Friday, December 31, 2004

For Auld Lang Syne....

Been perusing blogs and it seems that a last blog of the year is semi mandatory in blogland. Me, I have nothing profound to say at all. Personally it was a very good year, what with being Teacher of the Year, going to Europe, my Amazon book business falling into place and starting this blog. My girls are actual seniors in college and will graduate on schedule and my beloved has a job she adores. And a new car and a new motorcycle. We celebrated our 8th anniversary, so we made it past the 7 year itch without a scratch. Plus we have a new kitten and the neighborhood is changing (for the better) before our very eyes. Our anonying neighbors who were given to drunken sing alongs of "The Hokey Poeky" at 2am moved and were replaced by a quiet dog lover.

I don't think the rest of the world would agree with me. Florida had not 1, not 2, not 3 but 4 Hurricanes, one after another. The country had an election, the results of which did not make me happy. The president upgraded his war in Iraq. I call it "his" war because I sure don't know many people who are willing to claim it as "theirs". On the home front he decided he had a mandate from God and declared war on gays and lesbians. And again "his" God is not the one many people I know claim to have made an acquaintance with. The year started with an earthquake in Iraq and ended with an earthquake and Tusami in SE Asia. The latter is apparently one of the biggest disasters the world has ever seen, with a death toll that is beyond comprehension.

My 2 week break is about over - Monday it's back to shrilling alarm clocks at 5am and kids, kids and more kids.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

36,000+ Mugs & 38,000+ Candles

Mugs and Candles, Candles and Mugs - the ubiquitous gifts of the new millennium. Stationary, Thank you Cards and Note paper used to be the "token gift" of choice, but since nobody writes letters (and precious few write thank you notes) any longer replacements were in order. And they multiply - store 2 mugs in a dark cabinet and hey, presto there are 30 of them. 2 candles can easily morph into 40 in the blink of an eye.

Heeding the advice FlyLady I did a 27 fling boogie of our cabinets and discarded mugs with abandon. Yet the cabinets are still full. They overflow the thrift shops. A search for "mugs" on E-Bay yielded over 36,000 hits. Where do they come from? Why do people still continue to buy them, give them and keep them. Just how much coffee can one drink in a day anyway?

And then there are the candles. Yankee Candles , PartyLite candles, Hallmark Candles. Type in "candles" on E-bay and you'll find yourself with some 38,000+ listings to peruse. People actually collect them. There are "retired" candles, never burnt candles, rare candles, common candles, big candles, little candles, pretty candles and tacky candles. People don't burn their candles, there seems to be some "unwritten rule" against this. Must be related to the rule about never removing tags from pillows and mattresses.

And sometimes you get really lucky and receive a basket containing both candles and mugs. And if you are really lucky the mugs will be filled with cheap, flavored "gourmet" coffee or "herb" teas that taste of chemicals.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

A Bit of Thrifting.......

My E-bay buddy and I went on yet another thrift store marathon. Ended up on Telephone Road in the SE part of town which is seedy to say the least. Gentrification has stalled in the slow lane. But there was a most excellent Goodwill with many, many books - and all nicely arranged. Not nicely priced. The Goodwill has delusions of grandeur these days. $3.99 for a mass market paperback. I think not.

Visited 2 shops that resell the items salvaged from foreclosed storage lockers. Oh, the flotsom and jetson of some folks lives. Much furniture, which was to be expected. Hundreds of videos. People who rent storage units prefer mindless comedies or high speed action chase films. They do not care for classic MGM films or BBC dramas. Needless to say, I didn't find anything that suited my fancy! The saddest sights were the piles of children's toys. It must be odd to have entire chunks of your life sold to the highest bidder because you fell behind on the payments.

We spent much time in Value Village since we had a 50% off coupon. Books were slim pickings but did find some clothes and some assorted odds and ends for school including an art box that is going to have new life as a treasure box. There were way to many undisciplined kids running wild making shopping difficult and dangerous. Can't for the life of me phantom why parents allow their kids to play with the toys and ride the assorted trikes and bikes in the aisles.
Actually, it isn't so much that the parents are "allowing" it, it's more that they are totally ignoring the kids who then run wild and play tag in, under and between the racks of clothing.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

The Day After........

The day after Christmas is always a bit odd. When I was a child it had a "is this all there is" feel to it - all that build up and emotion and then poof, it was over and done with. All that was left was a pile of gifts that looked so much smaller than heaps and piles of presents that were under the tree on December 24th.

One plus of a low key Christmas is that there isn't any "morning after" feelings. A very nice benefit indeed.

Shuffled off to the grocery store where the Christmas goods were already reduced. Where do all the unsold Christmas goods go anyway? Even as late as the 24th the stores are still stocked to the gills with ornaments, wrapping paper and impulse gifts and then it's all gone by New Years.
Christmas trims always look so out of place on the 26th...wallflowers at party, girls ignored by the stag line.

The TV commercials are attempting to prolong the holiday season - I would say ever other commercial featured a tree, lights or holiday music. I guess with all it costs to make commercials they want to squeeze the last drop of profits out of them.

Saturday, December 25, 2004


After a day of to much rich food and to little activity I can't get motivated to do much of anything productive. So I'm surfing blogs, reading Christmas posts in hopes of inspiring my muse. My muse I fear is hibernating. Or has indigestion. To many sweets, way to much football on TV, and bone chilling, damp cold weather.

Blog reading is always intriguing. Some are so well done, giving one a window into someone's world, and others are so amazingly bad you wonder how the writer had the intelligence to turn on the computer in the first place. Granted, spelling is not my forte I do try to compose complete sentences and keep an eye on my verb tenses. Stumbled across a site - BlogExplosion, and I've been discovering way more new ones than I can keep up with! The author of Pure Serendipity maybe very young, but she can write! Chick Lit with a brain. A fellow Betsy Tacy fan has one that I enjoy since we're both Librarians.

Having not mastered HTML I'm in awe at the graphics and bells and whistles one encounters.

Reading a blog is akin to sneaking a peek at a diary, reading a Christmas letter of some one you don't know, or finding the person who used the computer before you did left their e-mail up.
One of life's guilty pleasures that doesn't harm your health nor increase your waistline.

Friday, December 24, 2004

Christmas Eve

We're at this in between stage when it comes to the Christmas hoop-la. The girls are to old to get excited about the holiday and luckily they haven't gifted us with grandchildren. Lana and I are long past the "Our First Christmas Together" ornament stage in our relationship. She used to overflow with Christmas joy but a 3 year remodel of a local Mall, where she was subjected to non stop Christmas Carols, "gaydeer" and 50 foot wreaths have robbed her of the Christmas Spirit.

This year we added my hand surgery the day before Thanksgiving and one daughter's tonsilictomy the day after her finals and the other daughter's holiday travel plans so the decorations didn't even make it down from the attic. We have a Christmas Rosemary bush instead. Lana and I gave each other wireless internet - hey, we're teckies, we're happy.

So, no tree, no outdoor lights, no wreath, no carols, no cookies...the only thing we do have in Jack Frost Nipping at Your Nose. In some bizarre twist of weather we're having as much of a white Christmas as Houston will ever have. All day the sky has been spitting down a mixture of snow, sleet and rain. Most of it is melting as it hits the ground but it's white and it's falling.

Definitely a Christmas to remember in more ways than one!

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Fashion Void

I inhabit a Fashion Wasteland. This became very apparent when I had to go to an uptown bank to sign some papers. Men wore suits & ties, women wore suits, hose, heels & outfits that were carefully coordinated.

I work in an elementary school and elementary school teachers think it perfectly appropriate to appear in public wearning a denim jumper adorned with grinning apples and dancing school buses, white ankle socks with lace trim and red, pointy toe keds. They go all out for holidays and add earring shaped like pumpkins, sweatshirts were Rudolph really does have a shiny nose and checked shirts with embroidered G rated Easter Bunnies. On "Casual Fridays" the teachers appear wearing what most people would wear to clean their attic. Overalls, jeans with holes, capri pants and belly baring shirts.

My other standard haunt - the local thrift shops are not hotbeds of fashion either. One could (and some people do) wear fuzzy wuzzy slippers and nobody would turn a hair. Yesterday I saw a rather plus size woman in a black lace cocktail dress, long rhinestone earring, black strapped high heel shoes and black ankle socks. Her eye makeup would have done Liz Taylor proud - in about 1960 or so. Pink foam rubber curlers have occasionally been spotted. Sloppy and ill fitting appear to the be attire of choice.

Golf course attire hasn't changed much in take one basic polo shirt and pair it with a pair of longish shorts. Of course one does see some flights of fancy - leopard print capris, plaid pants or loud printed shirts, but they are the exception rather than the norm.

My only steady exposure to Fashion is on of Sex and the City , Queer as Folk and The L Word. The ladies always look fabulous but I don't think they exactly resemble real life. Or perhaps they do and I'm just inhabiting a parallel universe where jeans and T-shirts are the norm. Which is it?

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Then There Were 5!

And what did you do over Christmas vacation? I trapped feral cats. 5 cats to be exact.

Living in the Heights, an area undergoing gentrification always comes with unexpected extras - in our case any number of feral and semi feral cats. The old homes are being torn down right and left and the little old ladies who feed the cats are moving elsewhere. So now we are feeding the cats. Cujo ,the raccoon helps keep the population down but we still had a summer population explosion. One of which Skitty Kitty, now known as Mr. Sass is now living with us.

My E-Bay Buddy discovered S.N.A.P., which has a Feral Cat Spay and Neuter program. You trap, you deliver, they spay and neuter at no cost. It's all run by volunteers, some of whom have made SNAP the focus of their lives at the cost of their sense of humor. But they do good work and we could never afford to spay the critters on our own. Cujo is not a humane form of birth control so it's wonderful to have an alternative.

According to the SNAP folks one female cat can have 420,000 descendents in the space of 3 years so I feel most accomplished. Some folks go to the mall at Christmas, me I go to the feral cat clinic. At least it doesn't add to my credit card debt!

Tonsils Then, Tonsils Now

At the ripe old age of 22 my eldest daughter had her tonsils out. I didn't know they took out tonsils anymore. I wasn't even sure if babies came equipped with tonsils. Hadn't heard about them in years, perhaps they had vanished like our primeval tails.

When I was a child (when dinosaurs roamed the earth) many a classmate had their tonsils out. The operation was a common as "tubes in the ears" is today. Then, tonsils went out of fashion and nobody ever had them removed any longer.

Back then, there were even children's books to allay fears - "Tommy Goes to the Hospital". The operation ivolved a 3 day hospital stay, Sue Barton, visiting hours, much ice cream and fun times in the hospital playroom.

Not any longer. The surgerical center was in a strip shopping center, right across from the Wings n' More. That did make it easy to grab some lunch and the parking was free. We showed up at eleven, the surgery was scheduled for noon, the Doctor was late (some things haven't changed) and we went home by 4. No Sue Barton to administer tea and sympathy, just Mom who has to get up ever 4 hours to dole out the pain medication and carry up the bubblegum popsicles. The patient spent most of her day sleeping.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

A Thrifin' We Will Go...

One of the regulars at the Salvation Army Saturday Book Sales (oh the people you meet when you hang out at thrift stores) told about a couple of thrift stores in Porter that had vast collections of books. L. is also a dealer, so I knew she knew of what she spoke. I've been on to many wild goose chases when "lots of great books" translated into a stack of Readers Digest Condensed books and some old textbooks. L. and I have different areas of specialization so sometimes we share tips and tricks. In one way we compete with each other, in another we don't.

The stores were in Porter, a mere bump in the road just north of Houston. There isn't much to Porter, it is a town that time forgot or else lost and never bothered to find. Couple of stores, all withering on vine - or FM 494, most of Porter's economy has moved westward to border I-45.
But the thrifts were choice. Chock full of stuff, so much stuff it was almost impossible to move. There isn't a big market for books in Porter so the shelves were crammed full. And the prices were cheap, cheap, cheap - such a nice change from the Houston thrifts.

We found a vast store of library discard children's books- pure gold for our niche market. Didn't even have time to explore one thoroughly since it was about to close. Much, much dreck - failed craft projects, hideous double knit clothing but there was gold among the mugs, singing Billy Bass and simpering cow statues. Classic Little Old Lady thrifts, where the stock is never purged, it's just piled higher and higher. You dig and dig and dig and if you are lucky uncover a treasure among the floatsum and joastsum.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

I'm Old, I know it. I wrote my first Christmas letter. Will a subscription to Reader's Digest be next? And for those inquiring it is...

Dear Abby says you shouldn’t, but I love holiday letters. Maybe it’s everyone’s dirty little secret, just like reading the National Enquirer in the grocery check out line. This year I even have an excuse – minor surgery on my palm makes grasping a pen difficult. 2004 was a year filled with books, travel, motorcycles, golf (all four of which were often intertwined) and cats, who did their best to hinder the first four adventures.

My Betsy-Tacy / E-Bay buddy Michele and I continued to expand our book business – we traveled to a couple of out of town book sales and now know the thrift store employees by name. Thanks to the Thrift List, a new list serve we also discovered selling on Amazon, which has morphed into a lucrative sideline. It’s delightful to have a hobby – the thrill of the hunt makes it all worth while- that is also occasionally lucrative.

Lana and I spent 3 weeks in Europe this summer; truly the trip of a lifetime. One week in Austria riding motorcycles in the Alps, a week in Paris, the city that indeed was everything everyone said it would be and a week in Holland, meeting up with relations and getting in touch with my roots. I started keeping a blog and decided I enjoyed online journaling so it’s still an ongoing item. It can be found at:

Once we got back from Europe Lana shocked everyone by selling her beloved Harley and buying a BMW motorcycle. She then rendered everyone speechless by changing jobs, selling her beloved Tahoe and buying a BMW SUV. All in the space of two weeks!

After a long hiatus she also took up golf again with a vengeance. Feeling rather left out, I tried the sport and much to everyone’s amazement (especially mine) discovered I liked it. Not that I will ever be proficient, but it’s enjoyable and scenery is certainly lovely. We went to the Doral in Miami for golf, football and a visit with Miss. Katherine and my mother. We also went to San Antonio for golf and a visit with Miss. Christine.

Both girls graduate in May, 2005. They are not looking forward to leaving the womb of college; we on the other hand look forward to no longer writing large checks to institutions of higher learning. Katherine is planning on graduate school in the marine sciences, Christine plans to join the working world doing something connected with the radio or music industry.

Two more cats joined the household, bringing the 4 legged total to 6. A semi feral cat had four kittens under the house. To our horror we saw the kittens fall victim to the neighborhood raccoons so the last one and his mother moved in. The kitten is indeed a charmer and his mother has a sweet purr and a Siamese voice.

We hope that 2005 brings you much joy, happiness and good times with old friends.

Found the Local Color in Guadalajara!

Only afternoon, after dutilifly looking at books at the Book Expo, the four of us took of to Tlaquepaque, a shopping area recommended by a colleague. Turned out to be a winner. Restored homes turned into quaint little shops, many of which were stocked with good quality Mexican arts and crafts. Lovely silver jewelry, pottery and dishes. Much was not to my taste, though I could admire it from an artistic standpoint. Excellent restaurants - the food in Guadalajara was been most elegant and very sophisticated.

Tlaquepaque had a couple of ornate churches and a lovely old square with statues and benches. Good place to sit and watch the world go by, which I did since my shopping stamina was not that of my companions.

We also visited one other shopping area, The Plaza del Sol near downtown Gualalajura. Think Fiesta Supermarkets meets Northwest Mall meets the Dollar Store.

Never did make it to the older part of town and Cathedral which I understand is quite something. Perhaps next time. Let's hope there is a next time!