A Writer’s Life

29 06, 2020

The Homegrown Tomato Quest Continues

By |2020-06-27T10:19:04-05:00June 29th, 2020|A Writer's Life|0 Comments

Growing tomatoes in our yard is such a struggle. I woke up to this scene recently.

It wasn’t a stormy night so, what had happened?

I suspected a deer.

They’re in our yard All. The. Time. munching down on whatever suits their fancy.

Not usually so close to the backdoor when they’re in the backyard.

I must have frightened them when I turned on the kitchen light and they got a whiff of Finn’s scent.

But where had the tomato cage gone?

It was too dark to explore, so I took Finn and Buster for their morning constitutional, came back inside, and had a cup of tea while I waited. When daylight arrived, I found the telltale footprint beside the downed bottle tree. Plus, a piece of the patriotic pinwheel that was mounted on the tomato cage.
I searched our front and back yard but found nothing.

Somewhere in our neighborhood there must be a deer with a tomato cage stuck to its body.

Or, a neighbor woke to find a tomato cage in his yard with a broken patriotic pinwheel attached. He probably scratched his head and said, “Huh?”

The pot has now been righted and the plant re-staked. Only two tiny green tomato casualties, thankful. Hopefully the survivors will eventually mature and produce Hubby-dear’s homegrown tomato.

But people, I tell you this quest is a REAL struggle. What can happen next?

25 11, 2019

Thanksgiving Week? Really, Oranges?

By |2019-11-24T18:27:44-06:00November 25th, 2019|A Writer's Life, Holidays|1 Comment

We’ve been watching our two orange trees beside the driveway. Every day the oranges slow turn from green and hidden in the leaves and branches to orange and shouting, “It’s time!”

This weekend they screamed, “Now!”

Here it is Thanksgiving week, the time when there are a million other things to be doing in the kitchen besides squeezing oranges.

But no. The oranges couldn’t wait.

Hubby dear selected the most need-to-be-picked ones and loaded the picking crates and bucket.

Twice.

I prepared the sink area. Because orange juice tends to squirt when juicing, I drape the counters and cabinet doors with towels. Makes cleanup easier-no sticky floor or counters. I also sit on my vintage kitchen chair while I work.This is our third year of juicing. We have a system—an assembly line. He washes then slices the oranges in half and pitches the halves into the colander. I run the juicer and pour through the strained until the pitcher is full then pour the strained juice into quart jars. He seals, dates the lids, and carries to the garage freezer.We recently found a great, small freezer at a garage sale unbelievably cheap and it’s now the orange juice freezer.We prepared five gallons of juice this weekend and there’s another five or more crates on the tree starting to whisper our names. It looks like, while the rest of the world is wrestling and grabbing for bargains on Black Friday, we’ll be into orange juice manufacturing.

I know I’ll be happy come February when I’m sipping fresh orange juice. And, some lucky people on our Christmas list will be excited too.

Except right now, I’m not happy with the oranges. I need to be baking!

30 09, 2019

Birthday of surprises

By |2019-09-29T20:09:55-05:00September 30th, 2019|A Writer's Life, writer, Writer's Life|0 Comments

September is my birth month. This year I celebrated big time.

The festivities started early with a chocolate pinata. The chocolate ball is suspended then cracked open in true pinata style. Pineapple, strawberry, and churro pieces fall on a tray edged in whipped cream with cups of dipping sauces like caramel. Yummy confection.

Then on my actual birthday a beautiful bouquet of flowers from my youngest daughter arrived mid-afternoon. A surprise treat. And, I so love fresh flowers, especially roses.

 

Next Husband-dear surprised me when our dinner-for-two turned into dinner with our two best friends at a local Italian restaurant. Good food, good friends, and great conversation. A lovely evening.

Husband-dear collaborated with my favorite artist on another painting for my Barbara Rudolph collection, my fifth. Each has a specific significance for me. That’s Barbara’s unique gift building your interests into her paintings. Check out her gallery. She accepts commissions for specific paintings.

This delightful little chickadee painted on a vintage postcard is extra special. Our street is called Chickadee Lane and I collect vintage postcards.It was a delightful evening. But my celebration wasn’t over.

On the weekend my sister invited Husband-dear and me to dinner then surprised me by including my brother and my oldest daughter. Another lovely evening around the table with family. My sister also gave me a huge bouquet of carnations

and a picture of us…I’m not sure next year can top this year with surprises.

23 09, 2019

Footprints in the Concrete

By |2019-09-29T20:11:23-05:00September 23rd, 2019|A Writer's Life, Writer's Life|1 Comment

Over 300 hand prints, footprints, and autographs can be found in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, California. Celebrities have pressed their hands and feet into wet cement since the 1920s.

Not only people but ventriloquist dummies, horse prints of Trigger and Champion, and tires of “The Love Bug” have left their mark.

Leaving impressions in fresh concrete is a tradition that’s been around for ages. Something about wet cement calls for hands or feet or initials or just the date to be pressed on the surface.

I’ve left my print on patio slabs, stairs, and sidewalks over the years. So has my husband.

Back in the 80s, during our first return to Texas, we visited a home where he’d lived in 1946. The house, in Austin, was being renovated. The back sidewalk with his family’s embedded footprints was to be demolished. That made us both sad.

He located the new owners and asked permission to remove the section of sidewalk with his family footprints. The contractor used a diamond blade to cut the four-inch thick concrete and removed the section with his family’s footprints.

The slab weighed a ton. Well, maybe not a ton, but it was heavy. Three men loaded it into our station wagon and my husband brought it home.

Once in back Houston, we loaded it onto a little red wagon and wheeled it into the house. The slab fit on our raised hearth in the living room as though custom cut. It was quite the conversation piece!

Then we moved to Colorado where the slab lived on our covered front porch, protected from the ice and snow. Now it’s back in Texas again, on our front porch here, protected from the hot sun.I rubbed the footprints with stain to make their impressions more visible. The date 9-30-46 has worn a bit. It’s barely visible.

We smile when we pass by and think of those four footprints that now walk the streets of heaven.

9 09, 2019

Took A little Trip to the Gulf of Mexico

By |2019-09-09T06:54:24-05:00September 9th, 2019|A Writer's Life|0 Comments

As I rode in the car, a line from an very old ballad played in my head.

“In 1814 we took a little trip … on down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico.”

Chances are you won’t recognize the lyrics.

The song, “The Battle of New Orleans,” was #1 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 in 1959 and Johnny Horton won Best Country and Western Performance for his rendition.

I love those oldie ballads that tell such great stories. “Trailer for Sale or Rent,” “Big Bad John,” and all of Harry Chapin’s song are other favorites.

“The Battle of New Orleans” was an educational ballad. If you’re a history buff, you know there was a battle for New Orleans in 1814. And, the story song was accurate.

But New Orleans wasn’t my destination on my trip to the Gulf of Mexico.

I was headed to Corpus Christi with my youngest daughter and her oldest son to get him settled at the A&M campus there.

Taking a child to college is such a mixed bag of emotions. Exciting and sad at the same time.

My eyes teared up as we bid him farewell at the end of the day. Grandson looked a little apprehensive at the prospect of being totally on his own so far away from home and family to me.

His Mom managed the drop off better than I did. She knew her kid, had confidence in his ability to handle the new situation.

By Marcom.tamucc – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

I made a second trip to The Island University on Labor Day weekend with his Pepa. This time  to bring him back home for the holiday.

Grandson was all smiles. He’d loved his first week and couldn’t wait to get back!

Growing up and turning loose can be so hard on those of us watching. At least for this Nana it is.

26 08, 2019

Life Lessons I’ve Learned from My Dogs

By |2019-08-26T09:02:43-05:00August 26th, 2019|A Writer's Life, Make Me Think Monday|1 Comment

I’m 100% a dog person and proud of it. My dogs are a constant source of love and amusement.

My breed of choice is Old English Sheepdogs who are natural clowns and always make me smile. In addition to all the smiles and unconditional love, my dogs have offered some great life lessons.

  1. When your loved one comes home, run to greet him.
  2. Eat with gusto.
  3. When it’s hot, drink lots of water.
  4. Take naps.
  5. Don’t bite, just growl.
  6. Give unconditional love.
  7. Stay close to your loved ones in times of distress.

This list appeared in an Ann Landers’ newspaper column years and years ago. It’s still great advice and important lessons to learn. You can find dozens of other longer lists with equally as important things dogs teach us.

My Finnegan turned three this year and his brother Buster, twelve years. Every birthday means another year less with my best friend. As every dog lover knows our time with our four-legged best friends is all too short.

And because I know no matter how long they live, it will never be long enough, all my dogs have taught me the most important and hardest lesson of life:

Enjoy every single moment we have with our loved ones.

Knowing Finnegan and Buster and all the others who’ve gone before will only be with me a short time reminds me to soak up every second because life is too short to do anything less.

Get off the couch. Go for a walk or chase a squirrel. Have fun. Love. Laugh. Dance in the rain. Time is too short.

19 08, 2019

Taco Tuesday and Menu Planning

By |2019-08-13T13:17:58-05:00August 19th, 2019|A Writer's Life|0 Comments

Back in the good old days when funds were limited and payday came once a month, I did meal planning. It was the best way to be sure our little family of five would have good meals for the month.

Eating out, even fast food, was not an option. Not enough money and who in their right mind takes three children under five out to eat? Not this momma. At least not until the two youngest could feed themselves.

I started meal planning again when we lived in the remote area of the Rio Grande National Forest. The nearest chain market was an hour away. The local tourist market was way too limited in what was available and far too expensive, in most cases, for what I needed.

Back in Texas, availability is not a problem. We do live five miles from the nearest grocery store, but that’s a piece of cake after living in the Colorado forest. If I venture out during the going-home hour, there’s a ton of traffic and a mob scene at the market – a big hassle, so I avoid that time frame whenever  possible.

I try to make sure I plan our meals for leftovers to freeze. Easy enough to do when, with just the two of us, I can cook big once and guarantee leftovers for future quick meals another day.

Tuesday Taco is one of our favorite menu days.

Recently, I took leftover chalupa from the freezer to serve in our taco shells. Turned out what I thought was chalupa was chili.

The menu plan went quickly from Tuesday tacos to Frito pie!

Doesn’t rhyme as well, but it was just as tasty.

Flexibility, it’s the key to happy meal planning.

5 08, 2019

THE Chair

By |2019-08-04T14:15:16-05:00August 5th, 2019|A Writer's Life, Writer's Life|2 Comments

This little chair came to live with us in May 1990 after my mother-in-law passed away. We’d given it to her when she started having trouble sleeping in a bed.

She loved the small size because it fit her small sized body and shape. And, the lever made it easy to recline.

We enjoy it for all the same reasons.

After my husband retired, the chair became his chair. He’s not tall, 5’ 9” so the size worked perfect.

We’ve now had the chair nearly thirty years. With each relocation, the chief determinant for a new home was “where will THE chair fit?”

The main living area had to be sized so that the chair aligned with the television for all baseball and football game viewing. Usually placement was easy.

With our move from Texas to Colorado, the house had only one location for the television and the chair. It came off the truck, the movers set it in place, and there it stayed until we returned to Texas.

Our new Texas house was a different story. The new living room had four windows, a fireplace banked by built-in bookcases, and our piano that needed an inside wall. Positioning THE chair across from the television meant blocking the opening into the dining room.

Not a serious problem, but I felt sure there was another solution.

That’s when my interior designer cousin came to help.

Studying the unique room, she nodded her head toward THE chair and innocently asked, “Can we move that?”

The answer, of course, as long as the tv sits across from it.

She laughed. “I see.”

It took a bit, but together we finally figured out another arrangement for the remaining furniture, so the room didn’t look like an overcrowded showroom.

And, I’m sure you’ve guessed, THE chair remained exactly where it was.

29 07, 2019

Our Nighttime Guest

By |2019-07-28T16:13:40-05:00July 29th, 2019|A Writer's Life|2 Comments

We have a nighttime thief around our house. We rarely see the culprit. We do see the evidence.

It’s not the first time said nocturnal guest has stripped my potted plants.

The pots originally sat on the front porch, too easily accessible. The nibbles at first were small. A few leaves here and there disappeared unnoticed. Then one day all the leaves were gone.

I hastily moved the plants around to the fenced back porch. Secure, I thought though I knew deer can leap a fence flatfooted in a heartbeat. I counted on the human scents discouraging them.

I nursed the plants back to full foliage with Miracle Grow and loving thoughts. This summer they were looking lovely. The ivy full of new leaves.

I potted red impatients to add color for our Fourth of July cookout. The plants bloomed profusely.

Then the impatient blooms started to disappear. The ivy flourished until yesterday when I discovered the nibbled-down-to-the-dirt pot. No sign of the foliage.

Not only had our nighttime guest consumed the ivy and impatients, he or she had nearly destroyed the Christmas cactus I bought our first Christmas back in Texas.

As you can see by the new growth, the cactus is trying to recover.

My butterfly plants at the back of the yard suffered the same fate. They’d bloomed profusely drawing beautiful monarchs. Then one morning they were all gone. Leafless bare stems waved in the breeze.

I sprinkled anti-deer pellets in that flowerbed. It helped a bit, but the poor plants barely recovered only to be destroyed again in this latest attack.

Our neighbors warned us that having plants with the deer population we have was impossible. Now I believe them.

I’ve given up. The deer have won.

I’m not going to subject my poor plants to the torture. I’m sticking to the plants that seem to survive these nighttime attacks. The deer ignore the Four O’clock, the Texas Star Hibiscus, Citronella, Rosemary, Lemon Grass,  Geraniums and Zinnias.

It makes me sad that I must give up the flowing ivy and cheerful impatients I love, but I’ve accepted defeat. I’ll enjoy the blooms in the yards of those who don’t have hungry nighttime guests.

22 07, 2019

Doggie Love

By |2019-07-21T20:37:50-05:00July 22nd, 2019|A Writer's Life|6 Comments

Finnegan loves me. How do I know?

I actually considered his actions of leaning on me, staring at me, and dropping his head into my lap when least expected to be very annoying.

After reading “5 Signs of Deep Affection You Won’t Want to Ignore” in my August issue of Your Dog, newsletter of Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, I changed my opinion.

In case you have a loving dog like our Finn, I thought I’d share what I learned.

~Leaning

This is a clear signal your dog feels special about you.

Our Finn will sit on our feet leaning his head back to be petted. He weighs ninety pounds which gets heavy after a while and we must use the enough command. He trots off to sit in front of the nearest fan content with whatever petting he gets.

Knowing he’s really letting me see how special I am to him, I might let him sit on my feet a bit longer next time.

~Eye contact or staring

Doggy direct eye contact is normally used for threats or aggression. But, if your dog makes direct eye contact with you like our Finn does, he’s acknowledging what a cherished connection you share.

Staring releases oxytocin, the bonding hormone that new mothers experience when they first hold their newborns, into a dog’s brain. Looking back into their eyes releases the same hormone to your brain.

I often catch Finn staring. Now I know he’s not challenging me, I’ll smile back.

~Dropping his head in our laps

Veterinarians call this docking. Not clipping the tail, but more like a space capsule reconnecting to the mother ship.  Finn’s saying “I need warmth; I need closeness.”

While we’re watching television, Finn will jump on the couch and plop his head in my lap. I accuse him of deliberately aggravating his Maltese brother who always occupies my lap when I sit and doesn’t like to share. I pet Finn for a bit and he jumps down content to let Buster have my lap.

It’s good to know Finn’s not being obnoxious when he leans, stares or docks. He’s saying “I love you.”

So is your dog.

From now on, I’ll return the sentiment with soft strokes and loving words. I know I feel bad when I say I love you and I don’t hear the words returned.

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