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Viva Zapata

Zapata Solis

January 21, 2002-June 13, 2017

The first strike against Z was Chispa.  Chispa was the beloved family puli who lived with us from 1989 until she died in late 2001.  She was an amazing soul who ruled our household with an iron paw.  Everyone adored her, and my mother especially doted on her.  We used to joke, not without some seriousness, that Olivia got into Stanford because of Chispa: one of her essays for admission was about Chispa.  My own senior high school yearbook picture featured Chispa. So did Jose's.  There was no way that anyone could live up to the myth of Chispa.

And so, when the call came into the breeder about a puppy, that there was only a boy available was met with a little disappointment.  But still. Puppy!!

And Z came a little late.  He was about 14 weeks old, and all of his siblings had already been gone a few weeks by the time he came to us. He had an umbilical hernia repair surgery before coming to us, and he needed a little time to recuperate.  His was the "Z" litter from his breeder, and it didn't take us too long to come up with Zapata, the infamous Mexican revolutionary who preferred to die on his feet than live on his knees.  Perhaps revolutionary was a bit tooooo close

His arrival was joyous. Everyone came to my parent's house to meet this little ball of fluff.

I was a little anxious about it, because Relampago, then nine years old, historically had not been fond of other dogs except for Chispa and Holden.  I wans't sure at all how he'd handle a puppy.  But Relampago LOVED Zapata from the moment he met him.  They played together and loved each other, and Relampago's reaction to Zapata was the main reason I started looking for a second puli a year later. When my parents went out of town, Zapata would come to stay at my house.

Very early, Zapata proved to be a bit of trouble. My parents live on the sixth floor of their apartment building, with massive balconies.  On one of the first weeks of Zapata's residence, he chased something (and with Zapata who knew what his mind was seeing) to the railing, and he went through the railing.   Fortunately, there was a ledge on the other side, but Claudia had to very carefully retrieve the puppy from a suicide attempt.  He and subsequent small puppies weren't allowed on the balcony unsupervised after that.

Since Zapata lived in an apartment, an important part of his day was his walk.  He would pester everyone as soon as breakfast was over to get moving and get the business of walking going.   My parents live not too far from Hermann Park, and Zapata and my mother would take epically long walks through the park.  And Zapata LOVED to jump on every bench and retaning wall and curb and anything else to jump on that he could find.  He lived for his walks.

He also loved the ranch, chasing and runnng around with Holden and Relampago, and later, Crianza. Once running around in circles like crazy people, when visitor dogs came to hang out.  Once hysterically leading the charge against a Chinese Crested.

My mom, being a responsible pet owner, put Zapata in training classes as soon as she could.  He was a very well behaved puppy dog. He would wait for commands before releasing from a sit, and he was generally very good on his leash.  Except when he wasn't.  He had triggers.  Lots and lots of triggers.  He didn't like other dogs.  He didn't like most people. He would bark at the sun.  He barked at shiny objects.  He barked at bicycles.  He began to nip at people.  The trainers suggested other, more experienced trainers. At one point, Zapata was in a class with some of the "worst" dogs in Houston.  Eventually, the trainers recommended that he be evaluated by a behavioralist.  And that's how my mother and Zapata ended up being evaluated at Texas A&M and left with a fifty page report and a prescription for Zoloft.

Anyone else would have understandably given up, but I almost think that Zapata's issues drew the people that loved him closer.  Part of it was that we had to keep an eagle eye on him.  While walks at the park were a joy, they were also a minefield, especially during the summer when there were lots of kids that wanted to dart up and pet the rasta dog.  Part of it was that his quirks were just weird.  He had a vendetta against the antenna on the roof at the ranch. Sometimes the sun pisssed him off.  Firetrucks were intolerable.  He'd stand for minutes in front of the gong and bark at it.   When he was let out at the ranch, he'd hightail it at full speed barking his fool head off towards the cattle guard, and he'd bark until he was satisfied that the demons were repelled.  And he'd trot back to the house as if nothing weird had happened. He loved to patrol the dock at the ranch and bark at his own echo. Claudia used to talk about there being two Zapatas battling for control in his mind, one Zapata and the other Emilliano and you never knew which one had prevailed.

My family got to know Zapata's quirks.  He had a muzzle for times when people came over.  He also wore a sign at bigger parties advising against petting him.  Because he and Relampago and later Crianza, Celosa, and Fusilli looked a lot like him to the untrained eye, mistakes would understandably be made about who someone was interacting with.

He was a beautiful puli.  His cords always looked good and full, though he was a pain in the ass to groom. He hated baths, and I remember fighting him for nearly an hour in Taos in the tub.  He also didn't like having his cords separated, which is something puli owners have to do from time to time to keep the cords from clumping. He'd snap at you if you did too much, and the only time I was ever injured by Zapata was when I was taking something out of his fur.  My mother and I would tag team him for trimming or cord separating or otherwise keeping him tidy.  And unfortunately, no matter what his bathing situation, he always had a bad odor that none of the other pulis ever had.  Every solution under the sun was tried, but there was just some Zapata smell that just wouldn't go away.

His grooming issues made it so he often looked ridiculous because someone hacked at his cords without paying attention to styling in an effort to get it over and done with OR it got out of control and too long.  Once, my parents rushed him to the vet because he couldn't walk.  They thought he was paralized. Turned out that he got his foot caught in one of his cords and it was immobilized. He got a haircut after that.

Zapata was a weirdo in pretty much everything.  His walks, for example. He'd start them by getting behind my mother and following her legs. It was the strangest thing to watch. I think it's part of the herding instinct, but he'd weave back and forth, following each leg as she walked. A few minutes into the walk, he'd move out from behind her and come next to her.  And early in life he was banned from going down on the elevator, so he took the fire stairs down every morning.  He didn't like to take food directly from someone's hand, but he was ok with it if it was on a fork or spoon.  When he lay on the floor, he'd shove his paws under the rug in front of him.  He demanded a glass of ice water every night when my parents had their cocktails and would only drink out of a bowl if absolutely necessary.

But for all of his quirks, Zapata loved his family.  He and Jose had an amazing bond, and I was one of his closest friends. When Chicken joined us in 2007, Zapata was right behind Relampago in the Chicken Fan Club. (Crianza hated Chicken; she was resentful from the second she laid eyes on the corgi.)  Relampago at that point was 13 years old, and he could just admire, but Zapata played and played with the corgi puppy and every time Chicken and Olivia came to visit, he'd take on Chicken entertainment duties.    Relampago's departure and Celosa's arrival in 2008 were changes, but he accommodated them with aplomb.

The first time Graham ever came to visit, Zapata was staying with me. I warned Graham about Zapata's quirks, and as we opened the door, Zapata barrelled past us and went running down the street. Graham dropped everything and hightailed it after Zaptata, catching him before he got to the busy street. Z took a bite out of Graham, and ever since, everything between them was cool, though Graham always opted to sleep in the den when Zapata stayed over because Z kept kicking him out of bed.

The only one he didn't really like was Fusilli.  Fusilli was fascinated with him as a puppy, but Zapata wanted nothing to do with him.  Zapata was 11 when we got Fusilli, and maybe he was just over catching up with a youngster.   In 2014, they got into a pretty bad fight and after that we kept them separated.

I don't know if apartment living was the best in the world for him, but he loved the ranch.  It was worth the pain in the ass to haul him there every weekend. Zapata hated both 18 wheelers and round hay bales, and there are a lot of both in car rides through Texas, so drives with him were, er, loud.  And at the ranch, he could explore and run and be himself to his heart's content. It was unlikely that he'd run into any dogs or people that could cause trobule.  And he could explore. And bark at cows.   He loved to take off and run around. It never seemed to bother him that he'd pick up  tons of debris and sticks and bald cyprus leaves and burrs and pods.

And he could run and play.  He taught Celosa how to chase cows. And he would wrestle with whoever was around. He patrolled the area around the house, but sometimes he'd go further, and we'd have to go out and look for him, sometimes in a car or the mule.

One of my most favorite Zaptata moments was the day after our wedding.  He was, of course, in the ceremony, but he left the reception afterwards and hung out in peace at another house.  The next day, the house was still full of people.  And at some point someone noticed that Zapata was missing.  A search party formed. My dad mounted the mule and began to look for him out and about.  All of his usual haunts were no good.  Panic started to rise.  And then in a more thorough search, I found him in my parents' closet.  He decided that no one was going to bug him there, and for the next five years, he was often found in closets if things got too overwhelming.

Zapata was just full of personality and quirks and stuff to talk about.  We would all ask about him when we hadn't seen him in awhile, and we were super careful with him.  He loved intently but very sparingly.  His weirdoness made him that more special to us, and his fan club was small but devoted.

He went to Taos a dozen times or so with my parents, and he always had stories to tell afterwards.  He and Relampago had a blast in 2003 there when I brought them back bones from the farmer's market. And again in 2006, when I went with them and Crianza to nurse a broken heart.   Once, he lost his ham bone outside when it snowed, and he spent hours looking for it.  The yard there was big with birds to chase.  We lived in a not-unreasonable fear that one day he'd find the skunks there.

Over the last few years, it became clear that Zapata was hitting is dotage. At first it was just little things.  He would have trouble staying oriented, and his eyesight and hearing started to deteriorate.  Then his disdain and disinterest for Fusilli turned into fear because it was clear he could no longer defend himself or get away.  He started losing weight, and he started sleeping a lot.   At some point, he could no longer manage the stairs and elaborate blockades started to be built to prevent him from getting places.   Last fall, he was diagnosed with a bacterial infection in his mouth, and he started to recover some of his appetite and start moving around again.   But over the last few months, he'd get stuck.  Under chairs or in corners. And he wouldn't be able to get out again.  He was to the point he couldn't be left alone, and last week, it was clear that the Zapata we loved so much was gone.

As a family, we went to the vet's office last week.  He ate as much cheese and pupperoni as he wanted.  He gave everyone a hug.  And it was time to say goodbye.  The vet walked in, a woman we'd never met before. She spoke with a Spanish accent and called Zapata Commandante.  "You know what Zapata means?"  "Of course!  Emilliano Zapata. Commondante."   We talked about how he was always a revolutionary, and she said her minor was in Latin American Revolutions. She was the perfect person to help him across, and she said "Run free in Chiapas" when he died.

We held a wake for him over margaritas and we couldn't run out of stories about this amazing little soul who had been part of our lives for 15 years.

I will miss you, my friend.  You gave my mother so much of yourself, and you loved her with devotion.  You were never easy, but you made loving not a chore at all.


It starts with the washer dryer. When I bought the house, the washer and dryer was in one of the bedrooms, just against a wall without any partitions. It was weird, and it's probably why I got such a good deal on the house. It was always something I wanted to change.  In early 2003, I ripped out a cabinet in the kitchen and installed a washer/dryer combo in that space, getting rid of the old top loaders.

In early 2006, I discovered that something was leaking in my kitchen, and later discovered that it was the washer/dryer. In may, I bought 170 square feet of blue porcelain tile for roughly $150 to put down in the kitchen, but real life got in the way, and I didn't get around to it. It's been sitting in my potting shed for six years.

That discovery, though, did start my mind down the rabbit hole of thinking about totally remodeling the kitchen and expanding the house to accommodate a master suite. The idea percolated in various formats over the years.

When Graham moved in, he sort of latched on to it too. We took, relatively early on in our relationship, into going to Open Houses around the neighborhood to see what people did to their houses. Every time we talked about the idea of moving, we came to the conclusion that an addition would work better. It was also something that we thought would work with our mortgage. We developed over that time several designs on what to do with our house, and after talking to my brother about it, we came up with one that we're pretty settled on. We did think about going for a foreclosed home or two, but we never had enough cash on hand to move forward on those. And we started working on things around our house (read: RIP: disco fireplace").

In the meantime, we finally got rid of the washer/dryer combo in 2008, using that area of the kitchen for recycling, and we bought a stack-able washer and dryer that ended up exactly where the first ones were: in the den.  Albeit a little taller and taking up a little less space than when I bought the place in 2002.   In 2010, we got a new dishwasher. And in 2011, we got a new refrigerator.   And then the kitchen remodel extravaganza, and a windows upgrade. But we still have a two bedroom, one bathroom house.  Now with a more funky layout due to closing off a door during the kitchen renovation.

This is what our house currently looks like.

current configuration.jpg

In 2014, we made the move to plan for a bigger expansion than the kitchen renovation. We got a home equity loan.  We hired an architect. We went through edits and revisions and lots of money to come up with a plan that was simple and in keeping with the house, but also gave us a little more space and could expand the family.  We would add on a separate building that connected through the kitchen. This building would have a media room with a work space for Graham, a bathroom, and a nice utility room downstairs and a master suite upstairs.  We would preserve a good hunk of the back yard and have plenty of green space.  We would go from a two bedroom one bathroom 1052 square foot house to a three bedroom two and a half bathroom 1900 square foot house.

And then we started looking for contractors. First, the Memorial flood took all the small contractors in the summer of 2015, so we waited until the fall to start looking.  And the bids were over. Way over. One guy didn't even bother to give us a number other than "we can't do it for what you're budgeting."  One group really wanted to do it, and they managed to shave a good $40K off of their $80k over budget bid. But it was still too much over budget to be comfortable.

So we put everything on hold.

And then the bathroom started falling apart. First, little chips in the linoleum on the floor. We'd tape them down or otherwise pretend they weren't there. Then tile beginning to pop out of the wall in the shower.  The guts of the toilet having to be replaced.

And we started talking about what to do with the current house.

The plan was always to convert the two existing bedrooms into a more user friendly configuration, but we thought that would happen in the later stages of construction.  But what if we started with the smaller project that would still radically transform the house?

We started soliciting bids from bath contractors.

One massive outfit came by and took a look and gave suggestions and a price and we said, we like your design but we think we can do better.

So we interviewed more and found a guy we really like.

So on Saturday, Mikey and his crew are coming to our house to rip out our bathroom, and they'll spend the next few weeks turning our house into this:

bathroom reno configuration.jpg

I think if you click the image, you'll get a bigger picture with better detail.  The washer and dryer are moving to the closet. The sink is moving to where the door to the den used to be. We are converting the armoire I use for dresses into the linen cabinet / laundry hamper.  The entry to the bathroom and the bedroom will be through the dining room. My closet will be sacrificed for the greater good (the greater good!) and I'll get a PAX system from IKEA in the bedroom.  Every single room of the house will be changed in some way with this renovation.

We bought blue mosaic tile for around the tub and toilet. We bought white 12 inch tile for the floor. We bought a sink and medicine cabinet from IKEA.  We bought barn door hardware for the bathroom door. We went to an architectural salvage place for doors for the bedroom and bathroom (the bathroom door has a mirror inlayed). We bought a rainfall showerhead for the tub.


And we've moved shit. Almost all of the art is off the walls. Two pieces of furniture in the bedroom are gone, and we've moved things around in there.  Bookshelves have moved out of the dining room. The bathroom is almost bare. All that is left to clean out is the closet, which I'll do tonight.

We're getting a MUCH more functional house out of this.  The bedroom will feel more private, but it will also be easier to get to. The color scheme in there will also work better when we put in the closet system and paint a piece of furniture.  The den will get all of the bookshelves, and because the door is gone, we'll have more wall space to work with.  It will also feel more cohesive and cozy when we are able to get the TV moved and the design scheme isn't "work around the washer and dryer".   The living room will feel more open without the bookshelves lining the center wall.  Art will be a little more dispersed.

It's a huge project and a huge upheaval.

I'm moving to my parents house for the duration of this, and Graham and the dogs are moving to the ranch. We were told three weeks or so when they gave us the bid, but who knows?  Graham will be coming into town from time to time to teach yoga and see what's going on.  We're hoping that everything will be done by Christmas or the New Year.

It's not the addition that we were hoping to have done by now, but it's a MAJOR undertaking and one that I think will make our home into something we're really excited about, even though it's still only one bathroom.  And we'll get to the rest later on down the line.


GISHWHES is over, and I can now share everything that happened over the last week or so.

This year, I was a team leader, Team Gigsville, to be exact. It was made up mainly of people who were from my camp at Burning Man and the people they recruited.  The biggest bulk was from Austin, but there were some from other parts of the country as well.  I was the only GISHWHES vet in the group, and I think we worked really well together. Everyone was extraordinarily creative and put a lot of effort into the week. We had one no-show, but other than that everyone contributed something.  At the end of the week, we had submitted 127 of the 178 items on the list to scavange.
So to start on Sunday night, I said to Graham, "Let's go to Walmart." and he said, "We're going to get arrested, aren't we?" "Of course not!" I marched for the pool noodles. Graham rolled his eyes for the first, but certainly not the last, time of G.I.S.H.W.H.E.S.

So I wandered the aisles awhile, and I found a tin water dispenser, and some car floor mats. I was looking for the trash can lids to make a shield, when I passed the bathroom fixtures aisle and found a toilet lid. Graham rolled his eyes, sighed, and followed me to the ladies lingerie section, where I donned my armor and handed Graham my phone.

He took a few shots, and then instructed me to hold the toilet lid higher. I couldn't see very well because my "helmet" kept falling over my eyes.

And this is what the item number #69--Dress up in armor from items you find in a big box store and, using a pool noodle or tube of gift wrap, defend the perimeter of the ladies’ undergarments department.--looks like.

A good hunk of Sunday, I spent online looking for an inexpensive way to acquire a hundred or so "Botts Dots", which are those white or yellow or orange or red reflective dots on the highway that sometimes designate lanes or that you're about to drive off the highway. They're supposed to be inexpensive, and I suppose in the realm of multimillion dollar high construction projects they are. But for my purposes without a connection in TXDOT, the real thing wasn't going to happen.

So at lunch on Monday, I went to Academy for my substitute. And since hunting season starts soon, they were on sale! A box of 135 for $10.
I went home that night and there was plenty of daylight left to be able to put the project together and get a photograph before it needed to be reflective. I had several left over in case any of the clay pigeons broke, and they turned out to be the perfect substitute for visual purposes, though they wouldn't hold up very long if a car actually drove over them. Only two neighbors asked what was going on. I explained that I was doing a photography project.

The hardest part was getting good photos. The message was long, and I couldn't get the whole thing in a picture. So I put together the first of many G.I.S.H.W.H.E.S. collages.
And item number 84--“Death 2 Normalcy”, written in “Highway Braille” (Botts Dots) on a city street. The message must be at least 20 feet long.--looks like this:

My next project was my most ambitious, and it took several days of construction. I debated with my teammates about the interpretation of the G.I.S.H.W.H.E.S. item--#109 Make a sock monkey hat from orphaned socks.

Ultimately, I decided to go with the less obvious interpretation and decided to make a hat out of sock monkeys I made out of orphaned socks. My teammates pointed out that the sock monkeys should be wearing sock monkey hats. We started calling it the Inception Sock Monkey hat.

So most of Monday and Tuesday nights were spent making sock monkeys and then hats for the sock monkeys.

When we woke up the next morning, I made Graham take a picture of me wearing my sock monkey hat.

I almost feel like we cheated with this one. Graham and I were grocery shopping on Tuesday night, at the last second, I made him make an extra run to Whole Foods for an item.

I'm pretty sure that they wanted people to actually find and make such a thing, but it already exists here in Houston. It used to be at DiverseWorks, but at some point the Art-o-Mat (http://www.artomat.org/) moved to Whole Foods on Montrose.

G.I.S.H.W.H.E.S. Item 140--A functioning vending machine that dispenses emotions and memories. Show a customer making a purchase.--was already made for me. All I had to do was make a purchase.

The Tuesday night grocery shopping trip also yielded items for anotherG.I.S.H.W.H.E.S. project. Graham and I went up and down aisles we generally don't go to, and twinkies are not stored in where I thought the obvious place would be. But along with some colored sugar, some whipped cream in a can and a bag of twizzlers, five minutes on Wednesday morning yielded item number 47--Submit two images, side-by-side. Recreate a famous, iconic photo from junk food. For example, you could submit the black and white photo of Einstein sticking out his tongue, next to another photo of your best attempt to recreate that photo using various junk foods as your paints. I hope that makes sense. For some reason it sounds confusing as I type it. But you have to somehow figure out what I mean here and then do it. Best of luck.--was created.

I give you, the twinkie-berg.  I probably should have redone it with a more delicate tower, but it was one of those things that I wanted to go back for if I had time, and
that never turned out to be the case.
During lunch on Wednesday I got some G.I.S.H.W.H.E.S. items out of the way.

#119--Your pet has just released their first, much anticipated, heavy metal rock album. Show us the cover art. - Jessica Hicks


#151--Generate an application form for the job of “Director of Imagined Realities.”

#139--We’re writing an e-book and we want you to do our work for us. There’s a habit that was hard for you to change, but you changed it anyway. What is the habit, and what is your number one piece of advice for making that change? Please submit an image of one paragraph of text.

On Wednesday I also took a white bra to work with me. During a conference call, I decorated it with butterflies and a message of hope.  (A co-worker walked into my office as I was making it, but I was also on a conference call and he saw me on the phone before he saw me drawing on a bra and backed out of the room quietly.)  I put it aside thinking that I wouldn't be able to finish the item until Friday, when I had daylight for the photoshoot.

Graham was at rehearsal on Wednesday night, but he called me to tell me he was coming home much earlier than I anticipated. I quickly donned the bra, a corset, found a hat that went with the corset, and threw on some makeup.

And as he pulled up, I jumped in his car and said "drive!" He was a little flustered (especially since I was in my underwear and he had Thai and Chineese food sitting in the passenger seat). But we drove to the neighborhood park, and I did an impromptu photo shoot for Item number 168--At Hope Chest they create butterflies and transform lives http://www.myhopechest.org/ Channeling your inner Monet, pen a message of hope with colored ink on a white bra. Then, channel your inner supermodel and stage a public photo shoot of someone wearing this “support undergarment." (You may wear a shirt underneath it if you prefer and you must adhere to local laws. Please note that Gishwhes does not provide bail money.) Once completed, submit your image on the gishwhes website and also tweet to @MyHopeChest your awesome results on the final day of the game. Extra points for incorporating butterflies into the design.
It was one of my more nerve wracking items. I think even the less body conscious among us gets a little nervous about posing in your underwear in public, and more so for posting it. But this is a good cause. Saturday, I tweeted the photo.

Wednesday night I also worked with Play Dough for the first time in 35 years or so. I bought a newspaper on Monday and Tuesday, hoping for a good story.

Unfortunately, front page photos are either really boring or morbid. But the Monday morbid one had a bit of color, so I went for that one. The Monday story probably had a lot to do with one of the items from the list being pulled, since it involved two hot air balloons and a knock knock joke.

I submitted this for item #107--Did you see the startling news on the front page of the newspaper today? Of course you did. Using Photoshop, replace the front-page photo with a photo you’ve taken of a play-dough re-enactment of the original photo. Did that make sense? No? Figure it out. You are not allowed to email support for ANY clarification on this item. (What I lack in eloquence, I make up for with capriciousness.

Thursday turned out to be a frustrating day where I didn't really get all that much accomplished. We were trying to work out a complicated twitter call and response effort that didn't work out as well as we had hoped, and I struggled mightily with some toilet paper to attempt to make an origami sealaroo.  It was not my best effort in paper craft.

I took Friday off from work a) for G.I.S.H.W.H.E.S. and b) because I have a day to kill before the end of the fiscal year or else I lose it.  I spent a good hunk of the morning unrolling fruit rollups and organizing them according to color and wondering how on earth kids manage to have the palate to eat that stuff.  It is very sticky.  I had to take a break, though, to get Fusilli to his annual vet appointment.

So after Fusilli went to the vet in the morning (he's fine,), I put Graham in a new jacket. I justified this because Gigsville is a bona fide club (more or less) and some of its members do ride motorcycles. There was a lot more eye rolling with this one. Which is number 57--A Hell's Angel (or other bona fide member of a known motorcycle club) in a fruit leather jacket sitting astride their bike.

We couldn't find the key to his scooter to move it into better light, and I really wish we'd been able to capture the other arm better, because it's very complete and looks less like it's all kept together with tape. But this will have to do.    My husband is an unbelievably good sport.

On Friday afternoon, Graham and I went to the Buffalo Bayou Cistern for the first time. It's very recently open to the public, and it's a very neat space that I've wanted to see for a while.

There was a G.I.S.H.W.H.E.S. motive as well. Item #117--Gishwhes has conquered the Great Wall, South American waterfalls, the Champs-Élysées, and even SPACE! Help gishwhes conquer new territory— take gishwhes somewhere epic that it’s never been before.--would be perfect there, since it's pretty awesome AND it's only been open for a few months.

I overlayed the echo from the chamber on a video I made of photos from the room:

Friday night was art night. I completed a few paintings for items

#159 Zachary Levi is one of a kind. But what would be better than Zachary Levi? A pair of Zachary Levis, naturally. Paint a portrait of Zachary Levi on a pair of jeans. (The jeans may be distressed, but the depiction of Zachary should not be.) Feel free to get Zachary to model the pants.


#13 It’s a well-known fact that Pablo Picasso was a huge “Supernatural” fan. He painted portraits of Mark Sheppard, Jensen Ackles, Ruth Connell, Sam Smith, Richard Speight Jr., Matt Cohen, Jared Padalecki, Andrew Dabb, Rob Benedict, Misha Collins, Bob Singer, and many of the other cast and crew members. Sadly, until now, these great works have been lost to the world. Fortunately, your team has unearthed one of these priceless works.

I went with a Chuck portrait for the Levi painting, because I really loved Chuck, and I went with a version of Castiel from Supernatural done in the style of Picasso's Don Quixote because I like that image a lot. I tried to replicate the sun.  I'm really, really happy with the Picasso knockoff, and I may very well frame it.

Friday night I also worked with sand as my media for the first time in quite awhile. We bought a bag of sand at Southland Hardware for about $3.50, and I went to work with a loaf pan and some water. The car, my friend Dan gave me when we were in the wreck several years ago. The path is a toy we bought for Flipside. There's a puli sculpture in there as well along with a miniature of a trio of kitty cats playing under a door mat and another of a puppy dog back in the distance.

The item #85--It's summer (for those of us above the equator)! Time to go the beach! But sand castles are so dated, so gauche, so elitist, so medieval. Catch up with the times and build a sand trailer park.--was tons of fun to photograph.

Friday evening, right before it closed, I went to the Museum of Natural Science, and it turns out it's free in the last 30 minutes. I wanted to get some good video of the Foucault Pendulum, which is really awesome in theory, but can be boring through execution, especially waiting for something to happen.

I asked my professional voice over-ist for help on this one. Item #50--Virtual reality interfaces are absolutely amazing. The technology is mind-blowing. Using virtual reality and augmented headsets like the Hololens and Oculus, I have stood on the surface of Mars at Jet Propulsion Laboratories and examined the undercarriage of the Mars Rover, been in the eye of a hurricane, and have been attacked by heavily-armed 19th-century militia. It’s mind-blowing. Your task is to create a virtual reality experience totally unlike any VR experience to date. This video will require a super-short, adrenalin-pumping intro-teaser, which will let the viewers know that they are about to experience VR like never before. THEN, abruptly cut to a 360-degree clip of the most mundane activity you can imagine. BORE US TO DEATH.

Saturday, I had two items on my list left to do. First, I needed to cosplay. I knew that all of the tutus I have would come in handy one day!! And Graham has a pair of superhero socks that were perfect for this.  This was a little ridiculous.

So once again, I dressed up, dragged him outside and he was principle photography for this, item #49--Cosplay a thunderstorm, in public, complete with sound effects, lighting and rain. - Karen Hutchinson

Second, I needed to find a failure. I remembered that I have a notebook full of all of my research for my job search right after law school. I wrote down every single place I could think of to find a job: names, addresses, etc. And then I kept track of the dates that I applied to make sure I didn't double up or miss something. And then, increasingly,  I attached all of the rejection letters to the respective pages for the job to keep track. There are over 200 entries in there. I don't know why I kept it. I haven't looked at it in years. It was active from 1998 to 1999 and there is not a positive thing in there.
Interestingly enough, I did find the first two pages were all of the items that my sister Olivia and I put together for a polaroid scavenger hunt when she was in high school, probably from 1996 or 1997.  I ripped out those two pages to show her later.

So it was perfect for item #115--We all have failures and regrets. Bury one of yours and provide a tombstone with copy.After that I went through the items that were unclaimed or undone on the list.  Most of my teammates were working overtime at this point, and submissions were coming in right and left. Some people would say that they weren't able to do something and release it back to the rest of us. Someone else would ask if an item had been done yet because they had a quick idea that would work. Almost always whoever had the item would give it up so it could get done.

I had avoided item #55--Gishwhes has broken 7 Guinness World Records. Let’s see how many records you can break in 10 seconds. (Hint: record=LP)--because I didn't want to break any of my records. But I came up with an idea for submission instead.  We could have had better light and it could have been shot differently, but I thought it was pretty funny.  Celosa's appearance at the end was adorable too.

Finally, I grabbed three more items on Saturday to grab as many points as possible:
#120 Beauty is on the inside. Photoshop a revised version of your reflection in a mirror. Show us a photo of you standing in front of a mirror. But the reflection we see is what you look like on the inside. Interpret this however you like with the caption on the image: “Beauty is on the inside.”


#144 Submit two images, side-by-side. They say you regress to your childhood as you get older. Show us a photo from a part your childhood you’d most like to return to, and a photo of your current progress toward that regression.


#124 Submit a screenshot. Create a website, blogpost, or in-depth social media post explaining an aspect of the elusive Miss Jean Louis’ biography.

I didn't follow the first one very closely, but I photoshopped wording on a picture I had taken earlier because I think my beauty is in my words and memories and stories. I argue that looking in to a selfie phone is looking in the mirror.

The second is of me in Mexico as a child and my constant travels there. I loved it but hadn't been since 1992 and really wanted to go back. A series of weddings and parties reintroduced me to my love of Mexico, and I went in 2013, 2014 and 2015.

The last one was just fun to do.

And so G.I.S.H.W.H.E.S. is done! I did a bunch of other stuff on my twitter handle (@stinapag) and participated in some group items and I did one last minute item because I happened to be at a speakeasy on Saturday night and someone happened to be wearing a zoot suit.. I had a really amazing and creative team. Everyone worked really well together and everyone did what they could to help. The creativity and whimsy and giving nature of every person was just outstanding, and I really had a great time with these weridos.

Our team submitted for about 127 or so (I didn't see the final submissions at 1:00 am when they shut down the list) of the 178 items, and if you thought some of my stuff was weird and creative, you should see the rest of the team.

A special shoutout to the spouses, offspring, and friends of the various team members. I know Graham was not the only person handed a camera and told to document something weird in public. And they did such a great job helping us out! Outstanding work!

This is the list of the items for GISHWHES 2016. The items in blue are the ones that our team submitted a video or image. Day one is always overwhelming and you think "there's no way we can do any of these" and then you find yourself doing more than the majority. https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1265WSmglLZnOHnp2J8D1fmHO2pA2bCEK8wYlVaNjfsQ/edit#gid=0

Another 40 days

I'm on Day 4 of another 40 Days of Yoga.

This is my third 40 Days, and the first two were not so much of a struggle for me. I like going to yoga. I like having the set schedule.  Since this time last year I've had a very regular yoga practice, and it's not been too much of a stretch to increase it for six weeks.

We are supposed to set our intentions for the 40 Days. I had a general "keep doing what I'm doing" intention set, but I really mean that.  In the last year, I have seriously committted on working on myself and I have enjoyed the progress.  I feel more connected to the things and people around me. I feel much more in touch with my body. I love the feeling of power after a good yoga practice. And I feel like these things are coming off the mat too.

The last 40 days, I really worked on my meditation practice, and I enjoyed the ritual and the time to myself.  Since Graham is also committed to this practice, he fully understands when I take a moment for myself for meditation.  I've set up my personal meditation space in the fireplace.  We have been keeping a pile of floor pillows there for years, and the coffee table is right in front of it. It's a perfect place to take a moment to observe my thoughts, feelings, emotions, and physical space.  It's not like in Houston, Texas we use the fireplace for anything else. I fell off the meditation wagon in December, so I'm glad that the 40 days gives me an opportunity to revisit my committment.


Final bit of the list!

126  IMAGE. The setting is a candle-lit romantic dinner for two. Let's see the "spaghetti" scene from "Lady and the Tramp." Both of you must be dressed for the hot date. Super bonus points if it's in an actual nice restaurant.52 POINTS

127  IMAGE or VIDEO. Hang-glide or parachute fully dressed as one of the gishwhes mascots. - Olivia Desianti.133 POINTS

128  VIDEO. (Video may be up to 60 seconds.) "La Corte Suprema." The US Supreme Court ruling on marriage equality is an event worthy of a Broadway musical. Get two professional musical theater stars to rehearse singing the text of Justice Kennedy's majority opinion and the dissenting opinions on a stage in a large auditorium or theater. Bonus points if you have a large audience. - Inspired by Gina Cardazone103 POINTS

129  IMAGE. Locker Love. Post messages of love or support on or in lockers of students that you think might need it.27 POINTS

130  IMAGE. McDonald's makeover. What would the interior of a McDonalds look like if the franchise served only organic, free-range, fresh, seasonal, slow-cooked foods. Your image must be of the interior of an actual McDonalds, but the overhead menu and kitchen decor must reflect this new direction.146 POINTS
Read all about it!Collapse )

210  IMAGE. Send an encouraging message to space using either crop circle-style writing or some other form of land art. The message must be at least 2 acres across. Now comes the tricky part: have your artwork photographed from space. Either from a remotely controlled satellite or by an astronaut in orbit.201 POINTS

211  IMAGE or VIDEO. All Random Acts staffers volunteer long hours. They get no pay and often get too little praise. Do something nice for a Random Acts volunteer (or for the staff of another all-volunteer organization).78 POINTS

212  IMAGE. Ride in an airplane with a giant motorboat strapped on top of it. They must be life-sized (not models) and the implementation of this item must in NO WAY endanger the lives of the pilots, passengers or people on the ground. We must see the plane flying in the air with the motorboat on top. - Written by West Collins341 POINTS

213  VIDEO. Play ping pong underwater on an actual ping pong table. Crack a raw egg open and use its yolk as your ball. Bonus points if you can backspin it off the table. - Tracy Liu108 POINTS

MAYBE I'll get 20 done.  But I'll have a damned good time doing it.



More stuff for 2015 hunt.  

51    IMAGE. Death's funeral. - Jessica Mary Hicks39 POINTS

52    IMAGE. You've been hired to design the cover of National Geographic's next issue, "Discovering The Padalecki." Do a drawing, painting or digitally created image (you may photoshop existing images for this item) of the new tropical species that has been discovered, much by accident, by workers building an inland dam.31 POINTS

53    IMAGE. There are roughly only 150 Sommeliers on the planet who have received the highest distinction a professional can attain in fine wine and are accordingly classified as "Master Sommeliers." Get a picture of you with a current Master Sommelier sipping pure kale (or cabbage) juice from a wine glass. Caption the image with "NAME OF SOMMELIER, renowned Master Sommelier says the official drink of Gishwhes is.." And then finish the caption with the sommelier's review of the juice.71 POINTS

More behind the cut!Collapse )

123  VIDEO. Let's see an impressive post office conga line composed entirely of postal workers.39 POINTS

124  IMAGE. Get a coffee shop to create and run a drink special for Gishwhes and have it advertised on their menu board. - Anna Buffalo29 POINTS

125  IMAGE. Using food found in your refrigerator or pantry, recreate a national landmark. You may not use gummi bears.44 POINTS



I'm entererd into a scavenger hunt this week. I have seven days (along with my team of 15 people from all around the world that I've never met) to come up with some of these items. (These are the first 50, livejournal thinks the list is too long so my next four posts will be the rest of the list, under cuts.) I'm terribly excited about this.

If anyone sees something that they want to help me with, let me know!

1 IMAGE. Beautifully recreate one of these painting optical illusions or another one you find on the Internet using real bodies and/or props: http://www.thedesignwork.com/65-amazing-optical-illusion-pictures/54 POINTS
2 IMAGE or VIDEO. Do the one thing that you think, if everyone did it, would change the world for the better overnight. Caption the image or video with what you're doing.29 POINTS

3 IMAGE. Kick back in a hammock that's suspended from trees on opposite banks of a river. (Make sure it's a safe section of a river to be suspended over.)71 POINTS

4 VIDEO. Get 10 of your friends to stand on a field or lawn. Strap inflated balloons to 5 of your friends' stomachs. The other 5 friends must pop these balloons using only the impact and weight of their bellies or their bums (they can't use hands, feet, mouths, or anything sharp).71 POINTS

5 VIDEO. FELICIA DAY ITEM. Do a dramatic reading of your grade-school report card.22 POINTS

6 VIDEO. Design and operate electric or gas-powered "knee and elbow scooters." When you wear them, they must glide you down the street on your knees and elbows only. The device must be at least four separate pieces - not one or two platforms that you're lying on. You must wear a helmet or your item won't be accepted.118 POINTS

7 VIDEO. (Time lapse this down to 20 seconds.) Go to the top of a building and communicate with 4 other people on the rooftops of 4 other buildings using flags and the Flag Semaphore system as a mode of communication. The first person must spell out "GISHWHES". The second must spell out "MAKES" and the next must spell out "ME" and then the fourth must finish the sentence with whatever they wish. Subtitle each one on the video.63 POINTS

8 VIDEO. (Time lapse this down to 20 seconds.) You and a friend must build and launch two dueling paper airplanes using only your mouths to build and launch them.50 POINTS

9 IMAGE. A drawing, painting or digital image (no photoshopping of existing images) of Misha and the Queen as 1950 pin-up BFF girls.72 POINTS

10 VIDEO. Find someone you love and butter them up; literally, cover them in butter and then give them a big hug. - Carianne Steinman56 POINTS

11 VIDEO. Have at least 5 police officers with connected hands do a repeating breakdance wave in a ring and set it to a breakin' beat.34 POINTS

12 VIDEO or IMAGE. Show us what Supernatural will look like at the start of Season 50. -Sara and Caitlyn Cacador63 POINTS

13 VIDEO. (Video may be up to 20 seconds) Design and build a voice recognition device or robot stationed next to a toilet that flushes it when prompted by the voice command, "Crowley." We must see you speak for 10 seconds prior to saying "Crowley" (you can say whatever you wish for this 10 seconds) but only see the flushing when "Crowley" is uttered. We must see the speaker's face, the flushing mechanism and the toilet bowl in the video framing the entire time.84 POINTS

14 IMAGE. Glaciers are melting - so act accordingly. Pose at a major glacier wearing a swimsuit with floaties (automatic double the points if it's on the Khumbu Glacier at Everest Basecamp). Caption your image with "It's melting" (and then the glacier you're at). Don't cheat with where it's at. I've been to them all.83 POINTS

15 VIDEO. (Video may be up to 45 seconds.) Have an elderly relative take you back to an important location from their childhood and have them recount a memory of that spot. For example, they could take you back to the street corner where they learned to ride a bike and tell you about that day.68 POINTS

16 IMAGE. Create a beautiful tribute to the late Leonard Nimoy. - Annie K.29 POINTS

17 IMAGE. The 2015 gishwhes mascot Dinomite asks you to pick a number between 1 and 1000, asks you 10 questions with yes/no answers, and then guesses the number. What were the 10 questions?19 POINTS

18 IMAGE. Have at least 3 people in a domestic or office setting, completely camouflaged to match their background.52 POINTS

19 IMAGE. Have a tea party with a special needs child or pediatric cancer patient dressed as a character from "Alice in Wonderland."46 POINTS

20 IMAGE. Here's your hint: T11fJ-bSWI0. (Don't submit anything unless you solve the puzzle or you will be docked points.)43 POINTS

21 VIDEO. Get your local weatherhuman to do their weather report dressed as a superhero in drag.112 POINTS

22 IMAGE. Schools, hospitals, and prisons are notoriously dismal places that are in desperate need of art to brighten them up. Get permission from one of these places to create a giant Gishwhes-themed (mascots, items from the past, kindness, etc.) wall mural.83 POINTS

23 IMAGE. Tour a wastewater/sewage treatment factory dressed in formal attire with an accompanying violinist or flutist.82 POINTS

24 VIDEO. DAVID LAVERY ITEM. (Video may be up to 20 seconds.) NASA is an acronym for "National Aeronautics and Space Administration." Help celebrate that first "A" by creating the largest paper airplane you can make. It must be constructed SOLELY of paper and adhesive, and it must fly. For you to submit, it must have at least a 2 meter wingspan (but we expect much larger) and it must fly for at least 15 yards on level ground. Remember, PAPER and ADHESIVE only.115 POINTS

25 IMAGE or VIDEO. The corporate world needs to loosen up. Relocate a full playground swing set to a corporate plaza. Bonus points if it's being used by workers in suits.108 POINTS

26 IMAGE. ITEM WRITTEN BY JUSTIN GUARINI: Find Justin Guarini (legally) and strike this exact pose with him:https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/c/cb/From-justin-to-kelly.jpg97 POINTS

27 VIDEO. (Video may be up to 20 seconds.) Everyone likes drive-thrus and "Jeopardy." Combine them by going through a drive thru and making the employee guess your order by describing the items to them with the "answer."43 POINTS

28 IMAGE. Blow us away with your amazing cosplay as a famous inanimate object.58 POINTS

29 IMAGE. Show us your idea of love. Caption the image if you wish.41 POINTS

30 IMAGE. Support our troops. More than 10% of veterans that return from war suffer post traumatic stress syndrome. Tweet or post on FB or Instagram an image of you next to an armed serviceman, with you holding up a sign with a positive message or a message of kindness or gratitude to them and soldiers worldwide. Submit the screen cap of your post.49 POINTS
31 IMAGE. At the time I'm writing this, the price of crude oil is $48 per barrel. A barrel of oil is 42 gallons. So presumably for about $1.14, you should be able to get a gallon of crude oil. Let's see you handing $1.14 (or your country's currency equivalent) to an employee of an oil refinery, oil transportation or oil extraction company while they hand you one gallon of crude oil.28 POINTS

32 IMAGE. Write a thank you letter to a teacher or mentor from your past that you never sufficiently thanked. Mail it. You may submit an image of the letter, or if you wish it to remain private, submit an image of you mailing it. But you must mail it or bad karma will be rained down upon your toothbrush.24 POINTS

33 IMAGE. http://bit.ly/1Io5DL6. You will be docked points if you upload an image without solving the puzzle.30 POINTS

34 IMAGE. How do you do it? Everyone on your team has such beautiful mustaches? Do you have some sort of hair growth cream you slather on or pills you all take? Let's see a grid photo of everyone on your team that features your mustaches prominently.89 POINTS

35 IMAGE or VIDEO. Design a device that would allow a five ounce swallow to carry a one pound coconut. - Kristi Hollenbeck46 POINTS

36 IMAGE. Create a cocktail dress or tux out of flowers (you can use foliage, but at least 50% needs to be flowers). Photograph yourself in a contrasting "greenless" urban setting. - Olivia Desianti56 POINTS

37 VIDEO. It's another boring trapeze teleconference. Business attire required.79 POINTS

38 IMAGE. Time for the first annual (and possibly last ever) gishwhes Road Trip! See the map at the link below. Grab a friend and visit at least 9 (the more the merrier) of the points on the map. Have a passing tourist take a picture of you and your friend at each landmark (no selfies). Make sure we can see the landmark of each spot as part of the picture. You MUST REPLICATE the same pose for each photo and the pose you pick MUST be one that will make your tourist photographers laugh. Edit all images into a grid and submit as one image. It must be the same two people in the same pose and the same wardrobe at each location - http://fb-2.shareably.net/perfect-road-trip-map/?utm_source=ads_gt_fb_share&utm_medium=facebook&utm_campaign=science111 POINTS

39 VIDEO. Somewhere, there is a robot that can break a Guinness World Record. Find it or create it and film it. (Note: This video can be as long as is required to show evidence of breaking the record. You do not need Guinness confirmation during the Hunt that the record is broken, but you do need to apply for the record and really break it. You will need to email proof to support@gishwhes.com that your record was approved by Guinness after the Hunt. DO NOT SUBMIT IF YOU DO NOT BREAK THE RECORD OR YOU WILL BE DOCKED POINTS.)148 POINTS

40 IMAGE. They say, "A dog is a man's best friend," but they are sexist. Dogs can be women's best friends too. To prove it, make one entirely out of feminine hygiene products. The dog must be at least 40 centimeters tall. (See how international we are? Look at these units!)38 POINTS

41 IMAGE. The cats are coming! Prepare your dog for battle. Outfit him or her with armory, weaponry, cutting edge laser gear - whatever it takes to create a canine of mass destruction.43 POINTS

42 IMAGE. You've just received an invitation to the annual Color Me Pretty Construction Paper Gala. Design and wear an elegant gown consisting of only construction paper. You must be posed with a antique or hotrod car/motorcycle (that will take you to the Gala, of course) or in front of the Gala itself which takes place in the most stunning public building of your city.41 POINTS

43 VIDEO. Use aerial footage to capture you and 40 or more of your friends in a field or open space, milling about aimlessly and then, all at once, quickly aggregating to spell either "GISHWHES", "KALE" or something more inspired with your bodies.69 POINTS

44 IMAGE. Let's see a portrait of Robert Downey, Jr. or Ironman made entirely of salt and pepper. Tweet it to him (@robertdowneyjr) with @gishwhes in the tweet. SUBMIT a link to the image to us, NOT a link to an image of the tweet - but you must tweet it to him for your image to count.51 POINTS

45 IMAGE. Take a photo of you posing with Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. In the photo, they are giving the "thumbs up" sign while you are giving the "thumbs down" sign. You cannot photoshop an image of you and an image of one of them together. You must be standing next to the real individual.248 POINTS

46 IMAGE. Congratulations! You've won a one-way trip to colonize Mars! Unfortunately, you can't bring a checked bag and your carry on must not exceed 10kg. Lay out everything you would pack on your bed in an orderly manner. You will live off of Martian dust mite dung; so don't worry about snacks unless it's a comfort food you can't live without.19 POINTS

47 VIDEO. Stop hiding your true talent. The world deserves to see it. Without using special effects or trick editing, make a person disappear.26 POINTS

48 IMAGE. Take your mom, dad or other family member that you don't give enough attention to (based on what they've done for you over the years, or perhaps, what you've done to them) to lunch or dinner. Both of you must be cosplaying established or newly invented comic book heroes. If you've created new heroes, caption the image with their names.61 POINTS

49 VIDEO. It's time to get some fresh air. Take your (at least) 3 pet robots out for a walk. You, of course, should be wearing your homemade Robot Leader Helmet.81 POINTS

50 VIDEO. Your friend loves cake, so being a good friend, you offer to take them out for cake at a nice restaurant. Alas, you discover when you arrive at the restaurant, that your friend has recently undergone medical treatments that prevents them from moving their arms, so you will have to feed them. Unfortunately, light is harmful to your eyes so you must be blindfolded. While blindfolded, stand behind your seated friend in a fancy restaurant and put your arms under their armpits and feed them cake with your hands. Trust us. This is going to work out beautifully.50 POINTS


A pox on both your houses

I blame an outbreak of herpes zoster on my poor math skills.

When I was in 8th grade, we were in a pre-algebra class taught by the middles school math teacher, Sister Teresa.  (I think it was Sister Teresa. There were a few Sister Teresas in my elementary and middle school, and it was sometimes hard to remember which one was which. At any rate, she as was a nun, and she seemed to know her math stuff.)  I'd been in catholic school for pretty much my entire primary education, so nuns were old hat to me at this point. She was a good teacher, and she figured out that there were a few of us in the class that were ahead of everyone else.  After maybe a month of watching us, she pulled the four or five of us aside and created lessons deeper into algrebra for us.  We met in the same classroom as the rest of our class, but we were given different assignments further along in the textbook.  Intead of pre-algebra, we were learning algebra, and we were doing well.

At some point in the middle of the school year, Sister Teresa disappeared from the classroom.  Shingles, we were told.  It was a horrible, terrible, painful disease.  She couldn't possibly come back.

The rest of the school year was a succession of math teachers who never lasted more than a few weeks.  The group that I was learning algebra with mustered on, using the teacher's manual as a guide. We told our successive teachers what we were doing, and as these people had no idea, they just let us teach ourselves.

In the meantime, I took the placement exams, did the interview, and otherwise kicked ass to get into St. John's for high school. It was a huge achievement. I think they only let in seven or eight kids that year, and none of the kids from my school were going.  As far as I understood it, I knew algebra, but my group of advanced math students had only scratched the surface.

Fortunately, the placement exam at St. John's caught the lapses in my previous education.   The summer between eighth and ninth grade, I spent taking algebra again. And my counselors recommended that I not take too much math when I first got to St. John 's because it would overwhelm me.  So I ended up on a track that didn't include Calculus at all in my high school career.  This it turns out, went on to screw up a few things, including my physics class.  I was a straight A physics student, until we got to accelleration, where it's SOOO much easier if you know calculus. Same for a lot of price theory in microeconomics in college.

By the time I got to college, I was terrfiied of math, and I convinced myself that I wasn't very good at it. It wasn't until I totally fell in love with statistics that I got my confidence up again on things math.  I put a lot of the blame of this on that Shingles outbreak on my 8th grade math teacher.   I sort of developed a terror of shingles. I mean, it took my teacher out for the whole school year! It must be terrible.

Going back even further, in 1983, when I was ten years old, I caught the chicken pox.  It was going around that same catholic school, and I brought it home and gave it to all of my siblings. We spent a week in itchy misery and went on our merry ways.

Fast forward to sometime last week when a rash appeared on my shoulder. Given how much yoga I do and the location of the rash, I thought it was some sort of dermatitus caused by sweat, soap, and the rubbing of an ill placed bra strap.  When it didn't go away after a few days, I thought that maybe it was an allergic reaction to a suppliement that I was taking.  But it was localized to the top of my shoulder, and it was growing.  I was sick on Friday, sleeping from 9:00 p.m. until 10:30 a.m. on Saturday.  And it got to the point that anything on it hurt.

So I yesterday, I consulted Dr. Google, looking for rashes that looked like mine; the second I got the shingles hit, I knew what was up.  I called my dad for consultation, who was useless. ("It's usually on the torso, and it's usually pretty painful.")  And then I got a second opinion from my godfather, who is an infectious disease specialist. The second he saw my rash, he wrote me a prescription for the anti-virals.

It's shingles.  But I'm not out. It's a right pain in the ass (or shoulder, as the case may be), and it's definitely not something to treat lightly, but it's not worth runing a math career over.    

Shake, shake, shake!

So Graham's dj career has been moving forward nationally and internationally.  Tour in England in 2013, invitation to Vancouver a year ago.  Trips to the midwest and West Coast on the books for the summer.   Last year, he djed a fundraiser for a Burning Man project with two other djs, and the dance floor was pretty full the entire time.  It was a great crowd and the music was just awesome.   The theme of that particular party was Speakeasy, and for Graham and Electroswing, it was just perfect.  It was one of the best sets I've ever heard Graham put together, and I still play it fairly regularly.

Based off of that performance, a friend ask him to dj the latter part of his birthday party in late October, with about 600 people in attendance. The band was a Prince cover band, so Electroswing wasn't exactly the music to play, but Graham had something else in mind he wanted to show off: Ghetto funk.  He had to work that night at his regular gig at Prohibition, and the schedule was pretty tight.   The band didn't get off stage until nearly 1:00, and Graham didn't start until nearly 1:30.  Fortunately, it was the day daylight savings came back, so Graham had an extra hour in there to get us moving.

It was an off the hook, insane set.  We danced for hours it seemed, and every song was just perfectly meshed with the one before. He built us up and tore us down. He got down and dirty and nasty and we loved it loved it loved it.  We danced and danced and danced.  Even after his set was over, he plugged into the house system and popped on a prerecorded set so we could keep on dancing if we wanted to.  It was an insanely awesome set, and we were still riding the high of it (and maybe something else) when we got home at 6:00 a.m. We were riding the high of it days later.

We go to this party every year. We go to Flipside every year. And maybe we go to two or three other dance-all-night sort of things in the course of the year. But our days of dancing all night are over, and if Graham's out past two a.m, it's because he's on the decks.  But coming off of the high of the set, we started thinking about other dancing opportunities that didn't involve a full day of recovery.

When Graham had been in England the year before, a brand new idea was just taking off in London: Morning Gloryville. Some of the djs that Graham met in England said that the vibe at these morning dance parties was just awesome.  And over the course of the year, the idea started to take off in other cities.  Another version of it started in New York, called Daybreaker.  The basic idea is a dance party in the early morning, mid-week.  Before work, maybe after the kids are dropped off at school.  Maybe that's the one day a week that you're a little late.  Instead of alcohol and/or drugs, juice and coffee bars.  Instead of flashing lights, the sun comes up.  Instead of going to the gym, get a workout shaking your tail feathers to rocking djs.

We started talking about it for a month or two.  We were brainstorming places it might work, or at least what our requirements for a place would be: natural light, fairly far from residential neighborhoods so as not to piss off anyone with the music at 6:00 a.m., a central, easy-to-find location that's not too far from either work or home. I came up with a name for a party if we have one in Houston: Wake 'n' Shake. We talked about it with some friends and people who we thought might want to get involved.  We got some interest.

In the meantime, I started a 40 Days of Yoga project in January at Big Power Yoga. It's a very intense, very accountability driven project. You're requried to practice yoga six days a week for six weeks. You're also required to attend a group meeting once a week that focuses on tools that you use outside your asana practice.  In addition, there's a three day cleanse during Week 4. And there's a mindful eating portion.  At the end of each week, the studio checked to see if participants met their attendance obligations for the week, and if so, we were allowed to move on to the next week.   About 800 people started the 40 days, and I think there were about 350 that finished. I hadn't done serious yoga since 2007, and I knew that this was a way to get me back into it seriously, because my "oh, I'll go tomorrow" method wasn't working at all.

In one of the group meetings, a guy in the meeting talked a little about djing.  I talked a little about Burning Man.  After the meeting was over, we found each other. He, it turns out, is a Burner. We talked about Burning Man, and then went into the "do-you-know" game.  And over the course of the conversation, we discovered that he was one of the other djs that Graham had spun with at the fundraiser in August. I very casually asked if he was interested in a morning dance party idea, and he immediately said he had a location for something like that in mind.  By the time Graham picked me up, I had his contact information. By the end of the week, he and Graham were in communication and actually working on the project.

In mid-February, Graham and I went to Taos for a week. We had no agenda (aside from my having to do yoga once a day, but Shree Yoga is an absolutely fantastic studio).  We cooked and walked around town and went to the mountain and played with the dogs. I don't think we turned on the TV once.  And we talked.  For both of us, the trip was cleansing and inspiring, and we both came back from it full of energy and new ideas and motivation.  It was one of the best vacations we'd ever been on.

In March, Graham joined the yoga studio, and he also caught the yoga bug.  And in that time he and John had determined a date and finalized the location.  They found another DJ who was as excited about the idea as they were. And the project started coming together.  They launched the facebook page in late March, and the invitation to the party in early April. Graham did an interview with an awesome organization called We Play Everywhere to help promote the event.  And most of the people we've talked to about the idea are pretty excited.

The event is slated to run from 6:30 a.m. until 10:30 a.m on Wednesday May 6. Boomtown Coffee is on board to provide caffine, and E-dub-a-licoius is a go for food. They're finalizing the juice vendor, but it's going to be really good too.   The location is very close to downtown, and has an awesome feature that will really highlight the event.  Graham aka The Grahamaphone, John Tran aka DJ Kung Fu Pimp, and JD Notic will be on the decks.

One of the things that Graham was asked during the interveiw last week was whether he'd ever been to one of these before.  He said no.  And the interveiwer was delighted.  There aren't any rules or expectations to something so very brand new.  We have no idea how many people will show up, though 100 or so have said so on Facebook and we've heard that a lot of others have heard about the event and have expressed interest.  We have no idea what the population will be. Houston is a very diverse city. Who is going to come to this?  We imagine that some people will come early and leave early because they have to go to work. Some people will come later, because really 6:30 is really early.  Some people will be late for work. Some people might bring their kids. People may wear workout gear or what they're wearing to work or decide to dress in costume and be silly.  What we absolutely know is that the people who come will be interested in trying something new. Because the likelihood is that not many people here in Houston have been to one of these either.  So we can create our own and bring awesome energy and make this an amazing event that grows off of the participants in it.  We know that people in this city get up early and work out. Why not have the workout be a dance? 

Baby all I need is a shot in the arm

Last night, my brother-in-law and I, much to the relief of our spouses, went to see Wilco together.  Matthew is as big of a Wilco fan as I am, and being from Chicago, he's had more opportunity to see them. Graham--who has been dragged to many a Wilco show with me by default--had to work, and Claudia has passing familiarity with Wilco, but said it'd be much better if just Matthew and I went.   The show was awesome, and we had an excellent time.

At some point in the evening, Jeff Tweedy said that exactly ten years ago they'd played in the exact same room, though I think it was named after a different corporate entity. I did some mental calculations and realized I'd been to that show too!

So I went to the ever helpful setlist.fm to help me figure out which shows I've been too.

April 23, 2015: Houston, Texas, Bayou Music Center.  This was last night's show, and it was the second date of the 20th anniversary tour.  Since Jeff Tweedy and his son Spencer were working on a side project for most of last year, there wasn't much new material, but with 20 years of work, there's a lot to choose from.  They played with arrangements and had a fantastic time. Art of Almost was an early standout.   Nels Cline just flat out owns Handshake Drugs, but Jeff proved he's no slouch with At Least That's What She Said. My favorite Jesus, Etc. was of course played (and sung along by pretty much the whole crowd), as was Heavy Metal Drummer.  For the final encore, the entire band huddled in the middle of the stage unplugged. Mics were brought close to the instruments, and the crowd reacted to the intimacy of the presentation really, really well. But for being so stripped down, it was a lot of fun too.  Nels Cline and Pat Sansone dueled lap steel guitar against banjo for most of Hoodoo Voodoo.  All in all, it was an awesome show, and it's outstanding that my sister married someone with such impeccable musical tastes.

October 11, 2013: Austin, Texas, Stubbs Bar-B-Q.  This was a pre-ACL show, and Graham had a gig on sixth street the same night.  A friend of Graham's from high school lives in Austin and she volunteers for an organization that cleans up and recycles after concerts. So they get to go to shows for free AND they get in early for prime locations.  It had been raining all day, but right as the show was supposed to start, the rain started to dissapate.  Graham dropped me off at the venue and introduced me to his friend, and then he went off to set up for his own show. I went to maybe the best Wilco show I've ever seen.  The crowd was all me and Matthews: knew every song, loved everthing there is to love about Wilco, totally into it.  I got the impression the band was totally into it too. They played 33 songs that night, and it lasted for hours.  After helping to clean up (which took all of ten minutes), I walked back to my car, changed, and then went to Graham's gig totally high from the Wilco show.

May 6, 2011: Houston, Texas, Verizon Wireless Theater (which is the same venue as Bayou Music Center).  This was the show we went to six days after our accident.  It was the first time since the accident that I smiled.  This is what I wrote to the band afterwards through their website:

I don't know if this sort of letter gets to the band or not, but I wanted to thank them profusely for the show on Friday night in Houston, Texas.
I was in a pretty horrible car accident on Saturday, April 30.  I was hit on the side, and car rolled over two and a half times on the freeway.  After the accident was over, I was banged up, my fiance was banged up and my dog was missing.  Fortunately, miraculously, she somehow managed to escape the car unscathed and was returned to us about ten minutes after the accident.

The following week was surreal. We ached all over, we were baffled on how we all managed to survive, and we had to deal with the day to day crap associated with losing your car and dealing with insurance companies and the police.

On Friday, though, we got to go to the show.  My fiance said that he hadn't seen me smile since the accident.  And not only did I smile, I danced and sang and yelled and, to the extent my neck injury would let me, I bounced around a lot.  I was joyful for the first time in a week, and I didn't once think about he sound of metal hitting metal, or the feeling having no control at all as my car rolled over and over, or the horror of thinking that my sweet puppy dog had been killed or severely injured in the crash and there was nothing I could do about it.

We left a little early, because we're still tender, and being jostled by a departing crowd would have probably hurt. But I wanted to stay and absorb the music for hours and hours and hours.

So thank you. Thank you very much for putting on such a wonderful show, and for making me so happy.

It was something I needed very badly.

Whoever gets their fan mail wrote me back within hours:

Hi Christina

wow... we are all so relieved that you, your fiance and puppy are alright!  That was great you were still able to attend the Wilco show.... it means alot to the band that they can make folks happy and forget about their troubles.

we wish you both a speedy recovery

It was my most needed Wilco show.

March 7, 2008: Houston, Texas, Verizon Wireless Theater. This was the first Wilco show I ever took Graham too.  He'd just moved to Houston, and we were in the early part of our relationship. It was the first show of any kind that we'd been too together. Graham had been to the venue as a stagehand back in another life, so he was familiar with the venue.  He'd been a big Uncle Tupelo fan, and he respected Jeff Tweedy but confessed he was bigger Son Volt fan than Wilco. I maintain that there can be enough love in the world for both.  The opener was John Doe, who was outstanding and set a great tone for the night.  This show was deep into the Wilco tour, so Tweedy's voice was shot when he was talking, but he managed to keep it together when he was singing.  It was great.  A few months later, we saw Son Volt at the Continental Club.

September 16, 2007: Austin, Texas, Austin City Limits Music Festival.  I didn't know it at the time, but this was the last ACL I went to.  I'd met Graham less than three weeks before, and I was still riding the high of my first Burning Man.  I was technically doing ACL by myself that year, but some friends found me and I spent more time at their house than I did the festival.  I did make sure to go to the Wilco set though. This is what I said about it at the time:

They gave Wilco an hour and 15 minutes when they usually give an hour. It was awesome. I know I say that every time I hear them, but dammit...I'm not the only one. Look at This blog report of the taping of their Austin City Limits television show set the night before. It's the little things with them. Like Tweedy going acoustic for "I am going to break your heart." And the big things, like the amazing guitar solos that seemed to just take over the world. And the craziness around him with drums and guitar and other noise while Jeff sings softly and calmly to the lyrics of "Via Chicago." The set was pretty heavy with Sky Blue Sky, but as always, they played a lot from various albums. I've heard "Walken" so many times live now, it surprises me it's only been released on Sky Blue Sky. I actually was sort of surprised that "The Late Greats" wasn't played because I've heard it so many times live now... I don't really know how to express how much I love hearing this band, especially with Nels Cline at guitar now. It's possibly my perfect band. I was standing there, singing along with thousands of other die hard Wilco fan and I was perfectly happy. I could have just gone to this show and I would have been fine with my ACL experience.

It was a great end to my ACL years, and hopefully we'll go back sooner or later.

October 13, 2006, San Antonio, Texas, Sunset Station. This was also a very needed show.  I'd spent the summer recovering from a bad breakup, and I was just then coming out of my shell.  One of the things I'd done in my recovery was determine that I would start doing things because I wanted to rather than because I was expected to. I really wanted to go see Wilco, and this was the closest show on their current tour. (It was the closest for a lot of Wilco fans: Austin and Dallas got skipped that tour too, so there were a lot of out-of-towners who made the trek to San Antonio that day.)   I got off of work at 5:00 and drove three and a half hours by myself to San Antonio to go to the show. It was great.  I bonded with other Wilco fans; I got close enough to the stage so I could see everything perfectly; and I had an excellent time.  At this show, after a summer of sadness, I gave myself permission to be happy.

By the time of "Shot in the Arm," I was fully into the show and singing along and dancing and totally into the whole experience. I found myself, from time to time, grinning like an idiot. You know there are moments in your life where you actually acknowledge that you're feeling very happy? This show was a series of those moments.

It was a good thing for me.

September 25, 2005, Austin, Texas, Austin City Limits Music Festival This was a weird ACL, in that it was immediately after the Hurricane Rita evacuation, and I was meeting my new boyfriend there. There were a lot of logistical problems with a) getting out of Houston (we rocked that), b) meeting up with my boyfriend (there was a lot of flight changing), and c) dealing with the dust at ACL itself (there was no grass that year to hold it down, and there was tons and tons of wind). Nevertheless, we prevailed and saw all three days of the show AND focused on Wilco's set on the last day.  It was the last set we saw that day after a pretty incredible day of music (including Bob Mould's first live performance in YEARS).

April 23, 2005, Houston, Texas, Verizon Wireless Theater. Ten years ago!  I went to this show by myself and had a BLAST.  Since I was alone, I could wiggle my way closer to the front. The show was plagued early on with technical difficulties, but the energy was awesome.  I ran into three friends from three different parts of my world that night, and we all were riding Wilco highs.

The Wilco show on Saturday night was one of the best concert events I've ever been to. From the moment that they took the stage until the house lights came on, I was riveted. The whole set was tight, despite some major technical difficulties with amps and guitars. They covered a lot of material in the two hours that they played, covering all five albums. What I thought was amazing was that I saw them at ACL in September, and this show was completely different than that set. Contrast to Modest Mouse, who had a nearly identical set in February as their ACL set.

This is probably the show where I transitioned from generally liked their music to true fan.

September 19, 2004, Austin, Texas, Austin City Limits Music Festival.  This was my first Wilco show and my second ACL.  I'd gone to ACL that year meeting up with a bunch of lawyers from my lawyer board as well as Claudia, and there was a lot of complicated scheduling that ensued.  I had all of Wilco's catalog on CD at that point, but I'd never seen them live before.  I was, as I described, mellow but intense.

And so, a decade plus of going to Wilco shows, and I'm not at all sick of them in the slightest.  Last night's show was outstanding, and I love that the band and its fans have such an awesome rapport.  I was reading a review yeterday of a Hozier show at the same venue a few nights before (and another from about a month ago, I didn't know Hozier liked Houston so much). The reviewer lamented that in our ADHD society, audiences, especially in Houston, don't have the capacity to shut the fuck up and listen to the music. This was not the same crowd.  Obviously, Hozier doesn't have the 20 plus years to develop a loyal, music dorky fan base that Wilco has, but I didn't feel the notorious bad, unengaged crowd that Houston has apparently become famous for.  We were on the balcony, and while I saw a few LED screens every now and then, most people were focused more on the show than on their devices.  At most, people were sending out quick media updates or grabing a picture and then putting their phones away.


A wedding quilt

So about two years ago, I went to the Fresh Arts gala. It was at the Winter Street studios, and there was a bridal theme to the event. I wore a bridesmaid's dress that I'd spattered in all sorts of fun colors, and it was all and all an excellent time.

My sister Claudia was there, and after the party was over, she asked me for a ride to the next event. Since Graham was dealing with his DJing equipment, I said sure thing, hop in!  Claudia and a guy named Matthew started walking with me to the car.  I'd met Matthew several years before at a New Year's Eve party at Claudia's house, and we'd been facebook friends for years. But I didn't know him well.  After I dropped them off at a bar, Matthew thanked me profusely, and I smiled at Claudia

Fast forward 18 months, and Claudia and Matthew eloped in Nicaragua.  I'd known, of course, and I'd even suggested that country as a possible place when Matthew started looking. And I was over the moon.  In the intervening time, Claudia and Matthew became Claudia and Matthew.  Everyone who saw them together said "wow, this makes so much sense."  They'd known each other for years, but 2013 seemed to be the right time for them to connect.  By the time they got married, they had been living together for awhile, and D'arcy was as much Claudia's dog as he was Matthew's.  My family adored Matthew, and he got along with every single one of us individually.  I'd never in my life seen Claudia so comfortable, and I was overjoyed that she'd found Matthew.

So I wanted to make them something special for their wedding.  Given their elopement, I didn't have any real time constraints, though I wanted to get it to them within the year. I thought about it for awhile, and then I decided that I was going to have a ton of time to myself in Taos over a week in the summer, and I could make them a quilt.  I'd had so much fun the previous year making a quilt there that I could do the same this year.

In 2013, I'd gone to the quilt show with Olivia and my mom, and I found some lovely fabrics from Africa at a store called Akonye Kena.  These fabrics were from Uganda and they were hand dyed. They had these lovely, rich colors, and I just fell in love with them.  The fabrics came in four tone families: Sunrise - Spring  light tones; Rainy - Summer bright tones; Dry - Autumn/Fall earthy tones; and Sunset - Winter rich tones. I ended up buying two jelly rolls, which had one strip of each of the 40 fabrics, and two yards of the sunset purple fabric.  This fabric felt more like linen than the quilting fabric you usually find in stores, and when I bought it, I had no idea what I was going to do with it.

It was solid instead of printed, but I thought that it was perfect for Claudia and Matthew.  In part because Claudia is a very solid person, with few prints in her wardrobe or home.  And that it was from Africa had another nice connection for them. Claudia minored in African studies in college, and Matthew spent part of his childhood in Liberia.  They went to Morrocco their first Christmas together. While neither had a particular connection to Uganda, I thought they'd like the reference.

As for the pattern, I fell in love with this Simply Woven pattern at the Moda Bake shop.  I liked how busy and intricate it was, and I thought it was something that I could do.  It was also scalable, and I could make a slightly bigger quilt for two people to get under. Also, there's a running joke in the family that Matthew likes shapes.  He is an engineering professor and spends a vast amount of time studying the shape of things.  I thought that all of the shapes in this particular quilt would make him pretty happy.

My only real issue was that I didn't have enough fabric.  I needed at least two more jelly rolls, and I thought I needed more of the purple.  I got in touch with Akonye Kena to order the fabric, but they were out of the purple.  I sent pictures of what I had and a description of what I wanted to do, and they sent me an amazing blue instead.  The blue was kismet. One of the highlights of Claudia and Matthew's trip to Morocco was to Majorelle Garden in Marrakesh, which is owned by Yves St. Laurent.  This particular color blue is very prominent throughout the garden, and it's a striking, memorable color.  That I was able to reference the same color in the quilt was awesome, AND it turned out that the Akoyne Kena fabrics are on a 58" bolt, so I had enough purple.  I could use the blue on the back.

sunset blue751px-Marrakech_Majorelle_Garden_2011

I set off to Taos ready to make my quilt.  This one was much, much more ambitious than the one I made before.  I had tons of cutting and ironing and arranging to do before I could even start. And I also had to think through how much of each color I wanted to highlight.


I spent most of my time in Taos working on the quilt. I did read a little, and I cooked. I went to the farmer's market. The puppies and I took long walks every day.  We went to the mountain one day. I took a spa day another. But most of the time was spent working on the quilt.  While I was working on it, I used a playlist that Claudia had made for some party or another, and it was very random, but very Claudia: Lots of Leonard Cohen. Lots of Nina Simone. Lots of Los Super Seven. Some Tina Turner. Some Pixies. Some Springsteen. The Faint. Cafe Tacuva.

I also thought a lot about my Tia Ana.  A lot of my sewing notions had come from her: after she'd died, her family gave most of her sewing stuff to Olivia. It was way too much for one person, so Olivia gave half of it to me.  Ana was the reason we have Taos.  She'd lived there from 1986 to 1999, and we spent most of the 90s coming up to visit her.

And so I sewed.


If you go to the quilt's album on Flickr, you'll get a better step-by-step rendering of how it was put together.  Suffice to say, I had to sew, then press, then cut, then repeat. Over and over and over again, until I had 56 12.5" squares.  It was challenging in that I hadn't done this in a year, and some of the strips were not quite 2.5" wide.  But I made due and remembered that the quilt should be like their marriage, beautiful as a whole but with imperfections and flaws and wrinkles throughout.  I'm so happy to report that I was able to do all of that in the week that I was in Taos.

When I got back to Houston, I went straight to my parents' house, because I knew there was a big surface I could use to assemble the pieces like a puzzle.


I put them all together, and my quilt top was done less than a month after I started it.


I took some time off to think about how to do the back.  I love, love, loved the blue, but I also wanted something more interesting than the solid color.  I did a search on pinterest for "pieced quilt backs" for inspriation, and thought abut it for a long while. I had a whole jelly roll left over, and I had some of the purple and a few assorted strips. Ultimately, I decided to sew all of the jelly roll strips together side by side in ascending tone of color from darker to lighter, and then I cut those into an 8 inch wide, long long strip.  I sewed all of this over a few episodes of Outlander, and it turned out pretty good.

Finally, I figured out how I wanted to attach the jelly roll stripe to the blue, and I got to sewing the very last bit together.  I ended up loving the back as much as I love the front.

I have a bottom-of-the line Singer sewing machine. If I could quilt a project this big on my machine (which I think is doubtful), it would take me YEARS to get it done.   I spent a few weeks looking at the various maker spaces around town to see if anyone had a long arm machine.  No luck.  I called around, and I found out that the closest quilt shop to me, Tea Time Quilting, has a person who will do long arm quilting for a reasonable fee.  In early December, I took the quilt and the back to her, and I asked her to quilt the project for me.

Last week, she called to tell me that it was done, and Saturday, January 24, I picked it up.  I spent Friday and Saturday and Sunday working on binding the quilt, the very last step, and on Sunday, right before the Superbowl, I gave it to Claudia and Matthew. They both cried. And they lived happily ever after.

IMG_2630 IMG_2633IMG_2631


Day three!

So if you do a 90 minute yoga class one day, the next day's 60 minute yoga class is infinitely better.   Here's hoping that tomorrow's 60 minute class is that much better.

I haven't actually done yoga before Monday in about 10 months.  I had a really awesome practice for a week in New Mexico about 18 months ago, and I decided that I wanted to do more yoga. But that's around the time that I hit a rut, and I didn't really do all that much pretty much worth noting at all.  

Last spring, I checked out the studio I am using now, and I really liked it.  But it's taken me this long to get motivated enough to use it.

When I heard about the 40 days thing, I knew that it was the type of motivation I needed to get going again.  It's structured, it's goal oriented, and it offers no real excuses given that the studio's first class is at 5:15 in the morning and the last one is at 10:00 at night and there are a good 8 to 10 every day in between. It's also less than a mile for my house.  I tried to do it last October, but it had already started.

Signing up was easy.  And the studio has a nice phone app that makes scheduling classes very easy.  We all signed up for teams last week, and a facebook page was set up for our team to support each other and share advice.  There was a conference call on Sunday to go over everything, and we started on Monday.

We're supposed to go to one class a day Monday through Saturday, taking Sunday off.  We're also supposed to meditate every day, starting with 5 minutes the first week and moving up to 30 by the last.  I am using a phone app for that.  We're also supposed to be considering mindful eating, which I'm glad to be back on. And we're supposed to go to a weekly meeting, which I'll do tomoror or Saturday.  There's also a book we're supposed to read. I bought it, but I haven't gotten to it yet.

I'm pretty ok with most of this.  I am not as woo woo as some people, but I certainly don't have a problem with it.

The yoga itself is a vinyasa flow, in a heated but not hot room. The studios are huge, and one of the rooms theoretically can fit 100 people. I'm not sure if I've ever been in it with that many, but a lot of people use this studio.

The only real issue is parking, but when I got there this morning, I didn't have a problem.  I think that most morning people go to the 5:00 or 6:15 class. I go to the 7:00 which is too late for a lot of people, but too early for the people who don't have work committments.  At any rate, that's the main class I've been going to.

I'm supposed to be journaling anyways

I'm doing a 40 days of yoga thing right now, and there's a journaling component. I have been doing some of it on a paper journal I bought for the exercise, but what the hell.  I saw that there was some sort of effort to get back to livejournal by a bunch of friends, and this seems a nice serendipidy.

At any rate, today was day two of yoga, and i'm already in pain.  I know that the pain is good pain, but it's been awhile since I've taken on something like this.  The last time was a barre bootcamp in late 2011.  I have to get up early tomorrow for a class, having finished one less than 12 hours prior. But that's the way my schedule works these days.

I like the classes, and there's a lot of support from my particular yoga studio. Facebook groups, e-mails, a very supportive community within the practice. And I know that since I have so much yoga ahead of me, I can always throw myself into child's pose for a few minutes during every class and no one will think poorly of me.

In other stuff, we're still in the design portion of the house addition. We met with the architect last week, and we're getting closer and closer to a design that will be eventually sent to the city for permiting.  We may wait a little before we start construction, though, because the price of oil dropping means that there've been a lot of layoffs in Houston latley.  And the crazy busy construction boom that's been going on without end in sight over the last five years or so may finally be slowing down.  We may be able to get some decent pricing on some of the construction.

Work is work, and I'm sort of in a state of shock that I've been at the same place for nearly 13 years.  It seems like I just moved back to Houston. But it also seems like I've been here forever.  

Fusilli is still showing, but we may pull him back from that. It's something we need to figure out sooner or later. I like the puli community quite a bit, both locally and globally online.  It's been a really nice support system, and Fusilli and I have bonded quite considerably with the conformation work.  This isn't to say that Celosa and I haven't bonded, but he's very into it in a way she would never be.

At any rate, I have an early morning yoga class to get to.   

Ice Bucket Challenge

In 1992, four or five days after the Rodney King riots in South Central Los Angeles, my friends and I went to South Central to help clean up.  We'd all tried to protest when the verdict was handed out, but we were easily dispersed when the Claremont riot police showed up after our attempt to take over Foothill, which was the closest major road to our college.  Desperate to do SOMETHING we spent a day knee deep in muck and burned out buildings, sweeping streets and otherwise trying to do what we could to help in a situation that was pretty helpless. There were still national guardsmen on the street, and we got turned away more than once by people in military uniforms with machine guns.

After we came back to our dorms, exhausted, dirty, and totally disenchanted with how little we could help when we really, really wanted to, a massive, massive water gun/balloon/any-other-way-of-hurling-water-at-each-other-fight broke out.  Dozens of us were drenched to the skin, and we had a complete blast doing it.

I think the nation is doing the same thing in the wake of Furgeson and Gaza and Syria and Iraq and just all of the fucked upedness of the last week or so, and the Ice Bucket Challenge is the US equivalent to a bunch of college kids throwing water on each other in an attempt to be lighthearted and fun and forget about how awful the rest of the world is and that there's not much we can do about it.

Spring Finals Mix 1996

I've been listening to the Guardians of the Galaxy Awesome Mix Volume One this morning.  It really is awesome.

Like everyone who grew up in the 70s, 80s and 90s, I made tapes as well.

It started when I was really young, taping songs I liked off of the radio.  The beginning would always be cut off, unless the DJ announced that he or she was going to play it beforehand and I had some heads up that the song was coming.  The end may or may not be faded into another song or abruptly cut off as the DJ started talking over it.   Mostly Duran Duran got taped, but there were tons of other songs as well.  When I was really young, I generally listened to top 40 pop on whatever call letters Q-zoo had, though for some reason, I got hooked on Psychedelic Sundays on KLOL at a fairly young age. When I got older, I moved over to the hard rock on KLOL. As far as the early mixes go, there wasn't any sort of cohesion at all in the playlist selection.  The ordering was whatever order I happened to tape something.  VHS tapes were similar; a friend taped various movies off of HBO for us, and I remember one particular tape had Empire Strikes Back and the Breakfast Club on it.

Like Peter Quill, I had a walkman with my music on it.  Mine was the yellow sports version, with a "water tight" seal.  At some point, someone gave me a discman, but it wasn't as portable, because it would skip if it was moved even a fraction of an inch. I think I still have it in a box somewhere.  But that walkman, it was a workhorse.  Say what you will about Sony, they made excellent products in the 80s and 90s.*  That walkman went everywhere with me, and my dad had sharpied my name and phone number on the inside, just in case it ever went missing. It never did.

Do BMG and Columbia House exist anymore?  I'm sure I got six tapes for a penny (plus shipping and handling and a commitment to buy more and ruined credit at a tender age) dozens of times over. I remember that the "I Love Rock And Roll" tape by Joan Jett and the Blackhearts was the first tape I ever bought.  But I had tons more.  And I listened to so much music.  At some point in the 80s, I started moving over to CDs, and I amassed quite a collection of music.  Again, thanks in large part to BMG and Columbia House.

When I was in college, I started making mix tapes with purpose.  They were time consuming and meticulous.  I had a boom box that was dual cassette AND CD, so I could make tapes off of tapes and CDs.  There was a lot more thought put into them than the early tapes.  I was terrified of my CDs being stolen, so I never put them in much of a carrying case.  But I could always re-make tapes.  The walkman, after being dropped dozens of times, died shortly after I came back from England in the mid 90s.  I think it made my first semester or two of law school, but there's only so much abuse a device can take.

But it was in law school that the mix tapes turned into art.  It was a procrastination tool to the extreme. Every finals, I HAD to make a mix tape.  I'd write down the songs, their times and the time left on the tape.  I'd listen to the whole thing over and over again for cohesion and flow and overall completeness. Each side of the tape had to be its own complete work, but it had to flow with the other side as well.  Relampago often helped me with these projects, since my stereo was near the floor, and I was sitting for hours there pulling music out of the CD racks and looking for the right songs.  He was as much of a music critic as Celosa is now with Graham.  I'd write down all of the songs on the label inside the cassette, and I kept most of the legal pads where I constructed the mix.   I had to finish it before finals were over, but usually, it was done well before then.  I'd usually study with the mix playing.

Most of the mixes were kept in the car for the most part, first in the Suburban, then in my Explorer.  I had a travelling case that held something like 40 or so tapes, and it sat on the floor in front of the middle console.  But sometimes I'd bring them inside to listen to.  Most of the tapes were 47 minutes a side, but some were a 60 minutes.  Some of the mixes were excellent, favorites that I still consider pretty good collections of music.  Others were more of a time and place indicator, and listening to them would instantly remind me of that period of my life and whatever was going on then. To this day, there are some songs that I automatically assume will come after others, because I heard that song ordering so many times on the mixes.

At some point in the late 90s, CD-RWs came out, and I thought about making CD mixes. They were MUCH more time consuming on the technical side, and slightly more difficult to catch for cohesion, because the song wasn't playing all the way through as the mix was made.  After the loooooooooong time it took to rip the song from a CD onto the computer, I just had to order the music in the way I thought would work, and it'd start writing. I wasn't listening throughout the selection and insertion process like I was with the tapes.  In making the tapes, I'd have an idea of where the mix was going, but sometimes it didn't work when I heard one song followed by the next.  There, I could just rewind and find another song that worked better.  With CDs, I'd have to rewrite the whole thing.  I made a few, CDs early on, but I preferred the tapes.

In late August of 1999, while I was in Washington DC for about six weeks looking for work after law school, someone broke into the Explorer and stole a pair of rollerblades that was in the back seat. And they stole all of the mix tapes.  All of them.  I still think about it every now and then.  Who steals mixtapes? They mean absolutely NOTHING to anyone but the person who made them and maybe one or two other people.  The tapes themselves aren't worth anything.  But they mean a lot to the people who owned them.  A year or so after that, someone else broke into my car and stole the stereo.  Its replacement did not have a tapedeck, because I didn't have any tapes anymore and I was unlikely to ever have them again.

Fortunately, I'm a packrat.   I still had most of the legal pads where I plotted out the mixtapes.  And I embarked on a two year project to reconstruct them onto CD.  Technology improved, though it still seemed like the ripping process was still painful.  And in about two years, mainly when I was in Berkeley, I was able to reconstruct most of them onto CD.  I even made a few mixes for CD only, mainly road trip mixes (Taos Roadtrip 2001 is a particular favorite).  The CDs, like their tape predecessors before them, lived in my car in a carrying case until the Explorer crash in 2011.  I'm not quite sure what happened to them after that.  Their track listings are backed up on my computer.

iTunes came out in the mid-00s, and in 2005, I embarked on the great CD ripping project. All of my music is digital now.  I put all of my CDs away in 2012 during the kitchen renovation, and I can't believe I'm typing that I'm vaguely considering putting them in the family garage sale we're having in a few weeks.  I consider them backups now.

All of the surviving mixes have been turned into iTunes playlists.  They've made it across three computers and are backed up on two external hard drives.  I listen to them every now and then when I'm feeling nostalgic.

I still make playlists. Most of them are for exercise, but sometimes for long drives as well.  But they seem different somehow. Dragging and dropping a piece of music into a playlist is so effortless. I don't have to worry about how much time is left.  I usually do playlists on "shuffle" so song order isn't all that important.  It's easy to skip to the next song if I don't feel like listening to whatever comes up.  There isn't generally a narrative or theme, though some of them do have that sense of time and place that the original playlists did.  I'm headed on a road trip next week, so I'm certain I'll be putting some music together for it.  And maybe, for old times sake, I'll draw out the mix making process to really make it special.  

*Side note: I still have the Dream Machine Cube (third one down on the list) next to my bed.  It keeps perfect time (unlike the HD clock radio I got a few years ago), and until I got my ipad three years ago, I used it as my alarm. Thing has been next to my bed from 1986ish to 2014.  I have no intention whatsoever of replacing it.

So for a very long time now, going on a decade, I've been harboring the fantasy of an addition to the house.  This fantasy has taken many shapes over the years. I've gone to countless open houses of other bungalows to see what others have done. I've spent a lot of time with tape measures and graph paper. I've talked over a bottle of wine with my (former) architect brother.  (He's still my brother.) I talked to my friend Buttery about putting shipping containers in the back yard.  I dragged my husband nee fiance nee boyfriend through dozens of home improvement websites.   I messed around with an excel spreadsheet at first and then an online site called floorplanner.com.

And there have been substantial improvements, starting with the disco fireplace project, the kitchen remodel extravaganza, and then the recent windows upgrade. But we still have a two bedroom, one bathroom house.  Now with a more funky layout due to closing off a door during the kitchen renovation.

But we don't have that much more space.  Last year, when I got pregnant, we really realized that while the 1940 census reported three adults and two children living in our house, a baby and a single bathroom was going to be extremely cramped.  Also last year, I read an article about some Houston architects, and Graham and I really liked one of the featured designers.  We thought that the excel/floorplanner design that we'd sort of come up with would work with his style, and we started stalking him on his websites and social media.  In September, while I was at a job interview in another city, Graham talked to the architect to determine what steps we need.  First, we'd need financing.

Two and a half years ago, we refinanced the house, and we got an idea of how much it was worth.  But about 6 months ago, Noir's house, which is right across the street from ours, sold at a substantially higher number than the appraisal in 2011.  We weren't shocked, as real estate prices have been going steadily up in our neighborhood at an alarming rate based on the open houses we've seen. But the higher number meant that it was extremely likely that we had enough equity in the house to actually do something towards the addition.

So we decided that after our taxes were done this year, we'd see how much of a HELOC we could get.  I started that process a few weeks ago, and on Tuesday we found out we were approved. We closed this afternoon.
rough design

So, as soon as we get the funds, we'll start making appointments with designers and see what we can do with the money we now have.  I suspect that the next few months are going to be extremely stressful, but ridiculously exciting.  I'll get a library, Graham will get a studio.  We'll have plenty of space for a baby and guests and even a parent if it comes down to needing to house family.  I suspect that the design will change several dozen times over the next few months. But we're terribly excited that we can stay where we are but get more space. Storage! More bathrooms!  A real closet! Space for art! An uncluttered living / dining room.  And the damned washer and dryer will finally have a home.

Weekend love

I turned 41 years old on Friday.

It's not a particularly noteworthy birthday, and being in mid-May, like it always is, my birthday tends to be surrounded by tons of other events.  My various family members were scattered, so Graham and I chose to have a quiet dinner out.  Originally, Graham was supposed to work, but the event got moved to another night, so the evening was ours to do with as we wished.

We went to the Backstreet Cafe. I'd chosen that particular restaurant because it was featuring a seasonal artichoke menu when I made the reservation, and artichokes are among my most favorite foods. Sadly, they'd changed to a tomato menu by the time we got there. Still, I ordered a special halibut in artichoke sauce and fried green tomatoes with crab, so I was able to get some of my beloved artichokes.  It was slightly disappointing, as that was the only thing I'd really planned for my birthday, but I splurged on one of my favorite Zinfandels, and I was with Graham in a nice restaurant, so it was ok.

Afterwards, we went to get ice cream and see Godzilla. A perfect 'stina movie. Lots of sight gags and opportunities for me to jump.  I was sadly lacking in much Godzilla background, so I went in pretty blind, aside from knowing some of the very basic facts.  We enjoyed the hell out of ourselves, and it was the first time in recent memory that we actually saw a movie the day it opened. Pleasurable, pleasurable evening.

The next day was spa day for me and the puppies. I spent two hours getting a pedicure and then my hair cut. And afterwards, we took the pooches to the dog washing place for a bath.  It was a desperately needed bath, though Fusilli was a pain in the butt about it.  He actually doesn't mind baths in and of themselves. He minds that Celosa is getting extra special attention by whoever is bathing her (in this case Graham), and he's not RIGHT there to supervise.  He spends the whole bath whining about it and pulling to get closer to her.  It's exhausting.

Later, we met my sister and her boyfriend on the lawn of the Menil and enjoyed watching the city celebrate one of the last non-hot weekends of the year.

Sunday, we lounged around the house a bit, getting the tent ready for our Flipside. And then we decided to go to the beach.  Graham is decidedly not a beach person. And strangely, I don't have that many memories of going to the beach with my family. But I used to go to Galveston all the time with my best friend and her family when we were kids. We'd spend hours there, playing in the surf, walking up and down the beach, getting burnt.  Since we were both pretty good swimmers, no one particularly worried about us in the water, and we were more or less on our own for hours at a time.  Her mom would pack sandwiches from Antones for us to eat at lunch, and we'd get Baskin Robbins ice cream on the way home.  In later years we'd spend time on the other side of the island, in Galveston Bay, at sailing camp.  Almost all of my Galveston related memories are good ones.

Graham had been to Galveston a few times, but only to to the town side, and we never went near the water. As a town full of history, it's right up Graham's alley.  Lots of old buildings, lots of neat things that happened in them. The last time we went, in February, I think, we ate at Guido's, which has been open around 100 years.

This time, we went past the Seawall, and we turned on the first public access we could find.  I normally go past the state park, but since we weren't planning on sticking around for very long, I figured less time driving and more time on the beach itself.

The beach we found was a little ghetto.  Cars were parked directly on the beach, and the seaweed was piled so high that there wasn't any sand between the cars and the water.  Music was blasting from competing sound systems, and people were grilling meat stuffs, drinking beer, playing ball, playing in the sand.  A few solo cup sand castles were in mid-construction, and there was some first class flirting going on between girls in bikinis and boys pretending not to notice.  It wasn't yet so hot that you felt like you were baking, and the water hadn't taken that bathwater temperature that it usually has in mid-summer.  It was even a pretty green-blue rather than that green-brown that a lot of people associate with Galveston.

Graham and I took our blanket and walked about a half mile up the beach, away from the cars and the crowds and the flirting. We found a space past the parking but before one of the first subdivisions of massive beach houses that are just waiting for the next hurricane to blow them away.  And we laid out our blanket and continued what we'd been up to for most of this idyllic weekend. We talked.

It's so nice to be with someone with whom I have a such good rapport.  We just enjoy each other's company so much that it doesn't really matter if we're in a romantic restaurant or a silly monster movie or domestic chores of washing our dogs or with my family or stuck in traffic or alone on a sandy beach on a perfect spring/summer day. We continue conversations until we can't talk anymore, and then we start new ones.  If Graham had chosen how we were going to spend our weekend, he probably wouldn't have put a trip to the beach on there. But we could have been anywhere and still had an excellent, excellent time.

We hung out on the beach for about an hour or so, and after dipping our toes in the water, we walked back to the car, laughing at the kids and telling each other stories of when we were kids. We got stuck in the sand getting out, but some helpful strangers pushed us out again.  Nothing really was going to mar our weekend.  Our trip home was relatively uneventful, aside from a quick trip to Buc-Ees, and witnessing a very slow moving rear-ending.  And then, after a quick stop at the grocery store, we headed home to Fusilli and Celosa, who told us they would have liked the beach very much.

It was a great way to start the new year.


So I was sort of reunited with an old friend yesterday.

Almost a decade ago, an exhibit opened at the Museum of Fine Arts called Inverted Utopias.  It was an AMAZING exhibition on avant-garde art in Latin America that hadn't really gotten proper attention in the United States. There was art there that was so much more cutting edge and sophisticated than the contemporaneous stuff going on in Europe. And it was comprehensive. The exhibition took over the entire Law building, and I'm sure that Mari-Carmen Ramirez, the curator, could have filled another building if she'd had the space.   I probably went to the exhibition at least five or six times while it was up, and I was blown away each time.  I loved it.

My favorite part of the exhibition, though, was the Soto statue out in front of the Law building.  This is what I said about it in 2004:

Anyhow, for the exhibition, there's a sculpture outside of the museum. It's a series rows and rows of thin yellow plastic tubes hanging about 20 feet or so from some sort of rack (I'm going to have to go and take a picture to explain it better). What's really cool about it is that every single time I pass by, people are playing in the sculpture. Old people, kids, young people, couples, families. People walk through it, letting the strands of tubing follow them. Or they stand there and sway. The sculpture moves with the people. What I love about it is that it's interactive art. There are quite a few pieces in this particular exhibit that encourage interaction, and there are some pieces where viewers have no idea that they have goofy looking smiles on their faces while they're interacting with the art. I LOVE this exhibit. I'm probably going to go see just that part of it over my lunch break.

The sculpture was one of several in different colors, called Penetrable in Yellow.  The sculpture stayed in place for over a year, well after the rest of the exhibition closed.  I saw the sculpture nearly every   day, since I pass the museum going to and from work.  Almost every time I saw it, someone was interacting with it.  I loved it more and more every time I saw it.  These are photos I took of the sculpture in 2004 with Relampago and Crianza.

I had heard that the artist was negotiating with the museum for the purchase of the statue as part of its permanent collection, but he died before negotiations were completed. I was devastated when the statue went away, but I would hear about it popping up in other cities, like at LACMA in LA, and I loved hearing about the reactions to the sculpture.  Still, I missed it terribly.  I remember telling someone back in 2004 or 2005 that inside the sculpture would be a PERFECT place to propose to me, because I couldn't imagine being happier than inside of it.

I think I was wrong, though, about the purchase.  Ten years later, the Museum has brought another Penetrable to Houston. And this one is probably six or seven times the size of the last one.  It takes the entirety of Cullinan Hall, and it's AMAZING.  It's site specific, and the museum owns it.  They had to reinforce the roof to hold something like 7 tons of steel.  And it's MAGICAL.  I think it opened sometime last week, and as soon as I heard about it, I told my family that we have to go.  It's going to be up until September 1, but apparently it's coming back again and again, especially since it was made just for us.    If you watch the brief video above, you can learn a little about how it was commissioned and how it was done.  This is the only Penetrable that is intended for indoors, and it has an extra element of color.  The others were solid, but this one has a gradation of yellow on top of clear tube that's just really cool. It sort of looks like an orb of color floating inside the sculpture, and when you're closer (or inside) it almost feels like a bright yellow mist.  The color starts at about 8 or so feet when you're in the dead center of the sculpture, and it's higher and higher as you go out.  The grid above is also similar to the out door version, but it's sooooo much higher.  You can't see daylight when you look up, like you can with the others, but that's perfectly ok.

So yesterday, before we started cooking for mother's day. My mom, my dad, Olivia and a friend of hers walked over to the museum to play in the sculpture.   We were in there for 45 minutes and it was glorious.  I deliberately didn't bring my camera, because I knew that I'd be back, and I knew that I just wanted to experience the joy of the sculpture without feeling the need to document it.  When I got to the museum, I practically ran to get to it. And there were tons of people already interacting with it.  Kids, adults, all sorts of mixes of race and ethnicity and language were inside and just loving it.  One kid was being led through with her eyes closed so she could experience it just from a touch perspective. Another's parent would gather up an armful of strands and then release them all at once on his kid, who giggled with excitement.  A little girl, who couldn't have been more than five years old, ran out of the sculpture towards me and my mom, gave us a massive smile, and then turned around and dove back in.  I stood next to a black man, dressed as if he'd come from a very fancy church, who just kept saying, "I need to get one of these."  Some elderly Indian women in saris skirted the edges.  And I heard at least three or four languages.  Olivia and I developed a sort of OCD for untangling cords that clumped together.  This mainly happened on the edges of the sculpture, I assume because they didn't have other cords holding them in their place.  We sort of felt sorry for the guards who had to make sure that people don't hurt it.  That's probably much easier with a painting that no one touches than it is a sculpture that is designed to be a tactile experience.  Still, I never saw anyone pulling too hard or hanging from the cords, and I suspect they're pretty sturdy.

I could have stayed there another hour and been perfectly happy.  My father is a huge Cubism fan, and there's also a Braque exhibition going on in the same hall. He was sort of taken aback that Liv and I didn't want to leave the Soto to go look at other art.  But we were just having a great time with the sculpture.

About the time that the sculpture left Houston, I got into an argument with someone about public art. The argument revolved around the Gates Installation that Christo and Jeanne-Claude put up for a week and a half in New York. In brief, my adversary was very dismissive of the piece, not because of what she saw, but because what she read that critics had said about it.   It's a little bit out of context, but I said this:

But installations are important. Public art is important. And I firmly believe that art makes the world a better place.

I believe that Dan Havel and Dean Ruck's Inversion piece made the city of Houston a better place for the four months that it was up.

I believe that it is a national tragedy for the country of Venezuela that the public art pieces of Jesus-Rafael Soto have been destroyed under the regime of Hugo Chavez.

I believe that large scale public installations help make art accessible to more people, make art something that can be enjoyed or rejected by everyone. I believe that your disdainful opinion of the Cristo is evidence of that interaction.

I believe that support needs to go to people like Regina Silvera, William Pope L., Andrea Zittel, The Art Guys, and anyone else who does installations.

. . .

I think that you don't give working stiffs enough credit, especially since most artists ARE working stiffs. People react to art. Good or bad. And they don't necessarily need anyone to tell them that it's good or bad or that they should feel a certain way about the piece. Art is interactive with the audience. Sometimes, of course, having more information about the piece can help the viewer understand the artist's perspective, but for the most part, the viewer's own prejudices, history, and preferences will most influence his or her reaction to a piece.

Installation art, in my opinion, is singularly unique in that it tends to be temporary, it tends to be fairly large and it tends to be site specific. The short duration, the scale and the location add to impact it has on the audience. These are only additional elements that the audience has to process in appreciating a piece of art, but I think that they're interesting. Installation art is obviously not your cup of tea, but it seems to me that your criticism has been of the criticism and not of the piece itself.

The argument ended civilly, and I still believe all of these things. A piece like the one that we in Houston get to play with in the next four months is so engaging, depends so much on the audience's experiences and memories and senses, and can be enjoyed by so many people.  And while I share the man's opinion that I need to get one of these, I'm so glad that we all get one of these for a little while. And then we'll get it again and again and again.

I'm sure I'll be going back soon.  And I'll take my husband. And probably my camera. And I'll be happy. 

Windows to my soul

As I type, the last of 13 windows is being installed in my house.   They're double pane vinyl windows that are replacing wooden frame single panes that were installed 85 years ago.  It's been eerily quiet in the rooms that have already had the panes replaced.

In a way, my house is changing a bit. The old windows were the only color on an otherwise white house, and the new windows are white. Some trim has to be pained, and I'm thinking a nice cheery yellow or other bright color might be in order.  That decision will be made this weekend at Home Depot.  I'm told that I make paint color decisions, but I'm sure Graham will have opinions when push comes to shove.

This is the last major thing that is happening inside the house before the renovation.  We're hopeful that will happen in the next six months, and we're pretty excited about it.  We went on a home tour last month that featured additions, and the architect we've been thinking about using had a home featured in the tour. It's pretty exciting to think about, though it's also quite daunting.  I started calling around the banks this week to see what we need to do about financing.  We haven't started the application, but don't think it will be that time consuming.  I'm of course in pins and needles over the whole thing, but I also have elaborate fantasies about storage space and a library all of my own.   

But the windows! They're quite lovely, and I think that this was a good thing for a lot of reasons. Heating and cooling will be cheaper.  The aforementioned quiet. And we can OPEN them!   Of course, we did this later than we should have to take advantage of open window weather. But there will be a few days in May that we'll be able to have them open.  It will be a lovely, lovely way to live.        

Spring is in the air

For us, it was a long winter. We had several cold fronts come through, and it never really eased up until late February, into March.  The azaleas were two weeks late in blooming. My tulips didn't start popping up until a week or so ago. Pollen counts are just starting to get obnoxious.  For a city unused to an extra season (generally, it's summer or not-summer), it took a bit of getting used to.

But four weeks ago, we were able to pull out most of the dead stuff from the yard, right before the last major cold front of the year came through. Three weeks ago, we were able to go to the garden center and find the annuals and vegetables and other assorted items we'd need for the garden: herbs, dianthus, begonias, gladiolus bulbs, eggplant, jalapenos, tomatoes, watermelon and seedums.  And we replaced the hammock!    We took a bit of a break to show Fusilli in the middle of the month, but last weekend, I supplemented the items in the back yard with even more plants: ranunculus, calla lillies, more basil, an olive tree and a cardoon.  This weekend, Graham added the finishing touches, resetting the brick edging around the yard.

It's beautiful here now. All of the flowers are in bloom, here and in the country.  I drove to San Antonio earlier in the month, and the bluebonnets were just coming up. When I went to the ranch on Friday, though, they were everywhere, and some were growing not more than a quarter mile from the ranch.  Olivia and I took the pooches to the patch for a photo shoot.

Our motivation, and it's sort of a chicken-egg thing on what drove what, is that we want to throw another dinner party in the back yard.  Three years ago, we had the timpano party in the back yard and it was a smashing success.   The next year we were doing wedding and kitchen renovations.  And the year after that, we had a lot of that heavel going on.  Since we're likely renovating the back of the house in the next six months, this is probably the best time to do it if we're going to make this happen anytime in the next few years.

We're pretty certain that this time around we're going to do an Argentinian style asado, based off of the book The Seven Fires. This is the basic description of the meal from the book and here is another one from a magazine, though I suspect we'll mess around with it a bit.  As much as Graham would love to build a massive fire pit in the back yard, I suspect we'll more likely use the grill and the oven for most of the cooking, though we do have a small fire pit we can use for some things.  I'm itching to try my hand at some Argentinian empanadas, and I made some excellent maduros a few nights ago for practice.  We'll get copious amounts of Brazilian cheese bread. And we'll make tons of salads. We'll have enough chimicurri sauce to drizzle over a small rhinoceros. And needless to say, we'll be practically overflowing with grilled meats.

Our hope is to do this sometime this April, while the yard is nice and before it gets too hot. We're having the windows in the house replaced, though, at some point in the next two weeks, so the timing will depend on how well that goes.

It's going to be tons of fun, though.  


'stina is, surprisingly enough, a lawyer from Houston, Texas who rambles about quite a number of things.

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June 2017

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