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Sunday, May 21, 2017

HERE COMES SUMMER!

My neighbours were excited on Monday at lunchtime. "Summer's coming", one shouted.  "Is Tracie swimming?" asked another.  It appears that Daylight Savings, and Quarter Days are just there for fun! The real way to tell whether it is the beginning of summer, is if I go to the pool to swim!  As I departed the area, and walked back to my condo, our trusty maintenance man was sitting in his shady cabin having his lunch.  "Ah.  It must be summer", he said, followed by a big beaming smile.  I wondered when I had become the barometer!

Thunder and lightening prevented me from swimming on Tuesday, but that was par for the course.  It's summer, and it is Austin.  I had prepared dinner early, and put it in the crock pot, hoping that the storms would not cause a problem with the electricity.  There are few things that make me sigh more than coming home, having prepared dinner and put it in the oven on a timer, or in the crock pot, only to have a midday power cut, and find the raw ingredients sitting pretty, and cold!  As tornado warnings were not abound, I was confident that there would not be a break in my utilities!  I walked around the circuit, and came back to the office at lunchtime, before returning home to a fully cooked meal.  

I sent Joe a message on Wednesday morning, just to check that he was in the shop.  I made two small black current cheesecakes, with the idea of bribing my favourite barista in return for coffee and waited for the tell-tale hammer sound of a return text message.  The lightening bolt and thunder clap that was heard during the time my cheesecakes were baking, was an indication that I would not hear back from Joe in a timely manner, as although he only lives a few minutes away from the roasterie, it was now raining quite heavily, and that meant a slow down in traffic.  Of course, I use the term 'slow down' rather loosely, as traffic would have probably come to a standstill!  I pottered around the house for a while, before heading out to go to the office.  En route, Joe sent me a message to say he had just arrived and could I still make it.  I declined the offer but asked if Thursday would be a viable option.  I also added that I could bring cheesecake!  "I shall be there early!" was the response!

Jason was late.  He had messaged Dana to say that he was due to arrive about ten minutes early, but it had started to rain.  His GPS had told him, in an instant, that the fifteen minutes he should expect as a travel time, was now thirty seven, and was increasing as he messaged!  

By lunchtime, the rain had stopped, and the clouds, although still gathering, broke with enough space to cause the ground to dry, and the sun to steam the Terra firma.  I walked around to the supermarket, and was grateful for the respite, as the cool air hit my face upon entry.  I collected a few items that would enhance my dinner for that evening and strolled back in the quite debilitating heat.  By the time I reached the office, I was exhausted, and felt like I had trekked across a desert with no protection!  (I have never trekked across a desert and trust this will be taken 'without prejudice' should anyone who has trekked across a desert be reading!)  It took a long time for me to cool down and I did not change back into my work attire for about half an hour!  With all the electricity around, however, it would not have been a good idea to swim.

Towards the end of the day, the sun had started to shine a little more, and the heat intensified.  I received a call from one of our clients, asking if we had any news on a paper that had been sent to Colorado.  I could not find any reports in emails or otherwise and said that I would call the server taking care of the project, as I was quite sure they were going to make an attempt earlier in the day.
As the 'Centennial' state was seven hours behind GMT, this meant they were an hour behind us and probably still in the office.  I promised to call back our client upon any response.  "Oh I am sorry, it wasn't safe to drive today", was the answer to my question as to whether the paper was attempted.  "Started to rain last night, then we woke up to a foot of snow, and blizzard like conditions". My immediate response, whilst looking outside at the sun scorching the pavement was, "Really?"  Apparently the area in which we were hoping to have the paper served, was made up of small towns, each one now separated by severe snow drifts!  "I understand", I started and then continued, "Well actually I don't. We are currently nearing triple digits in our temperature, and I cannot begin to fathom your situation",  The laughter from the other end was genuine, and we both mused over our different weather phenomena at this time of year!


I drove to Joe on Thursday, quite happy with my new tyre on the
highway.  There is a bump in the road as I transfer from one freeway to another and I have been quite concerned of late, that my tyre would not cope with the impact.  My small car tends to be less resilient to harsh abrasions in the road, but this morning I drove over the ledge with renewed confidence.  The cheesecake endured the journey with poise, and was almost demolished before my departure.  I left after a brief, but lively, political discussion, which was most enjoyable.  I received an apology from a member of Joe's staff for his passionate discourse. I told him that no apology was necessary, as it was a delight to be able to debate, adding that it is rare, in recent times, to be able to express an opinion, without the other side taking it personally.  One's political opinion, no matter how the other side sees it, is an opinion.  Facts can be quoted, agreed with or disputed, but the reasons as to why one person votes differently to another, is because in their opinion the one voted for is the best choice.  I thanked him for the opportunity, and I think, dismayed him that I had not been offended!  

I made all the right motoring decisions on my way back, taking the lower roads, which although meant sitting at traffic lights, rather than passing over to avoid them, allowed me to be further ahead at the point of turning off one freeway to another.  I got back to the office a little after eight.  

As the tornado warnings had started to be announced, I chose a walk again at lunchtime.  It was quite hot, and the breeze did nothing to cool, but instead created a hot air fan, which blew warm air out rather than vacuumed it back in.  I also had an overnight package to drop off at the 'Fed Ex' box, and as I reached the strip where the post office is located, I walked across the car park to the deposit box.  I noticed a black truck in the car park, with the words 'mobile repair' upon it, and a phone number, which was not local. A man was talking, rather emphatically to a young lad, standing beside his car, which appeared to have a small dent.  As I approached I could hear the owner of the truck telling the young lad that he was only in town for one day, and could not do the repair another day.  The interpretation was that if he did not say 'Yes' there and then, he could not promise a good a deal, should he be in the area again.  I recognised the scam, (I make no apology for calling it what it appeared to be, in my opinion,) but did not stop.  I deposited my package, and heard the young lad trying to protest. He would have to check with his dad.  Once again, the mobile repairer gave him the bad news that it would be too late to do anything once the lad had contacted his father, and they had discussed the options. He really needed to make an affirmative decision now! It was time to make my move.  I walked back across the car park, and was about to walk between the two vehicles next to which each was standing, and looked at the repairman, just as the young lad repeated that he would have to call his father.  As I slowed down, and made eye contact with the repairman, it was 'message received'.  "Okay, no problem!" he said and got back into his truck.  I do not have an overwhelming presence, normally, being only five foot two, and not particularly bulky, but I am no spring chicken, and the silver hair cascading out of the back of my cap, probably gave away my maturity!  "Well done!" I said to the young lad, who was now walking towards the shops.  "Thank you", he said, quite nonchalantly.  It was at that point that I think he realised the predicament in which he had nearly become involved.  He turned and said, "Thank you.  I appreciate that!" and with a spring in his step, continued to his destination.  I was not sure if he was thanking me for recognising his ability to thwart the over zealous salesman, or for my intervention.  Either way, I was glad the situation was resolved.  

I walked around to the supermarket, in the hope to find a law official.  The is always a policeman on guard at the large store, not always the same one, but always one on duty.  Except today!  The saying "Never a policeman around when you want one" was never so true!  I was not going to suggest any charges be brought upon a wrong doer, as no wrong was done, but I did consider that the presence of perhaps a 'panda' car (as we used to call them, presumably because they were black and white, rather than the fact they contained a 'bear') would discourage the repairman, who was still stalking the car park.  However, I returned to the office, thinking that if I had just saved one person.......!

Despite the possibility of another electric storm, and possible tornadoes, temperatures in the low nineties, with a 'feels like' indicator of nearly 100, drove me to the pool at lunchtime on Friday.  It was a little windy, but so refreshing.  I swam and felt so much better for doing so.  The weekend was not going to afford such activities, so I took the opportunity while I could!

Thunder storms were abound all Friday night, and hail was rather prolific on Saturday morning.  When I was ready to leave the house and go on my rounds, I donned my jeans, jacket and wellington boots.  It was very wet!  I drove to Costco, did my shopping, sampled hot dogs, and filled my car with petrol.  The rain was slowing down, and by the time I made my next stop, the heat had returned.  I slipped off my jacket and took my umbrella, just in case.  I wandered around a few stores, and caught sight of myself in the mirror.  I chuckled.  Standing in front of me was the reflection of a 'Stetson'd" head, sleeveless collared shirt, and jeans tucked inside pink wellington boots with faces of Julius, the 'Paul Frank' trademark monkey!  With the silver locks cascading not only down my back, but over my shoulders, too, I resembled a farmer, rather than a cowboy, but I quite enjoyed the diversity.  Of course, I did not take into consideration the fact that I might happen to come into contact with my new neighbour upon my return home.  It was a pleasant meeting, and she explained that she was helping her daughter, and her daughter's two friends, set up in their first 'home' as they each embarked on their first job!  My first thought was, 'Odd numbers of girls.  Ain't gonna work!', but decided that it might not be the best way to endear myself to the newest 'kids on the block'.  After all, when my friends Lesley, Lynda and myself got together seven years ago, we had a great time!  Maybe this generation of girls do not need to be in even numbers!  All these thoughts were flashed within my mind in a second.  I did not make the comment that I do not always look like a farmer, and am usually quite conservative in my mode of dress.  That too seemed to be an inconsequential remark!  "Don't worry.  They are not college kids", my new neighbour's mom told me, as if to put my mind at rest.  I was not concerned about their age.  I was still on the 'Odd number of girls,  How is that gonna work!"  (This comment will be understood totally by any of my female readers, especially of my generation!)  We bid our farewell, with my offer of assistance should it be needed, and I unloaded my car of my wares.

Dana and I went out for dinner on Saturday night, and upon our return home, were stopped by another two neighbour's who live a couple of doors away.  "How are you?  Haven't seen you in forever", came the voices from inside the car.  We responded that we were well, and I remarked that now summer has officially arrived, we shall see more of them!  They agreed.  Dana was quite polite and chatty.  When they drove away, he told me that he had no idea who they were, and how did I know them.  I explained that the remark, "We will see more of you", was more apt than I had realised, as when I told him who they were, I added, "You are used to seeing more of them!", to alter the age old quip, "I didn't recognise you with your clothes on!"  My husband rarely sees most of our neighbours outside the pool area!

Storms gathered, stormed and moved on all through the night. Swimming was not going to be on Sunday's agenda, but I had enough to do inside the house to keep me busy in the afternoon! We were definitely not going to see more of anyone on Sunday, as the rain keeps all but the ardent dog walkers indoors!  I may venture out for a walk later, but only if the skies are clear.  Tornadoes are still rampant apparently, together with all sorts of turbulent weather, baring snow!  Snow, in Austin, in mid-May would cause everyone to be writing ............ another story!



Sunday, May 14, 2017

ANCHORS AWEIGH!

My daughter informed me that she would not be around for the weekend, and that this year was not my year, should I wish to spend either one of the two mother's days with her!  Normally, we have a celebration, of sorts, for the English day, (what we still describe as proper, although if I am gracious, I would use the word 'original',) and spend the other one together, usually eating at the Mexican restaurant, where they hand out t-shirts, all of which are still in pristine condition in my wardrobe!  We have long given up the pretense of surprise, so I knew that she would not appear at the restaurant.

It was a strange experience breaking with a tradition, despite it being a relatively new tradition.  There was a vague sense of loss, but it was not as bad as I had expected.  Assimilating into my new life has taken a turn towards permanent.  Although I have never considered this move to be anything but permanent, there are times when I still feel rather alien, and traditions that have been forged since arriving in Texas have been of great strength.  When I did not experience an horrendous, overwhelming, feeling of anguish, (as is my custom when there is an alternative to the 'norm',) I felt as if I had loosened yet another string, and would one day 'drop anchor' totally!  

We walked this week, rather than swam, as the meteorological conditions were stormy.  The rain did not start falling on Monday until we were about a hundred yards from the office, but it was enough to make us very wet.  The storm did not last for too long, and it did little to quell the high humidity that had become somewhat of a burden.  There were some short, sharp cloudbursts throughout the day, but they, too, made no difference.  Our delight at seeing rain, on a day approaching summer, once again loosened the ties and I felt the anchor brush the ocean bed, albeit gently. Every so often I become more aware of my assimilation, and this week was one of those 'every so often' times.  

I made pastry cases on Tuesday, with the idea of filling them on Wednesday, with a new concoction.  When I left England, I was still weighing in pounds and ounces, and most of my recipes were in the Imperial measurements.  Fortunately, when not using 'cups', most USA recipes, and packages, have not transferred to metric, and my ingredients can be bought without having to calculate how many grams make up six ounces!  I was using a very old recipe for lemon meringue pie, but instead of using the citrus base, I was swapping it out for coffee.  I had an idea, and I was going to experiment!  I reveled in the fact, as I have probably mentioned on more than one occasion, that my new life here has afforded me the opportunity to be able to do so.  I was further inspired by my friend Gail.  I had mentioned to her that it was easy to serve up a dessert that was 'not quite' right, as no one knew how it really should taste. Gail said that she never had any problem serving up anything, traditional or otherwise, that was 'not quite' right, as it was her variation and, therefore, not for anyone to say how it really should taste.  Such inspiration led me to the coffee flavoured pudding!

Gail was not at the shop on Wednesday, but Joe and Logan, tasted the desserts and were quite complimentary.  Logan suggested that perhaps I add a tad of chocolate, to take away the slight bitterness of the coffee, and I concurred.  I had considered that.  However, I had also added a little more coffee than I had anticipated, as when I tasted the mixture, the flavour was a little too subtle, and I had over zealously poured, rather than spooned, in the granules!  Another employee arrived, and asked what we were doing.  "She wants to know what is wrong with these", said Joe, altering my original quote, "I am open to critique!"  The response, after swallowing the treat, was equally as complimentary as that which I had received previously.  "What's wrong with them?  I don't think anything is wrong with them.  They are good!".  I was quite chuffed!  I mentioned about putting a meringue atop each one, and the suggestion of adding chocolate to the egg whites was given.  I was ready for 'round two'!

I noticed that one of my back tyres was rather low when I left the shop.  Three out of four tyres are 'run flats', and apparently can 'run flat' for about fifty miles.  However, the last time I put air into the back tyre, the pressure was a single figure, hovering towards the zero end of the scale!  As I do not use my car very often, I thought that I would put some air in, and then see what happened.  The tyre light on my dashboard had illuminated a couple of times, but upon pressing the button by my handbrake, (which apparently re inflates for emergencies, or something - perhaps I should re-read the handbook!) the light had gone out!  I wondered if, perhaps, the mechanism which controls the light, has realised I am not going to do anything about it, and just goes out at will!  Am I giving a machine too much credit?


Work was continuing to flood in throughout the week and I was rather glad I had taken my car in with me on Wednesday and Thursday.  I did not leave the office until after seven on the latter, but Dana arrived home almost an hour later!  The chocolate meringue atop the coffee cups was a tremendous hit!  Pastries are not a regular dessert here, unless visiting a specialised cafe or restaurant, and I have become somewhat of a specialist in the eyes of those whom consume my wares!

Friday arrived, and Samantha had taken off, leaving us with the dog.  I had to make a trip to the post office at lunchtime, and walked alone.  "Where is a picture of that beautiful baby", came the voice from behind the counter, before the door had closed behind me.  All heads turned, and I smiled.  This is the part of my life that I enjoy, and that makes me feel as if that anchor will settle one day.  I took out my phone, and displayed pictures of my two gorgeous grandsons, and was proud to show off my two beautiful boys! After exchanging some more pleasantries, I left the facility, with a big smile on my face, and sending joyous felicitations to all!  I arrived back at the office feeling as if I had come through another heavy shower, although there was not a cloud in the sky!

The storm that took place on Friday afternoon did clear the humidity, and although the temperature did not drop, the atmosphere was far more pleasant.  I went home to prepare dinner, and Dana was not too far behind!  I did make a detour to the garage and put air into the flat looking tyre.  The pressure read '3', and that is when I took myself to one side and gave me a good talking to!  I would never have allowed this to happen in England.  I would not have relied upon anyone but myself to get this done.  Since moving here, I have relied upon Dana to 'get things done', as in the beginning, I lacked so much confidence.  However, with the anchor being in such close proximity to the ocean bed, I knew it was time to break another of those ties!


I decided to take the proverbial bull by the horns on Saturday morning, and take my car into the tyre place.  The last time I had needed to have my tyre replaced, I went to Discount Tires along the highway, and they were very pleasant and helpful.  I knew the name of the road but not the number, and I had the choice of two. Although I had planned to call, I saw that I could actually book an appointment online.  It was all very simple.  I checked my car in, and ticked the boxes as to what service I required, then clicked 'confirm'. Within seconds I received an email to say that my appointment was confirmed.  It was all very simple.  However, when I checked the map, I had chosen the centre on the south side of the highway as opposed to the north.  This would not be a problem if I could leave the house within the next ten minutes.

Driving along, I realised that it would have been a far wiser decision to have made the appointment earlier and had the tyre changed before going shopping, for more than one reason.  If I had a new tyre put on the car, it would be safer to drive, and I would not risk having to change it in the supermarket car park, because it was flat.  Another reason would be that it was quite warm, and I needed to buy frozen items, eggs and butter!  

Feeling confident, and putting doubts behind me, I drove to Walmart.  I arrived a little before eleven.  I had an hour and a half until my appointment.  I raced around the aisles but was slowed down at the check out.  Amazingly, no one in the queue that I chose had problem items.  I loaded my items into the insulated shopping bags, put them into the boot, and checked the tyre.  It still looked as if it was inflated.  I drove around the back of the complex and looped around to get onto the other side of the highway, and sped back. 

As I reached my exit, I had to once again 'loop around' to get over to the other side of the highway.  I still have to concentrate when on the highway, and remember that there are very few 'left turns'. Rather than cross the traffic, at a junction, most of our 'left turns' (or going against the flow of the traffic, dependent upon which side of the road one drives) are under or over the highway, in the form of a traffic light stop, or a loop around.  I have to remember to be on the near side of the road if I want to get to the other side. Looping was going to be the order of the day!  

Costco was not particularly busy, and I raced around the aisles, stopping to sample wares along the way, and put the items I purchased into the insulated bags in the boot.  The tyre was still inflated.  

I looped under the highway, again, and with plenty of time to spare, drove south on the highway.  I was not quite sure where to exit, and passed several ramps before finally coming off at what I considered to be a good choice.  It was. I looped under the highway again, and once on the frontage road, saw the sign for which I had been looking.  I drove into a very busy garage, and parked my car. 

"Can I help you?" asked the young man behind the counter.  I explained that I had made an appointment, but I was early.  He brought up my details on the screen, and we then walked to my car, where he inspected all the tyres.  Such was my confidence in this particular establishment, that I asked him what he thought needed to be done.  We walked back inside the centre, and he showed me the level of tread on my tyres, on a picture scale.  As I do not use my car very often, he did not recommend changing any of them, except the back one, which was going to 'run completely flat' in the near future.  It was also quite worn on the inside.  I was then shown a comparison in prices between tyres, cheap and not so cheap, the quality which I had in place at the moment, and the run-flats which were now comparable to the ordinary.  I chose the run-flat, as it was just two dollars more expensive.  The young man was actually the first to inform me that if I had a spare tyre, there was no real need for a run-flat.  Of course, I knew the real reason why I considered there was an argument to that case!

Image may contain: 2 people, hat"How long have you lived here?" he asked, curiously.  When I said I was in my thirteenth year, he commented on how I had kept my accent.  I told him that it was important to me to keep it, and he said that he had made sure to lose his.  "Spain" was the answer to my question as to his birthplace.  I was just about to say that my family originated from there, when his colleagues all jumped in and said, "Oh no he is not!"  Apparently, he was born in Mexico but found it rather romantic to have ties with the motherland!  Having celebrated their Independence Day last week, 'Cinco de Mayo', I was rather amused at his wish for cultural inclusion!  All three young men agreed that the English accent was worth keeping.  I thanked them, profusely, and paid for the tyre.  "Like your hat", said a fourth member of the team.  "Why thank you", I responded. "Wow, and the accent!"  I accepted the flattery for what it was, and although very thankful and gracious, did not feel the anchor drop more firmly!  

With a new tyre, and having taken on a minor challenge (one small step for man, etc,) I went home.  I was wondering if the butter, milk and eggs had made themselves into pancakes whilst being left in the boot for the duration of the tyre change, but they were as cold as when I bought them, or thereabouts.  I swam and read my book. Dana and I went out for dinner, and we had a pleasant evening eating ice cream and watching television.  


Image may contain: 2 people, flower
Keeping up the tradition, Dana and I went to the Mexican restaurant for lunch.  Samantha, not surprisingly, was not there, but I did receive my tenth t-shirt to add to the nine that are in the cupboard.  All except the first one are dated with the year. Presumably the first one was not expected to have been such a hit, and worth repeating!  

I would like to send out Mother's Day wishes to all the mums that are in countries that are celebrating, and a special thought for those that are parted from their kids for any reason.  Life goes on, despite all our efforts to keep it from doing so, or at least from changing in directions we feel we cannot cope, or survive.  Although it is very hard living across the ocean from my son, and the rest of my family, I do know that I am blessed to have had my life changed in a good way, always leading to .....another story!

Sunday, May 7, 2017

EIGHT DAYS A WEEK!

The wind picked up considerably overnight.  Monday morning was quite cool, compared to the temperatures we had endured the previous week.  During my first few years in Austin, I would go to the pool as soon as it was warm enough to discard my cardigan, but over the past few years, I have not attended poolside, regularly, until the beginning of June.  Whether the weather cycle has changed, or whether I have just acclimatized to the heat, is still under-determination!  However, having gone for the second swim of the season on Saturday, I was looking forward to an early start!

We walked on Monday, as the wind was quite severe.  Clouds, once again, threatened rain, but it did not appear.  Tornadoes had ripped apart one particular city to the east of Dallas and there were, apparently, more to come.  The walk was quite tough, as we were strolling into the wind on the way round.  We thought that the walk back to the office would be easier, but the wind appeared to change direction at the same time as us!  

It was quite late before Dana and I arrived home on Monday evening, and I was already feeling the tension rise, as I was going to have to take the helm on Tuesday.  Dana was due to 'testify' at the Capitol on Tuesday afternoon, in support of a bill that had been filed, written by him, and sponsored by a like-minded representative.  The committee was due to 'sit' at 2pm, or when the 'House' adjourned; whichever was the later.  Although Dana's bill was the third on the list, the Chairman did not have to stick to the agenda in the order it was published.  It was more than likely that the 'hearing' would be towards the end of the meeting, due to dynamics that are more political than I care to post!  

Apparently, the 'House' agenda on Tuesday was extremely full, and the likelihood of adjournment before two was slim.  In fact, it was debatable whether they would be finished by three, or four.  Our walk was early, just in case, and we did not venture into the supermarket.  The wind had dropped slightly and the heat was quite debilitating without the respite of a breeze.  I watched the clock tick, and at five, when the others were about to leave, Dana suggested I go too, as he had not yet left the office and was not sure what time he would be back to collect me.  The 'House' was still in full swing!  

I was alone by the pool on Tuesday evening, and sat for a while, after my swim, and read a chapter of my book.  I felt quite relaxed considering the tension I had felt building over the past few days. Taking over the captaincy was not the problem.  What was bothering me was the quantity of work that we had been experiencing and the troubleshooting Dana had been taking on for our clients.  They trust him, and respect his opinion.  I am, to use a colloquial expression, 'just a gurl'!  Of course, each time I have been left in charge, I have coped admirably, but that does not stop the other saying from coming to mind, "There is always a first time"!  I am not as experienced as my husband, and although I have learned a lot, I do not have his authoritative manner.  The one that causes people to sit up and listen, and think that whatever he says is gospel.  In his professional life, what he says is precise, but he also has the same authoritative manner when expressing an opinion. I have learned to differentiate where others have not!

Coming back to the condo, I turned on my computer and accessed the 'live stream' of our Legislature.  The House was still in session and the debates were long and drawn out.  It was going to be a very late night.  Dana sent me a message to say he was leaving the office a little before seven.  I ate my dinner, made a cup of tea, and returned to the computer just in time to see Dana being called to the stand!  He was quite outstanding!  My husband was quite eloquent, and with that air of authoritativeness about him, everything he said sounded right!  Of course, I agreed with him wholeheartedly on the subject on which he was testifying and was confident that he would be successful.  Obviously, time will tell!  

A quarter to midnight was not the preferred time to heat dinner, but Dana was hungry and I was happy to feed the returning hero!  After leaving the Capitol, he had returned to the office, cleared as much as he could from his desk, and brought the rest home.  We finally turned out the light a little before two.

Rising at five thirty on Wednesday was a little bit of a challenge. However, we both refused to ignore the alarm, and set about our daily tasks.  He went to the office; I went to Joe, after making a 'Mrs Sainsbury' pasta dish, and a Swiss roll with apricot cream!  I was expecting visitors for dinner, and lack of sleep could not be deemed an excuse for not keeping up to my (self-imposed) standards!  I removed the 'ends' from the Swiss roll, so that it would fit neatly on the dish, and Joe and Gail found them to be a delightful start to the morning!

Feeling somewhat invigorated by lunchtime, as my routine was back to normal, I was ready to march!  Our walk included a visit inside the supermarket. "Yes thanks, mate", was heard as we approached the checkout.  The young man behind the counter was responding to a customer, when asked if he was having a good day. The accent was definitely more northern than southern, and Samantha and I smiled at the prospect of being served by a fellow Brit.  "Leicester" was the answer to my question as to where the accent hailed.  "Her father's mother's family are from there", I said, awkwardly, wondering why I just did not use the word 'grandma'. However, the young man was impressed and asked where we were from.  "Just outside Watford", I announced, for all to hear.  He had apparently arrived in Texas about four months earlier, and had been told that he was in for a shock, once the summer hit!  As soon as he found out that we had survived twelve of them, and were on to our thirteenth, he relaxed and remarked that if we could do it, there was hope for him!  He said that it was already quite hot, to which I replied, "You ain't seen nothing yet!"  As we packed away our wares, we both apologised to the lady behind us, as our conversation had been holding up production!  "Oh no!  You carry on. I love listening to you.  Talk about something else!"  She told us that she had all the time in the world, and was quite happy to stand there all day if we would only find some more things to talk about. She seemed almost disappointed when we bid each other farewell!

I did not swim Wednesday night as I had more to prepare than I anticipated, and my guests were going to arrive earlier than expected.  Dinner was a success, but when my visitors left, so did Dana.  He had to return to the office to finish up some work.  He returned home at quarter past midnight, with another stack of work! I hoped this 'state of affairs' would be sort lived, as I am more of an early riser, than a late nighter, and do not do well accommodating both!  

I decided to make the most of my early morning on Thursday, with Dana leaving before six once again.  Having a quantity of puff pastry in the freezer, should it be needed in an emergency, is probably not every one's priority.  I had made the dough on Wednesday evening, as advised by the recipe writer, and left it to rest overnight.  It was suitable 'elastic' and took a long time to stretch.  I spent about thirty minutes getting two pieces ready for stage two, and remembered why I wished I had made a double quantity last time!  By the time it was time to leave, I had managed to complete the 'roll, fold, and return to the fridge' instructions three times, and had to leave the kitchen somewhat disheveled!  It would not take long to clear away, but it was ten minutes or so longer than I had to spare!

We didn't see our fellow countryman at the check out when Samantha purchased her green (spring) onions at lunchtime.  I was somewhat punchy.  She took the onions to the scales, punched in the corresponding number and asked me to retrieve the sticker that had the code for the checkout.  As she stood with the bag ready for me to place the sticker upon it, I promptly stuck it on her forehead. She stood looking at me with one of those looks, and I hoped that I would be able to control my laughter.  I was very tired.  However, the look was enough to whip me back into line, and I removed the sticker and placed it on the bag.  


We had to serve a paper on Thursday night, as all our 'guys' were otherwise engaged.  It was on the south side of town, and we were hoping for an earlier night.  In the event, we did arrive home earlier than midnight!  We left the office at around seven thirty and Dana had the paper delivered by eight!  Fortunately, the subject was on site, and came to the door to accept the package.  He asked my husband if he had to sign anything, and when he received the answer in the negative, he made a somewhat quipping remark as to what proof the court would have that it had been given to him. Dana responded by telling him that he, Dana, would submit an affidavit stating the facts of service. The authoritativeness within his (Dana's) voice caused the recipient to stand up straight, and accept the words being spoken to him.  The smile which always follows such remarks, considered by Dana to somewhat hopefully soften the attitude, does the exact opposite in my experience!  

Arriving home, I took one look at the mess that I had left earlier that morning, and rather than fall to my knees and cry, I took a deep breath, kicked off my shoes, dropped my bags on the chair, and set to in military fashion!  Leftovers were sent to the oven to reheat, the pastry board was wiped down and returned to its corner, and my surfaces were cleaned in record time.  As the oven timer dinged, I was ready to 'dish up'.  Dinner was eaten, plates cleared away, and kitchen tidied by nine thirty.  Although an early night was not on the cards, and earlier one was anticipated, and I think we both fell asleep to a rather gripping series we had been watching!  The last couple of days had taken their toll.

It was another very busy day on Friday, with most of our work arriving in the afternoon.  We have often thought of borrowing the quote posted on the window of a clerk at the courthouse, "Your lack of organisation does not constitute an emergency on our part", but unfortunately, we are at the bottom of the 'food chain', and there are plenty of hungry fishes ready to take a bite!  

An email was received to tell me that I had not won the VIP prize for which I entered.  I was amazed that anyone would tell me that I had not won, but read on.  Instead, I was offered a runners up prize. Well, a prize is a prize!  It was for a polo match!  I could claim up to six tickets for general admission!  How exciting.  I printed them off and asked Jerry if he wanted four, but he said that the weekend had already been planned.  I offered them to another one of our guys, who has three children, and is often wondering what to do that is 'different'!  He was quite tickled!

As we left the office at eight, Dana commented that our plan for leaving earlier as the we progressed was not working.  I commented that he was a week behind on that plan!  He was rather exhausted and had forgotten that he had left the office after midnight on Wednesday, therefore making his plan of leaving earlier come to fruition!  It was the previous week where we had left earlier as the week progressed!

I was so happy not to go to work on Saturday.  It was a delight not to hear an alarm go off, and I was full of energy.  Samantha and I went shopping and enjoyed our usual Saturday morning routine. We arrived home around two, and she left soon after.  I took myself down to the pool, swam, read and promptly fell asleep.  I then returned to the condo, and fell asleep again!  We did not go to the polo match.  Dana said that as he had been introduced to a new sport last week, and was now the Austin Hun's number one fan, he felt he needed to devote his energy to one base!  However, George took his kids, and said that it was a blast!  It was something of a novelty!  As the sport does tend to attract the more 'well to do' society folks, it is not something that would be on a 'things to do' list, and the tickets are rather expensive.  I was thrilled that my runners up prize had been put to good use!  I was also thrilled to be able to sleep most of the afternoon; something to which I am normally averse!

Sunday was slow and relaxing.  I could not think of a better end to the week!  As we strolled to the top of the hill of our complex, we looked around at the beautiful scenery and felt the warmth of the sun on our backs.  Although we were less than a mile from our office, and less than twenty four hours from returning, we felt as if we were a million miles away.  Without the extra-curricular activity of the hearings, and us serving papers, next week should be a little calmer.  Time will tell in ............... another story!


Sunday, April 30, 2017

TAKE ME OUT TO THE BALL GAME!

I was not fussy as to which 'ball game' I attended, but I was hopeful to at least attend one.  There was a contest.....! Although I would not use the word 'addicted', I do find it difficult to break with my habit of entering contests, daily.  Originally, I entered those I in which I was interested, but one of the sites suggested that in order to win, it was advisable to enter all contests, therefore, putting yourself in a loop, which gave you a better chance.  I do not hold with that philosophy on all sites, but it has caused me to be less judicious with my applications.  However, despite always quoting the opposite to my children, and any that were put in my  charge, to me, it is not the 'taking part' but the 'winning' that counts, and I am happy with all that I manage to obtain.  

Having never attended a rugby match, the offer of tickets to see the Austin Huns was rather appealing, and I entered the contest every day for a week.  Baseball, on the other hand, is not really my sport, but my husband is a fan.  Had he not 'done his best', in practice, as a young boy, his (dare I say, egotistical) teacher would not have been called 'out'.  Being beaten by a mere child did not endear my husband to his coach, and Dana, therefore, was not picked to play in the forthcoming match, where the scouts were scouting for players to be groomed to become professional.  Apparently, Dana was worthy of the call, and was in the local paper many times, for his 'excellence' on the field.  Not becoming a professional player has never been an upset to him, but the appreciation of the game has never wained.  When I saw the contest for an 'baseball exhibition match', I entered, thinking that he would enjoy the experience.


Monday was an exceptionally busy day, but I found the fifteen minutes needed to break away from work and enter my regular contest sites.  I made up the time at the end of the day, as we did not leave the office until eight!  Thankfully, Tuesday started a little slower, and I was able to make my way across the river to the radio station, as I had won the tickets to the rugby match! 

The call that alerted me to the fact that I had won the tickets, was quite amusing.  The young man on the other end of the line was taken aback at my enthusiasm.  "Wow, that's amazing!" I shrieked, genuinely excited by the win.  "Yes, it is", he said, sounding as if he had just told me I was to have teeth extracted, without pain relief, and I was highly delighted.  My choice was twofold.  I could attend the match against the New Orleans team, on the first Saturday in May, or the one against Richmond, this coming weekend. "Richmond as in England?", I asked, wondering why an English club would be coming to Austin.  "Yes, Richmond, UK", he replied.  That would have to be the match to see, I thought, and responded likewise.  

With four tickets in my hand, I left the radio station feeling quite excited.  I knew Dana was not particularly keen on the idea of attending the match, but Jerry had expressed an interest, and I would have to see if he wanted to escort me.  Samantha's lack of interest was somewhat less than Dana's.  The match started at five, and would be over by six thirty, so I would not be 'out' for too long.

Dinner had been partly prepared on Tuesday morning, and leaving the office at 7:30 was not too much of a problem.  We would be eating later than I would usually prefer, but it would not take too long to finish off what I had started some thirteen hours earlier!  "At least we are thirty minutes earlier than yesterday" was not really considered compensation!

Wednesday morning was busy. Joe had been away the previous week, and I was in much need of coffee.  The company was good too!  Gail pulled into the parking lot, just before me, and just after Joe.  We entered the 'shop' together, and enjoyed an hour of scintillating conversation before I had to travel across to have my nails decorated.  

"Hey, Tracie?" was the question following my "Hello" as I answered my phone, expecting a recorded message telling me that my car warranty was about to expire!  I responded in the positive, and was told that I had won four tickets to the Baseball Expo!  I was suitably excited.  I would not have to collect the tickets, but would be emailed a letter, which I should take to the box office, and I would then be granted access.  The only problem was that I did not give my full name, when entering the contest, and they had to have it in order to process the prize.  I was quite surprised, but then remembered that one of the forms had denied my entry as it said I had not completed it properly.  I found that the only way I could enter was to put my email address in the phone number section, my phone number in the name section, etc etc.  A glitch on their part, and my refusing to quit, was what, perhaps, won me the prize!  


However, when returning to the office, I found that the 'game' was not a 'game', but an exhibition of Baseball memorabilia.  It was the 'Hall of Fame Mobile Exhibition', and was only at the Dell Diamond Baseball Ground until Saturday, and it was open until 7pm each day.  That meant that we could only go on Saturday, and that would jeopardize the rugby match.  To forego either would go against the grain!  As the tickets for the exhibition had to be picked up by me, I could not give them away.  ID was required!  I stewed for a while.

Thursday and Friday were very hot days.  I had contemplated going swimming instead of walking on the latter but Samantha needed to go to the supermarket.  My regret of choosing to go walking continued into the afternoon, and then I made another regretful decision, by remaining at the office, with Dana, instead of taking him up on his suggestion of going home, swim, then collect him once finished.  The pool was calling me, and I did not answer!

Saturday was meant to be stormy.  However, the heat had not subsided, despite the wind picking up.  We had been experiencing very high gusts for days, although the breeze was also very warm and did little to cool the temperature throughout the week.  

Samantha and I went out on our usual Saturday adventure, and when I returned home, Dana was still at the office.  With the possibility of an outing later in the day, I chose to acknowledge the calling from the swimming pool, and walked down to the water.  It was wonderful!  I swam for about fifteen minutes, and then read a chapter of my book, that had not been opened since last year! (My previous visit a couple of weeks ago did not allow for such frivolity!)  I returned home and found my husband waiting to take me out!  

We arrived at the Dell Diamond stadium around four thirty.  "Do you have tickets?" asked the attendant.  I showed her my letter. "Oh I am so sorry. I have bad news.  The box office is closed as we are closing at five."  I must have looked a little confused, as she read my facial expressions.  "You wont be able to see the IMAX presentation, but you can see the exhibits, but you must be out by five!"  We assured her that it was not our intention to watch a movie, but to see the memorabilia.  We were granted access, without ID!

The 'virtual reality' tour was not impressive to my husband.  His introduction to the technological invention to which I have become enthralled, was not a hit!  The picture was fuzzy and the experience limited.  Mine did not work at all!  He was guided by a very enthusiastic lady to another chair and a more expensive headset. He tried to resist, but she insisted he could not leave until the experience met her satisfaction!  It was still not particularly impressive to him, and whilst he thanked her profusely, he was not interested in spending too much time in this arena.  She finally let go of his hand and allowed him out of the caravan!  The rest of the exhibition was much more to his satisfaction.  'The' bat that Babe Ruth used to score his many home runs, was behind a pane of glass as was Joe DiMaggio's cap and Jackie Robinson's 'retired' shirt. A Honus Wagner playing card, valued at more than three million dollars, was exhibited in the next car.  (Apparently) The greatest short stop, who debuted in 1897, Honus Wagner is considered to be, by many, the greatest all round player!  Most of the names were not familiar to me, and others of whom I had heard, I would not remember unless prompted. However, the first two mentioned above, I believe, are probably household names. 


I attempted to have my picture taken with those famous names, but could not get the 'stand' right.  In the event, the picture looked as if someone was throwing the bat at me to remove me from the field, which would probably be nearer to the truth than me joining in the game!

Taking us about twenty minutes to see the whole exhibition, we left just before it closed.  Dana was impressed!  I was delighted!  He said it was better than going to a match, to actually see the 'tools' used by his childhood heroes.  This was music to my ears, as my husband is not easily moved!


We drove from far north to far south, and arrived at the Austin Hun's Rugby Club just as they broke for half time.  It was still very warm and we sat with the sparse crowd and waited for the second half to begin.  There were several spectators on the field, taking part in a half time 'fun' kick, and the crowd were cheering.  The English team were apparently beating the Huns by a considerable amount, with the Austin team yet to score, the whistle blew for the second half.  Within a couple of minutes, Richmond scored another 'try', and the Huns were not looking as if they could recover.  The crowd, however, was not giving up, and the encouragement was being shouted from the stands.  The commentator took the time to let the crowd know that whilst the Huns had not lost a match this season, they were no match for the English team.  However, the English team was founded more than a century earlier than the Austin team, (fifteen years before Honus Wagner was born,)  and is the second oldest English club.  Richmond scored several times in the second half, although the scoreboard was not updated! However, the Richmond side were at somewhat of a disadvantage. The heat was definitely not conducive!  I think I was the only English person in the stands, and found it hard not to cheer when Richmond surged forward again, and again. The Huns did not give up, and on one of the last plays of the game, one of the team managed to stop the 'umpteenth' try by England, but alas it was in vain, as they picked up the ball and scored again, just prior to the 'full time' whistle blowing.  The score was a rather impressive 'something' to the Huns' nothing.  

Dana was suitable impressed!  I was quite delighted that he had
enjoyed both outings!  We were invited on to the field to form a line and 'congratulate' the players, by 'hand slapping' as they walked through the aisle of supporters.  The Richmond side came down first, and joined the walls, to 'slap' the hands of their rivals. Dana was in the thick of the crowd, as if he had been to each match of the season, and this was the norm for him.  I spoke to a Richmond player, who thanked me for taking the time to come and watch.  I told him that I had never been to a rugby match before, and having lived in Austin for thirteen years, it was rather amusing to think that my first experience would be here!  He was very gracious.  I found it equally amusing to be watching the sport, wearing a pair of short trousers, sleeveless shirt, and flip flops.  It was over ninety degrees, and this is technically a winter sport. Winter in England, of course, is vastly different to that in Austin, and typical attire would be long trousers and a thick coat!  Hats are always optional!

Dana and I left the field and headed out towards Central Austin. 
We enjoyed dinner before heading home after what was a very pleasant afternoon!  


The two prizes had been claimed, and used!  Although I have won things that were perhaps more valuable dollarwise, these were priceless!  

Sunday was a lot cooler than the rest of the week, with a strong storm taking away the bulk of the heat, as well as a couple of trees! We walked around our complex in the morning, and surveyed the damage.  I would not be swimming during the day, as apart from the temperature being a little on the chilly side, the pool was rather covered in debris.  I am hoping for a chance to swim next week, but it is, until Monday, still April, and the season has taken off early.  

With a 'first' under my belt, and new experiences always on the horizon, I am looking forward to the new week. Despite having to work, I know that something will crop up that will be interesting or worthy of ............ another story!

Sunday, April 23, 2017

TOMORROW, WE DIET!

Although it was a Bank Holiday in England, we were back at work on Monday and the weekend was nothing more than a good memory.  

I was dressed for rain as we had been promised a wet day, but it did not happen.  It was not very busy, and we enjoyed the respite. It was going to get a lot busier, although not necessarily at the office. My neighbours who usually host our monthly soiree, were unable to entertain the troops, as the husband was unfortunately taken ill last weekend.  Asking if there was anything I could do, my neighbour wondered if I could find someone to take on the task.  I said I would email around and see.  However, time marched on and I had failed in the communication department.  Not wanting to let down my neighbour, or indeed neighbours, I asked Dana if he would object to us taking on the task.  He seemed quite happy with the idea, and asked if I would have time to get everything together. I was quite sure that if I could have a couple of hours off, one on Wednesday morning, and another on Thursday, then I would be good to go! I found myself humming the theme tune to an Australian soap opera, which first hit our television in 1985, called, 'Neighbours'.  The last line of the song is, 'That's when good neighbour's become good friends'.  

The tradition has been that my neighbour makes a large pot of soup, and I bring a dessert.  There is no hard and fast rule, other than the one I make upon myself, but I will not turn up without a pudding.  Dana did expect dessert, one dessert, but he then asked me what soup was I making. Soup?  I am not renowned for my soup.  Although I have made a few in the past, they are no longer on my menu.  I bought a super-duper pressure cooker come slow cooker, come anything else maker a few months ago, but it is still sitting in its box waiting for me to read the instructions, (which I will not read, until I have attempted to fathom the workings of the appliance, and once I have found that it does not 'go' as I have expected it to, then, and only then, will I relent and read the instructions!)  However, I digress.  I had decided to take on 'Neighbour's night', and I sent out the emails to the 'usual suspects', and asked them to pass the invitation to others.


I rose early on Tuesday and decided to start on the desserts.  I was expecting, so far, a total of three people, including Dana and myself.  The third was my good neighbour whom had become good friend, Cathleen.  I would start slow and build up, depending upon how many replies were received before the big night.  The best thing about a chocolate mousse bombe, is that it has to be frozen in order to decorate, so it can be prepared in advance.  At least that was my hope, as the recipe suggests freezing for a few hours! 

Tuesday was not as quiet as Monday, and the humidity took its toll at lunchtime, when we walked around to the supermarket.  I needed some more cream, and Samantha needed some items for Edwards surprise party, which was to take place on Saturday night.  His birthday was on Friday, and he was working out of town from Tuesday until Friday, so she had decided that it might be nice to arrange something upon his return.  However, although he was due to leave earlier in the day, he sent her a message to say that he was going to leave from their house, around four, and would she be able to get home to say 'cheerio'.  Dana could not resist 'loves young dream', and allowed her to leave early to bid her husband farewell! So as not to arouse suspicion, the items that she purchased remained in the office fridge overnight, just below the chocolate mousse which sat in the freezer above!

I had prepared dinner for Tuesday, and it just needed reheating when I got home. I had received three more 'yes' responses, and so it was 'game on'.  I would be able to prepare some more desserts in the morning, but in the meantime, I was going to have to clear the rubble from my morning effort! However, although I had warned Dana as to the slight mess in the kitchen, I had not prepared him enough, as he walked into a shambles.  He looked helplessly at the mess and wanted to help, but knew not where to begin. I sent him packing, assuring him that I could manage, and it was a case of 'too many cooks' in my small kitchen, would 'spoil the broth' that he had assumed I was making.  I told him that by the time the spaghetti was al dente, all would be washed up and put away.  


An early start was essential on Wednesday, as I had another 'dinner party' to prepare for that evening.  There would only be three of us, and the menu was simple.  I was going to poach some salmon and roast some potatoes.  Nothing too complicated.  However, as my fridge was going to be full of creamy desserts, there would be no room for beverages and although I am not particular as to the temperature at which I drink my sparkling water, I am aware that there is a protocol in this arena!  I would fill my 'ice chest' cooler with ice, and use it as a portable fridge.  However, the cooler was in my neatly arranged cupboard, at the back, under my cake tins.  Of course, the most efficient way of retrieving the cooler, was not the quickest, and after pushing things out of the way and struggling to lift the cooler by the handle, with the box of cake tins still partially covering it, without any leverage, as I was standing on Dana's tool box, which was at the front of the cupboard, which was in front of a pack of kitchen towel rolls, I decided to go to 'plan b'; the efficient way.  Of course, the most efficient way of retrieving the cooler, was not the quickest, and my version of efficiency was still to attempt to remove the item without removing everything that was in front of it, and by the time I had managed to maneuver the box from its resting place, I had emptied most of the cake pans on to the floor, and had dislodged enough of the other contents so that they came crashing down on top of the dishes that I would need to retrieve for the 'main courses', that were far from soup!

A batch of pastry was resting peacefully in my fridge whilst all this was taking place, and the lime mixture that was to fill it, was sitting on my kitchen table, cooling to a temperature that would be acceptable to add the whipped cream, in order to make it 'light and fluffy' as the recipe suggested.  This was critical, as I was going to borrow half a dozen pastry cases and fill them with lime 'light and fluffy' for that evening's dessert!  

Arriving at work a little after nine, no one would have suspected the mess that had gained ground, once again, in my house, having spread from the kitchen to the dining room!  I worked feverishly all day, with a break in the middle to pick up some salad, and ingredients for the vegetarian dish that I was going to make for my good neighbour/friend, the vegetarian!  I had only made ratatouille a couple of times before, but decided that a recipe was unnecessary.  We traveled back to the office with a bag full of groceries for a neighbour's soiree and a surprise party!

 My Wednesday evening was very busy.  I arrived home a little after five, and saw another neighbour, whom apparently had not received my email.  I realised that as I was not in regular communication with most of my neighbours via email, my message may have been sent directly to their 'junk' folder.  "I will tell everyone", offered my good neighbour/friend, with enthusiasm.  I was grateful, and then started to panic.  Who was 'everyone'?  My next door neighbour was blowing leaves out of his patio area, and I extended the invite to him and his wife.  "Oh thank you.  Is that this week?  Okay, we will try and make it".  I went inside my condo, and made a list!  My catering would have to be enough for between six and possibly thirty, although twenty would be more realistic.  I had twenty four hours to create a feast!  

I peeled potatoes and carrots, ready to be boiled the following morning, and cut up vegetables for the French vegetable stew. Pieces of chicken were arranged on a bed of spinach for the other main course.  I just had enough time to poach my salmon and lay the table before my Wednesday evening guest arrived.  I had managed to rearrange the cupboard which had housed the cooler and it was stacked in a way that allowed the door to shut and therefore hid the explosion from vision.  

Dana announced that he would have to be in the office bright and early Thursday morning, especially if I required him to play host by seven that evening.  I was about to argue!  I rose early and headed down to the kitchen, where the preparations began again.  Potatoes were boiling and meat was cooking.  The Shepherds Pie was 'on the go'.  (Technically it was a cottage pie, but I decided that unless anyone specifically asked, I would not venture to give a lesson!)  I proceeded to make choux pastry, and whip some more cream.  It was going to be a cholesterol nightmare!

It was time to return to the cupboard, and retrieve the tins for the Shepherd's pies.  Yes, pies.  Samantha arrived as I was suspended in mid air, having once again gone every other route except that of efficiency.  I had caught my hair in a metal frame, right at the back of the cupboard, and my legs were kicking in the hope that my feet would hit terra ferma at some point.  She had brought in two cake tins, in the hope that one of them would be eight inches, and sufficient for my meringue mixture, which I had yet to make. Neither were, but her help was needed in a different area now.  I managed to disentangle myself and regain vertical positioning amid howls of laughter coming from the other room.  However, as always, my daughter came to the rescue in a very practical sense. She mashed the potato mixture, poured the minced beef into the tins (that I had managed to retrieve before standing upright) and created a masterpiece that looked as if it had been purchased from the 'ready made' food section of a 'high end' supermarket!  

Before I left the house, at a little before nine, I had two pies ready to go in the oven, choux buns ready to be filled, a hazelnut meringue awaiting cream, and a giant ratatouille simmering in the crock pot.  I wasn't quite half way there, but I was 'living on a prayer'!  Once at the office, I removed the frozen bombe from the freezer, and covered it with cream whipped cream.

The supermarket stop was essential, again, at lunchtime, as I had whipped all the cream in my fridge, and I needed some more for the chicken!  I returned to the office and saw that I had received an email from my vegetarian neighbour.  She and her husband were going to have to decline my offer of dinner, as their daughter was in desperate need of a baby sitter, and they were going to have to oblige.  I replied that 'grandma duties' must come first, and we would catch up at a later date.  I was still unsure as to the amount of people for whom I would be catering, but I was convinced I would have enough food.  

Arriving home a little before five, as I had asked the boss if it would be convenient for me to leave work just a little early, as my guests were also his guests, and any shortcoming would reflect on both of us, (Dana was unmoved by my threats,) I set to with a vengeance.  I had written a detailed list of 'things to do', which included 'put out napkins; put away shoes; put out cutlery' and other things that although appeared to be obvious, were going to be forgotten in the mix!  I filled the meringue with cream and strawberries, and filled the choux buns with cream and topped them with chocolate.  The pastry cases were filled with lime 'light and fluffy', and the bombe was put on a plate!  A mixture of cream, Parmesan cheese, tomatoes, chicken stock and mushrooms were poured over the chicken and it joined the pies in the oven.  Rice was set to cook in the rice cooker!

By six fifty, I was ready to receive my guests.  Dana arrived home at five minutes to the hour, ran upstairs to freshen up, and was back down on the stroke of seven.  We waited.  I had opened my back gate, so that people could just walk through.  The front door was also unlocked.  The clock ticked round a minute, and then two.  We sighed.  Then, just as I was about to throw in the towel, the door bell rang, and I heard my back gate creek.  "Are we early", asked Dorothy, my good neighbour/friend, who lives next door the swimming pool.  "No, right on time", said Dana, as I pulled back the patio door to invite Diane in.  

I went into the kitchen and took the pies, and the chicken from the oven, just as Cathleen and another neighbour appeared on my patio. 

My husband was unaware of all that had been prepared, and was looking for the soup.  However, he soon forgot the yearning for broth, and tucked into the other dishes that were on offer, as did everyone else.  Two more neighbour's arrived.  They had not replied as they had been out of town and were not sure what time they would return, and having eaten on the way home, they were not going to have any dinner.  They were not going to have any dinner until they saw that Shepherd's pie was on the menu!  

"I didn't think I liked Shepherd's pie", announced my neighbour from two doors along.  After we discussed how it was made and what was actually in a real Shepherd's pie, the lesson given that I promised myself I would only give if asked, I told him that many versions were rather too lavish, and added ingredients, rather than enhance, actually spoiled.  It is also normally quite expensive, which is not acceptable for what was originally 'leftovers'.  He was converted with the traditional 'English' version!

"Desserts are in the lounge", I said, as the main courses were being devoured, much to my satisfaction.  "Plural", said David, my 'love Shepherd's pie made-the-traditional-way' neighbour.  "You made more than one?"  I shrugged.  "It's a fatal flaw", I announced.  As the first guest cut into the meringue, the doorbell rang, and Dana was delighted to see that my next door neighbours had arrived.  We all managed to arrange ourselves around my kitchen table, and I felt as if I had achieved a great goal.  The interesting thing was that each one of my neighbours has a talent of their own, either academic or practical, and as each one was complimentary of my effort, I was aware that I was, in some way, envious of their talents too.  I accepted the compliment and was grateful that I could prepare a two course meal, with a choice, on a 'school night'.  It was great fun!  Everyone had departed by nine thirty, as most of us had work the following day, and all were suitably fed!  

"We had a dinner party", said Dana, once we had cleared away the food from the table, and placed the leftovers into smaller containers.  "Yes, we did", I replied, noticing that he actually enjoyed the socialising!  I waited for another comment, which took a while to arrive.  "How did you make so much, in so little time!" Although I do not give away my trade secrets to all, I told him that the best dishes, or at least my best dishes, are really rather simple to prepare and cook.  

I went into work on Friday on time.  I left work on Friday night at a little before eight.  I told the boss that I would probably make up the time at the end of the week, and I did just that!  

Saturday morning saw Samantha and I maintain our usual routine. She had to shop for some things for the 'surprise' party, and her good neighbour/friend, was going to prepare anything that needed preparing in her kitchen, and bring it over to Samantha later.  I felt rather lost, as I had nothing to do! Having spent the first part of the week in a state of 'overdrive', I was sure I was missing something!  


The surprise party went down well, and I was pleased to have a quiet evening.  We visited my good neighbour/friend on Sunday morning.  He is in a nursing facility, and his wife was pleased to see us, and glad that all went well.  

I felt somewhat satisfied with the 'event', on many different levels. It was not only good to 'cater' for a large group, once again, as I had done so many times when I lived in England, but I realised that most of my 'safe - staple' recipes could be adapted (as the ingredients, if available, are not always of the same consistency, or more often than not, not named the same) and those recipes that I had not attempted in England (due to the fact they were too prohibitively expensive to be experiments) were made for the first time with ingredients from here, so there was no need to adapt.  

The most amusing part of the whole week was that I made my good neighbour/friend, who is in the nursing facility, a batch of chocolate chip cookies!  I made cookies!  Was I finally giving up, and becoming the 'all American' cook.  I think not, a cookie here and there does not an American make!  

I have no idea what is in store on the culinary front next week, but I do have a freezer full of food that can just be thawed and reheated. Despite a large dent in the meals, I did over cater just a little bit. Dana thinks I had enough to feed our whole community twice.  I think he is exaggerating slightly, although only slightly.  I look forward to redoing this week, at some point, in ......... another story!

Sunday, April 16, 2017

ALL THE WORLD'S A STAGE!

The post office called me, apparently, on Saturday.  I was not at the office, and they promised they would call back.  I was rather surprised at the quick response.  In fact, I was rather surprised at any response, and decided that I had perhaps not given them a fair trial.  They did call back, on Monday, and were very apologetic, and asked a lot of very relevant questions.  The also explained to me that any letters that did not have a return address, were sent to Atlanta.  They did not tell me what happened to them once they arrived, but I was not interested in their untold demise. My letter did have a return address upon it.  It always has a return address on it, as our envelopes are printed.  Another investigation would be started, this time in the capital of the peach state.  I was advised, however, that the amount of letters passed to the essential 'graveyard' of the post office, do not always find a way home!

Rain poured down during the earlier part of the morning, and I waited until it was dry before going on my walk.  On my way around, I saw an older couple, pushing an empty pushchair.  I smiled to myself, and contemplated the comments that I would have made to Samantha, or that she would have made to me, about whether they knew they were missing a child!  The couple were rather frail looking, and I started to wonder whether they used the pushchair to carry their groceries.  It was a short thought, and my mind went to other matters as I continued to walk. I ventured into the supermarket.  Someone made the comment that it was busy, and another person said that most people had probably waited for the rain to stop.  Other people around joined in the conversation, and before long there was a jovial congregation of like minded locals discussing the heavy, yet brief liquid interval that had taken place an hour earlier.  I picked up what I needed and headed to the check out, picking up several cans of flavoured sparkling water, for the office fridge.

Standing at the check out, I noticed the gentleman behind me was carrying one item.  I offered to swap place, but he declined, telling me that it would be 'good practice' for him to be patient.  The young man at the end of the counter took my backpack, and started to pack the cans, and other purchases.  "It's gotten really busy!", he commented. "Most people probably waited for the rain to stop", I said, repeating the sentence I had heard earlier.  "Hey, yeah.  You are probably right.  Never thought of that", he said, as if I had just made a sparkling revelation.  I did not tell him that I had borrowed it from another customer, and smiled as I walked away.  Stopping to readjust the items in my bag, as they had not been packed in a way that was comfortable to carry, I heard, "Have a good rest of the day".  It was the gentleman to whom I had offered to swap places in the queue.  I looked up, just in time to see him perform the action of doffing the top of his cap, and I smiled in response and extended the same courtesy.  I left the supermarket feeling rather upbeat, as the events, despite being nothing particularly grand or even noteworthy, made me feel as if I had traveled back in time, into a world of courtesy and friendliness.  

Making my way back, I spotted the frail couple with the pushchair. They had found their child!  However, the child should have been pushing them!  It was a good thing that the walk back was downhill, as the occupant of the pushchair could have been in training for the next generation of sumo wrestlers!  I watched as (I assume) grandma pushed with what appeared to be all her might, the package that filled the entire seating space and spilled over the edge.  I smiled at the scene, wondering if the couple in charge of the giant baby were making assumptions about me!

Samantha returned to Austin in the early hours of Tuesday morning, amid threats of the plane being diverted due to the tremendous storms.  Fortunately, they landed in between tempests, and arrived at their house a minute before 3am.  She was rather tired when she arrived at my house the following morning.

We walked at lunchtime, again in between storms, and she had to make a trip inside the supermarket.  "Come prepared today, then", said the young man who had packed my bag the previous day.  I smiled, and replied in the affirmative.  I had made a new friend!

Friday arrived late this week!  It was as if several days had been added in between Monday and the end of the working week.  We were very busy, and so it seemed strange that the week would drag as much as it did.  All but a handful of courthouses were closed due to it being 'Good' Friday, and our local courthouse fell in the category of those that remained open, hence our having to work when most others did not!  Dana was inundated with emails, and we were two men down!  One server was sent out with several papers when another arrived.  This was to be delivered to a person whom officed just a few blocks up from the supermarket!  I did not hesitate to run the paper, and walked out to the car.  It was as I was on my way that I started to feel the anxiety rise.  I have no idea as to why I should feel any level of apprehension, but the thought of handing someone a piece of paper that would compel them to appear at a hearing at the local courthouse, was rather daunting. It was not a 'writ' which starts, "You have been sued", but it was demanding their attendance.  To disregard the instructions would entail consequences, and although we are only the 'delivery men', it always makes me conscious of how our business can impact lives of others.  However, someone has to do it! 

The lady to whom I was to give the paper was not there.  In fact, like most other offices, this on was closed due to the holiday!  I was somewhat relieved.  I returned to the office, having done my duty, and continued to work in my capacity as an administrator, which suddenly became very satisfying!  I did not crave adventure, especially when adventure was giving an order (although not directly by me) to alter someones plans!

Saturday morning was also busy.  I had wanted to return home early enough to have some 'downtime' before heading out to the theatre!  Yes, tonight was the night of the play for which I had won tickets!  I was very much looking forward to the performance, and hoped that Dana would enjoy it!  In the event, Samantha and I arrived back much later than anticipated, and Dana had taken a nap which lasted much longer than he had anticipated.  We left the house later than we had anticipated, and headed out to get something to eat.  The restaurant was not very busy, but our meal took a long time to be brought to the table, and I was already starting to fret that we would be late for the show!  Apparently, the theatre was in the back of a church building, and once the performance started, the doors were locked and there was no access.  I had received an email reminding me of the 'procedure' and was pleased to note that there was a sentence that started, "If you have to leave during the performance, do so quietly", which meant that we would not be 'trapped' inside should , for any reason, we feel the need to depart! 

Despite all the late happenings, we arrived downtown very quickly, and parked in a car park.  Dana did not realise that parking meters were in force until midnight on a Saturday.  He remembered the days when parking on a Saturday was free.  He did recall that there was a push to charge until midday, but did not know that it was ever put into practice.  He was also unaware that the different zones charged different amounts, and whereas a dollar would cover you for an hour on 10th Street, it would only cover you for about forty minutes where we were heading!  As neither of us had any quarters, the parking was limited to a covered facility which charged a flat rate.  It was amusing watching him contemplate the charges.  My husband is rather a generous man for the most part, but when circumstances change and he is unaware of the change, (such as the parking charges on a Saturday night,) he sometimes finds it hard to come to terms with a new era!  I just sit and watch him, as his mind adjusts, and then we continue with the plan!

We walked up to the large church building, and tried the doors. They were all locked.  We started to walk away, to see if there was another entrance, when we heard someone call to us.  "Are you here for the play?" she asked, and we replied in the affirmative. "This way", she beckoned us.  The magnificent building housed the 'sanctuary', on the second floor, which is where we entered, and theatres on the forth floor, which they 'hired out'.  I realised why the 'doors would be locked' and no admission granted, after the performance began, as no one would be there to let latecomers in! 

My name was on the list, and we were told that seating would start around 7:10.  Dana and I walked around the forth floor, and then down to the third, where there appeared to be a lot more rooms. Venturing down to the second floor, he pulled on the door of the 'Sanctuary',and finding it unlocked, walked down the aisle to the pulpit.  The lady who had admitted us to the building appeared around the corner.  "Is it okay to go in?" I asked, feeling as if I were trespassing, despite it being a place of worship.  She looked into the large arena and shook her head, but then saw that Dana was already inside.  "Well if it is open....", her voice trailed off and she shrugged her shoulders.  "I promise we wont touch anything", I said, hoping to ease her fears, and she nodded a little nervously.  My promise was short lived, as my husband lifted the cover off the piano keys, stating that this too was unlocked, sat down on the stool, and started to play.  "What are you doing!" I asked, somewhat rhetorically, as it was obvious.  I ran to the end and peered through the glass that separated the large room from the rest of the building. "Stop it", I said, but my words fell on deaf ears, as the acoustics made it impossible for anything to be heard but the melody being played.  Sensing my anxiety, (I would have preferred to serve this lady with a paper demanding her appearance in court, than to encounter her presence in the 'Sanctuary',) he stopped, and made his way back up the ramp.  

After exploring the first floor, and feeling as if eyes, or cameras were upon me, and that I would receive a summons for failing to adhere to 'no trespassing' signs (which were non-existent, but probably not needed, as no one but my husband would think to go anywhere other than the forth floor!) we went back upstairs, where the doors to the theatre had been opened.

The small room (much smaller than the 'Sanctuary') was set out with about sixty seats.  Thirty faced the stage and thirty were to the side, although both sections provided perfect viewing.  The play started at exactly 7:30, as indicated, and lasted about an hour and forty minutes.  It was excellent.  "The Herd" was set around a birthday party for a disabled boy, and a rather dysfunctional family. It was funny and sad, and thought provoking.  The acting was quite superb! I noticed that one of the actors was the man with whom I had been corresponding about the tickets, and was quite pleased that I would have an opportunity of telling him, personally, (via email,) how much we enjoyed the performance.  

With no consequences to our touring the building uninvited, we left via the front door.  Most of the people in attendance appeared to be familiar with each other, and were huddled in small groups in the courtyard.  

Arriving home shortly after nine thirty, we agreed that the experience had been worthwhile, and it was nice to do something 'different', although I would not want a repeat performance of playing 'look out'!  

Sunday morning sped into Sunday afternoon, and I wondered why the weekend could not have dragged just a little bit more than the week.  It is back to work as normal tomorrow, and I shall be making notes to see how much I excitement I can store for ...... another story!