Archive for May, 2013

Time Marches On
May 30, 2013

Calendar-Year-2013

Time goes, you say? Ah, no! alas, time stays, we go. ~Henry Austin Dobson

As I prepare to turn the calendar page over to June, I can hardly believe that this year is almost halfway over. They seemingly go by more and more quickly than ever.

Seriously, it’s now five months into 2013, and I am still hesitant about writing that date on checks and documents, etc. 2013? Is it really 2013?

(note to young people: checks are a paper financial transaction, of which you are likely unaware, given your smarty pants phones that debit your bank accounts instantaneously.)

Those famous experts, “they” say the reason the years seem to pass more quickly as one ages is that it’s a function of a year’s being a smaller and smaller percentage of one’s life span. I guess there is some truth to that, but honestly, time does go by at the same speed for everyone.

However, it sure seemed like it took a long time for me to grow up and go to college. I know for a fact that it didn’t take that long for Shannon to do the same.

Sheesh, our high school’s 40th reunion is this summer. What? How can we be old enough to have a 40th high school reunion? In my mind, I am still young enough to be somewhat “cool”, that is, fit and active, not frumpy or dowdy. NOT OLD.

I had to laugh when a friend recently posted on her Facebook page a list of places where people who are 55 years old and older can ask for senior discounts. Much like we proudly displayed our ID’s at the liquor store when we turned 21, now we can (proudly?) display our ID’s to claim our senior discounts. Dare I?

Because as the calendar pages continue to turn over, I must finally face up to the fact that I am not getting any younger. It’s getting harder and harder to keep up appearances, and certainly taking me longer to do so! Soon there will come a tipping point at which I will have to accept geezer status and be at peace with it. Actually, I think it will be somewhat of a relief to not have to try to look 20 years younger than I actually am.

Some people resort to drastic measures to maintain that youthful edge, but that’s not for me. I can usually (almost always) tell when someone has had plastic surgery, and something about it always bothers me. Is it the vanity of it? Or the fact that it is so evident that they have had it? The answer to both questions is yes.

Gray hair? Not quite yet. One of my sisters has gone gray (and it looks great on her!), but Joel says he’s not ready to be married to someone with gray hair. What’s good for the gander apparently isn’t OK for the goose. All right then, but I will be mindful that there will come a day when it looks artificial. And that will be that.

What I want most of all is to be a happy geezer, that is, if I am privileged enough to make it that far. A smile and a jaunty attitude is what I’m aiming for. Who cares what I look like if I laugh a lot?

You’ll just have to keep reminding me what year it is, because I just can’t remember.

Best Car Ever
May 23, 2013

bert

The cars we drive say a lot about us. ~ Alexandra Paul

There is something very comfortable about driving an older model car. You know how everything works, and never have to fumble while trying to find the right switch. It may have some dings and dents or maybe a crack in the windshield, so who cares if someone whacks it with a grocery cart in the parking lot?

Our “Bert” is now 17 years old. He is a navy blue 1996 model year Ford Explorer; we bought him in November 1995. I thought he was a good looking car back then, and I still think so today.

I love this car. There is nothing digital about him (except the clock/radio display). If you still have cassette tapes to listen to, he can play them. I think this particular model may have been one of the first to also offer the option of a CD player (which is housed in the console between the two front bucket seats). We thought that was very advanced technology back then! He also has a cigarette lighter and an ash tray, which you never find anymore (not that we ever used them).

Bert has been all over the country on many a road trip. The most memorable one for us was our National Parks trip in 1998 through Colorado, into South Dakota, Wyoming, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico.

Then when Shannon turned 16, she inherited Bert, and we bought “Donnie Ray”, another Explorer, for me in 2002.

Bert survived Shannon’s high school years with a few scrapes (who cares?). Then when she went off to college, he stayed with us, and my niece Megan drove him for a year while attending Rice University.

In 2005, we bought a Volkswagen Jetta for Shannon to drive back up to Bard College in NY. Bert stayed with us and served as an extra car to use whenever needed.

Things get convoluted in my memory at this point, but I think it was in the summer of 2006 (?) when Shannon’s then boyfriend (now husband), Kat was working here in Houston. His car got rear-ended on a stormy day, and there was some conflict with the other driver’s insurance about getting it repaired. But they had to get on back to New York, so he drove Bert.

I know I drove Kat’s repaired car up north at some point, but I can’t quite remember when and how Bert returned to Houston. I think it was at Christmas, when Kat drove him back. It was during that trip when Bert’s odometer stopped functioning at 138,550 miles. Seven years ago. I wonder how many miles he has now? Probably over 238,550…

At some point, Kat’s car eventually failed, so we just gave Bert to them, with the thought that they really didn’t need a car payment, so why not just use Bert to forestall the inevitable? We figured they would drive Bert until he died.

But Bert kept on running. Next stop Colorado for a two year Masters program. Once there was an issue with his air conditioner. We opted to fix it. And Bert kept on running.

Next stop Virginia for law school at Washington & Lee. I personally drove Bert up to Lexington (with Emma the cat and Geoffrey the beta fish- in the cup holder), while caravanning with Shannon and Kat, who were driving the Jetta with Lucas, the great white dog.

Summer 2013. Kat is once again working in Houston this summer, and he drove Bert down with Lucas (Shannon stayed in Lexington because of her job).

So this week I took Bert in to get a new inspection sticker (he was a year overdue), an oil/filter change and to get a standard maintenance review. He passed with flying colors!

My ace mechanic, Ron (who has taken care of Bert from the very beginning) said that he was in great shape! I’m not going to tempt fate and make any predictions, but my hope is that Bert makes it through law school graduation and then maybe he can retire to “senior status” as an extra car for anyone who needs one (maybe in Wyoming?).

Note: if you have a 1996 Ford Explorer, keep it. It’s the best car ever. I see others driving around town daily, and will always consider this particular car model the epitome of reliability.

My next car? It will be another Ford Explorer.

Luck of the Draw
May 16, 2013

Orange admission tickets fully isolated on white (with path).

I’m not a bling-bling guy; I can’t pull it off. I just look like an idiot. ~ Michael Vartan

Joel and I attend various fundraising events every year for causes dear to our hearts. Honestly, I’m a reluctant attendee for the most part, as I am not a social butterfly, plus I am most comfortable in a pair of jeans as opposed to a party dress. Frankly, I hate to spend the money to buy fancy clothes that are seldom worn and just take up room in the closet.

But I go, and I almost always have fun. Sometimes we even get lucky and win something! In three of the past four years, we have won raffle items, along with assorted silent auction prizes.

A number of years ago, I won a trip for two to Washington, DC with a suite at the Ritz Carlton, plus a tour of the White House and State Department. Shannon was a little girl, and we all had a great time. The only bad part was having to pay the tax on the value of the trip.

The best recent raffle win was the Casual Dining Package, which was an assortment of gift cards for many restaurants around Houston. We really enjoyed trying new places and sharing our bounty with friends.

Not as useful were a fancy necklace and bracelet that we won. The value was substantial, but they’re just not my style. The pieces are crafted of delicate gold, silver and diamonds in a choker chain style. I have worn them on occasion, but they will never be my favorite.

The last fundraiser we went to had a novel concept that was very clever. They had set up a table with assorted grab bags, each costing $75. The deal was that the (donated) contents of each bag had a guaranteed value of between $100 and $5000!

So I bought one and eagerly opened it. Inside was a bottle of wine and this pair of sunglasses:

shades

Oh my. I definitely picked the wrong bag. I am definitely not a bling type of girl, and these are definitely not my style, with all those crystals. Recall that I am most comfortable in jeans, and when I DO wear sunglasses, I wear these:

shades1

Ray Bans. My dad always wore them, as do I. They go fishing or to the mall or to church or just everywhere with me. As I mentioned, I’m a blue jeans kind of girl. You will never catch me wearing those gaudy, fancy pants shades EVER.

But I was curious about them. I mean the value of the bag contents was supposed to be between $100 and $5000. The bottle of wine was ok, but nothing special.

So it had to be the sunglasses. I googled the brand name of the designer: Jimmy Crystal New York and found a pair similar to the one I won. Holy Cow! Who would pay $261 for these? I guess there are women out there who would. But not I.

Now the question is, what am I going to do with them…

Whatever happens, I have learned my lesson. If they offer a grab bag table again next year,  I shall pick a small, lightweight bag. Those are the ones with the gift cards in them. Ah, yes…that’s more like it!

Modern Art? Huh?
May 9, 2013

janson_1

The strangeness will wear off and I think we will discover the deeper meanings in modern art. ~ Jackson Pollock 

We were recently invited to attend an “art event” by a fellow board member of the Mercury Orchestra here in Houston. According to the flyer, “Laundry” was to be a social, artistic event, which included a performance. The collaborating artists’ intent was to create an endeavor “in Houston, for Houston and about Houston.”

Both artists are Belgian; one has lived here several years, the other was visiting just for the second time ever. Their exhibit was ostensibly a dialogue reflecting on an immediate impression of Houston as opposed to a long term one.

On the one hand, the resident artist meditated on who she has become, and incorporated elements that have marked her journey here in Houston. To the newcomer’s eye, Houston was an open door where he could explore, absent of any allegiance or prejudice.

Let me admit here that I majored in Art History back in the days when dinosaurs roamed the earth. Our “Modern Art” studies (thanks to H.W. Janson) consisted of the 20th century works of Picasso, Pollack, Rothko, and other well known and (now) much appreciated artists. But of course, it took awhile before their art gained acceptance.

After I graduated in 1977, I never really moved much past that era, and so I’ve never really understood nor appreciated what passes for “Modern Art” today. I keep reminding myself that that the aforementioned artists’ works were controversial at first, and to always keep an open mind.

So, despite my skeptical ignorance, we went to see “Laundry”. I had no idea what to expect, but it was actually a marvelous experience in the resident artist’s home on Buffalo Bayou that had been transformed into an indoor/outdoor gallery. It helped that it was an absolutely gorgeous, cool and sunny spring day.

First we were directed to watch a short film that featured the visiting artist running through various neighborhoods and areas of Houston, dressed in a tuxedo. Hurry, hurry, hurry, never pausing. He ran through seedy areas, warehouse complexes, taquerias, over bridges, into wealthy neighborhoods and past mega churches, on and on. A golf club and ball were incorporated into the mix, as well as a waving Queen Elizabeth doll, a smashed bicycle and a toy truck filled with cupcakes (among other items). No words were spoken, but clearly the film was intended to be a symbolic political commentary. It was quirky, whimsical and head scratching all at the same time.

As we wandered into each room and then outside to the various displays, we encountered several folks we knew, two of whom are local artists. Suzanne’s reaction upon seeing us was, “What are you doing here?” She knows this type of event isn’t one that we usually attend, so I took no offense at her question. As it turns out, the resident artist is her student, which was, of course, why she was there.

But then came the piece de resistance: The Performance. It went something like this. The tuxedoed artist and an evening gowned actress drew near to the swimming pool. First they floated two martini glasses (with little umbrellas) into the water. Then they proceeded to have a dialogue with one other that consisted of random passages marked on pages from “The Old Man and the Sea” by Ernest Hemingway. One would speak, and the other would “reply” (but since the dialogue wasn’t consecutive, it made no sense). I couldn’t hear very well, but sometimes people would laugh. As the actors finished their lines, they would rip the pages from their respective books and toss them into the pool.

Slowly they stepped into the pool, deeper and deeper, continuing their lines, ripping their pages. The man placed the woman on a pool float, and they continued reading and tossing pages. He went in deeper and deeper… removed his tie and then sank beneath the surface.

That’s about the gist of it. I certainly didn’t know what to say or think, so of course, I applauded politely with the others. Whether any of them were wondering, “What in the heck did that mean” (as I was), I will never know.

Both Joel and I agreed that it had been fun, certainly different than our usual art excursions. But we didn’t buy anything, and I doubt we’ll ever be drawn to such art ever. On the other hand, there were quite a number of young people in attendance, and this new generation will be influencing our culture in the coming years.

And then will come a fateful day, sometime in the future, when they will attend an art event and scratch their heads and wonder, “What in the heck does that mean?”

April Showers Bring May Pumpkins!
May 3, 2013

pumpkins april

In every gardener there is a child who believes in The Seed Fairy. ~ Robert Brault

Here is an update on my unplanned vegetable garden that I wrote about a month or so ago: https://pewperson.wordpress.com/2013/03/29/garden-surprises/

In the meantime, I did some research about growing pumpkins to see if there were any specific things that I needed to be doing to encourage my “crop”. Most pumpkin growing sites assume a fall crop; my particular volunteer pumpkins may end up being Mother’s Day gifts!

I learned one good tip about when to pick the pumpkins:

  • Leave the pumpkin on the vine until it has reached the color you want. Once it’s picked, the color will stop developing.

All the rest of the tips assumed that the pumpkins would be blissfully untouched until that perfect day when it is ready to be picked.

But in Houston? My best pumpkin picking tip is: Harvest your pumpkin the DAY BEFORE the squirrels eat it. If you can figure out that exact day, well then… that’s it!

We did get one perfectly round orange one. I am admiring it as we speak. It is on the smallish size, a “spooky”, like the one from which the seeds were strewn last fall. All the rest of my “crop” have been gnawed on and ruined by those city rats with furry tails.

pumpkin

Joel asked me if the pumpkins would grow larger if they were allowed to stay on the vine once they turned orange. My answer was that I don’t know for sure. Our pumpkins have maybe been growing for all of 6 weeks thus far; I read another website that  said, “Note that pumpkins do require a lot of food and a long growing season (generally from 75 – 100 frost-free days).” I wonder what would happen if our pumpkins were allowed to grow freely without any outside varmit attacks? Would they become enormous? Wouldn’t that would be fun to watch!

I also learned that sprawling pumpkins vines will take over your garden, as did mine. One vine was tickling at the front door. I eventually cut back the unproductive ones. It’s one thing if you have a pumpkin farm, but it’s quite another if you have a flower garden that the vines are smothering.

may 3(2)

All in all, we have had 8 growing pumpkins, most of which the squirrels have nibbled on. But there are still a few more out there, and I’m keeping my eye on them. As long as we’ve gone this far in my pumpkin farmer experiment, I am thinking I just might attempt some sort of pumpkin dish (bread? cheesecake? soup?). Anybody have any good recipes?

Come what may, I must admit this pumpkin surprise has led to a great deal of anticipation every morning…  it’s sort of like an Easter egg hunt, but rather an Easter pumpkin hunt!

As for the volunteer tomato plant, it’s still thriving with plentiful fruit. I’m hopeful for at least a few homegrown tomatoes, if the squirrels will cooperate. Maybe the pumpkins will lure them away? If so, well then, I’ll gladly sacrifice the pumpkins for the tomatoes.

may tomatoes

I am having so much fun in the garden this spring!