Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Merry Christmas

hazy shade of winter tidings

candy cane ribbon & outdoor ornaments, oh my!

the wreath that won't fit under the security door

close-up of our needle-thin living room tree

stockings hung on the pub mirror with care

dining room runner with modern touches of gold, incense & myrrh

throw some green & red on that ottoman

ancient wise one (17!) with her holiday flair pillow

tiny floor chandelier in the bedroom with pastels aglow

snail reminds me to slow down, reflect, and enjoy Christmas

As I struggle through days as a retail manager/visuals coordinator, I wish you and yours the merriest, most peaceful Christmas. Be kind to one another. Quit shopping and snuggle in for a few days.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Made Some Pretty

I styled a bookshelf for a property management group. They wanted a neutral color palette with minimal objects, and some of the minimal objects needed to be lions. I think it's great for a modern office setting. Also, I got paid!

Then I made it snow in downtown Austin. It involved climbing ladders, lifting, peeling, sticking, stapling, stringing, scattering and unrolling. Oh, and redressing some mannequins.

After I finished the winter windows at work, the tailor from my store came and gave me a hug. For context, I should mention that English is his second language. He said, "You the best. Congratulations!" 

I replied, "Thanks. Why?"

He explained with lots of hand gestures, "Those windows. Everybody on the sidewalk stop and look at the sport coats. You the best!" 

Then my store manager who seldom doles out compliments, said the windows looked "great" and thanked me for updating them. Also, I got paid. 

I miss having free time to go to the gym, have hobbies, socialize and keep the 1952 House sparkly clean, but I like getting paid. Also, I like compliments on my work.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Working Downtown

(The only open lane, on the far right) MUST TURN LEFT
PARKING GARAGE (for which I pay $160 a month) FULL

And that's just on the way into work. Today was a rare occasion when Chad and I carpooled into downtown together, because he had fancy meetings of minds.

Chad met me at my workplace at the end of the day. As we stood at the busy intersection across from my urine-and-vomit-scented parking garage for which I pay $160 a month, a man came walking towards us calling out, "Brian, Brian. Hold up, Brian." The walk sign lit up, and several people including Chad and I started across the street. "Brian's friend" started walking into my path, stopping when I stopped and slowing when I slowed, effectively herding me out of the crosswalk. I stopped and took a step backwards, saying, "please, after you." Brian's friend stopped too. Finally, I just made my way to my destination curb, not caring if he tried to get in my path. Brian's friend said to Chad, "give me a dollar." Chad replied, "sorry, I don't have any cash." The whole time, we walked in stutter steps as he tried to herd me off of the sidewalk, never touching me or stepping on my feet, but barely missing. I had pepper spray in my hand, trigger finger on the spray button. With my other hand, I must have touched my hair, because Brian's friend said, "That's it. Run your hand through your hair, girl." I stopped, turning to face Brian's friend fully, giving him a steely (yet terrified) gaze. He responded, "Oh, are you gonna call the cops on me?" I thought he had a novel idea, so as loudly as I could, (remember I am a trained actress who knows how to project my voice) I yelled the name of my work building's security guard, "Bruuuuuuuuce!" Brian's friend did not care for this. He stopped in his tracks. Took a few steps backwards and looked at me as if I might be mentally ill. Good. Once I got into my car in the parking garage, I gave in to a slight fight or flight meltdown after locking the car doors. Then I drove Chad and myself home in terrible traffic.

I hate downtown.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Aging, Wealthy & Rocking Out

Last Saturday Chad and I got to rub elbows with the rich & infamous at a Formula One concert event starring Duran Duran. I won the pair of tickets courtesy of a media conglomerate by retweeting a message about their sponsorship of the event. (Thanks, media conglomerate!) I would never purchase such extravagant concert tickets myself, as the face value for the pair was $1350. *gulp*

The event venue, ACL Live, (Austin City Limits' huge new-ish studio) is impressively cavernous with great sight lines from every seat giving the convincing illusion of an intimate space. I won't complain about the open bar or elegantly artful catered buffet of appetizers on the mezzanine level. Nor will I complain about our fabulous reserved seats. Duran Duran put on an amazing performance, still very talented, still very gifted musicians and showmen.

I will, however, complain about the aging, wealthy, drug-fueled fellow-concert-goers: people old enough to know better, but apparently too rich to care. Side note: I have never partaken of an illegal substance, but have heard anecdotal evidence from those who have, and certainly read many studies, essays and fictional works about recreational drug-users. If I can look at the sad, over-botoxed, over-self-starved, woman dancing by herself wearing a sequined mini-dress and know with 90% certainty that she took more than one hit of ecstasy, that is beyond sad. If I can rebuff the aggressive, 60-something year old man, wearing his khaki cords with shoes matching belt and tucked-in plaid button-down, who repeatedly pulled on my elbow telling me to stand up and dance, knowing that his frivolity is cocaine-powered, that is also sad. If I worriedly watch the 40-something lady with her 60-something hairdo, shakily climb the stairs to the exit after she danced and yell-sang along with the entire concert with multiple fresh drinks in her hand throughout the show, that is sad, and she needs to fire her hairdresser. I hope all of these drug-addled & alcohol-addled people were within stumbling-distance of their hotels.

I enjoyed seeing Duran Duran perform, loved the venue and had the handsomest date there. BUT, 85% of the people around us made me sad with their aging, overindulged states. I never want to be that person.

I want to nest in my little sanctuary of a cozy house, and maybe just listen to Duran Duran's greatest hits next time they are in town, especially if the tickets are that expensive.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Happy Halloween!

Chad's Frankenstein's monster homage is so expressive and evocative. My headless horseman woodcut style pumpkin is perhaps too meta and overwrought. Once again, Chad wins pumpkin carving.

Happy Halloween. Be safe. Have fun.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

BYOP 2014

The Sweet Things Table: Kettle Corn, Pumpkin Whoopie Pies & Apple Fritters

Pumpkin Carving Tools After Washing

Friday, October 17, 2014

Let's Do This

It's about to get real. Real pumpkiny. BYOP (Bring Your Own Pumpkin) party is tonight, and preparations began about a month ago.

That blue smudge is almost certainly (not) a ghost, right? I hope it's a friendly ghost.

We totally confused the fireflies. 

Without the ghost this time.

Hector, our giant spider, made his annual appearance.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

No Idea What I'm Doing & No Time To Do It

Hey. I have been quite busy with the new-ish full-time job as the Visuals Coordinator / Supervisor (yes, two job titles for one person & yes, two jobs to be done simultaneously) at a clothing retailer, a freelance stylist project for a property management group and trying to maintain a social life.

I am not in super-love with my new job, but want to do the best work I can there. When my self-imposed year is done at this job, a few bills are paid off and money is saved for school, I am wondering if I should become a certified veterinary technician with a future goal of becoming a pet physical therapist or if I should go back to "real college" (as in not a community college with a certificate program, but a four-year accredited college for another bachelor's degree) to study interior design with a future goal of becoming an interior designer who specializes in commercial spaces. (How was that for a run-on sentence?)

I find working with pets, especially shelter/rescue group pets to be so rewarding. I like to slow down and observe a dog or cat to get a sense of what they need to feel safe, healthy and loved. Purrs and tail wags more than make up for the lower salary that this career field might fetch. I also love designing spaces for form, function and aesthetic appeal. I would focus on commercial spaces for interior design, because I can't bear to work with bored rich people who have forty five names for beige and really just want you to compliment their great taste, not really to give up one iota of control to let you help them design their space. No thank you very much. I'm truly torn between these two options. Luckily, I have ten and a half months to decide.

BTW: Be sure to check out my instagram photos on the widget to the right of this blog or follow me "therealjennc" on instagram to see more of my work & whimsy.

Monday, September 29, 2014

My Previous Position

I miss many things about my previous job:

Most of my coworkers - a lively eclectic bunch of about 35 unique individuals

Music - (except for during Christmas shopping season, of course) we enjoyed a nice mix of alterna-pop & retro alterna-pop songs

The view - looking out eighteen-foot tall windows, situated on a clean corner of mostly new low-rise buildings

Parking - a clean parking garage with free parking and security guards who tolerated no foolishness

The surroundings - clean sidewalks, Whole Foods, Starbucks, other retailers aimed at clean customers.

Clean - Did I mention how clean it was where I used to work? It was really clean, and never smelled like drug-tainted urine. Not once.

Respectful workplace - I was not manhandled, squeezed, kissed on the cheek or subjected to unwanted pats on my perky posterior. Sure, there was the occasional (very funny) double entendre joke.

Half of the customers - Half of the customers were just great. Half of them were anxious messes who seemed to have magical thinking that the right toss pillow would fix everything in their life that was amiss.

If the alarm went off in the middle of the night, no one called me. No one expected me to drive down and assess the situation.

I have to remind myself why I left:

The crazy, unpredictable work hours - 3:00 AM to 8:00 AM? Never again.

The on-call employment situation - You want to call me into work with 90 minutes notice on what I thought was my day off? Then you want to fuss about it for a week when I decline? No thanks.

Half of the customers - the aforementioned anxious mess half, like the lady who asked me to gift wrap an item, then timed me, and fussed when it took six minutes, because I had to find a box for the misshapen item

The general lack of appreciation and lack of humanity of working for a publicly traded conglomerate

The lower pay

The variable quality of the goods we sold for moderate prices being hailed as upscale. It was not upscale. Everyone calm down.

The crazy swarms of customers that would descend when a yoga class let out. There were five yoga studios in a two block radius that apparently practice the type of yoga that leads to cranky consumerism.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Heaven Forbid

Sometimes I have thoughts that might be considered morbid, but are actually emergency preparedness edicts. If anything ever happens to me where I go into a coma or a vegetative state, I need one of you to access my goodreads.com (like Facebook for readers) account. Find my "to read" list. Load audio books from my "to read" books list onto a listening device and play them in my ears. I can't think of a better way to spend time in case of a non-responsive state.

Thanks in advance. I'll owe you one.

Sunday, September 07, 2014

That's It. We're Moving to Abilene.

Don't freak out. We are likely never moving to Abilene. It's just the new thing Chad and I say in response to the overblown crowds, skyrocketing property taxes and ridiculous traffic of contemporary Austin.

Sometimes we long for a slower pace, lower cost of living and less crowded, more sincere way of daily living. Then we remind ourselves of all the conveniences and the energy that living in central Austin offers, and we try to calm down.

I want smallish town life with a decent smoothie bar and salad place. I want less traffic and crowds, but with cool stuff to do. I want to live in the smallest city that has a Whole Foods Market. I want to have time for hanging out with friends, and friends who have time for me, but also a decent vegetarian-friendly restaurant in town. I want a town with a 24 hour diner that is not a truck stop.

You guys let me know if you find that place. We can all move there together, and ruin it for the longtime locals.

Still Here

Working full-time downtown at a new job and keeping a house full of three cats and a big dog is difficult. I am tired. I have been reading only a few pages of magazine each night before passing out. I have just enough time to maintain an acceptable level of cleanliness in the 1952 House and get to the gym once a week.

Learning new routines, and deciphering new situations and personalities, is semi-exhausting. I am happy to be earning more money, to have more predictable work hours and to be working with two of my favorite sassy former coworkers again. My job title is Visuals Coordinator. Thus far I have been mostly selling clothes that are not exactly my style, and that are mostly tailored for men. I have done very little visuals creative work yet at the new place, and am excited to grow that part of the job. My goal is to keep this job for at least one year of fancy paychecks to pay off some loans and build up savings a bit. Then I hope to go back to school for an Associates degree in a creative field, such as graphic design with a concentration in illustration, or back to working in pet rescue with low pay, high-stress and high emotional stakes.  Warts and all, I keep drifting back to pet care and creative endeavors.

Maybe when this year of maximum earning is over, I can look back at it sheepishly as my "sell-out" year, or maybe I will learn to love my new job and stay longer. Right now, I'm trying to find enough daily joy to avoid over analyzing the situation.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

San Francisco... Again

I went to San Francisco about fourteen years ago with Chad, but maybe I was there another time since then. Honestly, I do not remember. I know, I'm awful. Chad has been to San Francisco at least five times for work and fun. 

view of Ferry Building Market from our hotel hallway

My favorite things about San Francisco on a previous trip (trips?), apart from what I consider to be MUCH nicer weather than Austin, was feeding coins to various antique amusement machines at the Musée Mécanique while it was still located in the basement of the Cliff House, seeing a Magritte exhibit at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, having amazing Viennese coffee at a little cafe and walking on the Golden Gate Bridge. Our friend from college, Jeffrey, served as tour guide on one of our previous trips, taking us around the Mission District and Castro neighborhoods. We also explored Haight-Ashbury which provided lots of chain stores, but little in the way of hippie nostalgia. We briefly hit Fisherman's Wharf and Pier 39, before getting the heck out of the tourist trap horde.

This trip to San Francisco was much shorter for me. With limited time of just over 48 hours, I only wanted to do and see things I had not previously experienced in the San Francisco area. After a pleasant direct flight from Austin to San Francisco aboard Virgin America, Chad and I checked in at the Hyatt Regency on Embarcadero around noon local time. We were prepared to drop our bags with the front desk, but our room was ready early. We were upgraded to the top floor of the hotel with a private balcony! Nice! No idea how we scored that perk. I loved the atrium style hotel with art deco design flourishes, and highly recommend it. 

Our first stop after the hotel was just down the block at Ferry Building Market complete with its Saturday farmer's market on the plaza. Oh the blinding sun! Oh the teeming masses! Oh the yummy snacks! We got our requisite bread, fruit, cheese and nuts, quickly squirreling it back to our hotel balcony high above the masses for a private picnic.

view from our private balcony

We also needed showers, a costume change and rest before cabbing it to the Marrakech Magic Theater for a magic show. The magician, Peter Morrison, does some close-up magic and audience fact-finding-chit-chat in the "Sultan's Lounge" waiting area before the main show while the audience trickles in and enjoys drinks and appetizers. At showtime, groups are ushered into the intimate theatre space and strategically seated. Magician Morrison puts the audience at ease with his fun attitude, uncanny memory for individual details and winking delivery. My only complaint was that I wanted the show to last a bit longer. 

Before retiring to some much-needed slumber back in our hotel room, Chad and I enjoyed that balcony and view again.

The next morning after a decadent room service breakfast, one of Chad's favorite things, we walked down Embarcadero to the Caltrain station past AT&T Park during a Giants baseball game. The vast majority of Giants fans were outfitted in full fan regalia of Giants merchandise bordering on Halloween costumes with all the orange & black and crazy accessories. 

At the train station we caught the baby bullet train with limited stops out to San Jose to tour the beautifully bizarre Winchester Mystery House. Yes, it's a cheesy tourist trap, but I really wanted to see it. Sarah Winchester, heir to the massive Winchester fortune built a 160 room house with winding stairs, secret passages, doorways to nowhere and impressive architecture in an attempt to ward off evil entities. Our informative tour guide led us through 1.1 miles of meandering rooms explaining the history of the house and pointing out details. She, and other tour guides we overheard, seemed to be coached to give factual accounts and downplay any speculation as to Sarah Winchester's sanity or any hauntings. Sadly, it left the tour feeling a bit flat. Go explore the fancy-fun website for the Winchester Mystery House with its great photos and details, so you can skip the trip to San Jose.

We ate a quick meal at the Veggie Grill (like McDonald's for vegetarians & vegans). I liked the salads, which were awesome, but hated the vegan macaroni & cheez. That mess was not food. I think it was melted plastic. We glanced at the faux-quaint, touristy  part of San Jose before catching a grumpy cab back to the train station. Seriously, cab drivers should not complain about how they are losing money to traffic congestion as passengers watch the meter progress.  Unfortunately we missed the last baby bullet train with limited stops of the evening by two minutes, and nearly doubled our return trip time with twenty stops between San Jose and San Francisco. 

Safely back in our hotel room we enjoyed the private balcony and view some more.

My last morning in San Francisco, we had yummy breakfast in the hotel restaurant before cabbing it to Presidio Park for the Walt Disney Family Museum and the Mary Blair exhibit. I particularly loved the Mary Blair exhibit about a female animator who worked with Walt Disney beginning in the 1930s on such films as Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan and my personal favorite, Ichabod Crane and the Legend of Sleepy Hollow. I was pleasantly surprised by the Walt Disney Family Museum, which covered not only biographical details about Walt Disney, but also technical innovations made by Disney. I have new found appreciation and respect for Walt Disney: the man, the artist and the innovator.

I would have loved more time to explore Presidio Park, especially under the impressive cloak of fog that day, but we had to catch a cab (with a nice driver this time!) back to the hotel so I could grab my suitcase. Chad walked me to the train station, loaded my BART  fare card, and said goodbye to me amid the hustle, bustle and stink of the train station. (He had to go to important meetings and say important things for work for a few more days in San Francisco.) I wanted to grab his arm, and say, "I know I'm an adult, but do I really have to take this train by myself to the airport? Come with me, or at least take me back up to the surface streets and put me in a cab." I did my very best to KIT (Keep It Together) and walked through the gates to the train platform.

I hate subterranean trains by any name: subways, the tube, the underground. I'm a high-functioning claustrophobic, and I have trouble when confined underground. Add to the hot mess that I'm hurtling through unfamiliar territory surrounded by strangers, hoping that I'm headed in the right direction, and that I will reach my destination on time. My heart races. I have to work to regulate my breathing. After hopping the wrong train in the right direction, disembarking at a transfer station, I caught the correct train and made it to the airport to check in 45 minutes before my flight without having a full-fledged panic attack.

On my flight home sans Chad, I had mucho legroom (like I need it) in the "Cabin Select" section. In my defense, "Cabin Select" was the only ticket I could still get for the flight I wanted home when I bought my tickets. For $69 more than "Main Cabin", passengers get perks including one free checked bag, free drinks, free snacks, free in-flight movies & television shows and more legroom. I enjoyed a ginger ale while the tiny young lady next to me downed two beers and two, or maybe three, wines. Thanks to the gentlemanly flight attendant who politely advised her to drink some water and eat something, she did not get sick.

I arrived safely home for my last week of work at West Elm! (More on that later.) 

To sum up: I hate subterranean trains and tourist horde. I love private balconies at high elevations. I'm so glad we went to the Walt Disney Family Museum. The magic show was fun. Don't go to San Jose unless you have to work there.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Well, Sure! If Money Were No Object...

Career coaches, life coaches, career counselors and eleventy bazillion self-help books pose the question, "If money were no object, what would you do with your time?" 

Besides my obvious answers of take more naps, travel more, have more free time to read, support more charities and generally be fabulous? I would write. More than just the blog, I would write some fiction loosely (and by that, I mean totally) based on my experiences. I would also volunteer for an animal welfare nonprofit organization. Which I've done in the past, but totally burned out my energy level, and needed a long break from middle of the night kitten/puppy feedings and cleanings. I miss the fat tummies and contented sighs of fuzzy-babies. (I'm fully aware that my maternal instincts skew only towards felines and canines. I accept this about myself. Thank you very much.) However, I really value a good night of uninterrupted sleep as I get older.

One is expected to take the answer to this question and go pursue their passions. But money does matter, in a big, fluffy way. Plus, I don't have the hustle needed to land a book deal. (I accept this about myself too.) I've been rejected more than enough for one lifetime during my time as a professional actress going on long-shot auditions.

In my recent job search shenanigans, I realized that sometimes a person just needs a job that is better than their current job to stop spinning one's proverbial wheels. We can't all just run amok pursuing passions with no regard for financial reality. In my case, I need a stable source of income, predictable working hours (which make for predictable sleeping hours and having fun hours), a less frenzied working environment and a manager with more realistic expectations of project scope. 

After working 4:00 AM to 10:00 AM a few days, which did not qualify for a lunch (or breakfast?) break, then working 3:00 AM to 8:00 AM a few days, only to turn around thirteen hours later to work 9:00 PM to 6:00 AM (which thankfully did qualify for whatever-meal-that-was break), just about any job is more stable and predictable than my current job. While I will genuinely miss many of the people I work with, I waved the white flag/cried "uncle"/gave notice on Saturday. It felt good. 

I don't want to jinx the job that is in the works. Here is a tiny hint: as soon as all the "i"s are dotted and "t"s are crossed, I'll post some photos of my first windows.

And if the afore-hinted-at-job does not materialize, I might go back to school at the local community college and pursue my passion for my (truly terrible and trite) creative writing.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Prince Sonic

Prince Sonic surveys his kingdom

Our fifteen pound muscle-man cat looks so tiny in the big back yard at the 1952 House.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Yes, Please

Blue Star Cooking has the antidote for stainless steel appliance monotony. I'm loving the Ruby range from their new jewel tone collection.

Of course, the orange Bertazonni 30 inch, four burner gas range is equally lovely.

For a retro feel, the Northstar Range by Elmira Stoveworks fits just fine, but I'd want the candy apple red model 1956 P. The company also makes matching refrigerators, hoods and microwaves, I'm going to go for broke and put the whole kitchen suite on my wish-list. All in candy apple red. Please and thank you.

Model 1959 for the 1952 House

I'm off to enter every sweepstakes known to man in an attempt to afford any of the above-mentioned loveliness. Wish me luck!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Heads-Up! (Imaginary) Housekeeper

Dear Valued (Imaginary) Housekeeper,

Heads-up! Next week, my schedule will be a ridiculous pain-in-the-patoot with work start times at 4:00 AM. Yes, AM! I know. It hurts my feelings too. 

Stock the pantry and fridge now:

chocolate covered espresso beans
cucumbers for cucumber water
beans for quick protein
organic peaches, berries, grapes
Brooklyn Roasters, Corner Donut Shop coffee K-cups
organic half and half
cheese cubes, preferably smoked gouda & mild cheddar
part skim mozzarella string cheese
kale, pepita, ginger salads
and whatever else yummy that I can't think of, but will totally crave

Also I need a new pillow, and you know how I hate shopping in person. (Shopping online is entirely different. Were shopping online an Olympic sport, I'd earn at least a silver medal.) Please get a standard size, medium support, NOT down pillow for me.

Please keep things running smoothly at the 1952 House while I make retail a prettier place to shop. Make sure the pets are fed on time and receive lots of brushing, cuddling and bootie-scratches. If you spot the feral kittens of backyard infamy, scoop them up and make them feel at home in the dressing room until I can see to them.

Please keep your mobile phone on your person at all times in case I need a breakfast taco delivery around 7:30 or 8:00 AM.

Together, we will get through this. Thanks!

Your adoring fan & taskmaster,

Sunday, July 06, 2014

The Elephant in the (Bath)Room

The floor around our one and only bathtub at the 1952 House creaks and groans during dry winter months. As moaned about previously, I would love a new bathtub due to the peeling glaze I applied seven years ago in an attempt to prolong the life of the now-62-year-old tub. The new bathtub need not be fancy. In fact, I have an affordable, not fancy, replacement picked out from Home Depot. 

The problem lies underneath the bathtub in the form of rotted subfloor. I hosted a foundation expert last week who poked around under the piers and beams for an estimate to repair the one beam that I thought was causing the creaky bathroom floor. The one beam turned out to be one beam sitting off kilter, one pier sitting off kilter and a rotten subfloor under the bathtub area. Yikes. How did our home inspector miss all that?

To install a new bathtub, we have to be ready for several contingencies: repair the one beam and one pier; rip out the old bathtub and some surrounding tiles to see how far the rotten subfloor extends; possibly remove the one and only toilet and all surrounding tile if the rotten subfloor extends to that area; possibly rip out the bathroom sink and all surrounding tile if the rotten subfloor extends to that area. Then put it all back together with the new subfloor and new tub.  

Chad and I were prepared to shower at the gym for a few days to accommodate the new tub installation. However, with this new information, we are not prepared to open the floor of the one and only bathroom at the 1952 House for goodness knows how long. We are not prepared to trek to our respective gyms every time we need to use the toilet. I also refuse to put a port-o-potty in the yard. REFUSE.

That know-it-all, Hindsight, keeps nagging me that we should have replaced the bathtub when we first bought the 1952 House and redid the bathroom. Live and learn. Our next house will have more than one toilet, and will feature a bathtub made and installed in the twenty-first century.

For the time being, I'm going to learn to love showers, ignore the peeling glaze on the tub, ignore the creaky bathroom floor, and do my very best to ignore the elephant in our one and only bathroom.

Friday, July 04, 2014

Our Big Screen Viewing of Pee Wee's Big Adventure

Chad and I (along with eleventy-hundred other Austin peeps) attended Sound & Cinema on the lawn of the Long Center for a showing of Pee Wee's Big Adventure. Dare I say it, and risk tempting higher temperatures to muscle their way to Austin, but the weather was lovely: not too hot or humid. 

Urban Achievers brass band played jazzy-pop songs before the show. (Even the tuba player manages to dance as he does solos. What a fun spectacle to behold!) A guy dressed as Pee Wee ran up for a brief introduction of the film, informing us that "today's secret word is Pee Wee". *aaahhhhhh* *waves jazz-hands in the air* Cyclists road past along the trails of Town Lake/Ladybird Lake, one cyclist giving a loud Pee Wee Herman laugh as he cruised behind the big screen.

I mention our attendance of something outside, because Chad and I increasingly find ourselves hiding at home, basking in the comfort of air-conditioning and refrigerated beverages. Thus far, this summer is nice and mild. We need to pry ourselves out of the 1952 House and enjoy Austin.

No Kittens, Also No Raccoons

My pal, Tracy, of mystery dinner theatre fame/infamy, loaned us a few humane traps for the kittens spotted in our backyard last week. (Three separate trips to the Austin Humane Society yielded no traps, as they are all out on loan for the booming kitten season.) Despite baiting the traps with delicious, mushy salmon kitten foods, there were no nibbles. We kept Sonic inside, so as not to scare the kittens, and so as not to have to free him from the traps umpteen times each night.

Yesterday morning just before I went to clean out the traps and unset them for the day, I spotted a prosperous raccoon climbing down from the backdoor neighbor's roof line. As cute as raccoons are with their little masks, thumbs and fuzzy selves, I don't want to catch one. I fully acknowledge that a wild raccoon is more likely to bite my face and give me rabies, than to bring it in for cuddles.

I admit defeat. Sonic, Chad and I scared those kittens away from ever returning to the 1952 House. I hope someone else scooped them out of harm's way and started feeding them.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Feral Kittens & Public Service Announcement

Our big bruiser boy kitty Sonic patrolled the backyard of the 1952 House tonight while Chad and I watched Masterpiece Mystery. My ears ever on alert to kitty distress calls heard a feline cry, paused the mystery story and ran for the backyard. Sonic yowled with concern, but not his usual battle ululations to intruder-cats. After grabbing flip-flops and flashlights, Chad and I separated Sonic from what we thought was a baby bunny that hopped off to the far right side of our yard fence line. Then Sonic tore off to the far left side of our yard. When I chased down Sonic, I also cornered a tiny kitten that looked about four to six weeks old, and looked JUST LIKE Sonic. (All of our cats are spayed/neutered. It's just a coincidence.) Chad and I tried to catch the kitten, but it ran off to the same spot as the "baby bunny", and slipped under the fence line to a neighbor's yard. 

I hauled Sonic into the 1952 House, then set out fresh water and kitty food should the kittens return. In the morning I'll go to the Austin Humane Society to rent a humane trap for the kittens. My goal is to get the kittens to a shelter intake where they can be safe, get their shots, get spayed/neutered, be socialized and get adopted. Yes, I'll make a monetary donation to whichever shelter will take them. Thank goodness, Austin is a no-kill city, meaning adoptable pets are not "euthanized"/killed at the shelters. 

If I catch the mama cat too, my goal is to get her spayed, care for her during recovery and release her back into our yard. We'll start leaving food and water on our deck for her, and possibly add an outdoor cat to our brood if she doesn't run for the hills. Of course, if we catch mama cat I'll put up "Found Cat" posters too, on the off chance she has a home. 

Chad and I were not at all planning on adding to the pack at the 1952 House. In fact, we were hoping to get the pet population down to two through natural attrition. 

If you have feral cats/kittens in your neighborhood in Austin, please take advantage of Austin Humane Society's generous programs to help curb the homeless/unwanted cat population through trapping, neutering and returning. 

Click this link for more information: http://www.austinhumanesociety.org/ferals

Outside of Austin, click this link for resources on feral cats/kittens:

Sonic came to our home from an acquaintance who cared for a feral cat colony in her decidedly upscale neighborhood. She trapped, neutered and returned the adult cats, and got the kittens into adoption programs. I'd like to think that Sonic's distress cry in the backyard tonight meant "Hey! Come help these kittens. It's my turn to pay it forward." However, it likely meant, "Hey! Get these kittens out of here. I don't want to share my resources, such as food, water or lap-space."

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Staycation Stuff We Did

Not us: Chad's Cousin and New Husband with Best Cake Ever

Staycation kicked off with a quick road trip to Houston Friday afternoon for Chad's cousin's surprise wedding. Yes, surprise wedding. Let that sink in for a moment. The bride and groom got overwhelmed trying to plan a wedding, and opted for a quickie Justice of the Peace union. The bride's parents planned and threw a lovely wedding to surprise her. The beautiful bride found out about the wedding a few weeks in advance, so she didn't have long to sweat any details. As the daughter of a former wedding planner, I feel fairly qualified to declare that the surprise wedding was awesome! The floral arrangements (white hydrangeas, big white & pink roses) were some of the most beautiful I've ever seen. The ceremony was meaningful yet mercifully expedient. There wasn't too much speechifying at toast time. The cake was pretty, traditional and the BEST tasting wedding cake I've ever eaten. Chad and I stayed in Houston one night only and drove back to Austin Saturday at noon. 

Saturday was a freebie day to rest and let the road rattle from our trip to Houston subside.

Best Cat Toy Ever from Lofty Dog

Sunday (rhymes with fun day) we made fullest use of the Village shopping center: checked out Lofty Dog, a cute pet supplies store where we bought the best cat toy ever; caught the new X-Men movie at Alamo Drafthouse; looked at a possible office space for Chad; had a sip at The Goodnight; and ate frozen yogurt at some froyo place whose name I can't remember. Park once for a full day of stuff, kids!

Monday was an unscheduled choose-your-own-adventure day. Chad napped for three hours while I inhaled (read quickly) a book: If You Were Here by Jen Lancaster. At 6:30 we picked up the dog from her "summer camp" wrestling and running in circles with other dogs adventure. I think Janie would prefer to live at Camp Four Paws with her canine friends, but she had to return home to the weird cats and boring people. *sigh*

Tuesday Chad and I tooled around at Laguna Gloria to admire the outdoor art installations before brunch at Kerbey Lane Cafe. We also checked out the A Secret Affair exhibition at The ComtemporAry Austin Jones Center on Congress Avenue which featured some intriguing works. I highly recommend this exhibit if you like your art in an air-conditioned setting. Even if you dislike the art currently exhibited at Jones Center, the architecture of the interior and exterior of the building are pretty amazing to behold, especially at night when the lighted glass tiles start to sparkle.

Wednesday we opted for a kitschy tourist trap meets educational field trip to Inner Space Cavern in Georgetown. I'm a bit wary of going underground, but I did just fine in this cave space. The tour lasted a little over an hour and covered half a mile of cave with stalactites, stalagmites, rock formation columns, little pure water pools and creeks. Our tour guide was friendly, informative and just the right amount of funny. (You don't want a total comedian taking you 70 feet underground, half a mile into a cave. This is seriously underground, and should be a certain amount of seriously safe.) 

Whilst up north, we lunched at Monument Cafe also in sleepy, quaint Georgetown. Monument Cafe is known for its pies. We had coconut cream pie, which was a satisfying standard. The huge serving of strawberry lemonade with freshly blended chunks of strawberry was the standout of our lunch - yum. 

If I Had to Live in Georgetown, This Would Be My House

We drove around the main square of Georgetown admiring the courthouse on our way back to I-35, before spotting this beautiful, grand, historic home for sale on S. Austin Ave. It can be ours for $1,051,875. Buy that lotto ticket now. 

Slightly south of Georgetown sits Round Rock, home of Round Rock Donuts. We hardly ever get this far out of our central Austin bubble, so it was imperative that we stop and grab a few of the deliciously decadent, yellow dough, melt in your mouth bits of fried goodness. Totally worth the dietary splurge!

Fancy Doors to Fancy Fonda San Miguel in our Neighborhood

Fancy Fountain at Fancy Fonda San Miguel

Thursday was another free day featuring a whole lot of nothing. Chad napped while I read and looked at interwebs. We wandered out to Fonda San Miguel around dinner time. I love the architecture of the place even if the service is always a bit uppity & rushed, and the food is a little fancy, heavy & challenging for my finicky vegetarian ways. A big storm rolled into Austin Thursday night with an impressive lightning show. I like the think the angel sculpture heralded the approaching storm. The trees in our neighborhood took a battering, but luckily we only lost a few tiny branches at the 1952 House.

Friday after Chad's requisite staycation nap we had evening adventures with a historic walking tour of four square blocks of downtown Austin. I don't recommend the tour, so I won't list a link. The tour gave some watered down information that I already knew. Overbearing motorcycle engines revving from the annual ROT Rally (Republic of Texas Biker Rally) didn't help the walking tour experience. We wanted to get away from the main drag of the downtown scene post haste. 

However, since we secured an ever-elusive parking spot downtown, we stopped into The Ginger Man, slightly off the ROT Rally main drag, for a nightcap and snack to make the most of our trip downtown. A handsome, tawny colored rat with a sweet face decided to run in through the opened patio door to greet us and check out the scene inside The Ginger Man. Aw, cute little fuzzy rat. 

Wait... a rat! 

A rat in here! 

With us! 

Running really close to us! 

I admit that I'm a weirdo for feeling bad for the rat. The big garage bay door from the patio was open, inviting even. How was the rat supposed to know it wasn't welcome to run in and forage for fresh food stuffs? The first time the manager chased the rat back outside, I said, "Cry freedom!" The second time the rat scurried inside, Chad and I scampered on out of there. 

On the way back to the car, I snapped this photo of some street art in a covered walkway for a construction site. We counted so many cranes for new construction in downtown Austin Friday night. Don't call Austin a boomtown, because the bust curse might come crashing. 

Saturday we received an email that our favorite source for jeans, Hem, is closing its doors at the end of June after 10 years in business. It's sad to see a local business shuttered, but we took a tiny bit of solace in the 40% off sale offer. Our final trip to Hem was a bust due to the dwindling inventory, but at least we got closure and said a proper goodbye. Later we drowned our sorrows at Hopfields with a beer each, filling fresh salads and delicious fries. We didn't linger due to World Cup Soccer on a giant screen in the tiny space.

Sunday we cleaned the 1952 House like whirling dervishes. This frenzy of chores included pulling the bed out of its usual spot to clean under and around it. Apparently the cats' favorite place to barf is under our bed. Gross. We remediated that situation, then had a long talk with the cats about preferred spots for their barfs, such as outside, or on tile floors that are easier to clean.

Overall, staycation (versus vacation with busy schedule, travel, pet care and hotel expenses) best fit our needs for relaxation and decompression. Plus we live in the uber-hip, perhaps over-hyped, tourist mecca that is Austin. Other people get on airplanes to come here.