Sunday, August 26, 2007

A room full of butterflies

Freda's words flew out of her mouth like butterflies filling a room. It was my job to catch each one and put them in the right order, a more difficult task than I'd imagined. Here's part of what I wrote about the woman whose glass is half full (pdf):

Freda Brittain’s cup runneth over. In fact, it is positively spilling with some of Double Oak’s most interesting stories. There’s the one about how her in-laws, Bill and Nettie Brittain, held fish fries and bake sales and cake walks at Durwood Cordell’s cabinet shop to raise funds for the town.

Or the one about her in-laws getting folks to sign a petition to incorporate Double Oak way back in the early 70’s. And if your prod her, she’ll tell you about how she met her husband. Truth be told, she liked the way he danced.

But mostly, Freda wants to tell you about her passions—Double Oak, the town her husband’s family founded, the Double Oak Volunteer Fire Department, and the Shriner’s, which is the organization she devotes so much of her time and energy to.

You’ll see Freda at town council meetings—she’s the one knitting quietly in the front row so that she can hear every word. That’s the only way you learn what’s going on, she said.

How else can the woman whose history is so intertwined with Double Oak learn about the town’s future? You see, the 71-year-old Dallas native married into the family that owned thirteen acres of Double Oak before it incorporated in 1974. “My mother-in-law used to say, Freda, we can say what we want to one another, but no one else can ‘cause the whole clan will be after them,” said Freda.

Freda and her husband Jim moved into her in-laws’ property on Kings Road after they inherited it four years ago. “I fought it. I said, that house? It only has one bathroom!” But after some additions and renovations to the house, which sits on a four-acre lot, “the rest,” she said, “is history.”

You might have seen Freda and a friend or two on her morning walks in Taylor Oaks, and even if you haven’t, keep your speed in check because she’s not only trying to stay fit, she’s trying to collect aluminum cans.

Her goal, she said, is “three-fold—I keep the street clean and I help out the fire department, and I help out the burn hospital. The first year I made $129. Last year I made $344.
I believe I had to call her back about five times to make sure I got the facts straight, and the jury's probably still out on that one. But she is an interesting woman and a passionate one and I enjoyed our time together.


Friday, August 24, 2007

Save my people!

We are a dying breed:

REDHEADS are becoming rarer and could be extinct in 100 years, according to genetic scientists.

The current National Geographic magazine reports that less than two per cent of the world's population has natural red hair, created by a mutation in northern Europe thousands of years ago.

My mother and father were brunettes, but when my dad grew a mustache, probably in this thirties, it came out red!

Actually, it just occurs to me that you may not know I'm a redhead because my hair photographs brown generally and in the case of my profile in the upper right of this page. I was unable to produce a redhead, to the disappointment of me and my husband, but both children seemed to have escaped freckles, which can be annoying, especially during adolescence. (Via Jonah Goldberg.)

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More kitchen re-do

My friend Amy wondered what our fireplace looked like underneath, so I promised to post a picture:

Here's a shot of the cynder blocks that were under it and still are:

Except for painting some trim, the living room side of the wall is complete:

On the kitchen side, we have to buy some cabinets to go in the space where the back of the fireplace used to be. Here's what our cabinets look like:

Neither Lowe's nor Home Depot has an exact match, but Home Depot comes closest. However, we have stumped them with our request to have the door of an upper cabinet put on a lower cabinet. The company which has the closest approximation to our twenty-year-old oak cabinets has a cathedral design on their upper cabinets, but not their lower. Our cabinet experts at Home Depot say that we can order the upper cabinet doors, but they don't know how. They promised to call back last Sunday, and when I inquired Wednesday, the manager promised to call back that night. So far, we've heard only crickets chirping.

In the meantime, we're in the process of picking out a dark stain to re-finish what we have.

Also, we're trying to choose a color to go under the chair rail. We are not afraid of color here at Bystander manor. In the paint department, I thought for sure, the blue was going to be the way to go:

Blech. That did not turn out well at all. Luckily, we brought two other colors home--a purple:
And a green:

The pale yellow above the chair rail was done with a technique using an oil-based primer over the old wallpaper, then a water-based primer. Then tissue paper was rolled on top of that. It was then painted starlight yellow. After that dried, it was wiped with a brown glaze. The starlight yellow is two shades lighter than the mango yellow in the adjacent den (where I am typing this instant!), which is also above the chair rail.

Oh, I wanted to add this--we couldn't repair the texture to our own walls, so we hired that job out. Here's what the kitchen looked like while Ignacio did his magic:
It took about six or seven hours to complete the job, I think mostly due to the care he put into covering and protecting the furniture and floor. He and his partners took off their shoes every time they entered our house, even though I told them, with all the dust, it was hardly worth the effort.

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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

At the mall

Across the mall from Bed Bath and Beyond is a gourmet chocolate store, and if the kids are good, we can each get a treat before we head back out to the car.

The kids were good, all right. The clerk behind the counter announced a buy-one-get-one free special on caramel apples, and though I usually limit us to one small truffle each, I couldn't pass up the offer, and neither could they.

Emma picked the apple covered in white mini-chocolate chips and Brendan picked the one covered in mini-M and M's. Both used caramel as an adhesive to the apple. We brought them home, worrying about the heat and would it melt the sweets, but at home they were as perfect as they'd been in the store.

The children then proceeded to eat the candy off the apple without bothering to take an actual bight out of the apple. In fairness to Emma, she's missing her two front teeth, but my three-year-old has no excuse!

Here's what the Bed Bath and Beyond website says about the company (click on corporate buttons in the lower right):
Founded in 1971, Bed Bath [and] Beyond Inc. is a nationwide chain of superstores selling predominantly better quality domestics merchandise and home furnishings. The Company's over 800 stores principally range in size from 20,000 to 50,000 square feet, with some stores exceeding 80,000 square feet.
One time, at the BB and B in Manhattan, a woman began yelling, "Help! Help! I can't get out of this store! I can't find the exit! Help! Heeeeeelp!" She has a point--in free-standing stores, it is hard to find the entrance and exit, but at the mall, it's easy enough.

Today, I went to buy a wedding present for my husband's cousin and some new bed pillows for home. BB and B are masters at marketing, I think. They have tall bins filled to the brim with inexpensive items that catch my attention every time I go. Today the item I bought, which was not on my list, was a Click O Flame refillable multi-purpose lighter (two-pack) for $2.99. My inlaws have such a device and it looks so convenient that I've always wanted one.

Items I've bought at BB and B that I later regretted include a pizza-slice-shaped tupperware-type container and a spherical lettuce keeper. Each seemed so promising, but both failed me miserably by being too awkward and cumbersome in my cupboards and refrigerator.

Meanwhile, BB and B's stock has been as high as $43 a share six months ago, but is now around $34.

Interesting: Blogger is rejecting my use of the ampersand.

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Monday, August 20, 2007


Instapundit: "The debate over DDT is over. There's scientific consensus. Anyone who disagrees is a DDT denialist and a mouthpiece for Big Mosquito."


Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The grouting... done. I hope my work does not disappoint. It was easier in some ways than I thought it would be and harder in others. It would have been nice to have an assistant, but I had to be my own assistant.

I did not know that grout is cement and I did not know what it would do to my hands. They're pretty dried out. I did half the kitchen floor yesterday and under the appliances. My husband wanted to use my Kitchen Aid mixer to mix the grout. Uh uh, I said. No way, so we used his electric drill with what looks like a giant mixer attached to it. It doesn't fit in the drill well and I couldn't handle it at all well. In fact, today, I think I whittled some of it away trying to mix more grout, so on my second batch, I went to the Kitchen Aid.

And it worked! And the mixer is unbroken, so, small miracles. Grout works well when it is the consistency of chocolate pudding. If it is the consistency of chocolate frosting, it's less mercurial and won't seep as well, but in either case it wipes up fairly easily. Lots of wiping, by the way. Lots.

We do need tile in our master bathroom. Let's see if grouting and tiling are like childbirth and if we'll forget what a drag it is to do. If that memory lingers, we'll have to hire that job out.

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Sunday, August 12, 2007

6:00 and 102 degrees

If it were cooler, I'd take a walk to work off the road food I've eaten for the last two days. It shouldn't be long now, though.

Kids are probably in San Antonio by now with their other grandparents. The house is quiet; the house is still.

Whenever I get off a trip, be it one day, two day or three weeks, checking the mail comes next after unloading the car. In the mail today was our water bill, and with it came a survey asking us what types of stores and restaurants we'd like to have in town. Excellent! I want a Houston's restaurant--they've got a great sliced chicken salad with a lime dressing and peanut butter sauce. I hunted down the recipe once; here it is:

Lime Dressing:
1/2 cup lime juice divided by 4 = 2 TBSP
4 teaspoons honey mustard divided by 4 = 1 tsp.
7 1/2 tablespoons honey divided by 4 = 2 ¼ TBSP
4 tablespoons oil divided by 4 = 1 TBSP
2 cloves minced garlic divided by 4 = ½ clove
1 teaspoon pepper divided by 4 = ¼ tsp.
1/2 teaspoon salt divided by 4 = dash of salt

Peanut Butter Sauce:
4 tablespoons peanut butter
4 tablespoons soy sauce
4 tablespoons hot water
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 tablespoon ground ginger

They add tortilla strips which soak up the dressing nicely. My husband likes that salad only with grilled tuna on it. I think they use the same lime dressing, but of course, not the peanut butter sauce.

For retail stores, I'd like a Pottery Barn and William Sonoma; if our town has to be filled with chains, why can't they be good chains? And just because I can't really afford to shop them often, doesn't mean I can't draw inspiration from browsing them.

My husband noted that there are no auto-parts store in Flower Mound. I note that this is the first neighborhood that I've lived in since I moved out of my parents' house that doesn't have a check-cashing store or a pawn shop. Wouldn't it be a hoot if we requested those?

And a Hooter's, added my husband.

Hmmm, I think not.


Friday, August 10, 2007

Will Mike Huckabee get the dieters' vote?

He lost 100 pounds, you know. Tonight on Special Report, he said he has two rules for food: 1. If it wasn't a food a hundred years ago, it's not a food now; and 2. If it comes through a window, it's not a food.

This is very similar to my thinking (not my behavior, mind you). When I had twenty or so pounds to lose after my first baby, I had to change the way I thought about food. I couldn't stand the thought of not having chips with my sandwich at lunch. My husband said I could have the chips, but I'd have to increase my exercise.

Well, it turns out I had to increase my exercise, and I had to pass on the chips. Forever! Actually, as I tell my kids they are a once-in-a-while food. Back then, my thought process included focusing on Laura Ingalls (as portrayed by Melissa Gilbert) on Little House on the Prairie. I was never a big fan of the show, but I do remember a scene in which she showed great excitement over getting a piece of candy at the general store.

It's just not that exciting nowadays to get a piece of candy because candy (and chips and fries and cakes and other assorted treats) are ubiquitous.. So I contemplated a lot on the diet of pre-industrial America, and that inspired me to cut a lot out of my daily meals.

As it happens I've put on about five or six pounds since January, primarily because I have not been working out as intensely as I was a year ago, but I have been eating as intensely. Anyway, with all this work on the house, we've been eating out a lot, and, since my kids asked, I explained to them today that eating out a lot, fast food or otherwise, tends to put weight on you. No big deal or anything, but when the dust settles I need to do a lot more cooking. And what I need most of all are good summer recipes, the non-grill kind. Dinner time is the hottest part of the day--I don't want to be in the backyard grilling.

Aside: I just figured out what tonight's mystery meal is--taken from the freezer hours ago. It appears to be some paella my dad brought by a few months ago...

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Thursday, August 09, 2007

Pachelbel Bedtime

This brought a smile to my face, though not because my children are hard to put down to bed--they've always been good at that, but still, the theme of this song has a familiar ring, probably because it's been a hectic week. (Via Jonah Goldberg.)


Slate on the Beauchamp affair

Thanks to James at The Festering Swamp, I found this food for thought from Phil Carter at Slate:
The lesson here is that in war reporting, as with all reporting, you can certainly use anonymous sources, but only with the proper due diligence. Further, editors should balance the need for anonymous sourcing with the value of a story published
And also, I think, when using anonymous sources, the reporter must have other corroborating evidence to give the reader confidence in the story and let the reader decide on its veracity. Otherwise, the reader must accept it on the faith of the writer and the editors. The New Republic's anonymous sources against The Weekly Standard's anonymous sources. The Army has said that the investigation proved Beauchamp's stories to be false, but with a lid on their investigation, readers are left less than satisfied.


Ready to go!

Passports, applied for June 28, arrival, August 9. Not bad.

Now all I need is a trip...

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Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Here you go, cat lovers!

Here's my stepcat about five years ago showing his disdain for his new sister.


Thank God!

This is the most interesting thing I've ever read that a potential first lady said:

"I love girly makeup and stuff, but my view is that's a lot of work," she said, explaining her decision to routinely skip the makeup chair.

"I want people to get used to my face more naturally so that I don't have to do that every day. Who's got time to put eyelashes on and all that?"

It is doubtful I would support her husband for president, but if we were voting for first lady, she'd be at the top of my list.


Tuesday, August 07, 2007

A post with no name

I should have said it back when the Beauchamp story broke. What was going through my mind at the time was that the story of whether Beauchamp was a real soldier and a truthful soldier would play out very interestingly, and I am not disappointed. Tom Maguire, as usual, says it so succinctly: "many consumers of "news" are seeking affirmation, not information."

Too bad for The New Republic, and after Stephen Glass, how embarrassing.

Back to scraping the floor.

Update: NYT's:
An Army investigation into the Baghdad Diarist, a soldier in Iraq who wrote anonymous columns for The New Republic, has concluded that the sometimes shockingly cruel reports were false.
Mark Feldstein, a journalism professor at George Washington University, called the Army's refusal to release its report "suspect," adding: "There is a cloud over the New Republic, but there's one hanging over the Army, as well. Each investigated this and cleared themselves, but they both have vested interests."
They do, and if I knew a little bit more about Army protocol, I'd be able to clarify my opinion. (Last link via Instapundit.)


Saturday, August 04, 2007

Long week

It's a long week when your refrigerator is in your living room...

And your stove is in your den...

When you only work at night, you get a little done at a time...

And some the next night, and then the next...

Daytime life needles its way into your night time hours and threatens to end the project, so you take a break on the third night, cancel some weekend plans, make others, and make a solid effort at finishing...

But you run out of mastic and tile after midnight, and so when your three-year-old wakes you the next morning at 8:30 because "It's morning time!" you make a run to Seconds and Surplus and Home Depot, and your chief tile cutter blogs the week's events.


Friday, August 03, 2007

Busy, busy, busy!

Posting will resume when the above ends.