Saturday, October 28, 2017

Five Songs I Have on Repeat

Here are my five fave song obsessions at this moment. You're welcome.

1. The Gold by Manchester Orchestra



So deliciously moody and perfect.


2. Learn to Let Go by Kesha



Lady, I wish I could. This song provides many feels.


3. May I Have This Dance by Francis and the Lights, featuring Chance the Rapper



Someone needs to hold a boombox over their head and play this song real loud outside their crush's window.


4. The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness by The National



Total nonsense, and I can't stop singing along.


5. Let 'Em Say by Lizzo and Caroline Smith



I've been pretty obsessed with Lizzo since I saw her at SXSW this year. I think she's positively amazing. I'm so excited to see her perform next week live in Austin!


Thursday, October 19, 2017

Chad feels much better. So do I.

I'm happy and grateful to report that Chad feels much better. After the alarming swelling of his face due to an infection, his nice face is now back to normal. The antibiotics did their job defeating the infection in his jaw. I'm thankful for modern medicine. I'm thankful that we have the resources to deal with health issues when they arise. I'm mindful that many people are not so fortunate. 

I'm also thankful that the overwhelming sense of helplessness and worry I felt as a result of Chad's infection is gone. We are both sleeping (mostly) soundly again. 

🙌

Thursday, October 12, 2017

I had a birthday. Chad needs a root canal.



The Wednesday before my birthday featured a tough session at the gym with my sweet, pretty, perky trainer (who is trying to kill me with lunges, squats, planks and push-ups), lots of household chores and a trip to the grocery store to prepare for the celebrations (and laziness) to come. Thursday morning Chad and I hit the road at the crack of 9:00 AM. (That's early for me. #ChronoDelayed) Destination: Dallas, first stop: lunch at Unleavened Fresh Kitchen. Being a vegetarian on the road in unfamiliar places presents a challenge. While a few chain restaurants offer veggie options, I don't always (as in hardly ever) want to eat at Subway or Chipotle. I research online ahead of time for viable veggie food. Unleavened Fresh Kitchen hit the spot with the Gardener Wrap -- yum! Bonus points for location near our next stop: Dallas Arboretum & Botanical Garden. I was so looking forward to seeing the eleventy-billion pumpkins and gourds. The displays were amazing. But I won't lie, the hot weather and blinding sun were a major fall weather fail. Chad and I skulked from shady spot to shady spot, cutting our time at the gardens short due to sunburn risk and heat exhaustion. Enjoy the photos. Know that I was sweaty and growing increasingly irritable when I took them.






This year's pumpkin village theme: The Wizard of Oz




Is that Dorothy in the background? Nope.
Just some little girl standing on the pumpkins.
Like one does.

We traded the blinding sun and sweat-inducing heat of Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden for the sweet shade and air-conditioning of the Dallas Museum of Art. We specifically visited the museum to experience the Kusama installation art piece entitled All the Eternal Love I Have for Pumpkins Call me skeptical about standing in a mirrored box with polka-dotted pumpkin sculptures for 45 seconds, but it turned out to be emotionally affecting to see these joyful pumpkins reflected forever and ever and ever. The optical illusion of eternal pumpkins also left me feeling a bit wobbly physically. I think the artist knew what she was doing by limiting exposure to 45 seconds. If you go, I strongly encourage you to buy tickets to this special exhibit ahead of time. Chad and I wandered the museum for hours. I do love Dallas Museum of Art.

Lovely glass art with a nice view at Dallas Museum of Art

As I shamefully admitted on this very blog several months ago, Chad and I fell off the vegan wagon. We're just vegetarian with vegan tendencies now. With that out of the way, our last stop in Dallas: dinner at Cane Rosso in Deep Ellum. We shared salad, focaccia and an outstanding Margherita pizza. There was cheese and it was delicious. I'm sorry, cows. Thank you, cows.



We managed to wait out most of the rush hour traffic before hitting the road back to Austin. After some bothersome lane closures due to roadwork, we were home safe & sound by 10:30 PM.

Friday morning I awoke to donuts from Bougie's delivered by a handsome, hunky man. (It was Chad.) Wow. (The donuts and the Chad.) We went halfsies on a lavender donut and a cinnamon donut. Both cake style donuts were exemplary. I highly recommend. 

After some relaxed Internet time and lolling about, we stepped out for lunch not too far from home at El Mercado (a.k.a. Old Reliable). Veggie fajitas and a daytime margarita were all I hoped they would be. Many times while dining at El Mercado on Burnet Road, I've looked across the street and spied the sign for Chocolaterie Tessa. With birthday-weekend momentum building we finally visited Chocolaterie Tessa for the first time. The smell of chocolate gently beckoned us inside while the spare, tasteful displays offer glimpses of chocolatey goodness. We procured six truffles to share, each more heavenly than the next.  

In the spirit of trying new things we also popped in to a store in our neighborhood that we'd not yet visited. Magic Caravan at 5003 Burnet Road lives up to its name. Gorgeous rugs, fancy pillow covers, intricately painted ceramics, exotic jewelry, Turkish towels, robes and colorful light fixtures delighted us. Plus I got to meet the shop dogs who were sweet and beautiful, so major bonus points there. I exercised great restraint, buying only three colorful handmade ceramic bowls. Great restraint. 

Chad and I went to see a movie in the middle of a weekday. So decadent. We saw Flatliners (the 2017 re-do). Meh. Then we hit Trader Joes's where I bought everything that looked good. The bill came in under $59. What?! I should go to Trader Joe's more, but it's a bit of a trek from our house. 

Saturday morning I spied with my little eye this lovely birthday tablescape. (Even though my birthday wasn't until Sunday, Chad set the scene early.) Chad made yummy brunch for us which included killer French toast. We did our best imitations of sloths all day. We had leftover veggie fajitas for linner. (Linner = lunch + dinner.) We had birthday cake a little early. We're so crazy! (Note the sarcasm. We are fairly mild-mannered and polite folk.)




Sunday, officially my birthday, we brunched at Blue Star Cafeteria: the only place in town to get good grits. After brunch the weather was brutally hot and sunny for what was supposed to be a fall day. And Austin City Limits music festival made most of Central Austin a no-go-zone. So we scurried home to hide from the elements and crowds. I opened presents. I am now the proud owner of a Kenzo sweatshirt. I try to be all "live simply so that others may simply live", but in my heart of hearts, I lusted for that colorful Kenzo sweatshirt something fierce. My precious.

Sunday afternoon, Chad took his usual weekend day siesta. He seemed distracted. After some gentle questioning, he admitted to a toothache. We thought it was sinus pressure from seasonal allergies making his tooth hurt as it was sinus-adjacent. After three and a half days of birthday debauchery (kidding), things kind of fizzled out by Sunday evening (not kidding). We ate Trader Joe's salads for dinner. Chad went to bed way early. 

Monday Chad's tooth was hurting even more. He googled and self-diagnosed that he probably bruised a ligament in his jaw due to sinus pressure. (Public Service Announcement: do not google and self-diagnose. You'll be wrong.) I went to my workout Monday morning and to Spanish class Monday evening. Chad did not sleep well Monday night.

Tuesday Chad's upper jaw and tooth were still in a real bad state. I rubbed his shoulders between doing loads of laundry to try and distract him from the pain. We met up with Chad's brother, who happened to be in town for his work, for dinner. Chad put on a brave face for his brother, but agreed to see a dentist Wednesday, so I know the pain must have been terrible. Chad did not sleep much Tuesday night.

Wednesday morning Chad awoke to a swollen upper lip. At his 8:00 AM dentist appointment, the doctor diagnosed a serious infection and a need for a root canal. After an initial treatment, and a prescription for good pain meds and antibiotics, Chad should be on the mend. Only, he's not. If anything, the swelling is worse and has spread up to his nose and cheeks. I'm so worried about him. He looks miserable and awful. I offered to take him to an urgent care clinic, but he declined.

I'm marching him back to the dentist tomorrow if things don't look better in the morning. Send prayers and happy, healing thoughts. 


Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Five Favorite Live Theatre Shows I've Seen

I'm really proud to call such a creative and talented person as Max Langert my friend. Friday evening Chad and I saw Max Langert's new play Gibberish Mostly at the newly reopened Ground Floor Theatre. Gibberish Mostly presents a thought-provoking, clever speculation of what goes on in the mind and consciousness of an autistic woman unable to speak intelligibly to her parents. Or is it that her parents are unable to speak intelligibly to her? The set design features an inventive forced perspective of slanted wall lines and door frames making the small set seem much larger. The mirror-image room set design employs no physical wall, instead using different floor color and backdrop color on each side to visually separate the space. This mirroring theme is a thread throughout the play.




You can still get tickets to see Gibberish Mostly through September 30 by clicking here.

I'm grateful that the Ground Floor Theatre reopened after a 20 month absence. Austin is losing far too many of the performance spaces and businesses that made our fair city quirky and charming. I'm proud to support local theatre, especially Ground Floor Theatre.

Chad and I talked about other favorite live theatre shows we've seen over the years. To the best of my recollection here are my five favorite live theatre shows I've seen. (btw: I've seen lots of shows in Manhattan, but only one Broadway show made my list.)


1. Co*Star: The Record Acting Game with Vincent Price



Conceptualized and performed by Lee Eddy for the 2016 Fronterafest Short Fringe in Austin, this play rightly won "best of fest". I laughed. I cried. I saw this play three different times, and still loved it each time. Lee Eddy embodies a character like no one else I know. She brings pathos to even the silliest moments. I really did cry when her character knocked over a beloved houseplant in the midst of "co-starring" with Vincent Price. Genius.

Here is the description from the Fronterafest website:  
YOU act scenes opposite your favorite actor. Directions: 1) Remove script from LP envelope. 2) Turn to any scene you want to play. 3) Place the phonograph needle on the corresponding scene that is on the record. 4) Listen carefully as the narrator sets the scene and the star on this record acts out his part and gives you your cue. 5) When your cue is given, read your lines at the proper pace so that the flow of the scene is natural and realistic. 6) Follow the script but you may add, change or improvise your lines as you wish. REMEMBER! Practice makes perfect.


2. The 39 Steps



Chad and I saw The 39 Steps in Manhattan on Broadway. By some unknown magic, we scored front row, center seats. Four hardworking actors played about a hundred different characters in this hilarious tale of spy craft with lightning fast pacing, imaginative sets and crazy costume changes. My face hurt after the show from laughing, smiling and gasping so much. Branded as "Hitchcock made hilarious", 39 Steps is anticipated to return to Broadway in 2018 - 2019. This is the show to see!


3. Circus 1903



Chad and I loved this touring show. We saw Circus 1903 in Austin at the Long Center.

Read my original blog post by clicking here.

Check out the tour calendar for Circus 1903 by clicking here.


4. Santaland Diaries 

Santaland Diaries (the stage show) is based on the essay of the same title by David Sedaris chronicling his time working at Macy's as a holiday elf. The stage show adds some holiday tunes performed cabaret style for good measure. Chad and I have seen this show many times over the years. I personally prefer Santaland Diaries performed by perennial Austin actors Martin Burke and Meredith McCall at Zachary Scott Theatre. That said, I've seen other actors perform the role of Crumpet from Santaland Diaries, and the show is still laugh-til-you-cry funny and snarky. Definitely catch a local performance of Santaland Diaries wherever/whenever you can. Please be warned that this show is decidedly not family friendly.


5. Annie



When I lived in Birmingham, Alabama during my elementary school years, my parents took me to see a touring production of the musical Annie. The first, and quite possibly the last, musical I ever loved. (As an adult, I'm not a big fan of musicals. Really? You're going to burst into song? No thanks.) I bought a long-playing record of the show. I learned every word to every song.  I retroactively pity my poor parents having to listen to that noise as I readied myself for the imaginary audition when I might win the role of Pepper. I didn't want to be that goodie-two-shoes Annie. I wanted to portray the bad-girl Pepper.

btw: I'm dragging Chad to a movie-party of Annie (the version from 1982) at the Alamo Drafthouse. Send Chad happy thoughts during this difficult time for him.

Get out and support live theatre! I acknowledge that live shows can be expensive. Many venues host pay-what-you-wish performances or offer reduced ticket prices for students, members of the military or senior citizens. Check with the venue, you might be able to volunteer as an usher (or in some other capacity) to see a show for free.


Friday, September 15, 2017

To BYOP or not to BYOP? That is the quandary.

Fall is my favorite season. Halloween is my favorite holiday. I love carving pumpkins. (For those of you who vehemently oppose any of these opinions, go ahead and freak out. Bye.)

Starting many years ago in my tiny studio apartment, growing in guest list size as my accommodations grew, I have hosted many BYOP (Bring Your Own Pumpkin) parties. A few years I didn't have the energy to host a BYOP party (like the year some rotten ne'er-do-wells kicked in our front door and robbed our house). Hosting this party requires much planning, physical effort, some sweat, a little bit of cursing, a good dose of creativity and a lot of cleaning before and after. I won't lie: some years after a BYOP party I swear that I'll never do it again. It's that tiring. Some years after a BYOP party I feel reconnected to old friends and so thankful for social connections. I perused old pumpkin party pics today in an effort to decide whether or not to host the BYOP party this year. Here are some of my favorites. Enjoy.











Reasons to host BYOP:

I worry that our social group and support network are drifting apart. Hosting this party invites all the people we like to reconnect, to strengthen bonds and renew friendships.

Halloween is my favorite holiday. BYOP is a fun way to celebrate Halloween.

I love seeing the pumpkins people carve, paint, sticker, bedazzle or otherwise decorate. 

I not-so-secretly love planning and logistics, especially as they relate to parties and decorating.

I already have the to-do list, party rental list, grocery list and blueprints from past BYOP parties. 


Reasons to not host BYOP:

October is a busy time in Austin including: both weekends of ACL music fest, children's sports activities, school carnivals, UT football games and various fundraisers. 

It's so much work to host this party. From setting up tables, chairs, buffet, grocery shopping, food prep, pickup from vendors, to struggling to be a gracious host as an unnamed guest lets their children barricade themselves in our home's only bathroom during the party for over thirty minutes, to cleaning up pumpkin guts off of the hardwood floors and rugs. So. Much. Work.

About half of the guests don't touch a pumpkin during the party, despite all the carving tools, stickers, paint and bedazzling supplies I offer. I should simply be glad that every guest chose to attend. But some broken part of me really wants the majority of attendees to decorate a pumpkin.

It's kind of expensive. Can one put a price on friendship? No. But this party's budget might shock some of you. 

Good weather is not guaranteed. One year it rained really hard during the BYOP party. We moved the buffet tables inside and relocated the pumpkin decorating stations to our carport. Despite our best efforts the party was kind of a bust.


Monday, August 21, 2017

Five Scary/Suspenseful Movies I'm Anticipating

With all the scary, awful stuff in the spotlight recently, I appreciate the relative safety of fictional scares and suspense. Last weekend Chad and I saw Annabelle: Creation, part of The Conjuring franchise. We both flinched, gasped, covered our eyes, and quietly uttered "uh-uh!" and "oh no!" several times during the movie. That creepy doll was relentless! I can gasp in fright, then laugh at myself with relief about fictional supernatural forces. I can forget the real scary stuff for a while. Watching scary movies is like loosening a pressure valve, letting the anxiety and fear out a bit, before the pressure builds too much.




Here are five more scary/suspenseful movies I'm anticipating:

1. Flatliners 

I loved the 1990 version. This looks like a cool refresh on the story. Plus I have a little crush on James Norton from his work on the BBC mystery series Grantchester.




2. IT

Another refresh of a 1990 production. I loved the television mini-series of IT from ye-olden-times. The trailer for this newer rendering looks even better.




3. Happy Death Day

Like the horror version of Groundhog Day, living the same day over and over until our hero gets it right, and foils her own murder: good times! Seriously, I'm super excited for this movie.




4. Murder on the Orient Express

Another retelling. When I was in middle school, I read just about every Agatha Christie book I could get my sweaty paws on. (I've told you guys repeatedly that I was a dorky, bookish child. Don't doubt.) This version looks moody, suspenseful and worthy of attention, even if most of us already know whodunnit.




5. My Little Pony: The Movie

Creepy. Suspenseful. I may not sleep for days after watching this movie.



Ah-ha! Just kidding. Obvi.


5. (For real this time) The Limehouse Golem:

The sepia-toned visual warmth of this movie adds a sinister layer of grimness and griminess to this mystery. Bill Nighy excels at portraying creepy confidence and brooding sense of duty. Yes, please.




Friday, August 11, 2017

Five Things I Loved About Summer Camp

As an adult living in Austin, Texas, I don't love summer. In fact, I actively dislike summer. It's hot, too relentlessly sunny, humid but also lacking in meaningful rain, and about five months long. Let me emphatically repeat, it's HOT! Summer in Austin causes me to plot my relocation to the Pacific Northwest every August as I stare forlornly at the extended weather forecast.





When I was a kid, I also didn't love the summer heat living in Louisiana, Alabama, West Virginia and Texas. I did love the time off from school, especially those precious weeks each summer spent at sleep-away camp. My personal favorite camp I attended as a kid was Camp Cosby, a YMCA camp in Alpine, Alabama. Yes, it was hot in the summer. No, the cabins were not air-conditioned. Yes, the water from the shower smelled more like chlorine than the water in the pool did. The fun and adventure of Camp Cosby outweighed these trifling discomforts.

Here are my five favorite things about summer camp as a kid:

1. Sense of community

Some years I went to camp the same week as a few of my school friends, and we bunked in the same cabin. Other years I made new friends on the bus ride from my local YMCA in Birmingham to Camp Cosby in Alpine. Bonds formed fast and often lasted after camp ended. As a kid with a limited amount of time at camp, you clicked quickly for maximum fun and friendship. Even after camp ended each summer, I kept up a pretty good penpal routine for at least a few months with my besties.



2. Sense of freedom from "real adults"

Sure, most of the counselors were ages eighteen to twenty-two, but they weren't paying a mortgage or paying back student loans yet. Overall the counselors seemed like a relatively good-natured bunch, happy for a summer paycheck. There were always a few camp administrators or camp nurses who seemed absolutely ancient compared to the campers, but campers never saw much of those figureheads. I especially liked the annual snipe hunt that the counselors took new campers on. Would "real adults" take unsuspecting campers into the woods at night for a snipe hunt?





3. Crafts

I made about a bazillion "god's eyes" by wrapping yarn around popsicle sticks. These days on Pinterest there are some super-fancy, multi-dowel, multi-colored god's eye projects. Mine were not fancy, used only two colors, only two popsicle sticks and ended up in the trashcan pretty soon after I returned home from camp.




I also loved keychain weaving with plastic cords. I spent hours making fancy keychains and bracelets. The keychains were actually useful, and usually avoided the fate of the trashcan.





4. Canoeing

I loved paddling a boat on the lake: more than riding horses, swimming or even water skiing. No, I am not in this photo.



5. Dances/Socials

Once each camp session there would be a dance/social, varying in themes from disco to square-dancing to contemporary top 40 music. Campers never knew what the theme would be each session, but we did our best to wear appropriate "costumes" with the materials available. I remember braiding my hair and using eye-liner pencil to paint on freckles for the square-dance themed social. I remember the thrill of dancing with my camp crush, simultaneously feeling so shy and embarrassed.




Did you go to summer camp as a kid? Did you love it, hate it or something in between? What were your favorite things?