31 January 2017



Apologies for the radio silence.   Or computer black out.   Or my absence.
However you want to look at it.

I've been anxious.

We have a new President. Watching the inauguration made me physically nauseous. I had no idea we lived in such an awful country.  The vision of the United States that our new President presented in his inaugural speech in no way resembles the United States that I live in. No matter. He is going to make it all great again.

I did not get to march the following day with the Women's March. I wanted to. Instead I spent the day in a VW Jetta with my delightful baby, Bunny, driving her back to Oxford, Mississippi.  School has resumed for her.

I was so proud of all the women and men that marched everywhere.
(A reminder: The Equal Rights Amendment has never been ratified.

For every woman who says "that march was not for me, it does not represent my values, I am free and can do what I want" let me make this very clear.
You can do what you want because women marched and protested for YOU in the past.
You can have control over your body because women marched and burned their bras in the sixties.
You can vote because women marched. It was a seventy year battle  to obtain that right.
You can have credit in your own name because women marched.
Most of these rights have only been guaranteed since the 1970s.   And some of them are at risk of being taken away from us.

The nice thing about a right is it is something we can exercise or not.
You don't want credit in your own name? Fine.
You don't want to vote? Fine.
You can't imagine ever needing or wanting or considering an abortion? Fine.
No one is forcing you to do any of those things.
Please do not try to take my right away from me, though.

I know women who have had abortions and you do, too. You may not realize it, but you do. Of the many people I know that have exercised this right, not one says they regret it. It was the right thing at the right time and they were grateful to be able to make that choice. It was their right.

I also know women who had to leave school to give a baby up for adoption because society wouldn't condone an out of wedlock baby. They had no choice at the time. Society and family ruled their lives and there were no legal options.
I don't know anyone who has given up a baby and was happy about it but I'm sure there are many- just not in my circle. And absolutely the babies that have been adopted have given great joy to their families.

I had an earnest chat with a woman when I worked at the coffee shop who had her best friend die after having an illegal abortion. She bled to death. In the United States of America. She had no choice, no right.

I also know teenage mothers that kept and raised their babies and married the daddies and are living happy wonderful productive lives.  That was their choice and their right.

See? Everyone can do what they want and what works for them. Let's keep it that way.

So I didn't march but I will in the future. Peaceful protest brings about change.

Stand up for your convictions.  

But I digress.

In the past ten days-two weeks, the new President has made some changes. Some of these changes are making people nervous. Making other countries nervous. But he's also making some people happy.

But mostly people are angry. Even the happy ones. Angry at what the President is doing. Angry at the people who don't like what he is doing. Angry at the news. Angry about the truth. Angry about the lies.

Anger is fueling the protests. Anger is also fueling name calling and rudeness and the dissemination of lies, alternative facts, half truths and sometimes even, yes, the truth.

Stand up for your convictions.

What can we do?
How can we manage this anger and turn it into something positive? And I'm not speaking just to the left or the right. I want to address everyone.

First.   Be informed.
Read real news.   Real journalists share the real truth as best they can. Which means read and listen to and  watch time honored news sources that are committed to telling the whole story, whether it's one you like or not.
Probably even more enlightening would be to sample some of the foreign news agencies.  Americans in general tend to think the sun rises and sets on our country only. Listening to another country's take on our politics can be eye opening.
Some options:
Independent news sources
Most neutral
For the most fun, Monday through Friday: the Skimm

Second.  Take action.
Don't like what's going on in politics? Take positive, legal action. Call or write your representatives. Go to their offices. Share your feelings calmly, clearly and repeatedly.  These are our elected officials.
The Constitution starts with  "We the people...".
Find your representatives here.

Third. Be kind.
Remember, you catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar.
Pissing someone off rarely inspires them to do what you want.
And goodness knows we can all use a little kindness.

Start small. Start with your own little world. Say please and thank you. Let someone go ahead of you in line. Start your letters with "dear" and end with "sincerely" or "love".  Even those angry letters to your representatives. Be respectful. Even to those who may not deserve your respect.
Take the higher ground.

Here are some oldies from my original list that pertain to kindness and sharing:
No. 26: Send a thank you note every Wednesday
No. 42: Do a charity walk
No. 47: Pay for someone else's coffee, meal, toll   (also here)


Just as a back up....

Get your passport in order.

I was going to add happy nonsensical images just to lighten this piece up, but...no.
Next week I will be back to my usual nonsensical patter.

19 January 2017

No. 88: ¡Vamos a Hacer Tamales!

¡Vamos a Hacer Tamales!
No. 88: Make Home Made Tamales

Home made tamales. Yum!

I know for many Christmas is a traditional time to make tamales. Lots of people serve them for either Christmas Eve or Christmas Day dinner.  It turns into a family affair with everyone around the table spreading masa and folding up little packets of goodness.  Unfortunately, it's never been a tradition at our house. Every year I say "O! We should have made tamales." But it never happened.

But that changed this year!  Bunny and I decided to tackle tamale making. (So much for the whole family gathering around.  But... you take what you can get.)

I have helped with tamales only one time, about a gazillion million years ago when I lived in San Miguel de Allende. And even then all I did was stuff and fold them up, not actually make the filling or dough.
But I was spurred on by this book, a birthday present from friend Cathy who was also a San Miguel room mate back in the day. I opened it up and there it was: a tamale recipe.

Adorable drawings and lots of inspiration


Off to the local supermercado to procure masa and pork plus a bit of chicken because the Big Guy and the Hubs both said they would prefer chicken tamales. No problem, just toss a little extra work in there....

Boiled chicken as requested. 
And guess what? 
They both preferred the pork.

Here's the ingredients for the dough:

Yep. Lard.
Don't tell.

I did not do traditional pork filling which starts with "boil a pig's head". Nope. I went with a pork loin. I have my limits, even if I am trying for authenticity.

We (I) boiled the seasoned meat and shredded it.

Pork loin, seasoned, boiled and shredded.

Masa was mixed with water and lard to make a paste.

Corn husks were soaked until they were pliable.

It helps to put a small plate on top of the husks 
to keep them under water. 

And here's the part where Bunny stepped in.  (She had been pretty much MIA up until this point.)

Bunny wraps a tamale.

With floppy corn husks, pots of shredded meat and a big bowl of masa in the middle of the table, we went to town. It didn't take long for us to get the hang of spreading and folding.

Everything still looks so neat and clean here...

And now I remember why this is usually a group activity. It is time consuming if there are only two of you. We ended up making 10 dozen tamales. That's 120 tamales. Or 120 tiny hand wrapped packages.

Spreading the masa.
Look at that enormous mess behind me. 
Takes a lot of steps and a lot of pots to make tamales.

After we had folded up a few dozen, I stopped the process and steamed a batch. I wanted to make sure they were going to be edible before we did the rest of them.

A bouquet of tamales in the steamer.

¡Sorpresa!  They were actually pretty tasty. Not as seasoned as I would have liked, but there are some wimpy tastebuds in this house. Compromise.

They certainly look like the real thing.

So we did it! And it was pretty fun. Maybe we have a new tradition.
(But next time I'm inviting friends over so we can share the wealth.  And the folding.)

Wrapped up in packages of six for sharing and freezing.

No. 88:  Shredded, folded and eaten.

16 January 2017

FROZEN: Not the Disney Movie

FROZEN: Not the Movie  and Not a Tale from the Cabin

No. 91 has just been added to the list. It's Freeze Myself.   And why in the world would I want to do that? 

Because right around the corner from my house is a Restore:Cryotherapy store and because my sadistic husband got me a gift card to go. Sadistic, because they literally freeze your body. 

What is cryotherapy? It's a bit like a dry ice bath. (As in not wet, not bathing in dry ice.) You enter a chamber that is cooled down with liquid nitrogen to about -230º and stay there for maybe 3 minutes. All of your blood rushes to protect your core and becomes super oxygenated. When you leave the chamber all of that happy blood rushes back into your  limbs, making you feel energized and ummm... frozen.  And there is actual science behind it.  It's not just hoohoo hokum.

Supposedly bringing your core temp down for brief periods gives you energy, gets rid of weight and cellulite, reduces inflammation, helps you heal and gives you gold plated blood.  Ok, maybe not that last one. It's actually considered physical therapy but all those other good things are just bonus benefits.

I had the gift card, so off I went.

 O. Did I tell you that you are essentially NAKED while you are in the chamber??   So you don't get frostbite they give you kneesocks, slippers and big mittens to put on. You do get to keep your panties on.  Everything else is gone. Moving around is required to prevent frostbite. Doesn't that sound like fun? 

In the interest of learning and sharing new experiences, I sacrificed tortured treated myself to 2.5 minutes of way below freezing temps. My legs felt like ice picks were attacking them. I danced around trying to keep all the important bits warm(ish). And I survived. When you step out of the little chamber, it feels like your legs might buckle. They don't. They just wish they could. But then..... quickly, just as they said it would, all of the blood rushes back to your extremities and Voilá! you feel...GOOD. A little energized. Definitely cool to touch. My skin felt smoother. I slept well last night, sound sleep being another benefit.  Nothing miraculous but maybe...maybe it does do something for you. I'm not 100% sold but possibly I should try it a few more times. 

And if you aren't interested in trying it yourself? You can watch me...I suffer so you don't have to.
The sadistic cackling in the background is the hubs and the attendant. They were having all kinds of fun. At my expense. 
 Here I am getting in to the torture liquid nitrogen chamber...

If you can't see the video, click here

And this is after I have been in there a bit...
notice my face towards the end.
I'm really really ready to get out.

And if you can't see this video, click here

So there you have it.  My version of Frozen.
No. 91 has been defrosted.

11 January 2017

A Celebration

A Celebration of Life...

Monday we had a lovely little Memorial Service for the Daddy-O.

It was at the church where he and my mom were active so very many years. The church where one of my brothers got married. The church where I got married. The church where I grew up. The church where dad was a volunteer and an elder.

My brother, Steve, spoke. Whew. I could never have managed but Steve did Dad proud. And didn't tear up until his very last line. It was interesting to hear his take on my father, being the oldest child and the first boy. We are five years apart in age but six years apart in school so never that close growing up. By the time I was in middle school, he was off to college.  But obviously my father's work ethic that he instilled in me was even more so drilled into Steve.

Dad and Steve

(Dad always said "You are never sick on a Monday. If you are sick, it better be high fever, hospital worthy sick. Otherwise, go to work.  Employers hate people that are sick on Mondays." I've never forgotten it and have tried to impress that on my kids. Big Guy hasn't really gotten it down, though.)

And the service was well attended. You know, once you are in your nineties,  there aren't that many friends left to see you off. But the three that could get out, did.  And friends and neighbors filled the church.

Brother Steve spoke about what a great friend my dad was to all. How good he was about birthdays and anniversaries, always remembering and always sending cards. I've tried to be that way myself although I realized not having a paper calendar makes it harder for me to see birthdays in advance.
Today I bought a paper calendar so I can see a month a time. And maybe do better with the cards.
Because really, everyone loves a little "snail mail".

A lovely little periwinkle calendar to add
to my mess of a desk.

And after the service I went to lunch. With long time friends. And Bunny. Who is a smart girl and volunteered to accompany us because she knows where to find a good time.

And dad would have been so proud.

We celebrated.

And I went to a new restaurant for 2017.  I need to do another twelve new restaurants this year. That's a favorite challenge. (For me, at least!) So, No. 90:Twelve New Restaurants for 2017 has begun.

Allison, Liddy, Peggy, Bunny and I ate at rise no. 2 near the Galleria in Houston. O my! It was so achingly perfect. They serve soufflés in the most adorable little space with all of the exquisitely en  pointe details covered.

We started with salads and then came a cheese course.  The cheeses were on a little cart. We got a quick lesson on our choices and then a board of cheese was deposited on the table along with a tiny bread guillotine!   Bunny had to try it out.

 The beautiful cheese cart
What to choose???

 The bread guillotine

 Bunny doing her best "Price is Right" showing of the bread cutter. 
And Liddy photo bombing. 

That Liddy. 
She puts the "She" in "shenanigans".
Love her. 
It's a miracle Bunny didn't lose a finger she was laughing so hard. 

O my. Then we each got a soufflé.  Yum and yum. 
Mine was sun dried tomato and pesto. Allison had a mushroom with truffle sauce. The rest had Jambon and Gruyere.  We were all groaning in ecstasy. 

 Look at those gorgeous soufflés!
And..ahem... those gorgeous women. 

A toast to Daddy-O. He would have loved joining us. 
He always had a soft spot for "cute young things". 

There was wine, there were dessert soufflés and even a creme brûlée. They practically had to roll me out of there and I did not eat dinner Monday night. I am eternally grateful to my sweet friends for treating us on Monday.  This lunch could not have been a better tribute to my dad. 

He would have loved it all. 


(And -o!- I need to go back and buy some of their napkins. They were luscious.  Along with everything else.)

07 January 2017



2016 is done. Over. Gone.

Over all, 2016 left a lot to be desired. There were some high points but mostly I felt like I was  just getting through and living with what happened around me.   Part of that feeling came from being front line with my mom and dad as my dad slowly faded.

One year old Roy.
I have had this photo in every house I've lived in since my early 20s. 
Original frame, original convex glass. 
92 years old. 

Early Thursday morning, December 29, 2016, at the age of 93, my father passed from this life. My mom was with him.  They had been married for 67 years.

My parents on their wedding day.

My dad was the life of the party. He LIVED his life. He was always learning something new, a huge volunteer,  fun loving, a bit of a Renaissance man.

Air Force, WW  II.

He had a great life. He had a great love- my mom.  His was a life we should all hope for.

And he was a great dad. I'm the baby. And the only girl. Supposedly my father told the obstetrician that delivered me that if I wasn't a girl, he was having the baby "put back". I'm sure my mother had some thoughts about that but we were all in luck...I'm me.  And dad kissed the OB when she told him "It's a girl."

Me, my dad and brother Paul. 
I'm the only one still alive. Sniff.

I had a pretty picture perfect childhood. We moved a few times. Dad worked, mom stayed home with us and did mom things. It was all good.  Remarkably unremarkable.

As us kids got older, I remember my dad picking up more hobbies. He tried oil painting- unsuccessfully.   When Chinese food became a thing, he got a wok.  While stuck in the hospital with hepatitis, he hooked a rug.  Dad was a voracious reader. He loved Art. Musicals. Broadway shows. Bobby Short.  Typing this I understand where my sense of curiosity came from.

He was always proud of his garden 
whether it was full of vegetables or flowers.
Or bugs.

A few memories....
My parents were big believers in Happy Hour every evening. So civilized. They sat in the living room and reviewed their day. Kids weren't necessarily invited. But dad was a martini drinker. He never allowed my older brothers to make him a drink but I was the third kid. I learned to make a killer gin martini when I was maybe 12 or 13. Wave the vermouth over the glass of gin, plop in an olive skewered with one of the fancy sticks. By the time I was 15 or so, I was allowed to make myself one if I wanted while I was also making him one.

Dad always loved a party.
This was New Year's Eve 1952.
Roy, Bill, Amy and Jean
Best of friends for close to 75 years, they frequently spent New Year's Eve together.

Early 1970s, dad modeled briefly.  He was so handsome and while it was just for fun, he did do one  national print ad. Mostly he was just on TV and in the local paper modeling for Foleys Department Store. It was odd to be watching TV and have your dad stroll across the screen.

 Dad on the right. 
His only national modeling gig. 

About age 18 or 19 (LEGAL AGE!) I got my ears pierced with a second hole. Mom was furious. Literally, she barely spoke to me for a week. (Imagine if I tried to draw that hard of a line now. I can't tell you how many times I've been with my girls, their friends, even the boy while ears were being pierced for the second, third or even fourth time. Let's not even start with the belly buttons.) For my birthday that year my dad gave me a small pair of earrings for that second piercing.  His writing was on the card, it was obvious that it was all his doing.  I was tickled and felt supported even if I was going against the grain.

Me with the Daddy-O in San Miguel de Allende

To get to school in Mexico, we frequently took the train, making it a family affair. On one such trip, my parents needed to purchase their return trip tickets at a stop in San Luis Potosi. The train was parked there for 20 minutes and dad and I immediately headed to the ticket booth.  There was a line. A slow line. As the minutes ticked away, dad got more and more nervous. He kept glancing at the train, back at the line, and back at the train. Finally his nerves won out and he thrust a bunch of money into my hands, said "You buy the tickets. If the train leaves you, you will be able to figure out how to get to San Miguel" and then he dashed back to the train. I stayed in line, purchased their tickets, boarded the train, smiled at the conductor who had been watching us, waiting for our return and headed to our car. As soon as the conductor acknowledged I was on the train, he called the Spanish equivalent of "Everyone's on board" up to the front and we pulled out. There was never any danger of being left but I was still amazed my dad was willing to let me, the 18 year old girl, get left in the middle of Mexico on my own. But he was right. I would have managed just fine.

This pic sums up a lot. 
Dad has the camera, we are on a train to San Miguel with the San Antonio neighbors and 
the boyfriend that I had DUMPED a couple of months earlier.
Yet dad invited him along anyway. 
Because dad really liked him. 
And they all came along to take me back to school. 
And it was a party.

After trying school in Mexico, at Houston Community College and at the University of Houston and STILL not having anything close to a degree,  I found an ad in the paper for Massey Business College's "Learn to be a Travel Agent" class. I begged for this one last shot at school. Dad agreed and told me flat out..."This is it. Take this class, get a job or we are having you put to sleep."  Thankfully the teacher hired me to work for his travel agency and I did not have to be put down. Seventeen years were spent as a commercial travel agent and if it was still a thing, I'd go back to it tomorrow.

Fishing was another favorite. 

My parents both were always great with my friends, welcoming and inclusive. Dad made it a point to know my boy friends, whether they wanted to be known or not. A couple of them he hung on to longer than I did. One in particular stuck around wayyy longer than I wanted.  Whatever.  He made dad happy and I was thankfully 1000 miles away. He invited guys to lunch and dinner, got one or two a job and pretty much made it a point to know them. Smart man.

Loved them. 
I swear there are a million mariachi CDs over at their house.
(And I want to live in a house with pink walls and red sofas and mariachis serenading me.)

After we got married, the husband always joked "Where's my dowery?"  He constantly reminded my dad that he had taken me on for FREE!  On our first anniversary, dad showed up to his office with a check, the little "Memo" section of the check clearly marked "Dowery Payment". Totally shut the Hubs up about that.

Down the aisle.

Dad loved his grandchildren.  The Big Guy was the first grandchild to live in the same city and he benefited greatly from that. Once Big Guy was walking, dad had a standing Wednesday date with him. They went to the Children's Museum, the Zoo, the Farmers Market. Sometimes they just went to my parent's house and played outside. It was a break for me and a fabulous chance for them to bond. Dad tried it once with Belle but once was enough. No one could keep up with her.

The Big Guy cracking a cascarón on his grandpa's head.

There were phases. When you live 93 years, you get to live many different lives.
He had many loves. Some of them were my mom, his creek houses- the one on Caney Creek and the one on Oyster Creek, his family, his friends, Mexico, mariachi music, parties, my mom, fishing, gardening, Broadway musicals, good neighbors, good food, parties, music, my mom, art, plays and his friends.  And mom.

Amy, Roy, Jean, Bill
One of their last New Year's Eves all together. 

He was a wonderful person.
I'm lucky he was my dad.

Stewart L. "Roy" Nelson
February 10, 1923-December 29, 2016

Happy trails!

And here's my PSA for the day.
If you are twenty or fifty or ninety or 100, no matter, please stop and think about how you want to be remembered. Do you want a service? Where? What music do you want? Is there a reading or a scripture or anything that is important to YOU that your family may not know about? 
WRITE IT DOWN.  Share it with a friend, your family, put it in the file that everyone knows is your secret password file or SOMETHING.  Dad was an amazing person but we never thought to ask him what he wanted. This week has been a scramble to find the balance of what we think he wanted and what we should do. 
And my thoughts on No. 29:Plan MY funeral are here and here