...a way of seeing beyond inner and outer.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

I have a magazine home..

...in small doses, because I do my own decorating and my decorating budget is defined by my life choices.  I'd rather have a good bottle of wine, a candle that melts my brain or a phalaenopsis (go there and scroll, I dare yah...) than another object to dust, wash, iron, polish or plump.    
      If you want to know how smart I am for reveling in minutia instead of attempting total immersion, then go to Ru magazine, a free online design magazine, see how many people it takes to make that happen and ask yourself if you have the staff to make your whole existence like that.
I don't.
Dinner with drop by children, friends and creative husband. No dogs allowed.
     The shape of my bank account isn't the biggest reason my house doesn't look this way all over the place. I have  friends, the occasional drop by child,  a creative husband with lots of creative toys and four small dogs.  I actually only have one very large dog but the math works out the same because this is a very large hunting dog in a very small apartment with one bedroom. There is another bedroom, but that one holds all those creative toys and the creative husband when we both lose our minds at the same time. It' s no-wo man land, and definitely no dog land.  All this makes for a delightful mess that's not always aesthetically fab.
     If I have to choose, I want all these bodies in my life more than I want an entire magazine home. I especially want to keep the occasionally mad genius husband and the Labrador who is named Banshee for many many reasons but I'm beginning to wonder if I have to choose between them and 360° gorgeous. Maybe I'll start by replacing the golf magazines we've been putting under our coffee cups and sweating ice tea glasses with some nice coasters.  Baby steps...

Monday, November 29, 2010

Dragon Seals.2

Dragon skin
If you're looking for the rest of Dragon Seals  go to the table of contents page

      “There are no good parts.   They’re refusing to clear the pastiche for export because they don’t like the provenance, not that they ever do.  The problem is they’ve started talking about halting all shipments in transit and ending our Favored Exporter status.” 
If Italy went, the rest of the EU could follow.
These things were unpredictably slippery laps around chaos that kept her present, living and reacting to whatever “now” threw at her.  Heading Conservator was like having three hundred children who depended on her decisions to pay their mortgages and funds their 401Ks.  Conner seemed to have been born with a natural gift that told him how to direct his diverse brood of little geniuses and worker bees, but Aubrey’s best bet was to listen more than talk when the specifics were being discussed and to ask questions.  It had taken the experience of three years to come to that realization. It had been humbling.
“The pastiche?”  
“The pastiche. Sorry, the composition vase we’re shipping to New York.  It’s an eighteenth century composition of Roman fragments.  This is bullshit, Aubrey.  Pure grade A bullshit.  It was already cleared for export in Milan, and the seller has a paper trail for the thing back to the artist, who happens to be a nobody.  This isn’t on Char. I double-checked her work."
That was like a symphony conductor checking a surgeon’s work. Audrey smiled, but didn’t give him any grief. 
Charlotte Tanner was Conservator’s provenance researcher, the in house art archeologist, so to speak.  The rule of capitalism is caveat emptor and art is no exception.  Conservator didn’t buy or sell art, but as they began to do as much art conservation and restoration as they did transporting, it had become evident that it was in their best interest to make sure the legitimate owners were the people requesting services.  Legitimacy was determined by provenance. 
Provenance was one of those things Aubrey learned about early in her experience as the decision maker for Conner’s company.  She’d incorrectly assumed the standard rules of legal commerce would apply.  Someone wanted to sell.  Someone else wanted to buy.  Money traded hands and there was a proud new owner.
  The exchange wasn’t as simple when the commodity was a painting, sculpture, or a fertility goddess that bore a notable resemblance to a bulbous rock. Having expressed that thought years ago, Aubrey was shown a stack of documents: letters from the archeologist complete with sketches, a receipt of delivery to the nineteenth century aristocrat who funded the dig, a note of thanks for its generous donation to a British museum and finally, a bill of sale from a financially pinched curator.
  Provenance was the paper trail that told the story of an object’s life, though most of it was now digitized and organized into large databases. It was proof the object was genuinely what it was proposed to be and that the current owners had the right to pass it to a new owner, the debatable morality of cultural theft notwithstanding. 
         “And there’s nothing in there about where the fragments originated?” Aubrey asked.
“Exactly. The Roman’s were a little lax with their paperwork.” 
“Okay, first of all, does the client know?”
“Not yet”
“Good, if we did screw this up, I want to know how and who before we involve them.  I have to ask how well they were vetted.” 
Conner had always insisted on stringent background checks for new clients, but as the company grew, that became more difficult and they had been burned a few times. 
“The client is Nick Bardi.”
Mr. Nick Bardi had imperious leanings and a wardrobe preference for kilts, which made him a come across as marginally psychotic.  He also had history  with Aubrey and a thirty-five year tenure as the director of one of New York’s most prestigious art galleries, di Gallery.   Nick ran a great deal of work though Conservator, so questioning his work would be a diplomatic problem. 
“Enough said.  What exactly are they taking issue with?” she asked.
“They’re attributing it to Piransesi.”
“Great, another lost ‘Michelangelo.’”
Michelangelo signed one sculpture, the Pieta, in a fit of artistic pique and never gave in to what he saw as his sinful pride again.   Every other Michelangelo is attributed to him by well educated guess work, or the written accounts of patrons and his contemporaries.  It wasn’t an uncommon problem.
  Governments occasionally made use of this artistic eccentricity to keep unsigned works by anonymous artists in the country.  Regardless of how understandable this practice was, it was arbitrary and subject to the whims of human nature and it was also frustrating, but there was nothing to do except make sure they hadn’t missed anything.
     “I’m not sure it would surprise me to found out he suspected it was a much more important work.” She said.
“Sounds like the greedy little freak.  This will send the price through the roof. Are you going to call Shannon? ” Alan had a hard spot for Conservator’s lawyer Shannon Mayes who was blonde and did do great things for a pencil skirt. She’d be able to clear the sculpture quickly, but she tended to bludgeon first and finesse the scattered pieces as a last resort. Nick and the problem with the Italians weren’t one of law, yet.
“ God, no. Besides, you’re missing the point.  Nick would lose the sale. I just meant that I don’t put it past him to do shoddy research knowing Char would do his work for him.  If it comes to it, I’ll do some digging with him.  What exactly does the provenance file look like?”
“The provenance ‘file’ isn’t a file.  It’s a page from a household receipt book and a photo.  The entry in the book says “Vaso, Scultura” and it’s dated July, fourteenth, seven-teen seventy-three. The photo is of a nineteenth century portrait of a great aunt with the sculpture painted into the scene.“
 “Who do we have in Rome?  I’m assuming.”  They made sure there was some local on the ground in all the major airport hubs they used. She just couldn’t remember which local was where.
“Yeah, Rome. Since Cele got married, one guy, Angelo Brevini but so far, he’s as useful as a fart in a sieve, sorry, and wants more money.”
“Find out how much more. He’s all we’ve got at the moment.”
“I won’t be happy about it, but I’ll do it.”
No matter what the Italians were threatening, sparse documentation could be enhanced with an effective understanding of how to use cultural nuance for purposes of persuasion. In other words, in Italy, the right blonde in a push-up bra had superpowers. 
“Such a boy scout. For the long term, I want someone else, Alan, a useful someone, a woman. Think Shannon, but friendly and Italian. In the short term, let’s let this settle a while. I’m on my way into the city for dinner, but call Mr. Brevini and see how much it would take make him more effective.”
“Now? It’s three-thirty in the morning.”
“Look at it this way, you get to piss him off.”
“I hear and obey.”       
Aubrey was solidly brunette and ambivalent about push-up bras, but as she walked to the restaurant from the parking garage, she decided to pack a bag when she got home regardless because she had to be better looking in one than Brevini and millions were at risk.
© 2010 Tracy Cartmell

Mountain Flowers Macro Monday

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The good, the bad, the bubbles, and the poleaxed

Turns out there was wine tasting.  When people who love you find out you like wine, they bring it to you, and they'd prefer that you taste it while they're tasting it with you.  
I think it was the bubbled wine that pollaxed poleaxed me. That may not be how to spell pollaxed poleaxed.  but I'm blogging from bed with a headache that's lasted all day long. It leaves me unmotivated to check spelling. 
I'll be sticking to water for my bubble needs for a while.
This is almost cheating, and a repost, but my mother has joined the digital age and I thought it worthy of a post script.
  No matter how old you get, your mother will still wet her napkin with the tiny point of her pink tongue to wipe the bit of "whatever" off your cheeks, and help you with your homework... in this case, Spelling.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Firedrill dinner

       No wine tasting today.  Instead we're having a fire-drill dinner with the bonus-family. Fire drill dinner is what happens when word spreads you're willing to be the half way point between bits of family that haven't already seen each other this weekend.  Bonus family is any one that you love but weren't born with, Churchill.
      As for the rest of you, I don't even know who you are and occasionally I sit here thinking that I want to give you something.   You have everything, including the things I think to give you, just as I have everything, but still, I ask,
     "What can I give?"
      Not because I'm a "good" person, ( what is that, anyway?) but because in those moments, I remember I have everything and want you to remember it too.
Your job description.

Fire Drill Dinner

Za'atar & Olive oil
Roasted Cauliflower Dip

Smoked Turkey
Lima Beans
Jalapeno Cheese Cornbread

Mix berry cobbler
Bourbon whipped cream

If you want specific recipes ask and I'll do what I can, but it's more art than science,  sort of like life... 

Friday, November 26, 2010


I think balance might not be the right word...Balance between what?    Why can't "it" be found following the simplest principle on paper and for some reason the hardest in practice:  love.  One thing... not a million goals, demands, obligations all calling our name.
First you have to know how it feels so when it happens, you can dig your heals into that place and refused to be pulled out of it by any silly notions that you're not exactly as you were formed, loved, perfect as you are.  Who do you think you are?

What love looks like for me.  Most days, anyway.
The other days, I forget who I am, and need to cook my heads a little.
      I was trying to do the math back and forth between how many published posts and how many unpublished drafts  I had.  Word problems.  "It ain't me, babe."    Exasperated that I couldn't do a stinkin' word problem, I called the resident guru, leftbrain, fastball dodger.  His reply to me, the woman who'd been lobbing heat at his head all week, was
     "You don't read for content. You're listening to the music and the melody of the words, the beauty of the presentation, not the information."  Then he gave me the answer to the word problem.  Love people... maybe even more juju than roux.. just maybe
Blog post 100.  yay.


Thursday, November 25, 2010


      My daughter has craved snow since she was a baby. Her first snow was one of those rare Texas snows during which she was sent down a hill in her baby bathtub. She loved it.  I myself freaked out.  Neither the bathtub incident, nor the snow were to be repeated until this year because until this year she's lived in Texas, Southern California and Las Vegas. Last April she moved to Seattle to go to school and when given the choice to come to California, she opted for a winter wonderland over palm trees.
      I don't blame her, but I was a little sad. I was also proud that she made the choice she wanted. She followed her own heart.  She's making good choices because she has a good heart and she's found a mom away from mom to go with her home away from home. I am grateful for many things this day, the one day people set aside to give thanks, but I am thankful everyday for a beautiful daughter and the beautiful woman who's welcomed my birth daughter into her home and family today. Thank you Catie for being so brave everyday.  Thank you "Scotts's mom" for being Catie's bonus-Mom so many days and for this video reminder that everything is good. Everything is in fact, extra good.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

What passes for recycling around here.

     If I was really ecologically responsible, I'd have three/five containers for my trash and each would have it's own recycling purpose.   I don't and Al Gore is looking for me.   I'm working on it in my own ways.   Here's another:
demerara , basil oil,  fake sugar

Fever in the morning, fever all through the night. Fevah!

     In the early years of my career in IT, I knew this guy, Unix geek, first name Rusty.  I think he was too young to have been in the Vietnam war, but maybe not by much.  What I do know is that he was overly fond of camouflage as a fashion choice, drove a jeep that looked like it was used in the Vietnam War, and where the rest of us geeks kept photos of our families, our vacation spots or our pets, Rusty kept photos of his guns  even though he had kids, went on vacation and had pets. I could make this stuff up, but I'm not.   
     One Monday,  I was in Claustrophobia Central, "the dungeon", a small room with a low hung ceiling where the hardware grunts worked, tucked into a nest of  tightly packed cubicles.  After the pleasantries and professional agenda were dispensed with, Rusty brought out the pictures of his new 50mm toy. He'd been to a gun show that weekend.  
     For those of you without an NRA membership, a 50mm casing is large enough to pierce a row of tanks. I may exaggerate, but I know he wasn't using it to shoot cans off the fence. Oil drums, those long silver tubes used to haul milk on the back of sixteen wheelers, maybe. Cans?  I doubt it.
    It was at this point I began to wonder if I'd ever done anything that  annoyed Rusty and decided to make sure I warned him if I ever found myself approaching him from behind.    
      "Geek girl, walkin'."
      "I wonder if that nice man Rusty is busy."
      "I sure do like that Rusty. He is a real peach."
      It was also in those few moments of sharing that I first saw a bottle of something bright red with a neon green cap on it. Sirachi.  Rusty has been redeemed, if not understood. How can you not like a guy that teaches you about Unix and sirachi?  (And I don't work there any more...though he could find me.)

     I sure do like that Rusty. He is a real peach.

     Anyway, this stuff is ketchup for masochists.  It's hot, sweet and irresistible. ( Hey, it's me in my rich fantasy life! Ack. .)  It will also blast a hole through your intestinal tract. (Closer to the reality of my fantasy life.) You've been warned.   Souls and soul food come in all colors, some of them brighter and hotter than others.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

the juju of good a roux.

My mother's "parlor" in Houston, TX
           Around this time of year, instead of having all of our family, because family is all so spread out and it's complicated, we gather as much of our family  and as many of our friends as we can for a  party where we play poker.  For this crush of people, I cook Southern food in general but gumbo specifically.
     I've talked about my Southern culinary roots before, but I sort of fudged it because I'm not from the "South" as much as I am from Texas.   If you're from the South, you're appalled I would dare to pretend to be Southern.  If you're from Texas you're appalled I would stoop down to pretend to be Southern.  The rest of you may be appalled you ended up here, y'all.
     Texans formed an independent country for a while and honestly we never really got over it.  I know the South felt that way for a long time, but as an outsider, they don't seem to be as proud as they used to be about the "Glorious" Confederacy. I know Texas isn't.  .  But Texans sort of feel like we did everyone else a favor by coming to the party, no matter whose party it was. We like everyone else.  We just like us better.
     That would be the end of the story and we'd be talking about making brisket instead of gumbo but I grew up spending a lot of time living on and around my grandparents farm in far Eastern Texas, the part that shares a border with Louisiana, and if New Orleans isn't part of the old South, then ...well, I can't even think of anything equally preposterous.
     Thanks to a galvanizing company in Shreveport that did quick turn around, as in, I'd sit in the truck and wait for the steel to be galvanized, Louisiana was part of my day job as a gopher for my grandparent's steel fabrication company.  .  Point being, even if you're a reluctant cowgirl with live cows on the weekends, you pick things up living that close the the South.  Roux is one of those things.  Being a vegetarian is another. It's hard to eat your meat once you meet your meat. If you know what I mean.
 Don't leave the stove once the roux is the color of p.b & j
( - the j). 

     Meanwhile, back at the farm, since a Texan will laugh at you for using the word "ranch" in reference to anything less than a 1000 acres, you can make soup without roux, but it will not be gumbo, no matter how much frozen okra and Tabasco you add to it.
    It is simple really, equal parts flour and oil added to the heaviest skillet you have. I have a cast iron skillet that has been well seasoned from making roux and kept that way by virtue of its other job as the chicken fryer and an over flow pan for my husbands electric deep fryer. If you don't have a well seasoned iron skillet, you will by the time you're done making roux a time or two.
     For sake of discussion, let's take two cups flour and two cups of vegetable oil.  Heat and time are the only other things you need to make the type of roux that you're going  to use for the gumbo that people will eat  as they turn down  home fried chicken, mashed potatoes whipped with cream and butter topped with gravy made from the  pan dripping of frying said chicken, baked mac and cheese,  and a whole host of sugar, butter, flour, vanillia, rum and whipping cream, so you'd better make a whole hell of a lot of gumbo if you're havin' a party.  Even the carrot nibblers will be knocking each other out of the way to get to a gumbo like that.

  • 2c. all purpose flour
  • 2c vegetable oil
  • 1 iron skillet
  • 1 bourbon *optional, but this is a nice one I shared with my Dad when I was home last month.
  • patience, the amount varies
  • zydeco  A station on Pandora is a great place for this to happen.
  • (youtube pop up ahead.  Consider yourself warned) Red Garland. He will  come in handy when you've discovered you're going to need more patience.
      Zydeco'up. Move to Red Garland as needed.   Put the oil and flour into the iron skillet and stir until combined.  Turn on the stove. Start stirring. I like to use wooden spatula because a seasoned iron skillet is the old school non-stick pan and the roux gets so hot that I dislike using plastic anything with it until it's cooled. I have melted tupperware with this stuff.  Good roux is about one thing really, color. The color will tell you when you're done. The bourbon will help you get through it all. Small sips. 
     Truth is, you are going to be there stirring a while if you want to make gumbo for 20, shorter if you want to make "cream" gravy for ...say.. 800.    Cooking the flour reduces its ability to thicken liquid so if you just cook it enough to slightly brown it, then you're going to make a brick of gravy unless you put a lot of liquid into it, thus the 800 serving.   If you want a dark gumbo, and I do, because it's smokey and rich and tells a story the way a good wine does, then you're looking for a mahogany colored roux.
Mahogany and Malbec..I was out of bourbon.

     The first time I read that in a cook book I thought,
"What the hell does mahogany look like?"

   Experience taught me to get close to the color of cocoa powder, take it off the heat and keep stirring until the pan gets cool enough to touch and it looks like nutella. If it helps, set a glass container with cocoa by the stove so you know what the target looks like. The roux will continue cooking after it's off the heat and this is why you use a heavy pan to do this. You want something that will slowly cook the roux the last few minutes with no chance of burning it. That's not to say you can't burn it before you take it off the heat. You can and if you do, you'll know it by the black bits in the pan. Throw the mess away or you will be very unhappy with the results of your gumbo. This is why some instructions for making gumbo roux will tell you to take your phone off the hook and, make the kids stay "with the nanny or as she prefers to be called, 'Mom'". The other thing you need to know, particularly if you do have to pour it out or the kids aren't with the nanny, is that I wasn't kidding about how hot this stuff gets. It is Cajun napalm. It will burn you, literally.  Be careful with it. 
     The truth and length of all this is why more people don't make gumbo at home. If I'm in the right part of the country, I don't make gumbo either because there are so many well qualified people eager to do it for me, but I'm in California now, and I know what the real thing is.   It's someone scooping up the dark sludge at the bottom of a  nasty frying pot and turning into gumbo. It borders on the supernatural.  Do this.  Think of it as a ritual of alchemy that you're about to share with thousands of kitchen priestesses through time.  I know for a fact just makin' it has  the power to ward off chocolate cake that grins at you and asks,
"How you doin'?
    The next time you find yourself alone with dietary dynamite, make some roux.  You'll see what I mean. I'd proofread this post, but the roux is done and so am I.

Monday, November 22, 2010


Unused photo 1 Jelly fish...camera phone.
     Sometimes, I take photos with no particular use for them other than at some point some inspiration will hit and they will end up here, in Cooked Heads, their lesson for me having become obvious.  This one wasn't so obvious, but it made me smile, made the week look less hectic and let peace scooch on down in m'soul a little so I'll share it.
      I started looking at these two photos and wanted to use them together because, one looked like the other's eye.  Then, because I'm wired this way, I began to wonder if jelly fish even have eyes.  Some do, others have things no one will commit to calling eyes so they call them "eye structures".  Jellyfish don't have the master gene that makes the eye. That might explain their typically free floating approach to life. It's hard to get worked up about going in a specific direction when you can't see where you'd be going.
Unused photo 2 Paperweight... taken with fancy gift from Husband

     PAX ( paired box genes) tell our bits what to do with themselves before and after gestation.
    "You, in the corner! Get started connecting that hip bone to the leg bone. We only have nine months here people!  Let's move it!", said PAX6
 PAX6 is the master gene. It tells everybody what to do. I can relate to PAX6.  I tend to be domineering and dictatorial with myself and anyone in range, but unlike me, PAX6 has the good sense to delegate to other pair boxed genes that have more specific functions.  
     PAX2 is the gene set associated with both vision ( optic nerve development ) ears, brain spinal cord etc.  Makes sense.  But here's the not so sensical part. It's also where kidney and "genital tract"   information is stored.  Weird that those two would end up being associated with the brainier bits, since at least in once case, the brain is too often and totally ignored.  PAX2 is also linked to protecting cells from death during "cellular stress".  
     So here's me, PAX6, Monday morning, working myself up about all this "stuff" I have to get done this week, inflicting some serious cellular stress all up on me and I think about peace, pax if you're latin.  ( I knooooow.. it finally comes together!! )  It's not a coincidence that "seeing" shows up a lot in my posting because I'm convinced "seeing" is connected to peace.  If we could see past our own stories into the basic goodness, desires fears etc, we all share, we'd worry less ( not at all ) and have a great deal more compassion for each other not to mention peace for ourselves.   
     It's also interesting to me that the kidneys ( remember PAX2, optic nerve, brain stuff, kidneys ) are often used metaphorically along with the heart to describe what God sees within us and as being the source of our temperament, emotions, prudence and wisdom, the job we now associate with our brain, an organ not even mentioned in the bible.  What we see in the world, how we see of the world, how we decide to see the world,  all change our temperament, emotions, prudence and wisdom for the better if we see the world with Love, and if we see it through fear, well... I think we all know what that looks like.  

Ember Macro Monday
Lisa's Chaos

Sunday, November 21, 2010

"Here, I'll give you a taste."

     Despite the name, this isn't a cooking blog, which you will have noticed if you've tried to find many recipes on it. It's not even a food blog.  It is a tasting blog.  The know how involved in tasting or savoring life is something I lack.   The post title was something a moonshiner said to my husband decades ago in Roanoke, Virginia, and in the case of moonshine, a taste is all you should ever have.  Make. You. Go. Blind.
no, no, a nine dollar red that's good?  oh yeah
     This blog is me  learning to taste instead of chug (beer pong) through life.  My Saturday wine tastings have been an object lesson in this.
     You can't taste seven wines, and revisit the ones you like. Drink? Well, you can, but there is no happy ending, particularly the next morning.  Long before that, there's no joy in lushville. Saturday night? Fuhgetabout it. You want to start hydrating. You want to sleep. And you want to get started on both as soon as you walk more or less straight through the door of your home.
     Week three of this madness, I opted to stop seeing the afternoon the way a child sees toys-r-us and began seeing it the way a thin woman sees...well.. See's  I became selective.  Yes, I tasted all seven wines, but I made sure the servers who love me, didn't "help" me with such generous pours.  I also made sure my mouth didn't have left over flavors from the wine-before so I didn't have to drink two or three big gulps to get the flavor of the "new" wine.  Lastly,  I began to poured the rest of the wine I didn't like into the dump bucket. ( Yes, that's what it's called. )  I couldn't bring myself to spit.  It's just not done where I'm from, y'all.
Kids at wines-r-us. Sweet? yes. Selective.  uh..  no.
     Week five, I stopped tasting cheap reds entirely unless my fellow tasters/drinkers did the reeeallly happy dance  and asked to "revisit" it  or when someone whose palate I respect recommended I give it a try.   And for the record, a cheap red, in my mind, is anything less than twenty dollars.  Call me a snob, call me not a masochist.  They tend to give me a killer headache and my liver is worth more than "free" wine.   A white wine can get away with more slumming, probably because they're typically served so much colder, but by week six, I let my white warm up a bit.  I want to taste the wine, not feel the chill.
     Today is wine tasting day.  I'm going to stop at Target to buy a to-go coffee mug for discrete spitting.  I'm almost gagging as I type this, but I love tasting wine. Drinking wine, well, yes, that too, but in moderation, not in a marathon.    I'm using this article as my guide and defense, should it please the court. I know for a fact it pleases my head, my liver and the legal blood alcohol limit for the operation of a motor vehicle. I am however going to bring a few tissues, because I can almost promise, there will be some dribbling.   Ack...

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Wine book that became a life book.

Lost: One simple leather book
Description: Lots of life stuff and plot notes. Dang.

     Months ago I lost a book I loved, a simple leather bound book with pale yellow pages with high cotton content that started out as blank and over time were becoming full. I'd had it for years and it saved my sanity if not my life on several occasions.  It saved other people's lives on a regular basis. It was my journal, a place for mental garbage that's best worked out internally and if you can't manage that shoot for a surface other than another persons face. I'd also used it to start planning my book.
     I hope someone finds it and reads it, learns from it and maybe laughs. If they like the plot. I hope they write the book.  There are plenty more for me to write. I have no secrets from the universe. What's the point? We all share the same foibles and when you finally realize no one cares what you're doing because they're all worried about what they're doing, it's a happy day.  For those people that think they care what you're doing, it's only because they're too horrified by what they think about what they're doing.  I promise this is true.
     After I lost my beloved book, I went in search of a new one. At first the bar was seriously high.  The original was Italian. I'd bought it for my husband as a gift he didn't use, which are the best kind for your spouse because if you're right, they'll love it, if you're wrong, you'll love it. Win/Win.  Anyway, spending that kind of money of a gift for someone else made sense. Spending that kind of money on a gift for myself seemed silly especially since I tend to LOSE them! ( sigh ).  I settled on two of them, both less than ten dollars and use neither of them as a journal.   I have a computer document that serves that purpose and have discussed its format here on several occasions.  
     One of the little books because my list book. Yes I know. You young people have smart phones for that. I have a smart phone too, but like the front of a blank book I saw the other day said,
Life wine book
"I have a handwriting font loaded in my pen".  Old school, writing...
     The other little book's original purpose was for wine tasting. I like wine. I drink it several nights a week and taste it several hours on end when the calendar says "Saturday".  Yes, there is a difference.  Drinking is quiet fun until you've had your third glass. Tasting is noisy, impolite and fun every sip you take and if you must, spit out. I don't spit, yet. I'm from the South and I'm finding it hard to get over the idea of a) spitting and b) spitting in a communal bucket of wine drool.   ack..
Cavallini Roma Lussa Leather Journal, 5x7 inch, Hand Made in Italy, Chocolate
The original, which I highly recommend if you aren't
the type of person to LOSE things.. *sigh
     Where was I?  Oh yes.. the wine book.  Now it's a life book. It has all kinds of weird little things in it.  I like it almost as much as the original, but there's something to be said for Cavallini, Italian leather (provided you don't know the cows personally. It's harder otherwise.), and a high cotton count

Friday, November 19, 2010

Would you read this? Dragon Seals part 1.

          Aubrey Hale fell, furious and dumbfounded, onto a step stool to look at the stunningly beautiful jade object in her hand. The storage unit was quiet other than the sound of the climate control system pushing perfectly humidified air around the room; but the internal curses she screamed in the direction of her dead husband made her head feel like it was going to explode.  Conner had been dead three years, and that was reason number one he was on her shit list. Reason number two was that his company, Conservator Transit, Inc., along with all the headaches that came with it was now her responsibility.
    What she held in her hands was closer to a catastrohpic brain bleed than a headache because she was pretty sure it was an exact mirror to the jade dragon seal sitting in a nest of shredded paper beneath her bed. If Conner hadn’t already been dead, she’d have divorced him; in fact, she was wondering if she could have him exhumed for just that purpose.  She wanted to throw the seal against a wall. Instead, she clenched it until the ache in her fingers worked its way up her arms then sat it gently at her feet. Individually, they were rare and ridiculously valuable. As a pair, they were priceless and fuel for an international fire-storm.
    When resignation finally replaced rage, she took out her cell phone to call Jack Douglas, the FBI agent she’d been lying to all day.  
       "Thanks large, darlin'" she said to no one.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The lesson of the ruby slippers

Dearest Dorothy Sr. ( my mother, whose opinion of my sister and I as "serene women" makes me smile.  She says we remind her of Glinda, the cotton candy happy witch of Baum's Oz, vs the prissy, less likable one of Maguire's),
       Baby Glinda , (my little sister) and I do see the bogey man, but we remind ourselves that everything is always all right, and we’re quite adamant about it. There is an internal “mother is serious and thiiiis close to pinching you” look. There is mental finger pointing, and there are definitely a lot of “no.”s.  Bogey men are like pre-nap, hopped up on bit-o-honey, two year olds.  They will
down.  If they smell weakness, that is.
     By way of suggestion, when you find yourself in Oz with the lions and tigers and bears! OH MY!! all you really need to do is remember you never left Kansas, no matter what the witch says she’s going to do to you and your little dog too, because typically, what you’re stressing about is a story you’re telling yourself about something that isn’t yet real and has, at the very least, the possibility of never becoming real. I mean, really if you’re going to make things up, they may as well be things that makes you smile, “You can only think of one thing at a time. Make it something good.” –Glinda Sr. (Johnny Aubrey, aka Grandlee..my great-great- grandmother and the name of my protagonist.)
Glinda in the middle. (me)
The New Ruby Slipper

  • 1 1/2 ounce of good whiskey.  
  • 3 ounces of blood orange juice.  squeeze it yourself.  you will thank me even if your liver does not.
  • splash of campari
  • splash of soda
Dip the rim of a martini glass into sugar colored with fda approved red food dye or live on the edge and do what I did. Dip it in the hummingbird food powder in your fridge.  Mix the drink, pour it into the glass. drink it. give the lions, the tigers, the bears and the wicked witches the stink eye.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

End optional ( continued )

So, all this "stuff" that keeps popping up in my life.   I removed "uninvited" as the adjective for said "stuff", because since I'm asking for things from my life, and I believe only in benevolence, I have to expect what's being given to me is on the way to what I've asked for. If that doesn't make sense, don't worry about it.  It will if it's supposed to, prepositional placement not withstanding, because ending a sentence with a preposition is something up with which I will put, even if Winston Churchill wouldn't.
     By "stuff" I mean the easel that won't go away and when it does, it's called out from the bowels of a maddeningly cluttered closet ( post fodder alert!) to be assembled so that it can sit in the small living room like  godzillla until I can't stand it and put it back in the organized closet of the future.  "Stuff" is also the large plastic storage bin sitting where I don't want it to sit.  It was one of my husband's gifts to me, a solution to the messy business of cleaning oil paints off paint brushes without killing the poor plants on the patio, because the patio is also where I paint. This is where, once again, it dawns on me that all this painting stuff that's all up in m'face messin' with my happy means I should paint. I am a genius of the obvious, so obviously, I vow to paint, again, as I obviously should. ( Bastardized Japanese proverb:  fall down seven times. get up eight. you win. )

     Dang.. one second, my ego just woke up and it's really excited..

     "We're going to paint?! That is so cool! What are we going to paint? I mean.. you want it to be good, right? Wait, what about your book? You told everyone you were going to write this book.  Speaking of which, how's that going?"
Ego. Egads. Bad things this way come.  Or they begin heading in this direction but I get the "mother" look on my face and tell my ego,
     "No, I don't, in fact, want it to be good. I want it to be fun. And I know what I'm doing. Watch and learn or sit down and shut up."  Sometimes telling yourself to shut up is a sign of sanity, no matter how it looks to other people.
      "Good" has stress built into it and defining "good" is not my business.  Following joy, this is my business and trust me, this is a business with the same time requirements of any other startup. I'm still relatively new to this joy stuff.  I am also slightly suspicious of its intentions and effect on my life. (gimme a break,  I'm working on it.)
"Kitchen Sink Drama" oh what a sense of humor
there is...
     Rod McRae paints.  I find what he does inspirational because the longer he paints the less his stuff looks like any "thing" to me but still pleases me. Greatly.   Why does art have to look like any "thing"?  Who makes this gar-bage up?  
     And as for the honorable mention, Agatha Christie has been quoted as having said, "The best time to plan a book is while you're doing the dishes."   The Dame has the "write" idea ( I'm SORRY. I had to...) but I'm going to use paper plates, because if I have to wash something, it'll be paint brushes, not pots and pans.

Post post synopsis:   Stop fighting what's in front of you and figure out why it's in front of you.  

Meandering as a means. End optional

Firmament by Rod McRae
    This week, my husband and Rod McRae have inspired me to get on with it all. Agatha Christie gets an honorable mention.
Pre-post synopsis
     Sunday: Back from seeing family in Texas.  Walk into apartment.  Sigh. The apartment is closer to his notion of liberty than my notion of order. In the week I was gone, it became a  tree fort for my husband's inner nine year old though a sane wife wouldn't have asked for more: no dishes in the sink, grocery shopping done, plants, and the roses he bought for me on the anniversary of the day we met were all watered without my asking, etc. etc.  This is one phenomenal nine year old boy.
        I am blessed with a slightly faulty "2x-chromosome clean" gene.  Twice the shrew, twice as much serotonin re-uptake, and only half the perspective  Help is on the way in the form of three women I can hardly wait to see.  Their help is a gift from the nine year old boy, help that I vehemently resisted for yeeeears, people.  Obviously I still have to learn things from the nine year old boy. 
     The tree fort accouterments included an easel set up for a marathon football watching /oil painting afternoon that sounded great in theory,  a mile of coax cable attached to an outdoor tv antenna, and a plastic storage bin large enough for a bmw mini. They were all on the patio aka, my happy place, aka where I go to inhibit the serotonin re-uptake and increase my perspective.
Plan A)  Get annoyed and let the shrew "amok! amok!" then restore minimal order because I love these three women too much to leave it all for them to do. I disliked Plan A) because I really dislike getting annoyed.  Why? For some reason I suffer the most when that happens. What is THAT about?  The shrew/amok bit seems to pretty much explains itself.  Scratch Plan A).
So, in search of Plan B) I had one of those bipolar discussions with myself where I realize I should figure out why this stuff keeps showing up in my life....
...to be continued.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


A lovely word. Basically, grey. French, of course.   The updated look of Cooked Heads is a nod to the spirit of grisaille if not actually being a well executed example.  That's already been done. Here, let me show you...
Au dessus de la tribune, on peut admirer la grisaille d'Alexandre Rifflaert.
     If you can read that with ease, actually if you can read that, I envy you and want you to know that I have added "work on French" to my "get on with it" list.  The image comes from The University of Li├Ęge, in Belgium

More "this"
..this being a stained glass window the English procured from the French at some point after the thirteen hundreds.  I know this because it's now sitting in the Victoria and Albert Museum, decidedly not France.
     And lastly, when I become a bazillionaire, Tracery Interiors will be begged to do the beach house in Southern California but my townhouse in Houston's Museum district will be done by the genius behind Cote de Texas.  Dang, y'all

Monday, November 8, 2010

"Write your book."

Those were my mother's words to me after reading this blog.  Since her email last week I haven't been blogging because I'm thinking about what she said. The book was started last year and my notebooks are filled with plot thread, time lines and the character who I've come to know. Still their story is not finished and I'm finally tired of being "the starter".  I'm going to finish it and honestly, I couldn't care less if no one ever reads it. Even if the only thing that ever comes of it is a day when I sit in a room by myself in front of a stack of papers that represent a shift from an uncommitted dalliance with something I know I can do but won't to something I could do and did. When that happens I will know it's a gift, if not to the world, then to me from the Source of every good gift and every perfect present, but as much as I want the end, it isn't really the point. It's engaging in the dance of creation. Every day. As a meditation, as a sabbatical from "didn't finish", from "could". I'm going to finish, then I'm going to finish something else, and then something else again, and then another something else and I'm going to start practicing now.

"The End."