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Bare Footprints in the Snow

The last of our winter market events are done; our season was rather truncated, as the earlier markets proved not as profitable as hoped, and one – for which we had great hopes – filled up with other vendors before we could send payment. And what profits we did gain were dented by a computer melt-down on my part, and the necessity of purchasing a new tire for the Montero on Blondie’s. Even though the economy is supposed to be improving, you couldn’t prove it by the small merchants doing the mobile weekly markets this last quarter. And I am coming down with a horrific cold, and Blondie managed to injure her foot last Friday morning, trying to take a picture of the snow-covered field behind our house … yes, it snowed, seriously in San Antonio last week, much to everyone’s surprise. We were expecting a cold spell overnight, and Thursday afternoon delivered cold-blustery-rainy-water-sodden kind of weather, of a degree that made us grateful to retreat to a warm house, eat supper from a tray in front of the television – and then suddenly there was a horrific ‘whoomp’ sound from outside, and all the lights and the TV went off.

Yeah, power outage. Blondie assumed at once that someone had skidded through the T-intersection at the front of our house and piled into either the light standard, or the tree in the front yard. But no – “It’s snowing!”

Real snow – fat, fluffy flakes of white snow, falling as thick as they ever did on the night of a full moon in Utah, where we lived in the early 1990s. That’s one of those snow-falls where the clouds, the snow falling, and the snow fallen combine to reflect the light and make everything – if not as bright as noon, then at least as bright as twilight. I’m told that in Russia this phenomenon is called a “White Night.” The trees were laden with fluffy white snowflakes, the ground below thickly covered … it was beautiful, it really was. It doesn’t snow in San Antonio oftener than every thirty years or so, and this was real snow! We even took of our shoes and socks, and did what we did in Utah for the first heavy snow-fall of the year, which was to run barefoot through it, barefoot in our front and backyard through the fresh-fallen fluffy snow.

Didn’t last beyond midday the next day, of course – it didn’t even stay cold enough to harm any of the plants, even the blooming Christmas cactus. But it was beautiful, and a bountiful gift of the season. And best of all, it didn’t last long enough to do any real harm to the plants in the garden, which a sudden, rock-hard freeze would have done.

… Is never done. Yes, I have been trying to fill out the note entries on my enormous spreadsheet of the American Revolution, with attention towards events and possible characters for the next Serious Historical Novel … but damn, I have a cat in my lap who is interfering with my typing and page turning … and Big Princess is not even MY cat. She is my daughter’s cat. (Why, why, why does she want to sit in MY lap when I am working at my computer. Sayeth the daughter – Because she wooves you. Not helping, sweetie…)

Tomorrow I expect to hear from a potential client with some extra paid work to be done, transcribing handwritten notes into a usable file. Yes, the book project is all but in the bag, but I cannot term him a client until the contract is signed and return, and the initial payment for work has been deposited. I also expect to hear from an editing client with his clarifications to his manuscript, which I must apply to his manuscript before doing the final pass-through edit and asking for final payment. Fortunately, this client has given every evidence of being pleased as punch with my efforts with regard to his memoir of an eventful childhood, so I have that going for me…

Today was a bit of a holiday between the event yesterday, and the potential work of the week. Saturday I was a participant in the last book event of my somewhat truncated year – the Book Corral in Goliad on Saturday, which went very well, especially in comparison with certain previous years wherein it was so cold that shoppers decamped early, swiftly followed by vendors concluding that there was nothing to be gained from hanging on, save death from exposure to bone-numbing cold. We ourselves packed up from Miss Ruby’s Author Corral at about 3 PM, knowing that once the doggie Christmas costume contest kicked off, that nothing much would be happening elsewhere along the square. This year, the Author Corral was again established in the forecourt of the Mustang Cantina, opposite a lovely little brick building which is set to become a boutique hotel, when interminable construction work is completed. Yes, the shale oil bidness has been good to Goliad; the historic courthouse square is now much spiffier in appearance then it was, back when I first did the Author Corral. Was it 2010, or 2011 – swift consult of my blog archives is inconclusive. One of those years, anyway. I so wish that I had been able to purchase the tiny silver single-action Army Colt with the cow-horn grips that one of the vendors – who had a whole display case of small silver replicas of fishing and hunting gear – all beautifully detailed and many of them workable. Alas, they all a bit pricy, and I never saw him again at subsequent events.

But anyway – I connected up with a good few fans of the books, including the woman who had paid for an advance copy of The Golden Road, and then when I lost her order form the next weekend – left me owing her a copy of my Gold Rush novel. Oddly enough, this time around, we sold two sets of the Luna City novels, which is only fair, since Goliad is one of the prime inspirations for Luna City itself.

And when we packed up and went away to walk the Square vendors, for a bit of Christmas shopping, I inadvertently left behind the bag with the striped bustle dress in it – since it turned so hot late in the day that I simply had to change. When we were about halfway through the circuit of the vendors on the Square, I was bitten several times on my left knee by a stray fire ant – what the hell? And now my knee is red and inflamed, and I kind of hope that I have another day to do my own thing tomorrow…

(This essay was originally written more than ten years ago, and is included in the ebook Happy Families; a reminiscence even then of what Thanksgiving was before I left home to join the Air Force. I think I was home with my family for that holiday perhaps four or five years since then. Dad passed away in 2010, Mom is a semi-invalid living with my sister and her family. I don’t know if my sister ever fixes the onions in cheese sauce – I certainly don’t.)

Fairly early on, Mom and Dad reached a compromise on the question of where the holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas would be celebrated: Christmas at our house, and Thanksgiving alternating between the grandparents’ houses: One year at Grannie Jessie and Grandpa Jim’s little white house on South Lotus, the next at Grannie Dodie and Grandpa Al’s in Camarillo. Since Dad was an only child, and Mom an only surviving child, all the hopes of constellation of childless or unmarried great-aunts and uncles were centered on JP, Pippy, Sander and I. We rather basked in the undivided attention, even as we regretted the lack of first cousins; there was Great-Aunt Nan, who was Grandpa Al’s younger sister, and Grannie Dodie’s two brothers, Fred and Bob. Fred had been a sailor on a real sailing ship in his youth and had lady in a frilly skirt tattooed on each forearm, who did the shimmy when he flexed his muscles: he also had children, so he was not invariably with us every Thanksgiving. Great-Uncle Bob was married to Great-Aunt Rose, and her sister Nita lived with them. Rose was frail and genteel, and her sister Nita plump and bossy, but they both had neatly marcelled short hair, in the fashion of the 1920ies, and both smelt deliciously of flower-scented dusting powder when hugged.

The menu was unvaryingly traditional, no matter if the table was laid out in the screened porch at Grannie Jessie’s, or set up in Grannie Dodie’s dining room and living room. Both of our grandmothers followed pretty much the same recipes for the turkey and bread stuffing, the giblet gravy and mashed potatoes with plenty of milk and butter whipped in. Both of them preferred opening a can of jellied cranberry sauce and letting it schlorp out onto a cut-glass plate, the ripples from the can unashamedly displayed to the world; at Christmas, Mom went as far as making cranberry sauce from a bag of sour fresh cranberries boiled together with sugar, but as far as the grandmothers were concerned, there was a reason that God had invented canned cranberry sauce technology.

Grandpa Al invariably carved the bird, expertly transforming it into neat slices of white and dark, to the tune of Great-Aunt Nan reminiscing about how he had inherited this marvelous skill from their father, Great-Grandpa George, the maestro of the carving knife and fork. Butler and valet to a wealthy manufacturing magnate, Great Grandpa George parlayed an inheritance into a thriving society catering business. To hear Great-Aunt Nan tell it, he could toss a roast into the air, make lighting-fast passes with a knife and have it fall onto the platter in neatly fanned slices. It was Grandpa Al and Great-Aunt Nan’s mother, though, who had the wonderful, unattainable recipe for the most perfect candied yams, or at least that’s how Dad remembered it.

Every Thanksgiving for a number of years became a running contest for Mom and the grandmothers to try and replicate this marvelous confection. They experimented yearly with yams or sweet potatoes, brown sugar and butter and additions of pineapple, or orange juice, or ginger, a bit of this and a pinch of that, to no avail. Every year, Dad tasted it and said judiciously
“It’s close, but…”
Finally Great-Aunt Nan unearthed a hand-written recipe for this Holy Grail of baked yams, written in Great-Grannie Alices’ very own hand. Mom and Grannie Jessie followed it to the letter, and presented the results to Dad. He tasted it, while we hung on his reaction, confident that we had finally achieved Great-Grannie Alices’ sublime, yammy perfection.
“Not quite…’ Dad said at last, while Mom and Grannie Jessie’s faces fell, and JP and I chorused “To dream the impossible dream…” Later in the kitchen, Mom and I concluded that since it had been by that time about twenty-five years since Dad had tasted those unattainable yams, it was entirely possible that he really didn’t remember exactly what they had tasted like.

There was never any question about the other holiday side dish, the marble-sized baby onions baked in cheese sauce: we all hated it, but Mom fixed it every year for Grandpa Jim, and whichever non-family guests felt adventurous. Grandpa Jim died when I was eleven, and that next Thanksgiving, Mom fixed them again.
“Why?” I asked, as she whisked the sauce one last whisk, and poured it over a casserole filled halfway up with onions. “No one ever ate it but Grandpa.”
“It’s traditional,” Mom said sternly. She scattered toasted breadcrumbs over the top, and put the casserole in the oven.

Grandpa Jim has been gone for forty-some years. Mom has to practically specially order the onions now, for the memorial cheese sauce and onion casserole, of which only Mom and the occasional daring non-family guest ever has more than a spoonful. The elders fell away, one by one: Grandpa Al, and Great Aunt Rose, then Great-Uncle Bob, the grandmothers, and finally Great-Aunt Nan, and the holiday table is now filled with my sisters’ husband and children, with my daughter and my brothers’ wives. The feasting and thanksgiving remain, though… and so do the onions.

 

We clocked the end of a relatively satisfactory day on Monday, after a somewhat grim weekend. The craft market in Bulverde on Saturday worked out semi-OK for me, but the event Sunday evening New Braunfels was a reminder of why I aged out of the bar-hopping and clubbing scene a couple of decades ago — and intermittent rain which moved the event indoors did not help … but Monday and today made up for it, as far as things accomplished.

One – successfully returning Georgina the Friendly Husky dog to her family. (We found Georgina last thing on Friday afternoon, wandering casually through our neighborhood, innocent of a leash, or any identifying tags, and not recognized by anyone in our neighborhood.) Not able to take her to the veterinarian to be checked for a chip until this morning, but she was the most amiable of canine house-guests in the meantime. House-trained, relatively obedient to the usual commands, clever enough to figure out how to open the latch on the front door, sort of OK with the cats. It turned out that her real name is Elsa, she opened a gate at her house in the next neighborhood over … and wandered. Her relieved owner confesses that she is a really, really friendly dog, as well as a clever one. She is a beautiful dog, much admired wherever we went with her; a sturdy blue-eyed,  black and white husky, wirh incredibly thick and plushy fur. If we had not been able to locate her owner, we already had a good home lined up for her

Second – our friend and neighbor, the Genius Handyman successfully cleaned and repaired a malfunctioning and dirty sensor on Blondie’s Montero, saving us the cost of a replacement item – at least, until the ‘check engine’ light went on again this morning. So, maybe a bit more tinkering, to ensure that the Montero is in fighting trim for next weekend market at Blanco’s old county courthouse — an outdoor market which necessitates use of the pavilion. Which does not fit into my car, although everything else does. If the Montero little problem cannot be fixed by then,  I have a roof-rack for my car, onto which we can load the pavilion.

Someday, when the mortgage is entirely paid and I have sold a great many more books, my daughter says that she would like us to buy a panel van or a pickup truck to use as our market-transport vehicle. That project remains a dream, as the mortgage will finally be paid off in March, 2020 – a little more than two years hence.

I researched certain reports and items relevant as to how the h-e-double toothpicks that the company which does print fulfillment and distribution for the Teeny Publishing Bidness has not sent us a royalty payment for a seriously considerable length of time. Oh, yes — when I called on this matter before, I got the response of ‘returns, sales, clear-the-account-at-the-end of-the-year-blah-blah-blah.’ Monday, I spent time enough on the phone with a representative who went far and above beyond that. And seemed rather nonplussed at how long this state of affairs had been going on. I had to send documentation of certain payments, as attachments … but after spending about an hour on the phone, I do have hopes of getting this matter cleared up, although today I had to spend a bit more time explaining this via email to a higher level of customer service person. We are a Teeny Publishing Bidness, and they are a Huge Corporate Conglomerate, but according to my research, they owe us money, and I am just about irritated about this to keep on them like a junkyard dog.

And finally – have done enough work on Lone Star Glory that I can ask for the cover template, so that is one more thing checked off the to-do list…

28. October 2017 · Comments Off on Great Moments in Seasonal Merchandise · Categories: Domestic

Spotted at my friendly neighborhood HEB – Behold!

Day of the Dead Lawn Flamingos!

21. September 2017 · Comments Off on The Best Bread Pudding in All the World! · Categories: Domestic

As promised several weeks ago, the recipe for The Best Bread Pudding In All The World, which featured as part of the breakfast buffet at the Giddings World Wrangler event. The member of the library board who contributed the bread pudding went home at mid-morning and made copies of the page of the recipe book that she took it from for all the guest authors, and made notes in the margin of the things she did to make it even better. (It’s Bon Ton Bread Pudding with Whiskey Sauce from a collection of recipes called Fine Dining Louisiana Style)

Soak 1 loaf of French bread in a quart of milk or half and half, and crush with hands until well-mixed.

Add:

3 eggs

2 cups sugar, (or one cup plain sugar and one cup cinnamon sugar)

2 teaspoons vanilla

1 cup raisins.

Melt three tablespoons butter in a thick baking pan (it was served in a 9×13 glass pan) and add the pudding mixture. Bake at 350 until slightly firm throughout and lightly browned on top. All to cool, and cut into individual servings. Serve with sauce poured over – the book calls for the sauce on top and then run under a broiler for a few minutes, but we had it on the side.

For the whiskey sauce, cream together 2 eggs and 2 cups sugar and eggs until well-mixed. Melt 2 sticks butter and add to egg-sugar mixture, with 1-2 ounces bourbon whiskey.

03. August 2017 · Comments Off on Progress Report · Categories: Domestic, Random Book and Media Musings

OK – so here we are on the downhill slide of the year, and the Daughter Unit and I are getting ready for the serious-marketing part of our year. The Daughter Unit, BTW, is returning from California – on the train, specifically the famed Sunset Limited – bag, baggage, laptop and all associated goodies. It will take about twenty hours – she’ll be back early Friday morning, exact time unspecified. Just about everyone in the neighborhood lately has been asking after her – either where she has been since February, or when she is coming back? Our special friends in the ‘hood miss her, I miss her, the dogs and cats miss her with especial feeling … maybe the chickens miss her too, although I suspect that creatures who lavishly crap where they sleep and eat are possibly not sufficiently sentient to feel the higher emotions.
Anyway – the marketing season for us will begin with a couple of events in San Marcos, with her origami earrings. The time in So-Cal has not been wasted, however. She returns with a nice collection of Japanese origami papers from a couple of different sources, a metric butt-load of finished product for her own enterprise (Paper Blossom Productions) and an arrangement with a local consignment shop specializing in the arty and crafty, which has paid off very well over the last month. Hopefully, the arrangement will pay off even more as the holiday gift-giving season approaches. It’s all about diverse income streams in this decade of independent enterprise, as I keep saying, since other indy producers have been saying so to me.
I am working on the next Lone Star Sons adventure collection – to be called Lone Star Glory; again, a collection of half a dozen adventures to do with Texas Ranger Jim Reade and his blood-brother Toby Shaw, to take place in pre-Civil War Texas. I have gotten ambitious – if I finish the Lone Star Glory adventures in the next month or so, we may be able to generate the next Luna City installment in time for Christmas. Which I would really want to do, as the doings of Luna City are insanely popular (as my books go). I end each one with a cliffhanger related to the plot of the upcoming book, having resolved at least two plot threads in each book. (Cliffhanger endings with the main plot unresolved are a bane and an unkindness to the innocent reader, and I would never do that in any of my books. The main plots will always be resolved – Scout’s Honor.)
I had to set the latest sewing project aside to do some housecleaning and laundry today – so that my daughter will not return home to a pit of nonfunctioning domestic despair and overflowing litter boxes. But I will pick up that project again, since nearly all the pattern pieces are cut for an 1880s bustle dress, or at least, Butterick Patterns version thereof. This was one of the patterns that I bought last fall, when they had a massive sale wherein most or all of the costume patterns were marked down to about $2 each. And, yes, in the middle of the Christmas market season, I bought every darned one of them in my size, since doing vintage dress for book events has worked out so splendidly. This one posed somewhat of a challenge, since it required a lot of materiel, for long A-line skirt, gathered apron overskirt, contrast panels, a long jacket bodice and a fair number of elaborate trimmings and ruffles. The actual construction of the pattern is not so much a challenge – but the yardage requirements of a suitable fabric and the cost thereof – is, most definitely. Until I took a page from the blog of another vintage fashion enthusiast, who also operates with a strict budget, and reworks all kinds of thrift-ship finds into authentic vintage. While sorting out the contents of the backyard shed, I found the set of curtains that I had made for the house, until we replaced those window-coverings with wooden blinds. Hmm – I had made those lined curtains myself, when we first moved into the place. Nice, heavy striped dark-blue and cream-color fabric. And I had enough dark blue velveteen left over from making a cape and bonnet for the Daughter Unit to wear in the event that we get a place at Boerne’s Dickens on Main … so it was settled in my mind. The bustle dress made from curtains. Good enough for Scarlet O’Hara, good enough for me.

12. July 2017 · Comments Off on A Square Hole … · Categories: Domestic

… In the ground, into which you pour money; that was Dave Barry’s definition of a house, which was a take-off on an earlier witticism about a yacht being a hole in the water into which you also poured money.
In my case, water and a house were both involved … in that the other night I went out to the garage to get a pan of home-made lasagna out of the deep-freeze, and noted with considerable interest that there was water everywhere. Two possible culprits – the deep-freeze itself (which spilled a considerable amount of meltwater into the garage the last time I emptied everything out and defrosted it … or the hot-water heater.
The Daughter Unit has been suggesting that some maintenance and adjustment on the hot-water heater might be in order, as she is one who enjoys long showers. I’ve been putting off draining and refilling it, because of all the stuff piled up in the garage, stuff in the way. We had agreed to sort out the garage and take care of the hot-water heater when she comes home from California, but I had to get started on that last night, after calling the friendly neighborhood service company who sees to the HVAC unit – they have a plumbing and electrical department as well. So – carried out some boxes of extraneous stuff to go to Goodwill, and a couple of boxes of … why did we have boxes of ancient mail-order catalogs out there? I guess we forgot to put them in the recycle bin and lost track. Yes, the garage is definitely getting a once-over. The trash and the recycle bin are already filled to overflowing, and yes, we are getting a new hot-water heater.
It appears that I was mistaken, when I thought that the hot-water heater had been replaced by the previous owners just before I bought the house. No, the friendly plumber informed me; it was original to the house. Which means it has been performing heroically and without failure since 1984 – darned good, considering that the usual lifespan for such is about a decade. The Daughter Unit suggests that the old one go into a plumbing museum, if only as a curiosity.
Even more critically – and adding to the expense and hassle of replacing the hot-water heater is that the local codes have changed drastically. New installs must be on a stand 18 inches above the floor, have a drip pan – which I have to say, after mopping up the leakage last night and this morning – is a very sensible notion, a special electrical connection, and other stuff which I will have to read the paperwork to totally grasp. It is being installed this afternoon, so that life in Chez Hayes will continue without interruption, in the hot water supply if nothing else. And the best part is that my credit rating is so much improved that I qualified for fairly generous terms, instead of paying for the whole thing out of pocket, draining the savings/emergency account, or go without hot water for months.
But the garage is definitely going to be sorted, first thing when the Daughter Unit comes home.

08. July 2017 · Comments Off on Dogs of Note · Categories: Domestic

Calla-Puppy; the model for Dog

As a writer whose household contains dogs, cats and chickens, it has amused me ever since my first novel to include some of those pets as characters. In To Truckee’s Trail, my daughter’s boxer-mix, Calla was dressed up somewhat with a size and intelligence to play the part of Elisha Stephens’ companion on the overland trail; Dog. Yes, his dog was named Dog – the character was not terribly imaginative. Dog makes her first appearance in the second chapter:

John looked down; not very far down at that, at one of the largest dogs he had ever seen, a huge fawn-colored mastiff bitch with a dark face. She sat quietly at his feet, regarding him with intelligent golden eyes. “Dog,” said the smith quietly, and made a quick gesture with his fingers. The mastiff bitch nudged John again, as if reminding him to be on his best behavior then, because she would have an eye on him, and obediently trotted away to settle herself underneath the wagon. From there she still regarded John and her master with those unsettlingly intelligent golden eyes. She had a clownish white splotch on her nose and another at the end of her tail. All of her toes on each foot were white, as if she wore dainty gloves.

My daughter brought Calla home with her, when she finished her second hitch in the Marines in 2006. Calla and Dog, besides having the same appearance, were both excellent travelers. Calla loved riding in the car, even on long distances, and guarded the car as zealously as she guarded the house, hopping into the driver seat and growling at anyone who came just a little too close. Alas, even though she was a mixed-breed and presumably had some hybrid vigor to count on, she was a large dog, and those breeds in her makeup were prone to age rapidly – she only lived to the age of 12.

Spike – the original inspiration for Mouse

The second dog of ours to make it into my books was Spike the shih-tzu, who came to the household as a puppy, from a couple who thought they wanted a puppy, and then decided the puppy was too much trouble to housebreak and socialize. Spike had attitude to spare, which was why we called her Spike, and adorned her with a small black leather collar studded with silver spikes. Spike was bred to be a lapdog and constant companion, and by the time we adopted her, I was already largely working from home. Her natural place was the space underneath my chair, or within three or four feet of wherever I happened to be. She was also a very good traveler, insofar as long stretches in a car; we made several long-distance journeys to California from Texas and back. She was not so agreeable to having her home routine disrupted, though: she distinguished herself by surreptitiously piddling on every one of the area rugs in my parents’ house. Spike was the inspiration for Magda Becker’s Pekinese (or rather series of Pekinese dogs) in the Adelsverein Trilogy:

There were six puppies, lively squirming little balls of fur; four of them gold like their mother, one black, and one piebald white with brindle spots. That one seemed to be more sedate, not as excitable as the others. Magda put her fingers around the pup—it was heavier that it appeared, no fragile little handful of bones and fur. It looked at her with curious eyes, as she said, “This one, Irina.”
“Very good,” Princess Cherkevsky nodded, regally. “That is a boy. Your son already brought a little collar and a bed and dish for you.”
“You and he plotted behind my back,” Magda exclaimed. She sat back on her heels, with the puppy cradled in her lap. “I know he loves dogs, but this is not a dog, it is more like a mouse!” And thus did the pup receive its name.

Spike also developed chronic health problems peculiar to dogs whose popularity leads to inbreeding. She passed away rather suddenly at a relatively young age; we think she ate some grass which had recently been sprayed with a powerful insecticide, and died almost overnight, even before we could get her to the veterinarian.


The third of our dogs to appear in my fiction is in blissful good health – and also quite firmly attached to me; Nemo, so called because we found him wandering the streets in our neighborhood. Someone had either dumped him, or moved out of a nearby rental house and left him behind. He was wary of humans, even us, at first; but since has been so eager to become one with a pack that he has even buddied up with some of the cats – to their horror and disgust. Nemo is some kind of coarse-furred terrier of no recognizable breed; black with a strange white mohawk on the top of his head. He was cast in my most recent historical, The Golden Road. as Nipper, the canine companion of the mysterious and slippery Fenian, Aloysius Polydore O’Malley:

The mule wagon was driven by a scarecrow of a man; of indeterminate years and put together in an untidy gangle of limbs, topped with a thatch of fading ginger hair. Fredi gawked at him, as he hopped nimbly down from the wagon-seat, for he was dressed in clothing which had once been fine, yet appeared to have been intended for a much shorter man. The sleeves of his coat, and the threadbare shirt underneath it barely covered his knobby wrists. He was also accompanied by a small black dog, which followed his master with equal agility; a short-furred dog with upright ears and tail, and what looked like a comical set of grizzled chin-whiskers fringing its sharp little muzzle. The dog promptly cocked a leg and pissed against the wagon-wheel.

Like Spike, Nemo is clingy – he sleeps in the dog bed under my desk during the day, at the foot of the bed at night, whines heartbreakingly if he can’t follow me and practically turns himself inside out with joy when I come back after being away for a couple of hours.

As for the cats – I have only put one of them in a story, so far – but that’s an entry for another day.

01. July 2017 · Comments Off on Midsummer Miscellany · Categories: Domestic

Strictly speaking, it isn’t quite mid-summer, but half the year is gone with the end of June, and the sweltering heat of summer descended upon Texas – a heat predicted confidently to last until September at the earliest and into late October at the latest… (although in one ghastly year, it didn’t cool down sufficiently to open the windows and turn off the AC until mid-November) so where was I with this thought? Oh, yeah … planning out the schedule of events for the rest of the year, trying to keep what there is in my garden from perishing in the dire heat, the three Barred Rock chickens from pecking the littlest of the Bantam Wyandottes to death, the dogs in fine fettle, the house in a mostly-clean condition – or a condition which will not unduly alarm the Health Department – various projects for pay for the Tiny Publishing Bidness (which projects uphold my household economy) and oh, yeah … my own writing.
Of which I could not do anything yesterday – being that my pension payment was deposited in the bank, which meant that I could go and do the monthly stocking-up of the cupboard-freezer-supply closet on Friday, rather than today, the calendar first of the month. I frankly would rather have done all of this early on a Friday, and beat the madness of crowds on a weekend, and even more the weekend of a mega-holiday weekend. Especially at Granzin’s Meat Market, which is strategically located on a back road to a major local recreational destination … and therefore, there will be holiday-makers stocking up on food-stuffs for the holiday, as well as canny local shoppers like myself. Yes, it was busier than usual on a Friday morning – but the madness will truly descend on Saturday. And also at Costco, and the branch of the HEB chain which is in the relatively rich part of town and therefore which has a better and wider selection of certain preferred brand staples than that in my own local store. Yes, the HEB chain has a fine judgement on stocking neighborhood branches down to a fine science. I call it the Olive Oil Variant: that is, so many thousand in average income before taxes is correlated to the number of brands of olive oil on the shelves in the outlet. Thus – higher the average income, the greater number of brands available.
So – the first of the month shopping circuit; Costco (and/or Sam’s Club, depending) Granzins’, Tractor Supply, Trader Joe’s, and the Super-HEB, with perhaps a stop at Tuesday Morning if required. We have worked out where to get the best prices on various staples, you see – which makes a circuit of about 45 miles, takes three-quarters of a day – but sets us up for a month or more on things like pet food (cat, dog, chicken, and the wild bird freeloaders), meats, frozen and canned goods, household detergents and paper goods … all of which fill the trunk of my car or the back of my daughter’s Montero. We start with an empty Igloo cooler, and finish up with the vehicle piled high; some of the preferred pet supplies come in 35 to 60 pound bags. Which then must be hauled into the house, or to the shed, and then the various meats must be parted out and sealed for the freezer … so yes – one very long day. But I got it all wrapped up in a mere four hours, which means that my weekend is clear for more amusing things.