Sunday, June 24, 2018

the ends of things

There is something dead in the kitchen. It is out of sight and out of reach but by way of odor that is where it must be, behind a wood panel in the cabinet that creates an empty space in the corner that is open to dying vermin. We have no recourse but to suffer through its decomposition. I have no idea why the people that built this house did many of the things they did but Rocky and I marvel at it all the time and by marvel I mean shake our heads in mystification.

I planned to empty the cabinet tomorrow and clean it because it smelled funky but by early evening there was no mistaking that odor and so I emptied it looking for the offender to no avail but it was also the source of the smell so I can only surmise that the little stinker is behind that panel.

It’s not the first time we’ve had to live through a decaying mouse or rat. One died in the wall between the kitchen and my studio and more recently somewhere in the little bathroom since it’s been torn out (never did find it or pinpoint it).

I've given up on the garden. We're nearing the end of June and it is just so hot out there and the garden is across the street in the back and what with my guest and the week of rain and the heat things have gone unharvested...tomatoes rotting on the vine, jalapenos turning red, banana peppers turning orange and the bell peppers never did all that well. I went over yesterday and picked all the corn about a week or more too late, husks drying out and kernels wrinkled and turning brown, 

they all went to the neighbor's chickens 

as well as the last bag of stink bug damaged tomatoes in the refrigerator. It was just too much work cutting out the damaged parts to salvage less than half in some cases. The tomatoes are still edible but the enzyme that stink bugs inject makes them taste sour. Also picked two enormous zucchinis, also chicken food. Probably the last ones I'll get as the plants are starting to succumb to the squash vine borers. Pulled up all the onions which barely got as big as a golf ball and only a few at that. 

The only things still going are the green beans that have put on a new round of blooms but when it gets this hot, they don't really develop well, we'll see, and the japanese eggplant which looks like it is putting on new blooms after I finally took the last three fruits that were not getting bigger, only grayer. I should go over there and pull everything out and give the dirt a rest.

Rocky showed up yesterday and together we worked out the placement of the hex tiles and the blue border because I tend to obsess about tiny details and wanted the pattern to be symmetrical up and down, side to side. 

Took us about three hours, arranging them this way or that way, marking and cutting tile. It's a good thing I got two extra sheets. Not perfect but good enough. And omg that bathroom is little and cramped and hard to work in and hot! But even with all that, I did enjoy working with Rocky on the tile. He got the blue border set before he left yesterday and is here now doing the final trimming on the hex tile and getting it set. 

all set

Then it's finish the grouting and all the tile work will be done and then it's back to finishing out the walls and trim and installing the door, setting the sink and toilet, installing the mirrored cabinet which I have and light fixture which I still need to buy.

This bathroom may just get finished yet.

Friday, June 22, 2018


Anyone who thinks Trump's latest EO means anything is deluding themselves. It said nothing about reuniting these already detained children with their families and his order only protects children and parents for 20 days and included language that gives them excuses to continue with the status quo. This was a photo op and a speech, a deflection because the opposition was too intense and growing and the bad press was coming from all quarters. It did not bother him to see pictures of these kids. He ordered it, him and Sessions, they cooked this up to force Democrats to vote for funding his wall and as a supposed deterrent to people coming for asylum. He said as much. Which is why this EO was completely unnecessary. There is no law forcing separation of children from their parents. The one they refer to allowed unaccompanied minors or accompanied by a non-relative to be housed to protect them from predators. This is not a practice that has been going on for 18 years. This is not happening because of anything the Democrats did. This is solely to be placed at the feet of Trump and Sessions. And for Sessions to quote the Bible to justify his complete lack of compassion, I mean, has he ever read about Jesus? Does he know anything about the man he calls his savior?

They are tearing nursing babies from the arms of their mothers, toddlers who have no comprehension of what is happening to them and they are sending them to secret 'tender age' facilities. They are sending these children as far away as NY. They aren't even keeping track of which child belongs to which parent having to resort to DNA testing to match them up in the unlikelihood that they will ever be reunited. The Texas Tribune (and now CNN) posted an article about a facility in Texas that is drugging the kids in their care.

Trump has no intention of offering asylum to any of these people. He wants zero immigration from south of our border and is busily deporting as many latinos as he can including veterans, doctors, business owners leaving families torn apart and remaining spouses suddenly thrust into single parenthood (while he ignores the millions of white illegal residents who have overstayed their visas). He has repeatedly called them all criminals, rapists, drug dealers, and most recently, animals. Pre-Trump, people asking for asylum were allowed to stay in country for a year while their requests are processed keeping families intact. Trump takes their children away and throws them in jail for a misdemeanor when they could just as easily send them back across the border but there is too much money to be made in the private prison industry in which several of the people in his administration and his friends are involved or have ties, all paid for by our tax dollars. It is infinitely cheaper to just apprehend them and send them back regardless of how many times they are caught. But then Trump's buddies wouldn't get richer.

And then there is this on her way to see the children's detainment facilities firsthand...evil, stupid, or just plain clueless?

In the meantime Trump has withdrawn us from the UN Human Rights Council because they are hating on Israel for committing genocide and the Republicans have released their proposed budget for 2019 cutting Medicaid, Medicare, and SS by trillions combined over the next 10 years because, of course, the young, the ill, and the elderly will be made to pay for the trillion dollar plus shortfall caused by their tax cuts to the ultra wealthy.


Wednesday, June 20, 2018

rain, yay! rain, boo!

I dropped my friend Helen off at the close airport, the one that's only an hour away, yesterday. It was a great visit though we didn't do much besides just hang out for a few days; 

nosed around a couple of the shops, bought the paint for the little bathroom, rented a movie, played with the dog, made a pie.

We are finally getting some rain! In fact it rained lightly off and on the whole time she was here. It's hurricane season once again and I still haven't got all the repairs done from last year. There's a storm system in the Gulf which was supposed to bring us 4 to 5 inches of rain over as many days which didn't happen so now they are saying 8 to 10 inches over the next several days and yesterday the general area between Houston and us just got pounded off and on. Drove through some of that heavy rain on the way to the airport, you know, the kind where even the fast speed on the wipers are useless and you can barely see the car in front of you and just forget about the lane markers. Fortunately it was only about 10 minutes or so. Well, at least until the drive home. Didn't hit any hard rain coming back and stopped at Costco for a few things and gas and they had a great recliner for the back bedroom for just $200 but I'm not buying any furniture for there until all the work is done and then between there and home through Fort Bend county which is under heavy construction with those barriers on both sides that give you zero wiggle room and 18 wheelers hauling ass beside you it was mostly through that heavy blinding rain. But I made it home safely and Marc came out to the car with the umbrella to get me. Hopefully we are getting all this rain at the right time to ensure a good pecan crop this fall since the last three years have been pretty pitiful.

So now I'm sitting here wondering where the hell Rocky is. He was going to work Saturday and Sunday and this week too if I didn't mind while my guest was here (I didn't). He did work on Saturday but was gone by the time I got back from the airport with Helen. He had finished everything he could do til I got back and I haven't seen him since. Well, it was Father's Day on Sunday so I guess he gets a pass for that but I'm ready to be done and I think it would only take a dedicated week. OK, so I talked to Rocky and there's not much he can do with this high humidity since grout or thin-set or texture won't dry properly and everything that can be done involves one of those three so as soon as we have a dryer day he'll be here.

In the meantime, I'm trying to get my studio room straightened up, things hung like this sweet little watercolor Helen did and gave me 

and birdhouses repaired (they all need perches) and hung, 

but it's one of those days that makes me just want to sit around and read. Not currently raining but totally overcast and heavily humid and wet outside and the couch looks comfy and I have two books on my side table.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

progress on several fronts

I'm heading out in a little while to pick up my friend Helen from the airport. She's visiting for a few days. I spent the day yesterday cleaning the newly re-done back bedroom and cleaning the futon frame which had been over at the shop and then stuffing the new mattress into the cover which I think shrunk some when we had it laundered and setting up the bed and moving one of the night stands in and cleaning one of the lamps and while the rest of the house is questionable, the back bedroom is clean if sparsely furnished. I'm not moving anything else in because we still haven't done the punch list and the paint needs to be touched up.

Rocky has been working on the shower in the little bathroom off and on the last two weeks cutting tile, setting tile, grouting tile. At one point when I requested he undo something and do it a little different he asked me,

OK, no problem, is there anything else hard you want me to do?”

Wait a few minutes, I'm sure I'll think of something.”

I'm a challenge to Rocky. This is the smallest shower he's ever had to tile and he's never done the kind of decorative work I want on the floor with three different kinds of tile all different thicknesses. Plus, I know how I want the finished bathroom to look.

I'll make an artist out of you yet Rocky,” I told him.

Today he finishes the bullnose around the door inside the shower and tackles the decorative rectangle on the floor of the bathroom. Once all the tile work is done the rest of the bathroom will finish up quickly.

In the meantime, this is happening...

Thursday, June 14, 2018

A minha mae

One of the places we went one of the days we visited Vila do Conde was a video gallery which was comprised of four or five small 'theaters' where you could sit on a bench and watch the film. We sat for a while in several of these...a film of the beach watching the waves and sea birds 

and two animated films. 

They also had a bookshop and I was immediately drawn to a particular book which had really beautiful illustrations. The guy tending the place kept trying to draw my attention to other smaller paperback black and white books with simple line drawings which he said were by Portuguese illustrators and great for coloring books for children, except they weren't all that interesting and my kids and grandkids are well grown up. I bought the children's book that first drew my attention and though it is in Portuguese, the author Stephane Servant, is French and the illustrator, Emmanuelle Houdart, is Swiss and she won an award, the French Grand Prize of Illustration in 2016 for her drawings for the book A minha mae (My Mother).

Author: Stephane Servant

I used several Portuguese to English dictionaries to translate the story thusly accompanied by a few of the illustrations. My effort may not be precise but it gets the story told if a bit clumsily.

Illustration: Emmanuelle Houdart

Illustration: Emmanuelle Houdart

My mother
has the heart
between the sun and the night.

Bright as a moon.
Dark as the wing of a crow.

It has an all-nothing
that makes your laughter

And your sadness in the open.

Illustration: Emmanuelle Houdart

My mother has love in full bloom.
An entire garden.

Weeds, heather, lilacs or thistles.
Where we cut, we rub,
we shelter or chop.
With my father, we learned early
to garden.

My mother
has in the heart
a fox
nested in the burrow
all winter.

And I
between their legs
in the warmth
I cuddle.

I could spend a thousand years.

My mother
has in the heart
a wolf

Illustration: Emmanuelle Houdart

That sometimes, in the summer, makes it
sing and dance
in black forests.

I wait and I cannot help it,
shudder at the thought
maybe she will not come back.

Illustration: Emmanuelle Houdart

I'm not afraid of the darkness.
I'm afraid of the day
that she may not know how to find.

Do not be afraid, my mother told me.
When you were born
I tattooed on the heart
a birdsong
your first cry
a star of dew
your beloved face.

The path that leads me to you
I never could forget.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

swan song

Here's what I took away from my trip to Portugal...I could live there. I could easily live in that beautiful clean place with it's tropical environment and it's warm welcoming people. It wouldn't take much to get me to cash out and move especially the way things are going over here. And Portugal likes ex-pats and have a system that makes it easy for those of us who would want to live there, according to our guide the day we went to Sintra. If you run your retirement funds through one of Portugal's banking institutions and stay in country for 9 months out of every year, giving you three months to travel, then you can live in the country tax free for 10 years, and so said our guide, air fare is cheaper from Portugal than from the US. It would take several more visits to determine where in Portugal I would want to live of course, but can't you just imagine it? Remaking your whole life, moving to Europe, jetting around to other countries like we jet around to just another state. I'm in.

Of course, as my friend Denise says, vacations are like the honeymoon. And as Ms Moon's Mr. Moon says, it's hard to move a whole tribe. Because I would have to move the family too. And they would not be retired and would have to have jobs and all. But it's a nice dream.

Meanwhile, over here, Trump is continuing to make this country a place that no one wants to emulate, a country no one wants to befriend. We forcibly pry crying children from the arms of their crying mothers and then keep them in cages sleeping on mats on the floor as punishment to their parents for having the audacity to want to come here to raise their families in a safe place. Instead of fighting for human rights, we now suppress them and are on the UN's human rights watch list. He has made us a country that allows non-citizens to join the military and then deports them after they fulfill their enlistment and need services. He suppresses the free press. Under his leadership we have become a country with zero compassion, where white people feel emboldened to insult and curse and scream at and in some cases physically assault total strangers telling them to go back where they came from because of the color of their skin or the language they are speaking; a place where the KKK, Nazis, and white nationalists, responsible for thousands of deaths of people of color in the past, boldly parade in public without governmental censure 73 years after we sacrificed over 40,000 citizens to defeat these same people; a country where the highest court in the land has OKed purging names from registered voter lists dismantling one of our constitutional rights. His policies have further eroded the middle class with his tax reform making the rich richer and plunging us into the deepest debt we have ever been in to the tune of trillions while he enriches himself by raiding the national treasury and his family via access to world leaders and governmental policy with his daughter and son-in-law reaping over 82 million dollars so far. He has alienated our allies, particularly our neighbors to the south and north, with his childish complaints, name calling, and behavior and his untruthful rhetoric about trade practices and is losing markets for our crops. He has withdrawn us from negotiated and signed agreements with other countries making us a nation that will not keep it's word and insults our allies, trashing the Western Alliance, instead preferring the company of dictators and human rights abusers because they stroke his ego where our allies, the other Western democracies, won't put up with his ignorance and arrogance. 

photo credit Jesco Denzel  Trump tells Angela Merkel he can do whatever he wants.

It would not surprise me in the least for him to withdraw from the Western Alliance completely and to form a new alliance with Russia, North Korea, and China sounding the death knell to the America I knew.

Empires always come to an end, some last longer than others. I never thought I would live to see America fall but I fear Trump is our Nero and if we don't get enough opposition in Congress this fall, it will be our swan song. So regarding the Supreme Court's decision to let states purge voter registrations, make sure you are still registered to vote come November. Check every month from now until then because the Republican state governments will remove as many young people, old people, and people of color as they can and they will not tell you if you have been removed.

And then turn out and vote.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

a mistake and unexpected rain

Saturday morning I watered the little backyard and the garden over at the shop. It had been a few days since I had watered the corn so I wanted to get it done before I left to get the mattress. I hadn't checked the weather in days since there was no hint of rain. Well, last Wednesday it rained just not on us. I could see it in the distance, the rain and lightning, coming back from yoga, I could hear the thunder once I reached home. So close yet so far. It hasn't rained in weeks, maybe not since I've been home. And so I took off Saturday morning, or rather late morning since I don't do anything early unless it's really important, like making a flight, with no idea that it would rain yesterday.

Made it to the futon store and selected and bought a mattress in record time and then headed for my daughter's house to meet up with the twins whose 20th birthday was Friday 

before they went back to their respective colleges and Robin who leaves for her trip to Israel in a few days thinking 'I hope she gave me the right mattress' ignoring the phone call on my cell that was an unrecognized number. Surprisingly I encountered rain as I neared home, looking nervously in the rear view mirror, that mattress is encased in plastic, right?

So nice to see rain and as I got closer and closer to home I realized that it was raining at home or had been but wasn't when I pulled into the driveway and so we muscled the mattress into the house. Hours later I noticed that there was a message on my phone which turned out to be from the futon store and please call her back right away as it was important. Drat, I thought, she gave me the wrong mattress which, as it turned out when I returned her call, she had. Told me that she would just let me keep it (a more expensive one than the one I bought) but it was the only one she had and already sold and the customer was coming to pick it up on Wednesday. So I expect she is driving out here today to bring me mine and pick up the other. So glad that's not me making the drive. So glad I hadn't unpackaged the mattress yet.

And so glad it had rained at home and then rained again after I got home. Now I have one more thing to add to my list of things I'm grateful for at yoga that I recite when Abby ends the session with a Jesus prayer. Something I would rather she didn't but she's the only game in town and I like Abby.

And Rocky showed up yesterday morning ready to work on setting the tile for the shower but he could only work until it started to rain as the adhesive he used didn't work that great in high humidity. Still, progress made and he's back today to continue.

Friday, June 8, 2018

cooking and sweating, not necessarily in that order

The Zucchini Bolognese which required simmering the zucchini and onions for 4 HOURS! and consists of zucchini, onion, bouillon, a squirt of lemon juice, and parmesan cheese added just before serving over rotini was good, actually, pretty good, despite the way it looked which was not all that good. And I got rid of all the zucchini for a brief moment. At least one ready to pick and two more tomorrow. Now I'm just down to tomatoes. Got half the bolognese in the freezer, all the corn put in the freezer and more crushed tomatoes. Still have more tomatoes on the window sill and more to pick this evening to determine which will be eaten, which will become sauce, which will become crushed. I've pretty much beaten back the stink bugs and leaf footed bugs but they've already been at nearly every tomato. Still some small green ones but it's so hot they may not get much bigger, just ripen. We'll see.

And jesus fucking christ it's hot out there. Just came in from cutting down all the small trees around the well over at the shop and squirting stump killer on the stumps and while I mostly worked in the shade, those last few were in the blazing sun and when I came in my hair was dripping wet and my underpants were soaked through as was the corresponding area on my shorts. We still have a well over at the shop though the shop is hooked up to city water and about two years ago the liner in the tank gave way and so the pump is turned off but I would like to get it all repaired and use the well water to water the garden. Likely it will have to be tested before I can use the water. Everyone with wells had to get them tested for nasty stuff after the flood.

after. no before pic as usual but the tank was surrounded by small trees a few of which were taller than the tank.

More progress on the little bathroom. Tile on the floor of the shower has been set and grouted, tile on the floor of the closet, hall, and bathroom except for the center rectangle has been set and grouted. Might get the rectangle with the narrow blue border and the center hex tiles set today, might not. Rocky has another funeral to attend today. Two family members were buried this week, Monday his cousin and today his uncle.


Tomorrow I have to drive in to Houston to the futon store to get a new mattress for the futon frame as I have a guest arriving Saturday week and it would be nice to have a bed for her to sleep on. I could order one on-line but mattresses (and shoes) are one of the things I won't buy unless I can test it out first. I have no idea how far along the little bathroom will be, if the toilet at least will be installed, but we do have another fully functioning bathroom.

Have I mentioned how hot it is? The only thing with energy enough to bloom are the common double orange day lilies (and they're almost done) and the plumerias. Oh and the little bougainvillea. I need to find a permanent place in the ground for it, someplace where it can grow unobstructed.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

post vacation chores

Well, that was exhausting. And time consuming. What I've done since is try and use up the bounty from the garden. I'm a slow cook so it has taken me three days to make a peach pie, enough eggplant parmesan to feed us two nights and put enough in the freezer for two nights, a quart and a pint of tomato sauce, and 24 oz of crushed tomatoes I used for enough eggplant bolognese for tonight and more. Also I blanched 9 ears of corn but didn't get the kernels cut off and packaged for the freezer yet. Not my corn but from the corn guy at the market. Insurance in case mine does zilch. Today zucchini is on the menu. This recipe has the zucchini slow cooking for 4 hours!

I've been conducting a pitched battle with the stink bugs since my return. They are greatly diminished but many of the fruit had already been injected. Marc was great on watering but not so great bug maintenance. One of the reasons anything to do with tomatoes has taken a lot of time (and everything to do with eggplant and zucchini seems to involve tomatoes) is cutting out the stink bug damage which in some cases was the whole fruit. Not to mention the 15 or so of fruit affected by blossom end rot which I tossed into the yard at large before I read that the rest of the fruit was fine, just cut the damage off. Oh well. Not nearly the harvest that we had last year which was so bountiful it was ridiculous. But then we lost most of what I froze for future use during the flood. The zucchini, on the other hand, is doing the best it's ever done.

Minnie lays in the shade of the corn while I'm weeding and watering and stuff

Emma, in her passive aggressive way, has decided that Minnie's bed is just right for a nap

The yard needs so much attention since I was gone for 3 weeks but have I mentioned how hot it is here? Hot. Brutal. August hot. And it hasn't rained for weeks. We had a long mild spring which gave us hope that summer would start slow. Wrong. About a week after I left temps jumped up in the 90s and have stayed there pretty much since, the heat index even creeping into triple digits. Early morning and late evening is tolerable.

Rocky is back on the job. He got all the tile cut for the bathroom, hall, and closet floors and the floor of the shower and started to set the tile.

we decided after laying it out that it needed two rows of blue

Monday, June 4, 2018

azulejos, the Portuguese tiles

I've noted in past posts and shown a few pictures of the tile work in Portugal and so I quickly became particularly attracted to them on the houses and shops early on taking more than a few pictures not only of the tiles in situ but close-ups of the tiles themselves. I've created a Pinterest gallery of most, if not all, the pictures I took and you can see them all here-tiles or here-tiled buildings but here are a few examples... 

and some of my favorites...

Hard to pick just a few.

So, Friday, Denise and I walked to the National Tile Museum Museu Nacional do Azulejo which is housed in a former convent founded in 1509 and chronicles the culture, history, and art of tile making in Portugal from the 15th century to modern times. The azulejos (link to a brief history) are a big part of Portugal's national identity and they are still being used and designed by contemporary artists in urban development.

Hard to pick just a few.

the convent chapel

The museum is also working to categorize all the boxes and boxes and boxes of tiles in storage and actively restores tiles and tile sets.

Looking through the glass walls at the work areas...

I've saved this post for last because of all that I saw and experienced in Portugal, I think the tile will be the thing that will impact my work, maybe the way I approach my work. Anyway, I have a few ideas that I want to pursue if Rocky ever gets done. He has shown up this week, work a half day but he was trying to finish up what he was working on. Hopefully I'll have his full attention Monday.