Thursday, July 30, 2009


When do you REALLY know boredom has set in? When your wonderful, college educated, brilliant daughter, sitting across the room from you, engages you in a conversation on Facebook that goes something like this:

Principessa--hello, Mommo
Mommo--you silly
Principessa--whatcha doin'?
Mommo--back AWAY from the ip[h]one

Hey, I was typing on a strange computer and very irritated that she was making fun of me TECHNOLOGICALLY.

It's bad enough when your adult children reach the age that they see you in the same category as dinosaurs, it's even WORSE when they use the internet to prove their point.

All I can say is, be nice Principessa, or we boomers will overrun Facebook with pictures of us in monokinis and thongs. THEN you'll be sorry!

(note--Mommo is the name by which I am known to my precious Sprittles who wouldn't even think of casting aspersions on my person. At least not for another 5 years.)

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Kafka's Locust

If you've ever heard a chorus of locusts (would the plural be locii?), their deafening sound ringing through the air, then you already know that they are the Ethel Mermans of the bug world, in addition to plaguing Egyptians and Mormons. No, wait, I think it was grasshoppers that plagued the Mormons. I'll ask the next missionary duet that rings my doorbell at Iron Acres.

There are plenty of locusts in Texas. This is one Principessa found recently on one of our jaunts to a local herb garden. Sadly, he/she had succumbed to the heat. (Have I told you it's hot in Texas?)

bugs mlc wine herb gard locust

When I was a little girl growing up in the big city and dreaming of country life, I would often discover the "shells" of a matured locust. We would have fun grossing out younger siblings (sorry, iPodite) by perching the fragile, but solid, shed skins on our noses. (Actually, I think iPodite took part in this as well, so I am retracting that apology.)

I found two "shells" a few days ago in the wilds of Washington County and imagined a conversation between them with the help of some movie dialogue you might recognize.

Just humor me, will ya? Our vacation's almost up, and there's not much else to do to pass the time here in the wilds of Washington County. We've done all we characteristically do each year--eaten too much Blue Bell Ice Cream and barbecue (the local delicacies), played too many hands of Phase 10 (my Dear Husband's sister's favorite game), and visited every relation in the county we can think of.


Of course, the local library display of graphic novels including one of Kafka's Metamorphosis had nothing to do with this, nothing at all.


"As God is my witness, as God is my witness they're not going to lick me. I'm going to live through this and when it's all over, I'll never be hungry again. No, nor any of my folk. If I have to lie, steal, cheat or kill. As God is my witness, I'll never be hungry again!"


"Rhett, Rhett! Rhett, Rhett... Rhett, if you go, where shall I go? What shall I do?"


"Frankly, my dear, I don't give a dung beetle."

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Biblical Proportions

It's confession time. I am a certified member of the couch potato society. I put the "couch" in couch potato. My body's natural state is at rest in front of a book, a movie, or the computer. If my body were as active as my mind is, I would probably weigh about 50 pounds. Let's just say I weigh more than that.

Let's just say I was born in the wrong era--I could easily have qualified as Peter Paul Rubens' star model.

"Venus at the Mirror" cropped for modesty's sake

Except I would have had a little trouble posing so scantily clad. And my hair used to be dark brown before it turned, ahem, "naturally frosted."

This is where Principessa comes in. Not only does she love art, but she's also fitness conscious. She encouraged me to get a pedometer and use it. (Principessa knows how to appeal to my genetic propensity toward gadgetry.) We have a friendly competition for the most steps in a day, every day.

But somewhere between the civilized streets and rivers of San Antonio

sa mosaic

and the wilds of Washington County,

wild Texas

I misplaced my nifty gadget. I hope to find it when I unpack at home, but in the meantime I have no admissable evidence of my exercise. I could take a picture of the soaked bandana I wear(this one's dry, it's my "for show not for blow" bandana)


--a la Willie Nelson Rambo--everytime I walk in the evenings, but that would be gross and doesn't count. It does keep the run off from my head out of my eyes so I can determine if I am close to stepping on a snake as I rambo, I mean ramble.

I do dislike snakes. Principessa doesn't care for them much, either. And I make a pledge to you right now that because of my herpephobia(is that a word?) I will never knowingly post a picture of any of those slithery creatures on this blog.

So help me, Saint Patrick.

Now where was I? Oh yes, bandana. That bandana comes in even more handy here in Texas than in the summer heat of the Frozen North. Of course, the summer heat of the FN isn't even on the same scale as heat down here in Texas. In Texas, heat assumes Biblical proportions. In the Frozen North, heat assumes Rhode Island proportions.


Oh, by the way, did I tell you it's hot down here? How hot is it? It's so hot we had to install a quick and dirty soaker system to keep the liveoaks in the yard from drying up and keeling over stone dead. I saw a little lizard scurry toward one of the tiny emitter thingies and drink long and deep from his own little water fountain.

It's so hot and dry down here even the lizards are parched.

But in the name of fairness to all of Texas, I will admit that there are places where the lawns are green and well watered, the streets are paved, the houses are suburban, and the shopping choices are endless (as opposed to where we are in the wilds of Washington County and the choices are Walmart or the Dollar stores.)

iPodite, my baby sister who lives in one of those humongous urban metropolitan areas,  took objection to my portraying all of Texas as wild and wooly. Yes, there are pockets of New York City style civilization, and Babylonian style hanging gardens, but at its heart, Texas is wild.

At least that's my story, and I'm sticking to it!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Truckin' Texas Style

Texans do love their trucks. And they like them big. Do you have any idea what it is like to try to park between two Texas trucks? I'll tell you. It ain't easy (or for the faint of heart or depth perception challenged either!).

Here's an illustration using twin Toyota Tundras parked outside the local Blockbuster.

monsters pking

And this is what a normal car looks like parked on the other side of one of the Tundras.

monsters pking 2

See what I mean? You almost feel like a participant in a monster truck rally pulling up alongside one of these babies. Here's a curbside view of the suspension on an F250 looking up from Principessa's "humble" Toyota Camry. And this isn't even the biggest model Ford makes.

monsters pking3

Texans take their trucks SO seriously that car manufacturers make special editions for the Texas market.

There's the King Ranch edition with the King Ranch brand logo (based on the desire for every Texan to own a piece of the largest ranch in Texas, even if its just a copy of the brand on the side of your pickup),


the generic Texas edition Ford,


and the Texrolet, sporting the Texas flag in the Chevy logo.


Now I ask you, do any other states enjoy the same sort of brand homage? Rhode Island? Iowa? Alaska? California? I think not.

Texas is just a whole 'nother country.

My guess is, if the government gets really serious about reducing carbon footprints and fossil fuel use, Texas will secede from the Union. Who's gonna argue with all those big trucks?

Did I mention they all come equipped with gun racks as standard equipment?

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Too Bloomin' Hot!

Despite the fact that it's really hot down here(have I told you that before? *wink wink*) and we've had 42 consecutive days without rain, some flowering plants are still attempting to bloom. Our neighbor has a small garden of old Cecile Brunner roses that are pretty spectacular against the dust and prematurely brown liveoak leaves.


Of course, these dainty pink blossoms rely on irrigation provided by a quintessential Texas windmill. I love that windmill!


Outside my Dear Professor's sister's gate, is a magnificent cenizo or purplesage, a shrub that has attractive lilac flowers. At least, I think they are attractive, and the number of butterflies fluttering around them the day I took this picture seem to agree.

bugs butterfly sage

A few years ago, this big city girl was introduced to this plant on Daddy Britt's ranch in south Texas. I decided I'd like to transplant a small specimen to our yard in Houston. Daddy Britt, always a man of keen insight and few words(my Dear Professor comes by it honestly) invited me to go ahead and "try". Although it was a small plant, the roots went deep looking for water in a very dry country. It was like pulling teeth out of concrete, but I somehow managed. I think Daddy Britt found that very entertaining!

Last year I saw fields and fields of blue bells around here. The numbers were not as great this year, but that just made the blooms we saw even more special.


When I was a child, my sister and I would play with the trumpet vine flowers whose advancing tendrils harrassed the fence and tall pine trees around our home. She calls them "witchy fingers". Imagine the blooms perched upside down on our fingertips. "I've got you, my pretty! You and your little dog, too!"

veg trump vine

What I miss most living in the Frozen North are the crepe myrtle trees that line the streets with beautiful, lacy bunches all summer long. They come in many colors--red, several pinks, and white. These were found on an overlook at a nearby lake.

flowers cm white2

I can't help but enjoy this weed that ranchers hate. It reminds me too much of its distant cousin, my favorite sunflower. These grow in waste places and on the lawn at the local Popeye's Chicken franchise. If you look, beauty can be found anywhere, even at a fast food drive through.

flowers sun2

I think it's a tribute to Texas gardeners (and plants!) that they can produce so many wonderful blooms when it is just too bloomin' hot!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

I love Texas Sunsets

I love Texas sunsets. That's not surprising. I love almost everything Texas. One of the exceptions would be the heat. Have I told you it's hot down here?

I love this reflection of the sunset I caught on the window to the well house a few days ago. The well house is a simple little shed that contains the pressure tank and electricity for the well pump. The water in our part of Texas is hard and "minerally" but not as "irony" as Iron Acres.

(looks like someone needs to paint their well house!)

Principessa and I drove to a nearby lake last week just before sunset. I love big bodies of water and how the sun reflects on them.

sunset som4

Last night, my Dear Professor and I sat outside and watched the sun go down together. I have mixed feelings about that time of day. The quiet and coolness is wonderful, but it also carries questions about the hours past. Were they lived well?


I love Texas sunsets. And I love sharing them with my Dear Professor even more.


And with you.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Texas Survivor

During our second week in Texas, while staying with Principessa in San Antonio, there was a weather advisory that anyone over fifty stay inside because of the extreme heat. Several days later we left Bexar County and travelled to a little place in the country near Washington County. It is hotter here than it was for the San Antonio weather advisory.

Being 60something and a decade over the weather advisory age, my Dear Professor and I have applied ourselves toward writing a Texas heat survival manual for the, ahem, over fifty crowd. This is a list of the bare essentials.

First, one should have a hat with a brim large enough to shade the eyes. A Texas flag bandana to accessorize is an optional addition.

tx surv hat

Next, and extremely important, is water. I learned this summer from Principessa that a slight headache can be a symptom of dehydration. Needless to say, a water bottle has been my constant companion since that conversation. (A personal fan is a good option for those days you want to dash from the airconditioned house to the airconditioned car without needing another shower.)

tx surv water fan
You will find, to your surprise, that your new best friends are shade,

tx surv shade

ceiling fans,

tx surv fan

and a bandana.

tx surv ban

Finally, in addition to being able to identify the four poisonous snakes (copperheads,cotttonmouths, corals, and rattlesnakes)native to Texas, be on the lookout for these little gems. They may be small, but grass burrs are very painful to bare feet.

tx surv burr

Just as long as you stay cool, stay hydrated, and stay away from snakes and grass burrs, you will find your stay in Texas to be delightful.

Monday, July 20, 2009

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

Remember those lame essays we did at the start of elementary school every fall?  The ones entitled "What I Did Last Summer" or something along those lines?  And remember that old saying "a month of Sundays" that meant a lo-o-o-ong time?

Well, hunker down and fasten your seat belts.  We're almost at the end of our 2009 summer vacation in Texas, and I'm gonna tell you ALL about it whether you want to hear it or not.  Let's just call it a month of Texas.

Did I tell you it's hot down here?

tx surv temp

Ahem. This is how I spent my summer vacation. I read books, and watched movies in cool, dark movie theatres (I'd really recommend UP!), and ate things I don't get to eat in Pennsylvania like really fresh mexican food and barbeque and Blue Bell Ice Cream, and didn't have internet access because we were in the country, and took pictures of clouds and storms and other stuff, and met with friends I hadn't seen in 30 years, and spent time with family, and sweated a lot.

That's how I spent my summer vacation. The short version. There's more on the way.

How about you?

Friday, July 10, 2009

The Stage is Yours!

"Just paint my door red and call me Elizabeth Arden"

That line from Steel Magnolias brings to mind two important women in my life--my Mom and my baby sister, iPodite.

rodeo girls copy
(iPodite and me at the rodeo. I don't have many photos of us together as children, probably because we figured sharing a room was traumatic enough not to warrant significant hang time.)

iPodite and I just realized while watching a commercial the other day that she was the first to graduate from college, even though I'm four years older.  (I was a college dropout.  My Dear Professor sent me back to finish my degree after we married.)

I am so proud of her! (Even though giving up the solo limelight I had enjoyed as an only child for several years before she came along was very difficult.)

iPodite is a techno goddess.  She was also the first in the family to get an iPod.  Hence her nickname.  Her favorite color is opposite on the color wheel from mine.  Does that tell you something about our relationship?  Take a close look at the pictures and see if you can guess what her color is.

I just spent 3 days with her here in Texas, and it was so hot (how hot is it?), it was so hot one of her clocks melted right off the wall.  Yesiree bobtail!  I have the picture to prove it.  See?


OK, so it didn't exactly melt off the wall, but it was sure hot enough! iPodite is a curious blend of things soft, fuzzy and whimsical like Winnie the Pooh, Paddington Bear, the Velveteen Rabbit,


things geeky (this was probably for someone at work as iPodite is so not a tech dummy),


things remembered (doesn't every boomer have a pair of bronzed baby shoes from the 50s?),


things beautiful, (iPodite loves some Tiffany like lamps)


and things furry (like Spike, her main squeeze.)


iPodite does love Spike. And Spike loves iPodite. I caught him gazing longingly at the back door, anxiously awaiting her arrival...


and his joy when she opened the door and then sat down to ask about his day with me.  He was kind.


Over the years, iPodite and I have had only a few things in common--our genetics and our love for old movies, and more recently our mutual admiration for a little brown Cheekywawa named Spike.

But there is something about the "dark" side of 40 50 60something that puts things into perspective.

Or maybe I just finally grew up. All I know is we have both marveled at the improved quality of our relationship. Of course, I suppose it also helps that I no longer slam doors on her toes or tie her to the tree while the rest of us go off and play cowboys and indians without her. 

Now it's fun to be together and recall childhood experiences. We made different observations growing up, so together we gain a new, more complete picture of our childhood.

iPodite, thank you for putting up with your older sister all those years. I know it was a chore, but someone had to to do it. And you did it well enough to make both Mom and Dad proud.  And Emily Post, too!


Oh, and Happy Birthday! Big Sister hugs to my Baby Sister!

The stage is yours!

(and if you haven't guessed, iPodite shares a favorite color with Elizabeth Arden!)

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Did I mention it was hot down here?

When I was a little girl, I loved visiting my maternal grandmother.  My grandfather died when I was four, so my memories of him are very vague.  But I had many wonderful years with grandmother, who lived to see her 94th birthday.

gm payne

My grandmother was a woman of leisure.  But she spent that leisure in some very creative pursuits: knitting, crocheting, and painting by number.  I still remember a trip we took downtown to Woolworth's one Saturday.  We did some window shopping, ate lunch, and then picked out some new paint by number kits.  Her favorite subjects were dogs and scenery, mine, horses.

I can smell the oil paint and linseed oil even now.  There were always leftovers once the picture was finished, and grandmother would let me take the tiny bottles home to paint contrasting manes and tails on my plastic "little cowboys," figurines of Roy Rogers, Dale Evans, Bullet the dog, and many poses of Trigger.

Or, I would use the paints to "soup up" my collection of plastic cars that came as prizes in cereal boxes. At one time I could name the model and year of every vehicle on the road.

I suppose my interest in painting comes from that initial introduction to colors and drawing.  If anyone in our immediate family has a real talent in this area, it's Principessa, who majored in art.  I just play with it,  and since we have all this vacation time down in Texas, I've been playing a lot! Only now the medium is watercolor.

Here is an Amish scene back in PA.


My fondness for horses lives on.  But I think what I like most about this picture is the dog.

I like the conversation between these two Amish women. I suppose when the horse is doing the driving, it's safer to take your eyes off the road.


I love this farm house. I want to walk right up to the front porch and sit down and have a conversation with the people who live there.

Where hearts are sure of each other

But my favorite is this peony.


Hmmm. If I'm down here in Texas, why are all these watercolors Pennsylvania themed?

I confess, they're not watercolors at all. They're Photoshopped digital pictures I had uploaded to my Flickr page awhile back.  So, what's going on in Texas?  Heat, heat, and more heat. 

Did I mention it was hot down here?
License plate update. It's not too late to get in on the fun. So far, these are the plates identified. AL, PA,MD,NY,FL,SC,ME, GA,ID,NC,NJ,DC,DE,IA,CA,WV,IN,OH,VA. Do you have any to add?

Friday, July 3, 2009

Summer Games

No, I'm not talking about the summer olympics. I think it's the wrong year for that, anyway. I am referring to that sacred and most venerated of "'seeing the USA in your Chevrolet' with a few of your closest relatives and more luggage than Paris Hilton" travel games, collect the state license plates! (I can tell you're excited already!)

How many state plates can we claim together in the next week? Leave a comment or link to your flickr page or email me. Let's see if we can get them all!

These are the ones I've claimed, and I will admit, I sort of cheated. They were all spotted at this apartment complex in lovely San Antonio.


It doesn't hurt that San Antonio is the home of several military bases. But hey, part of the fun of the game is being in the right seat at the right time. I have taken the liberty of blanking out numbers to preserve the privacy of the plates' owners.

Here goes, in no particular order--



Pennsylvania (they're not speeding, they're qualifying!)


Maryland (traffic must be rough in Maryland!)


New York (The Empire State)


Florida, the state that arguably has just as much sunshine as Texas,


North South Carolina (The Sprittles in the North make me forget there's a South)


and Maine.


That gives me 7 so far. And I didn't even include Texas, because those plates are everywhere!

Your turn.

PS Foreign plates are included, too.