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Monday, October 28, 2013

The Face on the Wall

When I was very little, my parents would make a cross-country trip to see my grandparents in Mexico. It was a 3 day trip, partly because my mother didn't drive and partly because many of the interstates weren't finished--or started.

The trip was a huge event for me. I loved my grandma and couldn't wait to see her. But there was one other lady I wanted to see. From my earliest recollections, there was a painting of a fragile-looking woman with light brown hair and blue eyes. She was my great grandmother.

I would stare at the painting sometimes all afternoon, wishing the lady in the picture would speak to me. I had a million questions.

My grandmother noticed my fascination (grandmas by nature are very smart and particularly observant). She'd tell me little stories about my great grandmother. She was from Spain, and yes, there was a big population of blonde-haired and blue-eyed Spaniards. (Obviously that gene skipped me completely.)

For such a tiny and frail woman, she seemed to have tremendous fortitude. In the 1870s, she left her home and sailed for Mexico with her new husband, never to see her own family again. Through this delicate little woman sprung an enormous new clan.

Every time I visited I'd pay my respects to my great grandmother. Her portrait always hung in a place of honor.

Over the years, I visited less and less, and finally not again until I was an adult with a new husband of my own. Once again, I looked for that painting. I asked my grandmother if she'd let me be the painting's guardian after she was gone. It was all but secured.

But when my grandma passed away, I forgot about the painting until many months later when I grew nostalgic. My mother made inquiries among the relatives but no one seemed to know its whereabouts. I was heartbroken.

Undaunted, my mom went for an extended visit to continue her sleuthing. The painting had been scoffed up by some of her second cousins. With no will, I had no right to it. At this point I even offered to buy the painting because it was so important to me.

The second cousins, suspicious now that it might be valuable, refused me outright. I never saw or heard about the painting's whereabouts again.

I hope someone is taking care of my great grandmother, but somehow I doubt it. All I wanted was to keep some token of her memory in safekeeping until it was my time to pass it on.

That delicate face haunts me to this very day.

Is there anything that haunts your memories?

Thursday, October 24, 2013


For years, Greg has been bugging me to let him get a smoker. He's had numerous barbecue grills, from low-rent jobbies to ultra modern and ultra expensive. Most have lived on the fringes, coming out only on special occasions like days when we lost the house during a hurricane. We had no choice but to cook outside.

I relented on the smoker when we found a particularly good price on one that looked heavy enough to withstand a zombie attack.

Let me say upfront that I'm not a big fan of smoked meats. To me, it was always heavy on the smoke which clouded the flavor of the meat, but Greg changed my mind.

So far, he's smoked chickens and a brisket. 

The juice is from the marinade he used.
Best. Food. Ever. 

I wish this blog had smell-o-vision so I could prove it.

The chicken was juicy and so flavorful that I ate more than my fair share. The brisket, by far my least favorite meat (as meats go), was absolutely delicious in sandwiches. I was hooked.

This year we will be smoking our first turkey.

I was wrong about smoked foods. (Yes, Greg. I said I was wrong. Don't get a big head over it.)

Done right, smoking the food imparts a unique flavor and is so juicy it melts in your mouth.

In front of the chicken are two baked potatoes wrapped in bacon.

Have you ever eaten smoked food right out of a smoker? Was that your reaction too?

Monday, October 21, 2013

A Different Era

My father-in-law's parents immigrated to the US from Italy. They sold all their possessions to book passage in steerage.

Otto (Aro) with sister, Norma, and two cousins
That story always fascinated me. I can't even imagine the hardships they must've faced. Yet they felt that America was full of promise. They would do whatever was necessary to fit in--even rename their children.

My father-in-law's real name was Aro, but when he entered school, his teacher (a German-American) suggested to his parents that he'd have more opportunity in their adoptive country if their son had a more American-sounding name--like Otto.

Greg's grandparents, eager to fit in, and not realizing that Otto was more German than American, readily agreed. Aro became Otto.

It's only within the past 40 years or so that we've become enamored with re-embracing our original heritage--even if we are many generations removed from that heritage. But back in the early part of the 20th century immigrants gladly distanced themselves from their mother country so they could be seen as Americans. 

It's curious to see the pendulum swing in the opposite direction today.

I never got the chance to ask my father-in-law how he felt about his name change. I also wondered if it involved any legal maneuvering--but I doubt it. It was a different time and they didn't bother with trifles. If your parents renamed you, that was legal enough for everyone.

I had a friend who was adopted during the Great Depression. His blood parents, no longer able to feed him, dropped him off at a children's home. A few months later, a couple picked him out of a playground, and took him with them as they traveled cross-country. There were no papers filed or background checks. The home was glad to have one less mouth to feed.

Can you imagine anything like that happening today?

Next week, I'll tell a little story about my great grandmother--a woman I've never met yet haunts me to this very day.

How far can you trace your ancestry?

Thursday, October 17, 2013

State of the Homestead

Love is in the air.

Blue New Zealand rabbits: I was hoping to post a sex tape of the rabbits, but apparently, they're not quite ready to mate. The male seems interested, but he doesn't do more than sniff at the doe's backside. It's possible he's not quite mature yet. 

The reason I wanted to do a video of the mating is because it's quite possibly the most hilarious sex you'll ever see. I don't even want to describe it. You'll have to wait until it happens. But trust me, once you've seen rabbits mate, you'll never think about sex the same way again.

Goats: Old Barbecue is getting pretty randy. Lucy, the older doe seems to be in season, but I don't think Heidi is ready yet.

Meanwhile Barbecue is being totally disgusting. Male goats pee on themselves and in their mouths, then spread the scent wherever they can. It's totally gross. The first time I saw it, I just stood there aghast. I couldn't believe he peed in his mouth even though I'd been told it was common buck behavior.

I don't know if he's mated yet. But he's been serenading the does constantly. He even gets louder when I come out to their pen.

I'll leave you with a short video of his singing. ...and spare you the video of him peeing in his mouth.

Garden: It's a shame it's cooled off so fast, I may have to pull my warm weather vegetables into pots and grow them indoors, but at least the cabbage and cauliflower are happy. And the grasshoppers are nearly all gone. Finally!

Here's a shot of one of my watermelons. I didn't get too many, but they were absolutely delicious. Very sweet.


With any luck, both Heidi and Lucy will be bred this year. And then we wait for 150 days. Sometime in March, if all goes well, (and BBQ does his job) we should hear the pitter patter of little baby goats.

Birth, regardless of the species is nothing short of awesome. Have you ever seen an animal give birth?

Monday, October 14, 2013

In the Studio

Happy Thanksgiving to my Canadian friends! It's Columbus Day in the US.

Still not feeling 100% so I thought I'd show you a couple of designs I just finished. 


Dead Stock, by Tim Hall is a cozy mystery. It's about Bert Shambles, a guy who picks up 'dead stock', (the leftovers from retailers) and resells them to vintage boutiques, solving mysteries along the way. 

It hasn't released yet, but the author has already done his cover reveal so it's safe to show.

This next piece is a web site banner. I know. I don't have web site graphics listed on Book Cover Diva, but I've done several designs already. If you can upload them yourself, I can design them for you.

This particular piece of art is for Michelle Lowhorn and her new romantic suspense series involving teachers and detectives/ex-military. I thought it was a great concept.

Lots more on the docket so I'd better get back to work. ...but after I feed the beasties outside. They insist.

Do you have the day off today? What's on the agenda?

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Food, Love, and a Warm Puppy

38 years ago today I said, I do.

We stood in front of an old black Southern Baptist judge who did her best to scare the hell out of us.

In a castigating voice she lectured us about the monumental mistake we were making, and assured us we were being stupid. Walk out now, she said, and save yourself a lot of grief. The walls of Jericho had better odds than your ill-conceived notion.

I can laugh about it now and bless that good woman every day. She wanted us to be sure. I overheard her telling my parents that she didn't want to see us a few months down the road asking for a divorce.

When it came time for me to say, I do, instead I said, I sure do, and she almost laughed. Almost. One corner of her mouth lifted incrementally. 

She was right to put the fear of God into us. The first couple of years were tough! You could see it in our photos. I don't recall ever being hungry, but we sure did look thin.

Our first dining room set consisted of a large cardboard box for a table and two shipping drums as our chairs. 

There was a lot of pasta eaten in the early years. And often times we lived from paycheck to paycheck. But we must've had guardian angels. Whenever things looked exceptionally grim, something always turned up. 

For our first Thanksgiving, with no money for food, $50 fell out of a knot hole in a cedar closet. Out of a knot hole! I couldn't believe it.

At Christmas, I squirrelled away change for the $10 I'd need to buy a Christmas tree. Instead, the manager at the store gave us the tree. (You can read the original story here.)

That same year, I'd been feeling very lonely after we moved to Texas. My sister gifted us with our first puppy (and everything a puppy would need).

We were poor as dust, but buddy, I can tell you that by the close of 1976, we felt like Rockefellers.  We had food, love, and a warm puppy. What more could we ask for?

We were ridiculously happy for being so poor. Times were lean, but that was okay. We had all we needed. 

38 years later. We still operate with the same principles. Food, love, and a warm puppy...multiplied by four. 

I'm sure that dear old judge is gone now, but I'd like to tell her she didn't make a mistake marrying us. We were sure.

In other news: I came down with a sore throat and will be missing the fair again. I was hoping it was just allergies, but it's beginning to feel more serious than that.  :sigh:

The important thing is, Greg's home...and we have plenty of puppies.

Has anyone ever tried to talk you out of something you really wanted?


Monday, October 7, 2013

Billy, the Bully

I'll probably put up a State of the Homestead next week. I'm hoping I might have some interesting video by then. At least it should be more interesting than my thighs which are currently punctuated with bruises thanks to Billy (the goat). 

By the way, I renamed him Barbecue after our last run-in. I walked with a limp all week. He left me with a humongous bruise that hurts even now. 

He's not mean or aggressive--unless you're walking in with food. In his ever-present greed, he'll ram or gore anyone who gets between him and that bucket of feed. It's a constant test of wills when I walk in there. I separate him from the does when I feed him now so at least they can eat in peace.

I should've known he'd start that business. His father did the same thing with his herd. If he keeps it up, he's going in the pot. 

This week I hope we make it to the state fair. I say that every year but something always comes up. I'm crossing my fingers. Greg only goes for the food. But I like to look at the farm animals and the handicrafts. This year they're having ostrich races, but it's only in the evenings and I'm not sure we'll be there that late.

In unrelated news, I just finished watching season 2 of Call the Midwife, a Brit drama about London's east side during the 1950s . Thanks to Sarah Ahiers for turning me on to that show. Gets me bawling every time. I highly recommend it.

Have you ever gone to a big fair? What's your favorite part?

This Thursday is a special day for me. Stop by and see me then.