It’s been so sad to hear about all the tornados in Oklahoma and Texas. Growing up in Michigan, which is part of the Midwest, we had tornadoes pretty often. We were thoroughly familiar with tornado drills and hiding in the basement. I remember tornado warnings to be more of a pain than actually being scary; you know how kids are, never believing that bad things will ever happen to them. My nightmares, though, often featured tornadoes. They still do occasionally.

We have tornadoes from time to time here in Central Texas. Nothing like northeastern Texas, though, which is flatter and wetter. We have some tornadoes brewing today, though. Golfball-sized hail too. Naturally there’s hail forecasted; we just had a bunch of our roof fixed due to a windstorm. Still, there’s not nearly the risk of something happening like happened in Oklahoma.

Not to sound petty, but I was planning to buy a new harp from a lady that lives about seven hours away. We were supposed to meet up halfway on Thursday. I just realized that she lives in Moore, Oklahoma. I hope the lady (and her harp!) are ok.

Every time I hear the word “Oklahoma” I can’t help but think of one of the most awesome scenes in movie history. Gather your children around to watch one of our family’s most beloved movie clips (Steve Martin has never been funnier than in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels).



I pretty much vanished for the last couple of weeks. Partly due to relatives in town (we know who loves us by how often they visit. Hint, hint, relatives.) Partly due to being the Relief Society President when half the ward decides to move at the exact moment the other half goes on vacation. I know you guys really love it when I complain about how busy I am and thus how exhausted I am. But I will spare you the details. Here are the highlights of the last two weeks:

My mom moved back to Utah after living here in Austin for two years. People always ask what it’s like having my mother live close by since she is rather . . . high maintenance. It  is a million times easier than having her come and stay with me for two or three weeks. When she stays with me for a long amount of time there are invariably fights; she and I, she and Mister and sadly Mister and I as well. There is stress involved for all parties (well, probably my mom isn’t stressed). She likes to have things just so and just so is always something very strange. Like half-drunk giant glasses of cocoa sitting around all day. Said cocoa must be drunk through a straw. And not just any straw. It must be a really fat straw that is also somewhat translucent so that she can see the cocoa going up. Not sure why, but that’s how it is. No doubt my mother will answer this question in her blog reply.

There is also her bizarre schedule of staying up late, sleeping in and various naps. Our family doesn’t really work that way and it gets complicated when she visits. But when she lives in her own place nearby she can sleep whenever she wants, leave strange beverages sitting on her counters and it makes no difference to us. She is one of those people who finds plenty to entertain herself and doesn’t come over all the time. She’ll drop by for dinner, have a nice time and go home. It’s lovely for all of us. So it makes me sad that we won’t be getting pleasant mini-doses of her any more. Instead she wanted to be near my sister in Utah who, with three small children, is in the part of her life when she really needs grandma Boppie around.

We spend last week packing boxes, throwing away as much of her junk prized possessions as we could get away with and loading up her moving van. She and my sister waved goodbye on Saturday morning and pulled in to Utah County last night.

Also, I spent days cleaning and organizing my house. If you have out-of-town guests and clean your entire house, except for one small part, that is the part that they will invariably see. So I cleaned everything including my huge messy closet. Here’s the flip side of that rule, though: if you clean something super well, nobody will see it.  I cleaned my closet and bathroom within an inch of their lives. And nobody ever went in there. But at least they’re still clean. I’ve been trying to stay on top of it and keep the rooms from turning into the trash barge of my house. They’re my favorite place to throw things when I have to do a stash and dash because company is coming.

My husband’s brother, his wife and their teenage daughter came from Portland for an entire week and we ate like pigs and did fun touristy stuff and it was great. They had to sleep in the boy’s bunk beds but it’s a lot nicer than making them stay in the guest room and share one lousy full-sized bed.

Probably the most exciting news around here is that it has rained! A lot! And often!  But because this is Texas it rains like crazy for a little while, the rain goes away and it’s sunny and warm. And then the next day it’s sunny and warm for a couple of hours, a storm rolls in and then it’s sunny and warm again. It’s really a lovely way to have rainy weather. None of those days of dreary, cold weather like in Oregon. Our relatives were very impressed.

A few days ago I went to a book signing by Alexandra Fuller whose books I recommended here a while back. In the tiny picture on her books she looks very pretty. But most female authors look relatively pretty. That’s kind of the point, I guess. Alexandra Fuller was, in real life, drop dead gorgeous. Model gorgeous. She’s also terribly clever and skinny so I felt utterly out of my league and didn’t say a single word to her as she signed my book.  I very rarely get tongue-tied, although I did ask if I could take a picture with her (I especially like the way my arms are twice the size of hers.)


AFuller and me

Also, my laptop is still broken. Mister has taken pity on me and given me a real computer with an actual monitor. It’s pretty lame. Laptops are way better. I hate being on a computer where I am trapped in one place. Due to my computer situation and all the other stuff I’ve done, I have read zero blogs. I feel really bad about this. So if I haven’t commented on your blog, I’m sorry. One day I will get my life back.

Number one news story: It’s hot in most of America. Good thing air conditioning was invented. I realize that a lot of people are without power and that it’s really sweltering. But up until about fifty years ago, that would have been the norm. Not only would it have been 90+ degrees, you would have been wearing a corset and a few layers of clothing too. Now that would be horrible!

Not to seem unsympathetic but in Austin we had 90 days of temps over 100º last year. And no rain storms to help us out a little.  But it’s Texas so we just shrug our shoulders and head out to the pool. One morning last summer we went to the outdoor history farm/museum. (You can’t just quit doing stuff when it gets hot. You simply get used to having sweat roll down into your butt crack.) There was an exhibit of photos featuring the family on that very farm during the turn of the last century, dressed in full Victorian regalia. “Oh man, it would have been awful wearing so much clothing in this weather, ” I lamented. A lady standing next to me (wearing tiny shorts and a tank top) piped up, “Oh, it wouldn’t have been that bad. The chemises they wore under their clothing got wet with sweat which kept them cool.”

I just looked at the lady. I did not slap her or tell her she is an idiot.

Because I am Mormon I wear a chemise under my clothes all day every day and, sweaty or not, it does not keep me cool. Nope. Not at all.

But I’m just happy because I don’t live in Arizona where it’s 110º. Although people always say it’s not so bad because it’s a dry heat. Whatever. 110º is hot!

I also don’t live in the Middle East and have to wear a burqua. But if I did, I would for sure be wearing a bathing suit under it.

Let’s all just agree that air conditioning is a glorious miracle.

Welp, my “week of Oreo recipes” certainly ended with quite a fizzle, didn’t it? I was bursting with enthusiasm when I made my little announcement that I’d make a different recipe every single day. I hadn’t thought it through for more than ten seconds.  What didn’t occur to me was that I was swamped last week.

I had forgotten that I bought 22 lbs. of chicken breasts with the intent to can them. When I say “can” I technically mean “bottle”. It’s surprisingly easy; all you need is a pressure canner which I’m guessing not a single one of you has. I don’t have one either but my mom does. I’m sure she’ll talk all about it in her novel comment.

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By the way, those are not feathers floating in those jars, as some people have suggested. It’s just, uh, residue of some sort. Or maybe congealed fat? I don’t know. But I now have shelf-stable chicken that hopefully won’t develop botulism and kill my family.

Also last week I had to paint 23 tiny wooden peg dolls for a church project. It was for a re-creation of the first Relief Society meeting. It made sense to me when I thought the idea up but in retrospect it seems a little odd. In my usual style I finished the dolls without a second to spare. I was at the kitchen table serving dinner to my kids with one hand and blow-drying glaze with the other.



Why wasn’t my husband serving dinner, you ask?

Because he has been doing this every day. It’s SXSW. When Austin, Texas swells to about ten million people (this picture is solid people on one of the busiest streets downtown.) He volunteered to run soundboards at a bunch of concerts so he’s getting to do whatever he wants for free. And he’s taking advantage of it.  Fine by me. He deserves to go out and have fun.

Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone App

Especially since he never once complained that these three bags of groceries were sitting un-put away for four days. Although he didn’t put them away either. Mellow or passive aggressive? Sometimes it’s a fine line.

Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone App

I bought some new rainboots.

Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone App

I had to, you see, because it’s been raining a lot lately. Especially on Saturday when I was tromping all over nature with my friend Tamara looking at beehives. Don’t believe me? Behold!

Despite appearances I do not have a wiener. A beekeeping suit is not the most flattering of outfits. Especially when one is wearing two sweaters and a jacket underneath because MYGOSH!!! ITWASFREEZING!!!

In addition to these fun activities I also had to go to a couple of school programs, including a play in which my daughter had zero lines. So I made faces at her the entire time trying to get her to laugh instead. Because in my house it’s all about being the comic relief.

So, yeah, the Oreos.

I tried my best.

As I mentioned before, it was raining all week. And my kitchen is in the middle of my house with no windows. And the lighting was terrible. So I did a couple of those tutorials outside. You may notice a few shots of lawn in the background. (No, I do not have a mixer in my backyard.)

It was all for you, delightful and lovely readers. I love you that much.


Non-disco inferno

September 6, 2011 · 4 comments

in Texas, Weather

Hey, my house didn’t burn down last night! Great news! There are wildfires going all over the areas surrounding Austin (several miles away, but still . . . ) and we have many friends who have been spending the last couple of nights in hotels.

We are far enough away that fire isn’t an immediate threat, but you know fire: it’s wacky.

Just to make sure I have my bases covered I gathered all our important papers, photo albums and laptops in a laundry basket by my door. Just in case. It will stay there til it starts to rain good and hard and Central Texas isn’t such a tinderbox anymore (now I need to find all the various hard drives my husband has our family videos archived on. Talk about a fools errand!)

Mister asked if I had our 72-hour kits ready. This isn’t a 72-hour kit situation, if you ask me. We can drive five miles away, eat in restaurants and buy whatever we need. If the entire city catches on fire, he may have a point.

The weather has been cooling down, though. This morning it was 67º. It’s the first time we’ve been in the 60’s since April. Five months ago. My kids all put on coats and asked if I would drive them to school because of the cold weather. In case you haven’t heard me complain a million and a half times on this blog, we’ve had 80 days of temps above 100º this summer. (Last year we had one). It’s been pretty brutal.

If you are a praying person, please pray for Texas. Not only do we need the rain, but we’ve got Rick Perry to deal with too.


Austin is a great place to live. If for no other reason that every time you travel someplace else people will ask where you’re from and then reply, “Oooh, I love Austin!” Or “I’ve heard Austin is totally great!”. It’s nice to get that positive reaction, especially after living in Detroit (“Ewwww. Really? Did you see anyone get shot?”) or Utah (“oh”. Meaning either “are you Mormon?” or, if the person asking is also Mormon, “glad you escaped. You’re not from there originally, right?”)

Every couple of months I have somebody write to me because they are thinking of moving to Austin and want to know what it’s like. In order to assuage curiosity and save myself some time, I’ll just put this on my blog. It’s going to take a few entries, though, so I hope you’re in a Texas state of mind this week!

People in Austin are incredibly friendly and are very considerate drivers. They will always let you merge. Most people here are transplants, but the original Texas nice-ness is catchy. (Except for my neighbors from Boston. They are determined NOT to be friendly and want to get back to the cold as soon as possible. Please go! We don’t need your surliness!)

Because many people are transplants and because this is a big college town, Austinites don’t have accents, even the old-timers. If you hear anyone with an accent, they are most likely from elsewhere in Texas. It’s a good thing there aren’t more Texans with accents, because the accent is very catchy. You only need to talk to someone from the country for a little while before you start dropping your g’s at the end of words and start saying “fixin’ to”.

The weather here is hot in the summer. Oh my goodness glory it is hot. If you live someplace like Oregon or Vermont, you cannot even wrap your head around the hotness here. Today is the first official day of Summer and it is going to be our 16th day of temps over 100º. That sort of thing is not normal, though. Last summer we only had two days over 100º. Whatever the temps happen to be, it is kind of humid. Not terribly, like the South; just enough to keep your skin feeling supple. The weather starts warming up in March and doesn’t cool down again until November. Most of the time it’s quite lovely. We even have a tiny smidge of Winter where it gets down into the 30’s and 40’s for a few weeks.

Normally it rains in Austin, too. The kind of crazy thunderstorms that roll in and make you realize that your humanity is pretty insignificant. I love those. During the day, that is. At night they are annoying and a little freaky. There are tornadoes from time to time but not very often. And we are far enough from the coast to not be threatened by hurricanes.

It is usually pretty green around here. Not East-Coast-green, but green for being The West*. There are trees but also Prickly Pear Cactus. Right now, though, we are having the third worst drought in Texas history so everything looks brown and dead. And it’s only June! What is it going to look like in August?

Austin is the gateway to The Hill Country. But “hilly” is relative. The rest of Texas is flat as can be, so a few hills here and there are pretty novel for Texans. The hills are pretty, though. It reminds me of the South of France. Kind of green but kind of rocky too.


*There is always a debate about whether Texas is a Southern state or a Western State. Texas sided with the Confederacy during the Civil War so I guess that technically makes it Southern. But it has the whole cowboy thing going on which makes it sort of Western. The Eastern half of Texas, where Houston and Dallas are, is definitely more Southern. It’s lush and green and nothing like people imagine Texas to be. The western half, starting at about Austin, seems much more typically Western. It definitely has more of an independent, can-do feel which I think is more typical of the West. S0 my answer is both. Texas is where the South turns into the West.


Thanks for clarifying, news channel. I thought it might be one of those 98º days that are cold.

If you’re suffering from too much snow and frigid temperatures, here is the foolproof way to end them: Knit yourself a lovely scarf. The whole time you’re knitting, the temps will hover in the 20’s. You will knit madly, so excited to finish! Finally the day will come when you cast off the final stitch. That day will be 71º. And it will not be below 65º ever after.

You will not get to wear your fluffy woolen scarf, no matter how pretty it turned out. Everyone else will be so happy to put on flip-flops once again, and it will all be because of you. You, meanwhile, will enjoy staring at your scarf neatly folded on the shelf until next November. Sigh.


I know those of you in other parts of the country are rolling your eyes, but can I please get a shred of sympathy?

It’s 16 degrees right now!
In Texas.
We have no gloves.  We have no puffy coats.  I can barely find two socks.
There are just some things I expect from this climate:
Sixty days of temps over 100º? I guess so.
Weather like Minnesota? Never, ever, ever.

Today is one of those days of mothering penance.  A day to pay the piper. In other words, my day to chaperone Cub Scout Camp.

Forecast: 99º and sunny (That’s 37º Celsius, my European friends)

I have no tolerance for heat.  And direct sunlight just about kills me. Sure I can survive a jaunt across the parking lot between my air conditioned car and the air conditioned store.  Anything more than that and I wilt faster than you can say “prickly heat”.  

I don’t even own shorts.  I avoid all situations where they would be required (running, for example).  I stick to skirts and pants. I don’t think hanging with 10 year-old boys seems skirt-friendly, so I guess I’ll need to take a jaunt to the store before my shift on the surface of the sun at Scout Camp begins.

I’m sure I’ll survive.  I may be in a foul mood by the time all is said and done.  No doubt I’ll be feeling fine by Wednesday.  

When I have to go to Scout Camp again.