Category Archives: Home and Family

What’s going on (or not).

The weather has been in the news here in Houston. This past week we had so much ice the streets of downtown were empty. So when my husband said he was going to the downtown YMCA, I told him I didn’t think it was open. He said the website said it was open. He went. It was closed.

I wanted to post about it with a picture of our fountain. 20180103_122801

At one point the entire lower part froze solid. It’s never done that before. Note the melted elephant ear plant. We generally have sub-tropical weather. So our sub-tropic plants don’t like it when it gets into the 20’s.

I hope you’ve kept yourself entertained this week. Here’s a picture of some Harvey rain damage – from water seeping into the window and me not catching it in time to save my art papers. Our damage was so mild compared to so many in Houston.SAM_1834

Next week I’ll print another recipe from my mother’s cookbook.

In His Own Words: My Grandfather’s Diary

sam_1532When I was visiting my sweet cousins this past summer, cousin Jan came to me with a heavy-looking red book in her hands. She held it out to me, “I’ve read some of this. It’s Grandpa’s journal from his time in the army during World War One.”

Wow. Just wow!

As I flipped through it, I found some loose pages. I asked her what they were and she said she didn’t know.

All that afternoon, she and I transcribed what was Grandpa’s earliest recollections and his Christian testimony. I say ‘transcribed’ because his handwriting was nearly illegible. He was left-handed and his teachers taught him to write right-handed, you see. Some words we had to figure out letter by letter and then look up on the internet to try to decipher them.

So, I give you my Grandfather’s story, in his own words.

Early years

scan0011Father was a blacksmith.I was born in Raymond, Iowa and moved to Ladora when I was 1 years old. We moved to Crawford, Colorado when I was 6 years old. In Crawford, Father died in the spring of 1900. I was nine years old. Mother brought my brother and I back to Iowa that year, after selling the blacksmith shop and the house in Crawford. We lived with her folks a few months. Then she bought the hotel in Washburn and operated that for several months. When she married Frank Hemmer we moved to Caliofe, Iowa, near Hawarden, lived there a few months and moved to a farm across the big Sioux River to South Dakota. Continue reading In His Own Words: My Grandfather’s Diary

Tidying vs. organizing

Hello all,

I’ve just completed a makeover of my studio. I’m including some before and after pics below.

I’m also reading a book called The LIfe-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, the Japanese art of un-cluttering and organizing. There are some fundamentally good principals in this book. I think I should share some of them with you, my kind readers. The author Marie Kondo, suggests that one should never tidy and organize the entire house, or an entire room all at once, but rather should organize and tidy by category gradually.

You should start with socks and work your way to personal papers, and then do memorabilia last. Things with sentimental value and/or things that are rare should be the very last and take the longest to winnow.

Good Grief! And THIS is organized.
Good Grief! And THIS is organized.

What struck me most in reading this book was that she says, getting organizers (all those plastic drawers!) to store everything neatly in is, in reality, just another way to hoard things.

I never considered myself a hoarder. I think of those ghastly reality television shows with those poor people who can’t move for the mess in their houses! That’s not me, no, definitely not me.

What about all my teapots, my music boxes, and my books? I’m allowed to “collect”, right? Right. Collecting is another topic. Not according to the dictionary.

Hoard  1. a secret store of valuables or money. synonyms include accumulate, amass, and collect. Hmmmm. *sad face

 

Am I a secret hoarder? I decided to put this theory of hoarding to the test. I thought instead of starting with socks, (I can hold all my sock pairs in two hands), I would start with office supplies. Office supplies hold no sentimental value. Breaking this down by category, I pulled out all the pens from drawers in my studio, then out from all the drawers all over the house, my husbands office, gulp! in the kitchen. Goodness! We had so many pens. There was a pile six inches deep and three feet wide on our dining room table. Whoops.

So here I am beginning to take things off the walls. The blue is my "timeline" for books I'm working on. I line the chapters up to organize and stick them on.
So here I am beginning to take things off the walls. The blue is my “timeline” for books I’m working on. I line the chapters up to organize and stick them on.

 

So I’ve gone through and trashed all the ones that didn’t work well, then I filled all the pen holders in the house, and then I put the remaining pile in baggies for my church pre-school. The teachers are always looking for the allusive, working Sharpie.

But wait! That’s not all. While searching for pens I found we had four boxes of paper clips, eight boxes of staples, four staplers, way too much tape, and when I stacked the sticky note pads one atop the other, the stack stood fourteen inches high. Double whoops. While in the bedroom I found a lot of old prescription glasses. What to do with them? I don’t know.

So here I've painted my shelves. These were floor baseboards in this 100 year-old-house.
So here I’ve painted my shelves. These were floor’s baseboard in this 100 year-old-house.

So I’ve got some tidying to do. I’m not talking about organizing, I’m really pretty organized (mainly because I have so many boxes and whatnot drawers to hide things in). I’m talking about piling things up and deciding how I’m going to get them out of my house. Apparently, I’m realizing, I’ve got more than I will ever use.

This is where the computer and printers were.
This is where the computer and printers were

 

Now, the author of the tidying book says I should touch everything individually and wish it a better life elsewhere, and give it a kiss. Look, if you hear that I’m talking to inanimate objects you have my permission to call the white-coated folks. If I’m that emotionally attached I’ll just keep it. Seriously.

 

Now before, the walls were cream and the shelves blue, now the walls are blue and the shelves white. I like this better.
Before, the walls were cream and the shelves blue, now the walls are blue and the shelves white. I like this better.
Ack! Ack! Okay, so the mess under the desk is my scrapbooking yet to be done pile. But this is the gorgeous new corner (behind the door) for my computer and printers.
Ack! Ack! Okay, so the mess under the desk is my scrapbooking yet to be done pile, but this is the gorgeous new corner (behind the door) for my computer and printers.
This was where the computer used to be. Now it's my art only corner. Note I painted a chalkboard onto the wall between the shelves. This will be my new timeline.
This was where the computer used to be. Now it’s my art only corner. Note I painted a chalkboard on the wall between the shelves. This will be my new timeline.
This is where the first picture was taken. This is now the sewing corner, though I don't know how much sewing I'll ever get to, here's hoping.
Remember the first picture? This is now the sewing corner, though I don’t know how much sewing I’ll ever get to. Here’s hoping.
And THIS is just for grins.
And THIS is just for grins.

 

 

Hello Leap Year

Nannie birthI couldn’t let the opportunity pass. Here it is leap year 2016, a Monday, the day before Super Tuesday. I am not liking what I am hearing, people. The unkindness of this year’s politicians – ugh! My father would give them a good knuckle burn on their skimpy-haired heads (I’m talking all of them) and my mother would wash their mouths out with soap.

I digress. Happy leap year, y’all. Last night, instead of the Oscars and all their political rhetoric, I opted to watch Downton Abbey’s Manners program. It was highly informative and entertaining.

Apparently a gong was used in the big manors to announce lunch, dinner and tea. How that brought back memories of my grandmother’s dinner gong.

My German-Texan grandmother was raised in upper middle-class German-Texan society. In other words, her father had property and money. He was a Lutheran Sunday School superintendent for a large area of middle Texas and he was extremely smart about what property to buy. They owned a lot of property up and down the railroad. That was then. There isn’t much of a railroad industry now. They originally disinherited my grandmother when she married my grandfather. It’s a long story full of misconceptions. My grandmother married my grandfather and moved immediately to South Africa where my father was born. My great-grandparents thought my grandfather was a black man as they had not met him and only knew he was from South Africa. He’d moved there from Scotland when he was two. See, it’s a long story. And isn’t that a nice tie-in to the Oscars?

The great-grandparents are buried in Nordheim. I haven’t actually been there but it’s south of San Antonio. My grandmother was born in 1897 in Weimar, TX.  It’s just west of Houston about 45 miles. The picture is of her birth certificate. I’ve been to Weimar. Every old lady I saw looked like my grandmother.

Anyway. She had this brass gong. She would ring when it was lunch, tea time (4:00) or dinner (8:00). It sat on the kitchen counter. It wasn’t big but it was loud. If we didn’t respond to the gong, she brought out the cow bell. My grandfather was Scottish. But my German grandmother was the one who actually made the steady income in the family. She managed three apartment units on their property. She saved up all that money for years and put it in a CD my grandfather knew nothing about. (Thank goodness or it would have been spent.) She actually sent me $5 a month when I was living in the wild city of Chicago in the ’70’s.

They lived in South Houston near Old Galveston Highway and Spencer, I remember the meals we had around that small table in the kitchen with the moths batting with a barely audible thwat thwat at the light bulb above the table at night. We had the windows open because to use the air-conditioning meant spending money, frowned upon by grandfather. He demanded his tea and my grandmother had been trained to make it the proper way. Boil the fresh water, pour immediately into the teapot to warm it. Then into the hot water add the tea, wait, strain into the cups. My grandfather would add four teaspoons of sugar, a bit of milk, pour it on his saucer and slurp it loudly.  He’d give a long prayer of thanksgiving with his long rolling ‘r’s woven into the words before we ate. After this ritual we were always starving.

Then off to bed, the smell from the asphalt factory permeated the damp summer air, and the chirp of crickets soothed us, the wee bairns, to sleep.

So it was Christmas!

free-christmas-clipart-santa-vector[1]I know I’m a day or two late, but Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

We had a memorable one this year. We have a new grand boy and after a rough start, he’s doing great! Yesterday his great-grandparents saw him. The smiles were unending. What a joy that four generations were able to celebrate – all in relatively good health – in the same room.  I took lots of photos. They are on my phone. I don’t know how to get them to the computer yet. But I’ll update as soon as I’m able.

News of note for my career. I’ve tried to get my books on Bookbub for over a year. My publisher found out, and got me on bookbub. Thank you SkipJack publishing!  If you want Deadly Thyme for 0.99 January is your month. But I encourage you to sign up for Bookbub.com. This is a free sign-up thingy. It’s a service that sends you a daily email – to your inbox with free or seriously discounted books. Not just any books. Obviously it takes a lot of oomph to get a book on bookbub. I’ve gotten Charles Todd (a favorite author) books for $1.99 on Bookbub. It’s a wonderful service, you will never be disappointed. Consider my advice a Christmas gift. I couldn’t recommend them higher. Sign up and then recommend the service to your friends. They will thank you.

My book will be featured on January 4, so sign up NOW!

Another amazing thing to happen is that Deadly Thyme is part of a five book set to be released exclusively on Amazon January 1. Pamela Fagan Hutchins (Amazing Grace), Marcy McKay (Pennies from Burger Heaven), and Ken Oder (The Closing) have their wonderful books in this set also. Their books are incredible reads. Yes, there are four books listed but Pamela Fagan Hutchins has added a bonus book.

Thanks, Giving, Shopping, and The Wall Street Journal

th1EHNV13TThank you so much for a wonderful year to all those who have helped me buying, or reviewing my books. Thank you for your encouragement. Thank you for giving a love for reading to people around you. Thank you for good memories.

‘Tis the season for giving.  I haven’t been shopping on Black Friday in so many years I can’t count them. When my children were little (really little) my mother-in-law would spend Thanksgiving at our house. She would offer to babysit while I hit the stores for Christmas gifts and Christmas décor. I found great deals galore.

I never camped overnight, or went first thing, but I have gotten up at the crack of dawn and gotten to the store early. This year with the big hoopla over Black Friday – the controversy, working or not working on Thanksgiving —  Workers in hospitals, fire stations, and police stations will tell you there are good and bad things about working holidays. But from polls on Facebook I could see that the main thing is the double and sometimes time and a half-pay that people who work holidays get. I went black Friday shopping, on Black Friday.

I’d seen the sewing machine advertised in the paper. I looked on Amazon. Wow, this Brother model had great reviews. And the Wal-Mart price was close to $200 cheaper than the original sales price. Wow, a computerized Brother machine for $99. Such a great price.

I used to sew. But having a machine that would jam every time I used it was frustrating. That was thirty years ago. I haven’t had a machine in thirty years. I wouldn’t even be thinking about this except that I found quilt tops that my grandmother had pieced together in 1980. One of those quilt tops is crib size. And I have a new grandson. Soooo…

I went into Wal-Mart about 9:30 on Friday morning. The parking lot was nearly empty. I’ve never seen a Wal-Mart parking lot so empty. I parked up near the door. I went to the sewing machine aisle, seeing no shoppers on my way. There was no Brother $99 sewing machine. Bummer! There was one that looked like the one in the paper for $129. Hmmm. I found a sales associate to ask if there were any of the $99 ones in the back. She looked at the sewing machine sales tabs on the shelves and sort of shrugged. Then she said, “Wait a minute. I thought I saw…” And she walked to the end of the aisle, smiled and pointed. There was a huge stack of the $99 machines. I was shocked, but I bought one and exited the store.

A nicely dressed woman in the parking lot stopped me and asked me if she could ask a question. Now, if you’re like me, you don’t mind talking, but not necessarily to strangers in parking lots. She quickly showed me a badge that I couldn’t read and she said she was with The Wall Street Journal. I found that highly unlikely but thought I would go along. She asked me good questions though. Mainly, what did I think about this Black Friday sales day? I told her I was shocked there were no people in the store, no cars in the parking lot, and it sure didn’t feel like a Black Friday shopping day. A lady pulled her car up as we were talking and asked us if Black Friday was over. That’s how bad that empty parking lot looked. Ha.

I got home and discovered that the lady in the parking lot was following me on Twitter. Holy Moly! She really was  The Wall Street Journal journalist.  What?? Thank you, Erin Ailworth!

So here is the article in the wall street journal It’s a great article AND my name is mentioned.  https://t.co/FolZdXfdFk  Whoot!

Happy Getting-All-Prepared-For-The-Holidays!!

The Puppy Isn’t a Puppy Anymore

100_1404We had a little Chihuahua and some cats and I had no intention – None – of taking on another dog. Ever. Taking on the responsibility of a dog is huge. I know this. So I had no intention of ever doing it again. I had been looking forward to the peace and quiet of a house without teenagers, a house to nest in and write to my heart’s content. I was determined to get all those novels I had in my head on paper, maybe finish some illustration and picture book projects.

Around that time I got an email from my daughter. She was a student at Texas Tech in Lubbock. The subject line read “Look at my new puppy!” The pictures showed an adorable black, tan, and white hound with humongous feet. I emailed back and said, “No, you can’t keep a puppy. It’s going to be huge! There’s no room in your apartment. Take it back. Get rid of it!”

At around that moment, my husband called her just to say hello. I overheard him say, “Why are you sounding so sad?” Then I heard, “I never said you couldn’t have a puppy.”

Christmas 2007 088When the hound was 4 months and 45 pounds her roommates rebelled. She brought him home over Easter break and said, “Could you keep him for me?” I said, “Is he house trained?” She said, “Not very well. But he has a crate.” (Because everyone knows that a dog crate makes everything better?) I said, “Thanks.” Though that word was said sarcastically. Mom had a dog, and not just any dog, but a growing, floppy-eared, clumsy, drooling, smelly dog.

Writing, you say? Writing? When I would sit down at the computer and had the right words, before I could get them down, the mutt had to go out. And that means desperately for a puppy because a puppy that size holds a lot of pee. Or I was in the middle of a break-through paragraph and before I could get it into words, the hound would leap off the ground with a tremendous barking that wouldn’t stop until I put him out. My nerves were a little jittery at that point. Oh, yeah, writing wasn’t going so smoothly either.

Then there was the time I came home to find the mutt surrounded by the couch cushions. He’d chewed a hole completely through one of the seat cushions. Not even turning it could hide that one. It was a “Marley” moment.DCP_2937_0146

In between lots of life-changing things: my parent’s illnesses and deaths, the daughter coming to live with us, the joyous birth of our grand girl, three house renovations and three moves, and lots of shuffling of other family members, the writing and the dog are still here. He isn’t a puppy anymore. He is a big dog at nearly 80 pounds. He sheds constantly and copiously, so when I sweep the wood floors of our vintage house I feel like I’m gathering up small puppies with my broom.

Sometimes I wonder if I’ll survive his goofiness. One day as I was walking him he saw a…you guessed it…a squirrel. On. The. Ground. Yes. And I didn’t see it so wasn’t prepared. I landed on my stomach about four feet from where I had been standing. When I landed I let go of the leash so he didn’t sled me to the light pole where he ended up barking his silly head off. And this evening when I went to give him his “treat” and it was dark in the kitchen and I lowered my hand at the same time that he snapped. I do still have my thumb. It’s just a little numb.

And the times my husband has barefoot-slipped in his drool (because he feeds him the end piece of his peanut butter sandwich every evening, this one shouldn’t even be in the mix.)

But wherever we’ve lived whether near downtown or even out in the wilds of Sugar Land, if our gorgeous mutt sees a stranger, he becomes Mr. Seriously scary-bark-growl-snapping-dog. And therefore his value surpasses all the gutted couches and buckets of doggie-throw-up there have been. Do I have an amen to that? Amen.

100_1063                  He’s a keeper.

Something Old Made New

SAM_1445Going through my mother’s extensive collection of handicraft supplies and projects was to step back in time. I remember when she was using acrylic paints and decoupaging everything that didn’t move. That was in the early 70’s. Then I found the unfinished sewing projects. The fact that she had started them and not finished, it broke my heart a little. She was always busy with some project or another, and happy at it, but these sequined, felt, Christmas ornaments, and the little doll really did me in. The doll I remembered my mother telling me she had begun when I was born. She got distracted and didn’t finish it. I have my precious grand girl now. Maybe she would like what MeeMaw began so long ago.SAM_1447

First, I had to figure out the directions. There weren’t much to them. There were a few pictures, this wasn’t quite as hard as putting a desk from Ikea together. I stuffed the pieces and sewed them together. I sewed the shirt together using a little hand-held sewing machine. I don’t expect I’ll be doing a lot of sewing projects so having a real sewing machine won’t be in future purchase plans. The little hand-held machine made this a cinch. Except there is only one strand of thread instead of two and so if I happen to pull too hard at the end of each turn the entire seam would come out. Hmmm.

SAM_1472Then I came to the yarn hair. After about five strands I believe I have discovered how to hide the part and make the hair look like it’s part of the doll’s head. I got this! SAM_1473 SAM_1474

SAM_1475SAM_1476 I was smoking, until I came the trousers. There were pockets for crying out loud! I’ve never done pockets on anything. The directions were completely missing for the little bluejeans. I couldn’t figure out how to piece the parts together. It took me an hour of working and growling until I thought I had it right. I used the hand-held and began to sew, but then something happened to the little machine. The thread kept coming unthreaded from the needle. I kept rethreading it. I would try again and it would come apart again. Enough already! I hand-sewed the trouser legs. I turned it inside out and realized it was all wrong. I picked out the seams and tried again. This was such a lesson in patience. This time giving up completely on the machine and hand-sewing everything.SAM_1482 I finally had it right. However, the seams on the blouse were coming undone – like me. That’s when I pulled out the big gun.

It’s called glue.

The little baseball mitt and the ball and the shoes…I glued. And forget about the pockets. I think it might be even be childproof.

SAM_1478Along with the sewing projects I now have tried decoupage. It’s a lot more fun than it sounds and certainly is a great way to use my old stamp collection.  And 100 year old music magazines my mother had kept.   Yes, I’m decoupaging everything. SAM_1469

Exercise. It’s That Word Again, Isn’t It

It’s back. For someone who loves playing with words, the one word that I dread in my life is “exercise” as in when the doctor says, “with diet and aerobic exercise your numbers should improve.” Ugh. Really? Couldn’t we just fudge a little?  See, I used one of my favorite words just then. For those of you new to my blog, a few years ago – okay, six years ago – I had lost that “last 10 pounds”. The ones that are the most difficult to lose. In fact, in all, I lost 20 pounds, and kept them off for two years.

I even bought and wore comfortably two pair of skinny jeans, in which I did not lose the feeling in my lower extremities and then have to spend any time in the hospital. I say that as a word of caution to those who are wearing the skinny jeans without having lost those last ten pounds. Yes, you. You’re in danger. There are health warnings flying about these days, listen up.

When the housing market turned around suddenly. I was hands-on involved in renovating two houses at once to sell, which meant that I was living out of my car all day and eating fast food. Hello my little poundish friends.

All of my “author” pictures were taken when I was thin. index100_0918

I am not doing author pictures at the moment.

As you can see from the doctor’s note above, I’ve been given my marching orders, marching not leaving. The last time I achieved this I counted calories, and exercised every day at the YMCA. I jogged in the neighborhood (after I’d lost the weight I could jog), I took a kickboxing class, and lifted weights. This time I will try again to diet. I’m walking with a neighbor, building up to greater things. I’ve been reading a book recommended by my insurance company. Yes, that’s right – I am getting counseling because my A1c levels are nearly diabetic. The book is Eat to Live by Joel Fuhrman, M.D. I resisted when first told about this book. I know about what good nutrition is and have gotten along just fine without it, thank you very much. Apparently, I’m good at lying to myself, too. Now I’m learning all about how the myth of the “complete protein”. Remember how your mother told you that beans and rice are a “complete” protein? Wrong. She didn’t know. Don’t blame her. Beans are a complete protein, you don’t need rice. A lot of vegetables have protein in them, peas, beans, kale. Nuts and seeds have protein. Most of our “protein rich” foods like meat, dairy, fish, eggs are also full of fat. This I can believe, but, I’m not becoming a vegan commando. I can give up sugar and processed foods but give me my turkey neck at Thanksgiving!

So this was my once a year or once every three-year blog about my health/diet ups and downs. I’ll report back briefly if this all works again. If not, I’ll see you at the next book signing. I’ll be the one wearing a tent and eating the Klondike bar.

 

The Difference Four Years Made

Dec. 2010
Dec. 2010

Five years ago in December we bought a house to restore and sell. Then we discovered we would soon be grand parents and we needed a bit bigger place. So our fixer-upper became our home. We moved in May 2011. It’s been four years and what a difference right?

Can you spot the differences?

May 2015
May 2015

In these four years, we made the house habitable. It had been sitting partially touching the soil. We built a three car garage with apartment above. (Because of city regulations, we could not put it where the original car port was, we had to move it seventeen feet from the property line. So, yes, it takes up the entire back yard.) We planted a few trees. Our peach tree is conspicuously missing. It was right in front of the house about twelve feet from the curb. (Someone dug it up and took it in the middle of the night last week.) We added a fountain in the front yard, you can’t see it because it’s behind a tree.  The upstairs french doors were removed and windows added instead. The lattice was removed as it served no purpose that we could see. The bottom porch’s curved pieces of wood were removed because they were rotted. Your eyes aren’t deceiving you, the wrap around bit of cedar shingles was replaced with roofing to give a more tailored look.

The house was built in 1910 by an insurance man who lived on LaSalle street. He built the house at about the time he married. The porches have always been the way they are with the Victorian wrap-around with the slim supports and gingerbread on the balcony and the craftsman style supports on the lower porch.

Nell lives a block away. She is 94 years old. She was born in the house she is living in. She used to play on our front porch when she was a little girl because her grandfather and the man who build our house were good friends and would sit and talk and tell stories on our front porch. It’s nice to know someone who has watched our house all these years.

Dad and daughter
Our girl and her father.
Cora
The prettiest flower girl, ever.

The other big thing that has changed since we moved in is that our lovely daughter married. Our precious grand girl has a wonderful step-daddy. We are just pleased as the proverbial punch about this.