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?
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.
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.
It has come to my attention as I was selling and signing books at the Menil Fest today that I have failed to write any blogs for a very long time. It’s easy to rely on re-posting or re-blogging information that is sent to me. Add to that my daughter’s wedding and all that goes with it, I’ve been a busy monkey these past few months. I get lazy about posting.
So I thought, why not give you a few pictures of my father’s childhood home and my grandparent’s life.
My father was born in October of 1925 in Capetown, South Africa.
Now, if you knew my father you would never have guessed that he was born anywhere but Texas. You would never know that his father spoke with a Scottish accent and his mother spoke with a German accent, because all Robbie Thompson sounded like was a Texan through and through. His drawl was long, and like any true Texan, he never met a stranger, and he drank coffee with everything.
His mother, my Nannie, once told me that she could see Table-top mountain from her hospital window when she was giving birth to him. Here’s a picture of my father’s father when he was a tot. He was younger than two here. His brother and sister are in the picture. I met his sister when I was a child. She came to visit us. I remember she was very proper sounding.
My great grandfather was a hotelier in Durban, SA. When my grandfather was born in Glasgow, Scotland, his father took the rest of the family and went by wooden ship to Durban, leaving my grandfather and his mom in Glasgow until he was two at which time they took another ship and went to Durban. Here’s a picture of my grandfather’s parents:
My grandfather was a preacher for the government of S.A. He was assigned to provide protestant services to the Rangers at the ranger stations.Here’s a picture of him working in a native hut:
He and my grandmother were allowed to live in a caboose kitted out like a home. Here’s a picture:
The caboose was attached to the train and pulled to a ranger station and left on a side line. The train would travel all the way around the country of S. A. until they came back to that station. The caboose was reattached and taken to the next ranger station and so on. This went on for ten years. My father was born in 1925 and my aunt was born in 1928. My father lived on the caboose for seven years. Here’s a picture of my father and my aunt Ruth:
Here’s a picture of my grandfather, grandmother, father and Ruth:
Here’s another picture: My grandmother was born in Weimar, TX. Even though she lived in S. A. she always loved Texas best of all. She could travel anywhere in the world and she always wanted to come home to Texas more than anything else. She was German. You probably know that there is a huge population of Germans and Czechoslovakian here in Texas. Galveston was second to Ellis Island for taking in immigrants. In the late 1800’s there were a lot of Slavic and Baltic people coming to the U.S. My grandmother’s parents were from Prussia. She was a first generation American.
She did not speak English until first grade. But after WWII she would not admit to knowing German, she was ashamed of what happened in Germany. But when I was a very small child she sang lullabies to us in German. I guess she thought we would never remember them, but I do.
Christmas is a time to reflect not to regret. I want to extend a very merry Christmas greeting to all my news team members. If you do not celebrate Christmas then I hope you have a peaceful and healthy holiday time.
Upcoming post: A few great books that I’ve read lately.
This past week we had a wonderful panel discussion (Women of Mystery) at the Barnes & Noble on West Gray.
I wanted to share this interview with everyone. My neighbor is too fascinating not to know better. Learn about this dauntless spaceman with the following link to my other blog, EastMontroseCool.com. My blog isn’t very colorful today. So if you go here: To Infinity and Beyond you’ll see another photo.
Then, know that you are all in my thoughts as I traipse across Texas these next two weeks. I’m going to the Texas Book Festival this weekend. It is such a huge deal and I’m so happy to be going. I’m there to not just promote my books but to promote The Houston Writer’s Guild. If you haven’t checked out this organization, please do: houstonwritersguild.org. And while your at it, sign up for the November 8 workshop with prize-winning author Sarah Cortez. She will be speaking about “How to Finish Your Novel” among other things. There will be an acquiring editor there to take pitches. And what an attractive thing to think that all this comes with LUNCH! LOL!
Next weekend I’m off to Midland, TX to speak at the library there. I will take pictures this time.
My brother and I hope to visit my aunt in the San Antonio area this next week. I haven’t seen her since she dropped everything she had going in her life to help out my mother when my dad went into the hospital with Pancreatic cancer in 2007. My father’s death led to tremendous and earth-shifting changes in my life because my mother was almost an invalid at the time. My aunt stayed with her and helped her get stronger both physically and mentally. My aunt was always a selfless person. Now she is up in age. We just found out she is on hospice, and we feel the need to go see this lovely and loving woman.
I’ve got a big day next Saturday. I’ll be at the Book Nook in Sugar Land from 12 to 2 signing books with a lot of other authors. The book store is on the corner of Hwy 99 and Hwy 90A. I used to live in that neighborhood.
Then at I’ll be giving a talk about “How to Make Twitter Work for You” at the Loosecan Library on Willowick from 3 to 4:45. Looks like I’ll be a buzzzzy bug that day.
I’m sending out a “newsy” letter by snail-mail about the family, my books, and Britt’s new office. Excuse me if you get this twice but here it is. Yes, I know it isn’t Christmas. It isn’t even Halloween. But I needed to get this out early. At least you get pictures. Those I’m mailing it to don’t.
Dear Loved Ones,
This is a really late 2013 Christmas letter, or an early 2014 one. My mother passed away last December. I didn’t have the heart to write. The last few years she and I had grown quite close. I still miss her.
Our son is 30, but I assure you that his mother does not feel that old. He is busy with his job and his friends, but finds time to spend with his parents. We are thankful for such a sweet son.
Our daughter works as a microbiologist. She has found her job description expanding into food safety. Her generosity and upbeat personality are wonderful.
The Grand girl is three years old. Her speech is surprisingly sophisticated and adorable. She’s the light of our lives.
Mama Nolen (that’s me) has published two novels. The Dry came out in November 2013 and Deadly Thyme came out in May 2014. I’ve included postcards with their descriptions. Please get them (on the internet or from your Barnes & Noble), read them, love them, and pass them on to your friends. I would love reviews on Amazon, too.
Papa Nolen has opened a new dental practice. Nolen Dental is located at 415 Westheimer, Suite 209. His office number is 832-301-3617. If you, or someone you know, needs a dentist in the Montrose/Mid-town area please call or pass the number along. His website is nolendental.com
His mother and step-father are struggling with health issues but continue to enjoy life at their senior apartment complex.
Have a peaceful, healthy Christmas. Enjoy God’s blessing with your family in the coming new year.
If I were in college my blog title today would imply I might be trying to get into a sorority. If only such a simplicity of purpose was part of the make-up of my world, our world. RUSH. The word means 1. move fast. 2. attack suddenly. 3. act or move at high-speed. 4. urge to an unnatural speed. 5 cause to move fast or race. 6. advance the ball by running into the line.
Most days begin for me at 5:30, which isn’t a bad time, I’ve had worse. I help out with my grand girl so her mom can go to work. I love that I get up with the sweetest little face in the world next to mine. We sing a song from Daniel Tiger’s neighborhood that goes like this: Get up. Get dressed. Eat breakfast. Brush teeth, and go to school.
And that’s what we do. Only it’s not my school, it’s hers. She’s in preschool.
Some mornings the YMCA is next. I participate in a stretching and balance class. Then home to spend time on social media, sometimes too much time because it is my favorite procrastinating tool. Usually there is something pressing that needs to get done. This week I made a website for my husband. http://www.Nolendental.com. Monday my mother-in-law had a pacemaker put in but then she lost some ability and had to go to rehab. I’m hoping she gets better soon. My husband is very concerned about his mom and concerned with the dental practice he just opened. Spending time away from it isn’t good.
I’m interjecting a dog picture here. I hope it makes you smile. He makes me smile.
Life intervenes doesn’t it? I had this wonderful conversation with another writer yesterday at my book signing. I love book signings, I meet the most fabulous people. She and I were discussing the fact that between children, spouses, illness, aging parents, broken things that need to be fixed, fixed things that break again, emergencies, exhaustion, driving, sleep, non-sleep, a need to spend time with friends, eating, and life in general, there isn’t much time to do the creative thing that sets us free and lifts our spirits. The thing that keeps the bad thoughts, the put-down thoughts at bay. Because most people have negative feelings about themselves. And writers and artists are loaded with negative feelings and thoughts about themselves and their work. It’s what keeps us on edge, or angry, or sleepless. It’s what drives us to do the thing we need to do, that creative thing, writing, art, music.
Life is messy, inconsistent, and consequential. You must work around it. Stay up late, get up early, exercise. Drink water. Sit up straight. Sing the Daniel Tiger song.
Yes, You, the one who wants to accomplish a thing of beauty. The one who has dreamed of one day writing a novel, or painting an amazing painting, or playing a minuet, or singing in the opera. You are not alone. Here comes life, with the important things, the immediate things, the urgent things. May it always be. Don’t ever say to yourself – “one day I’ll do…”. Do it now, because “one day” isn’t ever going to get here. You won’t reach that day because on that day something else will call your attention away. So guess what? That day is here.
I’m hoping you have friends who will understand, a spouse who will cook you supper, a mother who will keep the kids. Or if you don’t, I hope you investigate and discover all those moments that you could dedicate to your art, are moments hidden within the viewing of television (how about that Sherlock series?) or in reading, or in busily doing social media of some kind. So give up the television (you can record it), the novels (for a time), or the social media, or whatever you do that you think is helping you relax because it isn’t. If you are an artist of any kind, you need to practice your art to relax.
Don’t take my word for it.
P.S.S. I told Eliza that I would share her wasp joke.
My daughter, Amy, took me with her on vacation. I’m so thankful for the experience and for spending such a good time with her and the Grand Girl. We left Houston on August 28 and flew into Fort Lauderdale. From there we rented a car and drove straight down to Key West. Someone told us it was a two lane highway but I didn’t think it would be that bad. It is. The speed limit is 45 MPG as soon as it changes to two lanes as you hit the “straits” and the Everglades area. It was twilight when we arrived. We ate at a restaurant in an old house, on the top floor balcony overlooking Duval Street. I took this picture because it’s a gigantic Marlin. Hemingway’s house is not far from this spot. We stayed at the Blue Marlin Inn, an old hotel two blocks from Duval Street and three blocks from The Southern Most Point. It was old but clean and well-kept. The next day we walked here, the southern most point of the USA. It was hot. There were chickens and cats everywhere. Then, we walked to the Butterfly Conservatory. I believe this place was 10X better than the butterfly museum in Houston. There were hundreds of butterflies and birds and reptiles. I highly recommend visiting here when you go to Key West. Don’t think of Key West as a place to swim. There aren’t any beaches except at the resorts. The island is a big piece of dead coral. No beaches unless they were created for tourists. It’s pretty enough without them, with lovely old Victorian homes everywhere, museums and great restaurants.
Next, we loaded up and drove to Marathon Key. It’s in the middle of the long trip back to Fort Lauderdale. Marathon is one of the larger Keys. We stayed at the White Sands Hotel. It’s an old roadside motel reminiscent of the 1940’s. It was clean and well-kept and steps from the ocean. Here is the view from our hotel room. How can anyone resist? I spent the better part of the day in that hammock. Here’s what the Grand Girl found. It’s a baby horseshoe crab. Dead, but fascinating to this almost 3 year-old. She and her mom did some exploring and climbing. While I lay in the hammock. That evening we found a nice restaurant. A lot of locals were there so we knew we had chosen well. It was lobster season. They have the spiny lobsters here. Amy and I shared a lobster casserole. Yummy! Then we found a beach to enjoy because the beach you see at the hammock wasn’t a swimming beach. Here is the local state park. You can see the sea grass shedding in this picture. The next day we loaded up the car and drove north toward Ft. Lauderdale. But, first we had to have our pictures taken with the giant lobster. and we stopped and ate breakfast at a diner that served breakfast. That’s my son’s name. Then we drove on through the “Next 3 miles crocodile crossing” sign areas and the two lane, white-knuckle, 45 MPH road – yes, a lot of it is bridges. At one point the bridge is 7 miles long over ocean. The ocean is gorgeous with azure, turquoise and amethyst colors. The shores weren’t so nice this time of year. This was the sea-grass shedding time of year. The sea grass sheds (looks like St. Augustine clippings) and it stinks like dead fish. But the wind is strong so the smell isn’t overwhelming. We reached the Crown Plaza in Ft. Lauderdale at about 2 PM. Plenty of time to get to the pool. Here is the Grand Girl dressing for the pool the first day. And here is me at the pool the first day. She who has the most toys makes new friends fast. We rode the trolley. We ate at the hotel restaurant for a lavish breakfast the next day. Then went to the beach which was just across the street. The water really was too rough to actually enjoy swimming. But the sun was warm and the sand soft. And it’s always nice in the shade of the coconut palms. But the best part was this pool at the Crown Plaza. We spent most of our time here and it was wonderful! We had a lovely Cuban meal one night. And had a picnic on the floor in the hotel room one night. Anything goes on vacation! Cora loved the pool, and putting mom’s lipstick on. She calls it lips. One night she was asking for “lips” and I said, not thinking, “we don’t have lips at night.” Okay, I’m probably contributing to nightmares. Sorry. We ate at this diner too mornings in a row because it was soooo good. My favorite? Corned beef hash and eggs. Tuesday we checked out of the hotel and went exploring. We visited the Science Museum in Ft. Lauderdale. Where we got stomped by a mastodon swallowed by a Megalodon watched otters play and, of course, flew a fighter jet. Then, we went out to eat and danced. We walked across the street to the park, which of course was on a canal. Amy and the Grand Girl put their feet in the fountain. And we got caught by a mangrove tree. We made it to the airport in plenty of time and someone was exhausted. And I made a new friend who told me she was already hooked in my book.
You’ve heard me expound on the virtues of independent bookstores (indie-bookstores) and how important they are in the world of book selling. They are gatekeepers to literacy, pushing good books out in front of our noses, and encouraging all ages to read. Each small bookstore has its specialty, and personality. My latest favorite is River Oaks Bookstore on Westheimer. I offered scones and creme fraiche at my book signing there. You know me, it’s really all about the food. I’ve been to a book signing at River Oaks where there was a full meal served. Now that’s a book signing to go to!
River Oaks is good about encouraging their authors to offer food that might be part of the world of the story. You’ll notice I didn’t have bug crackers, or chocolate covered earthworms on the menu, so the world of The Dry wasn’t on the menu. You’re welcome. I featured scones and clotted cream and cream fraiche and rough-cut marmalade because I was promoting the world in Deadly Thyme, a British thriller.
This past weekend I was signing books at Barnes & Noble on West Gray. There were other authors there. I believe that is how I will be signing books at bookstores from now on. Other authors mean more fans, and my fans get an opportunity to enjoy other authors, so it will be happy times all around. New model for book signing – going forward.
Actually this blog post is about Barnes & Noble. I’ve probably mentioned in earlier blogs how each Barnes & Noble is like a sovereign kingdom. In other words, each Barnes & Noble is unique because of their manager.
How can you as the reader appreciate this? Because your Barnes & Noble will cater to your needs, or not, depending on what their individual policies are regarding requests. For instance, if you want to hold a meeting for your book club on the second Tuesday of every month at your B & N, the manager either gives you a thumbs up or a thumbs down. I believe B & N’s live or die according to what the answer would be from that manager.
What does this mean for authors? How well are you loved by your B & N? Have you asked or been approached to have a signing? The answer is critical to the indie-published author especially. It’s hard enough to rock the stigma that is very real about indie-books (that’s another blog post). Here’s where the book leather scrapes the pavement. Listen up, I’ve even heard of traditionally published author’s being given the “brush-off” by their B & N in regards to a book signing. Seriously? Yes. Can you imagine the answer to an indie-published author? How about a huge, whopping no! What a shame.
On a more positive note I can now say I know of two Barnes & Nobles that readily offer book signing opportunities for indie-authors (indie-authors are independent authors who may be self-published but often are published through small press publishers. I am an indie-author.) My experience signing books yesterday at the Houston Barnes & Noble on West Gray was marvelous! I sold out of The Dry that they had ordered through Ingram and I had to call for reinforcement books from home and still, I kept selling. They told me I was the “best-selling” author of the day at the store. That means I sold more books that any other author, not just my friends who were signing their books but of all the author’s books across the store. What? It’s true. I’m sorry. There is always the part of me that wants to apologize for outselling friends. They are as earnest as I am. But I have to say – I bring a wasp.
So what say I of this Barnes & Noble? I love them. That store was humming with business yesterday or dare I say, buzzzzzzzing? Every one of those store workers were fresh-faced happy people wanting to do all and everything to make all of us successful. That’s a store that will still be there next year.
Barnes & Nobles as sovereign states? Yes. Will some of them fall away, widening the crevasse between the reader and brick and mortar stores and giving Amazon more of a foothold in their bid to take over the world? Yes.
Upper management at Barnes & Noble did an interesting thing when they allowed autonomous rule in their stores, because what they essentially created were independent bookstores (like indies) with a common name. Plus, they probably offer benefits. It’s an interesting business model.
What can you do? Find a B & N that you like. If you’re ever in the Barnes & Noble on West Gray say hi to Michelle. Also, if you are interested and I hope you are, go to your local B & N throughout the U.S. & where ever you are and please ask them to order my books. They are in the catalog. More interested in an e-book? My e-books are available on Nook, too.
Wednesday evening I received an email media invite to Christie’s Steak and Shrimp Seafood Restaurant to try their new lunch menu items. I was concerned that I had been sent the invite by accident. I’m not actually media, am I? I blog and I use social media a lot to promote myself and others. Hmmm. I don’t know.
So I took a chance and went to the restaurant for the lunch. Christie’s Seafood restaurant has been a part of the Houston scene since 1917. Here is an excerpt from Christie’s website:
For almost a century, the Christie family has served the same incomparable food that made its founder, Theodore Christie, famous. Originally from Constantinople, Theodore immigrated in 1905 to New York City where he worked in hospitality and as court interpreter. In 1917, he relocated to the Texas Gulf coast where he decided to try his hand at cooking, opening a concession stand on the waterfront. There, he concocted a fresh fish sandwich , buttered and toasted po-boy bread with a lightly fried fish fillet with shredded lettuce and tomatoes that remains unequaled.
In 1934, Theodore moved the restaurant to the Houston Medical Center where business was booming. He quickly began selling 10,000 fish sandwiches a week! His next innovation was the Seafood Platter, a sampling of broiled or fried shrimp, scallops, oysters and fillets of fish plucked fresh from the Gulf of Mexico.
The Remolaude sauce that accompanies the Fried Shrimp is a traditional recipe from 1917. It is homemade mayonnaise and garlic whipped until smooth.
Other restaurants have imitated Christie’s fried butterfly shrimp, but ours is the original, said Maria Christie who carries on her family’s tradition in the kitchen.
Christie’s food is so outstanding, Jim’s daughter, Roula, got her start as a radio personality as a result of delivering French Fried Shrimp to the KRBE on-air DJ, Paul Cubby Bryant.
Here I am again. When I was a child my parents brought the family often to Christie’s when it was in the Medical Center, and for special occasions when they moved to Westheimer in the late 60’s. I remember playing with the white tablecloth on the table. We weren’t used to white tablecloths (I have 3 brothers!). I remember the big stuffed Marlin on the wall. It was so much bigger than me and I often wondered if it could swallow me whole (and if not me then at least my little brother…).
Well, it turns out that I had been invited to the lunch! Wow! What a special treat! The food was gorgeous and delicious. I’m so sorry the pictures don’t show it BEFORE everyone had gone through the line.
So, I know you are dying to find out what I had.
To start out I tried the blackened shrimp sliders. Now, you may have already read my blog from last year about Christie’s and good memories. Christie’s fried shrimp is the best you will ever have. Their tartar sauce can not be duplicated (they make their own mayonnaise), nor can you buy anything that equals its deliciousness. So the blackened shrimp sliders were good (large tasty shrimp) but not as good as their fried shrimp.
I tried the Tarama. Tarama is Mama Christie’s whipped Greek Caviar dip. It was amazing. Forget the crackers, give me a spoon!
The fried calamari were cooked just right. I could tell they were fresh, nothing chewy here. The marinara sauce with them was perfect.
The sweet potato fries with the chipolte ranch dressing were good. I’m not a fan of chipolte normally so when I tasted it I had to ask what it was. If I had tasted the chipolte, I’m afraid I wouldn’t have been very enthusiastic about it. Here, the sauce balanced out the sweetness of the potato fries in a perfect way.
I’m not a fan of salmon. That said I tried the Salmon Royale with Cajun chardonnay cream sauce. I’m afraid I asked for extra sauce, I mean, chardonnay cream? Come on, double up on that! Well, I’m reporting that the salmon was perfectly flaky with great seasoning and wow, the sauce made it wonderful.
There was a cheese and fruit display that really was the centerpiece to the room. And the little flaky philo-pastry cheese puffs were a delight.
Not last nor least was the lump crab, avocado, and mango stack salad. YUM! I’m a huge fan of Gulf blue crab always, I love mango and avocado. This salad had giant chunks of tasty blue crab, the mango was diced, the avocado was perfect and plentiful. In between were diced red and green sweet peppers and red onion. There was a sweet vinaigrette that added a bit of acidity and balanced the whole act.
I think the crowning point of this experience was meeting the lovely Christie family. Mama Christie and her four children, Alexandra, Kathy Christie-Dasigenis, Roula, and Terry Christie. It was such an honor. All these years of loving Christie’s and I got to meet the family. They are rock stars to me! I can’t help but think how thrilled my parents would have been, too.
Last year I counted myself rich with mothers. I had my mother, my mother-in-law, and my daughter near me. We all celebrated mother’s day. It was like Christmas, sharing the celebration in different locations from Friday through Monday. That Friday my daughter’s church friends surprised her with a night out and a mother’s day gift. On Saturday we went to my mother-in-law’s for supper. Sunday we took gifts to my mother at the nursing home, though I think her favorite part was drinking coffee with us in the dining room while the great-granddaughter ran around squealing. That Monday, my daughter surprised me with a British cream tea in her apartment with all my friends! It was a surprise. And my daughter made scones and had clotted cream and lemon curd. It was delicious.
This year I don’t have my mother, but as I thought about all the mothers I had over my lifetime, I realize I’ve never been without. There were kind teachers, my amazing grandmother kept my brother and I quite often, my aunt, my Sunday school teachers, camp counselors, and my friends’ mothers when I would spend nearly the entire weekend at their homes. There were a always women encircling me who were iconic moms.
So this year I sent out mother’s day cards to other moms just to say – hey, thanks! And if you didn’t get a card from me. This is it. Thank you for being there for your child, their friends, and all those other kids.