Thursday, June 30, 2005

Delicious Irony

We're on a road trip..while .driving through Hattiesburg, Mississippi we pass a Blue Bell Ice Cream truck. The featured flavor, proudly displayed on the back panel? "The Great Divide". Half Chocolate, Half Vanilla, divided down the middle so that never the twain shall meet. Not, rippled, not swirled, but divided.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Urban Renovation

Our neighborhood is changing before our very eyes. We live in the west end of the Houston Heights, a area that is currently "hot" since it's close to downtown. Since Houston traffic is what it is (at a total standstill) many people are willing to pay a premium to escape gridlock. Our section, which in the days of segregation was the only section of of the Heights where African Americans were allowed to live is last to experience a building boom. Most of the homes are very small and range from needing a coat of paint to needing to be torn down. Years and years of absentee landlords and benign neglect have taken their toll.

We bought our lot 7 years ago. This was and still is the view from our front porch.

7 years ago all the houses on the street were in similar if not worse condition. Now our street looks like this.

There is still lots of substandard housing

but more and more blocks are looking like this:

But the neighborhood still hasn't totally flipped, the stores within walking distance cater to the original inhabitants.

And shopping carts are still abandoned beside the bus stops, as carless residents shuffle their groceries homeward.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Houston We Have Kittens - Again

Last fall we had a kitten explosion when several semi- feral cats had litters under the house. We ended up keeoing one Mama and her sole surviving baby, which pushed our inside population up to six. Then, thanks to S.N.A.P & their Free Feral Cat Neutering program we went on a kitty tube tying spree. I've been monitoring the back porch rabble and I thought our colony had stabilized.

But, always expect the unexpected when it comes to cats. A wild as a hare long hair calico showed up every now and then to eat. He/She ran whenever we saw her/him and I thought it was just passing through.

Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

This morning it was lying on the table on our patio accompanied by 2 white and tabby kittens. And it is definitely a she. The kittens are shy and skitty and run when I open the door. They are beginning to eat solid food and I think they are about 2 months old. They are big - Mama has been eating well on our back porch and look healthy. And of course cute, but what kitten isn't?

I've already called S.N.A.P and reserved traps for their next Feral Cat Spay/Neuter weekend.

Some jobs just never end.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Where's the Lysol?

Normally I love comments - who doesn't since it means something one wrote connected with another soul out there in cyberspace. But I got an odd one yesterday. The poster alluded that we'd meet at a convention (rather odd since I avoid conventions at all costs). I clicked on his name & discovered the guy blogged so he could troll for folks to swap and swing with. Not my cup of tea at all, never has been, never will. Yuck!

Made me want to spray my blog with Lysol but I had to settle for deleting his comment instead.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Well Deserved Slugdom

My Beloved had an 8am T-Time (only golf would willingly get her out of bed at such an early hour). Of course, I was the appointed the snooze hitter and chief prodder so I got up too and followed her to the driving range. Hit a bucket of balls - felt good, it's been way to long, what with being sick and it being so hot. Put in 20 minutes of putting practice. I was thoroughly hot so I decided to get my walk in too. Put in 35 minutes of walking round the jogging/ walking track.

Interesting people watching. People who jog are focused with a capital F. No eye contact with others, no looking around, just grim jawed running and sweating. The walkers are a little more mellow and willing to nod and smile. The thinner the person, the less clothing. . Short shorts and crop tops went with washboard tummies and bouncy pony tails. The older, more overweight folks wore way to many clothes for the 90+ temperatures. Long sleeves, long pants, I saw a couple of women in sweats. I guess they aren't comfortable bearing their knees and thighs to the eyes of the world. Very sad, to be that uncomfortable with one's body. Especially on a public park jogging park, which is a pretty nonjudgemental place.

It was 9:30 and I'd practiced by golf and gotten some exercise. I felt virtuous. I rewarded myself with a latte and a leisurely perusal of the morning paper at Starbucks. If you are a fellow Starbucks junkie, check out ExpressoNinja .

The most delightful part of summer break (which is half over!) is not having to watch the clock and being able to linger.

Then homeward bound to hole up in the air conditioning and continue the never ending project of culling the dogs from my E-bay and Amazon inventory.

45 Minutes of Golf Practice - sore muscles
35 Minutes of Brisk Walking - sweat dripping in your eyes
Being a slug without feeling guilty - priceless

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Uptown Girls

Yesterday evening we dined among the thin, well dressed and chi-chi. Past 4 -5 months I've mostly grabbed a bite in Tex-Mex restaurants or fast food places. Both places tend to attract the hefty hiefers, the broad of beam and the fashion challenged. Toss in the fact that I spend most of time at an elementary school -visualize schoolteacher embroidered denim jumper frump and thrift stores - visualize stretch pants, gold lame heels and a crop top in size 24x. About the only time I see high fashion is when I watch the L Word and reruns of Sex in the City.

So, friends suggested we meet for dinner at Uptown Sushi -yeap that's really the name of the place!

Uptown Sushi Posted by Hello

Mother of pearl sushi bar, tri-level seating so you could see and be seen. They don't take reservations and the bar / waiting area has little seating since they want to create a "buzz" -plus make sure you can see all their multiple martinis in multiple colors. Excess yards of cloth covered the walls, , high ceilings, dramatic low level lighting, elegant lamps, striking art. The food was equally elegant. Presentation is always a big part of sushi but this place took it to new heights.

Not being part of the chi-chi set, we arrived early for dinner and the place was only about half full. We were seated promptly and concentrated on food and conversation since it had been some time since we'd seen each other. Service was very slow, which didn't bother us a bit (this is not the sort of place you dine at if you are in a hurry). Food was excellent & innovative and they went beyond the tired and true when it came to the sushi rolls.

By the time we left the place was full to overflowing. Trim young woman, with $200 highlights, pouty lips (was it nature or was it collagen?), perfectly made up eyes, flirty, summer dress with short skirts and high heels to show off long, tanned legs. Many were there with girl friends, enjoying the food and scanning the crowd with a predatory look. Most of the men; who all had that up and coming accountant or lawyer look to them were there with dates. Freshly dry cleaned and starched Ralph Lauren shirts, chinos, Cole-Hahn shoes. Why there were so many single girls on the prowl baffled me since the single guys were more likely to be at the very expensive steak house next door.

But then both places shared valet parking so perhaps they were hoping to score while waiting for their car!

Friday, June 17, 2005

VIB - Very Important Books

Garnet passed this meme on to me – anyone ever noticed how many of the blog memes center around books?

Total number of books I've owned: To many to count. Right now I think I own less than I ever have. I’ve been in a paring down of things mode. I only keep books that I know I’ll re-read. One time books get passed on. I’d say I have about 500 in my personal collection and 1000+ in my Amazon / E-Bay inventory.

Last book I bought: I buy books almost every day (always looking to add inventory). Last single book I bought for me was The Romanov Prophecy by Steve Berry. I bought it at the Duluth airport when it became apparent we’d be sitting around waiting for our plane. This is another “history and ficiton” mixed book, the sort of thing the DaVinci Code has popularized, very readable and lots of fun.

Last book I read: Back From The Land: How Young American Went to Nature in the 1970s and Why They Came Back by Eleanor Agnew. History but reads like a novel. Much to my amazement I found some quotes attributed to someone I once worked with, some 25 years ago!

Five books that mean a lot to me: Hard to narrow this down. And books mean different things to me at different points in my life.

The Betsy Tacy series by Maud Hart Lovelace. I read these as a child, have re-read them on a yearly basis ever since. Betsy and The Great World went to Europe with me last summer. No matter what stage of life I’m at, these books always speak to me. And through them I’ve made friends, been places and started my book business.

The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan. Read this when I was in high school and haven’t read it in years. But it’s the book that made me realize that I could have a career and didn’t need to aspire to a “Leave It to Beaver” sort of life when I grew up.

Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith – I identified with Francie from the first chapter onward. Yet another book I read on a yearly basis. Made me realize I wasn't the only lonely, bookworm out there.

Katherine by Anya Seton. This one, a historical novel set in Plantagenet England awakened my lifelong passion for history.

A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett (and another of her books, The Secret Garden). I wanted to be Sara Crewe. And it was the beginning of my love affair with all things English.

Which Blogger am I passing this on to? Not sure, it’s made the rounds and I’ve seen it on many of the blogs I frequent. I think I will send it to the first 5 people who post a comment and indicate they are willing to adopt it!

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

To Laugh or to Cry?

Saw a back to the 60's bumper sticker today - "Love Mother Earth".
The irony? It was attached to the bumper of a Lexus LX SUV. V-8 engine. 13 MPG in the city. Starting price - $67,895.

I think the owner loves Conspicuous Consumption more than Mother Earth.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Stranger in a Strange Land

I had to go to the Mall today. Not a place I frequent, given that I normally buy most everything I need at thrift stores, the internet and occasional forays to Target. However, my mother adores James Avery jewelry so off I went. James Avery is very popular with the Junior League / Soccer Mom set and their shops are located in upscale malls. So off I went to Memorial City Mall , Houston's #2 mall in the mall pecking order. Hadn't been there in over a year, not since My Beloved finished remodeling the place.

A mall on on summer Tuesday afternoon is a busy place. This one is frequented by Mall Walkers - easy to spot by their white, lace up walking shoes, gray hair and determined expressions. There were soccer moms in training, pushing baby strollers as big as the SUVS they drive. Complete with cup holders and ample carrying room for all their packages. And there were multitudes of teenage girls, looking like what I would call "Valley Girls". Only I think Valley Girls as passe but I don't know the current venacular.

Their faces were as blank as diner dinner plates & totally devoid of any expression. Identical noses. Hair streaked just so, arms adorned with those multicolored plastic bands that are so popular. Colored toenails peeking out from very expensive flip flops (I still find it amazing that 39 cent flip flops have now morphed into a "fashion item". Tight little baby tees, flirty skirts. Hands weighted down with shopping bags from Victoria's Secret , The Gap and Bath and Body Works.

No summer jobs for these girls, they are preparing for careers as Texas Trophy wives and learning how to shop.

I bought my jewelry and left. Quickly. Hopefully I won't have to go back for another year or two!

Sunday, June 12, 2005

No Lifejacket required

Traveled south to Dickinson, Texas yesterday for a library sale. Library sale proved to be a bust, hundreds of romances and bodice rippers and not much else. We've a friend, compliments of the Betsy Tacy list who lives there so we meet up afterwards for lunch.

She took us out into the back country to the hamlet (it's not big enough to be a town or village) of San Leon. San Leon, located on Galveston Bay was supposed to a summer retreat for Houstonians in the those days pre air conditioning. The area is sans beaches so it never quite caught on and now it's home to shrimp boats and folks who make a living in ways that don't bear looking into very closely.

It does have a couple of marinas and dockside restaurants. We ended up at The Topwater Grill, which was right out of a Jimmy Buffet song.

TopWater Grill Posted by Hello

Normally the place is pretty quiet, since it wasn't quite lunch time but not this morning. We'd wandered into the annual TOPPS Poker Run.

Never did quite figure out what TOPPS stood for, but it had something to do with Texas and Power Boats. No sedate cabin cruisers these, these were the sort of powerboats that used to go zipping across the screen in the opening credits of Miami Vice. The boats are designed for 2 purposes only - to go very fast and to make as much noise as possible. They are the Hummers of the sea. And there were 65 of them.

Waterfront Dining Posted by Hello

The owners were men in their 50s and 60s, deepwater tans, expensive casual clothes, with an air of success and money and being in charge in a blustery sort of way.

A few had their original wives, but most had shed them for a newer model. Behold, the Texas Trophy Wife, complete with $200 streaks and foils, spray on tan, tucked tummies and breast implants. Tight little halter tops barely contained all the artificial mammary glands. They spilled out the edges and almost burst out the top - and occasionally crept out from underneath. They sported dangling earrings and the most amazing collection of hats. Leopard print cowboy hats, zebra print cowboy hats and an especialy fectching hot pink and black stripped number. It was obvious that trophy wives, send their time, when they aren't recovering from their nips and tucks shopping. Shopping with a capital S and multiple credit cards.

They all milled about,drinking tall drinks and talking loudly. Then at the secret signal they all leapt into their boats and roared away, heading for Freeport. Complete with helicopter escort.

The food was divine and the people watching and conversation excellent. A most enjoyable summer afternoon.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Do They Take in Boarders?

Booklust posted this on her blog. It's a booklovers dream house!

Maybe it's a B&B! Posted by Hello

Goldilocks or Heidi? Posted by Hello
One lovely side effect of blogging is all the new friends you make and all the wonderful things they share with you.

Books, Books, Books, Everywhere Books

There are books are piled everywhere. Our local newspaper sold off their review copies and Advance Reader Copies (ARCs) and I came home with 4 boxes of books. The proceeds go toward the paper's Christmas charity project.

A stack of science fiction ARCs went to a fan I've meet via BookThink. Another pile of hardback with dust jacket/ stated first edition/ not ex library (the holy grail of bookselling) Tor Press fantasy titles are listed on Amazon. Found a ignored copy of "How I turned $1000 into a Million in Real Estate. It's one of those "books that looks like nothing" but sells for a pretty penny on Amazon. Best of all, the ScoutPal only folks skipped right by it - it's to old to have an ISBN. I use a combination of Scout Pal and prior knowledge when selecting books and love it when my intuition triumphs over technology. Appeals to my "so there" nature.

School is out so I have time to read so I've a stack for myself also . A book about Edwardian England. A biography about Queen Victoria, another about Henry VIII, and thick tome on the daughter's of George III.

George III Posted by HelloHe had 15 children, most of whom lived, yet many never married or had children, which resulted in Queen Victoria ascending the throne. She had 9, all of which married and had mulitple children of their own. History is so often nothing but fateful accidents and events.

I also have Read it and Eat -a bookgroup cookbook. I love cookbooks you can "read".

Cooking & Books Posted by Hello

A "Mommy Lit" book - The Ivy Chronicles. It's takes up where the Nanny Diaries left off.

Mommy Lit Posted by Hello
John Dunning's newest - Sign of the Book and another book on book collecting : A Pound of Paper: Confessions of a Book Addict. Back From the Land: How the Young Americans Went to Nature in the 1970s. In that book I encountered a woman I worked with 25 years ago. We carpooled to work and I never knew she once lived on a commune. It's such a small world.

The car goes in for repair work on Monday and for once I'm not going to begrudge the time spent waiting - I have lots and lots and lots to read!

And tomorrow is a library book sale. Lets hope the riches continue to pour in.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Most Bought/ Least Read

Oprah has gone high brow on us. Her suggestion for our summer reading pleasure? William Faulkner. She has a web site up, complete with reading suggestions, commentaries, critiques and all manner of things to aid in the understanding of Faulkner. Her avid fans (many of whom I doubt will become William's avid fans) can buy a special boxed set, complete with commentary by Oprah (or her ghost writer). It's charging up the Amazon best seller list.

Even Kroger is carrying the books - saw a woman buying a set yesterday - and my neighborhood Kroger is not the gathering place for lovers of higher level literature.

I'm glad Oprah is continuing to promote reading and books but I'm very surprised by her current selection. I read some Faulkner back in college and he's not the sort of writer I'd tuck into my beach bag or bring along to while away a long airplane flight. He writes literature with a capital L.

Maybe I am underestimating the stick to it power of Oprah's fans but right now Faulkner gets my vote for the most bought / least read author of 2005. Multiple copies of his books will soon be appearing at a thrift store near you.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Elegant Walking Posted by Hello

This Town Was Made for Walking......

This is my second trip to Minnesota. I really do like this state - of course this view might be influenced by the fact that both my visits have been in the summer. Duluth is a walkers paradise. There is a lovely, long path along the lake, there are skywalks that allow you walk over the freeways, the freeways are routed through tunnels so as to not destroy the rose garden and there are sidewalks everywhere. Downtown actually has people living in it.

Northshore Lake Walk Posted by Hello

Most of the people I've seen look tall, healthy and vaguely Nordic. There aren't nearly as any "bellies" as there in Houston (which has the dubious distinction of being one of the fattest cities in the country). Given that in Houston the car takes precedence over the people that's not surprising.

The town has an amazing number of bookstores, given its size. And a symphony, a ballet company. Many of the buildings have been adapted to other uses, rather than being torn down.

Adaptive ReUse Posted by Hello

Of course it also has a winter that won't quit but it's June so that's not an issue.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Lakes Don't Look Like This in Houston Posted by Hello

We’re visiting with friends we meet on last year’s motorcycle trip.
We left flat, hot, humid 95 degrees + Houston and arrived in hilly, cool,62 degree Duluth, MN. Our friends are urban living pioneers and have an apartment on the 10th floor overlooking Lake Superior.

My first time to see the Great Lakes (or at least one of them). They are aptly named.

Tomorrow will be spent doing my favorite kind of touristing – bookstores, historic buildings, funky little shops, all on foot.

View from the Apartment Posted by Hello