Thursday, December 26, 2013

We Made Merry

We had a relaxing, quiet Christmas at the 1952 House. (Just what I wanted/needed as a retail visuals minion who worked Christmas Eve and at 6:00 AM the day after Christmas/today.) We opened lots of nice presents. We talked on the phone to family members. We texted friends. I baked cookies, which Chad loved, but I opine need a little tweaking. 

In typical 1952 House Christmas fashion, we decked the dog with bows. Janie loved it! (Or quite possibly she is totally over it, and it was never her favorite tradition.)

We also put a bow from a gift on Kenji, but it made her fall over and growl. (Yes, she is a cat. Yes, she growls.) The bow came off of Kenji before a Kodak moment could happen.

Hope your Christmas was sane, enjoyable, safe and comfortable. 

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Last Dinner Mystery Show

I performed in my last dinner mystery show Saturday night at the Driskill Hotel. I love the Driskill Hotel for its history, architecture and sense of grandeur. Students from the Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts in Austin made a gingerbread replica of the Driskill complete with the Christmas tree inside. Take a peek.

The Driskill Hotel Christmas Tree

While I love the Driskill Hotel, the banquet room in which we performed featured a giant ten foot by ten foot square column in the center of the room. Of the 140 audience members, I would hazard to guess that only 50 of them could see or hear us at any given time because of the column that effectively divided the odd-shaped room into three sections. On a good day, I am sheepish about performing in silly dinner mystery shows. Last Saturday was a tough day in a tough room. Cue the sad trombone. 

At least I had a valid excuse to loiter in the Driskill Hotel lobby at Christmas-time for lovely surroundings and lively people-watching.

Merry and Bright Lights

This would be our Christmas card photo if I liked photos of ourselves on Christmas cards, but I do not.

Chad tidings of comfort and joy and blur. And handsome. 

We went to Austin's Trail of Lights after crawling through awful traffic for ninety minutes. We saw lots of beautifully lighted trees and lots of plywood cutouts of unlicensed cartoon characters. Personally, I just love the lights, not so much the painted plywood. We ate churros, funnel cake, nachos and kettle corn. We drank hot cider and Mexican hot chocolate. Check all of that off the list for the year. 

Upon leaving Trail of Lights, I thanked Chad for driving and for coming with me. Then I told him we never have to go again. I'm happy to leave it to the kids and their roving gangs of double-wide strollers. (I have no problem with long, back-to-front multi-seat strollers, but personally opine that double-wide/side-by-side strollers pose a major menace to polite society. )

Trying to Stay Cozy & Warm

Marigold wedged herself between a pillow and an unguarded blanket.

Janie likes to model her new jacket, but refuses to wear it for walks. *sigh*

Thursday, December 12, 2013

My Favorite & Unfavorite Things for December 11, 2013

In grand Christmas tradition, the song My Favorite Things rings out from many speakers. The lyrics evoke a love/hate list* similar to the ones our old friends made in college, but not at all similar to the consumer huggermugger that is Oprah’s Favorite Things. Here is my current love/hate list, in no particular order.

Love list

      1.  Fall
      2.  Spring
      3.  Chad
      4.  That Chad lives in Austin most of the time now, versus living in NYC, San Francisco, and the not-so-friendly skies of business commuter flights
      5.  Netflix
      6. Kenji – She is willful and fiercely cuddly.
      7.  Sonic – He is such a sweet, funny, giant, chirpy man-cat
      8.  Marigold – She is a funny old lady who loves a good toe rub and being carried around like a baby.
      9.  Janie – She does her best to sleep a lot like the kitties, but also loves a good walk.
      10.  Making the store pretty and organized, especially creating the window displays
      11.  Making our home pretty and organized 
      12.  Reading
      13.  Wrapping gifts
      14.  Baking sweet things
      15.  Free time
      16.  That our new neighbors (back and side) each took the initiative to get our shared fences repaired / rebuilt
      17.  My ancient, super-soft, thick cashmere sweater (Of course, I hope the cashmere came from ethically raised goats who didn’t need those belly hairs for their own warmth.)
      18.  The rush of endorphins from a good trip to the gym coupled with that well-stretched muscles feeling
      19.  The breakfast (or in my case brunch) hot bar at the big Whole Foods across the street from my workplace - One of the good things about having to be at work at 5:00 AM some days is getting my 10:00 AM brunch break. French toast, home fries and migas!
      20.  Taco Shack breakfast tacos
      21.  Taco Deli lunch tacos
      22.  Lip balms / chapsticks, especially Bonne Bell, Burt’s Bees and Lucky Tiger brands
      23.  Feeling like I belong (particularly at work right now, and always with my pack of pets and Chad)
      24.  American style iced tea – Luzianne is my low-brow favorite.
      25. for shopping

Hate List

1.     Winter-type weather - It isn’t officially winter yet, but I’ve had enough of this cold, drippy weather. Enough, I say!
2.     Feeling like I don’t belong – especially among old friends
3.     Not having enough time to do little things I enjoy, like read
4.     My inability to sleep on airplanes
5.     Some of Sonic’s behaviors – Yes, it’s a love-hate deal with this burly boy. He bullies the other pets and pees on things other than cat litter. (He’s been to the vet multiple times for this issue, and he is neutered. It is not a health issue, but a purely territorial behavior.)
6.     Raisins – They ruin everything.
7.     Small enclosed spaces
8.     Chaos
9.     Crowds
10.  Facebook

*Our college friends, Lori B. and Melinda L., who were cousins, made a list of 25 things they loved and 10 things they hated. Then they sealed the envelope, writing the day’s date on the outside. They squirreled away the envelopes for later reading and evaluation. It was back before blogs were popular. I prefer a blog post to a hidden envelope.

Monday, December 09, 2013

Stuff & Whatnot

I got to spend another fun day at work making gift baskets. Some have sold - yay! My super-handy coworker, Lori, opined that she is no "lady who lunches type of girly-girl". Lori confessed that she burned holes in the cellophane with the heat gun, and wasn't sure what to put together for gifts. It's harder than it looks. Thanks for the validation, lady. That heat gun just takes a little practice.

As of last Friday, I have ten nieces and nephews! My sister birthed her seventh (!!!) baby, Elsie Laurel. Baby, Mom, Dad and siblings are all well, if sleep-deprived. Here are six of ten gifts wrapped and ready to ship out. I love wrapping gifts. And yes, I make my own bows.

Chad and I are both busy with work, holiday preparations and festive merrymaking. We've been hitting the sauce pretty hard: Diet Coke for me and sparkling water for him. This is the recycle stack for one day. We may have a problem. Got to stay hydrated (and in my case caffeinated) for seeing A Christmas Story at Paramount Theatre last Wednesday, and listening to Austin Chamber Music Society perform Vince Guaraldi's Charlie Brown Christmas music at Antone's yesterday. Also, I'm procrastinating studying my lines for a private party dinner mystery show this week. The show is at Austin's historic Driskill Hotel. I can't wait to see the Christmas decorations and the gingerbread replica of the hotel!

I got myself some snarky memoirs. I don't know when I'll have time to read them. Maybe I should read one before I study my lines. No! Must study lines!

Challenge for the week: Stay sane (or try to pretend you are) this holiday season. If you want good customer service, you must be a good customer. Wait your turn. Be polite. Remember that retail employees and call center representatives are barely keeping it together this time of year. Make their day by playing nice. PLEASE.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Merry & Bright Photos

The C9 bulbs at night shine nice & bright.

The tree canopy is trimmed too high,
so we hang ornaments from the roofline this year.

Oh Christmas Tree!
I grew up with strictly themed, tonal-palette,
white-flocked Christmas trees with only white lights.
As an adult, I'm all about the jewel tones on the living room Christmas tree.

New ornament in honor of me becoming a handy lady on the visuals / make-it-pretty team.

New double-decker ornament to commemorate our trip to London.
Nevermind that it was made in China and purchased from Pottery Barn online.

Yes, we have a mini-tree in the bedroom. Get over it.
Mini-tree features mid-century style, pastel ornaments,
and keeps the cats mesmerized for hours.

Monday, December 02, 2013

Lights & Flicks Picks

As a retail visuals minion, I decorated (and repeatedly refilled with decorations) at least five different Christmas trees before I decorated our own two Christmas trees here at ye olde 1952 House. (Photos forthcoming of living room tree and bedroom tree.) I decided that while LED lights may be better for the environment, they burn my eyes as if looking directly into a series of miniature suns, and emanate a most unpleasant visual experience. Sorry, Earth. I'm a retro C9 light bulb fan all the way. (Photos of outdoor lighting on ye olde 1952 house forthcoming.)

In an effort to get my head and self out of retail land this holiday season, here are my top picks for holiday light displays and holiday movie showings in Austin.

Trail of Lights, I can't quit you. As crazy-crowded, flappy-foot-walker-infested and chaotic as the Trail of Lights can be, I love it! Funnel cake, kettle corn, hot chocolate and enough lights to send the electricity generators into overdrive transport me to my festive happy place. Trail of Lights also offers prepaid parking and zip passes this year to help navigate the crowds (and cover costs, I'm sure).

The Holiday Film Series at the Paramount Theatre makes my movie watching merry and bright with classics such as White Christmas, A Christmas Story, Love Actually and It's a Wonderful Life shown in a historically and architecturally significant, grand setting.

While I consider New Year's Eve to be a hot mess of unbridled bad behavior/bad choices opportunities, I love fireworks. Chad and I will likely take advantage of my employee parking pass and walk down to the Austin's New Year fireworks show at 10:00 on New Year's Eve.

I haven't made it to Austin's new Royers Pie Haven yet, but it's high on my to-do list this holiday season. The original location in Round Top, Texas makes amazing pies, and now trucks them to Austin daily. Conveniently located alarmingly close to the 1952 House at 2900 B Guadalupe Street, Chad and I will be there soon.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Put a Dragon on it

Put a bird on it. No way. So cliché. Put a dragon on it. 

I added the Natori Dragon euro sham. Love it. Keeping it.

Gift Inspiration at Work

I made some cellophane-wrapped gift baskets for my retail job. It was fun to do. Place your bets now as to whether or not a single one will sell.

Upon boss-lady Kat's instruction I made a self-service gift wrapping station for customers. I love to wrap gifts. So does my coworker, Stephanie. If we're not there, knock yourselves out.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Things Need Doing

Buy a house and you will never have an excuse to be bored. You will always have something to do, and ways to dispense extra cash. The to-do list at the 1952 House grows faster than it shrinks.

• Scrub the carport ceiling and add a new coat of white paint

• Weed the back planting beds

• Remove (seriously tacky) trashbag that Chad put down in front planting bed when he ran out of blackout fabric, and replace with actual blackout fabric

• Add mulch to front planting bed

• Get the one compromised pier and one section of compromised beam under the bathtub reinforced (Yes, this is still on the list after seven years.)

• New bathtub (All 3 of my loyal readers may recall that I reglazed the 60-year-old bathtub in the 1952 House six years ago. The new glaze peeled after too many applications of Kaboom and too vigorous scrubbings. It looks worse now than before I reglazed it.)

• New windows which will cost a small fortune (Half of the windows don't open. A few have BB pellet punctures, and one window has a pea-sized hole through both the glass and the metal screen from what I can only assume was a rock kicked up by the mower.)

• Replace the elderly oven and microwave in the kitchen

Or, maybe just move to a house with nicer stuff and bigger closets on a much quieter street. Off to buy a lotto ticket.

New Bedding: Refined or Dreary?

The crazy color quilt bedding saw better days at the 1952 House, and the ancient super-soft sheets fell victim to Kenji's claws. Kenji is the worst helper when trying to make the bed. She runs around under the covers, digging in her claws for takeoffs and landings. She is no longer allowed in the room when the bed is being made. No need to call the ASPCA. As evidenced in the photo, Kenji is allowed back in to lounge after the bed is made.

Time for new bedding, I resisted my employee discount this round. (Sadly, Chad and I are both too "Princess and the Pea"/Sissy-La-La for thread counts below 500.) I combined The Company Store sheets, duvet, white shams and generously king-sized comforter with Jonathan Adler euro shams and a Greek key design Matouk throw blanket. It's a little dreary and drab after the crazy quilt bedding, but it's all so incredibly soft, that it's like sleeping on Cloud Nine.

I ordered a Natori dragon euro sham to throw in the middle to add a little lucky liveliness. I'll post a photo if it's a keeper. Kenji will likely sit for that photo session also. Her agent promises to get back to me with her availability.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Nighttime Window Peeping

Holiday 2 Floor Set is winding down. I spent more time in Snowdrift and Enchanted Forest. At this point, I'm pretty severely enchanted. I'll have interior photos of all that later. It's real nice.

Chad brought our fancy camera with a borrowed tripod from his work to finally snap some nighttime photos of the window displays at work. Let the prettiness ensue. As always, click on any photo for larger slideshow.

Oh look, it snowed in Austin. Yet there are moths and butterflies on the trees. Must be an enchanted forest meets snowdrift. 

There was no room for the 30x30 sign in this window, so I chalked a pretty good copy of the sign on the left wall. Get your gift ideas here!

This is the Market window. Market focuses more on cookware, cleaning supplies and personal care. I decorated the trees with felted veggie ornaments, wire whisks, veggie peelers, copper measuring spoons and egg separators. Check out the cookware gifts under the larger tree. I put references to staff members on the gift tags, but am not sure they noticed yet. I spied that red wagon peeking out from a shelf in the dungeon, er, I mean stock room, and just had to put it in the window. Market's signature color is red, so there's lots of red. I think about things, and like, plan and stuff.

I'm also making gift baskets at work lately. I'll post a few of my fave examples soon.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Happy Halloween

Chad and I celebrated BYOPTYOHTY by carving jack-o-lanterns Sunday night. Happy Halloween from a scary clown (aren't they all a little scary?) and the grim reaper. Sweet dreams!

I doubt that we will dress up this year. Plans for two different charity costume parties fell through this Halloween season when the charities both cancelled their events. Bummer.

Thursday, October 17, 2013


Bring Your Own Pumpkin To Your Own House This Year Party

Chad and I throw an amazing BYOP (Bring Your Own Pumpkin) Party every other year here at the 1952 House. This year is not the "other year". You are on your own, party-people. Be creative. Be safe. Have fun. 

If you want to recreate our party atmosphere:

Make mac n cheese muffins. (My recipe appears at the bottom of this post.)

Make some Morning Star Farms veggie corndogs or State Fair brand meaty (eww, but hey, it's Halloween, so get your scare on) corndogs.

Have a Halloween music playlist, or tune your Time Warner Cable TV to Music Choice channel Sounds of the Season.

Grab apple fritters from Ken's Donuts. (Starbucks also has good apple fritters for non-Austinites or Austinites who don't like driving near the University of Texas campus.)

Throw "fun-size" favorites of candy on your dining room table with some glittery Halloween doo-dads.

Carve a jack-o-lantern, or otherwise paint, bedazzle or sticker a pumpkin. *HERE* are some great ideas courtesy of the lady I want to be when I grow up, Jamie Meares.

Post a photo or it's like it never happened.

If you live in Austin and are free on Saturday, October 26, get yourself to Central Market on North Lamar for a pumpkin carving exhibition from one of the Food Network stars of Halloween Wars 2013, Gabriel Vinas.


Here is the recipe for the Mac & Cheese Muffins I made for the pumpkin party:

3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 cups skim milk
2 Tablespoons low-fat cream cheese
2 cups shredded low-fat cheddar cheese (1/2 cup reserved for topping)
10 ounces elbow macaroni, cooked to package instructions
2 Roma tomatoes, sliced (optional)

In  a saucepan over medium heat, mix flour, salt, onion powder and pepper. Cook 2 minutes stirring. (Yes, these are all dry ingredients.)

Slowly whisk in skim milk, then add cream cheese. Bring to a boil, and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook 4 minutes, stirring until thick. (It will be lumpy.)

Remove from heat, and stir in 1 and 1/2 cups cheddar cheese until melted. (It takes a few minutes. Keep stirring.)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Coat a 12 muffin-tin with cooking spray. 

In a big bowl, mix cooked macaroni with cheese sauce. 

Spoon into the muffin tin. Top with a slice of tomato (or not), then with the 1/2 cup of reserved shredded cheddar cheese.

Bake until bubbly and golden-brown, about 25 minutes at 400 degrees. 

Monday, October 07, 2013

Busy & Sleep Deprived

Getting up for work at 3:45 AM for a 5:00 AM start time for six day stretches for three weeks in a row is no one's idea of a good time, I'm pretty sure. That's what I've been doing since I got back from London. To make things a little more chaotic, I got my arm twisted (figuratively speaking) into learning and performing a new role for a three-act dinner mystery show down in San Antonio, right in the middle of those 3:45 wake-ups. Heaven help me, I made it through. I'm now enjoying five days off from both jobs as a birthday present to myself. I have many magazines to read, a few chores and much sleeping to do.

Photos of the new Holiday I (yes, there will be a Holiday II) floor set at my retail job:

Moss, butterflies and moody colors make up the "Enchanted Forest". This is the most beautiful directive I've seen from the higher-ups at my my retail job to date. *Click any photo to make it bigger.*

I lined the backs of bays with roofing paper and used a dry-brush technique to paint birch trees (a recurring motif in the "Snowdrift" areas of this floor set. Merchandise was then stacked on shelves in front of the trees, but kept the trees mostly visible.

This photo shows a column I painted in chalkboard paint, a birch tree I chalked, a birch tree I built out of a telescoping concrete form and paper, AND a Christmas tree I decorated. Trees everywhere!

I really loved making the birch tree poles with lit willow branches in the background, painting the birch trees and setting out the beautiful, sparkly merchandise for this floor set. I loathed making the giant pine cones out of chicken wire and cardboard (in the foreground under the table). I wanted to cry when people called the pine cones "artichokes".

Again, apologies for the glare of the glass windows. The bottom crates will be filled with firewood this week. I was instructed to use existing shelves and new crates to construct a pyramid shaped window display. I like the way it came together.

There's so much going on in this window, and it's hard to see. Left to right: more birch poles with cascading paper butterflies, a tree house sitting on seven birch risers stocked with a settee, side table, lamp, pillows, throw blanket and rug, evergreen mini trees with mulch islands and finally a pieced photo collage of a moody twilight forest for the background. Phew! So much work went into this! I have to give much credit to the corporate higher-ups in the visuals department for a meticulously planned  and beautifully themed floor set. I also owe thanks to the local visuals team: my boss and super-carpenter, Kat; my peer in making it pretty, Lori; and our fabulous helpers, Joey and Summer.

Here I am after trekking down to San Antonio in the middle of floor set madness to play "The Godmother" in a mobster-themed dinner mystery show. This is my "son", who is the same age as me. That's a wig I'm wearing. I looked pretty haggard from sleep-deprivation, but still probably wasn't convincing as a sixty-year-old crime boss.

Here's a recent photo of me with prettifying Instagram filter just to prove I don't look like anyone's grandma.