Thursday, December 23, 2010

No Room at the Inn

Merry Christmas!

With three funny cats and one perfect dog (vacillating between forty-nine and fifty-five pounds depending on the pecan crop) there's no more room to responsibly house more pets here at the 1952 house. We have a pet hiring freeze. However, I fall in love with different cats and dogs almost every time I go to Austin Pets Alive to volunteer.

Here are my top pet-crushes, just in case you have room at your house to adopt a new friend. Click on the orange names to view their Austin Pets Alive biography and get the email address for adoption information!


Vada - Update: Vada and her brother, Vivaldi, have both been adopted! I cared for this lovely long-haired lady at the bottle baby nursery. I love her so much because she purrs and snuggles with people, giving lovey-looks. She also plays with other kittens like a mischievous monkey meets the cutest ninja ever. Hiiiiiiya! Gotcha!

Xylia - Another bottle baby nursery alum, this sweet girl was a singleton (no litter-mates) with an eye infection. She wasn't eating, and seemed lonely and sad. One night I had a little extra time and decided to give her some extra attention. I sat her on my lap and scratched her back and pet her. It took a few minutes, but she started purring. The next day I saw her, I got her out to cuddle before her meal and she started purring instantly. She was so sweet and clearly so appreciative of the attention. The more I and the other volunteers cuddled her, the more she ate, and the healthier she got.

Ernestina - When this tiny muffin arrived at the bottle baby nursery, she only weighed 100 grams, the runt of seven kittens in her litter. She was so small, she looked like a mouse, not a cat. Honestly, I didn't think she'd live. She proved me wrong. This feisty little lady surpassed one of her sisters in weight at five weeks old. She loves to jump from high tables and crates, always landing on her feet with ease and grace. She has giant eyes. She purrs when you love on her. She loves to play with other kittens, especially to chase their tails and pounce on them.


Skittles - Update: Skittles has been adopted! A shy, sweet black and white Pomeranian. I love this gorgeous girl! I grew up with an orange Pomeranian, so I have a soft spot in my heart for these yappie puff-balls.

Update: Cooper has a forever-home! I'm so happy for him and his new people! Cooper - We walked this lovable (love-a-bull) Pittie this evening as part of our Christmas volunteering. He is gorgeous, strong and so, so sweet! His coat is super-soft, and he melts when you pet him. I love his black and white markings. Maybe we could make room for him...

Lulu - Update: Lulu has been adopted! This exotic looking pup is learning to love again after she was abused. Ugh, my heartstrings are being pulled.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

I Won't Be There, But You Should

I'm taking the night off this New Year's Eve to celebrate with some non-theatre friends. You should celebrate with your friends (and some of my theatre friends) at a dinner mystery show and DJ dance party.

Dave & Buster's at 9333 Research Blvd, Austin
Appetizers at 7:00, Dinner & Show at 8:00, DJ & Dancing at 10:00
Balloon Drop, Champagne Toast & Dessert Buffet at Midnight
ONLY $70.00! (Price does not include tax or gratuity.)
Reservations and Information (512)346-8015

Can you Say Murder?

On New Year’s Eve, all of the top children’s show television celebrities, Helen Nice, Hubert Quackenbush, Louise Moppet and Richard Hodges, have been assembled to see who will win top honors as the best kids’ show host according to the Parents’ Watchdog Association for Children’s Television Programming. Pirate Pete, whose only reputation is that of teaching kids how to rob their parents blind, is very sure he’s winning that award. To ensure that he walks away with the prize, Pete counts on blackmail to keep each of his fellow hosts from taking home the award. When the pirate gets deep-sixed by a suspected heart attack at the winner’s podium, Detective Safety takes on the challenge to see if Pete’s death was child’s play or foul play.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Dear Santa

Dear Santa,

As you may have observed already, I'm stuck at home today with a suspected cold. I take this couch-bound opportunity to write to you.

I've mostly been a good girl this year: volunteering for Austin Pets Alive, not scratching too much when I had those awfully itchy hives, going to the gym, taking care of the house and pets, learning my lines for different dinner mystery shows, going on lots of auditions, being nice despite the looooooooong hours on that commercial shoot, making the trek to visit my family twice in one year and generally doing unto others as I would have them do unto me.

Yes, I confess, I got two warnings for driving too fast this year. I was very polite to the officers who pulled me over, and did NOT trot out the fake tears, even though we all know I could have. I resolve to watch my speed in the future, even when all the other cars barreling past me are speeding even worse than I am. I also confess I made the occasional smart-aleck remark when I should have held my tongue, but as I told my mom countless times, better to be a smart-aleck than a dumb-aleck!

This year for Christmas, I have the usual charitable giving requests:
Capital Area Food Bank - they do great work feeding hungry folks in the Austin area.
Emancipet - controlling the pet population with low-cost spay and neuter surgeries, and offering other affordable vet care.
Save the Children and Unicef - to help all the world's children, not just relatives.
Austin Pets Alive - they have a fun Christmas tree set up at 2807 Manchaca Road where you can choose a pet to sponsor.

For my own selfish wants (because we both know I have all that I need), I'd like to request cashmere-blend socks, and I'd like to direct you to my amazon universal wish list. Just in case you won the lottery this year, remember to err on the side of extra horsepower and torque; instead of carat-size.

As Chad and I are fond of saying, stank you smelly much, Santa. Be safe as you travel. If you get pulled over for speeding in the sleigh, be polite and apologetic. Don't pout or cry, but then, you knew that already, didn't you?

Love, your friend and fan, Jenn

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Top ten things I'm thankful for this Thanksgiving:

my sweet, funny pets
good friends
living in Austin
our cozy 1952 house
online shopping (No doorbuster madness for me, thanks.)
my fellow volunteers at the kitten nursery for Austin Pets Alive
The Paramount Theatre
the DVR, so I can watch the Macy's Parade in under 30 minutes on fast forward

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Season's Eatings

Typical Thanksgiving food does not tempt my tastebuds or my tummy. Turkey? It had a face. I'm not eating that. Tofurkey? How about NOfurkey - gross. Stuffing? Dry and eww. Yams and/or sweet potatoes? Gag. Pecan pie? Not my fave and oh-so-fatty. Green bean casserole? I wonder why anyone would defile vegetables in that manner. Brussels sprouts? Meh. Pumpkin pie? Maybe a few bites. Mashed potatoes? Hold the gravy.

I'm super-thankful that The Alamo Drafthouse opens its doors on Thanksgiving. After Chad and I do the Turkey Trot fun run to benefit Caritas, and after our nap, we're headed to the only place where Chad can get a traditional turkey dinner while I dine on salad and veggie pizza as we watch the latest box office hit. Hooray!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Sharing Morning Sunny Spot

Kenji and Janie like each other, but they LOVE a warm, sunny spot.

Chad sent this photo to me last week. (I was still asleep when it was taken.) It made my day.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Volunteering: Good for your Mood

I have the post-Halloween blues. Halloween is my favorite major holiday. (All of you who prefer other holidays, go ahead and freak out. To each their own.) Now that I've carved pumpkins, dressed up in a costume, eaten more candy than I should have and watched lots of fun, scary movies, I'm left feeling a little blah, like my aura has turned dingy-beige. Perhaps this is a prolonged post-sugar-rush crash, perhaps a touch of pre-seasonal affective disorder, but I feel less than shiny-happy-sparkly.

The thoughts that put a pep in my step involve the kittens that I and other volunteers care for at Austin Pets Alive. Feeding these little fuzzballs, snuggling these miniature purr-monsters and even cleaning up after these mobilized happiness-spreaders makes me feel better. I can't hold a pudgy, purring kitten and be unhappy at the same time. These states are mutually exclusive.

More than any other volunteer activity I've ever done, caring for kittens warms my soul.

Find a volunteer activity you love. The pay is amazing!

Monday, November 08, 2010

What About this Saturday?

Play with the Murder Mystery Players! All of our public murder mystery shows include delicious dinners, fun prizes and a heaping helping of murder mystery and laughter!

Saturday, November 13, 2010 starts promptly at 8 PM

ONLY $36.95 per person plus tax and gratuity.
Plenty of free parking! You won't get that downtown!

Dave and Buster's Austin
9333 Research Blvd, Austin, TX 78759
512-346-8015 ext. 12106 for reservations. Reservations required.

Can You Say Murder?

Top children's television celebrities assemble to see who will win best kids' show according to the Parent's Watchdog Association for Children's Television Programming. Nominees are: Helen Nice for Stomper Room; Richard Hodges for Mr. Hodges; Dr. Louise Moppet for The Moppets; Hubert X. Quackenbush for Bob the Clown; Pirate Pete (his real name?) for Pirate Pete. Last year's winner Clarice Dixon for Detective Safety presents the award, and conducts the investigation when things go awry. (I play Detective Safety, or Detective Thafety, as I like to call her.)

*This show is not for the kiddies as the show hosts flaunt their true personalities.*

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Plans for Saturday?

Play with the Murder Mystery Players! All of our public murder mystery shows include delicious dinners, fun prizes and a heaping helping of murder mystery and laughter!

Saturday, October 30, 2010 8 PM

Wear a costume! Prizes for best individual and best couples costume.

ONLY $36.95 per person!
(Does not including tax or gratuity.)

Dave and Buster's Austin
9333 Research Blvd, Austin, TX 78759
512-346-8015 for reservations. Reservations required.

Can You Say Murder?

Top children's television celebrities assemble to see who will win best kids' show according to the Parent's Watchdog Association for Children's Television Programming. Nominees are: Helen Nice for Stomper Room; Richard Hodges for Mr. Hodges; Dr. Louise Moppet for The Moppets; Hubert X. Quackenbush for Bob the Clown; Pirate Pete (his real name?) for Pirate Pete. Last year's winner Clarice Dixon for Detective Safety presents the award, and conducts the investigation when things go awry.
*This show is not for the kiddies as the show hosts flaunt their true personalities.*

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

BYOP 2010

There were a lot of kids at this year's BYOP party. Our friends have been a (re)productive bunch. The kids weren't that jazzed about doing anything to their pumpkins, but they sure loved loading up on too much candy and running all over the place. (Sorry, parents.) The grown-ups produced some lovely punkins this year. (Yes, their children and their jack-o-lanterns.)

The highlight of the party: the candy table.


Hissy-cat is mine and Darth Vader is Chad's

Who says pumpkins are the only gourds one can carve? Not Ryann!

Pumpkin meets Mr. PotatoHead accessories.


I love the orange and black outfit as much as the very meta pumpkin carved into a pumpkin.

Waaaaahhhh! It's a baby pumpkin. (Get it? It's little and crying.)

Thursday, September 30, 2010

I Love Kittens

Volunteering at the Bottle Baby Nursery for Austin Pets Alive poses challenges for sure: avoiding getting ringworm while making sure the kittens affected get plenty of food and love; suffering through the very few kittens who just don't make it; washing dirty bottles and dishes by hand - just like at home; finding occasional fleas; finding occasional worms (shudder); kittens with the equivalent of diaper rash; and sometimes the sheer volume of hungry kittens EEEEEEEEE-ing at me to be fed right now!

The rewards of caring for these helpless feline orphans far outweigh any challenging situations. I love: the twitch of kitten ears as they suckle happily from a bottle of Kitten Milk Replacement; hearing tiny purrs; watching strong kittens romp and play with each other; seeing fat kitten bellies; watching kittens who recover from various maladies at the nursery flourish into beautiful, healthy, adoptable kitties; squee-ing over all the cuteness; petting soft baby fur; burping kittens after their bottle; and the most rewarding of all, knowing that I help to save kittens from being killed at the shelter simply because they are too small for round-the-clock care at the understaffed, limited resources, city-run shelter.

While I do love kittens very, very much, please spay and neuter your pets to prevent pet overpopulation and the subsequent killing of pets. Encourage your friends and family to spay and neuter their pets. Adopt your next pet from a shelter or rescue group. Say no to disreputable breeders.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Hopeless Kitchen

I met with our favorite handyman this morning to consult on the possibility of installing an automatic dishwasher in the 1952 House. Sure. We can have a dishwasher. Installing the dishwasher will involve completely ripping out the kitchen cabinets - upper and lower, removing the counter top and backsplash, rewiring all the electrical work in the kitchen, installing a kitchen disposal, and possibly replacing two windows and moving the back door. Did I mention that our charming 1952 House features layers of lead paint and has asbestos shingles on the exterior which will require special hazardous materials allowances?

Um... no thanks. I don't have an extra $20,000 (or more) sitting around to do that just now. I also don't want to deal with the three-month (if we're lucky) dustbowl of a complete kitchen remodel at this juncture.

I'll just get the oven fixed for now. (Assuming that the oven can be fixed - fingers crossed!) That will be plenty fancy. When I'm feeling super-ambitious, I'll repaint the walls in the kitchen. Super-fancy!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Irrational Rash

These hives flair and recede at will. I have new bumps on my wrists and the front of my hands. The bumps on my arms come and go with no discernible rhyme or reason. The backs of my knees and my earlobes still itch from invisible, phantom hives.

Overall, the hives are less itchy and less prevalent than they were at the peak of my allergic reaction to nine doses of Cipro. I am still drained of energy after the gradual step-down dosing of steroids. There is a scared, hysterical, irrational part of me that feels like I will never be normal again. My rational inner voice tries to reassure that drugs can stay in one's system for weeks, and that this too shall pass.

Meanwhile, I haven't been to the gym for three weeks. (Gasp!) I did lots of volunteer work while on the steroids - close to twenty hours in one week. Post-steroids, I logged only four hours volunteering this week. I did a dinner theatre show where my old-lady romance writer costume mercifully covered most of my bumpy, irritated skin. Post-show, I slept for nearly twelve hours.

This is not fun. I'm ready to be healthy again, please.

Monday, September 13, 2010


I took my last steroid pill yesterday morning. I'm still a bit itchy, but the hives are slowly leaving.

Just say no to drugs, kids! Especially if you're allergic to them.

I'm now experiencing the post-steroid crash. I've been sleeping and then sleeping some more. I've been having strange dreams too. I'm a bit achy all over as if I have the flu, but it's a tired ache; not an exertion ache.

The past three weeks have not been fun between the original bacterial infection, the allergic reaction to the medication, the steroid rush, and now, the post-steroid crash.

I look forward to being healthy and presentable (hive-free) soon!

Thursday, September 09, 2010


I'm on steroids, and wow!, am I getting a lot done! The house is sparkling clean!

Don't report me to the authorities. I have a prescription. My hives are slowly shrinking and getting less itchy in response to these wonderful steroids. The only downsides are that I feel like my head is vibrating, it's hard to sleep and I have a little heartburn. Small prices to pay to be free from the hideous hives and their relentless itchiness!

Monday, September 06, 2010


Raspberry, the kitten, and one of her siblings, Rigatoni, have moved on to Kitty Heaven. I'm sad that they fought to breathe for many days, but ultimately didn't make it. I take a tiny comfort in knowing that they aren't in pain or distress anymore. Their other four siblings are gaining weight and nursing from their mama-cat now. I hope the other four kittens grow up to be healthy cats in fantastic forever-homes. Their sweet mom, Emma, also deserves a great home. She's been so nice to all of us at the Bottle Baby Trailer as we handle her babies and shuffle her in and out of the saline-mist-tent.

On the bright side, I got to feed lots of adorable, healthy kittens at the Bottle Baby Trailer this afternoon. Purr...

My rash (from taking nine doses of a medication to which I'm apparently very allergic) continues to worsen. There are hives all over me: on my legs, on my arms, on my tummy, on my back, on my posterior, in my ears, on my scalp, in my nostrils and possibly in my throat judging from a suspicious tickle and mild cough. Hopefully when I see the doctor tomorrow, he can give me something to make this better. Come on, Cortisone shot!

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Say a Prayer

Tonight at the Bottle Baby Trailer, little Raspberry struggles to breathe. Weighing just 180 grams, this tiny kitten has a respiratory infection. The fine volunteers for Austin Pets Alive (myself included) are doing all we can to help this little fuzzy soul: using a baby aspirator to suck goo out of her nostrils, putting her in a tent with a nebulizer of saline solution, feeding her Kitten Milk Replacement with a dropper. I had the midnight to 2:00 AM shift, and hated to leave for fear that she'll stop breathing; not that I could do anything more than I did to help her. I hope that the volunteer going in at 8:00 AM finds Raspberry breathing and well-rested, along with her other five siblings and her mom, Emma.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010


Last week I went to fill a prescription for Cipro to treat a suspected bacterial infection. The pharmacist, who was sporting a mesmerizing, sparkly, orange manicure, asked if I knew if I had any drug allergies. Nope. Got my Cipro and started taking it as directed Thursday evening.

Friday morning I awoke to find a few itchy bumps on my elbow. Fearful that I might have contracted ringworm (despite taking many precautions) from feeding tiny baby kittens at the Bottle Baby Trailer for Austin Pets Alive, I had Chad inspect the bumps. Chad has no medical training, but has seen people who have ringworm. Nurse Chad said that the bumps appeared to be little bug bites.

Saturday morning I found a few bumps on my knee.

Sunday morning I found a bump on my wrist.

Monday I spent three hours on the road to and from San Antonio for a commercial shoot that lasted fifteen hours. As Monday progressed into the wee hours of Tuesday, I felt itchier and itchier, with bumps multiplying seemingly exponentially. When I finally arrived home at 3:00 AM Tuesday, I took my Cipro with a tragically unhealthy dinner of a giant cinnamon roll and a glass of milk. I also decided that maybe I should read the three page warning document that came with my Cipro prescription. Guess what? Some people have severe allergic reactions to Cipro expressed in many forms including rash and hives.

Tuesday morning, while I got some much-needed shut-eye, Nurse Chad scheduled my doctor's appointment. He drove me to the doctor where we confirmed that I am very likely allergic to Cipro and that I do not have ringworm.

Now I'm drinking lots of water in attempts and flush out the Cipro. I'm taking oatmeal baths, swallowing the maximum recommended doses of Benadryl and trying to sleep so I can heal.

I'm also trying really, really hard not to scratch.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

No Cupcakes for You!

Our temporary solution to the broken oven is to refrain from all baking/broiling activities.

I found the manual for the oven which dates back to 1999. It advises owners to contact a designated repair person to fix the oven. It also advises DIYers that improper repairs or improper attempts at repairs can result in explosion with possible injury or death. The foolhardy readers among you are now wagging your index finger at the screen, scoffing at me that the manuals just say that for liability reasons, and that you know just how to fix our gas oven that refuses to ignite. Thanks for your well-intended cheerleading, but we'll leave this one to the professionals.

Maybe I'll think about calling a repair person after Labor Day. Between the pest control guy, the nice arborist and tree trimmers, the excellent water heater plumbers and the over-scheduled city water heater installation inspector, Chad and I have been tethered to the 1952 house many days between the hours of 8:00 AM and 5:00 PM lately. We have things to do and places to go other than our own home: such as running to the bakery for stuff from their ovens.

Thursday, August 26, 2010


I broke the kitchen last night. I preheated the oven to make corn muffins to accompany vegetable plates. The oven did not get hot, but did stink-up the house something awful with the smell of natural gas. All pets evacuated to the backyard with me, but not before the front of the utensil drawer came off in my hand... again.

So I ask again (mostly rhetorically), why did we buy a house?

Monday, August 23, 2010

To Do Lists


• Vacuum
• Iron clothes from massive laundry attack this weekend
• Wash and chop veggies for dinner salad
• Moonlight kayak
• Walk Janie
• Water the wilting, sunburned plants

This week:

• Contact handyman about patching drywall in water heater closet
• Buy charcoal-grey paint for lower kitchen cabinets
• Paint kitchen walls and cabinets
• Go to IKEA. Be brave. Buy kitchen lights.
Seriously, do not get overwhelmed and leave IKEA without the kitchen lights.
• Maybe skip IKEA
• Paint water heater closet
• Install shelves in new linen closet/old water heater closet
• Read and recycle at least one magazine from growing stack of magazines


• Get the one wonky pier and the one wonky beam under house repaired
• Have carport parking pad concrete either repaired or replaced with interlocking pavers
• When it's not 100 degrees Fahrenheit outside, weed the planting beds & remove dead plants
• When it's not 100 degrees Fahrenheit outside, dig out bad soil from planter and replace with excellent Ladybug soil
• When it's not 100 degrees Fahrenheit outside, plant some fall stuff
• When it's not 100 degrees Fahrenheit outside, clean out gravel/debris from the rain barrel

Friday, August 20, 2010

Idle Hands?

I'm back from five days visiting the five nieces and nephews on my side of the family, plus Mom and my sister and her husband. I'm just a wee bit tired after rollerskating, bowling, letting my seven-year-old niece drive me around the family farm in the Gator (she's an excellent driver, but the terrain was bumpy), back to homeschool supply shopping and general visiting.

While it was great to see my relatives, I'm happy to be back in Austin. I'm getting back into my daily routine of watering the plants, walking Janie, loving on the kitties, going to the gym, etc...

I'm getting back to volunteer activities with Austin Pets Alive: bottle-feeding tiny kittens and writing blog articles for cats available for adoption. I got an email last week that Austin Pets Alive finally has a building for a more permanent home; versus the series of trailers and pop-up tents that previously housed the veterinary clinic and some adoption facilities. The building needs lots of work including painting. I like to paint.

Do I paint my own kitchen this weekend? I have the supplies and it's been on my to-do list for a while. I can rest in the comfort of my own digs between coats of primer and paint. Or, do I volunteer to go paint the APA building where I can meet some new people and socialize a bit while painting? Hmmm...

Or, do I spurn my inner Puritan work ethic and take it easy and not paint anything this weekend? (Gasp!) There are lots of magazines in the living room that aren't going to read themselves between doing loads of laundry.

I'll ponder this further as I give Janie a bath. I love her, but she is super-stinky.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Good News!

We did pay a pretty many pennies for a new tankless water heater. The bill was the only bad news, but it could have been worse.

The good news:

We do not need new pipes. Hooray! (New pipes would have doubled today's bill.) We have good, sturdy, copper pipes.

Since the new tankless heater is mounted outside of the house, we have space for a linen closet where the old water heater tank lived. Add "patch drywall holes" and "build shelves" to the project list.

We will now have plenty of hot water, even when I want to take a bath in the winter. No more boiling water on the stove and toting it to the tub in a manner reminiscent of Little House on the Prairie. (No offense, Laura Ingalls.)

While the plumbing guys were here, they fixed the toilet. For the record, the plumber said my fix-it job a few months ago was done correctly, but that a different part was also worn out. I guess this trouble-shooting ability is one of the many reasons plumbers get a license instead of just watch youtube videos to learn how to do plumbing.

We are eligible for a federal tax credit for upgrading to a more energy-efficient water heater. The amount will be equal to about 40% of today's bill.

While the budget won't allow for any kitchen upgrades past new paint, at least the hot water will last longer as we wash dishes by hand. Maybe we can have a long weekend away this fall if it doesn't involve paying airfare.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Why Did We Buy a House?

We do indeed need a new water heater. We may also need a new pipes throughout the house, or maybe the plumber service guy just has a sales quota to meet. Since Chad and I are not licensed plumbers, we will not be attempting to install our own water heater. It's one thing to fix the toilet (only to have a different part of the toilet break months later), but an entirely different thing to deal with gas lines and water lines running into the same thingy-ma-bob that could go kaboom!

In light of the very necessary new water heater and possibly necessary total re-pipe job on the 1952 house, there will be no kitchen remodel. There will be no automatic dishwasher. I hope for the sake of our budget that there won't be any new kitchen appliances anytime soon. There will also likely be no fall vacation.

Prepare yourself for dizzying logic (and lack thereof) as I try to figure out what we were thinking when we bought a house.

Anyone who tells you that owning a home is cheaper than renting is a real estate agent and/or sorely misinformed. When I add the interest we pay on our mortgage, and how much larger our monthly mortgage payment is than any of our previous rent rates (two to three times more, seriously, and in one case for less square footage), and our ever-rising property taxes, and the amount of money and time we spend maintaining the house inside and outside, and the fact that now we pay all our own utility and cable bills (whereas rental properties usually covered some or all of those bills), my head hurts.

Chad feels renting is an unsettled and unsure way to live, because your rent rate can go up at the end of your lease, or the property owner can decide not to renew your lease. I never agreed with him until we were bribed out of our two-year lease at the posh condo after only thirteen months by a new owner. The location of the posh rental condo proved a deal-breaker when we had the opportunity to buy it - nestled on a freakishly steep hillside of one of Austin's most notoriously dangerous and busy roads. We also gained a bit too much insight into the condo mismanagement when the condo's property management company (allegedly) embezzled the entire reserves fund from the condo association and then declared bankruptcy. Phew! Dodged a bullet there!

As mortgage-payers (I can't honestly say homeowners for another twenty-some years), we can decorate, upgrade and paint knowing that we keep the fruits of our labor, for better or worse. (When I say worse, I'm thinking of the radioactive green paint in our kitchen. Its days are numbered.)

We get federal tax breaks which are pretty much wiped out or usurped by the property taxes. Of course, property taxes pay for local services, but most of those local services are also enjoyed by renters. So I guess that logic makes for some moot financials. Especially when I admit that mortgage payments and home maintenance costs are much higher than rent rates.

We can have more fur-children in our own home than if we were renting or living in a condo.

We have more room for parties. We should throw another party soon...

We have a washer and dryer here that only we use. No more trips down to an overcrowded laundry room or to the dodgy laundromat. Although the washer and dryer are in the carport and get dirty out there. Also, I have to put on clothes to go out there. No streaking to the laundry room for a fresh towel right out of the dryer.

We have a big yard that falls into both the pro and con list.

We're paying a premium for a few freedoms and benefits.

If there's any wisdom I can impart here, it's this: don't buy a house or condo until you are ready. Don't let anyone pressure you into buying a home with the argument that it's cheaper in the long run than renting, because it isn't. Have lots and lots more money saved than you think you'll need. And as my dearly departed dad liked to quip, "you can live in a car, but you can't drive a house."

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Hot Water Heater Erupts

The ancient hot water heater at the 1952 House has erupted. Authorities are unable to pinpoint the actual eruption time, but estimate the occurrence sometime during the past week. Casualties include a Swiffer broom and several floor boards in the hot water heater closet. Residents thought the hot water heater was dormant. They were stunned to discover the soggy mess today. A leading professional in the field of hot water heater research will soon investigate the matter.

After existing peacefully with the hot water heater for several years, residents were lulled into a sense of complacency about the hot water heater, but now fear for the safety of their budget after this eruption. One resident said, "I'm sorry you had to discover that mess today. I'm not excited about spending the money, but if the service guy says we need a new hot water heater, then we'll get one." Stay tuned as this exciting story unfolds.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


That's the sound I made often today. Blech. Stomach bug or food poisoning? Who knows? So far, Chad doesn't have any symptoms. Hopefully he'll be spared from whatever it was.

The misery started at 7:00 AM, and was mostly over by 10:00 PM when I requested a Diet Coke with a slice of lime and five Melba Toast pieces. Despite earlier attempts to rehydrate and refuel, the DC and Melbas were the first things to stay down.

A pattern is emerging that I have a cranky wreck day immediately before exhibiting unmistakable illness signs of the stomach variety. It's like my body is saying, "What? I tried to warn you. You should have bought some Saltines yesterday."

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Bad Day Meet Haunted Toilet

In my reckless, overachieving youth, I did not sleep much. I had too much to do! Too much studying, too much socializing, too many chores, too many work hours and too many school-sanctioned extracurricular activities left little time for mere biological imperatives such as sleep. I am now paying the piper, or maybe the sandman, for all that missed sleep. In my middle-age, if I don't get at least seven hours of quality shut-eye, I'm a cranky wreck the next day.

Today was one of those cranky wreck days. Every little minor chore and annoyance magnified to colossal proportions in my sleep-deprived psyche. I won't bore you with all the gory details. The main made-me-want-to-cry moments involved the toilet (yes, the toilet I thought I fixed months ago, the ONLY toilet in our 1952 house) hissing repeatedly and loudly as air pressure met water somewhere in the tank. When I removed the toilet tank lid to investigate, I watched to floater ball bouncing up and down rhythmically as the water in the toilet tank did its best impression of a wave pool.

Clearly the toilet is haunted. I'm not sure whether to call a plumber or an exorcist.

I eventually got the toilet to hush by adjusting the floater ball a bit and turning off the water supply to the toilet until it calmed down. Later I turned the water supply back on for the tank. We'll see how long that little tweak keeps to toilet tank ghost at bay.

Incidentally, my next house will be brand-spanking-new with two bathrooms and other modern conveniences!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Won't You Be My Neighbor?

Our neighbors' house is for sale. The sign went up in their front yard yesterday. They have been cool neighbors, so we're sad to see them go. We hope more cool people buy the house and move into it. If you ever thought you'd like to live next door to us, here's your chance!

We're hoping that the future owner of the house next door occupies the house. We aren't terribly keen on the idea of the house being a rental or of the house being leveled for an oversized duplex to be built in its place. Wish us luck!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

How Much Longer 'Til We Get There?

When Chad and I moved into the 1952 house a little over four years ago, we thought we would be here for five to ten years. We wanted to make the house livable according to our standards and taste. We vowed not to do anything with resale value in mind, but instead to think of what we wanted and/or needed to be comfortable here.

Since Chad left his fancy-pants job to start his own business, our budget became a bit more restricted. We won't be "movin' on up (movin' on up) to a DEE-luxe apartment in the sky-hy-hy-hy" anytime in the near future, and definitely not next year. No Brown Building or Nokonah loft for us just yet. We will be very comfortably housed here.

Okay, comfortable in many ways except for kitchen activities. We have no automatic dishwasher. We wash and dry our dishes the old-fashioned way: by hand. The cabinets and countertop in the kitchen are not tall enough to fit a standard dishwasher. There's no plumbing or electrical work for a dishwasher. Though some previous owner of the 1952 house put in new tiles and countertop, the cabinets and drawers in the kitchen are original to the 1952 house. These cabinets and drawers have a certain charm, until you realize that each time you open or close a drawer, sawdust rains down on everything in the cabinet below. Tonight, as Chad washed and I dried dishes, I opened a drawer to put away some clean kitchen gadgets, and the drawer-face came off in my hand. We nailed the drawer-face back into place after I quit laughing semi-hysterically. I need to get the construction adhesive out of the shed tomorrow and cement the drawer-face back into place since the nails will only hold it for one or two more openings. The appliances in our kitchen date back to 1989. Sure, they all work. They are all white, thus matching in color, but no two appliances matching in brand or vintage. The microwave has a big crack in the doorframe, which Chad insists is fine, because the inner seal on the microwave door is intact. Nonetheless, I try not to stand anywhere near the microwave when it's running. Safety first!

We'll be living here a good while longer than we originally thought we would. I would really, really, really love to have a dishwasher, along with newer, safer, more energy efficient appliances all around. Accommodating a dishwasher would mean new cabinets and drawers, new countertop and backsplash too. In this case, it's necessary to throw the proverbial baby out with the proverbial bathwater, because you don't want to wash dishes in dirty bathwater.

If I had a crystal ball, and I could know for certain how much longer we will live in this sweet, old 1952 house, it would help me determine whether or not I want to invest the time, energy, inconvenience and money into remodeling and modernizing the kitchen here. Any closeted psychics out there, feel free to speak up!

I peruse the home project websites often, and came across this lovely kitchen designed by Erinn Valencich on the DIY Network's website. The tile backsplash matches the tiles in our bathroom too. I want to go to there.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Honk! Who Goes There?

Friend or foe? Or stranger? Or someone with a mild case of road rage? There are lots of motorists honking at, or near, the 1952 house, sometimes at the oddest hours.

Sometimes a brief "honk-honk" can be heard from the busy street adjacent to the 1952 house. Chad and I wonder if it might be friends giving a greeting to us or a neighbor. Sometimes a long "haaaaaawwwwwwnnnnkkkk" can be heard, likely expressing disapproval at a fellow motorist on the busy street, or perhaps to say, "woooo... it's 2:15 AM. I should NOT be driving!"

Sometimes when I'm out watering the plants at night, a motorist gives a short, sharp "honk!" Usually there are no other cars around when this happens. So I wonder if the motorist just wants to startle me as they barrel by me in the dark, breaking the speed limit, in a vehicle that outweighs me ten to twenty times over. Is it their way of saying, "I could run over you right now if I wanted to! Hahaha."?

Please feel free to wave at us as you drive by the house. Turn onto our street and say hello if you see us out in the yard, and you have a few minutes to chat. If you must honk at us or our house, we politely request that you give the approved brief "honk-honk" between the hours of 9:00 AM and 9:00 PM Central Standard Time. Failure to comply with these requests may result in a rotten tomato being lobbed at your vehicle or a one-fingered wave. (Obviously I'm kidding. I save the rotten tomatoes for the composter. Plus, I don't have the best pitching arm.)

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Brunch for a Great Cause

Recently I signed up to volunteer for Austin Pets Alive! as a "bottle baby" feeder (feeding tiny kittens and monitoring their health). I have to attend some training before I get to cuddle and coddle the tiny kittens, but I'm so happy to be part of this nonprofit. Austin Pets Alive! does lots of fundraisers and materials donation drives. Here's a fun event you can attend this weekend. Who's with me?

Plain Ivey Jane and Sagra Fashion Brunch
The chic brunch menu will be served along with $1 mimosas and bellinis while models use the restaurant as a catwalk to showcase Plain Ivey Jane’s top picks for summer. Each guest can choose one of Chef Pellegrini’s mouth-watering brunch creations from Mushroom Risotto to Shrimp Marsala along with fresh fruit and homemade scones and muffins. The brunch will benefit Austin Pets Alive! Bring one item from the APA! Wish List (food, towels, bowls) to receive one free mimosa or bellini. The cost for the brunch is $20 a person plus drinks. Call Sagra at 512-535-5988 for reservations.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Wise Beyond Her (Almost Eight) Years

Saturday morning, I was in the children's section of Half Price Books trying to track down some out of print titles for my nephew's homeschool lesson plans. Fairly deep in concentration between the emailed list of books on my Blackberry and the not exactly alphabetized by author bookshelves, a little girl's face peered up at me and said, "hello," breaking into my vision and attention.

"Hi," I replied.

"Tomorrow is my birthday," she said.

"Oh, cool. Happy Birthday. How old will you be?"

"I'll be eight," she said with a certain amount of pride.

"Are you going to see fireworks tomorrow night?" I asked.

"No. We're going to the bowling alley for two hours with my sister and one of my friends."

"That sounds fun. Have a good time." She kept staring at me. I figured I should say something else. "One of my grownup friends has a birthday on the fourth of July too. When she was a little girl, she thought the fireworks were for her birthday. You know, before she learned about Independence Day on the fourth of July."

The little girl was unimpressed with this tidbit. "Do you have any children?" she asked.

"I have eight nieces and nephews, but I don't have any children of my own. I'm looking for some books for one of my nephews right now."

"Nephew... is that a boy or a girl?" she asked.

"A boy," I said.

"I go to Brentwood Elementary School. I had to change schools because I got into trouble, and the old school wasn't nice to my parents."

"Oh. I had to change schools a few times when I was a kid because my family moved to different places," I said.

"Did you like that?" she asked.

Honestly, I hated it every single time, but I fibbed a little in my response. "Sometimes I was excited to move to a new school and start over, but sometimes I didn't like it."

She thought for a second and said, "That must have been hard for you to make friends and then have to leave. Maybe sad."

Oh, little one, it made me so sad each and every time. I nodded at her. Then she reached down to a low bookshelf and plucked out a prize. "I have this book. I like it. Maybe your nephew would like it." She smiled up at me as she displayed the cover for Walter the Farting Dog.

I smiled, and fought the urge to pet the little girl's head.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Love List for Summer 2010

Chad and I had two friends in college who were cousins to each other, but who had shared verbal oddities and strange, secret rituals like many twin siblings do. These cousins were from the New Orleans area and introduced us to the lovely tradition of king cake parties during the pre-Lenten season. They taught us the official king cake song which sounded very silly and involved holding up your index fingers from closed fists on both hands and bending those index fingers up and down in time to the song. We later found out that the cousins made up the song and hand movements.

They also taught us how to play Mystery Card which was a nonsensical card game that involved holding up your index finger from a closed fist and saying the words "mystery card" in a high-pitched, sing-song voice before drawing a card. Each player took turns drawing cards until the deck was depleted. There were no winners or losers in Mystery Card.

My favorite thing that the cousins made up and taught to us was "love lists". Make a list of 25 things you love and 10 things you hate. Share it with the people present at the time. Seal the list in an envelope, writing the date on the outside of the envelope, and put the envelope away in a safe place. Open the envelope at some future date and bask in the memories.

Chad and I made love lists pretty regularly over the nearly seventeen years we've known each other, but have neglected to do so lately. I'm making a love list and sharing it here rather than sealing it in an envelope.

Love: (in no particular order)
1. Our 1952 house
2. Chad - and that he spends more time in Austin now with me
3. Janie - just about the best dog we could ever hope to find
4. Sonic - fourteen pounds of feline Mama's boy
5. Kenji - cuddle now, dangit!
6. Marigold - sweet old lady baby
7. Austin
9. June tomato crops from our yard
10. Basil from our yard
11. Mint from our yard
12. Mojitos! made from the mint from our yard
13. Our lovely planted areas outside
14. The lush, green not-exactly-grass that surrounds our house right now
15. Affordable Lawn Maintenance that mows and edges our yard every 2 weeks so Chad & I don't have to!
16. That Chad is going to let me repaint the kitchen! Bye-bye radioactive green walls!
17. Time with old friends and new acquaintances -- so great to see people last Friday at Lustre Pearl!
19. Reading: magazines, classic literature, silly best-sellers, chick-lit, cereal boxes, blogs, etc...
20. Swimming at Deep Eddy Pool
22. Tacos del Jardin from Chango's
23. Cinnamon Rolls from Upper Crust Bakery
24. British mysteries on Masterpiece Mystery on PBS

I'm too happy right now to dwell on thinking up ten things to hate, so no list. Maybe on a hot day in late August, I'll readily come up with those things, which will likely all center on the weather.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Where I'm From

The June issue of Texas Monthly features essays by people who consider themselves to be from Texas, even if they weren't born in Texas or don't currently reside in Texas. The special issue's cover heralds the line "Where I'm From".

Where are you from?

I was born in Louisiana and lived there until age five. My mother proclaimed Louisiana to be the armpit of the south. She says we don't have to tell people we ever lived there. In recent years, I find myself fascinated with the rich culture of Cajun people and Creole people. I appreciate the French influence on art, music and architecture that abounds in Louisiana. While I'm no foodie, who doesn't love beignets from Cafe du Monde? I don't consider myself to be from either Shreveport or Alexandria - the two cities in which I lived. I do not feel a desire to live in Louisiana again, but I wish everyone there the best, especially those people still struggling to recover from Hurricane Katrina.

My kindergarten through sixth grade years were spent in Birmingham, Alabama. Our house was Mountain Brook adjacent. (Mountain Brook was, probably still is, THE most desirable real estate area in Birmingham.) My school bus went past all the mansions with their professionally manicured, sweeping southern landscapes. Even at a young age, I knew money and good taste when I saw it combined in such abundance. I thought I wanted that: the country club connections, the Ralph Lauren wardrobe, the refined (as I now see it, restrained) lifestyle. As an adult, I no longer wish for those trappings. It's not me. I have no desire to return to Birmingham. Again, I wish residents of Birmingham well.

Seventh and eighth grade were spent in Cross Lanes, West Virginia near the state's capital city of Charleston. Upon moving to West Virginia, everyone in my family had pretty lousy attitudes about the place, largely due to the Union Carbide plant that was a mere ten miles from our house. This was shortly after the Bhopal, India industrial tragedy at the Union Carbide plant that killed thousands of people, and left nearly half a million people with health problems. We also harbored prejudices about the quality of education and society out in Appalachia. We weren't prepared for the natural beauty of West Virginia or for the warm-hearted people, but we soon came to appreciate both immensely. We lived in the prettiest house in Cross Lanes which everyone in town called "The Castle". A local man designed and built the large Tudor style home on a high hill that backed up to nature preserve parkland. We enjoyed four distinct seasons there. I ranked first in my class. The day I won the student council election to be the president of my class for the next school year, and the same week I secured a spot on the cheerleading squad, my dad dropped the news that we would be moving to Dallas, Texas. WHAT?! We finally like it here and we're moving away... moving again? Just before my parents were set to fly to Dallas to look at houses, my dad suffered the first of many heart attacks. He was only thirty-eight-years-old. He had to be shocked back to life several times during the episode. We thought we'd stay put after that, but Dad, ever the stubborn over-achiever, was on a plane three weeks after his heart attack to start his new job in Texas. It was a charmed life while it lasted, despite the bumpy start. I loved living in West Virginia. It will always hold a special place in my soul.

Next stop: Plano, Texas. We were rewarded for the move to Texas with a pool in the backyard, but our house didn't have the luster of "The Castle". I worked my tail off to stay in the top ten percent of my graduating class of 2,000+ students in the highly competitive school system. I was not popular, but did have a few good friends along the way. I didn't dare run for student council or try out for cheerleading; instead finding my place among the drama geeks and the debate dorks. The material excesses and apparent lack of good taste evident in the parking lots and housing developments were not to my liking. While I was in high school, Plano was infamously dubbed the teen-suicide capital of America. One of the guys I ate lunch with everyday started a chain-reaction of suicides among some of my peers just before graduation. For those people who consider Plano to be home, I wish you well. I'm not from Plano. My family moved around to four, or was it five, different cities since I graduated from high school. I have no ties there.

I'm from Austin, Texas. I knew it the first time I visited. I'm not leaving. I've lived here far longer than I've lived anywhere else, over half my life now. I love this place.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Mid-Year Resolutions

Marching to the beat of a different drummer, I've decided to make my mid-year resolutions.

1. Spend more time sewing and doing crafty activities. Specifically, take another quilting class so I can finally finish the king-size quilt made from Chad's old shirts.

2. Read more. I think four books a month is reasonable.

3. Take a dance class. I start Bollywood Bhangra dance lessons June 16. I can't wait!

4. Expand my cooking repertoire. I'm more of a baker of sweet things than I am a cook. I'd like to bring more healthy meals into my cooking rotation.

5. Re-lose those six pounds (of thirty-two pounds previously lost) that have found their way back to my bootie.

Wish me luck!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Things I Must Stop Buying/Bringing Home

Chad has been watching the television show Hoarders lately. Like a hypochondriac with a medical handbook, I've decided that maybe I'm an extremely well organized, highly functional, hoarder. Well, okay, maybe not a hoarder exactly, but I have hoarder potential for sure! Especially in regards to the following items:

Scented Candles
- I love scented candles. I have eleventy-hundred scented candles of all shapes, sizes and, uh, scents in a cabinet in the dining room. I keep buying them. People keep giving them to me. I can't burn them fast enough. Stop the (lovely-scented) madness!

Board Games - After our Xbox 360 and video games were stolen during the infamous house robbery of October 2009, we chose not to replace them. I bought several new board games to fill the void. I have not hosted a game night since.

Books - I have approximately thirty books in my possession right now that I have not read yet. In a good week I'll read two books. However, some weeks I am memorizing scripts, and can't read for pleasure. Other weeks, I simply don't have the attention span to look at a magazine, much less read a book. I must stop buying books from, Target, HEB, Book People, Half-Price Books, etc... Books seem to be everywhere! I have great ambition when it comes to reading, but must acknowledge my limitations.

Clothes - After losing weight, I had to more-or-less replace my wardrobe. Done. I have lots of clothes for just about any occasion. In fact, friends need to start inviting me out more so I will actually have a reason to dress in something other than gym clothes or my jeans & t-shirt uniform.

Fashion Accessories - During the infamous house robbery of October 2009, I lost some of my favorite cheap jewelry. I wonder how the robbers felt when the pawn shop informed them that they didn't have any jewelry worth pawning? I love me some cheap, cute jewelry! Also, as an actress, I need costume jewelry for the dinner theater shows -- the gaudier, the better. Done. Got plenty of jewelry (none worth pawning). Restocked what was stolen and then some. Not to mention that I have many thoughtfully curated pairs of shoes and many bags, purses, clutches & totes.

Pets - Currently we have a pet hiring-freeze at the 1952 House with three cats and one forty-nine-pound dog. I love, love, love cats and dogs. I must respect the delicate balance of four pets and two people sharing the limited space here. Even if I would love to adopt all of the pitiful babies at the shelter...

Perhaps I should limit all near-future purchases/acquisitions to grocery items. I don't want anyone to find me buried under a small mountain of clutter in this house, or feeling that they need to stage an intervention, or submitting me to Clean House - though I do love that television show.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Yeah, I'm Thinking of Getting My Plumber's License

In a DIY-fit this week, I decided to fix our toilet. We only have one, so it's vital to keep it in good working order. The water in the toilet kept running after flushing despite lots of handle-jiggling, and despite cleaning the tank flapper. I watched an extremely helpful youtube video. I bought a new ballcock and new tank float ball at Lowe's. Ninety minutes and eleven dollars later, our toilet works! No more wasted water, no more annoying glug-glug drippy noises and no expensive plumber visit. I feel so empowered! Even if I did get a bit light-headed from hanging upside down under the toilet tank trouble-shooting the water line leak. (The trick was not to screw the water line into the tank too tightly.)


Spring in Austin is joyfully colorful and aromatic. Mmm... lavender (middle right). I was delighted to discover silver ponyfoot (lower right corner) at the nursery this spring. I hope it will spread out.

Bumper crop of mint survived the winter freezes. Mojito time!

Tomatoes on the way!

Sonic chatters at the birds and squirrels to protect the crops.

Kenji is about to spring into bug-chasing action... any second now...

Janie models her new spring wardrobe while keeping an eye on her kitty-friends.

In August when I'm crying and proclaiming that it's hotter than Hades here, remind me of spring lest I put a "for sale" in the front yard and hightail to Seattle.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Why I Deactivated My Facebook Account

In the early days of Facebook, I thought that social networking sounded dumb. I would rather see my friends in person than trade quips online. Eventually I somewhat reluctantly opened a Facebook account. I was still an early adopter, getting there before everyone's dog and grandma had a Facebook profile. (My dog still has her Facebook/Dogbook account, but she doesn't post often. As far as I know, my step-grandma-in-law is on Facebook, but my own grandma is not.) I admit it was fun for a while, being able to keep track of long-distance friends and cyber-lurking to see photos from parties to which I wasn't invited. (And, hey, if I wasn't invited, how good could the party have been, really?)

Somewhere/sometime along the way, people got ugly with the comments on Facebook: attacking each others' political, religious or fashion beliefs. I tried to play nice and ignore the barbed comments. I "unfriended" a few people who disregarded general rules of being a good human being. I hit the "hide" button for many people who were generally mean-spirited with posts or comments, but kept them on the friend role for acting/business contacts, which made me feel hypocritical and a tad smarmy.

Facebook evolved into a aggressive marketplace with ads and sales pitches everywhere. Online retailers would ask if I wanted to post purchases to my Facebook wall or profile. No, Big Brother, I don't want to publicize what I'm buying, but thanks for asking. Now Facebook banners pop up on nearly every website I visit, asking me to click the "like" button and post whatever I'm reading or shopping to my Facebook profile. Again, no thanks, Big Brother.

The creepy straw that broke the Big Brother camel's back occurred when a large window showed up on my Facebook page a few days ago asking me to "become a fan" of over 150 different bands, TV shows, retailers, nonprofit groups, etc... that I had ever mentioned on Facebook. Wow, there's an app for tracking everything! I know that being online in general, and especially writing a blog, opens me up to security risks and scrutiny. That's life in the virtual and literal world. However, to have Facebook so aggressively trolling my personal information across not just Facebook, but the internet as a whole, and wanting to make that information public in perpetuity, trumps all sense of privacy (however deluded in this digital era) and security.

I wanted a fun social networking website, which Facebook initially delivered. Now it's work to manage my online personae, protect my privacy, manage different friend lists and try to remove tags from unflattering photos. No thanks, Big Brother.

Monday, April 12, 2010

I'm Living in the Right City

After every vacation or trip away from Austin, I'm happy to get home. I like vacations and traveling to experience new cultures and sights, but I LOVE Austin. Typically the first stop after baggage claim upon returning to Austin is a meal at Chuy's on Barton Springs Road. Later at home as Chad and I cuddle pets and unpack bags, we start a verbal & mental list of all the fun Austin things we want to do.

After an audition in South Austin last week I hightailed it to South Congress Avenue, also known as SoCo. I treated myself to solitary shopping and slow browsing at Tesoros and Crofts Originals. I window-shopped at every store on my path with no fear of being a human traffic impediment. I ate a late leisurely lunch at Home Slice pizza. Exploring SoHo in Manhattan was fun, but daunting with the whipping cold winds and crowds. Hanging around SoCo in Austin offered a charming blend of familiarity, lovely weather and slow-your-roll-speed.

Other items on last week's fun-to-do list included planting tomatoes and herbs, weeding planting areas - which may not sound fun, but are fun for me. We went to the Hatch Show Print exhibit at Austin Museum of Art. I loved seeing these letterpress prints! This old fashioned method of printing produces a richness and individuality for each print that modern methods fail to deliver. Go see this exhibit for yourself!

While we had claim to a great parking space on Congress Avenue, we dined at Annie's for the first time. Chad had the mussels which I don't eat, but he liked them. I had a green salad with lemon zest and goat cheese which tasted wonderful in its simplicity and gave me a semi-healthy feeling. We shared espresso creme brulee for dessert - not so healthy, but super-delicious. The restaurant had the front french doors open. We basked in the beautiful weather and mild breeze as we watched hot rods motor up and down Congress Avenue, no doubt part of the hot rod events last weekend. Chad educated me on the term "rustoration", which refers to many of cars we saw that had shiny chrome and lovingly refurbished interiors with rusty exterior panels.

Saturday we went to a friend's birthday party for an outdoor viewing of Jurassic Park complete with typical yummy movie snacks and the above-typical snow cones! I loved seeing friends and reconnecting with some of Chad's former coworker-friends while learning the origin of the timeless cinematic quote, "Hold onto your butts!"

Sunday was truly a day of rest... and eating. Lots of sleeping, lots of eating. *happy sigh*

Next up on the hooray-we're-home-to-do-list: plant more stuff, trek up Mount Bonnell to ogle the rich people's houses, tour the fine snow cone stands in town, go swimming at Deep Eddy Pool, spend more time with friends, cuddle the pets more.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Raining Even Harder

Apologies for the delay in posting. I know you guys waited in suspense to read about our last day and a half in New York, which as foreshadowed in this post's title featured even heavier rains that did not stop politely as we went about our sightseeing.

First stop on the day's subway travels was at Macy's Herald Square for the Flower Show. The rain kept us from enjoying the outdoors, but Macy's put a zillion beautiful plants and flowers indoors for us to ogle. From the Macy's website, "Spring Is In The Air as Macy's Herald Square is transformed into a wonderland of spectacular gardens where magic reaches new heights and floral fantasies take flight! This year's show features 10 different garden environments, including our new Hot, Palm and Topiary gardens, and over 30,000 different varieties of exotic trees, flowering plants and brilliant color as far as the eye can see. Take a guided tour or stroll through our enchanting gardens at your own pace. And, don't miss our hot air balloon centerpiece, overflowing with lush spring flowers that will make your spirits soar!"

I wish we had taken photos, but we didn't. In a word, it was LUSH. What a wonderful break from the dirty rain outside.

Next stop on the R train was the Union Square Whole Foods. Chad and I both craved vegetables. In general, Manhattan lacks fresh produce in the worst way. Whole Foods supplied a welcome oasis of nutrition at the salad bar. Mmm... vitamins. Due to the rain, Chad and I opted not to trek over to ABC Carpet & Home, but on past trips to the city, I loved visiting ABC.

We chose to lounge in the loud, crowded Ace Hotel lobby for a while before dinner. Other people may have braved the rain to see more sights, but we didn't. Vacation is a time for relaxing, so that's what we did until dinner. In the dusty drizzle, we returned to Toon Thai on Park Avenue. Yum again! Our after dinner stroll (in the rain) took us to the Empire State Building to peer at the architecture. Due to the rain and clouds, we did not go up to the observation deck.

Chad loves Pinkberry. We were within walking distance of one, so we had to go. It was my first taste of Pinkberry. It's frozen yogurt that actually tastes like yogurt versus tasting like watered-down soft-serve. Pinkberry also offers a variety of toppings from chocolate chips to fresh fruit. Tasty in a healthy-ish way.

Back through the rain, past the lobby bouncers to our hotel to pack for our trip home the next morning. I was more than ready to get home to beautiful Austin, my cozy & good-smelling house and my sweet pets. But first we took a harrowing cab ride to JFK airport. The cab driver had a little conniption fit about the rain and traffic, scolding us that he wasn't making good money by driving us to the airport. Sorry, dude, but please quit trying to commit vehicular suicide while we're in your cab! The truly scary ride included a meandering (methinks also lost & frustrated) tour of the parking area before dropping us at our terminal. Kiss the ground! We made it to the airport in one piece! Reliable, comfortable JetBlue got us home seven minutes early!

While I enjoyed some aspects of the trip, I'm thankful that we did not move to New York City when we had the chance. I truly love Austin. Sometimes you have to get away from home to break the chains of daily chores/work, but Austin has everything I need and love.

True, the weather did not cooperate with our vacation plans, but I think I've seen all of New York City I need to see. Done. Check. Next. If I get my way, our next vacation will be somewhere lazy with nature versus a bustling city.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Rainier, Slightly Warmer

Our third full day in New York started with a long line for coffee at Stumptown. While the coffee met our caffeine needs deliciously, Stumptown's pastry supply was seriously depleted by the early birds. You would think it would be easy to find a bagel in Manhattan, but we walked at least six blocks in the rain, popping in & out of four shops before we found a place that had bagels. As we noshed and watched the rain continue, we not so enthusiastically plotted our subway course to Central Park. Yeah, in the rain.

As previously mentioned, I learned to like the subway. This subway trip to Central Park would require two different trains. We took the first train with ease up to Port Authority. Then we walked deeper and deeper into the bowels of the subway system to catch our second train. I was feeling a touch skittish about going further underground, but we found our platform only to spy printed memos stating that the C train would be out of service for several days. The memo helpfully directed travelers to other trains for different destinations. So we needed the D train. Um, we couldn't find the platform for the D train. We decided to surface (oh good, I needed some air and sky!) and catch a cab the rest of the way to 79th Street at Central Park.

When we first arrived at Central Park the rain and wind joined forces to make the prospect of walking in the park comically awful, but as we got a few minutes into our walk, the rain and wind mercifully stopped. Seriously, just stopped. Very decent of them! Highlights of our park explorations included: Belvedere Castle, Balcony Bridge, The Boathouse, The Rambles, Hans Christian Andersen Statue, Alice in Wonderland Statue, Dairy, Greywacke Arch, The Mall, and Wollman Rink where kids were actually ice skating. I'm glad we braved the rain, and even more glad the rain stopped for a while!

By the time we ran out of park to walk, we found ourselves at Broadway very near a subway stop that took us within a block of the hotel. Soggy and spent, we retired to our room for the aforementioned greasy room service meal from The Breslin and some James Bond movies on BBC America. Crazy night in Manhattan, huh? That's how we roll.

Tune in tomorrow for more soggy adventures on our last full day in New York.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

SoHo & So-So Show

Our second full day in Manhattan featured mostly sunny skies with cold temperatures and whipping winds. The vacation sleeping schedule (I do love sleep!) meant a late start to our SoHo shopping date. Chad and I were both weary of motion-sickness from the cab rides: racing up to traffic lights or traffic to lurch forward when the brakes engage, weaving in and out of dangerously tiny gaps in traffic, the overpowering unnatural smell of various deodorizers. However, I have a mild phobia about being underground or in confined spaces, so I dared not take the subway on previous visits to New York. (I'm fine with the elevated trains in Chicago and monorails in Orlando or Atlanta, but there's something unsettling for me about being underground.) I swallowed my fear and allowed Chad to educate me in the ways of subway travel. My first New York subway experience was easy-peasy, surprisingly clean and comfortable. The trip cost almost as much as a cab ride for short distances ($2.25 each person), but without the motion-sickness proved itself a bargain. We caught the train one block from our hotel at 28th Street & Broadway and emerged on Prince Street in the heart of the SoHo shopping scene.

The streets were crowded with college students and fellow-tourists gawking and gaping at storefronts. I was disappointed in Topshop, a British import of supposedly affordable high fashion, which seemed to me like an overpriced Forever 21 type of store. The lines for fitting rooms were ten people long, so no purchase.

I loved returning to Pearl River Mart to buy Lychee Tea, cute chopsticks and Asian candies. Pearl River Mart tightly packs an amazing array of goods from fabrics to tea to lamps to 40-foot-long parade dragons into a large, multi-level space. Shopping there would have been overwhelming if we hadn't stepped up to the elevated tea room for a hot pot of tea. We got a bird's eye view of the main floor of the store while relaxing for a few minutes away from the crowds.

Other stores worth a mention: CB2 - love the catalogs, enjoyed being able to touch-test the rug I want to order; Muji - meticulously edited selection of travel and home goods including travel-sized containers, essential oils, socks, t-shirts without printing on them, tasteful skyline cut-out souvenirs and more; Kid Robot - fun, alt-pop-art collectibles that the cool kids like.

We ate late lunch/early dinner at Red Bamboo near the university area. Thank goodness for a vegetarian restaurant, but the focus here was on fake meat shaped out of soy, seitan & tempeh, while I prefer a more vegetable and whole bean approach to veggie dining.

I enjoyed another easy subway ride to the hotel to get dressed-up for the night's Broadway show. Indulge me for a moment as I pass judgement on people who wear hiking boots and grubby jeans with fleece to a night at the theater. I opine that Broadway & off-Broadway shows warrant (at least) a nice, clean, dark pair of denim and dressy shoes perhaps a shirt with a collar or merino wool sweater on top. You're in no danger of being pulled into a mosh pit or being splattered in mud from monster trucks, so lose the lumberjack look.

When Chad & I approached our mezzanine seats for the show, I sensed someone staring at me, then heard Chad exclaim, "Wow! What are you doing here?" The man seated directly behind us was Charles K., the coolest accountant I know, from Austin who happened to be in Manhattan for work and happened to score tickets to the same show. Small world!

I held such high hopes for Promises, Promises starring Sean Hayes (who I adore) and Kristin Chenoweth (what's not to love?) based on one of my favorite movies ever - The Apartment. Sean Hayes grabbed my attention anytime he was on stage and Kristin Chenoweth packs mighty pipes into her pixie frame, but overall, I found the Burt Bacharach music rather tuneless, the dance numbers trite and the lighting design distracting. Katie Finneran as Marge MacDougall offered an unexpected bright spot in the show with her funny owl noises and shimmies that brought true humanity and humor to her character. Perhaps I should admit to myself that I don't like musicals unless they're poking fun at the random song outbursts in a self-aware, winking manner. Perhaps the combination of high ticket prices, star-power and love of The Apartment script set my expectations at an unreachable high. Overall the show felt flat.

Upon returning to our super-hip hotel via subway, we made our way past the bouncers to the lobby for some dessert and bubbly drinks. The dimly-lit scene with its too loud music filled with highly-preened people felt silly and self-conscious like a high school dance. People tried to shout witty banter at each other in varied attempts at wooing. I felt like Chad & I were the only couple at a cheesy singles night event.

Tune in tomorrow for weather woes / what to do when it rains on your vacation parade.