Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Harried Holiday

ornament on the oak tree in my front yard

Sorry, for the short post, but I'm hosting Christmas dinner tomorrow and I'm going crazy trying to get things baked, sliced, swept, polished, vacuumed, and all around straightened up. I'll let you know how it went on Thursday. 

 In the meantime, I give you "Santa and his old lady" - a holiday classic from Cheech and Chong.

Merry Christmas!



Friday, December 20, 2013

Marking time at the office

I have no idea why I'm at work today. Nothing productive is happening. Everyone is passing around Christmas cookies and emailing each other YouTube videos.

I need more vacation time.

Friday Fun Video
Since everyone's probably a little tired of Christmas carols by now, I offer a bracing shot of the Muppets. This clip features Rita Moreno, the only guest star to get the best of Animal.









Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Thinking about New Year's Eve

Christmas dinner (menu and location) has been decided.
Cards have been sent.
Shopping is done.
Decorating is done.
Wrapping will be done when the last present gets here (Thursday, according to the USPS website)

Time to think about New Year's Eve. Ugh.

I don't like New Years Eve. (Which is probably why it seems to sneak up on me every year, I ignore it.)

If I had my way, New Year's would be celebrated with lunch on the day itself. Everyone would make extravagant predictions for the coming year, which would then be recorded and read out at the following New Year's Eve lunch. (The key word is extravagant - no predicting that you will buy a new car. More along the lines of  "I will have lunch with Bono and discuss why rainbows are such a popular motif on clothing for little girls.") 

I've had friends go to see the ball drop at Times Square in New York, and the stories they tell (pickpockets, standing for hours on end packed into an enormous crowd, wearing a Stadium Buddy, because you can't leave) all fill me with horror. And they actually go back. I can't imagine any concert being worth that.

Really, you can't even see the stage

I've always wanted to do the dinner and dancing all night, but the men I've dated have all been the kind for whom dancing is a punishment, with formal wear a close second. And New Year's, like Valentine's Day, does not seem to be a good night to go solo. 


Sleeping through it is not an option. My neighbors are going to explode enough fireworks to light up the ship channel. (I may have to sedate the cat.)

So I'm throwing it open. Any ideas?

So far I have:

  • movie night (which leads to another problem - what is an appropriate New Year's eve movie?)
  • buy some fireworks of my own and join the freezing people outside.
  • bottle of champagne and popcorn.
  • leave the country






Monday, December 16, 2013

Building with Gingerbread

I know I didn't post on Friday. I'm sorry. As an apology, I'm bringing you gingerbread.


Saturday was the 5th Annual Gingerbread Build Off, held in downtown Houston in front of City Hall. 

I had never heard of it before, but it sounded too cool to pass up. The rules are very strict. Everything must be edible, so no toothpicks or straws or other means of support, and the structure must be built on site. Nothing can be pre-cut or pre-assembled. It's tough.


Plus, because it's outdoors, you have Houston's weather to contend with. Everyone was cold, but very happy because that meant the frosting would set up. A warm day would have been disastrous. As it was, the humidity made the cotton candy a little clumpy.

There were all sorts of Houston landmarks: the George R. Brown, the now demolished Foleys, the Astrodome.  There were the storybook buildings: Rapunzel's tower, Hogwarts, the Land of Oz, and because most of the contestants were either architects or architecture students, the Parthenon, Falling Water, and some very famous bridge that I can't remember the name of.  

I couldn't post them all, but here are some highlights. Have a happy Monday y'all!

Hard at work

Eiffel Tower with parsley flake trees

Dorothy and the Emerald City - most innovative use of cucumbers
 
Breaking Bad - see all the blue (candy) crystals?
 
Falling Water - for all you Frank Lloyd Wright fans out there
 
The Burj Khalifa - I had to look that one up
 
Hogwarts Castle - complete with dragon
 
My favorite - the 8 story pagoda




Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Orange Harvest

Just a quick post today.

This weekend I harvested my orange tree. I got seven little oranges. Score!


But the best thing? Because they are blood oranges, the insides are pink!




Monday, December 9, 2013

Sweet Potato Gnocchi

The Thanksgiving classic "sweet potato casserole with marshmallow topping" was a dish so reviled by my parents that I never saw it.  It was spoken of, occasionally, as something to avoid at all costs; a culinary urban legend.  When I was 30, I finally had it at a friend's house and after one bite I understood why my parents hated it. It was bland and sweet. REALLY sweet. I could see it as pie filling, but not as a side dish.  

So it was a surprise when, while cleaning up my parent's yard, I pulled up a (dead) vine and discovered that they have been growing sweet potatoes. Not to eat, but as ground cover, because they liked the leaves. Since they had no intention of eating them, so I took some home as a challenge.
What to do with these things?
I searched the internets and found a lot of recipes emphasizing sweetness; many variations on the marshmallow casserole. Even the so-called savory dishes used cinnamon, nutmeg and sugar. But after some digging, I found some more interesting flavors. A thai-inspired soup that I will have to try out later, and several takes on sweet potato gnocchi. 

I chose this recipe because I wanted dinner, not dessert, and instead of playing up the sweetness of the sweet potatoes, it had garlic and vinegar. And it had mushrooms. I love mushrooms.

Doesn't that look great? Not my picture, but my gnocchi really did 
look this good. I swear. I just couldn't find my camera.
Notes: 
  • This is really rich. It says it serves four to six, but I only cooked half of the gnocchi and none of us could finish our plates. 
  • Be careful when adding flour. You may not need all of it. My sweet potatoes were on the dry side, so I only used two cups of flour, but if yours are wetter, you may need more.
  • The mushroom sauce is amazing. I may skip the gnocchi next time and just make the mushrooms. They were terrific.

Crispy Brown Butter Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Balsamic Caramelized Mushrooms + Goat Cheese

Recipe from: Half Baked Harvest

Prep Time: 40 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
Serving Size: 4-6

Ingredients
·         1 cup of mashed sweet potato
·         1 cup pureed burrata cheese or ricotta (use whole milk for best results, I used burrata chese)
·         2 large eggs
·         1 teaspoon kosher salt
·         1/4 cup fresh parmesan, grated
·         3-4 cups all-purpose flour

Brown Butter Balsamic Sauce + Mushrooms

·         1 1/2 pounds cremini mushrooms, sliced
·         6 tablespoons butter
·         2 cloves garlic, minced or grated
·         2 teaspoons fresh thyme, chopped
·         2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, chopped
·         1 teaspoon crushed red peper
·         1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
·         1/2 teaspoon pepper
·         1/4 teaspoon salt
·         4 ounces goat cheese, crumbled

Instructions

1.  Make the gnocchi. Mix the mashed sweet potato, pureed burrata or ricotta, eggs, salt and parmesan together in a large bowl. Add 2 cups of the flour and mix well with your hands. The dough should be very sticky. Add another half cup of flour and mix in. You want the dough to still be pretty sticky, but sturdy enough to shape into a ball. If it's not, keep adding a little flour at a time until you can get a soft dough that will be rollable.

2.  Spread some flour on a large work surface. Cut the dough log into four equal pieces. Take one piece and cut it in half. Roll the piece of dough into a snake about 1/2 inch thick, then cut it into pieces about the width of a fork. Dust the gnocchi with a little flour, then use one finger to push the gnocchi up onto the tines of a fork. Let the gnocchi drop back to the work surface. Doing this helps create ridges for the sauce to stick to, but you can skip it if you would like. Repeat this process with the other piece of dough and place the gnocchi on a large plate, cover and set aside.

3.  Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

4.  To make the mushroom and brown butter sauce. In a medium skillet over high heat, add 2 tablespoons butter. When the butter is melted, sprinkle in the mushrooms in a single layer. Don't stir them! Let them sizzle until they have caramelized on the bottom, about 2 minutes. When the bottoms are caramelized, toss them once and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Continue to cook without stirring for about 5 minutes. Season mushrooms with salt and pepper. Add the remaining butter and cook until it begins to brown. Once the butter is browned reduce the heat and add the garlic, thyme and rosemary and cook for about 10 seconds. Add the balsamic vinegar, and simmer until the mushrooms are glazed with the sauce. Then stir and remove the pan from the heat and slide the mushrooms and sauce off to the side.

5.  Now grab your gnocchi and add it to the salted boiling water. Boil the gnocchi until they float, then remove them with a slotted spoon and add them right into the skillet with the mushrooms/sauce. Return the skillet (with the mushrooms and gnocchi in it) back to medium heat. Let the gnocchi get crisp on one side for 2 minutes and then two minutes on the other, then stir gnocchi into the mushrooms. Remove from the heat and serve immediately with crumbled goat cheese on top.



Monday, December 2, 2013

Black Friday, Cyber Monday etc.

I don't shop during Thanksgiving. I might make a run to the grocery store for a forgotten ingredient, but my goal is to stay out of retail settings for the week. 

This is not bragging. I'm not saying that "I've bought all my Christmas presents already." It's not a statement of philosophical superiority: "You mindless sheeple can go spend money, I will stay here and listen to Mozart." If camping out in front of your chosen store is something you want to do, go for it. BCP does not judge. I happily cede my place in line.

The post-Thanksgiving shopping bug (like sports fandom, and the appeal of Twilight) has just never bitten me.  And apparently, I'm not alone.




I'm not anti-capitalism. I don't celebrate Buy Nothing Day. I shop. But I really hate the crowds on the big shopping days and it's unlikely that something I really want will never be available, or on sale, again. My tastes are not that unique. (I'm more boring than people realize.) I wonder how much of "Black Friday" is just hype. What are the average sales on a three day weekend? Are they that different post Thanksgiving?

And the stories of brawls, stabbings, etc. are horrifying. True, I've never seen it personally (and in the entire US the total is under 5 people - hardly endemic) but it doesn't make me want to go to the mall. 
So what do non-shoppers do? Personally,  I watched movies, read books, injured myself getting Christmas ornaments out of the attic, cooked, ate, visited with relatives, restrained myself from arguing with said relatives, played with the cat, and edged my lawn. I was even given a new vegetable to play with. (Results will be posted later in the week.)

Now to get ready for Christmas.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

A gift of eggplant

My friend Michelle came to lunch last weekend with a shopping bag full of produce. Every one of us went home with eggplant. It's one of the advantages of having friends who garden, you get the overflow. But now I had a problem. What do you do with eggplant?

Eggplant is not a vegetable I dislike, but it's not a vegetable I like either. It's just sort of there. I've had it in some interesting Middle Eastern food, and some horrible eggplant parmigiana (a waste of a perfectly good marinara sauce), but I've never actually cooked it. On the whole, I like vegetables with crunch. Eggplant, even raw, is not a vegetable with crunch.

But now I had two eggplants sitting on my counter, waiting for me to do something with them. So I did what any modern cook would do. I googled it.


After wading through eggplant parmigiana, baba ganoush, eggplant gratin, fried eggplant, and stewed eggplant, I stumbled on Caponata.

Caponata is a Sicilian eggplant stew/side dish/relish type thing. I chose the recipe because I liked all the ingredients, and I had most of them at home already. Plus, it cooks fairly quickly; most of the work is chopping up the ingredients. 


Traditionally, caponata is served at room temperature, but it smelled so good I couldn't wait. I was blown away. It's sweet and sour and salty all at the same time, and the nuts and celery add some texture. I'm told it's even better when it's had a day to sit and let the flavors blend, so I'm expecting a taste sensation tonight. I think with some cheese on the side, crusty bread, and maybe a beer this works as dinner. Really, it's great. 


Caponata 

via Sauveur Magazine

Notes: 

  • It says three cups of oil. I'm afraid of frying so I reduced it to just enough to cover the bottom of the pan and sautéed  the eggplant until brown. If you decide to fry, remember the oil has to be really hot, or the eggplant will absorb the oil like a sponge. 
  • The chocolate looks a little weird, but it actually works to round out the other flavors.
  • Chop everything before you start.  You want all the ingredients ready to go, there's not a lot of time once you start cooking. 

INGREDIENTS

3 cups olive oil
2 lbs. eggplant, cut into 1″ cubes
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 rib celery, roughly chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
3 tbsp. tomato paste, thinned with ¼ cup water
1 cup crushed canned tomatoes
6 oz. green olives, pitted and roughly chopped
½ cup white wine vinegar
½ cup golden raisins
¼ cup salt-packed capers, rinsed and drained
3 tbsp. sugar
2 tbsp. finely grated unsweetened chocolate
½ cup finely shredded basil
2 tbsp. pine nuts

INSTRUCTIONS

Heat oil in a 12″ skillet over medium-high heat. Working in batches, add eggplant and fry, tossing occasionally, until browned, 3–4 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer eggplant to a large bowl; set aside. Pour off all but ¼ cup oil, and reserve for another use. 

Return skillet to heat, add onions and celery, and season with salt and pepper; cook, stirring often, until beginning to brown, 10 minutes. 

Reduce heat to medium, and add tomato paste and cook, stirring, until caramelized and almost evaporated, 1–2 minutes. 

Add crushed tomatoes and continue cooking for 10 minutes. 

Stir in olives, vinegar, raisins, capers, sugar, and chocolate, and cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 15 minutes. 

Transfer to bowl with eggplant, along with basil and pine nuts, and mix together. Season with salt and pepper, and let cool to room temperature before serving.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Texas Renaissance Festival: 2013

It's that time of year again.


I went to the Texas Renaissance Festival this weekend with some friends. It was the first time I've ever dressed for it (basic serving wench costume - and no, there are no pictures) and I don't think I'll bother next time, or at least go for an outfit I don't have to be laced into. It wasn't especially tight, but it was hot, and the corset made bending difficult. Not worth the fuss. Besides I'm not as entertaining as the other people attending, and I don't see the point in competing. They win, hands down - see the pictures for proof.

The theme for this weekend was Barbarian Invasion, so there were a lot of pelts, leather armor, furry boots and horned helmets. 
inspecting the troops
Fear me, puny mortal! 
The ladies can do barbarian chic too

But it wasn't all macho Conan-wannabes.

Isn't he a gentlemanly looking fox?
And there are all the performers:

Sound and Fury - bad puns galore

fire juggling - I never caught a shot with the fire, unfortunately
And the animal rides (for big and little people):
I'm riding a camel!

on a hay break
 Intriguing tattoos:
I thought it was flowers, but it seems to be dancing mutant fish?
Home-made costumes:
Watch out! - It's Bud Light Man!
The kids are the best:

But by the end I was tired and feeling like this guy:


Hope your weekend was fun. Until later.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Leibster Award, Part Two

I didn't finish all the requirements yesterday, so here we go.

Eleven facts about me
  1. I don't much care for chocolate. It's okay, but I'd rather have a good lemon cake.
  2. I am very sensitive to sounds. I regularly wake up in the middle of the night because I've heard something.
  3. I like weather, even bad weather. It adds variety to the seasons.
  4. Pedicures are my favorite affordable vice.
  5. I think Legos are one of the most brilliant toys ever designed (right up there with the oversize cardboard box) but they need more female lego "men."
  6. I think people who talk during movies should be thrown out. Repeat offenders should be put through a movie courtesy training course - like driving school - only duller.
  7. In college, I got a palm-sized muffler burn on my leg from my boyfriend's motorcycle. He tried to comfort me by telling me it was a "macho" scar.
  8. I was born in New Orleans.
  9. I would love to move overseas for a couple of years. Kuala Lumpur would be great.
  10. I own grapefruit spoons.
  11. I'd like to get a second cat, but I'm worried about becoming a "crazy cat lady".


Leibster Award Nominees
I don't really follow a lot of blogs. I read a handful, but most of them are quite well known, so I found the nomination process difficult. However, here are two that I check on a fairly regular basis.

Eleven questions for my Leibster award nominees
I don't think I can improve on Leslie's questions, so I'm going with them.
  1. What was the last book you read? Would you recommend it?
  2. Out of all current events, which most sparks your imagination or passion? Why?
  3. If you could recommend only one activity from your last vacation, which would you choose? Why?
  4. Pick your weather poison: Bitingly cold or swelteringly muggy?
  5. Finish this sentence: “She walked up to the information desk,”
  6. What’s your favorite news source?
  7. What is the best advice your mother ever gave you?
  8. If you were a cookie, what kind would you be?
  9. Name the best place you’ve lived. Why do you consider it the best?
  10. Share the recipe for the best dish you cook.
  11. What was your last simple pleasure?

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Is this a hint?

Color me surprised. (and flattered, very, very flattered)

I've been given the Liebster Award.

Which is doubly surprising since I went on hiatus in June and haven't posted since then. I think this is a hint.

The Leibster Award aims to raise the profile of blogs and bloggers who may not have yet achieved widespread attention.

The Liebster Award is very idiosyncratic. It is given at the discretion of other bloggers, and the rule is that if you accept, you have to give it 3-5 bloggers you feel are deserving of the award.


There are a few other requirements:

  • Link to the blogger who gave me the award: Leslie Farnsworth, who writes an excellent blog, well worth checking out.
  • Answer the eleven questions my nominator sent.
  • List eleven facts about myself.
  • Give the award to 3-5 other bloggers with fewer than 2,000 followers (or whom I feel deserve more recognition.)
  • Ask the bloggers to whom I've given the award eleven questions


Leslie's 11 Questions to Me

1. What was the last book you read? Would your recommend it? The last book I read was Petty Treason - which is a fun couple of hours solving a mystery in Regency England. Not great literature, but a good time.

2. Out of all current events, which most sparks your imagination or passion? Why? The Affordable Health Care Act. On one hand, I support the goals of the bill, however, it is hard to justify legislation that is so poorly written and the execution of which was so incredibly bad.

3. If you could recommend only one activity from your last vacation, what would you choose? Why? Photography. Taking pictures trains you to spend time really looking at a place, not just letting it pass by in a blur of scenery. Even if your shots don't come out, your memories will be that much sharper, because you took the time to really look.

4. Pick your weather poison: Bitingly cold or swelteringly muggy? I'll take heat every time. Heat inspires better drinks.

5. Finish this sentence: "She walked up to the information desk, hoping, in vain, that someone would be there." That's what always happens when I go to the information desk.

6. What's your favorite news source? I toggle between NPR, BBC America, and PBS

7. What is the best advice your mother ever gave you? Don't let stuff accumulate: use it, donate it or throw it out.

8. If you were a cookie, what kind would you be? Oatmeal raisin: a bit old fashioned and not the prettiest in the shop, but with surprising warmth and depth of flavor.

9. Name the best place you've lived. Why do you consider it the best? Singapore. Not only lovely, but probably the happiest time in my life.

10. Share the recipe for the best dish you cook. And give away all my secrets?

11. What was your last simple pleasure? Waking up in the dark on a Sunday morning after the first real cold snap, and turning on the fireplace.

I will have to think about the rest and post on Friday.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Too Darn Hot

Today (June 21st) is the solstice, the first official day of summer. Time to go indoors.

Houston (love it though I do) is not the place to be in summer. It's hot. It's humid. On really bad days, the air is such a warm wet presence you feel as if you need gills.

If I had the means, I would move somewhere cooler in summer. Somewhere like England, where the average high temperature in June is 65.5 degrees Fahrenheit.  65! we won't see 65 until December. Our average is 91, and today it's 93!

And all that warmth brings with it bugs. Lots of bugs. Great big bugs with scary red eyes.

Cicada - harmless, but really, really ugly
But at least cicadas don't bite. That makes them better than the mosquitoes. And boy do we have mosquitoes. Tip: Citronella candles are useless. Stay inside and wait for fall.

So sun, surf and sand? No, I will be spending the summer in the shade, drinking gallons of iced tea, reading mystery novels and waiting for the temperature to drop back into the upper 80's.

Friday Fun Video
Sums up my feelings about summer in Texas.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Art of Gift Giving

This past weekend was my birthday. It was a very low key celebration with my family. My present was a bag of cherries. I know people who might find this disappointing, but cherries are my favorite fruit. And a bag of cherries that I don't have to share, sheer bliss.
Mine. All mine.
This got me thinking about gift giving. There are those who think gift giving has to be a big production (fancy paper, sparklers, etc).

I once dated a man who was of the opinion that you showed people how much you cared by the amount of money you spent. He gave me a pair of earrings with the receipt, so I would know exactly how much he had spent on me. And also, how much I should spend on him. (Just one of many reasons he's an ex.)
And then there are the spoilsports who think it's all a massive waste of time and we would all be better off if we just exchanged gift cards.

But shopping for other people is one of my favorite activities. It's much more fun than shopping for myself. And I prefer having a price limit, because it means you have to be creative.

Rules for Gift Giving

Toys are not limited to adults. I have had amazingly positive results giving toys to adults (particularly men). Why should kids have all the fun? One of the best presents I ever received was a Lego pirate ship.
Corollary rule, when giving toy guns, you must give two. There's no point in a gun fight where there is no opponent. One of my best Christmas presents ever, I gave my father and brother (combined age well over 70) marshmallow guns. This was a total hit, and the dog was thrilled too, because he ate all the marshmallows that hit the floor.
Cost is not important, thoughtfulness is. I gave a friend herb plants from the nursery (Total cost $6.00) because I knew she was starting an herb garden.  Not an expensive gift, but I showed that I was paying attention to her life. Later that year, she made me pesto.
Don't give people what you want. Remember the Simpsons episode where Homer gave Marge a bowling ball,inscribed with his name, for her birthday? She started going bowling and leaving the kids with him, (and nearly starting an affair with her bowling instructor). Serve him right. 


Try to get people something nicer than they would normally buy for themselves. That beautiful scarf, that they would never buy because it's too expensive. The large bottle of their favorite fragrance. Or in my case, a whole bag of cherries.

Give things they can use. My mother will probably disinherit me if I give her another tchoke she has to dust. So I give her wine, her favorite almond-scented body lotion, and flowers (Technically, not a a useful item, but they don't have to be dusted.)
Sometimes inspiration strikes. Two years ago, my father gave me a glow-in-the-dark jellyfish paperweight. It turned out to be the gift I never knew I wanted.  Things like this can be amazing, but they can also backfire. Be careful.
If someone has a cat (or dog) do not give them cat/dog themed stuff. I admit, this is a personal pet peeve of mine. I have the living, breathing, shedding animal in my house. I don't need statuettes, cookie cutters, tea cozies, calenders, sweaters or other cute animal-themed stuff. Thank you.
And lastly, everyone flubs it now and again, so get gift receipts, and don't take it personally. You tried, and it is the thought that counts.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Stepping out of routine

On my little jaunt to the hill country last week, I was playing with the radio stations and stumbled on a county station playing The Derailers, who have made my shortlist of favorite country bands. A band I would never have discovered, had I done what my brother keeps telling me to do and put all my music on an i-pod. "Then you can take you music with you wherever you go." In other words, I could stay in my cocoon of "things I know I like".

But I don't want to stay wrapped up in my own little world. It's why I travel, for the thrill of breaking routines and discovering new things; things I would never have discovered otherwise, like The Derailers.

“Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.”

― Terry Pratchett

This is why I have a love/hate relationship with the Amazon. As you know, if you buy something on Amazon, the next time you log on, Amazon will recommend things based on what you purchased. So if you buy a murder mystery, your recommendations will be flooded with murder mysteries. In a way, this is good, it helps you find more things in a category. But it doesn't compare with going to a library or bookstore and roaming the stacks, where you just might find ANYTHING.

Maybe Amazon could have a "surprise me" button in the recommendations section. Push it and you would get completely random recommendations. It would be like playing roulette. They might even turn over more stock.

I appreciate routines. Routines are important. They center and ground people. They help us maintain the illusion of stability in a chaotic universe. But too much routine becomes a rut, and ruts close you off from new experiences. Which is a long winded way of saying that I'd rather deal with 5 stations full of static, that hold the possibility of something new, than an i-pod filled with music I've heard 30 times already, even if I love it.

Friday fun video

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Recovering Grammar Nazi

Language is a marvellous thing. It's not just a useful way to let other people know that there is a bus heading their way, or bargain for a cabbage at the market. It is flexible. It can be incredibly exact and clinical,  dreamy and poetic, or just the basic prose of everyday life. In what other format can you express so much, with only 26 letters and a few punctuation marks?

Language matters to me, a lot. And because language matters to me, I'm sensitive to misuse. In a way this is ideal, because I'm an editor. When I read things aloud, the errors practically jump at me from the page. Don't misunderstand, I'm not claiming perfection: into every editor's life, some typos must fall. I'm just trying to convey how attuned to language I am.


And sometimes I wish I wasn't, because listening to the news, or reading the newspaper can be painful.
My current pet peeve is the now common usage of the word "troop" as a synonym for "soldier".  A "troop" is a group of soldiers. It's like saying six pack is another word for beer. Think about it. Having 2-3 beers is a fun night out, having 2-3 six packs is a drinking problem.

So when I hear reporters (who should know better) say we're sending 50,000 troops to Afghanistan, I want to throw things at the television. This is counterproductive and just raises the blood pressure. I'm going to try and be more like Stephen Fry, who I think has the right idea.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Hill Country Lavender

If you remember, the very first item on my list of Goals for 2013 was:


The festival was last weekend and I made the trip to Blanco to see all the purple flowers.


Unfortunately, there wasn't a lot in the way of flowers to see, actually. There is drought in the Hill Country, and the growers are trying very hard to just keep the plants alive. Still, there was lavender soap, essential oil, cookies, jams, lavendar spice rubs, sachets, and honey. I bought some soap and honey to support the growers and went exploring. After all, there is more to the Hill Country than lavender.

There's cattle

He let me take this picture, then sat down with his back facing the fence - he'd been photographed enough for one day
 And wildflowers

I don't know what it is, but the ants love it.
Courthouses
Blanco Courthouse - doesn't it look like the Munsters should live here?
Crafts
Clay flowers
Cowhides, for that genuine Western look

Octopus suncatcher - isn't he cute?
Horses
Horses grazing, Johnson City
 And don't forget this is the home of Presidents

The LBJ state park is right around the corner
I stopped in Brenham along the way and had an ice cream cone. Actually, if you stop in Brenham, you must purchase ice cream, it's the law.

Black cherry, if you're interested. It was VERY good.
And what could be better than spending an afternoon with a book and a large iced tea, under the live oak?

I need this tree in my backyard. I would need to demolish the neighbor's house, but it would be worth it.

And now I'm back and rested and ready to start the week. Happy Monday y'all!


Friday, June 7, 2013

The Tonys

I'm a Broadway baby, raised on musicals. I could sing the entire score of Sweeny Todd when I was 10. I know all the crowd pleasers, and few flops (Two by Two anybody?) but there is nothing quite like a good Broadway show.

Smash, a television show about a Broadway musical, was cancelled this year. It was a lot of fun. It was a musical in and of itself, and I enjoyed every last moment. But I am not among those who mourn its passing. I think it ended appropriately. The story was about bringing a show to Broadway, which they did, and the last episode was at the Tony Awards, an ideal ending point and culmination of the series.

But the reason I'm bringing all this up, is that this weekend is the Tony Awards! They are so much better than the Oscars, because the nominees actually do parts of the show, showing you why they were nominated at all. The music is great, and they are mercifully brief. (3 hours, including commercials). There is no red carpet, no after party nonsense, The Tonys move. Compare that with the insane, (and often inane) daylong coverage of the Oscars and you understand what I mean.

And as an added bonus, Neil Patrick Harris is hosting this year. He's done it before, beautifully, so I anticipate a great show.


Have a great weekend, and I'll meet you in front of the telly on Sunday!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Been to the movies lately?

I love going to the movies. I can immerse myself in the story and forget about the world for 90 minutes. Therapy for 8 bucks (20 if you include popcorn), not a bad deal.
 
I most recently say Now You See Me, which is about a group of magicians pulling off a bank heist (among other things).  All I can say is I was confused the whole time and I definitly did not see the end coming.  Great turns by Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman and Woody Harrelson. David Copperfield was a consultant on the film, so the illusions are top notch. It was fun, but after you leave the theater, you realize the story doesn't make much sense, but that didn't stop The Matrix did it?
 
The latest Star Trek, Star Trek: Into Darkness is a lot of fun. All the Trekkie geeks can talk about how it compares to a previous movie (I won't say which one, because I don't want to spoil it for anybody) and Benedict Cumberbatch (the villain) gets to chew the scenery and have a grand old time.
 
 
However, if you are the type who will get all upset about the physics not being correct, then don't go. It will only infuriate you, because the physics is completely improbable. But if you can let that go, it's one heck of a ride.
 
As much as I love a good space opera, I'm also a fan of French film, and I recently stumbled on My Afternoons with Margueritte. It's available on Amazon Prime, and YouTube (And probably Netflix, but I was having trouble logging on so I couldn't check.)  And it's too good not to share.
 
 
It's not dubbed, so you will have to read subtitles (désolé), but the characters will warm your heart. It's about kindnes and the transformative power of literature. If this sounds stuffy, I promise you it's not. It's actually a good film if you want to learn how to swear in French, because there is a whole lot of it.
 
But this is all just killing time until the movie I'm waiting for comes out:
 
 
Despicable Me 2!