Monday, December 31, 2007

2008 Looms!

So. It's New Year's Eve, 2007.

I remember when I was a little girl, looking ahead to the Year 2000, I thought--"Oh, I'll probably be dead by then."

Then I did the math. Turned out, I wouldn't even be 50 years old by then, so I probably wouldn't be dead. And boy am I glad I was right. Or wrong, whichever statement you choose to go by. I'm exceedingly glad to be here for the ringing in of 2008.

The Texas grandboys have gone home. The Pennsylvania grandboy will be leaving tomorrow. (With their respective parents.) The house will be (mostly) quiet again. I say "mostly" because our youngest child (and the granddog) are still here--but he sleeps so late, it's Mostly quiet.

The holiday was wonderful, however. Lots of cool presents. Lots of great food. Lots and lots and lots of fun. For instance, the big boys had some puppet fun with their Christmas stockings. We laughed a lot--especially when the fingers came through the holes in the crocheted stocking to make teeth.

The littlest guy fell out of the tree. The middle grandboy poured all his candy out on the floor and went swimming in it. I don't remember what the oldest one did, but I know he was cute. He read some of his books for me. He found the pictures I've been trying to paint of him and his brother--and actually recognized who they were. So, even unfinished, I guess I'm doing okay.

We went to the candlelight Christmas eve service with the whole horde, and the little boys did really good. The middle boy (the autistic one) saw all the candles and made the connection with Jesus' birthday, and started singing "Happy birthday, Jesus" (to his own tune) right at the end of the candlelighting--when it was very quiet--and so the pastor just went with it and had the congregation sing "Happy Birthday" to Jesus, while the boy's parents quietly blushed with embarrassment. Nobody else had a problem with his song, but they were embarrassed. I thought it was cute.

So now, it's the New Year. Back to real life on Wednesday. Sending the last of them home tomorrow. I'll try to get back here before then to update all the other fun stuff we've done, but for now--I have to go get ready for the black-tie party we're fixing to head off to. (Yes, FIXING--I'm a Texan. Deal with it.)

I'll show off the fancy duds and the necklace the daughter made for me as soon as I can get around to it.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Almost Christmas

And my house is FULL!

I have been complained at by the daughter that my blog is old. Never mind that they are HERE at my house and Know what I'm doing. My blog is old.

And now You know what I'm doing too. I have the daughter and s-i-l and their boy, and went to my parents so I could pick up the other two grandboys in Austin on their way back home from the Alamo. That was a fast trip and a long drive there and back, but we made it. Now, when their daddy (our older son) gets here at about 2 a.m., everyone will be here and the mass celebration can begin.

We are going to Make tamales for Christmas eve this year. I'm hoping we can do that tomorrow so we aren't waiting for them to steam on Monday so we can eat them. Usually, I just buy them by the dozen from Rosa's or Taco Cabana or somewhere, but with all these people here as slave labor we can set up an assembly line--AND the stores around here sell the masa already mixed up and ready to go, rather than the dry stuff you have to mix and cook yourself. Can't get the prepared polenta, (which is weird to me because there are a LOT of Italians on the island) but you can get the tamale masa. Oh well. Bought the corn husks and everything.

So, it's going to be a total madhouse for the next few days, and a regular madhouse till January 1, when the folks from the cold northland have to go back home and we have to drive to the other airport a couple of hours away to take them.

Shopping is shopped for--except maybe for a few last minute things, or food stuff--hmm. Not sure I have jalapenos for the carne guisada to go with the tamales...Have to check on that.

It's so nice to have the (youngest) boy's girlfriend visiting...she's got a lot more energy with the little guys and isn't burnt out on playing with them. We are grateful. She even organizes games. It's raining today, so while it's warm enough, it's too wet to play outside. Oh well.

If I don't get back before then (and it's looking really doubtful at this point), y'all have a Merry Christmas and lots to eat of all the things that taste like Christmas to you. :)

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

New Orleans Rises

Actually, New Orleans is still about the same height it always was from everything I remember, but downtown and the French Quarter never did flood, even during the worst of Katrina. Anyway, just got back from a few days there where I had a great time, but pretty much walked my legs right off. Yep, that's right, I'm walking around on nubs now.

They had Katrina tours you could take, right from the hotel where we stayed, downtown, across the street from Harrah's. I didn't take one because I sorta felt like it was battening on somebody else's misery. Maybe it's not, but I felt that way. And after the four hours of walking we did on Saturday, I was afraid any tour might involve more of that, and I wanted to know exactly how much walking I was going to do and where I was going.

The St. Charles Street streetcar is back in operation, but it only goes out to Napoleon Street, about half as far as its normal route. I didn't think the Garden District was under water, which is mostly past Napoleon, but maybe it did get wet. The route out to Napoleon Street had just recently reopened, but Copeland's, a restaurant on that corner we really liked, was all boarded up and didn't look like anybody had any intentions of re-opening it. We did ride the streetcar, if you couldn't tell. Didn't take my camera out that day, though, and when I did, the streetcars were rather elusive.

The hotel where we stayed was maybe half a mile from the French Quarter. It took us about ten minutes to walk down to the Cafe du Monde on Sunday morning. There was a line waiting to get in at the Cafe du Monde, however, and no line at the little Cafe Beignet across the street, so we--the fella, me and one of his co-workers--crossed the street and had our beignets and coffee there. Except I was the only one who had beignets (the fella being allergic to wheat), and I had milk with mine. The pregnant lady had decaf caffe latte, and the fella had ham and eggs. Which you can't get at Cafe du Monde, so really, the alternate was a better choice for us.

I had beignets every morning we were in New Orleans. Frankly, I pigged out the whole time we were there, though pigging out on fish isn't quite as piggy as pigging out on...well, pigs. Or cows. The hotel backed up to the riverfront mall, and there was a little Cafe du Monde branch office on the first floor of the mall, that opened up an hour before the rest of the mall did. So Monday and Tuesday, I walked over to the mall and had my beignets there. Sat outside and watched the river. (That was the view--the cruise ship wasn't always there leaving port, but that's the bridge over to Algiers...)

The rest of this might as well be a list of what I ate too. Saturday night, we took the college folks to dinner at Carmelo's--corner of Toulouse and Decatur, a couple of blocks from Jackson Square. Italian-style fish. The fella and I shared some calamari (the kind with squiggles included), then had redfish with a fresh tomato-caper sauce, and I had my very first cannelloni, believe it or not. Deelish.

Sunday night, we had dinner with an old friend from the fella's doctoral class who's a bigwig in Kentucky now. Went to Ralph and Kakoo's on Toulouse Street, and--after some fried crawdad tails (aka Cajun popcorn) (our friend got his first taste of crawfish) I dined upon the Shrimp Henry, which the Chef Henry apparently made up that night. It was grilled shrimp stuffed with cheesy spinach stuffing over angel hair pasta with Rockefeller sauce on top. Very yummy.

Then Monday night, we went out with the college folks again, to a place called Tommy's in the warehouse district. On Tchoupitoulas (I may have left a few vowels out of that streetname, or moved them around in the wrong places, but that looks really close...) Street. Tommy's had Italian overtones, but wasn't too, too Italian. At Tommy's, I had a Caesar salad, then had Veal Sorrentina, with eggplant and cheese and Marsala mushroom sauce on top. (I can get fish & shrimp here, but veal is harder to come by.) It came with these really neat matchstick sweet potatoes cooked almost dry--really good, and different. Then the pregnant lady and I each had creme brulee and the other lady in the group had strawberries with homemade ice cream.

This doesn't count the fudge I bought that I snacked on way too much. They had it in New Orleans praline flavor, and it tastes JUST like pralines. I told the fella that the chocolate fudge was for me and the praline was for him...but I'm eating too much of the praline flavor too. There are a couple of candy shops downtown here...good thing I don't go downtown too often, huh?

I did finish my Christmas shopping..."best of the best" Louisiana cookbooks and specialty measuring spoons. And I wandered the French Quarter and took lots of pictures at the perfect time of day to get some good shadows and shots.

I also got a little writing done. Not much, but a few pages. Still working on the SF story, though I need to switch to the WWII story long enough to get my pages done for the month. Don't know if the brain is working that way though. I'm writing stuff, but may have to slash the whole of it. Oh well.

Have one more week before the daughter, s-i-l and grandboy come for the holidays. She's supposed to be bringing the tamale recipe. Need to buy a pork roast to cook for the filling...or maybe brisket. Brisket makes good tamales too... but you GOT to have tamales for Christmas Eve, or it's just not Christmas...

Cold front supposed to be moving in today. It's been hot. Hot in New Orleans (okay, it was mostly just humid, but that made ME hot) and hot at home. I'm ready for that cold front to get here.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Dickens, Victorian Christmas and stuff like that

Had a busy weekend, so I'm just now getting here. This past weekend was a big one for the island, because it was the Victorian Christmas festival weekend downtown. This is a huge deal around here, and people come from all over the state to hang out, dress up in costumes and drink glogg. Or wassail. Or whatever. The costumes are supposed to be Victorian, but since she ruled a really long time, the costume-wearer has a wide variety of choices. Everything from hoopskirts to bustles. Some people wear pirate costumes, which are about 50 years too old for Victoria, but hey--they look cool, so nobody cares. There are also Civil War soldiers, cowboys, frontier floozies, beggar urchins, London bobbies, kilted soldiers and pretty much whatever else anyone might want to wear. Lots and lots of top hats.

The fella's college had a booth on Ship's Mechanic Row, so he felt he needed a costume, and went out and rented one. (Though I think he bought the top hat and cane.) But since we left it so late, I decided it would be too hard to find something really "authentic" for me, so I did "Victorian-ish." I found a Victorian-looking top, and already had a long, tiered denim skirt, so I did a variation on the frontier look, I suppose. If I can get my sewing machine down here, though...maybe next year.

So that's what we did pretty much all day Saturday. Wandered around all the old buildings downtown and gawked at all the dressed-up people. There were plenty who didn't dress up, but you'd be amazed just how many did. I would post pictures, but I didn't take my camera, and the fella wants to download the pictures himself, so who knows when that will happen...

I have made it back out to the beach. It was very warm and sunny Friday, and my knees were whining at all the walking on concrete I've made them do lately, so I took them back to walk on the sand again. Tiny little rocks all over everywhere. Lots of the kelp-like seaweed. And some ring-billed gulls have showed up. They seem to be a little more solitary than the local laughing gulls, a little larger too. But the easiest way to tell the difference, since the laughing gulls don't currently have their black heads, is that the ring-bills have yellow beaks (with a black ring) and legs, and the laughers have black beaks and legs. It will be nice when they turn black-headed again... Make it easier for me. The other local black-headed gulls don't have black legs, so that's a help too.

And Monday, we went to the college Christmas concert. The choir is basically a community choir--most of the members are my age or older. I enjoyed their music, though a lot of it was a little esoteric. The other half of the program was the Island Steel Drum Band, which was lots of fun. This is only its second year in existence, but it was totally cool. They ought to perform at the Dickens festival next year, I think... Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree works real well on steel drums...

Plodding away on Time Catch. I've done a few POV/scene changes now. Maybe finished a chapter--though I never really know till I get it typed in. Still, I like the story and it seems to be going well, although slowly. I'm working stuff out as I go, which means a lot of stopping and making notes and re-writing when I think of something that will work better than what I originally came up with. It's the details that can trip you up. I know the general outline of what my hero's going to be doing, but the specifics keep slowing me down.

I was thinking I'd have this "city boy" dress up like a scruffy street tough, to go snooping around out in the outer sectors of the space empire. He is a lot tougher than he looks, but he's pretty ignorant of life in the outer sectors, and he's smart enough to know that. So after I'd already written the scene with him in grubby space-suit clothes, I realized he was indeed smart enough to recognize his ignorance and play it up. So he's dressing like a company bureaucrat from headquarters who doesn't want to be in the outer sectors, (with hair dyed red with hot pink streaks) so he'll at least have the element of surprise on his side if any local tough guys try to rough him up. He's very good at personal violence. So anyway, I had to write that at least twice today.

But the plot is coming clear, and I ought to be able to write the synopsis pretty soon... I've learned a couple of things I didn't realize as I've gotten even a couple of pages in that I think will play a great big part in the story. Not sure how, yet, but I think they will. I've established the hero and heroine's goals. I've established the primary conflict between them, and hinted at some internal conflict--or maybe self-conflict. I hope I've established enough of the universe that people can follow the story. It's coming together, I think.