach. Hand me a frosty piña colada and when the scent of pineapple mingles with the smell of the ocean I am in paradise.

Leave me a comment and tell me about your favorite smells.

Push him/her out! Push him/her out! Waaaaay Out!!

Just a short post of encouragement for Estelle and Jean that their baby will be born healthy & safe today. Apparently Jean comes from a long line of women who like to keep the bun in the oven until it’s golden brown…she just can’t seem to make it past the 4cm mark. Knowing that the frustration is building and hoping that Estelle is keeping all kitchen utensils and sharp objects handy for do it yourself surgery away from her wife, I’m asking that all of you look toward St. Petersburg, Florida and think easy birthing thoughts. Hey, baby, come out and play!

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

"My friends are my estate."

"My friends are my estate. Forgive me then the avarice to hoard them." Emily Dickinson's words completely reflect how I feel about all of you. And for those friends of mine who have no idea who Emily Dickinson is and when she may have said this to me, I forgive you and love you anyway. :-)

Today dawns brighter not only because I've turned my attitude around, but also because of the kind words posted by my friends, many of whom share the same name: Anonymous. Just like identical twins that you learn the differences between in order to tell them apart, I know who posted what...and thank you all. I realize I have made huge advances this year and am thankful for the changes they've wrought in my life. I relish the changes in your lives as well. I vow to wear short skirts more often and to eat some chocolate today, even if it isn't ice cream. And as for my boyfriend doing something to make me feel better...all I have to do is look at his extremely sexxxy legs and I feel fine, just fine. Just as fine as I do when he hugs me and whispers the words that mean so much: "You need a shower, cabrona." God, I adore that man!

I have a big shout out to Estelle, who is at a birthing center hopefully holding her new baby and lavishing love on Jean for the hours of labor she's endured. Estelle, I'm holding my breath, hands hovering over the keyboard, religiously checking your blog to find out if you have a daughter or a son. As soon as I figure out HTML I'll post a link to your's on mine. I thought I had it done but it'll show up in preview but not on the regular view. ??? This is what happens when the first time you ever saw a computer you were over the age of 19. I am soooo behind the times.

I ran yesterday...the best three miles I've had since earlier in the spring. The first mile was great, I ran most of it and only walked a little. The second mile was probably half running and half walking. The 101º heat index combined with my rising body temp pretty much killed most of the running in the last mile. I guess I could've done the sunniest mile first and maybe had a different result. At any rate, my pace time sucked hugely, at 20 minutes a mile average. I'm convinced the last mile took me over a half hour to was so hot I could feel my heart beat in my temples. Even with the heat, and my hamstring aching, and my left foot (the one I hurt in December) aching, it was still the best run in a long, long time. How? Because when I was running (which was cooler than walking, with the air moving past me) it felt comfortable and easy and right. I was in my running groove. And the trail at Town Lake wasn't crowded, since the heat was so bad. I only had two close calls with mountain bikers and one with a dog whose owner had not a freakin' clue about trail courtesy and was allowing him to wander all over the trail thus making runners either leap his chain (which I saw one guy do) or wait until the dog moved back to the side before passing. I, of course, used the dog-waiting-time as a walk break until I stopped feeling my blood pressure in my head. It's all good.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Grouchy, Grumpy, Petulant & Peevish

I haven't been myself lately. I've been crabby and cranky and picking fights. I've been moody and down. I have not been my normal self. I'm zig zagging through emotions so fast you'd think I was abusing black market hormones. So I took some time last night for me in an attempt to figure out what the hell is going on. And I did.

It seems that lately, all my friends and family are going through changes. Most of them big changes. And all those changes are a move forward in life. My Dad retired and has stayed retired (inside family joke) and has never been happier. My Mom is now, at the start of the "golden years", the breadwinner in the family. Ironic when at the start of their marriage she stayed home while Dad worked. My sister and brother-in-law are searching for a new house, one that is larger and newer than the current home. Frederick and Jed have become parents. Adrian is changing everyday. He'll be walking soon, and I'm convinced, talking. Darla's fast growing Max actually did graduate from puppy kindergarten (much to our mutual surprise). Heather is settling into her new house. Corrie is discovering deeper relationships within her family than she's enjoyed in many years. Vicki is dragging her boyfriend, whom we hope will become her husband, to look at potential new homes so she can move out of her high maintenance one and into something that requires less work. Frank will be closing on his condo soon...the building is almost complete. Leslie is finishing up her summer classes at ACC before starting back at U.T. as a Textiles major (woohoo!) in the fall.

What am I doing? Nothing. Nada. Zilch. Sittin' still. Stagnating. Sleepwalking. At least it feels that way deep down in my psyche. Yes, I know I recently finished a triathlon and a 10K. And I'm admittedly halfheartedly training for the half marathon in September. I need to get off my nalgas and do some real training or those 13.1 miles will be the death of me. I'm still running down the pro's and con's of foster parenthood but haven't reached a conclusion. Other than that...what am I accomplishing? I feel like everyone is moving on...moving forward...moving away from me. I feel like I'm running down the street behind the busload of Success screeching "Wait for me! Wait for me!" before giving up, eating dust and walking to the curb.

So now that I've identified the root of the problem, let's cut to the chase: What's a girl to do? Indulge in a pint of chocolate ice cream and a good cry? Become bitter and sour and begrudge the accomplishments of everyone around me? Win the Lotto? All of those are out...well, maybe the ice cream is a good idea. But crying leaves pin point bruises under my eyes and maintaining a bad attitude takes too much energy. I will buy a lottery ticket tonight, though. Never hurts. And I keep telling myself that despite the faint smell of corruption surrounding our Lottery Commission lately, some of the price of my ticket will benefit education. Yeah, that's it.

I don't have any answers except now that I know what the issue is...and that it is most definitely my issue...I have no choice but to stop being a grump and no fun and administer a swift kick to my own backside (a Cirque du Soleil-ish feat) and "snap out of it!" as Cher's character says in the movie "Moonstruck". I am reminding myself that life is not a competition. The only goals I have to meet or exceed are the ones I set for myself. And stop being so scared. Fear is a destroyer. I am not being left behind. I might be on the sidelines, but I'm still here.

Change can be a little frightening at times but it almost always turns out fabulous. While I'm at it, I can relish the "new and improved" areas of the lives around me. I can celebrate the excitement of a new home, talk about boyfriends with potential and giggle over the tingly delicious taste of a relationship that is going well. I can stop treating my life as if it isn't good enough, noteworthy or heaven help me, stuck in an airplane holding pattern while the sweaty man with onion breath in the seat next to me keeps brushing his arm against mine.

Would I be too naive if I believe that just by identifying why I was acting in such an out of character manner that now I have no need to do so? I think not. I am embracing the thought that with the knowledge of why comes the action of understanding; the ability to now move beyond the black mood, leave behind the feelings of inadequacy and step back into my comfortable existence of living, loving, learning, yearning and being me, feeling like me and growing beyond myself to a better me.

"Fear less, hope more; Eat less, chew more; Whine less, breathe more; Talk less, say more; Love more, and all good things will be yours." (Swedish proverb)

Monday, July 11, 2005

Silicon Labs Marathon Relay Pics

This just in...fabu pics from the 4th of July Marathon Relay. Apparently the photographers were entranced by Leslie. Numerous photos of her plus some girl-on-girl bibbing that grabbed at least one photog's attention. Love the pic of Frank---check out those legs! All of us look fresh & lovely even though were were secretly melting in the summer heat. Here is the link for you to enjoy these action photos .

Just for the Halibut!

We finally celebrated Frank's birthday. His birthday dinner out was postponed due to a New Mexico work trip, his call schedule and to give him time to finish moving out of his apartment. It was well worth the wait. I had arranged for us to go to Cafe Caprice , the traditional French meets American "fusion" restaurant in the cozy old home formerly occupied by Basil's. The owners, Paul & Joni Constantine are the ultimate of hands on leadership. Paul is the chef and Joni runs the front of the house. With Joni's help, I chose our menu ahead of time in order to have a decision-free evening for the birthday boy.

We arrived and were seated immediately and introduced to our server, Kelly. Glasses of a semi-sweet Gunderloch gewürztraminer were served along with a complimentary tidbit to tide us over until our appetizers arrived. What a nice concept! The little cashew curry bites were a unique taste and went well with our wine, as did the shrimp and grilled corn salad on tostones and hot chick pea fries with smoked salmon, capers, anchovy mayonnaise and a touch of diced tomato and red onion. The chick pea fries were incredible--a light but earthy flavor that is perfectly paired with the salmon. You'll never think of a bagel and lox again after trying this dish. The delicate fries make a bagel seem like a brick.

After clearing our appetizer plates, Kelly placed a complimentary basket of sourdough, rye bread and mini muffins on the table. We indulged a bit while waiting for our next course. For our entrees, I had ordered a half bottle of La Crema Pinot Noir and was happy with the flavor although it is a bit bold for our tastes. Frank was very happy with his house smoked ribeye and warm potato salad (more house fries than any potato salad I'm familiar with). The restaurant serves an original recipe worcestershire sauce that tastes nothing like the bottled variety. I can honestly say that it will be next to impossible for me to use Lea & Perrin's ever again after enjoying Cafe Caprice's version of the steak sauce. My halibut was the highlight of my dining experience. Not a regular menu item, the thick filet was sauteed and paired with a shallot malt vinegar butter sauce. I almost licked my plate. Had our table been any more secluded I would have. The tangy but subtle sauce was pefection. It complimented rather than overpowered the sweet flavor of the halibut. My Yukon Gold mashers disappeared almost as fast as my halibut, and I swirled all remaining sauce into them before literally scraping my plate clean with my fork. We also had sides of fresh veggies, but they served more to highlight the main portions than as standouts on their own. Dessert was a house creation dubbed Austin Cream Pie, a light but decadent dessert with a dark chocolate shell...mmmm! Kelly served it with a sparkler birthday candle and Frank and I both wished on it before blowing it out. Cafe Caprice definitely served up a delightful meal. The service was excellent and the popularity of the almost two year old establishment firmly in place, if having every table filled on a Friday night is any indication of success.

After dinner, we joined a few friends at the Mean Eyed Cat for drinks and fun. Jake and I played a few abysmal but enjoyable games of pool, proving yet again that those dreadful geometry classes I was forced to take in high school taught me absolutely nothing about angles. We celebrated Todd's return stateside from his work in Germany...laughed it up with Emma & her crew...and Michelle and I tried our best to get into trouble but alas, we were the most well behaved trollops in the place. Countless pitchers of beer were served but thankfully Frank's calls for shots were not met as the MEC does not serve hard liquor. We stayed out entirely too late but it was a good celebration, even if it was 2 1/2 weeks overdue. Now we can move on to other celebrations, namely, it is now MY birthday month. Hee hee hee, it's all about me!

Saturday was spent mostly on the couch. Ahhh, fond memories of Saturday on the couch. I was there all of the morning and part of the afternoon. That evening we traveled far South, as far as you can go and still be in Austin, to Jackie's housewarming party. Her house is terrific! The backyard is the ultimate party arena, with a huge patio area and horseshoe throwing decks in front of the garden. Inside, it's all vaulted ceilings and sunny, open space. Her kitchen is marvelous and definitely the heart of the home.

Sunday was The Big Event of summer: Adrian's first birthday party. (I'd love to post pics of him eating his very first chocolate cupcake(s) but my fear of weirdo perverted pedophiles keeps me from doing so. You never know who may be reading my blog.) The party was held at Brentwood Park and even though it was hot, we had a wonderful time. Adie was passed from person to person and we all managed to keep him from eating pebbles despite his best efforts. He was joined by all his adult friends and family (Diva YaYa and the Grandparents Reinhardt came to town) as well as Allah & D'Avion. Allah & D' had a great time with the miniature kites from their goodie bags. We were all estatic to learn from Sherry, their foster mom, that the boys will be placed for adoption as a sibling group. Although they are not related by blood, they have lived together since infancy. To separate them for adoptive placement would be horrible, but was a possibility when one of the birth mothers decided she wanted her son back. Luckily, when the court was running behind she stated that she couldn't put her life on hold and had to leave to go pick up her check. For some, money is more important than children. The boys will find a home of their own with loving parents. Great news!

The Frederick & Jed imposed "no gifts" rule wasn't quite broken but was bent fairly well by a few, notably Grandma Reinhardt with her numerous "trip gifts not birthday gifts". Adie racked up college fund money to the tune of $400 from those of us who obeyed the no gift rule. There were a few sanctioned gifts, including Wade, Adrian's new Cabbage Patch doll. Adie loves Wade. He'd grab him by the hair and pull his face up to his in order to chew on him. Mmmm, Wade tastes like chicken! Adrian had a wonderful time and passed out on the stroller ride back to the house. The first set of pics has hit Freddy's snapfish prepared to ooh and aaah over 100 of them! The other papparazzi will be sharing their photos soon. Adrian is growing so fast...he's crawling at lightening speed and will soon be walking. He's already taken two unassisted steps. Way to go, baby!!

Hope you enjoyed hearing about my weekend. Leave me a comment and tell me about your's!

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Channeling Betty Crocker, Marathon Relay and The War of the Worlds makes for a full holiday weekend!

I sometimes wonder if other people are like me. I read cookbooks for fun. I can look at a recipe and, unless there are ingredients that I'm just not familiar with, imagine how it will taste. Combine, whip, fold, mix, blend this with my love of cooking and desire to try new flavors and foods and most of the time I'll end up with a meal that surprises me by turning out restaurant-quality. Granted, I still remember my worst cooking disaster. Years later I wonder if the smell of charred banana leaves and burnt cochinita pibil is still clinging to the sheetrock of the kitchen where I commited that culinary crime. Live and learn!

This weekend brought several cooking opportunities, as I took advantage of the large kitchen of the home where Frank is housesitting. Saturday evening I decided to try prosciutto-wrapped scallops paired with a mixed greens salad with gorgonzola dulce, diced Comice pear and a balsamic vinegar pear viniagrette and rosemary baked potatoes. The scallops were super easy since all I did was sprinkle them with a little sea salt and freshly ground pepper before wrapping a slice of prosciutto around them. I pan grilled them for one minute each side in a little bit of sesame oil. I was very surprised that my viniagrette turned out so well. I don't make salad dressings often and was experimenting with pear infused balsamic vinegar and sesame oil. It was a tart, zingy, tasty viniagrette. Sunday brunch was a yummy one as well. I made omelettes with homegrown tomato, crispy grilled hot soppressata (an Italian cured pork salami with red peppers mixed in), a bit of sauteed red onion and garlic, a generous amount of mixed shredded cheese (monterey jack, cheddar, queso asadero and queso quesadilla courtesy of the "Mexican Blend" in the bagged shredded cheese section of the grocery store) and topped with shredded mozzarella. I served them with extra tomato and hot soppressata slices on the side. I have burgers planned for this week to use up the left over gorgonzola. Mmmm burgers topped with thickly-sliced smoked bacon and gorgonzola sound fantastic to me!

Our marathon relay team was up bright and early on Independence Day for the first ever Silicon Labs Marathon Relay. We started off with overcast skies and a breeze but the sun broke through early and temperatures rose fast. Frank's 12K run ended with a highly respectable 9:09 minute per mile pace. I started off strong in my 10K leg but things went downhill halfway through when my aggravated hamstring decided to send a searing pain all the way up into my glutes. It didn't last long but stayed aching and twinging the rest of the run. I took it as easy as I could and maintain a somewhat decent pace. The run was a hard one. It was getting very hot and because it was a relay, there wasn't a lot of company on the road. I felt very alone. Somewhere after mile 4 I started talking myself down, concentrating on how my hammie was aching, how hot and tired I felt and how isolated it seemed to be, back in the Enfield neighborhood portion of our route...I instantly felt exhausted and ready to stop. I had to turn it around, tell myself that I was close to the last mile, kick it in, just do it. It helped that an APD female runner came up behind me, shouting encouragement and some running tips. Her advice and "good job, runner!" got me through the last quarter mile. I handed off to Darla, who had a good run even though she felt like she should've been faster. Julie had a bad 10K---she looked down into her cup at the water stop and saw something floating and grossed out to the point that she didn't have any more water the rest of the way. Leslie brought it home in Jackie O style with her fashionable headband and sunglasses. Her first race was a success and now that she's gotten the running bug, we'll see her crossing more finish lines in the future. Here's a link for the Austin Fit website, Leslie. If you want to see the training schedule go to Schedules and choose Full Schedule. The password is AUSTINFIT. Look at the orange pace group and you'll see how the marathon & half marathon training is broken down. The schedule posted is last year's....this year's won't be up for another month or so. Despite the heat, the race was a good one. I was impressed with the AFD homemade "slip & slide" (fire truck spraying water over a big blue tarp) and the other activities they had set up like the rock climbing wall, children's mini waterslide and wading pool.

After a wonderful cool shower and a quick nap, I went to see "The War of the Worlds". Without spoiling it for anyone, let me say that this is the scariest movie Steven Spielberg has given us since "Jaws". It isn't horror movie boogie man scary but more of a "wow this seems real" scary. The ideas and plot line were presented in a very logical, reasonable fashion and hooked me in from the beginning. While I thought there could've been a little more character development, I think it is well worth the price of admission, popcorn, a soda and a box of candy...and that is high praise coming from me.

I hope everyone had as great of a weekend as I did!