Saturday, June 17, 2017

Ex-Boyfriend Spotted at Favorite Grocery Store

I have one ex-boyfriend from college who still lives in Austin. We shop at the same grocery store sometimes. Over the years I've seen him approximately five times at this store. We never speak or acknowledge each other. Back in the day, he broke up with me by ignoring my phone calls and telling a friend of a friend that he didn't want to see me anymore. I think the modern version of this is called "ghosting". At the time, it broke my heart. It sucks to be dumped unceremoniously. Six months later I met Chad, and pretty much forgot about that Ex-BF.

My former, much-beloved gym shared a parking lot with this grocery store, which happens to be my favorite grocery store. Usually when I spotted Ex-BF in the past, I looked sweaty and ruddy from exercise, with little to no makeup, less than ideal fashion and unstyled hair. Since my former gym closed, I have a better chance of showing up at the grocery store wearing makeup, and with some thought given to hairstyle and outfit. On that fated day last month, as I left for the grocery store, Chad asked, "You got a hot date?" This is his funny way of telling me I look nice. Honestly I wasn't doing anything special with my outfit of jeans and t-shirt, except for accessorizing with a necklace, earrings and my wedding ring. (I don't wear my wedding ring to the gym. I'm afraid it will get scratched or damaged. I also dislike the pinch-feeling of the ring as I'm gripping weights or handles. Chad agrees with me on this.)

I spotted Ex-BF from a distance of about 50 feet at the grocery store that day. I thought, "He's aging well. Good for him." Then I noticed that I wasn't blushing or hyperventilating, and thought, "I'm handling this Ex-BF sighting really well. Good for me." Ex-BF did not spot me in that moment. Awkward situation averted. Yay.

I steered my cart toward the checkout lines. I waited in line for about two minutes with no one in line behind me. I stacked my groceries on the conveyor belt. I had several feminine products, three bottles of Chameleon cold brew coffee, vegan hot dogs, buns, sunflower seeds for the birds/squirrels and many bottles of Topo Chico fizzy water amongst my groceries. I remember thinking how absurd it might be to judge someone based on the products purchased on a random grocery run. Someone got in line behind me. They put cat litter and several giant bottles of cheap wine on the conveyor belt. I sneaked a peek at what I assumed would be an elderly spinster lady. Nope. It was Ex-BF. Dangit! Did he not recognize me? Why would a sane person knowingly get in line behind their Ex? I gave a grimace in his general direction, not making eye-contact. I looked just long enough to see him tilt his head a bit to the side, like a dog does when they are trying to understand your words. Maybe in that second he recognized me, too late to back out of that checkout line. He suddenly became engrossed in his phone. I felt myself blush mightily. I turned and kept my back to Ex-BF. I watched my heartbeat become more and more pronounced under my shirt. As inconspicuously as possible I took a few, quiet, deep breaths to try and calm myself.

I gave my friendliest smile when the checker greeted me. As the checker scanned my items, I pawed through some Snickers bars that said funny things on them in the Snickers font and logo style such as: POUTY, SLEEPY, CRANKY, LOOPY. Yes, I am allergic to peanuts. Yes, Snickers are packed with peanuts. Anything to avoid looking back at Ex-BF behind me. The sweet bagger asked me if I wanted my face powder left out of the grocery bag, and maybe in my purse instead. No thanks! Throw it all in the bag, please. Hurry, please. Thankyouverymuchhaveagooddaybye. When I completed checkout and all my items were bagged, I dared to give the tiniest glance back as I fled for the exit. I saw Ex-BF digging through the Snickers bars with a half-smirk on his face.

I got home and immediately spilled all the details of my Ex-BF sighting to Chad. (Chad works from home, as do all of the employees at his company.) I was still blushing and flustered. Chad laughed with me about it, and kindly asked if I needed a cold compress for my forehead. He gave me a hug.

I'm so glad that Ex-BF behaved like a thoughtless jerk all those years ago. I'm so glad I met Chad at the right time, when I was ready to have a thoughtful, smart, nice, super-handsome boyfriend who respected me. I'm not so glad that Ex-BF got in the checkout line behind me at my favorite grocery store.

I need to find a new favorite grocery store.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Five Cool Treats in Austin

It's not even officially summer yet, but I'm lining up my coping mechanisms for the heat that will pervade summer in Central Texas like a hot, wet blanket. In semi-related confessions: Chad and I fell off the vegan wagon. More on that later. I now self-identify as a strict vegetarian with vegan tendencies. Some, but not all, of the following places are vegan-friendly. All are vegetarian-friendly, of course.

1. Sno.Co Flattop Shaved Ice

This shaved ice trailer parks at the charmingly funky Vortex Theatre complex at 2307 Manor Road. After seeing an Instagram post of the frosty goodness I can't wait to try it!

2. Snow Monster

Chad and I have ventured way north to the Snow Monster location at North Lamar and Braker Lane several times. Snow Monster is totally worth the trek! Snow Monster serves snow ice which is a popular Taiwanese dessert made with fruit extracts and fresh milk. Snow Monster makes a soymilk version also! They offer about a bazillion toppings to personalize your frosty treat.

3. Juiceland

Having some vitamin-deficiency induced guilt? Feeling like you need a healthy cool smoothie? Juiceland can help you with that. They have lots of locations, even outside of Austin, for you to get your fix. Vegan-friendly to the max.

4. Sweet Caroilne's Snow Shack

Sweet Caroline's Snow Shack serves yummy New Orleans-style snowballs. The trailer at 8102 Mesa Drive near Spicewood Springs Road sits conveniently/dangerously near my gym. If I tell you I'm going to my gym, and return with a technicolor tongue, you know what's up. I like the texture of these snowballs.

5. Venezia Italian Gelato

Venezia serves up Italian gelato made by real-live Italian-Americans! I can't wait to try it.
Chad spent his baby and toddler years in Naples, Italy where his dad served as a Navy Pilot. Chad loves gelato and most things Italian. It will be easy to convince him to make the trek down to Venezia Italian Gelato at 1701 South Lamar Boulevard.

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Circus 1903

If you live in Austin, you have one more day to catch Circus 1903 at the Long Center. Chad and I marveled from our front row center seats at this magnificent circus complete with a wise & wise-cracking ringmaster, contortionist, strong man, trapeze artists, high wire act, acrobats, beautiful (puppet) elephants and more. Wow!

Use discount code: ZACH for 25% off!

I don't want to say too much about the show and spoil it. Chad and I both loved it, and we're a tough audience. Circus 1903 delights young and old. If you live in a city other than Austin, check out the official Circus 1903 website for tour dates in other cities by clicking here.

Friday, June 02, 2017

Five Shows I'm Loving on Netflix

These shows are not for kids. I'm an adult. I get to watch shows with adult themes.

1. Lovesick

After discovering he has an STD, a young man decides to reconnect with past relationship partners to deliver the bad news. Sweetness, hilarity and awkwardness ensue. This Netflix original is set in the UK. I love the accents and the scenery.

2. Master of None

I have a strong affection and affinity for the work of Aziz Ansari. This Netflix original revolves around the daily life, love interests and career of a 30-something actor living in New York City. I love that Ansari's real-life parents play his parents on the show. The first two episodes of season two, set in Italy, are gorgeous eye-candy and pay homage to a European aesthetic. Season two, episode six, entitled "New York, I Love You" served a wonderfully warm, moody and slice-of-life realness.

3. Death in Paradise

In this fish out of water story model, a British police detective who hates sand, sun, surf and seafood travels to the Caribbean island of Saint Marie to help solve the murder of a fellow British police detective. He does such a great job solving the mystery, he is rewarded/punished with an extended work assignment on the island. I love the scenery, the chemistry of the cast of characters and the quirky mysteries. I just started season two.

4. Girlboss

This Netflix original is a loose retelling of the rise of Nasty Gal clothier, Sophia Amoruso. Real loose. Set in San Francisco, the eye-candy scenery delights. The vintage clothing also provides a visual party. I love Sophia's spirit, drive and vulnerability. I love the characters that surround her. I'm halfway through the first (and currently only) season, and pacing myself sparingly. I don't binge on good shows with a finite number of episodes.

5. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

A resilient woman is rescued after fifteen years in a doomsday cult bunker and makes her new home in New York City. I love the breakneck pace of weirdness and wackiness in this charming show. I love bearing witness to Kimmy's journey to conquer her past tribulations and figure out modern life. I love the charming weirdos that surround Kimmy. I'm halfway though the current/third season. I find past episodes imminently rewatchable. Each episode packs a dense punch of jokes and eccentricities.

What are you watching and loving? Do you watch multiple episodes at once, or pace your viewing pleasure?

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Bee Better with Bombas Socks

Stop everything and watch this three and a half minute video right now. 

I love Bombas socks. I love the soft fabric, blister-preventing-padding in the right places, durability, arch support, cool designs and color combinations. Oh yeah, and for every pair sold, a pair is donated to a person in need. Chad and I have about thirty pair of Bombas Socks between the two of us. I even sent a bunch to my nieces and nephews for Christmas when Bombas started making kids' sizes. I sent my mom a pair in one of her Mother's Day gift boxes a few years ago. I love these socks. I love the Bombas mission.

This is not a paid promotion. I just love Bombas socks that much. Here's the link:

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Five Faves for the West Austin Studio Tour

Photo of yours truly, taken by Chad

The West Austin Studio Tour runs May 13 & 14 and again May 20 & 21. If you are in the Austin area, you should check out at least five stops on the tour, and report back to me. Chad and I  treated ourselves to a West Austin Studio Tour preview party on Thursday night at one of my favorite former workplaces, the Dougherty Arts Center. Based on that preview and a few friend/former teacher connections, here are my five must-see stops on the tour. Be advised that I like spaces with multiple artists showing their work, versus needing to see the exact studio where one particular artist works.

*Roll over text and click links to see works by each artist mentioned.*

1. Austin Art Space Gallery and Studios
7739 Northcross Drive, Suite Q

The lovely floral artwork of artist Neena Buxani caught my attention. Erin Edwards also tickled my fancy. Bonus points for nine resident artists in one stop.

2. Blue Genie Art Bazaar
6100 Airport Boulevard

Photo I took of Blue Genie entrance at Christmas-time

This is the mothership with over fifty artists in one place! I'm giving myself at least 90 minutes here. Artists' works I'm most excited to see are Rory Skagen, Dana Younger, Eya Claire Ford, Anne Marie Beard, Court Lurie and Mark Puente.

3. Jay Long, Artist Studio
1211 W. 49th Street

Chad and I proudly own two prints by Jay Long. I love the melancholy, earnest mix of sweet, and sometimes slightly menacing, imagery this artist creates.

4. Frederick Douglass 217 Moore
Gather North Lamar, a Vuka Company
5540 North Lamar Boulevard

This artist displayed a ridiculously intricate, miniature city scape carved out of erasers at the preview party. Chad and I were blown away. I can't wait to see more of his work. There are three other artists at this stop also exhibiting work.

5.  Kasey Kilcrease
ZACH Theatre
1510 Toomey Road, Topfer Pavillion

Kasey's art is bright with clean lines and such character. I want to keep looking at each piece. Hush. I'm still looking. Go around me. I'm still looking. There are four other artists at this stop also exhibiting work.

Saturday, May 06, 2017

Five (or more) Summer Movies I Want to See

1. My Cousin Rachel 

This looks wonderfully gloomy, suspenseful and a bit dastardly. Perfect for hiding from the blistering hot sun in an overly air-conditioned movie theatre.

2. Megan Leavey

A woman breaking gender molds, serving in the military, with a warrior dog who saves her life. She just wants to be able to adopt the dog at the end of his tour of duty. Let her adopt the dog! Sure to induce a cathartic ugly-cry.

3. Despicable Me 3

When I was a child, other people's parents would tell me how mature I was. Brent McDaniel's mom, Candy, went so far as to say that I must have "popped out of the womb acting like a 35 year old." I'm making up for my misspent (unspent?) childhood. I don't love every kids' movie, but I love the Despicable Me franchise.

4. Baby Driver

Nope. Not about the daycare drop-off. This movie is crime-riddled and dangerous with car chases and double-crossing deeds. Yes, please.

5. Nearly certain to be half of the yet to be announced lineup for the Paramount Summer Classic Film Series

Sometimes I just like the time-tested, greatest hits. Past favorites from the Paramount Summer Classic Film Series include:

All About Eve

Strangers on a Train

Breakfast at Tiffany's

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance

Ferris Bueller's Day Off


Saturday, April 29, 2017

Powerless Peacocking

For those of you unable to attend Night of the Peacock last Sunday evening at Mayfield Park, I'm posting a transcript of the peacock-themed story I told. The variety show, produced by my friend Max Langert, raised nearly $1100 for SAFE Alliance. The nineteen resident peacocks of Mayfield Park were just as much part of the show as the musicians, poet, storytellers and actors were. The peacock squawks and struts punctuated the human performances with genius comedic timing. The huge trees and tranquil ponds at Mayfield Park provided a beautiful backdrop. I'm thankful for creative, driven and talented friends who ask me to be part of their shows.

Powerless Peacocking

About ten years ago, I worked as a background actor in film, television and commercials. You may recognize me as a recurring featured extra from season three of Friday Night Lights. You may recognize me as the airline stewardess who bumped shoulders with Temple Grandin as played by Claire Danes in the Emmy-award winning, HBO-produced movie entitled Temple Grandin. You may recognize my hands from twirling pasta in Carino’s Italian Grill commercials. Some of my fellow actors back in the day would complain bitterly about getting casting notices for reality television shows. I hate to be the one to break it to you if you didn’t already know, but there isn’t much real about reality television. There was a particularly odious reality TV show called "The Pickup Artist”. Many of my female friends, some of them happily married, were summoned by their talent agents to appear on this not-so-real reality show.

The premise of The Pickup Artist was that a guy, who claimed to be suave and debonair, coached men who were unlucky in love, on the shady art of picking up women. The main coach-guy called himself Mystery. Mystery looked like he took fashion advice from both an evil magician and a pirate. A typical outfit for Mystery might include knee-high boots, a puffy shirt, a crushed velvet cape and a fuzzy top hat. The real mystery is how this awful show ever got the green light. "The Pickup Artist" promoted several pickup tactics: Peacocking entails dressing oddly or flamboyantly to call attention to oneself. The "neg” involves giving back-handed compliments mixed with a little insult to get a lady’s attention and deal a blow to her self-esteem. For example: “You’re pretty, but you’d be really gorgeous if you lost ten pounds.” Who wouldn’t be charmed, right? Pickup artists also coach persistence. If a lady initially rebuffs a pickup artist, he keeps trying to get her attention, or starts hitting on her friends.

Around the time this reprehensible reality TV show was on the air, I attended weekly pub trivia nights with a group of friends at Mother Egan’s Pub. I was usually the team secretary, recording our answers and walking our answer sheet up to the front of the pub for scoring after each round of trivia questions. 

On this particular night, after one of the rounds of trivia, I walked our team’s answer sheet up to the front scorekeeper's table. When I turned to rejoin my team at the back of the pub, there was a little boy blocking my path. He wore a rainbow-striped baseball cap with a small, red propeller on top of the hat.  I thought, “This is weird. Why is this little boy in a bar? On a school night? Why is he wearing that silly hat? Is it punishment for something bad he did?” He looked kind of scared, but stood his ground, directly in my path. 

“Excuse me,” I said, and stepped to one side, hoping he would step to the opposite side, and we could pass each other. Instead, he gave me a slow visual appraisal, looking down the length of my person and back up to my face. He locked eyes with me, and said, “Hi” in a squeaky voice. He cleared his throat, and tried again, and said, “Hi” with a slightly deeper voice this time.

The longer I looked at this scared little boy blocking my path, the more the alarm bells started sounding in my head. I realized he was not a little boy, but an adult male with a slight build and terribly timid posture. I also clued in that the weird hat was likely an attempt at peacocking. I worried if I stood there much longer I might be subjected to the full “Pickup Artist” routine about which my actress friends had warned me. I didn’t want to be mean, but I was (& am) happily married, and just not at all interested in striking up a friendship with any adult who wears a rainbow-striped baseball cap with a small red propeller on top. So I said, “I’ve got to get back to my team for the next round of trivia. Have a good night.” I gave a little wave, turned the other way, and found a new path back to my team’s table. 

Rainbow-Propeller-Hat (that’s the name I gave him) appeared at my team’s table about twenty seconds after I reclaimed my seat. He stood beside me, breathing loudly and stared at me. Everyone on my team fell silent in contagion as they laid eyes on Rainbow-Propeller-Hat.  They seemed mesmerized by Rainbow-Propeller-Hat and his creepy vibe. Half of my teammates stared at Rainbow-Propeller-Hat with slack-jaws and wide eyes while the other half of my team employed more surreptitious side-eye glances. 

I’d love to tell you that I politely and firmly rebuffed Rainbow-Propeller-Hat on my own in a blaze of feminist glory, but that’s not what happened. Instead, I winked at my husband, who was sitting across the table from me. I then turned to Rainbow-Propeller-Hat and said, “This is my husband, Chad. Stand up and introduce yourself, babe.” My husband is one of the least jealous, most polite people you’ll ever meet. He also happens to be six-feet tall, and he lifts weights.

Chad stood up. That’s all it took. Rainbow-Propeller-Hat wouldn’t even look my husband in the eye, but mumbled, “Hey man, Do you know where the bathrooms are?” My ever-polite husband pointed in the general direction of the bathrooms. Rainbow-Propeller-Hat made a hasty departure, with his little red propeller spinning in the wind, thus salvaging some tiny shred of dignity. Okay, no, that’s a lie. When a person is peacocking, and doesn’t have the sense of self-worth or sense of humor to back it up, dignity goes out the window real fast. I felt bad for Rainbow-Propeller-Hat, that he couldn’t just be himself and strike up an honest conversation with someone. I felt really mad at shows like "The Pickup Artist” for preying on lonely people, and for giving terrible advice like peacocking for pick-ups, the “neg” and persistence when one should not persist. Apparently many people shared my opinion, because “The Pickup Artist” received much bad publicity and public backlash. “The Pickup Artist” was canceled after only 16 episodes, no longer besmirching the proud name of the majestic peacock.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Delayed Mourning Catches Up to Me

Marigold loved to supervise projects like packing.

On Wednesday, November 30, 2016 Chad and I took Marigold to our faithful veterinarian to have her euthanized. Marigold lived over nineteen years, an uncommon feat for a Persian cat.  I grudgingly witnessed the clues that Marigold's quality of life declined: sleeping in odd places, weight loss, diminishing use of her back legs, and finally, a large lump on her jaw. I gave Chad and the veterinarian a well rehearsed speech about how it was time to let her go. I rehearsed that speech so much, because I had to convince myself of its truth before I gave it to other people.

At the time I steeled myself against feeling Marigold's loss too deeply. We had (and still have) three other resident cats and a big dog upon which to dote. We housed a foster cat who had just been rejected from an adoption program the week before Marigold died. The foster cat, though very loving to people, made it clear she hated other cats by attacking our two male cats anytime she got out of her room. The foster cat situation added exponentially more stress to an already stressful time. Thankfully, the foster cat entered a different cat adoption program on January 20, 2017, fully two months later than we intended to keep her. The day I dropped off the foster cat at the adoption center, she shook with fear in her carrier as we waited to enter. She peered at me pleadingly from the holding kennel, leaning as far as she could to keep an eye on me as I filled out her paperwork. I thanked the adoption center worker for accepting the cat as I handed over a cutely worded, but honest, information sheet I had prepared to aid in the cat's adoption. Back at home, I spent four hours scrubbing, disinfecting, vacuuming and steam-mopping the foster cat's room. When I finished cleaning, I sat on the sofa and sobbed for thirty minutes. I felt miserable about dropping off the foster cat. I felt like a failure for not finding her a home. When I told a dear friend about how awful I felt the next day, she responded, "You saved that cat's life." That's how I try to see it now.  I hope our former foster cat is very happy with her new family.

Four and a half months after making the decision to euthanize Marigold, I started dreaming about her. I dreamed she was fluffy, healthy and happy. In the dream Marigold telepathically told me she was at peace and pain-free. She showed me a ghost of a teenage boy, and warned me about him. Dreams are weird, am I right?

Two nights later I dreamed about Marigold again. In this dream I worked in Austin's historic Scarbrough building again. Behind an old bank vault, I discovered a secret staircase leading up to a modest apartment frozen in time in the early 1920s. There was a china hutch displaying pastel floral adorned fine china dishes. Old furniture supported impressive spider webs and dust layers. Marigold walked through the living room, leading me to the lovely claw-foot bathtub in the apartment's single bathroom. I marveled at the secret apartment discovery so much, I forgot to pet Marigold, or even greet her properly in that dream. When I awoke that day from that vivid dream, it hit me: I forgot to grieve for Marigold.

I have been a weepy mess for the past two days. I miss my dead Marigold so much. I miss the way she would meow at me until I picked her up and put her on my shoulder like a baby. I miss her twice-daily races up and down the long hallway in our house. I miss her sitting next to me on the sofa purring loudly. I even miss her sneezing fits, when I had to massage her throat to calm her enough to stop the sneezes. I miss her general sassy demeanor and her radiant, massive halo of gold fur. I miss that Marigold loved her Janie-dog, napped happily next to Janie and sniffed Janie's frito-scented feet.

This too shall pass, but I have to let the grief do what it will for a while. Proper mourning can't be delayed indefinitely. It will catch up to you.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Five Shop Small, Shop Local Insights

I was raised mostly in the Southern Baptist Church with a brief stint in the United Methodist Church. Chad was raised in the Catholic Church. We observe the Lenten Season, the 46 days from Ash Wednesday through Easter Sunday, each year as a time to challenge unhealthy (physical, spiritual or mental) behaviors. Chad gave up sweet snacks like candy, Oreos and ice cream. I gave up shopping at big box stores, behemoth online retailers and chain stores, in an effort to support small maker-owned businesses and locally owned businesses. 

Lite-Brite Egg, Happy Easter!

Here are five insights from my "shop small, shop local" 46 day Lenten experience.

1. I messed up once. We drove from Austin to Houston for a fun weekend. I got a beverage at a Starbucks along the way. My rule for being out of town was to patronize locally owned businesses in whatever town I visited. This was easy to do in Brenham, Texas on the historic downtown square. This was not easy to do along Highway 290 on the way to Houston. With better planning, I could have found a locally owned coffee shop along our travel route. (Hello, Google Maps "nearby" search option!) I am simply not in that habit.

2. I didn't order anything on Amazon. I went to local independent bookstores, BookPeople and Half Price Books when I needed (okay, wanted) a book (okay, three books each trip). I went to locally owned pet stores such as Tomlinson's and Phydeaux & Friends when the pets needed food, a new kitty condo or new chew-toys. I went to locally owned A-Town, Blue Elephant Boutique and Terra Toys when I needed to buy gifts or treat myself.

3. I didn't order any fashion items from Nordstrom. This may not sound like a big deal, but it is for me. I realized that going in person to local boutiques and actually trying on clothes before buying them makes for much more satisfying purchases. I also learned that I don't necessarily need another LA Made V-neck pocket T-shirt. I just need to do laundry more often to keep my current collection ready to wear. (But I really, really love LA Made V-neck pocket T-shirts which are made and designed in the USA!)

4. I realized I don't usually eat at restaurants that aren't locally owned. Eating local was easy-peasy in Austin, Texas and in Brenham, Texas. My favorite local Austin restaurants include Guero's, TacoDeli, Kerbey Lane Cafe, Hyde Park Bar & Grill, Chango's, Manuel's and El Mercado. Chad and I also hit up the hot bar, ready-prep foods case and the salad bar at Wheatsville Co-op a few times a week. We are member-owners of Wheatsville Co-op, and are thankful for this wonderful grocery store.

Lovely Chandeliers at Manuel's Restaurant

5. I realized that I don't like shopping at big box stores. It was easy to avoid Target, Lowe's, Home Depot and all that mess. I went to Zinger Hardware and Shoal Creek Nursery instead. Luckily, I didn't need to purchase any new bedding or towels during Lent, because those items might have been difficult to source from a locally owned store.

Chad at Zinger Hardware. I forced him to pose. Look at that good-sport-grin!

I ordered a few things online directly from artist-makers during Lent. I bought a lovely Fordite sterling silver ring from Siesta Silver Jewelry, a small business jewelry artist. I bought the Austin Adult Coloring Book from the website for local Austin artist, Rebecca Borrelli, because it was sold-out at the shop I visited.

Overall, this experience of shopping small and shopping local for 46 days forced me to pause and consider each purchase. I corrected an irresponsible behavior of automatically ordering things from Amazon and Nordstrom, of not supporting my local economy or makers. I'm not saying I'll never shop chain stores again, but I will try local shops and maker-owned businesses first.

Lite-Brite Chicken, Happy Easter!

Sunday, April 09, 2017

Night of the Peacock variety show to benefit SAFE

My incredibly talented friend, Max Langert, is at it again. On Sunday, April 23, he is producing a variety show called Night of the Peacock at Mayfield Park with proceeds to benefit SAFE. Mayfield Park is longtime home to many generations of peafowl in a gorgeous natural setting near the shores of Lake Austin. Musical guests, poets, storytellers and theatre folk will perform at Night of the Peacock. (I am one of the storytellers. Come hear me perform my story titled Powerless Peacocking about my encounter with a pickup artist.) SAFE stands for Stop Abuse For Everyone, and is a newly formed nonprofit alliance between Austin Children's Shelter and SafePlace. This is a truly necessary organization, much deserving of funding.

The show starts promptly at 6:00 PM on Sunday, April 23. Seating begins at 5:30. Come early to enjoy the park and meet some majestic peacocks. Mayfield Park is located at 3505 West 35th Street in central-west Austin.

Click to buy your tickets here!

Bring cash for fresh-baked sweet treats from Casa de Glaze mobile bakeshop and raffle tickets for a prize basket that includes a gift certificate to one of my very favorite Austin restaurants, The Beer Plant!

Five Highlights from 48 Hours in Houston

I attended the TRIO for Paws fundraiser back in September at the Four Seasons Hotel in Austin on the shores of lovely Lady Bird Lake. The event raised money for EmancipetAustin Pets Alive! and Austin Humane Society. There were cute adoptable puppies, a silent auction, live music, yummy passed hors d'oeuvres and information tables for each of the beneficiary nonprofit pet groups. I experienced a cute puppy, beautiful setting, feel-good pet rescue haze when I repeatedly bid on, and ultimately won, a weekend stay in an Executive Suite at Four Seasons Hotel Houston as part of the silent auction. Many thanks to the Four Seasons Hotel for hosting this event and for donating generous silent auction items!

Chad and I finally used our gift certificate last weekend in Houston. The Executive Suite is huge at over 700 square feet! The bedding is plush. The Four Seasons Hotel Houston is located conveniently near the convention center, Toyota Center stadium and Discovery Green park. Here are five highlights from our 48 hours in Houston.

1. Discovery Green

Discovery Green is a 12-acre park in the heart of downtown Houston, just steps from the Convention Center. Discovery Green offers green space, large-scale public art, a lake, jogging trails, water features and splashpads, a fenced dog park, a tree lined promenade, several open lawn areas and a few restaurants. Discovery Green was hopping with activity the evening we visited: dogs frolicked, people took photos in the large-scale art, kids romped, circus performers held an interactive hula-hoop performance while a ringmaster-DJ played electronica music. The park provides a much-needed break from concrete and skyscrapers!

2. Montrose Murals & Shops

Montrose is a mostly residential neighborhood in Houston with a mix of old bungalows, historic mansions and some modern construction. The area also boasts many thrift & vintage shops, fabulously funky stores, with huge colorful wall murals on businesses and restaurants along Westheimer Road. We wanted to see the wonderful weirdness that defines Montrose before it's all priced-out of the rapidly gentrifying area. It was imperative that I snap several photos of this humongous lucky kitty outside of the Ramen Tatsu-Ya restaurant! There's a person on the porch behind the kitty to give you a sense of scale. I especially enjoyed shopping in Merchant and Market, procuring a lovely beaded vintage handbag there. 

3. Kuhl-Lindscomb bills itself as a design and lifestyle store. This sprawling campus of a department store is a visual feast. We didn't buy anything here, but spent an hour gawping at every well-curated corner of the place. Just wow! We also met Bandit, the prosperous ebony shop-cat who lives in the kitchens and bath showroom building. I failed to snap a photo of that lucky kitty. 

4. Panic! at the Disco concert at Toyota Center

Houston's Toyota Center is the giant stadium where the NBA's Houston Rockets play basketball. It also hosts music concerts. The venue can seat over 18,000 people. Our seats were in the nose-bleed section. I get vertigo in the cheap seats of large stadiums. I feel dizzy and my ears ring. I seriously considered sitting on my bottom like a toddler and scooting down the steep stairs to our seats, but I kept it together with a white-knuckle grip on the stair rail. Chad and I seemed to be the only people over the age of 30 at the concert who were not either working there or accompanying teenagers to the show. In other words, we were surrounded by ten-thousand screaming teenage girls (and a few teenage boys) who knew every word to every song. Fine. Over it. Panic! at the Disco put on an amazing show complete with glitter canons, metallic streamers, pyrotechnics and a baby grand piano that rose 20 feet above the crowd and rotated as lead singer Brendon Urie played piano and sang "This is Gospel" beautifully. We had a great time!

Located at 222 Malone Street in Houston, the beer can house began in 1968 when a retired upholsterer, John Milkovisch, started to cover his yard with concrete, marbles and bits of metal forming mosaics, because he didn't want to mow the lawn any longer. Then he turned his attention to the house, and started covering it with beer cans. The estimated 50,000 beer cans provided insulation for the home and increased the energy efficiency. Mr. Milkovisch considered his beer can projects to be a fun hobby, not works of art or a statement. He did enjoy people's reactions to the home as they drove by or strolled by. The home is now maintained by the Orange Show Center for Visionary Art. If you find yourself in Houston, definitely see this marvelous place!

Friday, March 24, 2017

Five Favorite Flashback Songs - Grocery Shopping Edition

Has this happened to you? You're in the grocery store/co-op, not really hearing the music issuing forth from the speakers. Then, a song that you love starts playing. You smile. You feel a little better about your day. You might even bop your head to the beat. Yeah, everything is going to be okay, even if you can't find that pasta sauce you like that always seems to be out of stock.

1. I Can't Wait by Nu Shooz

2. Steal My Sunshine by Len

3. Word Up by Cameo

4. I've Been Thinking About You by Londonbeat

5. Modern Love by David Bowie

Monday, March 20, 2017

Hawaiian Island Goals: April 2018

Chad and I have decided to do a few short-travel-distance, no-flying mini vacations in Texas this year, instead of our usual one semi-fancy, non-family-visit vacation that we try to take each year. (Yes, family members, we will still fly out to Georgia and to North Carolina to visit at some point this year. Chillax.) We're saving money for a trip to Hawaii in April 2018! Neither of us have ever been to Hawaii. I hope it will be a great blend of familiar and exotic.

I've started researching. I think we'd most enjoy Oahu or Maui. We love to snorkel, hike and look at waterfalls. We like beaches, but we don't surf. We don't have children, so no need for a family friendly resort. We don't golf or play tennis, preferring instead to enjoy the natural setting during vacation.

Have you been to the Hawaiian Islands? Please share advice, must-do items and must-not-do items in the comments. Thanks!

Friday, March 17, 2017

Five Tidbits from a Mini-Family-Reunion

Brenham, Texas sits halfway between Dickinson, Texas and Austin, Texas. That's the reason my cousin, who lives in Dickinson, and I chose to meet there for lunch with my aunt (his mom) and our shared grandma who are visiting from Arkansas. I don't get to see my relatives often. My sister's family and my mom live in North Carolina. (I never lived in North Carolina, so it's not going "home" when I visit them.) As mentioned, my aunt and grandma live in Arkansas. My uncle lives in Wisconsin. I have a cousin living in Florida. Like many modern families, we are a mobile bunch, untethered to any common hometown. I'm thankful that I got to spend time with part of my family this week.

1. While admiring an antique fire engine display near Brenham's town square, my grandma (a.k.a. Mimi) said to me, "When I was little, I thought fire trucks went around to people's houses starting fires. I hoped that they wouldn't come to my house." She shrugged and grinned. I gave a half-giggle with a bright sunny smile and responded, "That's kind of terrifying."

2. Brenham is the home of Blue Bell Ice Cream. In 2015 there was a heart-breaking listeria outbreak that resulted in illness, deaths and a temporary factory shutdown. During lunch I said quietly to my cousin, "You know how in Ireland you don't joke about the potato famine, or even really bring it up? I feel like you don't talk about the Blue Bell troubles here in Brenham." My cousin replied in his deep, naturally resonating voice, maybe a bit too loudly, "Oh, that e-coli or listeria thing?" I glanced around nervously to make sure the locals weren't giving us mean looks or grabbing pitchforks before nodding in confirmation.

3. My aunt told us that she saw a mountain lion in her hometown in Arkansas. The mountain lion was huge, glowing like gold as the morning sunlight hit its fur, as it casually stalked a doe and a fawn. Local wildlife officials say there aren't any mountain lions in the area despite sighting claims by different locals. My aunt asserts that they haven't possibly checked every cave or cavern, and should stop saying there aren't any mountain lions.

4. There are numerous antique stores in Brenham. Because I toiled too long in retail jobs, I personally don't love shopping as a hobby or activity. I don't have a refined appreciation for dusty, rusty antiques. I don't need more stuff to clutter up my cozy, mid-century, bungalow-style home. However, my aunt appreciates antiques, and enjoyed shopping while I enjoyed sitting outside on sunny benches with Mimi chatting. We all marveled at the architecture of historic downtown Brenham.

5. Having never seen the flowers in real life until her trip down to Texas this week, my aunt announced that she loves bluebonnets. She delighted in up close encounters with the blooms as we walked around Brenham.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Five Times I've Been Out of My Comfort Zone

Comfort zone refers to places, activities and experiences with which individuals are familiar, feel safe, feel at ease and experience minimal stress. As a sometime-actress I am often pushed outside of my comfort zone for acting roles. For the purposes of this list, I'll limit myself to one performance/actress example.

1. Exploring Manhattan by myself on my first trip to New York City

Oh, hey, big city. I'm going to walk around by myself now. No, I'm not sure where I'm going. Everybody be cool, because I couldn't bring my pepper spray on the airplane with me. I haven't found the Duane Reade store yet to buy more pepper spray. No, I do not want to take the subway by myself, but thanks for offering. Exploring the big city on my own while Chad worked was worth it.

2. Snorkeling in Key West

I am not a strong swimmer. Snorkeling in very choppy salt water off the coast of Key West presented a physical and mental challenge. I was a big dork, and used a float-noodle in addition to my buoyancy vest to stay atop the waves. It was a trick to not inhale salt water through the snorkel air tube every time a wave crested near me. I was brave. I stuck with the challenging conditions instead of climbing back onto the safety and comfort of the boat. I was rewarded with the sights of colorful tropical fish and coral reefs. Snorkeling in rough waters was worth it.

3. Performing a true story I wrote for testify ATX

I am accustomed to sharing the stage with other actors, and performing other writer's work. It was one of the most nerve-wracking things I've ever done to stand on stage for twelve minutes telling my own tightly scripted story. Getting my story out to an appreciative audience and exorcising the past trauma was worth it.

4. Giving a cat a shot or subcutaneous fluids

Even the sweetest cat can be unpredictable, hissy, scratchy and/or snappy when you stick a needle into it. I had to regularly give insulin shots to a few diabetic cats when I worked for Furry Godmothers as a pet-sitter. I also had to give immunizations to a few of the adoption center cats when I worked for the pet rescue organization. The hardest thing I had to do was administering subcutaneous fluids to cats. I inserted a sturdy hollow needle into the cat's scruff (back of neck area). I had to keep the cat calm and still long enough for hydrating fluids to flow from an IV bag into the cat via the hollow needle. This typically took about two minutes if I was able to subdue the cat and if the needle stayed in place. A four-pound, twenty-three year old cat who I really loved left me with a scar by which to remember her during a particularly contentious round of fluids. Helping those cats was worth it.

5. Working at that high-end men's clothing store downtown

I didn't attend an exclusive preparatory school. I wasn't in a fraternity. I am not a member of a country club. I don't play golf. I am not a man. My personal style skews a bit bohemian, and is not at all in line with traditional, preppy, upscale mens' clothing. I won't lie. I took the job for the fairly predictable work schedule (a real luxury after my last job's punishingly unpredictable schedule) and the pudgy paycheck. (I wouldn't call that paycheck fat, just pudgy.)

Working downtown in the ever-increasing congestion and crowds of Austin also presented challenges. Despite my expensive parking contract, a few times each week, I struggled to find a parking spot to accommodate my compact MINI Cooper. A few times a month I would have to park illegally just long enough to run into the parking garage office and inform them that there wasn't a single spot left in the nine level garage even after going all the way up and down two times. They would usually send me to another parking garage down the street to begin the hunt again with a validated parking pass for that garage. I was late to work many times due to the parking spot scarcity of my oversold parking garage. That parking garage also typically smelled of drug-tainted urine and skunky smoke. The nine-story structure featured two very slow elevators that often were out of order and a triangle-shaped enclosed stairwell with uneven stairs, all the better to trip upon.

Working at that job downtown for just under a year was not worth it.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Five Must-Do Items on my Apoca-list

I've been watching, and loving,  No Tomorrow on Netflix. The show's main premise revolves around one (very attractive) man's theory that a giant asteroid will destroy Earth in just over eight months. The two main characters each make lists of things they want to do before the asteroid induced apocalypse. These lists are cleverly called "apoca-list".

If I knew I only had eight months left on Earth, here are my top five apoca-list items:

1. Visit and tour Ireland.

Photo from

I want to see the big cities and the small, quaint towns. I want to hit the tourist hotspots and see some sleepy green spaces. I want to sit in the pubs and let the locals talk at me. I want the full Irish experience for about ten days.

2. Move to the Pacific Northwest, preferably to Hood River, Oregon.

Photo from

Don't get me wrong. I love Austin, my adopted hometown for the vast majority of my life. However, I don't love Austin's punishingly hot and dry summers. I prefer the rainy, temperate climate of the Pacific Northwest. I love hiking amongst tall trees and kayaking on calm freshwater lakes and rivers. I want to live somewhere that isn't so ridiculously crowded as Austin.

3. Spend as much time as possible with Chad and our pets.

They are my favorite beings on the planet. Depending on which religious leader one asks, cats and dogs may or may not go to Heaven. So I need to enjoy the pets' company on Earth, just in case.

4. See the Perseid meteor shower one more time from a rural area.

Photo from

In the U.S.A. peak viewing tends to be near mid-August. Chad and I saw the Perseid meteor shower one year while vacationing in Hood River, and it was amazing. With just our eyes (no telescopes), we saw many meteors trailing across the sky like giant sparklers.

5. Eat a chocolate-covered peanut butter cup.

Ever since my cursed peanut allergy reared its itchy, ugly head, I miss peanut butter real bad. If I knew I wouldn't be around to break out into hives, I'd totally enjoy some peanut butter at the last minute.

I had a difficult time coming up with five items, because I've enjoyed lots of different experiences in life so far. I'm no daredevil, but I try to do things often that scare me a little, or that challenge me. I've snorkeled in a cenote in Mexico, been in the front row of a Broadway show, worked to help cast a Broadway show, been all over Italy, toured London, sung in public (lots), done a backflip off the high dive, hiked to the top of Multnomah Falls, snowskied, waterskied, explored Manhattan by myself bravely, been in a one-woman show on stage, been a featured extra in an Emmy award winning television show, been a featured extra in an Emmy award winning HBO movie, created sidewalk-traffic-stopping window displays for retail stores, spent a few nights in a reportedly haunted hotel, and bottle-fed motherless kittens and puppies in the middle of the night. I'm proud of making the most of opportunities I've been privileged to have. I appreciate my experiences greatly.

My one big thing I still want to accomplish is to be a published author (beyond this blog, innumerable press releases and website marketing copy that I've written). This will certainly take more than eight months, which is why I didn't include it on my apoca-list.

What's on your apoca-list? What's keeping you from doing those things?

Friday, February 17, 2017

Nine Fronterafest Shows I've Done

Fronterafest began in 1993 at Hyde Park Theatre. Fronterafest is five weeks of alternative, new, offbeat and just plain off-the-wall fringe theatre. Fronterafest is produced in collaboration with Scriptworks, a group dedicated to supporting emerging playwrights and developing new dramatic works.

I usually participate in the short fringe, which is for plays that are 25 minutes or less in length. Each week of Fronterafest short fringe, up to 20 performances happen at Hyde Park Theatre with up to five different plays each night from Tuesday through Friday. Each Saturday of Fronterafest, the five "best of week" shows perform again. Four of the "best of week" shows are selected by a jury of judges with the fifth show selected by audience vote. At the end of four weeks, out of the up to 80 short performances, ten shows are selected by the jury of judges as the "best of fest". Each "best of fest" show performs twice more during the final festival week. There are also five "wild card" shows selected to perform once more during the final week of Fronterafest. The "wild card" shows are performances selected by the technical crew of Fronterafest as shows that they feel the jury of judges overlooked, and that deserve an encore performance. Incidentally, "wild-card" is usually my favorite night of the festival. 

Thus far, I always perform shows written and directed by my super-talented friend, Max Langert. Max possesses a talent for ferreting out the absurdity in the mundanities of daily life. His shows typically have an element of surprise or simmering doom. Whether it's a bear attack at a picnic, a destructive meteor on the way, a stabby diner in a restaurant full of mean servers or a soulmate emerging from the audience to steal your heart, Max's shows keep the audience on their toes. 

2001: I started performing at Fronterafest, back when I was practically an infant. Fugue for Five Waiters won best of fest. I got to work with a talented and diverse cast of five players. The experience was intense, emotional and fun, similar to my summer camp experiences as an adolescent.

2002: Treason by the Fax Machine won best of fest. The title says it all in this tale of corporate hell. I got to work with another great cast. 

Max moved back to New York City for a while. I was doing terrible murder mystery dinner theatre almost every week, sometimes a few times a week starting in 2002 and up through 2009. Around 2009, the Great Recession meant that people no longer spent $40 to $65 per person for dinner and a (usually lame) murder mystery show. Thankfully, Max moved back to Austin before the dinner mystery show work completely dried up.

2006: Because of My Beautiful Spirit was a one-woman show about a sweet, but unhinged lady searching for love and stalking her celebrity crush. I was on stage alone for eleven minutes spinning the tale. I'm proud of what Max wrote and of my performance. I guess it didn't resonate, because there was just the one performance. No best of week, much less best of fest. It stung a bit. I felt like I let Max down. Chad was busy traveling for work and unable to see this show that happened only once. I made the mistake of assuming that past performance indicated future performance. The other shows I did made best of fest, so this one should too. Yeah, not so much.

2007: Brand Loyalty won best of fest. This show featured a focus group study gone very, very wrong. We were back!

2008: You're Happier Than You Think: Recalibrating Your Emotional Scale was a long fringe show. Long fringe shows are allowed to be up to 90 minutes in length, and are panel-jury selected for production. We were guaranteed four performances. I made a giant squid for this show that was set on a cruise ship. The giant squid served as that signature-Max embodiment of the simmering danger. Another actress and I had to run outside off-stage near the end of each show and douse ourselves with a bucket of cold water to look as if we'd fallen off of the ship. All performances were in late January with most of our shows happening at night, so it was pretty flipping cold. This show was at the Blue Theatre which is sadly no longer around.

I went off for a few years to pursue television and film work. Max kept making theatre, some of which I was delighted to see.

2012: The Requirements won best of fest. I emerged from the audience as Max gave a PowerPoint presentation on his requirements for a relationship partner. Ultimately, my character got rejected by Max's character for not reading The Economist. The audience loved the surprise and absurdity. 

I went off for a few years to work in retail visuals and merchandising. My work schedule was punishing. Max was still making theatre. I still made time for a few dinner mystery shows, because they paid well, but my heart wasn't in it. 

2015: Tom and Liz Go on a Picnic was a musical about a treacherous love triangle that featured a bear attack. We won best of week, but not best of fest. Working on this show coincided with a soul-sucking day job. I'm so glad I had a creative outlet to alleviate some of my day job misery.

2016: Reasons You Should Stay was another one of Max's PowerPoint presentation shows with not one, not two, but three people popping out of the audience as Max's  character's disgruntled ex-lovers. I thought this show was so fun, but, um... we had just the one performance.

2017: Your Neighborhood Association won best of fest! This show is ripped straight from your neighborhood listserv with peacocks, property assessments, parking spots, broken washing machines and a destructive meteor headed straight for your block. I'm honored to work with a talented cast. Our final performance is tonight to a sold-out house. 

Whatever your creative outlet may be, keep doing it! If you've stepped away from creative endeavors for a while, come back!