Tuesday, October 30, 2007

21 Days

Christine Kane writes one of my favorite blogs (as well as some of my favorite music). I got this idea from her. She says there is a book about it but I think I will give it a try without the book.

The challenge is to go twenty-one days without complaining. That is right, twenty-one days. That is until November 14. However, if I slip and complain, the twenty-one day period starts over.

I have tried for the most part to keep this blog from becoming a running rant, in fact, I have made a conscious effort not to write bitchy, whiny, complaining blogs. Feel free to bust my chops if you feel that I have done otherwise. Now I will try to bring that over into my every day life. The main point of this exercise for me is to break a habit. I realize that this is likely to cause a mental shift and I will find fewer and fewer reasons to complain by the end of it.

Who is with me?

Soundtrack for this post: What a Wonderful World, Louis Armstrong

Monday, October 29, 2007

Much, Much Too Early

Going downtown yesterday morning, I took a different route than my usual one. I usually take a 'surface' street and avoid I35 which is just as likely to be a parking lot as a freeway. However, on weekend mornings, it is usually not crowded and I can get downtown in fifteen minutes rather than thirty.

Entering downtown from the interstate means that I hit the east end of 6th Street and drive it toward Brazos hoping to find parking in the block just east of Brazos and avoid valeting my car.

As I turned on to 6th yesterday, I thought I might be hallucinating. Could that really be Christmas decorations hanging over the street? It is not even Halloween yet! I know that retailers have had some Christmas stuff up since August but why on Earth has the city decided to hang green tinsel and guitars over the street so early? There is a big Halloween party down on 6th every year. The street is closed off to vehicular traffic and the crown gets so thick that all one can do is make a circle up one way and back the other. It is going to look bizarre with Christmas overhead.

In the past, the city has hung the decorations the Sunday after of before Thanksgiving. I think someone has lost his/her mind.

It is sooo trashy the only soundtrack for this post has to be: Robert Earl Keen, Merry Christmas from the Family and its sequel, Happy Holiday, Ya'll.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Blame It on the Stars...or Planets

Is anyone else experiencing weirdness the past couple of weeks? Things have been pretty weird around here and I found out a few days ago that Mercury may be the problem. It seems that the combined movement of Earth and Mercury around the sun make it appear that Mercury is moving backwards. This is known as retrograde and, according to astrologists, it can have a negative effect on communication, mechanical things and new projects.
I have experienced no shows, clients forgetting appointments, concierges thinking I said yes to a session when I had emphatically said no. I have also sent emails to several people from whom I have not received a reply. This is a little unusual, to say the least.

Mercury goes into retrograde about three times each year and stays there for three weeks. This time it began on October 12 and will not go direct until November 1.

Until then, we can blame all our screw ups on the Red Planet. After that, we are on our own.
Soundtrack for this post: The Age of Aquarius by the Fifth Dimension.
This site also has lots of info on Mercury in Retrograde.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Thirteen Odd or Little Known Things about Austin

1. Austin sits on a fault line knows as the Balcones Fault. We have actually had earthquakes but the most recent ones have been in the panhandle and did not seem to be related to the Balcones Fault.

2. A lot of the city sits over caves. That is right, caves. We don't think about it very much until someone gets lost in one.

3. The 3oth Parallel skirts the southern most part of town. (Some maps make it look as though it runs right through my house.) It also runs through the Great Pyramid.

4. The downtown hotel where I work is haunted.

5. Although Austin is known far and wide for its live music scene, it is also the breakfast taco capital of the world. You can get both at the same time if you know where to go.When people move away from here, breakfast tacos are usually high on the list of things they miss most. It seems that in South Austin, there is a taco trailer on every other corner. We is damn serious 'bout our breakfast tacos.

6. South Austin is hippy central. We call anything north of where Loop 1 and 183 meet "North Dallas."

7. Loop 1 is referred to by locals as 'Mopac.' This is because it runs along the Missouri Pacific railroad tracks.

8. Manchaca is pronounced "Manchack".

9. Pecos is pronounced "Paycus".

10. I can't phonetically spell the way Pedernales is pronounced.

11. Our mayor's name is Will Wynn. Can you imagine running for office against someone with that name?

12. Austin is now the 16th largest city in the nation after having at least doubled in size in the past ten years.

13. Real estate here is no longer all that much cheaper than California.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Hill Country Wine

We are finally having a little bit of 'fall' weather here in the Texas Hill Country. Today was a breezy 87 degrees. We took advantage of the near perfect day to visit a couple of wineries. This was our second time to make a 'wine tour.' A few months ago we headed toward Fredericksburg and stopped at Woodrose Winery and Becker Vineyards. We did not know that there was no food of any consequence on site at the vineyards. We stopped first at Woodrose and tasted their wine then went on to Becker. After tasting the wine and buying a glass each, we were in serious need of food. All they offered for sale was goat cheese and crackers. We tried to eat the cheese but, what can I say? It tasted like the goats from which it came. We cut our day short and went to find food. We discovered that the vineyards have beautiful picnic areas and people are encouraged to make use of them.

Armed with the knowledge of the picnic areas, today we packed bread, cheese, prosciutto and some other munchies along with a few bottles of water (drinking wine can be dehydrating), and headed out toward Wimberley.

Our first stop was Bella Vista Ranch. This combination vineyard/winery/olive orchard is off Jacob's Well Road. We wound around the small county roads and almost missed it. Texas wines don't have the very best reputation. However, every bottle we tasted could hold its own with just about any wine I have ever had. We bought a bottle of cabernet sauvignon that was the best we had ever tasted. It was the only wine priced over $15.

Bella Vista is the first olive orchard in Texas . We got to listen to the last part of a lecture on how it is pressed and got to sample a little. I now know more about olive oil than I thought there was to know about olive oil. We bought a bottle and I am looking forward to using it on pasta and as a dipping sauce for bread from Phoenicia Bakery. They also had some wonderful balsamic vinegars. We sampled the blackberry pear infused balsamic. YUMMMM!

We took our food out to one of their picnic tables. They do not have the best picnic area of the wineries we have visited so far but, we got to watch a mama cow try to keep the vultures away from her calf that had been born this morning. I'm sure that they were wanting the afterbirth but she must not have known that. She was aided from time to time by a gelding who was in the same small pasture. Wine, lunch and a show. Can't beat that.

Next we went to Driftwood Vineyards. The view from their picnic area is fantastic. We sat in the chairs pictured on the website and the view is exactly as it appears in the photo. The wines from this vineyard were more tannic than we would have preferred. The owners were very nice. We bought a stopper system to keep wine after it is opened and got some advice on how t o keep it fresh for a few days. This was worth the stop for us because we never finish a bottle of wine at one sitting and ,therefore, don't drink very much of it. I have started some red wine vinegar so I will have a place to put left over wine and won't feel as though I am wasting it.

We did all of this and never got more that forty miles from south Austin. There was another winery we had thought about going to but decided to do it another day. A trip to the Salt Lick followed by a side trip to a winery is ad adventure to look forward to.

If you decide to go a winin', you need to take a little cash. Most of the tasting rooms charge
$3 to $5 for their tastings which usually consist of five to six wines. I heard the woman at Driftwood tell a couple that they could share but I have not heard that anywhere else. Becker Vineyards will let you taste some of their wines at no charge but you can pay a fee and taste the premium wines. They also have a lavender farm but I have not been there in the spring when it is blooming. Their wines are very, very good.

Soundtrack for this post: Red, Red Wine, Roy Drusky version.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Thursday 13: The Last 13 Books I Have Read

The most recent thirteen books that I have read:

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle Barbara Kingsolver
I grew up in a farming family and still learned a lot from this book. It gives a great picture of the journey our food takes to get to our tables. You will not view food the same way after reading it.

The Symbolism of the Tarot P.D. Ouspensky
He treats the Tarot the way Joseph Campbell treats ancient myth.

Illusions Richard Bach
No surprise here, huh? This is one of those books that I have to read again every few years. I always find something new in it or something that relates to where I am right now.

The Good Remembering Llyn Roberts
I study with Llyn every time I get the chance. She truly is a modern day shaman.

Skinny Legs and All Tom Robbins
I just have to go back and read a Robbins story every now and then. I laugh so hard I almost cry and still learn a few things.

The Astonishing Power of Emotions Abraham – Hicks
Ask and It is Given Abraham - Hicks
This is the original law of attraction stuff. However, it is much more than that and it is only that at the same time. If you can’t wrap your head around communications from non-physical beings, you can still appreciate the information given here. It picks up where Seth left off by giving practical ways to overcome your self-sabotaging behaviors and thoughts.

Anatomy of the Spirit Caroline Myss
Sacred Contracts Caroline Myss
This is an ongoing study for me. I am fascinated by the idea of only one entity of self although most of us have been taught to see a division between our bodies and our spirits with our minds as some kind of go between. With my work as massage therapist, craniosacral therapist and Reiki master, I am very aware of this connection and use it to facilitate improvement in my clients’ well being. I really want to study with Caroline Myss.

Coyote Medicine Lewis Mehl-Madrona
Coyote Wisdom Lewis Mehl-Madrona
Coyote Healing Lewis Mehl-Madrona
This author is an M. D. who is half Native-American and is very connected to Native American shamanism. I read a lot of books on shamanism and these are some of my favorites to date. He uses old stories to facilitate healing and explains the use of stories told for others as well as the way we use the stories we all tell ourselves. One of my favorite passages in these books is in Coyote Healing where he applies the story telling concept to MLMs. Having been lured into one of those for a short time, I was amazed by the similarities. He is another person with whom I would love to study.

I’m having a hard time figuring out which book I read 13 books ago. It was either:

Law Of Attraction Abraham- Hicks or

The Architecture of All Abundance Lenedra J. Carroll
I have given away several copies of this book. It contains wonderful insights on dealing with yourself, other people and life in general. The author is the mother of the singer Jewel. or

The Mermaid Chair Sue Monk Kidd
I seldom read light fiction but I like this author who also wrote The Secret Life of Bees. I guess she is more mid-weight than light.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Cheesy Update

The ricotta turned out fine although there are only a few tablespoons of it. All of the recipes I found called for starting with two gallons of whey. I only had what was left of the gallon of milk after I made the mozzarella yesterday. I had to play around with it as far as the cooking time and the amount of vinegar to add. That's OK. I was mostly playing around with this anyway. I knew that there was a possibility that it would not make cheese at all since I had added citric acid to the milk during the cheese making process yesterday. I could have added milk to the whey and next time, I will.

The hardest part of this whole process is finding milk that has not been ultra pasteurized. This process makes for a long shelf life but kills the bacteria that are necessary for making cheese. I have found it at Wheatsville Co-op and getting there takes about 20 minutes. Hopefully, it will become more widely available soon.

The soundtrack for this post would probably be the theme from the Adam's Family. With the sourdough starter, the vinegar that I am making from red wine and all the cheese and soap making, my kitchen is starting to resemble Uncle Fester’s lab.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Easy Cheesy

Starting new things in the fall seems to be a pattern in my life. I took my first belly dancing class last week and I just finished making cheese for the first time. I was surprised at how easy it was to do. I used a recipe called '30 Minute Mozzarella' that I found the Barbara Kingsolver's new book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.

I had ordered a cheese making kit last year and because it was on back order and took a long time to get to me, I was out of the mood to try it by the time it arrived. All the recipes in it look pretty complicated anyway. Because I had purchased the kit, I already had the rennet and a cheese thermometer. I had citric acid because I make soap and got some to give lotions a try which I have yet to do.

The recipe really did take only 3o minutes. I now have just over 17 ounces of yummy mozzarella made from regional organic milk. This is despite the fact that I screwed up one step of the recipe and added the citric acid directly to the milk before it started to get warm. I then added a fourth cup of water just to get the liquid level right. Also, I have rennet tablets rather than liquid rennet and had to look up the conversion online.

I also have a large amount of whey left in the pot on my stove. Tomorrow I will try making ricotta with it.

I think I will have to get my sour dough going again so that I can make a great pizza dough. If the ricotta turns out, cheesecake or lasagna may be in my future.

If anyone is interested, I got the kit from The Cheese People. As I said, it took a long time to get to me. You might want to try else where.

The citric acid and other soap supplies, including the best quality and lowest priced essential oils ever, usually come from Texas Natural Supply.

Soundtrack for this post: Anything by String Cheese Incident since most of their songs are about 30 minutes long.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Is it Autumn Yet?

According to the calendar, autumn is upon us. That just shows how much one can rely on calendars. Summer has decided to make up for the time she lost to the rains of mid-year and bless us with 90 degree days in October. We have had several so called cool fronts already. The best the impotent little puffs have been able to manage has been temperatures in the mid to high 80s.

It has been a little puzzling to me to tell just when autumn gets here the past few years anyway. When I was growing up, it was the smells that signaled its arrival. Our little town was thick with pecan trees. Every yard had at least two or three. Our yard had about a dozen. All of the kids (and some of the adults) made a few bucks picking up pecans and selling them. Raking the leaves off the yard (we never called them lawns) made it easier to find the pecans. Once the leaves were raked into piled, the best way to get rid of them was to burn them. They burned quickly and easily. I never heard of a serious fire getting started because someone let a leaf fire get away. You just raked up a pile out of the grass, which was brown and dry by then, cleared a small area around it of any combustibles, and dropped a lit match into it. The whole thing was over in five or ten minutes. The smell of burning leaves filled the air on autumn afternoons.

The other smell that wafted over the countryside was that of burning cotton burrs. The cotton was taken to a gin where the fibers were separated from the seeds and the dried burrs and other debris. The seeds were saved for replanting or cattle feed while the hulls went into a towering incinerator or burr burner. On chilly nights, the cool air kept the warm smoke close to the ground. It could be smelled for several miles.

The EPA decided that burning leaves and cotton burrs was polluting the air and I am sure that is so. Still, I miss those autumn smells. (I don’t know why they haven’t decided the same thing about burning rice straw from the fields in Arkansas and Missouri.)

Cotton is a very labor intensive crop. The ground has to be worked in late winter to get it ready for spring planting. Once it is planted, it has to be rolled. This means that a tractor pulls a set of rollers over it to cover the seeds. On big farms, they use tractors powerful enough to haul the planters and pull the rollers but on our little east Texas farms, that was not the case. Once the plants are up, you have to be diligent about keeping the weeds out of the crop. This is done was done by walking up and down each row with a hoe and chopping or digging up the weeds. Of course, herbicides are used as well but some things have to be done with the hoe. Then you have to keep the insects off the plants as best you can. This involves the use of more pesticides than you really want to think about. Then there is all the fertilizer. You get the picture.

When harvest time comes, a defoliant is sprayed on the field to kill the plant and make the leaves fall off so that the ‘stripper’ can take the cotton and what few dried leaves are left on the stalks off in one pass. The chemical smells for all the world like skunk spray. The old strippers were attached to the tractor and spit the cotton and debris into the trailer that was pulled behind. To keep the cotton from piling up in one place, someone had to ride in the back with a pitchfork and keep the cotton spread out. That was usually my job. I weighed no more than ninety pounds so I got bounced around a lot. The full trailers were taken to the gin where the cotton was graded, processed and baled. If you have ever heard the phrase fair to middlin’, you heard a cotton grade without realizing it. The grades were based on the length and condition of the fiber as well as how much debris was in it.

The harvesting equipment has evolved and now a huge cage fits over the tractor and catches the cotton. It then is compressed into big rectangles that are covered with tarps until it is moved to the gin on trucks. This requires much larger tractors and small acreages are pretty much a thing of the past. Most cotton seeds are hybrids and have been genetically prefabricated not to reproduce so saving your seeds for next year is also a thing of the past.

Little if any cotton is grown in the area of northeast Texas where I grew up. Huge old buildings which once housed the cotton gins dot the landscape as they slowly rust away unless a tornado or other high wind sends the sheet metal flying into the surrounding fields.

The soundtrack for this post has to be Those Old Cotton Fields Back Home.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Thursday 13, Music

Here are thirteen of my favorite musicians of whom you may never have heard:

1. David Lamotte

2. Chuck Brodsky

3. Beth Wood

4. Tom Kimmel

5. Stephen Taylor

6. Darryl Purpose

7. Brian QTN

8. Steve Fisher

9. Diana Jones

10. Lowry Olafson

11. Chris Rosser

12. Chip Raman

13. Adam & Kris

It was hard to stop at thirteen. These are in no particular order. Follow the links and have fun.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Good Listening

I got a cd yesterday that I have been waiting to get for years. Chip Raman (pronounced Raymon) is a talented artist and musician whose writing I won't even try to describe. You can check him out on his website or look him up on myspace. I have listened to the cd 3 or 4 times since yesterday. It has been a long, long time since I have done that with a new disc.

If you get the cd, stick it in your computer so you can see the dvd. It is hilarious.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Goin' Home

Thanks again to all of you who have kept vigil for the little baby in Flagstaff. I am happy to report that he went home with his parents a few hours ago. YEAH!!!!

Soundtrack for all these baby posts has to be James Taylor's Sweet Baby James.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Lani's Friend

I have no idea how people can do it. I'm talking about disposing of animals as if they were garbage.

A friend of ours just got a Dobie Fellowship. This means that she gets to live in J. Frank Dobie's house out on his ranch. The ranch is on the outskirts of Austin on the end of a gravel road. There are houses and other businesses on the road but it dead ends at the entrance to the ranch. When our friend and her husband arrived at the ranch, there was a dog hanging around the gate. No one had been living at the ranch for a few weeks at least. This means that the only people to go there were the grounds keepers who go out once a month to check on things and mow the grass. Our friends left for a few hours. The dog was still there when they returned. It was obvious that someone had dropped him out there because they no longer wanted him. After putting up signs, posting on craigslist and contacting the local shelter to see if anyone was looking for him, they decided to adopt him. They call him Punkin' because of his color.

They had a few obligations to attend to so Punkin' is visiting with Lani for a few days.

I ask you, how could anyone discard this sweet six month old boy?

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Thirteen Reasons to Live with a Dog

1. Dogs always make me laugh. Our deal with Lani is that she makes us laugh and we pay for everything she needs.

2. Someone is waiting for you when you get home.

3. A good reason for leaving a boring party is that you have to go home to let the dog out.

4. If you collect enough dog hair, you can stuff a pillow. I could have probably stuffed three small ones or a very large one by now.

5. Your yard will be safe from squirrels, deer and other wild life.

6. Sometimes the dog is the wild life.

7. You will always be warned whenever someone goes by on a bicycle or on foot in front of your house.

8. Ditto if someone pulls into your driveway.

9. You will most likely get to know your neighbors. People are usually comfortable commenting on a dog and conversations can continue on to other topics.

10. You get taken on walks frequently.

11. Free fertilizer for your yard.

12. You get to watch them sleep. There is no better picture of contentment.

13. You get unconditional love.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Can You Help This Horse?

Or do you know someone who can?

Please take a minute to read this post at Guilty with an Explanation.

What I Saw

Stephen and I have been thinking about clearing out of Austin. We love the town and all our friends here. Howver, Austin has gotten to be a much bigger place than either of us is comfortable living in. It would be different if we could live a half an hour out of town and be able to be in the country or if we could drive for a half an hour and be out of town. As it is, it takes at least twenty minutes to get downtown or anywhere else we want to go from out place in the south part of town.

One of the reasons for my trip to Santa Fe was to check it out as a possible place to live. It is about the right sized town. You can pretty much get or do anything you want or need there. The climate is nice. It may get a little colder than I like in winter but the mild summers make up for that. The best part is that you can be anywhere in town in about fifteen minutes. I am sure that it takes a little bit longer during peak traffic times but not nearly as long as it takes here. You can be fifteen or twenty minutes out of town and be in the country, beautiful country at that.

One of the areas that we have been thinking about is Pecos. My friend and I drove down there and the first thing we saw there was a horse that was out and eating grass right in the entrance to the village. That has to be a good sign.

I did not make very many pictures. Here are a few on the Pecos River near its head waters.

Sound track for this post: Jerry Jeff' Walker's Leavin' Texas

Tuesday, October 2, 2007


I have come to realize that by my asking for prayers for the baby, I may have inadvertently spread worry and concern about him. These feelings are natural to all of us in these situations. However, since I believe that we get what we concentrate on, I am doing the very best I can to envision him as a healthy and whole child. A child who laughs and smiles at his parents and who is thriving in this world. I ask that you join me in seeing this vision.

Peace to all.

More on the Little One

Our little guy is fighting a nasty infection. We had hoped that he would be home by now but that is not going to be the case for some time now. Your continued prayers and good energy are appreciated.