December 30, 2010 at 2:00 am (Read) ()

Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with MarriageCommitted: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage by Elizabeth Gilbert

She really researched the history of marriage and then relayed it in the intimate, though-provoking way that she has such a knack for.

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The Last American Man by Elizabeth Gilbert

November 16, 2010 at 2:41 am (Read)

The Last American Man

The Last American Man by Elizabeth Gilbert

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The seemingly romantic, endearing story of a man living in the wilderness, on his own, a true frontiersman, is the same story of a man, who, in response to the feeling that he has disappointed his father, lives by himself in every sense of the phrase “by himself”. First in a tipi, then in a crude cabin, and then in a nicer cabin, killing/scavenging his food, finding his own water, cutting the trees, harvesting a garden. He first does this at twelve, and then leaves home for good, for the wilderness, in his late teens. In his life, to be 100% self-sufficient and true to nature, living without harming the Earth, is the only way to be a responsible citizen. However, it comes to mean that he must wheel and deal in order to keep his land pristine, as well as deal with lesser apprentices to try to keep his ideal alive. He spends so much time teaching classes and organizations, talking to reporters, and giving seminars on the road, that his “camp”, Turtle Island, declines without his directorial precision, creating an even greater sense of failure. He is also disappointed in his inability to find a wife or start a family. His great charisma and charm attract plenty of idealistic, smart, beautiful girlfriends, but his unattainable standards eventually drive them away. These standards also alienate his brother and sister, who distance themselves from his unforgiving standards much in the same way he did from his father’s.

Excerpts: (QUOTED)

p13 It is his belief that we Americans, through our constant striving for convenience, are eradicating the raucous and edifying beauty of our true environment and replacing that beauty with a safe but completely faux “environment.” What Eustace sees is a society steadily undoing itself, it might be argued, by its own over-resourcefulness. Clever, ambitious, and always in search of greater efficiency, we Americans have, in two short centuries, created a world of push-button, round-the-clock comfort for ourselves. The basic needs of humanity – food, clothing, shelter, entertainment, transportation, and even sexual pleasure—no longer need to be personally labored for or ritualized or even understood. All these things are available to us now for mere cash. Or credit. Which means that nobody needs to know how to do anything anymore, except the one narrow skill that will earn enough money to pay for the conveniences and services of modern living.

But in replacing every challenge with a shortcut we seem to have lost something, and Eustace isn’t the only person feeling that loss. We are an increasingly depressed and anxious people—and not for nothing. Arguably, all these modern conveniences have been adopted to save us time. But time for what? Having created a system that tends to our every need without causing us undue exertion or labor, we can now fill the hours with…?

Well, for one thing, telelvision—loads of it, hours of it, days and weeks and months of it in every American’s lifetime. Also, work. Americans spend more and more hours at their jobs every year; in almost every household both parents (if there are two parents) must work full-time outside of the home to pay for all these goods and services. Which means a lot of time commuting. Which means a lot of stress. Less connection to family and community. Fast-food meals eaten in cars on the way to and from work. Poorer health all the time. (America is certainly the fattest and most inactive society in history, and we’re packing on more pounds every year. We same to have the same disregard for our bodies as we do for our other natural resources; if a vital organ breaks down, after all, we always believe we can just buy a new one. Somebody else will take care of it. Same way we believe that somebody else will plant another forest someday if we use this one up. That is, if we even notice that we’re using it up.)

There’s an arrogance to such an attitude, but – more than that—there’s a profound alienation. We have fallen out of rhythm. It’s this simple. If we don’t cultivate our own food supply anymore, do we need to pay attention to the idea of, say, seasons? Is there any difference between sinter and summer if we can eat strawberries every day?…….If we never leave our house except to drive to work, do we need to be even remotely aware of this powerful, humbling, extraordinary, and eternal life force that surges and ebbs around us all the time?

p126 Most Americans probably don’t want to live off the land in any way that would involve real discomfort, but they still catch a thrill from Eustace’s continual assurance that “You can!” Because that’s what most of us want to hear. We don’t want to be out there in a snowstorm on the Oregon Trail, fixing the broken axle of a covered wagon; we want to feel as though we could do it if we had to. And Eustace lives as he does in order to provide us with that comforting prrof.

“You can!” he keeps telling us.

And we keep believeing him, because he does!

He is our mythical inner self, made flesh, which is why it’s comforting to meet him. Like seeing a bald eagle. (As long as there’s one left, we think, maybe things aren’t so bad, after all.) Of course, embodying the mythical hopes of an entire society is a pretty big job for one man, but Eustace has always been up for it. And people also sense that in him; they sense his self-assurance of being large enough to serve as a living metaphor, of being strong enough to carry all our desires on his back. So it’s safe to idolize him, which is an exciting experience in this callow, disillusioned age when it’s not safe to idolize anybody. And people get a little dizzy with that excitement, a little irrational. I know, because I’ve been there.
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Ah, the drudgery

July 27, 2010 at 3:45 am (Uncategorized) (, , , )

I just spent most of my day laying tiles.  Now, at 10:45 my hands are covered in thin set cement, my back hurts, I haven’t eaten enough, I haven’t started dinner, and I’m kinda comatose.  But, the thought of a functional and oh-so pretty kitchen keeps me going.  Tomorrow – grout and pretty pretty backsplash.  Still have paint, floor, fix dishwasher to do before school starts, but I’m a few steps closer.

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July 25, 2010 at 2:21 am (Uncategorized)

I’m making socks.  I’m making socks.  I’ve been working on the same pair of socks since January.  I liked the yarn when I started.  I really did.  Not so much now.  I just want to finish them and move onto something else.

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Leftovers Galore

December 2, 2009 at 1:59 am (Cook)

After the family meal, we came home and fixed (a Texan word) another, even bigger, Thanksgiving meal.  We roasted a twenty pound turkey just for the two of us.  That’s right.  Twenty pounds of plump poultry eatin.  And just so he wouldn’t be lonely in the oven, I also made dressing, rolls, mashed potatoes from instant, a salad, and cookies.  Keep in mind that the kitchen is still in renovation; that’s why I made cookies instead of a pie.  Make sense?

Twenty pounds may seem a bit excessive for two people, but we love the leftovers almost more than the original meal.  So here is our Leftover Diary.  I can only hope that we do the bird justice.

Leftover #1: Classic Leftover Thanksgiving Sandwich – This is the day-after sandwich – there is still dressing, gravy, cranberry available.  It is the sandwich, if you watched the show “Friends”, known as “The Moist Maker” because of the layer of gravy-soaked dressing in the middle; the theft of which induced Ross’s uncontrollable rage. But I digress.  Here it is from the bottom on a toasted slice of whole-grain white, with a spoonful of gravy, slices of turkey, sliced cranberry jelly, a layer of dressing, a ladle of gravy, and another slice of toast on top.  It is a sandwich only in the broadest interpretation of the word.  It is neither portable nor handheld.  Shown here on a paper plate because I was tired of washing dishes, but you will notice the fork and knife in the background.

Leftover #2: Sweet and Spicy Turkey on a Bun –  This gem of a sammy was born out of pure imagination.  It started with thick turkey slices over which I melted a slice of Muenster cheese.  I layered that on top of the bottom bun and a generous spread of cranberry jelly.  Then came some lettuce, purple cabbage, and sliced tomatoes.  I topped all of that with a spicy Texas barbecue sauce.  As a sandwich, it held it’s shape for about three bites, whereupon form gave way to flavor, and I resorted to eating it in pieces with my fingers.

Leftover #3:  Shredded Turkey over Rice with Green Beans (Recipe Included) –

This is perhaps the simplest of all leftovers so far.  Start by shredding up some of the turkey, and while you are at it, go ahead and clean the whole carcass, saving all bones for stock-to-come.  Hopefully you have some leftover gravy.  If you do, put a big ladle of that in a skillet with 1 cup of water and the turkey pieces.  If you do not have gravy, make some.  Use cream of chicken soup, a gravy mix, or make it from scratch with a good old fashioned roux.  Let simmer until hot, stirring occasionally.  While that is heating, make your favorite rice.  We opted for white tonight.  When the rice is done, spoon onto a plate and top with turkey mixture.

Easy Green Beans

Cook fresh or frozen green beans by steaming or boiling until tender as desired.  Drain off most of the water.  While still in hot pan, drizzle over 1 tbsp olive oil and 1 tbsp lemon juice (more or less to taste).  Top with a generous pinch of black pepper and Parmesan cheese.  You’ll never eat green beans any other way.

(And there’s still more to come.)

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My Discovery

March 23, 2009 at 2:29 am (Cook)

I just made a discovery that could possible change the rest of my life.

That discovery is this: HEB Brand Specialty Series Barbecue Sauce, Texas Edition tastes just like Rudy’s sauce, only better because it is thicker!  (Take a moment to read that again and let it sink in.)

In this photo, you can see the thickness, evident by the pooling and not running-ness of the sauce. (Can you believe I teach English? Me either.)  Notice also the big, black grinds of pepper and the glossy shine that will mirror the glaze in your eyes as you savor this pungent pool of heaven.

This is how I made my discovery:

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Blocking Lace

February 23, 2009 at 4:31 am (Uncategorized)

Spent a few hours tonight blocking lace squares for a charity blanket.  Time consuming, but instantly rewarding.


This blue is closest to the true color, a little over-lit, but the best I could do at 10:00 pm under not-so-bright bulbs in a ceiling fan.

Scallop Lace: Color is dulled, but the stitches are better defined.

Fern Lace

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Does your iPod lose its charge on the bedpost overnight?*

February 19, 2009 at 1:44 am (Technology)

*If you know that reference, you are really good.

My husband Eric, is pretty handy.  He can build, paint, fix things, and just create, in general.  This past weekend, though, I was truly impressed.  He replaced the battery in my iPod Mini.


He bought the iPod for me as a gift.  It is engraved.  Plus, it is the last of the flash-drive iPods, and I really like it.  But, the battery had quit charging.  I read through the fixes at Apple, where they told me to find an album of average length, note the time run on it, fully charge the iPod, then play the album and do some kind of subtraction to determine how long the battery was lasting.  Here’s how long mine lasted: long enough to plug in the headphones.  Seconds after that, I get the message that the battery is low and it needs to be recharged.

 I could have mailed in the iPod, and they would have replaced it with a refurbished iPod in which the battery had been changed.  They couldn’t guarantee I would get the same color, but for an extra charge, they would engrave the ‘new’ one with the same text.  All this for the low price of $59 for the battery and $189 for the service.  Yipee.

 After some online searching, I found  They offer a battery replacement kit for all generations of iPods, lots of technical support, and videos to walk you  through it.  They will also change the battery for you, for less than Apple charges.  We opted for the kit which runs about $35.  The battery, which boasts longer life (in milliamp hours, mAh) than the original stock Apple battery, came with all the tools and fantastic instructions.  It was evident that they really want you to succeed with changing the battery.

 Eric is very strong, but also can be delicate when working on things, so I knew he would be o.k.  Even so, I was quite nervous throughout the process and had quite an adrenaline rush by the time he was finished. (I danced it out with music from my now functional iPod.) He started by discharging any static electricity he might have had, as per the instructions.  (I would have quite here.) He then pried off the white plastic covers on either end, and afterwards removed these microscopic screws that hold the unit inside the case. 

There are lots of warnings on the instructions about when to be careful to ‘not touch the Molex’.  The Molex is some kind of conductive coating or rubber or something.  The important thing is that disrupting it will render the click wheel inactive or make the headphone jack worthless.

I posted this picture to illustrate the size of the screws seen above.

 Having removed all of the wires and screws, Eric next slid the main unit out of the chassis. 

After the unit was out, it was pretty easy to remove the old battery and replace it with the new one.  If you decide to try this yourself, I recommend taking pictures of the the orientation of the old battery and the wires that connect it (something I failed to do) because the extra length of wire (cable?) is hard to get situated back correctly.

Once the new battery was in place, he had to tape some parts down with special tape so that the unit would slide back into the chassis correctly.  This part required both force and finesse, because it doesn’t slide easily but you don’t want to crack the display screen.  He then replaced the screws, and popped back in the plastic pieces.  It wouldn’t have hurt to have original orientation pictures of these pieces, either.  One end is tricky to figure out the direction.

 The battery comes partially charged, so after this, I turned it on, and it worked perfectly.  There is one tiny nick we made while prying the sides open, but it is less noticeable than the ding on the edge it got when I dropped it while run/walking on the riverwalk in Bastrop.  And if that is the only drawback, it was well worth the monetary savings.  Plus I get to keep the original iPod that E bought for me.

 I would recommend to anyone who  is facing the dilemma of what to do when their iPod quits holding a charge.  It was well worth the money, and their site has excellent support.  Good luck.


The master at work.

The master at work.


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A Good Thrifting

January 11, 2009 at 3:25 am (Knit)

We had a good day at the thrift stores today.  Well, I am cheating a bit — I hit one of the stores on Tuesday — lots of sweaters.  Most of them I intend to unravel and respin, but I bought a few to felt and cut up as well.  I also had fun posing the sweaters to photograph.

This sweater is from Les Copains; I believe it is from France because of the way the tag looked.   It is 85% wool, 5% cashmere, 5% silk, and 5% angora.  Even though he’s French,, this one is saying, “whaddup, G?”

DSC02687.JPG by you.

This is Banana Republic, 82% wool, 10% cashmere, 8%angora.  “Heeeayy”

DSC02688.JPG by you.

Beautfiul pink J. Crew, 100% lambswool.  The sleeves are oddly long, though.  I wonder what that’s about. “Me bought sweater for Jane.”

DSC02690.JPG by you.

This was THE find of the day.  John Ashford, 100% cashmere, double ply, in an absolutely stunning shade of crimson red.  “Would you like to dance?”

DSC02693.JPG by you.

Gap, 100% wool.  Nothing spectacular about this except the yarn is a good sturdy medium-weight.  The taupe and eggplant colors did not show up well in the photo.  I plan to unravel this one and ply it again, possibly with a cashmere.  “Care to go fro a pint after the Rugby match, mate?”

Thrifty Sweaters by you.

And this quartet from my secret shop.  Clockwise from top, a cotton, striped Tommy, a pink cotton from Yarnworks, an Old Navy cotton and silk cabled shrug, and a wool, cashmere, and acrylic from Liz Claiborne, proving that even the big fashion houses still have problems with color pooling.

DSC02692.JPG by you.

This one is John Ashford, 100% cashmere.  “Put your hands in the air, like you don’t care.”

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Fiber Fest II – The 2008 Version

December 24, 2008 at 12:13 am (Knit)

It would have been impossible to predict that 2008’s Fiber Fest at Hill Country Weavers could have been as windy as last year’s.  It was uncanny.  Again, we had to tie down tents and weight tables.  Jennifer’s ingenious hat display lost a few coconut prongs. (She is making the cutest, squared off bucket hats that she calls The Breakfast Hat.)  But with brightly knit scarves waving in the passers-by, this year was again a success.

Meiling Chang had some beautiful sweaters, as usual.

I had lots of hats and handspun yarn.  Robin, of RobinCat and I shared a table.  (below)

Stacy, of Silver Moon Studios had her amazingly cute project bags there.

Several local weavers brought rugs and wall hangings.

Dana, of ToughKnit, had cute little scarves and wrist warmers, all made from recycled apparel.

Below are hats in clockwise order, from Kathy at Platypus Dreams, Kortney Moon of Angry Olive, more hats by Pretty Purl, and lots of wet felted hats made by Mary McCauley.

And a good time was had by all!

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