Archive for November, 2009

Pecan OrchardI grew up beneath the outstretched arms of a century-old native pecan tree, its limbs reaching up and over our historic two-story home.   In winter, bare branches were stark sentinels against the cold blue sky.   Then spring  brought flush after flush of leaves, softening the severe lines .

There were other trees on our property, too.  In  memory, my father planted any seed, seedling and transplant that he believed had a chance of surviving. There were ash, live oak, jujubee, pecan, mesquite and pine trees.  And though the great pecan tree towered over all, the patriarch of our yard, every one of them gave us the dreamy shifting patterns of light and shade that carpeted our play yard.

For the last six years I have lived without the shadows of trees.  My suburban lot, scraped bare to facilitate quick construction, was bereft of even the tiniest of trees.  Sunlight, at all times during the year, struck our faces unfiltered by leaves, branches, or fruit.  The grass was always warm and bright beneath our feet, neither marked nor cooled by the shadow of overhead beauty. The soft, mysterious light between the shadows of trees was missing.

Forest Filtered LightNow I have it again, almost to excess, an abundance of light and shadow, dark patterns and mellow autumn light moving across my children’s upturned faces as they stretch out their hands to catch the drifting seasonal color.



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So, I finally decided to do it right.  Using a sensible, self-directed training plan, I was going to guide myself to running further than the distance to my mailbox. 


This is not me. If anyone ever takes a photo of me from this perspective, I will never run again unless I'm wearing a burqa.

But first I needed two things:  real running clothes and a digital wrist watch.  I know, I’ve already argued that running doesn’t need special equipment.  However, my training program required breaking each session into timed increments and I just knew that I had a better chance of success if I were wearing the right clothes. 

I didn’t want this effort to be some pale imitation.  I wanted to join the fraternity of athletes for whom running was not a fitness activity but a regular part of their lives. Naturally this transformation could not start in the “sporting wear” section of the local bargain store.

It is likely that I held my breath when I walked in to this store, expecting the clerks to raise an eyebrow and suggest that I do my shopping at Target.  But nothing like that happened.  I was in.  And  I only knew two things:  I didn’t want to spend a lot of money, and I didn’t want any of the super-short, underwear shorts.

More than one hour and less than a hundred dollars later, I walked out ready to run. 

By the way, I somehow ended up with a pair of the reviled shorty-shorts with the built in briefs.  I still don’t know how that happened.  Maybe it’s because they were purple.  Maybe I was afraid the staff wouldn’t let me check out without purchasing a pair.  I do know this:  I don’t  want to run in any other kind of shorts. Ever.

Here’s a list of what I purchased. These items are still the core of my running wardrobe.  They would be the core of my regular wardrobe as well, but I love my family and try not to express that by embarrassing them.

  • 1 pair of  running shorts with a built-in brief, something like this
  • 1 pair of  running tights, similar to these
  • 2 pairs of double-layered socks

The watch was much easier.  I just needed digits. Cheap digits, because I’m a thrifty lady, so for this purchase I passed through a bargain store and got what I needed for about ten bucks.   

I spent the weekend grousing over the instruction manual for my  simple watch until I finally figured out how to set the correct time, then laid out my new gear, eager to start on Monday.

Twelve weeks, the article had promised.  In twelve weeks I could train myself to run thirty minutes without stopping.  I was ready!

Next time:  enthusiasm gets broadsided by reality.

Run a mile for me,


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Golden Showers
This is the original, straight out of the camera. I was entranced. I spent minutes, whole minutes admiring what I had achieved with my little point-and-shoot. (And hoping I could remember how to do it again.) But then, I felt the tug…

It started with a simple crop. I wanted an eye full of those exquisite, creamy petals. Perfect! I'll never take another picture again.


Maybe I'll just run one teeny-tiny little action. "Sunshine" with the opacity of the light layer adjusted for a little less, well, "sunshine". Just a bit of a golden glow. Ah, now I remember why I like this so much!



One more, then I'll stop. "Soft and Faded". That's it, this is my favorite!

See?  I can stop when I want to.  I don’t have a problem!   Unless I’m in danger of crossing the line between enjoying one’s work and flagrant narcissism. 

But isn’t that what a blog is for?


PS:  These Photoshop effects were achieved almost exclusively through the use of these actions sets, courtesy of  The Pioneer Woman.


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New Backyard







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Moving: All You Need to Know

packing boxesI set a few parameters for myself when I started this blog:  no mommy posts; no recipe posts; no clever tips and helpful hints.  Since I’ve already violated the first two,  let’s just go ahead and throw out that third restriction as well!

For the first time in my life, I  just completed a two-day trek across several states, moving my family and most of our worldly possessions several hundred miles.  I know this hardly makes me an expert, but I would like to offer three helpful suggestions. 

1.  Get a good pair of walkie-talkies.  This is an absolute necessity if your family is traveling in more than one vehicle. 

This is something like what my husband drove:


Approximate acceleration rate and maneuverability of a sleepy tortoise.

This is something like what I drove:


Approximate acceleration rate and maneuverability of a frisky Clydesdale. I led. I also had the sole GPS unit.


This is what my husband is used to driving each day:


Approximate acceleration rate and maneuverability of a cheetah.

Walkie-talkies are particularly important if, hypothetically speaking, the frisky clydesdayle gallops onto the highway and leaves the sleepy tortoise stranded at a red light.  Do your marriage a favor and get some walkie-talkies.

2.  Listen to your kids.  When your almost-three-year-old requests a bathroom stop, don’t tell them, “hold on, sweet-pea, it’s just thirty more miles to Memphis.”  Even if they have proven to possess an iron-clad bladder in the past.  Find a rest-stop.  Pull over to the side of the freeway. Hand them an empty water bottle.  But, please, listen to your kids.  

3.  Pack more than two outfits per person for a two-day trip.  (Please see tip number 2.) 

There you have it!  Just remember these three things and you too can successfully move your entire family from one side of the country to the other!


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Chocolate BarsDid you see that movie several years ago with  Juliette Binoche, Johnny Depp and a whole lot of luscious-looking chocolate?  Chances are that if you went into the theatre with an indifferent attitude towards chocolate, at the end of the movie you went straight to concessions and bought one of everything that had chocolate as an ingredient.  (I’ve never been indifferent to chocolate, so I was able to wait until I reached the privacy of my home!)

One of my all-time favorite treats is hot chocolate.  I adored it as a child when my Dad mixed it up on cold mornings and now I fix it for my kids (and myself) on cold mornings, afternoons and evenings. 

This is our recipe.  I know you’ll like it. 



Hot Chocolate

For each cup of chocolate:

2 heaping tsp. of sugar

1 heaping tsp. of powdered, unsweetened chocolate

a teeny-tiny pinch of salt

1 c. of milk

a drop of vanilla

Mix the dry ingredients. Then add the milk, a little at a time, stirring until you have achieved a smooth  mixture.  Stir in the rest of the milk, place the saucepan over medium heat and, stirring constantly, heat the mixture until thoroughly hot.

Make it even better:  Oh, the possibilities! I like to make it light on the sugar, with a tad more chocolate and then swirl in some heavy cream after I ladle it into each cup.  The kids like to have a candy-cane swizzle stick to stir around and spice up their drink.  Adults like to spice their drink with something a little more grown-up.  Then there are the traditional toppings:  marshmallows, marshmallow cream, whipped cream, a dash of cinnamon…

If you have a suggestion to make a good thing even better, or you have a beloved hot chocolate recipe of your own, please share!

Happy sipping,


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BooksI always have three to four good reads stacked on my bedside table, a symbol of the glass-is-half-full part of my nature.  It’s unlikely that I will read even one of those books in the time I’ve allotted (usually one week.) To imagine that I could finish all of them is pretty far out there. 

But that stack represents more than incautious optimism.  It’s my passport, a booklet bound by passion and stamped with memories. The world I first entered as a child always waits between the cover of a good book.  (Or even a not-so-good book.)

In this world, words are supreme.  Images are created, characters unveiled and plots unwound, without sound or illustration.  Words, crafted, invoke  emotions and memory,  and persuade me to momentarily disregard what I know to be true and accept the premise of the world they create. 

This is my current stack:


My Life in France, Julia Child, with Alex Prud’Homme

The City in Which I Love You, poems by Li-Young Lee

The Complete Short Stories of Mark Twain, Charles Neider, ed.

What are you reading right now?

Lovin’ my library card,



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