Spring on the Farm… sort of

2013-03-23 18.25.24March winds have been lusty and persistent in central Texas, persuading the 80-to-90-something degree temperatures into more bearable shapes.  Those same winds seem to have lifted me out of the house for the entirety of yesterday.

After a perfectly executed croque madame brunch I wandered to a nearby farm stand, but resisted impulsively snatching up every beauty within sight.   I scouted out a new park for potential canine companion quality time.  I sat outside with a good cup of coffee and a fascinating book.  (I’ll pass it along when I’m done).

I refused to acknowledge the existence of outstanding household tasks and obligations.

In the evening, I attended an after hours concert at Springfield Farms, an award winning urban farm established in the midst of commerce, clubs and interstates. 2013-03-23 18.23.47

The parsnip bisque and informative sessions alone would have made my day. Throw in the Zenith Quintet, – brass and keyboard – white-lit trees and an intimate crowd, and spring has truly arrived.

 

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They played a widely varied selection, from Piazzola to Rogers and Hammerstein, from Vivaldi to Aerosmith.  They love what they do and appreciate their audiences.  And they are truly gifted musicians. 

Earlier in the week I revisited Evangeline specifically for The Peacemakers.  The ensemble includes an upright bass, harmonica, drums and revolving guitarists.  They play the ever living hell outta some blues to a small crowd of regulars whose camaraderie is contagious. Trust me, the best bands you’ve never heard of are playing in dives all over America.

 I may never fully outgrow my snarky tshirt, converse phase. But then, I was the kid who enjoyed going to symphony performances too.  And that weird mashup is part of what makes life good for me.   I’m in a perfect place to take advantage of it. 

I’ve been heavily lamenting the news of the Athens-based band Modern Skirts going their separate ways. But life happens and sprouts in its many directions whether or not we approve. They are immeasurable talents, and I wish them the best. If you aren’t familiar, here’s a sample:

Take on the week! And tell me, what is it you’re listening to lately?

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On the question, “What author, living or dead, would you want to write your biography?”

(or somesuch interrogation)

Mark Twain, hands down. Once any thinking person escapes his less interesting school-reading-list offerings, his wit, humor, bite and charm are so captivating. There is something of a kindred spirit there for me. I'd be comfortable with him walking around in the trails of my life.

Or Oscar Wilde, for much the same reason.

Maybe I could just have Dorothy Parker summarize me in a few snarky lines.

That would be as fitting as anything I can imagine.

What about you? Who would you choose?

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Road Humps Ahead

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First, let’s get this out of the way –

Happy St Patrick’s Day, everyone.  Here’s hoping you’re looking sexy in your green attire while doing irresponsible things, just because you can.

Now, about those road humps.

There are signs around my residential area indicating the presence of said “humps” in the road. They are almost as long as I am tall, 4 across, wide and raised, but not in such a way as to cause violent upheaval to drivers.   Though I would not be likely to look at them and think, “Humps,” that is exactly what they are.  Still, the sign wording could be improved, somehow.  For now, I’ll continue to snicker like a junior high boy every time I see them.

Here’s how the week shaped up in my world:

Educationally, the most notable experience was chicken fabrication. Mine was missing a wing, but that didn’t stop me from hacking what I imagined as a peg-legged chicken hawk into grotesque slabs of flesh.  (The first breast I carved was actually really pretty, but it was all downhill from there.)  We progressed to producing a full meal menu per table, which feels much more legitimate.  Every week, I ask myself what it is I hope to gain from this experience. So far, it is the experience alone.  Because I can. 

My class schedule means I often visit places at odd hours, when no one else is around. Or when only one or two people are in sight.  I don’t mind, as it gives me the time I prefer to fully experience new venues, especially if they are food related. . I can chat up the staff because they aren’t as rushed.  I can observe the daily doings of a given establishment, and catalogue the useful bits.  I can sit and relax. Ponder. Revel.

This week I found a new coffee shop that is part of a small chain, but cooler and far superior to the Starbucks on every corner – in my opinion. Not only was the latte just what I needed, but the oatmeal bar- a big cube of caramel and chocolate chips lightly dusted with oatmeal crumbs – made me want to squeeze somebody. 

Galaxy Café won me over with their tasty sandwich, spicy herbal tea and Main Root beverages on tap.  Not to mention their support of Go Local Austin.   I sat by a window, watching the world rush on, a Galaxy employee delivering orders to outside tables in my periphery. A minute later, the same employee reemerged with a bowl of water for a customer’s dog.  That’s the kind of employee I want.  That’s what brings people, including me, back.

An evaluative moment in my week lead me to think about words. Mine specifically.  Others’ directed toward me.  Or not.  How and why we use words, the motivating choices we make about language.  I learn so much about someone not only from their stories but from the things they choose not to tell me.  Actions and motion are the stuff of life. But our utterances can spur them or damp them. Which combination of syllables will carry us over the next set of life’s road humps? It is in the doing we affect the world around us, but words prey on our insides. Whether or not we admit it, see it, like it, words matter.  And that, in the end, is why I blog. 

In the Couch

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As I fumble for something

in the couch’s bowels

I am taken aback anew

at the sub-cushion pasticcio

with which my fingers are affronted.

Crumbs?

A stray piece of paper – napkin, perhaps.

Something small and round and sticky.

Yet, my hypocrisy masters me

in my refusal

to strip my sofa nude

and brush clean its underbelly.

I wince away thoughts of lifting its skirts,

peering at sordid affairs.

Maybe this is the standard

by which we should all be judged.

Its accuracy must far surpass

anyone’s medicine cabinet, closet, underwear drawer.

It is the collection of our laziest life moments

in all their cotton-shorted, sweaty-pantsed indulgence,

in all their sleepy rage.

In this knowledge, I hold out

for the invention of couch floss,

knowing most of us won’t use it either.

 

 

Photo: My first bona-fide, adultish, non-hand-me-down couch.  Huzzah.

 

“How is it that the sky feeds the stars?”

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My week has once again been filled with food, ephemera and other adventures.  The breakdown:

 

Education:       Week one in the kitchen brought knife skills, at which I am apparently total crap.  Menu and recipe math, I don’t blink about. Consistently chopping tuberous and true root vegetables into gratuitously tiny shapes? That is a challenge. But I unapologetically pride myself in stretching my lack of coordination to day 3 before acquiring one small nick.  (Watch out for those paring knives.  It’s a conspiracy, I tell you).  We were thrown into the quick pace of a crowded kitchen to apply knowledge not yet imparted to the creation of culinary bases – stocks, soups and sauces.  I made it through hand whisked mayonnaise without gagging and hollandaise without dousing everything in it.  The difference, you ask?  Butter, my friends.  It’s all about the butter.

The garden club promises to be both interesting and entertaining, and I have modest hopes of not killing anything as I learn. 

 

Food:     This week took me to Café Malta.  I walked into the aesthetics of my dream.  Small. Charming.  Tidy but inviting.  Simple but well executed.  Papered tables that somehow felt classy instead of cheap. Maybe it was the properly folded napkins and set flatware… something about not unrolling your utensils, or picking them from a bin changes the whole feel of a place.  (Silly? I don’t think so. We like to think big picture, but we live in the details, don’t we?)  Malta had far more  to offer than a pretty face.  The impeccable gulf striped bass and garlic broccoli made the hectic edges of the day blur. I now know they host weekend brunch and monthly themed dining events. I’m in love.  Remember my face, Malta.  You’ll be seeing it frequently.

 

Spring:     March is full blast, and I have begun to feel I take my morning drive to school through a Hitchcock movie set.  Birds, everywhere.  Multitudes gather on wires, swarm the skies low over my rooftop.  They inspire in me Tippi Hedren-worthy unease.  They are grackles, and reportedly show their numbers fully in the autumn, and at dusk.  I have confidence my 620 a.m. commute will condition me, but for now, I take not the two miles between the house and their gathering for granted.

 

April first ushers in a new baseball season. My beloved/wretched Braves, once a mere six hour drive from me, will likely only see me in person once this year.  I plan to make up the time by investing in Texas home teams.  I am now conveniently located between two teams to whom I have always been happy to lend fan support.  It’s a beautiful game, a new season, a clean slate.  I chomp my bit and wait less than patiently.

 

Local ponderance:    Maybe I’m a little more granola than I once thought.  I specifically chose my educational institution because of its certification and teaching in the area of sustainable food.  That’s no secret.  The appeal is simple and feeds directly into my business philosophy.  I find myself lightly landed in the south of a city that embraces that idea and so many more.  Because of my purposefulness in location, it took only a breath or two for me to automatically feed the recycling bin rather than just the trash, and welcome the city ban of plastic shopping bags in favor of reusable and recyclable materials.  It’s only mental effort, really.  In a town that makes it painless, there is no excuse to be anywhere but on the bandwagon, knowing full well it’s the beginning of personal practice for what I hope to one day do with business. 

 

Nerd Alert:     South By Southwest kicked off this week, and I am picking and choosing my involvement.  I rushed today to witness the full scale model of Johnson Space Center’s Webb telescope.   It is an awe inspiring moment, the realization of our technology, our abilities.  The real deal will be hauled into space to discover things we have yet to dream.  Also, I asked approximately 4 bajillion questions…  but they were good sports.   My night holds a telescopic viewing of the PANSTARRS comet. All the fires in the sky, in perpetual states of kindling and snuffing, will forever hold a marker in my head and heart. 

 

History is always hurling pieces of itself our way, if only we bother to look.

 

 

 

 

Title quote: Lucretius

Photo credit: Chris Gunn, Webb Telescope Model SXSW 2013

Maybe we should take this show on the road

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Blogs assume a reading audience to be not only present, but also actively interested in what’s being said on a given subject.  I assume no such thing, but have a handful of encouraging people for whom I feel compelled to offer updates and ramblings. 

That being the case, I am testing a segmented format this week. Theoretically it will mercifully allow skimming or bypassing those things you don’t really want to know.  Feedback from my 2 readers will be greatly appreciated.   And we’re off –

 

The Foodie Part:

This is an eating, drinking town.  And HOW.  Given the nature of my move to Texas, I feel it would be reproachful, irresponsible to skimp on empirical research for the duration of my stay.

This week I sacrificed, bellied up and did my part by buying Texas beer and coffee for home trials.  I was in no way disappointed.  Fara Coffee (roasted here) is impressively bold and easy to imbibe, and Real Ale, hailing from Blanco, has a pleasantly surprising range for something I haphazardly lifted from the grocery store as an impulse buy.  It doesn’t quite thrill the palette in ways the Lazy Magnolia still occupying my refrigerator does, but it is quality nonetheless.

I made a trip to a cool little coffee shop early in the week to test them out as a new haunt.  The place has ambitions of expansion and excellent dark roast.  Good signs.

I sampled mellow, sweeter than usual sauerkraut and good schnitzel close to home.  I’ll be back…

And I was pulling through a parking lot for a quick turn around, but decided to stop when I spotted Evangeline Café.  I was hungry.  It was there, and I have a soft spot for Longfellow. The owner is a Louisiana native who has kept the place in business for a decade with decent “Cajun” fare.  I had a passable oyster, bacon and cheddar poboy, for which they DID have actual Tabasco rather than trying to pawn off other hot sauces.  And the venue is right up my alley with a hole-in-the-wall feel despite being housed in a polished shopping center.  It is apparently a good live music venue.  I’ll do a follow up when I have the chance for a return visit.

 

Random Happenings and Ponderings:

As I was taking in some local scenery this week, using my electronic memo pad to make note of something, I realized every person within eyesight was texting or talking, or both.  I put mine away immediately, wondering why it is we can’t get away from our damnable phones. Are they convenient? Of course.  Are they handy and fun?  They can be.  Do they keep us from what’s out in the world, under our noses?  That, I leave you to answer for yourselves.  Mine didn’t earn another glance until bedtime.

Yesterday, I went with a neighbor to The Natural Gardener, an impressive local grounds on which are grown, housed and sold all sorts of seasonal produce plants and flowering plants, soil and compost, lawn décor, seeds, and other wares.  It was a perfect day to wander around  and though I have no green thumb, I couldn’t escape without some herbs to hang in the crooked back wall baskets and some greenery to replace the plastic flowers in the backyard fountain. 

 

After this weekend, I feel like a domestic titan. I not only planted herbs (not in the sad, weak wall baskets after all) but was inspired by the technology of wireless 3-in-1 printers and got my taxes squared away and emailed.  Just don’t ask about the bookshelves still in boxes and bare walls.  I’m only one woman, after all.

 

The Keystone Kops:

I spent a couple of days trying to sort out whether one of my cats is ill or just pissed off.  It seems to be the latter, which makes the temptation to follow suit next time I’m miffed almost unbearable.  And following a spraying feline around the house is not my idea of a good time. I am thankful for the temperate weekend.

On a recent walk, my dog Toby received so much attention from passersby he eventually surrendered as approached, flopping on his side awaiting a scratch or belly rub.  He’ll be a neighborhood celebrity before all is said and done.

Suki, the bratty little bitch she is, made a quick get away when a neighbor came into the backyard and left the gate open.  Her first un- chaperoned foray into Texas was short lived, as she waited until I had hardly pulled out of the driveway in pursuit to barrel back to the house. 

Not to be outdone, I showcased my clutziness over the weekend by opening the back hatch of my vehicle and watching as a wine and a beer bottle crashed to the cement. I am now an area menace, not only for being an obvious lush but for creating dangerous glass shard threats and a driveway that reeks of alcohol before you open your car door.

But wait! That’s not all! 

After the great puppycat escape of 2013, I had the privilege of locking myself in the garage not once but TWICE in a 5 minute increment.  You did not misread that.  The interior door handle lock was particularly sensitive today.  The first time, I thought, OK… now what? Initial panic had me wondering when the neighbors might next leave the house. But 30 seconds later I had the garage door unlocked from the inside, which meant all I had to do was retrieve the spare key…  except… the spare only works on the front door which has a bonus blind deadbolt.  Damn.   Thank Zeus I am not paranoid enough to lock that one.  The second time, it was just funny. 

Note to self: prop the storage door open.  Don’t lock that second deadbolt.  And next time, just run away and join the circus.

 

Is it baseball season yet?

 

 

 

 

Pictures: Natural Gardener Guitar Bed, Evangeline’s tabletop, My herbs