Sunday, December 24, 2006

Christmas Quilt Top Finished

Got the top finished this morning. I'll probably not get around to quilting it till next year, but I'm pleased with how it looks. Applique still isn't my favorite, but the results are nice.

Christmas Eve, 2006

It's the morning of Christmas Eve. Dan and I are home in Ganado. Nathan, Wendy, and Cole are in Memphis for Cole's cancer treatment. Travis and MaryAlice are in Austin, doing Christmas with her family.

We got over two inches of rain with a very windy cold front last night, so the yard and plants are well watered. I wish the Christmas elves would come weed all my flowerbeds, rebuild my rasied vegetable beds, and rake the leaves.

Yesterday was spent at Jimmy's, making smoked sausage, head sausage with barley, and tamales. We worked from 9:30 till 4:30 in the afternoon, and my legs and back are a bit tired today, but it was a wonderful soothing project. Just steady work with good tasting products to show for it at the end of the day.

Today will be spent doing the preparations for a small Christmas dinner. There's no reason to bake a huge turkey for the two of us, so I'll be cooking just a turkey breast. Of course, one must have all the side dishes, too, so it's really not any less work.

I've also got to get some sorting and throwing away and storing things done as well. It's especially difficult now that I've been gone so much dealing with various crisis situations over the last two years, and my house has acquired much too much furniture and too many family keepsakes. Some hard decisions about what to keep are going to have to be made.

There's much to be done this week and next, but I'm going to try to keep my focus on today. What I can only live in the present.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Life Going In An Unexpected Direction

Shortly after my last post, we had Thanksgiving, the Longhorn/Aggie game, and life settled into a routine again. For a couple of days.

I went to Missouri to help out with Lonnie's situation. Kathleen had foot surgery, and then Minnie, Lonnie's mom, fell and shattered her right shoulder. She had to have shoulder joint replacement surgery and is now living with Lonnie and Kathleen.

Over that holiday weekend, I had a feeling of needing to call Nathan and Wendy. I fought it off for a couple of days, then called. Turns out Nathan had taken Cole (age 2 1/2) to the Emergency Room on Saturday, November 25, because he was limping and reluctant to walk.

Within three days, Cole was admitted to the hospital and cancer was suspected. Every family's worst nightmare was coming true for us.

I left Missouri on Thursday and flew to San Diego to be house sitter and backup for Wendy and Nathan. Dan drove out the next week. By December 9th, Cole was being transported to St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee.

What I will record here are my thoughts on being a grandmother of a very ill little boy. It has been an emotional roller coaster for all of us, and after seeing the wonderful job that Wendy and Nathan are doing recording their experiences, I didn't want to intrude on their website. I have this little corner of the Internet of my own.

Monday, November 20, 2006

The Office of Multiplicity - The Saga Continues

Progress continues across the street at my Office of Multiplicity. Currently, while Lonnie is past due for his usual southern migration because of health issues with Kathleen and his mother, my neighbor and renter, Roger, is doing some of the work. He is installing the bamboo flooring and has only one room remaining - the sun room addition on the back of the house.

The biggest hurdle besides time on this project is overcoming the many design and installation booby traps left by Lynn. She left the crown molding unfinished in the living room, bathroom and sun room. Because she had not installed the kitchen cabinets, there was no crown molding there yet.

I was very intimidated by the need to finish that aspect of the remodeling job. If you look on the Internet, crown molding installation is the most difficult kind of finishing work. You have to cut the corners on a compound mitre saw, and some of the cuts are upside down and backwards. I don't normally do visual/tactile puzzles at all, so this is absolutely my least favorite type of work.

We discovered that the molding Lynn installed was upside down. That means I had to continue with it in that mode, but this turned out to be the least of our concerns. Some of her mitre cuts turned out to be at very odd angles, making it difficultt to start the next run. Some pieces of molding didn't quite extend into the corners of the rooms, which made it hard to install the next piece without leaving a gap. Some of the pieces were not installed at the correct angle in relationship to the wall and ceiling, which made it impossible to install the next piece correctly. The ceiling, even in the room that she and her husband built is very uneven, which made the molding bend and difficult to nail in place. Because of the incorrect construction of the pantry unit, there was a 1/4 inch gap between the top of the pantry and the edge of the crown molding. Roger removed the pantry again, installed flooring under it, and reinstalled it 5/8" higher, eliminating the spacing problem.

This past weekend, I also hired my former student Chris Faas to reorganize and clean up the workshop. It had been rather badly treated by Lynn, as she dumped out plumbing fittings and failed to replace them in their bins, stacked building materials, and generally left a mess behind after using the work space. Chris spent 13 hours over two days working a miracle there. He has a gift for organization, and he's quick to throw out junk, even when the temptation is to keep it "because we might use it some day." Good job, Chris!!!

The current goal is to have the last of the flooring in and the crown molding caulked and painted by the end of the Thanksgiving weekend.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

I love Halloween!

Here I am, back home from a quick two week trip to Missouri. It's Halloween, and I love Halloween. We don't normally get many trick-or-treaters, but we'll have a few this year with the kids living on our road.

I'll have to come up with a quick costume. Maybe my red velvet dress and my hair up and lots of spooky makeup?

I've got an incredible list of things to do, but I feel very energized, not overwhelmed. This is a good thing!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Getting Stuff Done

Lynn had said that over the summer, she would get most of the work finished on the Office of Multiplicity, across the street from my house. For some reason, she filled her summer break from school with other activities and only got a few things done. When school started, I hoped she would still come on weekends to finish. Unfortunately, this hasn't happened, and when she stopped returning cell phone calls, emails, or calls to her school, it became obvious that she didn't need the cash any more and had lost interest in the project.

Luckily, the gentleman who rents The Blue House is a former house remodeler, and he's jumped into the void and is working on the project on weekends. He has finished the room that will actually be my office, complete with bamboo flooring, and now he's at work on the kitchen, which must be done before the rest of the flooring.

What we have discovered in the past few weeks is another clue in why Lynn quit. She had made a number of decisions during the course of the project that were about to become problems.

1. On the doorway between the kitchen and sun room, she installed the door jamb and panelling in the wrong order, leaving the facing off. Turns out that the facing cannot be installed now without leaving an obvious gap that would run from the top of the door to the floor. Also, when the door facing is installed, the oven door may not open, and we most likely can't pull out the range.

2. The electrician installed the boxes and plugs before the paneling, so Lynn *should have* loosened them and moved them to the front of the paneling. She didn't. So, if you try to put the face plates on the plugs and switches, the screws won't even reach, and the plugs and switches are recessed in the wall.

3. In the bathroom, the linen closet unit was built so short that the crown molding will not cover the gap between the top and the ceiling.

4. The pantry unit for the kitchen was built too tall, and we couldn't stand it up without ruining the ceiling. The solution for that was cutting an inch off the bottom of the unit.

We don't know what else will show up as we work our way through the rest of the project, but it is frustrating to have these problems reveal themselves after she stopped communicating and working. She let me down, and I think she let herself down. It appears she worked herself into a corner where she was going to have to admit she had made mistakes, and instead of dealing with it, she disappeared. It's sad.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

The History of Clutter

Nathan was completely correct on his last visit home when he said that the house is filled with clutter. It touched a nerve because the clutter level has REALLY been bothering me, too, but the last two years have been so hectic that I haven't been able to make any large headway in the de-cluttering campaign.

What I have realized since Mom died is that you can't keep everything that has a memory attached. Mom kept too much from her mother's house, and in the months just after Mom's passing, I felt obligated to keep a lot of those things, plus things from Mom's house that held memories for me. Unfortunately, there isn't room for all those objects in my home. A couple of things will move over to the "office" across the street when that remodeling project is complete, but many things just need to be sold or donated to the Goodwill.

There are many things in various rooms that are momentos of Travis and Nathan's school years, too. These objects need to be sorted and stored by the owners...not me. Be forewarned, offspring, you may be receiving a package in the mail. :-)

When I
left my teaching position at LHS, there were many art supplies and books and some furniture that came home with me. I had spent so much money out of my own pocket that I wasn't going to leave it behind to be thrown away. I have supplies for watercolor, pastels, quilting, sewing, origami, and etc etc etc.

Besides all this, there is complete collection of sports equipment, travel souvenirs, books and just plain stuff that accumulates when you live in the same house for over thirty years.

My goal for the winter of 2006 - 2007 is to finish the office, move furniture, have a yard sale, take stuff to the Goodwill, and generally declutter my home. I have made a start. I've made two trips to the Goodwill with things from the bathroom cabinets and the living room, and one trip to Helping Hands in Edna.

Stay tuned for updates!

Monday, August 14, 2006

from - Nathan's post

Re: What is it that makes you a Texas fan?
Like many of you, I was pretty much born into it. My grandmother got her degree from UT in the mid 40's, Dad was on the Track & Field team from 68-70, and met my mom at the Texas Relays a few years later. Mom was a freshman PE major at the time.

I pretty much grew up going to every home game from the time I was 5, we also went to the games in Houston when Texas was playing Rice or UH. I remember wanting to be Eric Metcalf, and going to the Letterman's round-up each year and getting to meet Earl Campbell and those guys was a dream come true. After each game, Milkman Dan and I would beg my parents to take us to Rooster Andrews so we could get a t-shirt or a hat. I wore #60 in high school, because I was a linebacker, and that's the number that any decent linebacker in Texas should want to wear.

Just like my dad, I spent a few years in the Navy before going to UT and trying out for a team. I didn't know what my chances were of getting on the squad, but I knew that if I didn't at least try out I would regret it for the rest of my life. I survived the 2 day try-out process and made the squad with about 18 other guys. Only myself and 3 others from that group finished with degrees, letters, and T-Rings.

While at school, I also met my wife Wendy. She was one of the first members of the UT crew team, and she is also a Letter winner at UT. There is a pretty unique story about how we met. Mom and Dad met at the shot-put ring one the eastern side of the south end-zone at the Texas Relays in the early 70's. The current location of the weight room is in the western corner of the south end zone. Wendy and I met about 75 feet from where my parents first met. That's pretty wild.

My son, Cole, is probably the only person that I know who has more Orange blood than I do. Both of his parents were UT jocks, and he is named after a UT football player. He went to his first UT game (the Texas/Michigan Rose Bowl) before his first birthday, and he loved it. I can't wait to take him to the letterman's round-ups when he gets a little older. If his mom has anything to say about it, he will keep the athletic tradition alive.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Gelding The Stallion, formerly known as Lucky

Lucky had his gelding procedure yesterday. I moved the horses around between the
pastures to put the mares out on the grass, and Lucky up close to the house where we would have easy access to him when the vet arrived.

Unfortunately, when a mare's foal is a week old, the mare has 'foal heat' and is willing to be bred again. The brown mare is coming in to that, and Lucky went over one fence and through a pasture to get to her. I got to him before he got busy with her....there's a lot of flirting that goes before any action with horses. I got them all sorted out and him tied up to a fence far away from the ladies.

We made a quick four wheeler run to the cabin for some tools, and when we got back, the new baby had gotten outside of the two strand electric fence and wanted back with his momma very badly, but was NOT going to touch that fence again. It took some strategy and luck to get him back in, as he is not tame yet. Lonnie worked the gate, and I moved past the colt and encouraged him to go toward the opening. Thank goodness it worked the first time, and we didn't have to spend an hour running around in the pasture.

Then, the vet got here. We moved Lucky to a shady and clean part of the lawn, gave him the anesthesia shots, and he got wobbly legged, and then sat and rolled over....the wrong direction. This is a HUGE horse that probably weighs 1300 lbs,
even skinny. So, the vet and I each grabbed a let, me on the front, him on the back, and rolled him over. I stayed at Lucky's head, the vet started to get the job done,
and I had to start singing to the horse so I wouldn't HEAR the cutting. URK!

Then, we had to keep the dogs out of the bucket of

It took Lucky about 30 minutes to come to, and he wobbled around for about another hour. When he was grazing and steady we went in the house, leaving him tied in the shade on a long grazing rope (something he is used to.) Next time we looked out, he had broken free and was over by the mares again. GEEEEEZZ.

Luckily, he's easy to catch, so he was returned to his own pasture.
I put his new halter on, which happened to be pink. He managed to lose it over night. Guess he didn't appreciate pink in his newly neutered condition.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Call Me A Roofer

The "Doll House" has been having some leaky roof issues during some of the recent tropical downpours. A couple of years ago, I had a local roofer use the roll roofing to try to solve that problem. It only worked temporarily, and the time came to make major improvements.

My friend, Lynn, who has been doing much of the recent work on the Office of Multiplicity, said she would come early today to help me put the roof on. She always brings her daughter, Misty, age 13, who is normally an excellent helper. Lynn said that she wouldn't get on the roof, but Lynn is normally fearless, and I expected her to climb up and pitch in after the first few minutes. Oh, how wrong I was!

Lynn and Misty arrived at 8:00 AM, which is good, because the temperatures were projected to rise to the mid 90's. I went up to start freeing up the flashing at the upper end of this 24' x 13' roof area. Lynn and Misty stood on the ground, talking to my renter, Frankie. Lynn again declined to get on the room, and Misty followed her mother's lead. The whole roofing project was then up to me.

Lynn tossed me tools when I needed them and handed up the V-crimp sheet metal one piece at at time. They are unweildy due to length, so I'm glad she helped with that, but Frankie did just as well when Lynn went to Klekar's Lumber Yard to get more meta. After I got over my irritation at the lack of help, I got into a rhythm of lining up the 14' sheets of metal and screwing them down to the deck. Thank goodness, it's not a very steep roof. It took twelve sheets of 14' and five sheets of 8' V-crimp to cover the roof over the kitchen and back porch/steps.

During the process, Lynn noticed the fat next door neighbor leaning against his porch post, watching us work. She was really grumbling under her breath about it, so I finally looked up and said to him (with a smile), "You could come help!"

He laughed and said, "I just find it surprising to see two women working."

I had to resist the urge to show him a one finger salute and instead told him, "I wouldn't phrase it that way if I were you." Lynn added some comments about men working, and the fellow went into his house.

Luckily, the weather was partly cloudy, and I had occasional shade from white puffy clouds. When the sun came out, the roof really started heating up. The last ten minutes of work, just before 11:00 AM were horribly hot. I drank two bottles of water during the process, but I still lost three pounds during the three hours it took to get the roof on.

That's a project that's been looming over me for a while, and I'm glad to get it finished. Proud of my work on it, too, especially since it turned out to be an almost solo project!

Friday, July 14, 2006

A Positive Frame of Mind

Over on, there are some folks who just LOVE to be negative, especially if it's a gloom and doom prediction based on a recent media story.

One of the most prolific negative posters started a thread this morning, predicting what was going to happen as fuel prices rise. "
Purchases of things other than what is needed to maintain what we presently have will be very rare. Watch for headlines stating 'starvation in the cities', you will be rewarded. Collage educations will be worthless, learning to survive will be priceless.
The depression of the 30's will appear as being a cake walk, compared to whats coming. I expect to see small compounds banning together to survive, we are headed to third world status; maybe not within my life time but in the near future. Teach your children how to raise foods, hunt and fish, defend their selves, there is no one available to bail us out..."

For some reason, I have a difficult time staying out of these silly discussions, and I posted a very short simple rebuttal saying that we can't predict the future and that I preferred not to tell myself and others negative stories about what may happen.

That opened the floodgates to the other Negative Nellies, and when one of them said that my problem was that I wear rose colored glasses, my patience snapped. Herewith, my reply....

You know, I just am totally amazed every time I get hammered for positive thinking. There are some folks on this board that just can't stand it when someone stands up for not being gloom and doom. You'd think I'd learn to keep my mouth shut.

I will be more specific:

A. We bought Howard Ruff's _How to live in the coming bad years_ back in the 70's. Then, we bought gold and silver, stocked up on emergency food, etc etc. His predictions fell on their fanny.

B. A few years ago, we heard all about how the Mexicans were going to march up Highway 59 and invade. They didn't.

C. We heard about all the diseases that were supposed to wipe out half the population and decimate the ecomony. They didn't.

D. We read on other threads about the "decline of the small town," but if you LOOK, there are thriving, wonderful small towns. I know this, I live near one and travel through them frequently.

E. I have faith in the citizens of the United States and their ability to respond to whatever the world economy throws at us.

F. What I don't do is fall for every media-hyped Chicken Little story.

G. We have traveled internationally for business, and I realize that our 'middle class' is so far more wealthy that most of the rest of the world that our whining about it makes us a laughing stock on a global level.

I don't have rose colored glasses, and I resent the personal attack(s.) What I do have is a paid for home, a garden, and a plan. Because we have been working our plan for 30 years, we are farther down the homestead road than a lot of the people on this list, and I get hammered for that, too. We are successful, and we have worked hard to get here.

And some of you don't like that.

Call Me A Mechanic

I had some trouble with the riding lawn mower this morning. This is the relatively new Craftsman 20 HP, 42 inch cut machine. I cleaned the air filters, sprayed carb cleaner in the appropriate orifice, then saw a telltale drip. The fuel line to the carborator was cracked and leaking in two places. I went to Bep's and got new fuel line, then called Sears to get instructions on getting to the end of the line that I couldn't see. They wouldn't tell me, as it was a 'safety issue,' and recommended that I call for service. I had already checked online, and the soonest a repair person could get here was July 26.

Sooooooooooooooooooooo, I took off the housing for the air filter, and TA-DA, there was the other end of the fuel line. Got that replaced, then decided to check all the sections of the line and the fuel filter. Went back to Bep's for more parts, and got it all put back together. The mower's running nicely now, but the temp is 94 degrees outside, and I'm taking a break!!

Anyway, I'm pleased. The base charge for Sears coming out if you don't have a service agreement is $94, so I think I did pretty well by doing that project myself.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Always Something To Do

It has been almost a month since I posted, due to just being busy. The garden in Missouri is coming on, and there's been weeding and tying up of tomato and cucumber vines. Lots of watering has been required because it hasn't rained in a month. DRY DRY DRY!

We have been cleaning out Lonnie's wood working shop and replacing everything where it belongs. It's three rooms, so that's a lot of work. It's good, however, because it will not only be ornganized again, but I'll know where stuff belongs!

The horses are no longer a problem because I bought them. Randy needed money and I got the Missouri Fox Trotter stallion, two mares (both bred), and a three month old filly for a grand total of $800. They are thin and hungry, but basically healthy. We are starting them on good grass hay (thank you John Walters) and a feed designed for horses who need to be rehabilitated. As soon as they start looking better, I'll sell the mares and the filly. I may keep the stallion to bring to Texas and breed to Cookie, my line back dun Mustang.

I'm currently in Ganado, catching up on stuff here, getting ready for Dan's family reunion and his birthday. It has rained so much here that the mosquitoes are absolutely horrible, swarms of huge ones attack you every time you go outside. Sure makes it hard to go for a walk or bike ride. I wish I could send some of this rain to southern Missouri where it is SO dry that the gravel road to the house sends up clouds of flour-like dust with every passing car.

I'd better get busy sorting the stack of mail and tidying up my studio. There's always things to do, no matter where I am!

Friday, June 09, 2006

Ozark Update: horses, cabin, garden, and quilts

It's springtime in the Ozarks! Lots of things happening, lots to do, weather warming up, etc., etc., etc.

Randy Brown's horses are getting to be a big problem. There are three mares, the stallion, and a filly. Because there is almost no grass in his pastures, and he doesn't maintain his fences, the horses come through and graze at Lonnie's house and at the Cabin in the Woods. Now, this wouldn't be a big problem if they just ate grass and pooped in the pasture. Unfortunately, they have eaten the first two plantings of corn from the garden and pooped on the Cabin's front porch. They had to climb up four concrete steps to get to the porch, but apparently that's not a challenge to these animals. Randy's not living next door at the moment, partly due to his pending divorce, and partly due to the fact that he's living with his girlfriend while his wife is in jail for hiring a hit man to kill him. We've called the sheriff's office about the horses, but they don't seem very concerned.

The Cabin is about to get pretty paneling in the front bedroom. A former guest took it upon himself to take down the old paneling, so this is sort of a forced project. We'll be glad when it's all done, but as it wasn't on our original summer list, the frustration level is high for now.

The garden looks great, except for the horse depredations on the corn. We have been eating tomatoes and collards and squash and Swiss Chard. The chard has been a very delightful surprise. It's like mild spinach.

I have finished a really ugly experimental wall hanging made from 1960's fabric. Looks like a baaaaaad trip. Cole's quilt top is almost finished, and I just need to put the borders on. I'm struggling with what to do for Nathan and Wendy's project. We have such different tastes! At this point, these are just the tops. The actual quilting part will wait for cold weather in the coming winter.

One delightful surprise this trip has been goat milk. My friend Yarrow has milk goats, and Nubian goat milk is not goaty flavored at all. We got half a gallon, and I have been using it on my breakfast cereal, making yogurt, and making herbed yogurt cheese. If nobody told you, you would never suspect that it's made from goat milk. At Central Market, I have paid $3.75 for a four ounce package of herbed goat cheese that I can make here for practically nothing. Delightful!

Sunday, May 28, 2006

A fortunate change of plans

Yesterday was a very productive, busy day at the Office of Multiplicity (formerly the Kubena Cabana.) Lynn, Misty, and I worked there all day, painting trim, staining and varnishing the base cabinets, doorways, windows, etc. Misty and Lynn built the window casing for the kitchen window and installed it, and Lynn finished the under-stairs closet door. My biggest job was setting nails in the stained chair rail and other trim and filling the holes with wood putty. WOO HOO! What a high tech job! LOL It's the little things that are really time consuming, but they make such a visual improvement.

Today we had planned to install the pantry cabinet, towel cabinet in the bathroom, and craft cabinet in the sun room. However, it started POURING down rain at 5:15 AM, and it rained for six hours. The back yard at the homestead was a solid sheet of water, all the way out into the pasture as far as I could see. As the cabinets are in Danevang in Lynn's workshop, and they can't be moved in an open trailer in this weather, work on the Office is postponed.

Instead, I've been performing a much needed cleanout of the kitchen cabinets, pantry, and bookshelves. Much of the boxed food in the pantry was dated before Mom's stroke and had to be tossed out. Beans, rice, flour, and pasta were buggy and will become compost. Some items that are still good but unlikely to be used will be going to a local food drive.
I am also boxing up books that can find a new audience elsewhere. Half Price Books in Austin ought to give me frequent flyer miles! I'm sorting other things, such as the keepsakes from my classroom and other dustables that are no longer important. The Goodwill store in Austin will receive those soon.

Although my intentions for today were sidetracked by the weather, the time has been put to fantastic use! I've enjoyed my projects and eliminated a lot of clutter. Hooray for RAIN!

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Answer to All the Questions About My Plans

Since I quit my job at Louise ISD in May of 2004, my life has taken a few unexpected turns. Mom had a series of strokes, starting on Labor Day weekend of 2004, and culminating with her death on February 24, 2005. The year following her passing was consumed with estate and Trust responsibilities. The business of death and the process of probate and the distribution of her effects determined my daily activities. Add to that necessity of learning to manage the Leigh Family Trust, and suddenly I am engaged in finance on an unprecedented level which requires hours of time, phone calls, travel, decision making, and accounting.

Hopefully, the tempest of the last year and a half is not a pattern for my future. I am still quite busy with the Trust, but it is beginning to settle down into familiarity. With the help of a dynamic accounting, investment, and legal team, the Trust’s holdings have been streamlined. The paperwork load remains high, but as I develop and work a system, it’s becoming manageable.

I laugh every time someone asks if I’m enjoying my retirement. Due to the convergence of events, I feel busier now managing the Trust, the rental properties, and doing Dan’s corporate office work than I ever was as a public school teacher. Not to mention that the emotional stakes are higher as I administer the enterprise created almost seventy years ago by my grandfather.

My intention is to settle back into a life pattern similar to what it was before Mom’s illness. The last few summers during my teaching career were spent commuting from Texas to Missouri for several weeks, home a week or two, then back. That worked well, and I hope to do that again as I work on the Cabin in the Woods and the Trust’s 100 Acre Woods timber project. The best time to be in Missouri is the summer season, when you can garden, pick blackberries, listen to the turkey calls in the early morning, and canoe the river. I enjoy the serenity of being truly remote from towns, traffic, and crowds.

I’ll spend the cool months of fall, winter, and early spring in Ganado, catching up on filing, working on the rental houses, and tinkering with my landscaping. When I get the “Office of Multiplicity” finished there, the business home for the Trust will be centralized and orderly, provide a place to work, and be a safe repository for the Trust archives.

Of course, one of the lessons learned since May of 2004 is that you can’t predict or plan with any certainty at all. When I resigned the teaching position that I had held for fifteen years, I had no way to predict or expect the unsettling events that followed. Likewise, I cannot predict the next few years. I simply have intentions and adjust as events require.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Getting The Garden In

Here in Missouri, it's planting time. Sebastian had done such a wonderful job of getting the raised beds ready for vegetables that it has been a breeze to plant. We spent all of Tuesday morning putting in little plants. There are a few things we are starting from seed (carrots, radishes, corn, okra), but primarily, we are setting plants. Even with the loss of some plants on the west side of the greenhouse due to excessive spring heat, we have enough onion and tomato plants for three gardens, so we took some of the excess to Sandy and John down the road.

Here's a list of what's in so far: several varieties of tomatoes, two kinds of bell peppers, jalepenos, watermelon, radishes, corn, carrots, okra, eggplant, lettuce, collard greens, yellow squash, zuchini, dill, broccoli, swiss chard, lemon cucumbers, cabbage, peas, white onions, vidalia onions, and red onions. We still have two empty beds to fill, and I think those are going to be beets and black eyed peas.

Even with the loss of some plants on the west side of the greenhouse due to excessive spring heat, we have enough onion and tomato plants for three gardens, so we took some of the excess to Sandy and John down the road.

There are seven of the new thornless blackberry plants, but they won't bear this year. I hope there is enough rain to help out the wild berries this year. It's very, very dry here. We also have one rhubarb plant.

Yesterday, I got the herb bed going. Dill, oregano, parsley, cilantro, rosemary, lavender, and basil. The thyme plant survived the winter and is growing energetically already.

The flower bed around the bird baths is filled with coleus, amaranth, cockscomb, and the two hostas that made it through the winter. The small flower bed by the driveway fence has mint coming up, and that's where I'll put the flowers for cutting. I also got some mammoth sunflower seeds, and they are going in the middle of the tomato cages. It'll look funny to have a 7 foot tall sunflower growing out of the top of the tomatoes.

Yesterday, I spent part of the morning at the Cabin in the Woods, rebuilding Dan's fire pit and beginning the process of clearing the yard of rocks. Although Sebastian's maze of stones in the yard looks interesting, it made the yard impossible to maintain. Creative, but not realistic at all. It may take me a month of hauling rocks each morning to clear it. Good exercise!!

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Home Style

Days at home, dashing from task to task, getting things done, and seeing a big list of things that can be done when time allows.

I got all the lawn and the raised beds watered. The drought is beginning to show itself in dry grass and cracking soil. It's not as bad as when the boys were little...when you could drop a 2x4 into the cracks, but it's heading that way. The sprinklers ran a couple of hours in each spot, and some places got treated more than once.

I mowed the new baby grass in the back yard between my flower beds. The mulched path experiment is over. Keeping the weeds out of the paths just proved too time consuming. I had sprinkled grass seed last time I was home and watered it a couple of times, and the new grass did better than expected. The raised beds are looking really good, considering they haven't been watered. The plants that have survived are the tough ones! There were a couple of volunteer grape vines that I had to eliminate, and I'm sure I'll have to spray them next time I'm home.

I sprayed Round UP under all the electric fences, and sprayed the rose hedges with a new herbicide. The fight against rose hedges is going to get ramped up now that I have a chemical that I can use at other times of the year. The other good thing about spraying is the exercise. Hiking in the pasture with 3 1/2 gallons of chemical in a back pack sprayer is great exercise!

Besides the outside stuff, I got all the bank accounts updated, entered in the computer, reconciled, and backed up. The accountant got the tax returns (all five of them) done ahead of time, plus the quarterly returns. Are we an awesome team or what?? It's a load off to know that it's all DONE!

Heading to Missouri on Monday morning. I've got to re-remodel the front bedroom at the cabin since the last guest had some misguided ideas about decor that resulted in the removal of a load bearing joist. Each morning, I'll get my exercise moving the thousand or so rocks that he moved into the front yard to create a maze. Yes, I've learned a lesson. Don't give a self styled interior designer carte blanche.

On to the next adventure!

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

I goofed off!

This morning I drove to Austin and met with Todd to clean out the rest of the stuff in Mom's office and move the boxes and wonderful old wooden filing cabinets to the storage unit. I had most of the boxes loaded and everything staged before he got there, so it didn't take us long to get the rest in the truck. We had everything in the storage unit in less than an hour.

Timing was good, as the real estate agent called as we left the storage unit and asked if I could come to the office and sign the new lease for the O'Dell house. The new renter is moving in at the end of April.

WOOHOO! Two big worries eliminated in one day! I did some shopping, then returned to Mom's house and GOOFED OFF!

Tuesday, April 11, 2006


Today was a good day, really the first day that I felt I could set my own pace and not be stressed if some of the things on the list didn't get done. Now that tax season is almost done and the current remodels are almost finished, the stress level is really dropping.

My activities included simple things like going to Wal-Mart and H.E.B. in El Campo, getting the mail, dropping of papers at the accountant's office, and picking up some chemicals to spray the rose hedges. It was just such a luxury not to have deadlines, and not to have it matter if some of the projects got moved to another day or time.

I enjoyed the day!

Monday, April 10, 2006

Chocolate, It's Just Not Worth It

Terese and I went to Port A for the weekend and had a wonderful time shopping, looking at the sand sculptures at Sandfest, eating at different restaurants, etc.

On the way home, we stopped in Refugio for Dairy Queen ice cream. I got a small blizzard with Oreos in it, and I just should have known better.

This morning, I woke up with a headache that turned into a migraine. One of the worst ever, even to the point of feeling sick to my stomach. I lost the morning to the headache, and the work I had planned to do gets moved to tomorrow's schedule.

Chocolate, especially cheap American chocolate, is a very bad migraine trigger for me. I really need to stop trying to get around that.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Austin, Again

Back in Austin, gettin' stuff done.

This morning I started walking about 7:30 AM. The time change makes it difficult to go earlier than that. I went down to the park, out Shoal Creek to Steck, then back through the neighborhoods on the other side of Burnet Road. Got home about 9:00. My legs feel better than I expected to after making the shift from sedentary to very active. I did walk in Missouri over the weekend, but not as much as today.

I've been by Lowe's to price new vinyl windows for the Vine Street house. That came in at over $5000, so it's not happening in the near future.

The report from the independent flooring inspector was here, so I made copies and took one to Lumber Liquidators. Now, we wait to hear the central office's response.

Had lunch with Mildred at the U.T. Faculty Club. That's always a delight, both in the company and the food. Thanks, Mildred!

Travis is now the proud possessor of his own clay likeness, sculpted by his grandmother in 1990. You can see the resemblance, even though it is obviously a junior high age version of THK. I also took Travis keys to both rent houses, as he's my emergency backup here in town.

Next stop was Total Relief Footware, where I picked up another pair of work boots. Now I don't have to haul my original pair back from the Ozarks. Unfortunately, our good friends at Total Relief experienced a break-in over the weekend. Someone who really knew what they were doing broke the front door, disabled the phone and alarm system, and took 180 pairs of shoes. That's about $30,000 worth of shoes.

Next....GELATO!! It was on the way back to the house from the shoe store, I promise. I had half strawberry shortcake, half 'bounthy.' Bounthy is a combo of vanilla gelato, coconut, and chocolate. Delicious. The store was full of homeschoolers playing chess, tic tac toe, etc, and eating gelato. Noisy, but well behaved.

I've started cleaning out the refrigerator and freezer. Trash day is tomorrow, so it's a good time to get this chore done. Supper was Frito pie made with homemade chili from the freezer. Perfect ending for a busy day.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Many Springs, Missouri

I've just spent three quick days in Missouri, surveying the wonderful work that Sebastian did at the Cabin in the Woods and in the garden at Lonnie and Kathleen's house. The man is a work-a-holic, for sure. He accomplished more in two months than I would have been able to get done in a couple of summer trips.

All the brush piles have been disposed of, and I'm talking LOTS of brush piles. The area around the garage, that no one who lives in the area remembers seeing cleared is now a daffodil bed.

The orchard, peach, pear...are all pruned so that they can grow in a more open and productive shape. This project alone was a huge undertaking, and I am very grateful for his hard work.

At the front porch, a new flowerbed adorns the left side, filled with flowering plants.

At Lonnie and Kathleen's house, the large raised bed garden is ready for planting. This means that Sebastian spent an incredible amount of time weeding, tilling, and preparing the soil in the nine raised beds, PLUS preparing the tires that serve as tomato planters. To the west of the greenhouse, new tame blackberry vines are about to break dormancy.

But in the greenhouse, the best awaits. Many many baby plants in peat pots flourish in the protective warmth. Tomatoes, peppers, onions, cabbage and much more await their turn to be set out when the threat of frost is over.

Thank you, Sebastian, for your labors.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Taking a Break from Austin

I'm back down in Ganado, dealing with the mail, bills, tax returns, etc. It's good to be out of Austin for a while. I truly love all there is to do there, but darn, it's spread out! I've gotten spoiled living in a small town where everything is just a few blocks away.

The situation with the flooring at Vine Street is still hanging. We haven't heard from the flooring inspector with her report yet, but Lumber Liquidators is trying to decide exactly what to do. They have offered a refund of $750, which is truly not adequate. I've asked for that, plus refunding the inspection fee ($250), plus refinishing the floor in the front three rooms and the hall. PLUS a plan in place for dealing with the other flooring if we find a problem there.

We picked up Nathan's big reclining chair from Frankie. It's absolutely beautiful.
Frankie has over 30 years of experience working for large furniture manufacturing firms in Houston, and I bet they were sad to see him go. He's an artist. We put brown suede on it instead of the leather it had before, so that it will match Nathan and Wendy's furniture. I don't guess they will come get the chair until they move to Florida. That's fine. It looks great in the living room!

I had a jury duty call this morning, but it was cancelled after we got there. Most of the people settled early, and the remaining six were no-shows. That loosened up the rest of the day, and we are almost ready to head back to Austin and then to Missouri to be there by Saturday for Kathleen's birthday!

The last two months have been incredibly busy. I haven't taken a day off since late January. I think when I get to Missouri, I'm going to sleep for a couple of days.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Rounding The Bend

This morning was frustrating, and I had one of those hours of not being able to do anything right, but luckily, it turned around.

The exterminator arrived to treat for carpenter ants. He's truly a nice man, and his family has been spraying Mom's house for over 18 years. Mom even did a sculpture of him years ago.

The 1-800-GOT-JUNK guys came at 9:30 and got our two big piles of miscellaneous trash. Everything from an old box spring to carpet scraps and broken plastic dog dishes.

After that, we made a trip out to Lumber Liquidators with the scrap of defective flooring. The manager said he hadn't seen anything like that in 15 years of selling flooring. He is sending email pictures and the sample to the corporate office and the supplier. We are hoping to get some of the cost of the flooring reimbursed and some sort of repair done.

The afternoon was spent in small tasks. Lonnie worked on the door latches for the kitchen cabinets, and I re-grouted the kitchen table. It really looks much better, and we put the plexiglass top in place. No more crumbs caught in grooves!

The flooring inspector is coming on Friday, and Terese is coming this weekend for her scooter class. Hopefully, we will return to Ganado early next week.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

The Grumpy Point

We have hit that point in the remodeling job where every little thing that happens seems to be a big problem, every step forward leads to two back, and grumpiness prevails.

The new floor was installed Monday, and apparently there was one box of defective flooring. The finish has come off in ten spots. I'm taking a sample of the leftover pieces that has the defect to Lumber Liquidators tomorrow to show them, and an inspector is coming on Friday evening. It's possible we will get reimbursed for part of the cost of the flooring.

The new back doors to replace the old jalousie doors were installed today, but now we have to repaint the trim.

The arbor is up, and it looks absolutely beautiful. That, at least, went without a hitch.

We are trying to get through so that Lonnie can get to Missouri for Kathleen's birthday on April 1. I have jury duty on March 29. We still haven't finished up at Mom's office, but I think that's just going to have to wait. The garage is still full of tools and lumber and stuff that needs to be sorted.

Overwhelmed is my middle name.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

The Importance of Stories

Our lives are a web of stories, weaving in and out with the stories of others. When we are gone, some of the threads of our stories continue in the lives of family and friends. The strongest threads live on in our children, and we can strengthen those threads by telling the stories of our lives to them.

As I sort through the debris left behind after Mom's passing, I realize that there are stories I don't know....threads of the web of her life that have been cut and lost. There's no one left who can connect the broken fragments. So, in the interest of family continuity, I will post a story or two in the hopes that the threads will connect the generations.

My mother, Anna Kathrin Leigh, was the only daughter of Roy Earl Leigh and Kathrin Callie Heard. My grandparents (grandfather especially) raised my mom with the intention that she would never marry and would take care of them in their old age. Mom didn't marry until she was in her 30's, and the entrance of my father onto the scene was not appreciated by my grandfather.

The animosity between them was an ongoing factor in my family. Daddy rarely went over to my grandparents' house. I don't remember my grandfather ever coming into my parents' home, although my grandmother visited often.

My grandparents paid off my parents' house note as it neared the end of the term, as a generous gesture, but my father interpreted it as implying that he couldn't make the payments.

Sad that such anger and resentment went on so long.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Winding Up and Down

Today was very busy. The inside of the garage now has three coats of paint, and the utility room has one. I cleaned out one of Mom's old desks and gave it to a nice lady who is setting up an office in her home. She lives near the swimming pool, and she's been watching the remodel unfold over the past few weeks.

We made three trips to Lowe's in order to get the two new back doors ordered.

We picked up the glass backspash for behind the stove and the plexiglass cover for the tile dining table.

David and I went over to the O'Dell house, and I cut up all the limbs and branches that needed to be cleaned up and loaded them in the truck while David mowed the yard. Hopefully we will have a renter there soon.

We moved 43 boxes of bamboo flooring out of the storage unit and into the house so that they can acclimatize for Monday's installation.

I talked to the arbor installer's company. They are coming Tuesday to put the arbor up over the new extended front porch. Terese intends to plant climbing pink roses there.

The gas line plumber came by and capped the last gas jet that had been hiding behind a piece of furniture in the living room.

Mildred and Betty came over to see the progress on the house and to pick up some more of Mom's books. OOPS, just realized I forgot to give her a sculpture!!

Tomorrow is going to be calmer, I think.

Winding Up and Down

Today was very busy. The inside of the garage now has three coats of paint, and the utility room has one. I cleaned out one of Mom's old desks and gave it to a nice lady who is setting up an office in her home. She lives near the swimming pool, and she's been watching the remodel unfold over the past few weeks.

We made three trips to Lowe's in order to get the two new back doors ordered.

We picked up the glass backspash for behind the stove and the plexiglass cover for the tile dining table.

David and I went over to the O'Dell house, and I cut up all the limbs and branches that needed to be cleaned up and loaded them in the truck while David mowed the yard. Hopefully we will have a renter there soon.

We moved 43 boxes of bamboo flooring out of the storage unit and into the house so that they can acclimatize for Monday's installation.

I talked to the arbor installer's company. They are coming Tuesday to put the arbor up over the new extended front porch. Terese intends to plant climbing pink roses there.

The gas line plumber came by and capped the last gas jet that had been hiding behind a piece of furniture in the living room.

Mildred and Betty came over to see the progress on the house and to pick up some more of Mom's books. OOPS, just realized I forgot to give her a sculpture!!

Tomorrow is going to be calmer, I think.

Winding Up and Down

Today was very busy. The inside of the garage now has three coats of paint, and the utility room has one. I cleaned out one of Mom's old desks and gave it to a nice lady who is setting up an office in her home. She lives near the swimming pool, and she's been watching the remodel unfold over the past few weeks.

We made three trips to Lowe's in order to get the two new back doors ordered.

We picked up the glass backspash for behind the stove and the plexiglass cover for the tile dining table.

David and I went over to the O'Dell house, and I cut up all the limbs and branches that needed to be cleaned up and loaded them in the truck while David mowed the yard. Hopefully we will have a renter there soon.

We moved 43 boxes of bamboo flooring out of the storage unit and into the house so that they can acclimatize for Monday's installation.

I talked to the arbor installer's company. They are coming Tuesday to put the arbor up over the new extended front porch. Terese intends to plant climbing pink roses there.

The gas line plumber came by and capped the last gas jet that had been hiding behind a piece of furniture in the living room.

Mildred and Betty came over to see the progress on the house and to pick up some more of Mom's books. OOPS, just realized I forgot to give her a sculpture!!

Tomorrow is going to be calmer, I think.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Food Surprise

Marisco's Seafood Grille on Burnet Road is in an old Pizza Hut building, next to Burnet Road Storage, which used to be the drive-in movie theater. We've been driving by it all this time, wondering if it was any good. Took the plunge this evening, and already have plans to go back there on Friday evening. It was ABSOLUTELY PERFECT!!

They don't have a website, so I can't share the whole menu, but we started with a Mexican shrimp salad. We have had them before that were just avocado and shrimp in salsa, but this was a delicious cold soup of shrimp chunks, avocado, and onion, liberally spiced with fresh cilantro, swimming in a tomato juice based sauce that had hints of sweetness. We asked the waitress if she knew how it was made, and she said there are three sauces combined in it.

Next, we had a plate of spiced chicken and shrimp with mushrooms and onions, sauteed in wine, lightly topped with white cheese. Sides were the most delicious white rice I've ever put in my mouth. We think the rice was sauteed before it was cooked, then simmered in a mild fish broth. The vegetable was a blend of corn, zuchinni, chayote, and carrot chunks.

We risked over stuffing ourselves with the flan. Very light, silky smooth, with a pale clear caramel sauce. Again, perfection.

Our plan next time includes the seafood caldo, crab enchiladas, and sopapillas.

Here's what I found on the web about it....
Mariscos Seafood Grill
A little more upscale (both in atmosphere and price) than their similarly-named competition, this small chain (is two a chain?) of restaurants is an excellent introduction to the joys of Mexican seafood. If you think south-of-the-border cuisine is all tamales and frijoles, well, no way Jose! And, by the way, Marisco's also serves tamales and frijoles if that's what you're craving... (North: 6444 Burnet Road, 458-9440) (South: 211 E. Sixth, 474-7372)

Talking to Folks

When we went to Foley's to shop for shorts (thanks to the 80 degree weather), we got into a conversation with the lady who checked us out. The discussion started about people who try on clothes and just leave them piled up in the changing rooms instead of putting them back, but when she mentioned that she gave some of the slobs her "teacher look," I asked where she had taught. Turned out she was a junior college speech teacher in East Texas, but got out of it due to administration issues, too.

When we went to Lowe's to make arrangements for the new back doors, the young man who entered our information into their computer made the comment that my phone number was from South Texas. I said, "Yes, Ganado," expecting the usual blank look. Turned out he was from Palacios and is between Travis and Nathan in age. Small, small world. :-)

Friday, March 10, 2006


Is there anything they WON'T screw up??

I took the actual re-order sheet into BOA on Shoal Creek. Told the guy the only changes needed was the address. Wrote the info on the order form for him. It's the three-to-a-page business checks that go in the big black book-like folder.

The checks came today. F*&#^%$-ing duplicate wallet size checks. I called the phone number and talked to a couple of really nice folks at Clarke American, and they are going to send replacements.

The next question I go by BOA on Monday or just let it go.

The question after that quickly can I get the accounts moved?

I hate Bank of America!!

Thursday, March 09, 2006

A Rant on Banks

Dealing with the Austin banks since Mom's passing has been an ongoing frustration. Bank of America wins the prize for incompetence, obstructionist policies, and just general lack of respect for the customer. Wells Fargo isn't on my good list, either.

Our troubles with BOA started before we were aware of the problem. Mom and I went to the bank after her first minor stroke on Labor Day weekend of 2005. We made sure I was on all the signature cards, explained the Trust to the 'personal banker' assigned to us, and left thinking everything was fine. Then, Mom had the second stroke, and all heck broke loose. They lost the signature cards.

Every time we went in the bank, the 'personal banker' was a different person. Either they can't keep people, or they are moving their personnel around so quickly that a customer can't even get recognized on bank visits two weeks in a row.

After Mom passed, there was the issue of the IRA. They couldn't document who were beneficiaries of the IRA, had my sister and I fill out lots of forms, and were generally not helpful. A few weeks later, both my sister and I received the same form from another BOA location stating that each of us was "the" beneficiary of the IRA. After more paperwork, we did each receive half of the funds.

When I moved back to Austin to remodel Mom's house, I needed cash. Silly me, I assumed that now, as Trustee of the accounts with my name of the checks, there wouldn't be any difficulty cashing a personal check. They absolutely refused.

Just so that you won't think BOA is the only bank in Austin that tries to make things difficult, Wells Fargo pulled some tricks out of the hat, too. Mom had a couple of almost dormant accounts at WF, and when I went to move them, they wouldn't let me, even though I had Power of Attorney. If I had done them BEFORE she passed, it would have been fine, but because she had, they wouldn't do it. The county took three weeks to get a death certificate to me, then we had to go through probate before I could handle that banking chore.

More recently, my friend Terese gave me a check on Wells Fargo. I went to their drive up window to cash it, passed in my driver's license at the same time I put the check in the drawer. She looked up Terese's account, looked at me, looked at the screen again, and asked if I had an account. I said, "No, but Terese does." She said that they wouldn't cash checks at the drive up window if the person didn't have an account. I was completely flabbergasted and said that it appears that Austin banks don't want people to do business. She said that if I had another I.D. that she would it it this one time, but normally, I would have to go to the walk in bank, show two I.D. cards, and give my fingerprint in order to cash a check, simply because I don't have an account there.

A few days later, I took a Wells Fargo check from the estate sale to the walk in bank, did their song and dance, and cashed a check. Then, I asked if they could change the three Bank of England pound notes to U.S. currency for me. They asked if I had an account, and then told me that they wouldn't exchange them for anyone who didn't have an account. This was getting to be a MAJOR problem.

I went back to BOA with the pound notes. They agreed to exchange them, but they had to look them up in a reference book first. After scratching around a while to find the book and searching for matching photos of the notes, they said they would have to call the foreign exchange office of BOA for more information and approval. After standing at the counter for ten minutes, I told the next cashier that I was going to sit in the lobby until they made a decision. From the time I walked in with the notes until we finally left with dollars, forty minutes had elapsed. Frustration mounts!

In last week's Austin Chronicle, a local semi-underground paper, a long article appeared about the comic book store, Dragon Lair, having problems with BOA. Over a two year period, BOA has lost about $30,000 of Dragon Lair's night deposits. Bank of America is NOT being cooperative with the owner of the store and simply denies any responsibility. BOA has lost one of our deposits, too, made during the day. The check never cleared, so I really wonder what happened there.

On the other hand, the small town bank in my town, has been helpful any time I called them with money issues that I needed long distance help with. More on that story later, but I can tell you that I'll be moving the BOA accounts out of that bank as soon as possible.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Yard / Estate Sale

The estate sale was a grand success, but not primarily due to the clearing of the clutter and the money received. The fun came from meeting all the neighbors who came by, often walking, some with their dogs. Because we had three workers, me, Lonnie, and Terese, someone was always available to answer questions, give prices, and chat.

The first lookers were here an hour early, at 7:00 AM instead of 8:00. These were the die hards and the professionals, seeking specific categories of items. They all knew each other by first name. The front of the house filled, although the sale was supposed to be in the yard, and I finally called out that everyone should pick up a piece of furniture and head out the front door! We could have sold the Amish bent wood rockers several times over, but those weren't included in the offerings.

Finally, we got everyone herded out, and the buying frenzy began in earnest. Who had dibbs on what became important. I think half the items were sold before 8:00, when the crowd thinned, and several items had "sold" signs on them, waiting for the family truck. It seemed like the shoppers came in waves about every 45 minutes or so.

Sheryl, the dog rescue lady, came by with Hank, the Basenji. He's a sweetheart, and Sheryl is always talking about one dog or another that needs rescue.

A couple of wonderful folks, the Clicks, came by and purchased the dresser and mirror. They both work at ACC, and Terese enjoyed visiting with them, as she just interviewed for a job there.

The next lady around on Parkview came and told us the saga of our back fence neighbor. He is apparently in a home of some sort, after wandering in the yard sans trousers, letting the house deteriorate and fill with black mold, and exhibiting other bizarre behaviors. We gave the nice lady Mom's sewing machine for a friend of hers who wanted to sew, but couldn't afford a machine.

Another shopper from Parkview shared that in China, the grief process is allowed three years. Considering how much work there is to do, and how doing the work opens unexpected paths of thought, I think that's reasonable.

A pair of gentlemen who were professional garage salers, shopping for items for resale, helped tremendously, sorting through books for personal items to return to us, and advising us of things to look for.

Mr. Ashcraft came across the street to visit several times. He and his wife are such a wonderful couple, and I can remember when they built that house in the 1960's. They also help with dog rescue. Mrs. Ashcraft walks every morning, starting about 7:30, and she goes MILES and MILES!

Several people waited patiently for Lonnie, Todd, and David to make three runs for more stuff. One to the office for the office desk, a dresser, sofa, chair, ottoman, and pictures, and two trips to the storage unit for boxes of books.
By 1:00 PM, my energy level was waning. The constant chatter of "how much is this" and telling the history of items is wearing. We began a count down, and it was all I could do to sit still and not back the truck into the driveway to start loading the remnants. Finally at 2:00 PM, we loaded and carried two truck loads of miscellaneous items to Goodwill. All that remains were some of the very old 78 RPM records, the love seat, one dining room chair, one end table, and the old wooden turned arm chair. Those items moved back in the house.

Also remaining were the two computer tables. Those stayed outside until Sunday when the signs that said, "computer table, take me" worked. The nicer of the two tables went to a young couple in an old beat-up yellow truck. They said their computer was taking up almost the whole dinette at their apartment, and they were thrilled with the desk. We were thrilled for it to be gone!

A successful, but exhausting day. Glad it's done, glad the stuff is gone, enjoyed meeting all those folks!

Friday, March 03, 2006

A Pause...then Chaos

The last couple of days have been moderately quiet. On Wednesday, we had only Todd painting, and on Thursday, NO workers for the first time in weeks! It slowed the pace of our day so that I could work on the finances, do some back yard clean up, and take a relaxing deep breath!

Today, Friday, the pace picks up again. The ridge vent/radiant barrier installers arrived at 7:00 AM. The tree trimmers and yard workers arrived shortly thereafter. More in that crew than I expected, including a scuzzy looking white guy, and the girlfriend of the son of the crew chief. My 'are these folks trustworthy' radar went up, and I should have listened.

During the morning, the girl, the nephew, and the crew chief used the hall bathroom. I had left my little gold hoop earrings in the soap dish that's right under the light switch. When I went in there just before lunch, they were gone. I told the girl they were missing, just as they were leaving to take the trailer of trash to the dump. She claimed innocence, of course, and they left. We decided to address the issue with them when they returned, but they haven't come back. This may mean we may have gotten a lot of trash hauled off in exchange for a pair of $20 earrings.

I also met with a gentleman over at the O'Dell house to look at Nathan's motorcycle. He said it would cost between $1000 and $1500 to repair it, depending on what level of cosmetic damage one would tolerate, and then only be worth $1500. He has a friend who may take it off our hands for $400.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Back Yard

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New Porch and Sidewalk

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Chewed up and spit out.

Today was one of those days when you feel like you have been chewed up and spit out by the end of the day. Whew, but we got a lot done!

Todd got here early this morning, and we loaded up two truck loads of boxes and furniture to go to storage, drove to Burnet Road Storage, unloaded, went to the other unit, loaded some of that to bring to the house for the yard sale, came back to Vine Street, and staged it all in the front room. We moved almost everything that's to be sold into the same space. We're hoping for clear weather on Saturday, but if not, we will still be able to have the sale.

As part of the moving, we re-arranged the boxes of flooring that need to come here soon for installation. That's work, let me tell you, but it was better to move it forward to be easy to get to NOW, rather than later. Each box weighs over 40 pounds. I've moved them twice now!

The stone masons got here shortly after Todd, and they got very busy today. I'm going to post pics of the new installations in a few minutes. This afternoon, they ran out of rock, and Lonnie and I drove out 2222 to 620, turned West, and drove past Mansfield Dam to the rock yard.

I was absolutely stunned at the development out there. It has been almost forty years since I drove out that far, and it's not the same. Where there were wild hills of brush and rocks and trees, now multi-million dollar homes line the hilltops. Part of the new neighborhoods look like ancient cliff dwellings, and there is NO way the residents can navigate those roads in one of our mid-winter ice storms.

After we got back, Todd was finishing up the closet painting, the masons finished the rock in the front, and we started sweeping sand into the cracks of the paver patio. This is a LONG slow process. Sweep, sprinkle with water, let set, sweep, water, let set, repeat. Tonight was just sweeping. We'll do step two tomorrow.

Our feet hurt, but it's a healthy, satisfactory feeling today.

Monday, February 27, 2006

The Great Wall of Vine Street. Posted by Picasa

The Very Red Mrs. Ellis - August 7, 1993 obituary

From the obituary in the Austin American Statesman, dated August 7, 1993, of my grandmother's half sister. Kathy and I remember her as "Maimie" with the fine house, formal Southern manners, and a domestic servant who served meals.

"She looks like a porcelain doll in her August 1902 wedding photo, her delicate neck rising from a stiff collar and her waist probably cinched in a tight corset under all those tucks and ruffles. But, Mary Heard Ellis was hardly a fragile doll. She was an outspoken Austin suffragette who later became an officer in the League of Women Voters.

Ellis was clearly a woman ahead of her time. A newspaper article once reported that, while trudging door-to-doorin Hude Park, making a survey of reactions to women's suffrage, she got the following response: "Yes, I think women should have the vote," said one man, with all seriousness. "That is, if they are people."

Ellis clearly qualified, and lived as a bonifide person until the ripe old age of 83. A close friend described her as a woman who "wouldn't waste her time on bridge and was too intellectual to sew." But she did enjoy plays, political gathering, and dressing well. A newspaper article about her as an octogenarian characterized her thus: "Mrs. Ellis likes to wear handsome clothes. For a dinner the other night, it was a simple dress - but very red."

(Mary's husband, Caswell Ellis, was a pioneer in his own right. He introduced the first abnormal psychology course at the University of Texas at the turn of the century and was a leader in the field of mental health.)

It's "worker central" again!

Today we have the stone masons back, finishing the wall and the paver patio in the back, the sidewalk in the front, and giving me an estimate on the flower bed border that I'm adding to the project. Jesse's going to do an S shaped walkway from the back door to the steps in the wall, too. He's really an artist.

We had a metal roof estimator. Not going there. Just can't spend $12,000 in that one spot, when a 30 year shingle roof is so much less. Also getting radiant barrier paint under the roof deck, ridge vent, and radiant paint on the inside of the garage door. It should help keep Terese's utility expenses down.

Todd is over at the O'Dell house, cleaning and finishing up the paint job there. He's just a great worker. Tomorrow, he is coming over to help us move furniture to storage. We have him reserved all day.

We hope to have the O'Dell house rented again within a couple of weeks.

We went to a belly dancing exhibition on Saturday evening and had a FANTASTIC time. Terese showed me the basic moves yesterday, and it makes you feel very, very flexible. I may go to a class with her in the future.

The weather has warmed up and is sunny. It's just delightful. The mountain laurel is in full bloom and covered with bees.

There are so many remodeling projects in the neighborhood that the air just vibrates with the sound of machinery and hammers. Springtime in Austin!

Friday, February 24, 2006

Absolutely Incredible Enchiladas, etc.

Austin Fire Department Engine No. 2 has gained some renown as the vegan fire house. Read their story here:

On their website is a recipe for Paul McCartney Enchiladas. It's a vegan recipe, so I'll post that version first, then my modifications.


Ingredients (use vegan versions):

  • 1 pound cramine or portabella mushroom
  • 1/2 red onion
  • 1 or more clove of garlic
  • 1 cup dry textured soy protein
  • 1 cup veggie broth 1 package Taco seasoning
  • 1 large can or 2 cups of enchilada sauce 8 to 10 corn tortillas shredded vegan cheese alternative of choice, if desired


Heat oven to 375

Mince mushroom to fine consistency Chop onion to desired size Mince garlic
In medium sauce pan on low, heat enchilada sauce till warm. Remove from heat. In large skillet on medium high add mushrooms, saute till tender. Add onions and garlic, saute till desired doneness. Add textured soy protein (if skillet is dry add a spray of a non stick fat-free spray to the pan then add textured soy protein) and mix well.

Add taco seasoning and mix till completely coated.

Add veggie broth and mix well (I like my textured soy protein soft, so if needed add extra veggie broth 1 tablespoon at a time).

Pull skillet off heat and let sit for a couple minuets mixing a couple times till textured soy protein is well hydrated.

Coat both sides of tortilla by dipping in the warm sauce. Place desired amount of filling in a line in the middle of tortilla. (3 or 4 tablespoons). Take left edge of tortilla and tuck under right edge so your tortilla rolls up and place seam side down in pan. Repeat till all filling is used.

Top enchiladas with left over sauce

Top with your favorite vegan cheese alternative if desired

Place pan in oven for 15 to 20 min

The warm sauce helps soften the tortilla so you can roll them with out breaking. If tortilla is really dry have a pan of hot water near that you can dip tortilla in to soften, then dip in sauce.

I build my enchiladas in the pan I am going to bake them in so all I have to do is roll the tortilla over seam side down and slide into place.

Now the Finnabair Pendragon version of Portobello Enchiladas...

  • two large portabella mushrooms, chopped
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 1 or more clove of garlic, mashed
  • 1/2 lb. ground beef
  • 1 package Taco seasoning
  • 1 small can V-8 juice
  • 1 large can or 2 cups of enchilada sauce ( I used Hatch Fire Roasted Tomato Enchilada Sauce with Peppers)
  • 8 corn tortillas
  • shredded cheddar cheese


Heat oven to 350

In medium sauce pan on low, heat enchilada sauce till warm. Remove from heat.

In large skillet on medium high, saute onions and garlic. Add portobello mushrooms (if skillet is dry add a spray of a non stick fat-free spray to the pan) and mix well.

Add taco seasoning and mix till completely coated.

Add V-8 juice and mix well.

Coat both sides of tortilla by dipping in the warm sauce. Place desired amount of filling in a line in the middle of tortilla. (3 or 4 tablespoons). Take left edge of tortilla and tuck under right edge so your tortilla rolls up and place seam side down in pan. Repeat till all filling is used.

Top enchiladas with left over sauce

Top with cheddar cheese.

Place pan in oven for 15 to 20 min

These are the BEST enchiladas I have ever made. Give them a try!

Thursday, February 23, 2006

We have HEAT!

After four days of incredible activity, noise, and commotion, we finally have Central Heat at the Vine Street house! Thank you to Christianson AC, Allison Electric, and Precision Plumbing. What a wonderful team of professionals we had working long hours to retrofit this old home with a modern central heat and air system.

Today we had everyone from those companies here at one time or another, plus the city inspector, plus the rock mason and his crew, and two estimators for other improvements. There were fourteen workers in and around the house today, and that's not counting Lonnie as he took down the stove vent hood, painted, replaced old electrical outlets, and kept an eye on those other folks. I managed to get a few more boxes sorted through, too, finding more of Mom's poetry and some documents from 1883.

Vine Street House Activity

Some days you don’t feel like you have accomplished much, but you’ve been busy. Today has been a day of supervision, coordination, and support activities, but not a whole lot of ‘work.’

At the Vine Street house, we had the AC crew for the third day, the electrical crew for the second day, and the plumbers…all engaged in getting the central unit installed, wired, and plumbed. Eight crewmen scurrying around and in the house, in the attic, on the roof, making noise and dust as they accomplish each task that brings this house closer to a modern condition.

Jesse, the rock mason has been here twice. He came this morning to get a sample of the existing rock to carry with him to match as he selected the rock for our new decorative terrace wall in the back yard and the facing of the extended porch at the front of the house. The only loose rock was on the barbecue pit in the back. He took a chunk of the old stone for a sample, and said that he would repair the barbecue pit when he did the rest of the job.

He returned in the afternoon with a sample of the stone he had found. It looks great, and he plans to be here at 9:00 in the morning to start working. He may be done by the weekend!

This afternoon the locksmiths from Cothron’s met us at the O’Dell house to change the locks. It only took them about 30 minutes to get that job done, but we had the opportunity to visit with the next door neighbor who works at the highway department. He referred us to a good auctioneer who may be able to help us get rid of some of the remaining items in the house.

While the locksmith was finishing up, Joe, the boss of the AC crew, called and said they were running to catch another job while the electricians were getting the wiring re-connected. We came back to the Vine Street house just in time for Jesse’s second visit with a sample of the new stone. It’s a close match, especially considering that it’s been 47 years since these rocks were put in place.

One of the things we do for people who work for us is provide lunch. Each day that the AC crew was here, we provided a different meal. Monday was hamburgers; Tuesday was Taco Bell; and today was Philly Cheese Steak sandwiches from Texadelphia. Having that sit-down time with the crew gives us the opportunity to talk with the workers and develop a rapport that leads to a better working climate and a higher level of productivity.

One of the AC crewmember’s name was Roberto. He didn’t speak much English, but he has a fantastic sense of humor. When we told them the first day that we were buying hamburgers, and he said he wanted steak. We told him that his burger was a steak burger. Next day, we got Taco Bell lunch, and we got him a Steak Nachos Bell Grande. Wednesday’s Philly Cheese Steak was right up his alley!

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Family Medical History

I knew Mom had headaches. I had heard stories of my grandmother's headaches. What I found today were letters written in 1886 to my great grandmother by her doctor, recommending various remedies for her debilitating headaches.

The paper is fragile and brittle
, but the handwriting is beautiful and sweeping. The gentle swish of a quill pen across the page is almost audible as I read the words that have survived 120 years.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Transition Day

Today is President's Day, and about all that is different is that the banks and post offices are closed. For me, at the Vine Street house, it's Transition Day. The air conditioner installation crew arrived just after 9:00 this morning to install the ductwork and set the unit in the attic. They have been going back and forth through the garage and house with ducts, insulation, metal tape, ladders, wire ties, etc etc etc.

We discovered that the attic space is quite small. The slope of the roof is so minimal that there isn't much room for them to work or to run ducts. I'm glad I'm not the one in the attic this time.

While they are working, Lonnie and I are delving into the last of the master bedroom closet shelves. Today's treasures included a Time magazine from when Charles Whitman shot students from the U.T. tower and Life magazines documenting President Kennedy's assination. There were also lots of family pictures, some newspaper clippings, and a picture of the house that Daddy built out in Lakeway.

Mom's art work has come to light, too. I have never seen the watercolor wildflowers that were painted at the Grand Canyon in 1947. There's also a pencil sketch of a fireplace at Hermit's Rest at one of the Grand Canyon lodges. I found a picture online that confirms Mom's sketch as extremely accurate. There are pencil sketches that we will get framed to put up at home, at the cabin, and at my new office in Ganado.

The Monopoly game that we modified with Braille lettering was in the living room closet. Also a small bowling alley game that will go over to Kathy's house.

We took one load over to the storage unit today, and we have another staged and ready to go if it ever warms up here!! We're starting a junk pile on the North side of the house, and I'll be calling someone to haul all that off.

James came by yesterday to scout the cleanup in the back yard. I'll be scanning and sending him a picture of Nana and Mom, as he wants to post on his new real estate website that he has worked for three generations of the same family.

It's still very cold outside, in the 40's, drizzling, cloudy. If it freezes tonight, the roads are going to be SLICK in the morning.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Shifting Gears / Multi-tasking

The last year and a half has a time of tremendous change for me. The process is ongoing as I finalize Mom's estate and move ahead with learning to deal with the business of the Trust. I am in the position of making decisions every day that weren't even on my radar screen two years ago.

When I quit my teaching job, I had a vision of what my life was going to be like managing my rental properties and tending to whatever projects came my way. Now, I can barely remember what that vision was.

One of the most difficult tasks is shifting gears as I multi-task. Going home to Ganado throws me into one set of roles and activities, and I am totally immersed in them, but the rest of the projects are in my mind, distracting me and calling for attention. In Austin, boxing up and disbursing Mom's possessions is daunting and stressful, expecially with tax-season duties shrieking in the background. When I'm in the Ozarks, the peaceful forest calls to me, and the desire to garden and landscape are siren songs that lure me from the obligations of paperwork.

I try to focus on whichever task is at hand, but there's this niggly thought that no matter *what* I'm doing.....I should be doing something else.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

One Computer Is Not Enough

Last week my laptop crashed, and although the Flashback Data folks did a good job recovering the files, restoring them to the computer has been more of a challenge. I don't have the disks here with MS Money and Quickbooks. I went to Office Depot and got the new MS Money 2006. MISTAKE!! It won't open any of the backup files. I fought it for an hour or so by myself, then for a couple of hours with two separate tech reps on the phone.

After giving up and uninstalling MS Money, I took my back up disks over to Mom's really old Dell that had the original financial software on it. Guess what!! It opened them just fine.

I'm going to be making more regular back ups, both on discs, and on the computer in the office at home. You just can't have too many backups...or computers. :-)

Something is seriously wrong with MS Money, and I think I'm not using it any more. I had trouble with it last year when I upgraded from '04 to '05.

That wasn't enough for today. After I got back to Kathy and Audley's house from changing out their TV cable box (which went very smoothly), the electronic key for my Tundra quit. When that happens, you can't start the truck, either. Sigh. Luckily, Lonnie was not far away at Lowes, and he had the spare key. Then, a trip to the dealership to get the key replaced. I guess you can't have too many spare keys, either!

Sunday, February 12, 2006


Many cultures use circles as symbols of the cycle of life, of the seasons, and of unity.

As we clean Mom's house, I have discovered another kind of circle/cycle. I am discovering information hidden in boxes and bags that reveal aspects of Mom's life experiences that she hadn't shared before her passing. Each of those items has a life of its own, and the determination must be made to keep it for another generation or allow it to pass gently into the silence of the past. Many objects were actually my grandmother's, obviously kept by her, then uncovered by *my* mother as she dealt with her mother's estate. They were evaluated and saved and hidden again. I am the third generation to make these decisions!

There are items that will, of course, be kept.

My grandfather's letters from France to his mother during WW I. He was very grateful for the socks.

Our parents' wedding rings, hand made by each for the other. Kathy has Daddy's; I have Mom's.

There's a desk that I remember from my grandmother's house, but I suspect it dates farther back than that because the papers in it go back into the mid 1800's.

Old and yellowed crocheted placemats are responding well to Oxy-clean and will grace a dining table again.

There are other things that are more difficult. Mom had let us know that there was conflict between her parents and my father. Mom was raised by her parents NOT to marry. She was supposed to take over the family business and take care of her parents. She met and married my father when she was in her 30's, and my grandparents didn't take it well. Mom never revealed details, but now a letter gives testimony. My mother wrote it while still on her honeymoon, pledging her undying love and devotion to her parents, but never mentioning her new husband. The groveling woman in the letter is not the strong woman I knew. The decision about whether to keep this item has not been made yet.