Bits and Pieces

Sometimes I forget that I don’t have to write a tirade, or even if I don’t have enough for a longer post, I do have bits and pieces I feel you would all benefit from reading. This is that kind of post –

It is time for me to get back to work, though it has been a wonderful summer. While I could use two more weeks of lounging about and eating bon-bons, I crave the schedule, and, even more, the socialness of work.  Today I got back into the mood by prepping my lunches for the week; as one of my (many) bosses said “Ann eats everything out of jars.”  I do, at school anyway – I put together jars of yogurt and berries, jars of salads, jars of Pho, so I can just grab them and go in the morning.  Sunday mornings are kind of a ritual for me, though obviously not a religious one, as I grocery shop and then cut up veggies, cook up whatever is the protein of the week, generally get ready.  Then I have the rest of the day to relax.

When we were little, I used to dread Sundays; they were long and hot, I had to sit still and be good in church, and every Sunday night we had to fold clothes.  My poor mom – with 4 kids, we had mounds of clothes to fold, and we always did it while watching Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom and The Wonderful World of Disney.  Now that I am a full-fledged grown-up, I childishly refuse to fold clothes on Sunday nights.

Reading the two paragraphs above, I just realized that I’ve traded one ritual, folding clothes, for another, prepping meals. Insert wide-eyed emoticon here.

Continuing the food theme (so many of my posts do seem to center on food, don’t they?), this year’s cherries have been absolutely the best I have ever eaten.  Big, deep red, firm, and as sweet as sugar.  I keep bringing pounds home, planning on pickling them, and then eating every one before I can get the vinegar out.  Pickled cherries are a Dixon thang – all the sibs love them, and all the in-laws think they are an abomination against man and beast.  If  you are a pickling freak, here is the very easy recipe:

J-9’s Pickled Cherries

  • 1 quart cherries
  • 3 T Salt
  • 2 T sugar
  • White vinegar

Wash cherries, pack into canning jars.  Add salt and sugar to each jar, pour vinegar over.  Store for at least 6 weeks, turning jars over periodically. I like them best refrigerated after the six weeks of sitting.

We did get to go on vacation this year – Bruce and I took an absolutely amazing cruise to Alaska.  It was the first time in several years that we took a real vacation, and we had some trepidation about being in such close quarters for 10 days.  In fact, some people who may or may not be related to me were taking bets on who would return alive. Hah! We both did – just to spite them.  Actually, we got along really well, and made some great friends, and not just with the bartenders.  A couple-and-mother-in-law group took us under their wing and taught us a new card game, Three and Thirteen, which, luckily, can be played while holding onto a frosty Moscow Mule.  Absolutely great people, who don’t know it but probably saved one of us from being pushed out onto an ice floe and sent out to sea.  I won’t make you look at vacation pictures, but here is one such ice floe.  The colors are truly that deep. (I’m having problems getting the picture to show; bear with me.)(Nope, not happening.  More research is needed.)(Screw it.)


Best of all, I was cool for an entire week, even cold on occasion.  It was glorious.

But I missed my dogs.  Oh, and my kids. Of course I missed my kids.

The hardest part of the cruise, and I say it with shame in my heart, was the days we were without internet connection.  I truly got anxious when I was out of touch with every one, and when I couldn’t google something I needed to know instantly.  My attachment to my phone is ridiculous, and I recognize that, but I can’t let it out of my hand. I’m sure Freud would have something to say about that.

Even as wonderful, necessary, and luxurious as the vacation was, getting home was best – my own shower, my own bed, my own dogs, and, as a neighbor once said, “Two doors between me and everyone.”

Back to work tomorrow!


Time To Get Political (Fair Warning)(Also, Religiousity)

Discussions at our house have touched lately on The Transgender Issue. Except I maintain steadfastly that there is no “Issue”, and feel very strongly that individual rights, both to choice, privacy, and inclination, should be left to the individual.  According to the last census count, 1.5 MILLION people in the U.S. identify as transgender; this is no longer an issue of the odd kid down the block who likes to play dress up, and we need to get past that type of thinking.

One of the sub-topics that we have discussed is that of tax money being used to pay for surgery, especially for those who  make the change while they are imprisoned. I don’t resent my tax money paying for that; it’s a necessary surgery to that person, and I don’t think that they see it as “elective’ – it is compulsory. There are worse things they could be doing in prison, as I well know from my research of binge-watching Orange Is The New Black.

What I do resent my tax money being spent on: Congressional hair cuts, subsidies to not grow crops, political junkets to anywhere except Bakersfield, California (the most boring place on earth, no chance of getting into trouble there), pork belly spending, subsidizing ever bigger sports venues, wars fought over mythical weapons of mass destruction, the street barriers in my hometown preventing me from turning left across traffic, and any departmental spending just to spend because if we don’t spend it, next year They will cut the budget.

I resent like hell paying for the guys in jail for 20-to-life over an arrest for a few ounces of weed. If President Obama is going to give out any get-out-of-jail free cards before he leaves office, those should be the people he hand them out to. Or is it to whom he hands them out? Grammar aside, those poor bastards don’t belong in there, and that money, my money, could be better spent elsewhere.

But I digress. My current main beef is with Texas Governor Abbott, who is thrusting himself into the limelight by getting involved in the Fort Worth ISD’s decision to allow people to use the bathroom of their chosen gender. The Superintendent is following federal law, and Governor Abbott does not have a dog in that hunt, as we like to say here in Texas.  I have long advocated unisex bathrooms; when I need to pee, I don’t care who is in the stall next to me, as long as they don’t try to talk to me through the cubicle wall, but are still willing to hand toilet paper under, in an emergency. Why can’t all the bathrooms just be unisex? Problem solved.

No matter what you believe in, surely we can agree that our one job here is to do the best we can with what we’ve got, and be kind, helpful, and courteous to those around us. I sometimes forget, or get off track, and need to be gently reminded, it’s true, but, ultimately, it’s easier to be nice than it is mean. It is less stressful to mind, body, and soul.  So, even if you don’t do it for others, be a good human being for your own sake.

Thanks for listening to me preach. Go out and be nice to someone today. And, as my mom would say, wear a little sparkle.

Magical Me

It has been much too long between posts; my desire to post weekly has been raging a war with my doubt that I have anything to write that people will be interested in reading.  Not fishing for compliments, merely letting you know where my head has been.

Sunday was the 20th anniversary of the publishing of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, probably one of the most influential novels in my life, and my kids’ lives.  Because, you see, I have always longed to be magical.  In fact, longing isn’t even a strong enough word for my desire to have magic inside of me, for my use, to change the world around me, and do my bidding.  Before this gets to sounding any more megalomaniacal, I swear I would only use it for good, unlike the Marauder’s Map, which will only show itself by tapping on it with your wand and intoning “I solemnly swear I am up to no good.”

But ever since I was little,  I wanted to be Samantha from Bewitched, able to twitch my nose and have time stand still, or Mary Poppins, with her “Spit Spot!” and my room straighten itself.  I go to Scarborough Faire almost every year to see the cosplay fairies and witches.  I insisted my daughter have a fairy themed birthday party. In fact, for years in my head, I was an elf living in Elrond’s Last Homely House in Rivendell, a legend in my own mind (though my brother claims I am more like Galadriel in The Lord of the Rings movie, quick to see the power of owning the ring, and all she could accomplish, with the desire to do good, but ultimately corrupted if she accepted it)(I have no idea why he thought the comparison was accurate).

Georgetown, Texas, hosted a publishing party for each of the rest of the books in the series, and, since my mom lived there, we went to several of them.  The entire downtown square converted to Diagon Alley; even the bank converted to Gringott’s for the night.  Wands were available to purchase, butter beer served, and many very cute little Harry Potters ran around, their lightening scars getting smudged in the Texas heat, their tiny voices trying to transmogrify their siblings into rats. We would buy the newest book, and my son and daughter would fight over who got to read it first – we had to alternate every book.  As a grown up, I would wait until after their bedtime and devour the book, reading it the first time as fast as I could, knowing that I would read it again and again in the future, loving it anew each time.

One memorable evening, the year it was my daughter’s turn to read the book first, she was lying on the couch at my mom’s house, and suddenly burst into tears.  When asked what was wrong, she cried “Dumbledore died!” To this day, and he is now 23, my son resents her for the spoiler.  In fact, in a text this week about the anniversary, he wrote,”I do remember that. I also remember grace ruining dumbledore’s death for everyone involved, NEVER FORGET.” I’m still a little miffed about it, too, to be honest. And I still cry every time I read about it.

I was going to end this post with the usual blah blah blah, “the truth is, I’ll never be magic,” but I can’t, because I don’t believe that. I still believe that at some point in my life, I will be able to swish and flick, intone “Wingardiam Leviooosa,” and levitate the the cat off of my lap.  Or  “Accio!” to bring the wine bottle to me, to refill my glass (one of the more useful spells). And I will always believe.





A Good Excuse for an Excellent Beer

Yesterday, we took a road trip down to Salado, Texas, to attend the grand opening of a new microbrewery, Barrow Brewing Co.  Normally, we would never drive two hours for a beer, but this was family.  The owners of the brewery are Bruce’s brother’s widow’s third husband’s daughter and her husband.  This makes Sharon, the mom  (one of the most delightful women I’ve ever met), my sister-in-law, and Katie, the young brewery owner, my niece, by any Southern Standard.  So, Family. Even if we were just meeting for the first time.

And it was an absolutely delightful day.  The sun was out for the first time in weeks, and I’ve never seen Texas so green in June.  As we drove up to the brewery, we saw that a very eclectic crowd had already gathered, awaiting the ribbon cutting – luckily, the bartenders were not awaiting the same – they were pouring brew as fast as they could.  I opted for the tasting menu, while Bruce went straight for the Evil Catfish IPA.  Each one was tasty, but our favorite was the Tipsy Monk Stout; brewed with chocolate, we were told. It didn’t have the bitterness of Guinness, while still keeping all of the flavor.

While I was standing at the bar waiting service, I struck up a conversation with the guy next to me, and, the next thing I know, he not only poured a taste of the ginger rye into one of my empty glasses, but then poured a taste of his wife’s 784 Belgium Witte for me, too!  What a great guy, I thought! Later,  after we bought lunch from the food trucks, we looked for a place in the shade to sit and eat – and, hey, there were the husband and wife from the bar – the friendly ones, that gave me tastes of their beer! How fortuitous! As it turns out, he is a mortician, and, as is anyone who is passionate about their calling, wanted to share his knowledge with us, so we, too, could be passionate about it.  Bruce bailed out right after the gentleman explained the reason a 2 man team or a 3 man were sent out to pick up the deceased (I will let you fill that in for yourself).  Did my husband come back to save me, perhaps using the excuse that he had someone he wanted to meet? No he did not. The conversation had just segued from mortuary shop talk to crazy cats, and they were searching their phone for a picture of their beloved crazy cat, when I managed to escape.  I went and found Bruce and punched him. Hard.

But, back to the opening, I can’t write enough good about the brewery. Everything about it was done right, and the owners built everything themselves, to make sure of that. If you get down to Salado, stop by, tell them you know me, and they will look at you blankly and politely take your payment in full.  But they will serve you a  tasty brew, and, if you are lucky, some of Sharon’s spicy popcorn to keep you thirsty and coming back for more. Check them out here:


Rolling in her grave, or, a light at the end of the tunnel

Mom, you would be so ashamed of me.  No, would have been so ashamed of me – today, you are, no doubt, beaming with pride.  Today, Bruce and I replaced 17 light bulbs in 6 rooms.  And that’s counting the chandelier, with it’s ten bulbs, as 1, and not counting the lights that were still good, but had to be changed out to match the new ones.  If you count all those (and, since each one required a trip up the ladder)(Ha! Trip up the ladder – that is so me), we changed 37 light bulbs total.

The smart light bulb changer would have had all the light bulbs and ladders ready when her strapping, 6 foot-1 inch son was home earlier the in the week, because he is still immortal. But, no, we waited until no one under 50 (and, let’s admit it, 50 is in my rear view mirror, and not even a dwindling peak in the distance for Bruce) was home, one of us holding the ladder, the other standing on the all but top (can I use penultimate here, Uncle Mike?) step, craning our arthritic necks, burning our gnarled fingers.

Ok, it wasn’t that bad, except to our bottom line – We spent over $100 dollars in lighting today.  But, hey, we didn’t end up in the ER.  As Mom has always said, “Turn on the lamp, you’ll ruin your eyes reading like that.” Now we can.


I so love sandwiches. Love, love, love them.  Today, I was trying to remember a series of detective novels from the 80’s, in which the hero would build the most magnificent, mouth watering sandwiches, and eat them standing over the sink, but I couldn’t remember the author.  I literally googled  Police detective in novels that made sandwiches, and the author, Lawrence Sanders, and his books, the “Deadly Sin” series, were the first hit. So I know other people are as obsessed with sandwiches as I am.

When I was little, my mom would make me mustard sandwiches, not because we were poor, and couldn’t afford a spread or slice of bologna, but because the texture of Mrs. Baird’s White Bread and the tang of French’s Mustard was the best combination of all time.  Gradually, my tastes refined (but not much), and I came to love braunschweiger and mustard, cheese and mustard, pickle and mustard.  Sense a theme?  It really wasn’t until I was an adult that I developed a taste for mayonnaise, and now I know that there is nothing better on the after-Thanksgiving turkey sandwich on a leftover dinner roll than mayonnaise and a sweet pickle or two. In fact, I could skip the Thanksgiving meal completely, and just go straight to the sandwiches and my daughter’s pumpkin pie.

Another of my favorite sandwiches is and always be dill pickle slices and creamy peanut butter.  Yes, you read that correctly. The crunch of the pickle, the creaminess of the pb…aah, man, heaven.  Also, banana slices and peanut butter.  And, of course, the classic, fritos and peanut butter (potato chips may be substituted in a pinch).  Another wonderful sandwich theme.

At one point in my life, I worked as a temp for the Central Texas Council on Aging (or something like that – now that I am one of the aging, I can’t remember exactly), and one of my duties was making up the lunch menus that would be served to the elderly.  While going through the cook books, I found a recipe for BACON AND PEANUT BUTTER sandwiches.  The idea of the salty, fatty, crispy goodness of bacon, combined with the salty, fatty goodness of peanut butter, just blew my mind.  I still haven’t tried it, because I am worried that the sandwich will take me to Nirvana and my time here on earth will have to end, because, after all, what higher level of heaven can you hope to attain after eating a bacon and peanut butter sandwich?  I also worry that that combination will clog all of my arteries and I’ll die of a heart attack. This was, after all, Elvis’ favorite sandwich, and look where it got him, dying on the toilet with his favorite white spangled jumpsuit and cape crumpled around his ankles. No, the bacon and peanut butter will have to wait.

And finally, I give you the universal symbol  of all sandwich makers everywhere for “I’m not sure; I might want to make another”:

 IMG_2572 (4)

First World Problem

The problem with starting a blog is the immediate and all-consuming writer’s block that ensues.  Running through my head this week:

  1. What was I thinking??
  2. No one will think I’m funny, nor care for my opinion.  Even if I could think of something to write.
  3. I can’t think of anything to write, anyway, so life as a blogger is over. Completely. Dead in the water.
  4. Even if I did have something interesting to write about, the IT required to set up this blog is still boggling my mind. For instance, I have no real idea how much I am paying for the domain name/monthly access/yearly fees.  Can’t wait to see that next visa bill (This is mostly because alcohol was involved in the starting of this blog – liquid courage, so to speak).

Other Questions also arise:

  1. Do I keep this family friendly?  My thoughts (and vocabulary) are definitely NOT g-rated most of the time.
  2. Do I write about politics? Religion?  If I do, will people not follow me, because they think I’m a heathen liberal? Do I care?

Ultimately, regarding these latter questions, I must refer back to John Cleese, who said, “There are always those one would WISH to offend.”

One of the nice things about blogging, versus the blurbs I write for my morning message at school, is that I don’t have to be PC, which you would think would open up my horizons, but, so far, hasn’t.

And my last question for the day – Don’t some people actually make a living off of their blogs? How do they do that? I want that.  Send money.

The Prince (not the one with a weird sign for his name)

I try really really hard not to talk politics with anyone, including my husband.  It leads to fights and talks of divorce. But I read this in this morning’s Writer’s Almanac, written by Garrison Keillor, and could not help comparing it to the presidential candidates – you decide which one. and I bet you each think of a different one.
 “…he wrote that morality was irrelevant when it came to running a state. He didn’t advocate evil for its own sake, and believed rulers should stick to the good whenever possible. But he also said they should be willing to perform evil acts when it became necessary to hold onto their power and maintain the security of the state.”
Written by Machiavelli in The Prince,  in 1513.


A little boy I know recently got a new baby brother, and is consequently raking in the loot as Big Brother.  One of his presents was a Fisher-Price shaving kit, complete with plastic razor, shaving mirror, and pretend can of foam.  I can just picture him in the bathtub or standing next to his dad, pretending to shave, because I remember standing in the bathroom watching my dad shave.  Every time, my dad would take a scoop of shaving foam (not the aerosol canned kind, either, the real stuff from a cake of soap in a mug, with a shaving brush swirling it into a lather!), and stick it on my nose, sending me into gails of laughter.

I also remember wishing I was a boy, and could shave, too – it looked like fun, and was so clean and smelled so spicy.  Of course, now that I am a post-menopausal woman, I shave my face every day, and it’s not nearly as much fun as I imagined it…..

The Zoo Trip

So Friday was a big day.  It was the culmination of weeks, nay, months, of logistical planning, all on my, luckily, broad shoulders.  It was The All School Zoo Field Trip.  600 kids, 55 adults, 14 buses, permission slips, lunch order forms, letters home to parents at regular intervals.  Each class had to have a starting point and an ending point in the zoo, bus assignments, purchase orders had to be approved, money budgeted, checks picked up.  Poor me. Throughout the process, I tried my hardest to be the lone person left at school to hold down the fort, but my boss kept insisting I needed to go, and that I would enjoy it.  Sadness.

The Big Day came.  Checks were in hand, buses were on time, kids were all dressed in red school shirts, lunch bags clutched in their sweaty, sticky hands. Shoe laces flopped everywhere.  I made one last bid to stay at the school, and was shot down.  I grimly settled my visor on my head and my clip-on sunglasses on my nose, clenched my teeth, and went to the zoo.

And absolutely loved every minute of it.

4th grade had a dearth of parent volunteers going, so I attached myself to their group, and adopted 3 boys as my own.  These tres amigos are the future Bill Gates of the world – quirky, odd, offbeat, smart as all get-out, and, the sweetest thing, were the best of friends.  They assured me repeatedly how great each other was – complimenting each other’s artistic ability, math ability, general smarts in each other. They held each other’s lunches while petting the snake.  They occasionally had their arms around each other’s shoulders in a show of solidarity.  They knew they were quirky – no shame there.  And they liked me back – even though they were obviously BMOC, being 4th graders, they all three would glance back now and again as we wended our way through the zoo, to touch base and make sure I was still following them, still keeping them safe. Or, maybe, they were making sure I was safe, and not lost.  It was awesome.

We started out in the reptile house, and almost didn’t see the rest of the zoo.  Each snake and iguana and frilled lizard and komodo dragon had to be spotted amongst the leaves in the tanks, pointed out to the others, commented on, and read about before moving on the the next.  Since I love a good reptile myself, I had no problem with this, but I really wanted to see more of the zoo, so urged them on and out.

After the reptile house, we went ahead and had lunch, so we could get rid of the lunch bags.  Over lunch, we discussed, in no particular order: Bernie Sanders (wants us all to go to college for free! And free doctor visits! But how do the doctors get paid?), Djinns (did you know that Djinns are real, but not magic – they are angels, made by God?), aliens (aliens aren’t from another world, they are demons), how to draw a sick scull (with demonstration of same, as one of the boys always carries a piece of paper and a short pencil in his pocket, just in case someone has to draw a sick scull), how they were all best friends, sat at the same table in the classroom, with another kid, but he’s really mean, Hilary Clinton (just in passing), how good they were at problem solving, and several video games I am not familiar with. Was not familiar with. Now I know more about them than most other adults.

I was beginning to think we were never going to see real animals, but lunch was eventually consumed, trash thrown away, bathroom breaks finished, and we headed towards the Texas Live Exhibit.  The guys loved the petting zoo, proclaiming it the best ever.  This is the same petting zoo in which my son got knocked flat on his little baby bottom by a big-horned sheep 20 years ago.  Now you can’t get as close to the animals, having to pet them through fences.  Because of my son.

Finally, on to the Big Animals!  I do have to say that the Fort Worth Zoo is not laid out well, You have to walk several football field lengths between some exhibits – a lot of walking without any sightings.  But in between animal enclosures, there was not a plant unfondled or a penny flattening machine untouched, a coke machine button unpushed. Or a rock un-exclaimed over.  These boys didn’t need no stinkin’ animals to be in wonder of the world.  They loved it all.  When we finally did get to see the elephants, one was pooping, with her butt pointing right at us, so it was a good day.  The giraffes were barely glanced at, but the chicken in the enclosure was exclaimed over.  The rhinoceros was a hit, looking as it does so Jurassic (Cretaceous? I don’t remember, but the boys knew.).  The white tiger was adorbs, and the lions were in good form – the male was cranky and snapped at one of the females, sending the boys into fits of laughter.

I hit 10,000 steps on my fitbit about 12:30.

Finally, but, at the same time, much too soon, it was time for everyone to board the buses for home.  I got a final shot of the guys, arms around each other, and they all said thank you to me (indeed, at the teacher’s urging, but I felt it was sincere).  I had to admit to my boss that she was right, and it was the best field trip ever, and next year it will be even better, because now I have experience.

I was in bed by 6, and slept for 12 hours straight.  But with a smile on my face.