I needed a vacation. I’ve been needing one for quite sometime, but it took a bit of time, planning, impromptu not planning, and selfishness to make it happen.
I went to Dallas for a few days, with the nervous approval of my husband, left my daughter with my mother; where I ate, drank, and was merry. And got a tattoo.
The tattoo occurred toward the end, but was the plan from the beginning.
It went a bit like this…
We didn’t book a hotel. It’s Dallas. It was Tuesday. We thought we’d find one. And we did. About ten hotels later. Note to self, book a hotel no matter how silly your destination. I truly never believed this until this trip. I very much enjoyed the fact that in the last ten years, if I wanted a hotel and was somewhere, I just arrived and walked in. Then again, I haven’t gotten out much in the last ten years.
Post Hotel Finding: My old college chums and my best friend since high school all crashed into one group and found ourselves at Goodfriend, a bar and grill with amazing fried pickles and ghost ranch, on the first evening. There I discovered what I shall now always call fancy whiskey, although it’s actually a Classic Whiskey Sour. This is not your Chili’s or dive bar Whiskey with sweet and sour – this involves egg whites and shaking and frothy latte like smoothness and basically heaven in a cup of whiskey. This is also where we discovered that there was whiskey in the water. Not literally, we just found it very easy to become happily plastered there. Props to Matt, the owner, who is amazing. And to the bartender who got me hooked on those Classic Whiskey Sours.
Moving on… The Double Wide. Yes, that is the name of a bar. Complete with toilet bowls serving as planters that provide extra seating. I laughed, I cried, I was in a ridiculous bar with an appropriately fitting name, and strange men trying to talk to my friends who handled them much better than I would. My response would have been “Go AWAY.” But my friends are way more classy than I am and found themselves saying, “It’s been nice talking to you, but you’re crashing girls night.”
Wednesday, we got pedicures and ate Mexican food. Margaritas, bookstores (The Lucky Dog), lots of coffee, a Ton’s Mongolian Grill Reunion dinner at 7:30 with even more college chums. More bars – Bowen House (way overpriced but I got some more whiskey in) and The Ginger Man (fun beer). It was good to see old friends.
Thursday morning involved Cultivar Coffee and the most delicious vanilla latte I ever had. There was a little hole in the wall taco joint across from it on Peavy called El Ranchito. If I lived in that neighborhood, that’s where all my money would be going… to $1.50 homemade breakfast tacos.
And finally, some shopping, lunch and coffee, another bar visit (The Libertine) where I refrained because I was about to get inked, I found myself at Death and Glory Tattoo. Where a very personable guy named Cole Alexander Davis was able to put Jane Austen’s words and handwriting on my arm forever.
“I am half agony, half hope.”
It was a shockingly cozy experience. My last tattoo happened in a place that felt very clinical to me. The guy was nice, but I don’t remember his name. Here, I realized why people find the practice so addicting. It’s like finding a bar you love, or a coffeehouse you can’t live without. It’s not just about the finished product, or the drinks being made properly, it is very much about ambiance and whether or not you have managed to find a place that seems like home away from home. They have a delightful front porch and a cat that lurked but didn’t touch me. I could have stayed there for hours after, but we had more drinking to do.
One of the guys there said that people tend to tell them their whole life story. They know everyone’s business because they are sort of treated like bartenders and shrinks. I can see that. I was too awkward to take advantage of that ambiance, but I definitely loved it.
My lovely JJ got a tattoo with me. It is also a literary reference to a poem that was read at her wedding. “And then this moment…” This is us, back at Goodfriend, being incandescently happy.
Friday… we had more tacos and Cultivar. We visited the Black Forest Cafe and the Flagship Half Price Books. We drove the many miles home, mostly listening to oldies.
Thanks for my trip, Danielle. I know it was stressful, but it was also lovely.
Since moving away from our beloved Timberlane Estates, we’ve been in dire need for nature. Especially with this winter we just had – harsher than I remember winter being – wet, muddy, colder sooner, and nowhere cozy to defrost. Temporary living arrangements have caused us to leave the comfort of having a nearly 1000 square foot library just down the hall from our beds. We also don’t have a fireplace here. It’s been a long time since I lived without a fireplace. But the change is good, it’s helped us redefine necessities, discover the beauty of new public libraries we hadn’t yet visited, save money for the land and dream home we want, and teach our daughter lessons she might have otherwise missed.
We’ve also discovered the Lake Houston Wilderness State Park. We went from 100+ acres of trails and exploration that we knew like the back of our hands to not having anything most of the winter, to Lo! And Behold! 4700+ acres of trails and wilderness closer than we could have ever imagined. Ask and ye shall receive. Take a ride down the highway and pay attention to those marvelous brown signs!
It costs $3 per adult to get in, kids under 13 and senior citizens are free. OR (and this is what we’ve done) it’s $25 for a year pass for an adult and three adult guests; basically, a family pass.
We’ve been back about every other day since we’ve discovered it. We walk, tromp, and read. We snack and picnic, we play in the creek, we stare at the trees. We read all the sign posts and discover new plants we’ve never heard of. We soak up vitamin D and work our muscles.
To the left you’ll see a Hercules’ Club. We were pretty excited about this discovery and did a mini-research project on it when we got home.
In all this much needed tromping and new library resources at my fingertips, I stumbled across a Guide to Wild Foods and Useful Plants by a fellow named Nyerges. It isn’t the best resource for Texans, only a few plants were ones I recognized, but if you hail from California then it’s right up your alley. Either way, if you’re in the foraging scene, this book is a great read. Nyerges personalizes a lot of his foraging facts with anecdotes of how he has confirmed or debunked various myths, legends, and general assumptions for certain plants. My favorite was a bit about the Native Americans and poison oak – eat the young, red leaves and you’ll be immune to the rash for the rest of the season/year. The science of immunizing oneself at its finest. Already this is how we tackle seasonal allergies when it comes to pollen, it would not have occurred to me that there is a practical pre-remedy for poison oak.
PRESENTS. . .
A Cover Reveal
by Kris Thompson
Say your favourite book, author, song, film, and object beginning with a particular letter. And that letter will be randomly assigned to you by me, via random.org. If you’d like to join in, comment in the comment section and I’ll tell you your letter! (And then, of course, the chain can keep going on your blog.)
From So Many Books I was issued the letter K. After a day spent at the beach, I think I have made my final decisions.
Kung Fu : History, Philosophy, & Technique.
I grew up in a Kung Fu Studio. I have a third degree black belt and can rank my own students. For my very first black belt test I had to write a thesis meets book report on David Chow’s book and its content. I have never thought the assignment frivolous or regretted the requirement. It’s a great book. It’s an important book. I make my own students read it as well. In fact, I think my copy is on loan to a student right now. Even if you aren’t a Kung Fu student, even if you’re knee deep into another style, even if you’ve never pursued any martial art in your life – this book is a valuable piece of history and helps explain a lot of those FAQs that arise when someone finds out you do Kung Fu. It’s rich as well as concise and informative. And leaps and bounds a better read than Kite Runner or Krakatoa – which are both excellent books.
On this I have been so torn. Kingsolver or Kafka? Kafka? Kingsolver? I couldn’t decide. Metamorphosis is one of my favorite books of all time. I have read it repeatedly. It made the list of books that have changed my life. But I have to say, Barbara Kingsolver has won my heart. The Poisonwood Bible was beautiful and epic. The Lacuna a fascinating concept. I have almost all her books waiting on my shelf to be read and I find myself picking her up sparingly, not wanting to waste the moment of reading something of hers for the first time, saving her like I did my virginity.
I could go old school with Roberta Flack’s “Killing Me Softly,” but although I love belting that song with my Alto-ness, I choose “Sixpence None the Richer’s Kiss Me.” It’s not even because it’s about sweet kissing, which I love. It’s all that bearded barley and green, green grass. It’s frolicking and tree houses and treasure maps. And the 90’s. Written and performed by a group who references C.S. Lewis in their band name.
I’m a sucker for all things King Arthur. From the old Sam Neil movie “Merlin,” to Jamie Campbell Bower’s show “Camelot.” I picked up all of Rosalind Miles’ Guinevere series, just because they are King Arthur related and have John William Waterhouse paintings on the front cover. The Lady of Shalott hangs in my living room over the fireplace. Naturally, then, I’m choosing “King Arthur” for my K film. More specifically, the version featuring Clive Owen and Keira Knightly. I thought it was brilliantly done, I love that Guinevere is a warrior and not just a lady in distress, and the fight scenes are awesome. Of course, part of my preference for this version is that Horatio Hornblower (ahem, I mean, Ioan Gruffud) plays Lancelot.
Kaleidoscopes are cool. But I’m going to be cliche on this one and go with Kite. Mostly because I have a three year old who is fascinated by them, but partially because I can’t see one without singing, “Let’s Go Fly a Kite” from Mary Poppins. Sometimes in public. With feeling. At the top of my lungs. I try to tell myself it’s because every choir girl has an inner Dick Van Dyke, but I’m not sure the rest of the world agrees with me.
Leave me a comment to keep this fun blog prompt going.
I wrote an article for a website that didn’t get used. It happens sometimes, no biggie. But this particular article is one that I did a great deal of researching before I wrote and actually talked to professionals that I know personally. So, I want to share the blogger’s version (which means I’ve dressed it down and added my two cents where I otherwise would have held my tongue a bit).
The Skinny on Landscaping and Outdoor Projects
(DIY vs. The Contractor on the most common outdoor ventures)
Everyone loves a good do it yourself project. Pinterest and the TLC channel have made them more popular than ever. Home Depot and Lowe’s are certainly your helpful neighborhood DIY Home Project instigators and dare I mention the keeping up with the Joneses mentality amidst a major recession.
However, there are projects that are just not do it yourself friendly and with all the handy books, websites, and television channels, it’s hard to know which are for you and which warrant a good old fashioned contractor – especially when we’re dealing with our lawn and garden.
Re-Sodding Your Grass
Landscaping is the most commonly chosen as a do it yourself renovation. Ironically, people hire companies to mow their lawns, weed their gardens, and trim their hedges, but when it comes to things like re-sodding their grass, more often than not, they opt to do it themselves.
Despite the process being fairly simple, though, most landscapers will encourage customers (and friends) to hire out a company. You might assume it is so they can get more business, but they are honestly advising this in your best interest. A landscaper can get grass at a discounted rate, already has the equipment on hand, and are experienced and efficient.
Tito Ortega of Ortega Lawn Care recommends calling your local landscaper for any grass project
“over a full pallet. For what someone pays for a pallet of grass, soil, and renting tools they don’t have, I charge more or less the same and all they have to do is pick up the phone. And I provide a warranty, plus informational packets on how to care for it properly.”
I had his help when I resod my own lawn after an extensive plumbing project in my front yard and can vouch for his sentiments. The process is easy, sure, but we still had to rent tools. I had to pay regular Joe Schmo prices for my grass – instead of fabulous bulk prices that businesses have access to. Over all I felt all sorts of useful, my grass is beautiful, but I didn’t really save any money by doing it myself.
Pruning Trees and Shrubs
A lot of people prune their own trees and shrubs, but Gardener Joe in Washington State of PangeaGardenscapes.com encourages tree owners to call a professional. Many do-it-yourself sites, such as http://www.diyornot.com, propose the opposite, reporting that even after you purchase the sheers and appropriate tools you’ll still save 56% on just the first pruning.
Yet, Gardener Joe has some advice concerning that:
“Many people try to keep plants small which never works. A plant is programmed to grow to a mature height. Many times people buy a plant not understanding the maturity of said plant. Also topping a tree and some shrubs are a no-no. I belong to plant amnesty and if you check out plant amnesty.org it has many examples of different plants. So in my business I offer garden coaching services. I show how to prune and why. As well as my garden class I give once a month at our local library.”
So if you are going to trim your own trees and shrubs, do the research and know your plant. Otherwise, spend the extra dime to call a professional who can teach you about what you have in your yard so you can help your plants live long, healthy lives for the expense you’ve already put into having them there in the first place. Many people prematurely kill off plants that would have lasted for generations by cutting them back too far and not giving them the appropriate room to grow. Homeowners who plan to stay in the same place for thirty plus years should be very conscientious of this issue, otherwise they’ll find themselves spending thousands more over the lifetime of the property than they would if they spent a little bit up front consulting someone. For more tips, follow Joe’s Facebook Page.
We trim our own shrubs, but not our own trees. The danger factor isn’t worth the risk when you’re talking about limbs falling from the heavens onto things like your car or the roof of your house. Even with the shrubs, I see Gardener Joe’s point. We did some research into ours and learned how to take care of the shrubs we inherited with our house – when the old owners came by for a visit they gasped, “We could never get them to bloom like that when we were here.” According to a lot of professional landscapers and truly green thumb kind of people, many people think they are over or under watering when really they are trimming the hedges incorrectly. Save yourself the cost of new plants every few years and have a professional teach you how to do it right – whether that professional is from the pages of a book or has been hired to come out and talk to you by appointment.
Building a Fence
You may need to call a contractor for planting new grass and trimming trees, but you’re probably looking for what you can do yourself. It’s far more cost efficient for you to mow your own lawn and weed your own garden, but the other best DIY option for outdoors is to build your own fence. Everyone should get that experience in before they die and it’s definitely worth the savings on your wallet.
Most landscapers and handymen will charge you roughly 30% more than the cost of materials. That’s about the difference of an $800 fence and a $1200 fence, just to have someone else do it. Though quality work might be worth that, there’s nothing worse than looking out at a fence you paid too much for that doesn’t look quite the way you’d like.
My husband was extremely busy with work the year after Ike and the hurricane had taken down our whole side fence. We hired someone to take care of it because we had three dogs and needed it up sooner rather than later. We shopped around, we called the most affordable handyman, he had good reviews online. My husband still complains about that fence. We overspent and the fence boards are spaced too far apart. It drives us crazy. Last year, when a tree took down another section in the opposite corner of the lot, we built it ourselves.
The most cost efficient of fencing options is a neighbor friendly fence, where each neighbor takes on the cost of the panels that face their yard and each section alternates. I’m especially partial to these because I had one growing up. It makes the most economical and hospitable sense. Get to know your neighbors, be old-school, built it together.
No matter what your project, remember to research materials and processes, be realistic about your abilities and your time, and call around for multiple quotes. Weigh the expense up front against the lifetime expense of the plants or space in question, and plan carefully.
Of course, this is primarily a book blog, so I have to share my favorite DIY Landscaping books, which are pretty much gardening specific because I’m a gardener.
To read articles that DO get used by Money-fax.com, check out my Freelance Writer page and follow the links.
Plagiarism sort of fascinates me. Mostly because I am a reader, I think. And as a reader I absorb.
I absorb thoughts, ideas, fairy tales, story lines, dialogue… and sometimes when I’m writing I find that I can’t remember if what I’m writing came from a dream I had, a book I read, or a an actual idea that I am actually formulating as my ink pours from my pen.
I am re-reading The Mortal Instruments series, and with a re-read comes more review reading, more research, because I no longer fear a spoiler. So long after the scandal, I discovered this morning that Cassandra Clare was accused of plagiarism on a fan fiction site for a Harry Potter spin-off series about Draco. Not only accused, but her account was cancelled because of it.
I’m not defending plagiarism, it’s not ok. The idea that someone would purposely just copy someone else’s work turns my stomach.
But what if it is purely accidental?
What if you have internalized a work so completely in your youth that as an adult an idea, dialogue, plot points, come to you so wholly formed and you recall that it was inspired by something, but not necessarily who or where the inspiration came from?
I can see that happening to me. I read so much as a child and I cannot remember it all, but I do have to say that I don’t think a single idea I’ve ever had could actually be attributed to myself. They aren’t my ideas. They are the ideas of those who came before me. They are the ideas that came from authors I loved, and characters who became my friends.
I distinctly remember writing a story once, I was maybe seventeen at the time, and I was so in love with it. I thought, man, I’m good – this story is fantastic. I re-read it, I worked on it avidly. Then I realized, about a month later, that it wasn’t mine. I was re-writing The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley. Perhaps slightly in my own words, but the essence of it was entirely hers and I was forced to throw it away.
It was the first time I became doubtful that I would ever publish anything. Until then, I had been completely convinced that no matter what happened in my life, I would at least become an author in some capacity. It was in my veins since the first time I picked up a book and could decode the letters that made words and sentences. I had been writing stories and ‘books’ since I could manage to scrawl out a readable letter with my number two pencil. But right then, as a teenager, I realized my biggest fear – that perhaps I didn’t have any words of my own. Perhaps they all came from elsewhere.
That is when I realized what the biggest challenge would be for me to become an author – writing something original. How do you sort through all that you’ve read, all that you love, and find something that doesn’t already belong to someone in some way?
Because of this, my novella doesn’t have much in the way of plot points. The characters came to me, yes. I can write their essence, yes. But ultimately, I am terrified of plot points. I feel like they’ve all been written before. But people, people are always capable of being their own. Characters are easier to write than plots, because I’m surrounded by characters – they live in my head. Plots, on the other hand, only live in books that have already been written. Real life doesn’t seem to consist of plots so I can’t rely on life to deliver inspiration that hasn’t already been had by someone.
Logical fallacies, of course. But that’s how I feel.
And I can’t help but wonder if Cassandra Clare felt the same way from time to time.
Maybe I read too much dystopian fiction. Maybe I was a little too brainwashed by my very paranoid grandfather as a child. Maybe it’s a reasonable theory… maybe it’s not. Either way, as soon as I read the news about the man who got off the hook after taking an upskirt photo, a story idea presented itself:
It all started with an upskirt photo. A man on a subway sneaked a picture of a girl’s panties under her skirt and got away with it. The media went wild, the girl was indignant, the government smiled.
You see, it perpetuated a ball that had been rolling for decades. The government already had their talons in the news room, swaying stories in their favor here and there. But now – in the name of privacy and public safety – the right to take pictures on subways would be eliminated. In the name of protecting innocent bystanders from having their ‘public privacy’ violated – of course – the government gained more control.
From no camera subways came no camera buses. Then planes. No photographs could be taken by a non-government official or civil servant anywhere where fifty or more gathered.
Suddenly government didn’t just control how a story was told and which stories were the most important, they could eliminate the ability to tell a story at all. Bloggers and documentarians could no longer cover protests that major media groups were not covering. No visual documentation could be made against the wrongs of any government official. It evolved from having no fight against police brutality or civil servants on power to trips to far worse things. The police and military could be sent somewhere at any time to detain or massacre anyone at any time without fear it would be captured on film and shared via social media. In a time of technology and the globalized internet, the government brought the sharing of information and relevant news back to the 1700s.
The worst part was, the people asked for it.
In the name of safety – and privacy – of course.
Maybe that’s a far fetched story premise. Maybe I should branch out and write some dystopian fiction. Maybe not. Maybe we should watch very carefully how this legal situation is handled.
I reblogged a post this morning discussing books, the acquisition of books, and when a person could possibly have too many, (*gasp*) yes, too many books. This got me to thinking, yet again, about my own collection – ahem – addiction.
You see, Spring is just around the corner. My husband just cleaned out our master bedroom closet the other day and I donated a trash bag of clothes to Goodwill. Nooks and crannies will be conquered. The stuff that has piled up throughout Winter will be organized. Although I clean the house every day, this is when the true disinfecting from top to bottom occurs.
And the biggest mess of my house is the part of me that I love to love the most…
That completes The Library. One day, the dream is for that room to be all built in bookcases. When that magical day comes, I’ll actually have lots of empty space on the shelves and nothing piled anywhere. I’ve done the math. Therein lies the dilemma when it comes to purging. Purge too soon and my shelves won’t be full. Too late and I could be on the next episode of hoarders.
Wait, but there’s more…
This is why, other than review copies, my goal for the last few years is to make sure I read more of what is already in my personal inventory… and attempt to avoid new purchases like the plague. I was largely successful in this venture in 2013 – here’s to continuing the plan in 2014. I will not allow myself to spend more than $100 on books this year, and I must give away more than I bring in. That is the goal.
What about you? Are you a book collector? A digital collector or physical copies? What is your vice and addiction? How do you decide what to keep and what to toss?
And lastly – am I a pack rat?