Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Christmas Cheer

I heard this yesterday on KPIG. It is twisted and I like it.


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A Great Way to Look at Life

My friend S., who is not consciously a student of Law Of Attraction, told me this story yesterday. I love it.

S.’s friend, to whom I will refer as Boomer for reasons that will soon become obvious, was stopped for speeding. Boomer is in his 50s. The officer who stopped him was in his 30s and probably young enough to be Boomer’s son. Their conversation went something like this:

Young Officer: “Mind if I search your vehicle?”

Boomer: “Help yourself.”

Young Officer: “Am I going to find anything?”

Boomer: “Probably.”

The officer looked inside the car and, upon finding a small butt of a marijuana cigarette, began to lecture Boomer severely on how much better his life would be if he were not addicted to an illegal substance. Boomer began to get annoyed and started thinking that he wished the kid would just write him a ticket and let him get on with his day. He gazed over the top of his glasses at the officer giving him a look that he hoped was expressing his thoughts.

Maybe it was the look or perhaps the youngster decided that having to listen to a lecture from someone young enough to be his offspring was punishment enough for Boomer’s transgressions. At any rate, he let Boomer off with a warning.

Boomer decided that getting the warning instead of a stiff fine was a sign that he was having a lucky day so he drove straight to the nearest casino, walked up to the first dollar slot machine that he saw and put a buck in it. He won $1500.00.

My friend who told me this story said that if he had been in Boomer’s place, he would have buckled his seat belt tight, driven home at five miles under the speed limit and cleaned out his car. “That’s just how Boomer thinks,” he said.

I think that Boomer decided that he was having a great experience and that he might as well have an even better one. He realized on some level that his vibration was right to attract something wonderful and took inspired action.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Friday, November 28, 2008


We have a house guest this weekend. My daughter's dog, Asha, is visiting with Lani.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

They Don't Have Wombs

Where do these old men in funny hats and dresses,er, robes get off trying to tell anybody how women should treat their own bodies?

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Alice Walker

My friends at Group News Blog have posted the most beautiful and insightful letter from Alice Walker to President Elect Obama. Here's the link:


Monday, November 3, 2008


There is still some weirdness left in Austin. In honor of the coming election, some people I know made this video.

The Bridge to No Where Man


Monday, October 27, 2008

We Used to Be Weird

About ten years ago, merchants on South Congress just south of the Congress street bridge in an area that was then known as 'the strip'started feeling the pinch of rising property values and big box stores. Some of them came up with a slogan. "Keep Austin Weird" started showing up on bumperstickers, T-shirts, beer cozies, etc. It then got co-opted by the bigger businesses and the city government, who have pretty much made it meaningless. A case in point- these three bulidings. One is brand new to Austin, one is in Sydney Austrailia, one is in Tampa, and one is in Atlanta.

I borrowed the shot of the one in Sydney from Pam's blog. The others are from commercial sites promoting the buildings or the design firm.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

What It Used To Be

"What did it used to be called?" asked the guy next to me at Live Oak Market in South Austin.

"Kronik," replied the store owner.

I turned to look at what they were talking about. The guy had a six pack of beer with a label that lookeds as though a big 'Censored' sticker had been placed over the label.

"What did you say?" I asked, not sure I had heard him right the first time.

"Kronik," he says. " They even spelled it right, too. The ATF wouldn't allow them to call it that so they changed the name to Censored because it was."

We all cracked up.

Soundtrack for this post, Louie Louie by the Kingsmen, the most censored and banned song that I can think of.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

My New Project

I just opened an Etsy Store. Check it out here .

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Music Game

There is a game going around the blogosphere where you post the first 4 lines to the first then everyone tries to guess then song and artist. Here is my version. There are a couple of give aways and a few that are so obscure it realy isn't fair.

1.In a westerly direction this car is my train
I'm driving and I'm wonderin what it is I'm runnin from again
I feel like an eighty year old man but I'm holdin on to twenty nine
And up ahead on that horizon is the California line.

2.Her Majesty's a pretty nice girl,
but she doesn't have a lot to say
Her Majesty's a pretty nice girl
but she changes from day to day

3.Don't you feel it growing, day by day
People getting ready for the news
Some are happy, some are sad
Oh, we got to let the music play

4.I've got some pictures
Just some old black and whites
Everything was so simple
Maybe I romanticize

Had to leave these 2 out. Couldn't find the lyrics:

Eric Schwartz Coronation of President Schwartz
Brindle’s Under the Rainbow

5.In my room
On a table by the light
There is a photograph
An old black and white

6.Well, I'm tore down
I'm almost level with the ground
Well, I'm tore down
I'm almost level with the ground

7.My old man never left this town
Except when he went to war
Took a two week vacatioin
Every summer to the shore

8.If I had a magical lamp, with a genie at my command
I'd use my 3 wishes right now, to make you mine
And if I had a harp of gold, like one from the legends old
My songs of love would take, your breath away

9.Mister, can you spare some change for me
I’m a stranger on my own
I know there’s la lot of people out on the street
But now it’s you and me alone

10.My father said some things you learn
By only dong when it come your turn
Everything comes around
So be ready if you can

Monday, October 13, 2008

She Cracks Me Up

Rachel Maddow just said that if Wolfowitz were trying to sell a no calorie, bacon flavored arhrodisiac, no one would buy it. That is one of the funniest things I have heard in a long, long time.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

I Could Be a Roadie

I did some recycling today. I loaded up a couple of month's worth of paste board and Reed's Ginger Beer bottles in the back of my Outback. I got the two printers that had gone bottoms up at the same time and put them in the back seat and headed out.

My first stop was at Axcess Technologies. It is in a business/warehouse complex that was on my way downtown. You just pull up behind the building and drop your stuff off where ever you see a where someone else has left theirs. There were a couple of monitors on the back steps so I figured my printers could keep them company.

Next I went to Ecology in Action at the corner of 9th Street and I 35. Since I was in the recycling mood anyway, I decided to go by Ten Thousand Villages and pick up a load for them. The manager had called me Tuesday and asked me to make a run for them because they were about to get a big shipment on Wednesday and had a hallway full of boxes and paper already. I couldn't get there until Tuesday afternoon. By then, they had put it all out on the sidewalk because the shipment had arrived early. I loaded as much of it as I could but didn't want to make a second trip in the almost rush hour traffic. One of the managers took some of the rest when she headed home. I knew that they would be buried in boxes and paper again so I thought I'd help out.

We started with the biggest boxes which had been broken down and flattened. These lie flat in the back of my car when I fold down the back seat. We stacked them up almost as high as the back of the front seat before we added a couple of boxes full of smaller boxes, one just inside the back door behind the passenger seat and the other in the front passenger seat. Next, we cram a couple of lawn and leaf sized trash bags full of paper on top of and around the boxes. The other volunteer who was there was amazed that I was able to get so much in my car. It takes a little planning,but if you look at things in the right way, you can almost always pack more than if you just start throwing things in.

As I was stacking boxes into my car and making decisions in the back room as to which ones had to go first, I realized that I have been organizing and loading stuff as long as I remember. When I was growing up, my family went on long camping vacations almost every summer. A couple of times, my dad took the back seat out of a '59 Chevy and he and my mom packed almost everything behind the front seat then piled bedding on top of it all and covered it with a quilt. This build up a platform that was about a foot shorter than the back of the front seat. My brother and I would ride back there and be able to see out the windows and not miss a thing. It was also good for napping when we were little.

Later on, we had this little trailer that I painted white with red trim. My dad would put a top on it and caulk around the edges to keep it dry. Our tent, army surplus cots and mattresses along with our kitchen stuff went in there. Suit cases full of clothes and the ice chest went in the trunk. By the time I was 12 or 13, I was mostly in charge of loading the trailer. When we pulled up to a campsite, everyone went into motion. Dad would get out the kitchen stuff and set it up so Mom could start supper while my brother and I set up the tent and put the beds together. We had this down to an art by the second night out.

This is pretty much how my roadie skills were developed but I haven't stopped. One time in the 70's I loaded a pair of congas and most of a trap set into a Vega (yeah, I've been hanging out with musicians that long) but that was nothing compared to all the years I traveled with babies. I had twins when my oldest was almost 5 and the middle child was not quite 2. That was some heavy diaper bag.

It's a good day when you discover a skill that you have had forever and did not realize you were good at it.

Soundtrack for this post: Jackson Brown, The Load Out

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

This is My Country

One of my favorite singer/songwriters is Joel Rafael

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Dinner Party

Seven friends, beautiful equinox weather, candle lit conversation that went on well after dark....and of course, lots of food and weirdly named wine. A magical experience here on the 30th parallel. We have so little fall weather that we appreciate it very much. The high yesterday was about 90 degrees but by 5:30 or so, it was about 80 to 85 in my backyard.

We started with the Bitch wine with appetizers. I don't necessarily buy wine based on its name or label. I did, however, buy my first bottle of Bitch wine as a gag gift. It turns out that this grenache is a great wine for about $10 to $11. It got its name because wine makers sometimes say that the grape is a bitch to grow and the wine is a bitch to make. This is a light tasting red wine that goes with so many different foods that it could have been called Slut. It is pretty good by itself, too.

Dinner began with a fresh green salad. The entrée was eggplant stacks consisting of slices of eggplant which I lightly sautéed before layering them with homemade ricotta mixed with Parmesan and fresh basil and oregano. I put these in a baking dish and baked them at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes before pouring a marinara sauce over them and topping each one with a slice of homemade mozzarella. Then I returned them to the oven for a few minutes to let the sauce get warm and the mozarella melt. A side of linguine in a butter/olive oil sauce with garlic, a few pine nuts and some colorful bell peppers completed the main course.

The wine was Vampire Pinot Noir. Stephen's sister owns a kitchen store in Brevard, NC. She and her husband also sell wine. We had this wine a couple of years ago when we were there in October. It comes from Transylvania and Brevard is in Transylvania County. They always get some and have a tasting near Halloween. It is a lovely wine. They would not sell if it weren't good. It goes wonderfully with tomato-based sauces. It holds its own and doesn't clash with the acidity.

Dessert was an apple streusel made with Medina apples and generously laced with calvados topped with Amy's sweet cream ice cream.

Another feature of this dinner was that most of the ingredients were local. I used a jarred sauce and, of course, the pasta and wine were not local. Almost everything else came from the farmer's market or was made here in town. The milk for the cheeses most likely came from near Waco. The farthest it would have come from would have been Hopkins County which is about six hours away. The apples are from about three hours away and Amy's is a local ice cream shop that is so good that we have decided not to buy our own ice cream maker.

The guests included a couple I met through blogging, another couple who are musicians, artists and authors, and one of my best hippy girlfriends. An eclectic and wonderful mix.

Thanks to Konagod for the photos. Here is the one from Cooking Light magazine that was the inspiration for this alfresco dinner.

Soundtrack for this post: Laura Nyro's Stoned Sould Picnic

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Alaska Rally

There was a rally in Alaska the other day. It seems that there are some folks up there who want the rest of us to know that they aren't proud of their governor. I have purposefully avoided political posts but when I received these photos in an email, I decided they were too good to keep to myself.

The Seance

On a family camping trip to the beautiful eastern Oklahoma hills when I was a teenager, my brother and I met some other kids who were at the campground for a family reunion. The older kids had been charged with looking out for the younger ones and I guess they were getting pretty tired of it.

There was a covered ‘pavilion’ in the campground. It was really just a large rectangular affair with poles on the sides holding a roof over a concrete slab. It did have electricity and a lone light bulb hung down in the center of it. One of the boys was tall enough to easily reach this fixture.

We arranged benches in a circle in the center of the shelter and filled them up with kids of all ages. It was dark by then and we decided to have a séance. The oldest boy stood in the middle of the circle and announced that since we had to try to contact a spirit that we would all be familiar with, we would all concentrate on John F. Kennedy. (This was in 1967 or ’68 so even the younger kids knew who he was.)

Tall Boy instructed everyone to be very quiet and think about JFK. He kept telling us that if we all thought hard enough, the spirit would make contact with us. Everyone got really quiet. You could hear crickets chirping and night birds calling but under the roof of the pavilion, not a sound was being made. Tall boy reached up to unscrew the light bulb which he had loosened earlier. Just as he touched it, it shorted out, creating a bright flash before going completely dark.

Kids screamed bloody murder and knocked over the benches in the their haste to escape. We older kids laughed so hard that it took us a few minutes to start looking for the little ones. I think little kids were being coaxed out from under cots and tables for the rest of the night. I’m pretty sure that all of them were found eventually.

Soundtrack for this post: Awake Ghost Song by the Doors

Monday, September 15, 2008

They Are Everywhere.....Except Home

I had some errands to do today which took me into a couple of retail outlets. The stores were busier than usual on a Monday morning during the school term. It was easy to spot the Ike evacuees. They were the ones with buggies full of plastic storage containers, food, clothing and other necessary items. They did not have trinkets, AV equipment or anything that could be considered the least bit unnecessary or un-needed. Most of them couldn't quite return a smile, either. A lot of them were talking on their cell phones and saying things like, " We can't go home yet because our street is still flooded," or " There was water in my house but I don't know how much or if it's still in there."

I can only imagine what it must be like for these people. Stephen and I were kind of homeless in 2002. We had left Asheville and come back to Austin with nowhere to lined up to live and no permanent work for either of us. We lived in a tent at the Kerrville Folk Festival for almost a month. We were pretty sure that someone would turn us on to some cool digs for little money while we were there and, sure enough, that's what happened. The only catch was that we could not move into the new place until the first part of July and the festival was over at the end of the first week of June. We managed to find a couple of house sitting gigs to get us by until then. In the meantime, some stuff was going on at the Festival that we would really have liked not to have had to witness and it was a hot dry festival that year and our tent was in the sun. I really wanted to leave but we had no place to go. I became physically ill.

When I hear people talking about not being able to go back home and know that they may not even have a home to go back to, my heart goes out to them. I heard on the radio that the Food Bank was asking for grooming supplies such as razors, shampoo, etc., so I went to my local dollar store and loaded up on some of these things along with some crayons and coloring books and dropped them off. It was a madhouse over there to say the least. If you don't live where there are a lot of evacuees and still want to help, here is a link where you will find a lot of ways to do so.

Soundtrack for this post: A Littlel Help From My Friends

An Interview

I have been interviewed about my work and the resulting Qs & As can be read at Current Living as well as at my newest blog. I'll be posting comments about my work as well as updates on classes that I am taking or teaching as well as press releases and news about any articles that I have published.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Wisdom Flash

I found this site by following a link on Current Living.

It is one of the most uplifting sites I have found in quite a while.

Check it out.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Blowin' Like a Bandit

We have battened down the hatches.....stocked up on drinking water, loaded up with food items that don't have to be cooked (I have never had so much junk food in my house), and cleaned out the garage so that the cars could be parked in it rather than under the trees. I also filled as many empty pop bottles as I could find along with all my plastic food storage containers with water and put them in the freezer to keep it as cold as possible for as long as possible should we lose electricity. If the power goes out, we won't have any water because we have a well and the pump is electric. One of the last things we will do before we go to bed tonight is fill up some buckets with water so we can use it to flush if we have to. Then we will put the outdoor chairs in the garage and pull the potted plants up next to the house. We both have full gas tanks.

Come on Ike. Bring us some rain but pass over gently, will ya?

Update Saturday morning: It looks like Ike has hit Galveston and Houston pretty hard then taken a hard right turn toward the Texas Louisianna line. Here in Austin we have cloudy skies and a little bit of a breeze along with some pretty high humidity. That is it. No rain!!!! We were really hoping for some since we are in a sever drought. This is the second hurricane this year that has sent the rain in some other direction. I hope all of my friends in Houston are OK. I doubt that they have electricity. I feel sorry for the rescue teams who will have to go into Galveston and look for people who refused to leave and for all the people who have lost property and have been displaced.

Soundtrack for this post: Guy Clark's Blowin' Like a Bandit, Asleep at the Wheel version.

More of My Enchanted Backyard

I have walked from the far end of the backyard to the house many times in the past year and a half. Why have I never noticed before that Daphne's heart is visible on one of her branches?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Delbert Said It Best

Lipstick, powder, and paint
Lipstick, powder, and paint
Lipstick, powder, and paint
Is you is or is you ain't

There goes my baby up a tree
Gigglin' and wigglin' her toes at me
Let me put my glasses on
Ain't had such lovin' since she's been gone

Lipstick, powder, and paint
Lipstick, powder, and paint
Lipstick, powder, and paint
Is you is or is you ain't

Hound dog scratchin' fleas
Lookin' like she's in love with me
Lick my hand everywhere I go
I wish my baby loved me so

Lipstick, powder, and paint
Lipstick, powder, and paint
Lipstick, powder, and paint
Is you is or is you ain't
Corn in the barnyard ten feet high
Hide with me until your man pass by
Don't you sneeze and don't you call
If you get dusty I'll brush you off

Lipstick, powder, and paint
Lipstick, powder, and paint
Lipstick, powder, and paint
Is you is or is you ain't

What kind of love is that you make
The world start tremblin' and the buildings shake
Love me love me once again
Let the roof and walls come tumblin' in

Lipstick, powder, and paint
Lipstick, powder, and paint
Lipstick, powder, and paint
Is you is or is you ain't

Lipstick, powder, and paint

Delbert McClinton

Short clip here. Best to listen when you have two bottles of whine, I mean wine.
Written by Charlie Calhoun in the 50's.

Monday, September 8, 2008

A Lesson in Appreciation

If you have been reading this blog very long, you know that I am a student of the Law...Law Of Attraction, that is. This law simply states that you get whatever you think about. There are many teachers out there who are willing to help you understand what this really means in everyday life. It is helpful to have a teacher or two because, as simple as this sounds, it is many times difficult to grasp. My favorite teacher is Abraham-Hicks. Abraham pretty much takes up where Seth left off. Although the information that Seth gave was enlightening, he gave us little to no information as to how to make use of it. Abraham, on the other hand, gives the nuts and bolts of how to make the Law work for you. For instance, we create our own reality. Our choice is to do it consciously by making conscious choices, or to do it by default by just letting life have its way with us not realizing that we have any control at all.

At the moment, I am participating in an experiment to find evidence in my life that this does indeed work. I readily admit that I have not kept up with the day to day part of the experiment. When it first started, I received $115 from a completely unexpected source but then I kind of dropped the ball when some things didn't work out just the way I wanted to them to.

One of the biggies in working with the Law is to appreciate what you have. The theory is that when we appreciate things, we attract more things to appreciate. The other day I picked up the current issue of Cooking Light magazine. In it, I found a photo of a beautifully set dining table outdoors in a walnut grove. The table was a large rustic wooden one with heavy turned legs and a coat of green paint that was coming off in places. It was set with nice china and gorgeous food.

"I want to do this in our backyard," I told Stephen.

"Looks like a lot of fun and I bet someone we know has one of those big folding tables that we can borrow," he answered.

"That is not what I want. A plastic table will just look cheap and not make this kind of statement. That would not be near as much fun, " I say. I decide to keep an eye on craigslist to see what I can come up with. I really want a table something like that.

Today, I was busy making cheese and I was thinking about how I would get the table I wanted and how to haul it if I did find one. All at once I realized that I already have such a table. A few months ago, I traded for a table on craigslist. I wanted to use it as a breakfast table. It is a heavy wooden table that is square until you add the extra leaves. It has thick, turned legs which turned out to be too short for everyday use as a breakfast table so we took the legs off and stored it away in the hall closet. However, when I put it in the back yard, I will want to put some blocks under them anyway. When this thought crossed my mind, I laughed out loud. If there has ever been a more classic case of looking for something that you already have, I'd be surprised.

Now all I have to do is plan the menu, pick the date and decide who to invite. Oh, and I guess I'll start thinking about chairs.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

R I P Del Martin

With all the hoopla over the DNC, the story of Del Martin's death at the age of 87 has received little coverage. She was the partner of Phyllis Lyon. After being together for 55 years, they married last June in San Francisco with the mayor officiating. They were responsible for founding several of this country's gay rights organizations.

Phyllis said that people were always asking them how they had made their relationship last so long. She said that if they had a formula for that, they would have written a best selling book and had a million dollars.

Del stood up and lived her life out loud. I wish the best for Phyllis now.

One of the things that I have heard almost all of the speakers at the DNC say is that they want to see equal rights for everybody and all of them have included gay and lesbians specifically in their phrasing.

It's about time.

Soundtrack for this post: Hattie and Mattie by Eric Schwartz.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Just Waitin' Around

It is Saturday afternoon and the hot spell seems to have broken. We can hear thunder and we are waiting for one of these.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

They Call Him Pooky

Our visitor from the other night seems to have made some friends at the shelter. They have at least given him a name. They got a pretty good shot of him, too. I tried to download it but couldn't do it. Here's the link:


You have to check dog, male, black, leave the age column at no preference, and chcek medium for size. When you get to the first page of dogs, go to the bottom and click on page four. He is the second one down.

I am hoping that because the staff gave him a name, they are interested in him and will help find a rescue group for him if no one claims or adopts him. Our dog Lani, had been in the same shelter for almost three months before we found her and she came to live with us so I know that friendly dogs are given a chance there.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Old Tractors

I found these photos on craigslist Santa Fe. My dad has had one of these since 1951, when it was new.It is an H Farmall. He has been using it almost continiously since he bought it. He told me a couple of weeks ago that he has just had it refurbished. It only gets used now for parades.

My great uncle had a tractor similar to this one.

This is a Super A Farmall. The one my uncle had was a C Farmall or Cub. This tractor is one of the first vehicles that I remember driving. Explains a lot, doesn't it?

Soundtrack for this post: Little Feat's Down on the Farm

Friday, August 8, 2008

Tequila at Midnight

OK, eleven thirty but that doesn't make it sound as cool, does it?

Actually, there is nothing cool about the situation. About 9:30 tonight, the next door chihuahuas started yapping and Lani, who was in the house at the time, started growling and snarling. This is not a terribly unusual occurrence but this time it reached a deafening level and showed no sign of stopping. I let Lani out into the back yard where she ran to the fence and kept barking and barking and barking accompanied by the chihuahuas. I went into the garage and turned on the light that shines over the driveway. That is when I heard the car alarm. Looking out the garage windows, I could see nothing. The dogs were getting more and more excited so I opened the garage door. That was when I saw him. He was peeing on one of the cars in the neighbor's driveway.

The neighbors came out to see what was causing all the commotion.

"Over here," I yelled. "It's a dog." I walked toward him as he turned toward them. I put my hand on his neck. No collar. I began stroking him.

"I bet someone dumped him out here,"said M.

"Watch him, and I'll go get a collar," I said.

I turned toward the garage and here her give him the command to sit. Looking over my shoulder, I saw that he had done it. M and her husband, A, praised him. Their granddaughter wanted to pet him but we weren't sure it was a good idea. I put the collar on him and he seemed almost grateful. M held him by the loop on the collar while I got a leash and Stephen.

We put the leash on him and decided to put him in our back yard until morning if Lani approves. Then I can take him to the vet to see if he has a chip. It is dark out here and some people drive way to fast to leave a dark colored dog out on his own.

Lani has been going berserk. Stephen got a leash on her and brought her out to the side yard to meet the visitor. They sniffed each other in greeting and we decided that he could stay in our back yard until morning. Lani wanted to play but he did not seem to know any of her games. We let them hang out a while them then brought her in and gave him some food. He didn't seem interested. He had been marking everything and we did not want to bring him in. Lani laid by the back door and whined until we let her out. After a while, it became apparent that he was going to keep the chihuahuas barking all night by going over to the fence repeatedly.

I took a photo of him and posted it to craigslist in the lost & found and the pets sections. By the time I was finished, it was clear that we could not keep him overnight as we had planned. Stephen volunteered to make the drive down to the shelter. I wrote a note saying that he knows sit and shake and possibly down and a few other commands as well as where he was found and that he seems to have a sweet disposition. Luckily, there was an attendant on duty when he got there so he was able to talk to someone instead of just leaving the note.

When he got home, we decided that we both needed a shot of tequila. Taking the boy to the doggy jail was not an easy decision and not an easy thing to do after we decided we had to do it. We do think we will want a second dog some day. We both knew that this was not our dog. Cute as he is, he is already taller that Lani and seemed to be pretty young. My guess is about six months. He has not been neutered. He was somewhat timid but I have the feeling that he is pretty active when he settles in and we are not looking for a really active dog. In fact, we are not looking for a dog at all. He put his head on my knee and leaned against me for petting. He treated Stephen the same way. We hope he finds a loving home. He did not deserve to be dumped, if that is what happened.

Friday, August 1, 2008

The Heat Goes On

Day before yesterday was an unusual day. The offical temperature here only reached 98 degrees. Yesterday the official temperature was 101 but at one time, the weather feature on my google home page said 108. It is not unusual for us to have hot temperatures this time of year, but this is getting out of hand. We have been experiencing this kind of heat since mid May and have only had a couple of inches of rain since it began. We did get a little bit of a break for a few days last month and last Thurdsay was wonderful. We got just over an inch of rain here that day thanks to Dolly. Most of Austin, however, got nada drop.

This is such a contrast to last year when we had so much rain that flooding was a problem and our real summer temperatures did not get started until around the first of September. We are thankful now for all of last year's rain because the lake levels are still pretty high. They are dropping at a fast pace so water conservation measures are being enforced by the city. I have a well in my front yard so my water consumption is not regulated by the city. However, I don't know how much water is in the well so I am being pretty conservative.

The thing about this weather is that you really can't get out and move around much. I have been experiencing bouts of cabin fever. I am seeking out things to do that keep me inside such as yoga, or near water such as visiting friends with a pool. I take Lani to the park first thing in the morning for her walk. If I can't get there by 8:30, we just don't go. I am getting quite a bit of reading done.

We are keeping our thermostat set at 80 degrees in the daytime and slightly cooler at night due to the distance from the thermostat to the bedroom. We also have a fan in the bedroom and a ceiling fan in the living room. We have put a clothes line in the garage(too many trees to put one outside) so that the dryer is not getting too much use. I am cooking most of the time in the crock pot or the microwave. We are also eating quite a few sandwiches and some salads. Anything to keep from using the oven or more than a couple of burners. We have trees that cover most of our roof and keep the sun off of it most of the day.

I know that we are fortunate to have this house and our air conditioning system and the means to pay our electric bill. There are people right here in town who do not have it so good. Family Elder Care's Fan Drive provides fans for people who would not otherwise have them. I always donate enough money for at least one fan but I think I will be donating more in the coming weeks.

I hope your weather is much milder than ours and that you are having a wonderful summer.

Soundtrack for this post Lovin' Spoonful: Summer in the City

Friday, July 18, 2008

We Can Make a Difference!!!!!

Go over to Life At Star's Rest for an update on the situation regarding the wild horses that the BLM wants to kill. It seems that things are looking up and the BLM may be held accountable for some of its actions.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

My Enchanted Back Yard

The live oak trees in my back yard have grown into a tangle of branches that have created a canopy over the center of the yard. I expect to see Titania asleep under it but she has eluded me and my camera so far. The light that gets through the leaves in the mornings makes delightful patterns.

I call this tree Daphne. Can you see her face?

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Updates and Shameless Self Promotion

Update #1: Last fall I wrote about Lani's obsession with the hole formed at the bottom of two trees that have grown together in our back yard. She would bolt out of the back door and run to the back side of the trees and poke her nose into the hole the run around to the front side and do the same thing. We could see nothing in the hole and could find no reason for her obsessive behavior. After a while, we did notice some twigs that had been dragged into the hole by something but we still don't know what. Then a few nights ago, we were sitting on the patio when I was sure I saw something on the tree trunk near the hole. We got a flash light and saw that it was a frog or toad of some kind. We still don't know how the twigs got in there.

Update #2: The verdict is still out on my laundry soap. It seems to leave a slight build up on the clothes after a while and it may not be taking oily stains out of fabric as well as I would like. I am still using it most of the time but I wash things in Seventh Generation liquid detergent about once a month. This is OK with me as it still means that I don't have to buy a plastic bottle very often. I will most likely have to buy one about every six or eight months at this rate.

Update # 3: I am loving the home made shower cleaner. The shower is cleaner than it ever was with the stuff I bought and because it is so cheap and easy to make, I use as much as I want. It also has very little scent but I am being careful not to breathe it because of the borax in it.

Now for the shameless self promotion: I have started writing at Associated Content. Please click here to read my published articles and subscribe to my page if you feel like it. That way, you will get notified when I publish and I might actually get paid a little bit if enough people read/sign up.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Political Mumbo Jumbo

I sent an email to Barak Obama voicing my extreme disappointment at his voting for the FISA bill. Here is the message I got from his campaign:

Given the grave threats that we face, our national security agencies must have the capability to gather intelligence and track down terrorists before they strike, while respecting the rule of law and the privacy and civil liberties of the American people. There is also little doubt that the Bush Administration, with the cooperation of major telecommunications companies, has abused that authority and undermined the Constitution by intercepting the communications of innocent Americans without their knowledge or the required court orders.

That is why last year I opposed the so-called Protect America Act, which expanded the surveillance powers of the government without sufficient independent oversight to protect the privacy and civil liberties of innocent Americans. I have also opposed the granting of retroactive immunity to those who were allegedly complicit in acts of illegal spying in the past.

After months of negotiation, the House passed a compromise that, while far from perfect, is a marked improvement over last year's Protect America Act. Under this compromise legislation, an important tool in the fight against terrorism will continue, but the President's illegal program of warrantless surveillance will be over. It restores FISA and existing criminal wiretap statutes as the exclusive means to conduct surveillance - making it clear that the President cannot circumvent the law and disregard the civil liberties of the American people. It also firmly re-establishes basic judicial oversight over all domestic surveillance in the future.

It does, however, grant retroactive immunity, and I voted in the Senate three times to remove this provision so that we could seek full accountability for past offenses. Unfortunately, these attempts were unsuccessful. But this compromise guarantees a thorough review by the Inspectors General of our national security agencies to determine what took place in the past, and ensures that there will be accountability going forward. By demanding oversight and accountability, a grassroots movement of Americans has helped yield a bill that is far better than the Protect America Act.

It is not all that I would want. But given the legitimate threats we face, providing effective intelligence collection tools with appropriate safeguards is too important to delay. So I support the compromise, but do so with a firm pledge that as President, I will carefully monitor the program, review the report by the Inspectors General, and work with the Congress to take any additional steps I deem necessary to protect the lives - and the liberty - of the American people.

Paid for by Obama for America

I still don't know what to think about it all. It would have passed whether or not he had taken the time to show up and vote. It would have passed even if he had voted against it.

Soundtrack for this post: Spin by David LaMotte. You can listen to it here.

Six o'clock dinner,
the family falls silent
Move over a little
I can't see the screen
The man in the box speaks in high definition
Turn it up loud so I won't hear the screams
More about bad things the bad guys are doing
More about how I need what they sell
And right down the road they are building a prison
On the whole the economy's doing quite well
Give me the update, tell me again
Show me the difference between us and them
Give it a number between one and ten
Give me the headline
Give me the spin
A picture is fading inside of a wallet
Inside of a pocket in the pants of a man
Soggy with saltwater there in the dark
In a dead submarine from a faraway land
Saltwater runs down the face of a woman
As she thinks how he can't be all he could be
Need I point out the pointless pointing of fingers
And the point of a missile that's pointed at me?
Our side appears to be up for the moment
They taste defeat we decide they deserve
We shoot the horizon and catch our own bullets
And find it is only the hatred we serve
Give me the update, tell me again
Show me the difference between us and them
Give it a number between one and ten
Give me the headline
Give me the spin

Monday, July 7, 2008

We Can Do Better Than This

One of my favorite blogs is Life at Star's Ranch, written by Carmon Deyo. Carmon lives with a herd of mustangs that have been taken from their natural habitat and somewhat domesticated. She lives am amazing life and her writing fascinates me. She is, of course, passionate about the fate of the wild horses who live on BLM land. In case you have not heard, The BLM is making moves to reduce the herds to levels that many feel will threaten the genetic viability of future off spring. The following was copied from Carmon's blog. I hope you will visit Life at Star's Ranch and that you will send a message to the BLM expressing the oppinion that we can do better than killing horses.

Mustang euthanasia update:

A number of non-horsepeople have asked me what they can do to help. Our friend, Nancy Kerson, in California wrote this excellent letter to the BLM filled with well thought out suggestions and ideas. With her permission, I am posting it here for others to use as inspiration. Please read through it and whatever solutions and suggestions appeal to you, email or phone the BLM with your thoughts.

For the BLM comment link click here. BLM phone, 800-710-7597. Also, please contact your own state representatives to share your feelings and thoughts on this proposal by the BLM.


The Wild Horse & Burro Act of 1971 was not, is not, and should not become, a program for treating wild horses as expendable livestock, or as a harvestable commodity. The purpose remains to preserve viable wild horse herds on America's public lands, as "living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West; that . contribute to the diversity of life forms within the Nation and enrich the lives of the American people;" and to protect and find good homes for surplus animals removed from the range.

I am adamantly opposed to the killing of America's wild horses. The thought sickens me. I recognize that the problem has been allowed to become huge, seemingly ot of hand, with some 30,000 captive wild horses now being supported in holding facilities. Killing them off certainly offers the quickest and in some ways "cleanest" solution, but one that is abhorrent to me and many other Americans.

Let's think creatively. There may not be one single solution to so large a problem, but here are a number of suggestions for partial solutions, which, if enacted together, would take the pressure off the current crisis:

1. Add a checkbox to each taxpayer's 1040, next to "Do you want to contribute $3 to presidential election campaigns?" This box would ask if the taxpayer would like to contribute $1 for wild horses. This dollar could either come out of the taxpayer's tax bill, or added to it. I would venture to guess that several million dollars could be raised in this way each year - not everyone will say yes, but many will. Money collected would be used to support captive wild horses in sanctuaries as an alternative to killing them.

2. Ask every zoo or similar city or regional park to take a 3-to-12-animal wild horse exhibit. Several thousand of the older, unadoptable horses could be re-homed in this way. By providing public access to these animals via the zoo and its educational & interpretive displays, public awareness and interest in wild horses would increase, likely resulting in an increase in adoptions over the long term.

3. Provide a tax credit or similar monetary incentive for people or corporations with large land holdings to allow wild horses to be released and maintained on some of their land - similar to adoption, only these older, unadoptable animals would simply be allowed to live out their lives, not tamed and trained. As has been demonstrated in an industrial park outside Reno, the presence of a small herd of wild horses adds greatly to the ambience and pleasantness of the working environment for many people.

None of the above constitutes a complete fix, but they would greatly ameliorate the current crisis and could be implemented relatively quickly.

But what about the future? What will prevent this same crisis from happening again in a few years?

Large scale emergency gathers remain - two years after reaching AML - the main tool in use for managing wild horses. This has to change!

More attention paid to creative & effective on-the-range management, rather than relying entirely on gathers, is critical to maintaining thriving, genetically viable populations in numbers compatible with their environment, and with animals being gathered only in numbers that can be accommodated by the adoption program.

1. Birth control must be applied on a broad scale - not with the goal of zeroing out a herd, (as many will fear) but rather of preserving herd health and genetic viability, and reducing the frequency of gathers to maintain AML. If each wild mare produced a foal only every three or four years instead of annually, the mare herself would be healthier, the herd would still enjoy a normal functional herd "lifestyle," and the herd would increase in size at a much slower rate, resulting in less frequent and smaller gathers.

2. BLM and the individual states where wild horses are managed, should cooperate with other ecological and economic development agencies to address the bizarre irony of removing wild horses from some of the most marginal lands on the planet and shipping them off and paying Midwestern farmers to care for them on some of the finest grasslands in the Midwest - so that a relative handful of cattlemen can use this extremely fragile, marginal desert land to raise cattle, who are best suited to the very grasslands where the horses are being shipped. I realize that the Cowboy and his lifestyle in the Great Basin is a sacred icon in our culture, but so too are wild horses. Perhaps the promotion of Eco-tourism, focusing on wild horse viewing, could help transition cowboys into something a little more ecologically and economically viable, in which the wild horse becomes his friend instead a nuisance or threat to be eradicated.

3. Recognizing that climatic change will continue to create extended droughts in the Great Basin areas, while human development and minerals exploration will increase pressures on those same lands, it seems inevitable that we will continue to lose wild horse habitat, even without the cooperation of BLM. Given that, I would like to see the establishment of several Wild Horse Historical Parks throughout the BLM's Wild Horse and Burro Management areas, managed in cooperation with another agency, such as the National Park Service. Such areas would be chosen for the special qualities of the horses living there, general historical interest and natural beauty of the area.

Exact areas are beyond the scope of this letter - and I recognize that everyone has their favorite herd area, as I do - but the point would be to guarantee that at least some of the better wild horse-producing areas in each state would be permanently exempt from pressures to zero them out or reduce them to a point of genetic non-viability. Ranching within the boundaries would not necessarily be eliminated but would be designated "demonstration" activities, for the education and viewing pleasure of visitors, and conducted on a smaller scale than currently.

Meg Getty of Reno tried to develop a "National Wild Horse Center" in the Pine Nut Mountains outside Carson City a few years ago. This would have been an interpretive center for tourists, complete with dining and souvenir sales, combined with a small adoption center and ongoing training center. To me, this is the kind of creative thinking needed to maintain & improve public attitudes toward wild horses and burros, which ultimately would result in improved adoption rates.

4. Currently the "Mustang Challenge" and "Extreme Mustang Makeover" competitions conducted by the Mustang Heritage Foundation are excellent, creative programs working to improve adoptions rates by showing the public the value and trainability of the animals. This kind of thing needs to be supported and furthered.

5. Wild horses must be re-classified as Native Species. This is consistent with modern knowledge. Laws written back when horses were thought to be invasive, non-native species must be revised to reflect the now-known reality that horses are indeed native. Horses simply had the good sense to re-establish themselves in their original territory at no cost to the taxpayer (unlike condors, various fish species, bighorn sheep, etc)

6. Since pressure from cattlemen & hunters seems to be one of the major reasons for continuing large-scale gathers, provide a tax credit, rebate, or similar monetary incentive for cattlemen and bighorn sheep hunters to allow larger numbers of wild horses to share the range. We now pay farmers not to cultivate their acreage. Why not pay cattlemen not to raise cattle (or simply to tolerate and not interfere with the presence of horses)? Assess each bighorn sheep permit with extra dollars that would go to habitat improvement to benefit wild horses as well as game species.

7. Expand the Cottage Contractor program, revive and expand the "Wild Horse Workshops" that used to be offered once a year in cooperation with BLM & volunteer mentoring groups, and expand the "Trainer Incentive" program currently operated by the Mustang Heritage Foundation, to improve the adoptability of horses who are gathered from public lands.

All of the above ideas are aimed at preventing the numbers of animals in long-term holding to ever again reach the disaster level we are seeing today.


Nancy Kerson

Active & Dedicated BLM Volunteer since 2001, working to promote adoptions through mentoring new adopters, performing compliance checks, bringing my own "ambassador" horses to adoptions, parades, fairs, and other events, halter training and finding homes for "reassignment" horses, producing events that promote adoption;

Writer and creator of Mustangs "4" Us!, non-political, educational, informative & inspiring website to promote wild horse & burro adoption and public appreciation for wild horses & burros on the range;

Adopter/purchaser of 6 BLM wild horses and 2 Burros

Here is the letter I sent to the BLM. I struggled to make it as positive as possible but I think I fell short in that regard.

I feel that there has to be a more imaginative solution to the issue of wild horses on BLM land than to kill them. Does anybody really want to do this? Do the people who make these decisions want to be the ones with blood on their hands? I sincerely hope not. We as a society have a choice as to whether or not we want to solve issues that we percieve as problems with integrity. I hope that integrity and imagination can be applied to this situation.

I know that the issue is somewhat complicated and that it is connected to ranching interests in the area. Does anybody really think that the horses grazing in the mountains keep them from having a steak or hamburger whenever they want it? Do the ranchers in the area realize that they are living a lifestyle of their own choosing and that no one is making them stay there? There are many other ways to live on this planet and not everyone has the opportunity to live the way these people do. Many would consider it an honor and a privilige to get to do so. In order to maintain an environment in which such a lifestyle can exist, doesn't it make sense to honor all parts of that enviroment? Are we only interested in species from which we can reep immediate financial gain? Do we see no value in life otherwise? Our past is full of incidents where we have taken the resources and the lives of others, human and non-human alike. Can't we do better than this now?

It is my understanding that I am writing this letter to the Bureau of Land Management as opposed to the Bureau of Ranchland Management. It is my hope that the well being of all of the inhabitants of the land will be taken into consideration.

Soundtrack for this post:

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Rattle Snake Vodka

This has to be one of the weirdest things I have read. It gives 'kissing the worm' a whole new meaning.

From the Fort Worth Star Telegram;
Texas Police Seize Rattlesnake Vodka March 20, 2008

Police in Texas seized a stock of moonshine vodka bottled with 10-inch rattlesnakes inside and reportedly destined for Asia, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported March 15.
Agents from the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) raided Bayou Bob's Brazos River Rattlesnake Ranch in Palo Pinto County and seized 411 bottles of the rattlesnake vodka. The agents plan to charge the owner, Bob Popplewell, with selling alcohol without a permit and possession of alcohol with intent to sell.
Popplewell has acknowledged exporting tens of thousands of turtles to Asia, where they are considered a delicacy, and alcohol agents believe the rattlesnake vodka was destined for the same region. An online search found Asian companies selling such exotic products as scorpion vodka, cobra whiskey, giant centipede whiskey, herbal gecko lizard wine, and eel wine.
"It's very bizarre," said TABC Sg. Charlie Cloud said. "We learned that these are believed to contain aphrodisiac properties. We heard that some people believe having a venomous animal creates hallucinations."

Soundtrack foro this post: Ray Wylie Hubbard's Snake Farm

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Jill Bolte Taylor

In case you haven't already seen it, here is a video that has been going around the net for a few months. It is facinating.

If you want more details, you can go to youtube and search Jill Bolte Taylor. The longer interviews with Oprah are great.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Shower Cleaner

I consider daily shower cleaners to be one of the greatest inventions of the past ten years. No way do I want to go back to scrubbing the shower every week. The down side of buying the product is that I haven't been able to find refills for any brand except Method which stinks, I mean smells, like ylang ylang. It takes quite a bit of it to keep the lime deposits from our water from building up quickly so we were throwing several plastic bottles a month into the recycle bin, sprayer and all.

I have made several attempts to come up with a formula that works, including several containing vinegar (stinky and mildew started growing). None of them worked at all. Research told me that the shower spray products work partially because they contain a sheeting compound. I looked online and could find not source for such a thing. Finally, I found the answer: Jetdry....the stuff you put in the dishwasher to keep the dishes from having hard water spots on them.

I mixed up the following formula which has been working well for about ten days:

Stir 3 tablespoons each borax and washing soda into enough hot water to dissolve them.
Add 3 tablespoons Jetdry (or whatever brand you have on hand)
Pour the mixture into a 32 ounce spray bottle then very slowly fill the bottle with water.
(If you fill it too fast, it will foam up.)

I use the bottle I had left from the last shower cleaner I bought. That way, I know what is in the bottle and don't have to label it.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

The Hinges of Hell

Central Texas is experiencing a heatwave. For the last 20 or so days, temperature as reached at least 98 degrees. Most days it has reached 100 degrees or more. Today it was offically 99 degrees. There is no relief in sight. It's gonna be a long hot one. We are thankful for all the trees in our yard, air conditioning and friends with swimming pools.

I posted this whine last night and received this in an email this morning along with a prayer request for our troops. I have no idea how current it is but it is most likely accurate:

7-Day Forecast for Baghdad,Iraq Fri Sat Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu 115ºF /89ºF 117ºF /89ºF 120ºF /90ºF 122ºF /91ºF 122ºF /92ºF 121ºF /95ºF 120ºF /95ºF

OK, I have no right to complain.

Into the Woods

It is official. We are empty nesters. Our babies have flown away into the woods behind the house. For the past few weeks, we have been watching the comings and goings of a pair of Carolina wrens as they built a nest and later fed the chicks in a basket of begonias hanging on our back patio.

For the past couple of weeks, we had been hearing cheeps from inside the nest. Last week, the cheeps were barely audible but over the past few days, they had been quite loud. Mama and Papa had been almost flying their wings off to keep the family fed. Some days, it was almost exhausting to watch them. There was a constant chorus of wren music. We tried looking into the plant but as it was above out heads, we could see nothing, even though we stood on a small ladder.

We were concerned about the fledging process because we did not want to let Her Dogness out of the house just in time to munch on baby wrens.

Today, as we were sitting out on the patio with Lani at our feet, we saw movement in the plant. Then, the first baby flew about four feet to the trunk of the nearest tree. Within a few moments, the next one flew out ant landed on the ground. Luckily, Lani was looking the other way. Then it hopped up on the patio and I grabbed Lani's collar just as she saw it. It hopped under one of the chairs and made several attempts to hop up onto a support bar under the chair but the bar was too thick and slick for its toes and it kept sliding off. One of the parents started calling to it from a nearby branch and it finally hopped back out into the yard. Then the next one jumped and the parents started moving farther away and calling to them. The one from the tree joined them and they all hopped farther and farther away, taking little flying jumps and they tried their wings for the first times. There was still one bird in the nest. I could see it looking out at me. It was hesitant to jump as the others got farther and farther away. I got up and took Lani in the house. One of the parents came back and encouraged it to jump and it finally did.

Mama and Papa chirped and herded the family camera and tried to get a shot of the birds but my camera has a delay and they were moving too fast.

After they were all over the fence and into the woods, I took the plant off the hook to have a look at the empty nest. It is quite a marvel of architecture and engineering. It it is a tunnel made of sticks and covered with oak blooms.

I shot this photo and returned the plant to the hook and came inside to write this post. Stephen had already come in and was back in his office. He came into the living room and was playing with Lani when I realized that Mama and Papa were back and they sounded rather upset.

"I hear the wrens again."

"I moved the nest because I'm not sure I want them to just move in and raise another family there."

"Why not?"

"I don't know."

"Where did you put it?"

"On the table."

"Why don't you hang it back up? They didn't hurt anything and they were kinda fun. Besides, a lot of work went into building that nest."

" Okay."

He goes back out and returns the plant to the hook then comes back in.

"There was another one in there."

What? I had moved the plant and did not see any baby birds. I guess it must have been hiding in the very back of the tunnel.

The plant is back on the hook and we will see what happens. In the meantime, we feel an enormous amount of appreciation for being on the patio at just the right time to see the fledges leave the nest.

I took the photo of the next down and played with the contrast in it to make it easier to see. If you click on it, it will enlarge and you can see the baby in the back of the nest. I can't believe I didn't know it was there.

Photo of wren from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/AllAboutBirds/BirdGuide/Carolina_Wren.html

Soundtrack for this post: Jerry Jeff Walker's Little Bird.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Passing through

Some of my earliest memories are of funerals. Both of my great grandmothers were still living when I was born. I remember ‘helping’ my father’s mother give Granny her pills. I also remember my maternal great grandmother residing in a hospital bed in my great aunt’s house. I have a stool on which we kids used to stand so that we could talk with her and give her kisses. I am sure that I could not have been more than four years old when both of them passed on. I remember all the family gathering at my grandparent’s house when Granny left us but I don’t have clear images of the funeral itself.

My father’s parents lived on a two lane paved road in Delta County, Texas. There were about three or four other houses close enough to theirs that the place had a name. Lone Star it was called, although you would never have seen that name on a map. It had no stores or even a post office. A couple of the houses were off the paved road. The soil there is black gumbo. You don’t want to be off the pavement when it rains. The land turns to black goo and will ball up and stick to anything and everything. Any moving object will just sink into it, not to move until it dries at which time it cam be chiseled off the wheels or the boots or the hooves.

As far as I know, none of these houses had running water except at the kitchen sink. This was accomplished by placing a water tank so that it caught the runoff from the roof and positioning the spigot so that it came through the wall above the sink. My grandparents hauled water from a well for everything else. They had a galvanized tub that they placed on the floor of the main room and filled with water from the well for bathing. There was an outdoor toilet situated a reasonable distance from the back door. A two holer as I recall.

Most of the day-to-day living took place in the kitchen and the main room which held their bed and a seating area. In the front of the house was the living room which was only used for company. There was also a smoke house and a pen for my Papaw’s greyhounds. Then there was the barn and barnyard with the milk cow, pigs and chickens. One time we drove up and I saw Papaw out by the barn. I went running toward him and was attacked from behind by a bantam rooster. I am pretty sure we had chicken for Sunday dinner that week.

Granny, my grandmother’s mother, lived with them until she died. I suppose that is why the funeral gathering was at their house, even though they had no indoor plumbing.

My maternal great grandmother, Mammy, lived with her oldest daughter in Dallas. They lived next door to my grandfather who was the youngest of 13 children. When she died, her body was brought back to Delta County for the funeral and burial. I remember her being in her casket at my other great aunt’s house….in the front living room that was only used for company. At least that house had working plulmbing even if the water was pumped from a pool that was too close to the barn yard for the water to be potable and there was an over head that caught rainwater for drinking. It was the runoff from a shed with a tin roof and had to be brought into the house in a bucket.

I was reminded of the passings of my great grandmothers yesterday as I spent most of the day in a nursing home with one of my best friends whose mother was taking her leave of this time space reality. My friend’s son was there part of the day and he had his six year old daughter with him. I knew that he wanted to be there but I was a little concerned about the child and what she would remember of her great grandmother. Will her most vivid memory be of the day she died? I tried to distract her when I could but I was busy answering the phone and doing my best to hold a peaceful space in which everyone could take leave of each other in the most relaxed way possible.

In the end, my friend’s mother waited until we had all left so that she could leave on her own terms. Early this morning, I felt a whisper of air brush across my face. I turned onto my back and saw a golden glow of light and a smile. I thought I was dreaming until I realized that I could see daylight around the curtains and that I was awake. Later I learned that she had crossed over around 6:00am.

Soundtrack for this post: Mary Melena's Sounds Like Rain

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Friday, May 30, 2008

I'm a Lyer, Illustrated Version

A few months ago I posted about making soap. Here is a more detailed version of the process.

I start by assembling most of the ingredients and the equipment. This takes very little time because I keep most of it organized in this big ol' container in the garage. Note: All pots and mixing bowls as well as stirring spoons must be made of non-reactive material such as glass, enamel ware or stainless steel. I use wooden spoons for stirring but I have two that I use only for soap making. Do NOT use aluminum or cast iron.

Olive, canola and coconut oil plus water and lye are the basic ingredients. They all have to be measured by volume. (I love this scale.) I keep a spray bottle of vinegar handy to neutralize any lye that might get on something that I don't want it to be on.

After carefully measuring out 12 ounces of lye and 24 ounces of water, I take them outside to mix them together. The lye is always added to the water and not the other way around. This prevents any volcanic type eruptions.
I got the bright idea today to use some ice cubes as part of the water. It did not help and caused the lye to bind together and need more stirring.

The solution will turn white and immediately heat up to a little over 150 degrees. The fumes are awful and highly toxic which is why I do this outside. Today it took over an hour for it to cool down to the 100 degrees it needs to be for mixing with the oils. That is because it is over 90 degrees here. When the weather is cooler, it doesn't take quite as long.

While the lye solution is cooling, I measure and mix the oils. This scale allows me to be precise. I can set it back to zero before adding each oil so I don't have to do any math. 36 ounces of olive oil (I went a little over here and took out .35 oz.), 12 ounces of coconut oil and 40 ounces of canola or peanut oil. We save the oil Stephen uses in his deep fryer. It makes great soap. The saponification process gets rid of any rancid smell. Also, I use the cheapest olive oil I can find, although it is all pretty expensive right now. It doesn't have to be EVOO.

Then I decide what fragrance I want to use and mix the essential oils. I don't use any synthetics with the exception of sandalwood which I don't use very often. It is very expensive and it is such a subtle fragrance that it takes a lot of to get any smell at all.

This time I divided the batch and used a mix of lavender, lemon and orange oil in half and and mix of clary sage, rosemary and lavender in about half. I saved about a cup and a half to which I added a few drops of rose absolute.

Then I waited, and waited and waited some more for the lye mixture to cool down to 100 degrees at which time, I heated the oils to 100 degrees so that it could all be mixed together. I like to do this in my sink because this makes height is more comfortable for me to stir it.

Time to get out the boat motor and let 'er rip.

I use the stick blender to mix the oil and lye together. Remember, this is oil and water so it doesn't go together easily. Today, it traced pretty quickly, within 5 minutes. Trace is when the mixture gets thick enough that the mixer starts to make a trail in in and if you drop and drop or two if the mixture on its surface, it makes little dimples that just stay there. When that happens, it is time to mix in the essential oils and pour the soap into the molds. I always use the boat motor to mix in the essential oils just to make sure that they are fully incorporated. Some of them will change the viscosity of the product and make it set up faster or slower. You need to work pretty fast after you mix them into it.

Here it is in my fancy schmancy plastic molds. Until a few months ago, I lined cardboard boxes with wax paper for molds then cut the bars after the soap set up for a few hours. I found these molds on sale and they have made this a little easier. The only catch is that I have to put the molds in the freezer for a few hours in order for them to release the bars. Four weeks from now, it will have saponified (cured) and be ready for use. I test it with ph strips to make sure that is is in the 9ph range but this really isn't necessary. The older the soap, the lower the ph.

This recipe makes a wonderfully soft and fine lather. I have tried adding other oils to it to make a harder bar but the oils separated and the bars look weird. My apologies if I sent you some of the weird looking soap. It works fine. The soap is close to true white unless I add an essential oil such as vanilla which turns it brown or a clay or colorant of some kind to change the color.

Some of the ingredients for making soap are a little hard to find. It seem that lye is used in the manufactoring of meth and other illegal substances. I used to be able to get it in the grocery store and then in hardware stores but now I get it from Texas Natural Supply. You have to sign a waiver stating that you are not using it for illegal purposes or making it available to anyone who is and they will ship it to you just about anywhere in the lower 48. I also get all of my essential oils there. Their prices are great and the quality is very high. It takes quite a bit of essential oil to hold its own with the lye and the saponification process so quality and price are very important.

Soundtrack for this post: Splish Splash by Bobby Darin