Thursday, November 2

Here she is!

Here's my new sailboat, a 1975 Cape Dory Typhoon Weekender. I am going to rename her 'Belfry' as my last name is Batts and, well, you get it. You could say I'm a little crazy for what could be considered an impulse purchase but she's in excellent condition and I really wanted something easy to sail on Lake Travis. Plus, she's so dang cute I can't stand it!
The back story is that I spend my summers cruising the Pacific Northwest and the coast of British Columbia on a Nauticat 35. She's a well designed hell-for-stout Finnish monohull. She also has the required systems for living aboard--water, electric, plumbing, propane, diesel engine, dinghy etc...all of which are fairly involved and challenging in a marine environment.

Now I am looking forward to enjoying the simple act of sailing without worrying about tides, currents or logs. First, I have to get her off the trailer and into the water...

Thursday, September 1

easily amused

I needed to find out my son's mailing address at school so I could ship all the essentials to him. Here is the email I sent.

Dear post office of institution of higher learning located in another state,

My son is an incoming freshman arriving today from Austin, TX. I would like to ship a couple of boxes to him and would appreciate having his proper mailing address in order to do so.

These boxes will contain clothes, linens and practical items for his dorm room. They will NOT contain any beloved family pets that sleep 23 hours a day, perishable food items from Texas such as jalapeƱo poppers, Hatch green chile pimento cheese salad, Franklin's barbecue or deep fried Oreos and definitely not the slightly smelly crocheted throw from the couch.

Many thanks for your help,
Mary Mary

Tuesday, August 23

Ninho Vazio Means Empty Nest (I swear Portuguese sounds sexier than French)

The Universe spoke to me. (The voice of God is a topic for another day.) Or there are a bunch of things that are making me shift directions. Or I decided not to kill this blog and try something new because knitters have Ravelry and foodies have Pinterest and mommy bloggers have, uh, you get it. You see, now that the Olympics are over my youngest child has left for college, I have all this free time on my hands. So, I can read the paper, schedule appointments any time I want and watch TV in real time on a real TV screen. And this is what has happened so far...

I read this article in the NYTimes about not holding on to anything negative and it challenged the reader to let go of something for a week. I was thinking about the memory of my mom's reaction when she read my journal in high school and found out I was sexually active but opted for letting go of high school entirely. Too bad I can't make most of the late 70s disappear as well.

I saw my doctor for a physical and am now having a slew of tests and scans to establish a thorough baseline. His iPad is newer than mine but my WiFi is waaay faster.

I watched the Mister Rogers and Me documentary on PBS during their pledge drive and knitted during the membership pitches because I didn't have to feed anyone. Awwww, I still miss Tim Russert (who gives a lovely interview).

All of this means that I have officially joined the Group W bench of modern American society where women like me raise babies, feed children, drive carpool, send teenagers off to college and fly under the radar screen until you need my vote.

Yes, friends and neighbors, I am a menopausal-ish, middle-aged-ish, politically-moderate-but-socially-liberal-why-is-abortion-still-an-issue, dye-my-hair-but-wear-it-long, Birkenstock-wearing-because-I-had-bunionectomies-on-both-feet-and-dang-those-sandals-are-comfy, starting-to-crochet-more-than-I-knit,  chicken-wine-swillin', if-you-were-like-some-men-I-wouldn't-need-batteries-oh-gimme-some-sugar, hook-em-Horns, WASP-on-the-outside-and-can-I-be-a-blues-singer-without-any-alcohol-and-drug-issues-on-the-inside, fill-in-the-blankety-blank kind of gal.

Yeah, I'm having lots of fun!

Wednesday, June 3

Miss Havisham's Duvet Cover

I have a mildly eccentric bachelor uncle who grew up in a Victorian house in the Texas Panhandle. The closets were a trove of top hats, humongous raccoon coats (say 'Stutz Bearcat'), National Geographic magazines, old Chessie Cat railroad calendars and the detritus of long deceased relatives. It was like "Days of Heaven" hooked up with "Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends" in my childhood memories.

I saw this uncle a couple of years ago and he asked if I would repair a couple of things for him. I said sure and he disappeared for a few minutes. He returned with an array of items that became more bizarre and ancient as he presented them to me. There was a moth-eaten crocheted chevron afghan in Depression era colors that clearly pre-dated acrylic, a couple of shetland sweaters from the 80s with minor moth damage, two tattered silk pillows with the unspeakably distinct fust of library cards and sawdust and this: An old silk comforter riddled with buggy pinholes; I think was my Grandmother's. Let's get a close-up for that extra gross out factor:
Here are a couple of labels that may give a clue to its origins:

I couldn't handle all those random holes, so I settled on making a duvet cover. A local fabric shop was going out of business (One of three in the past 6 months!) and I guiltily snapped up some silk organza, dupioni and lace. I then overdyed the batch an ecru color to make it a bit more vintage. I cut everything into strips and serged them all together hoping for some kind of modern Victorian vibe. I really wasn't in the mood to get too fussy, so I ended up with this:
I'm usually more inventive than this.
Okay, that looks stupid. Here's a detail of the lace. Pretty, no?
easier to sew with than I thought
I sewed some strips of cotton twill tape to the ends and DONE! So, Miss Literary Reference, where does Miss Havisham figure in all this? Wellll, this same bachelor uncle met the woman of his dreams and got married at the ripe old age of 70. I'm thinking this repaired orphan may be slotted for the guest room or... banished to a closet in the old house next to a moldy wedding cake and a taxidermied javalina.

Captain's Quarters
This is where I bore you about my double life as a sailor/canvas seamstress in training. I just got a Necchi HD22 and I'm getting ready to bust a Sunbrella groove!
The Captain is prepping the boat for my July arrival in Anacortes, but I have not been idle. How cute is this Kaffe Fassett print for the throw pillows?
Fair winds, my friends, fair winds...

Friday, December 6

Pulled Pork Banh Mi Sliders

A seemingly random series of events led to my version of this gastronomic joy.

My eldest son requested home-cooked pulled pork after seeing a package of the ready-to-eat stuff at the grocery store. Hey, I grew up on processed foods and red dye #2 but even I was a bit put off as we stared at the picture on the package wondering a) exactly which part of the pig was in the package and b) how many chemicals went into preserving it and c) is "The Jungle" still required reading in high school? It's hard to say no when all I have to do is literally throw a bunch of stuff into my crock pot, stir it once or twice, and then shred the meat 6 hours later. I used this great recipe for crock pot pulled pork and added a couple of Anaheim peppers to liven it up just a touch.

I saw the slider buns and thought they were too cute to pass up. I was on the last row at the HEB, ok? I'll talk about my socio-economically diverse 78704 HEB another time. I may even mention the 'meds are running low-talking to myself-the rascal scooter battery needs a charge" Randall's just down the road.

We all love Vietnamese banh mi sandwiches and I'm forever craving the slightly sweet salty tang of Chinese BBQ pork with marinated carrots and cilantro on really good French bread. I know there are banh mi purists out there that will say that only sliced pork and/or pate will do but this is MY Texas BBQ-meets-food truck version.

Toast the buns in butter before loading up with the pulled pork.
Add a splotch of hoisin sauce, sriracha sauce or sliced jalapenos.
Cover with lots of chopped cilantro.
Add julienned carrots and cucumbers that have marinated in rice wine vinegar, water and a touch of sugar.
Think about making two or three of these babies.
Goes great with iced green tea or a chilled rose from Provence. Vang!

Saturday, November 30

Shingles All The Way

   At first, I thought I had accidentally scratched myself on my right cheek. One of those goofy things you might do in your sleep or closing the rear door on a SUV or turning suddenly with a knitting needle in hand (maybe that's just me). You get the idea. Then this 'scratch' started looking like an abbreviated case of hives that wasn't spreading. And then...blisters. Eeeeeuuuwwww. Doc took one look and declared "Shingles." Happy Thanksgiving, Miss Contagiousity!

Sooo, let's think happy thoughts like:

Mississippi Pot Roast I found this recipe on the internet and I wouldn't change it for the world EXCEPT I think you can reduce the butter by half. There's enough fat in a chuck roast as is, so the butter really is gravy. I'm thinking of doing a Cajun variation with "Slap Ya Mama" and some crawfish tossed in at the last minute or even a Texan version with a packet of powdered BBQ sauce mix and some jalapenos. Heck, you could march your way through all 50 states and listen to the 'They Might Be Giants' versions of state songs while doing it.
Here's the annual holiday pic of me with Heckle and Jeckle, Cat and Dog. Thank God for concealer, tinted moisturizer and lip gloss.

 So, I'm taking my meds, sipping some Beaujolais Nouveau and thinking about reading "The Book Thief." I leave you with one last cautionary message from the Harvey Penick Golf Campus here in Austin TX:
Boy, howdy, that makes shingles look like a stroll through the mall on Black Friday! Be safe, wear sunscreen.

Friday, November 15

Formula Five Fingerless Mitts

 Formula One models wearing heels that are too big. Yours truly doing the Pit Walk before the big event.

Here are some fingerless mitts that I banged out recently. OK, I finished one like 2 years ago and found the twin in a project bag last week. Took about 2 hours to finish and voila! All I did was knit a rectangle (approximately 6x8 inches) using a slip stitch pattern. Using mattress stitch, I seamed up the sides leaving about a 2-inch gap for the thumb then another seam of roughly 1.5 inches. I then worked about 1 inch in 1x1 rib around the bottom.) So, yeah, pretty simple BUT the yarn is effing amazing! This is vintage yarn from the stash. A.L. de Sauveterre, Estelle, Muench colorway.

What's a girl to do at FanFest but have her picture taken with whom I consider the biggest, er, tallest, hottie on the F1 circuit...Mark Webber with the Red Bull racing team. Yeah, his teammate is Numero Uno, but check out that jawline. Vroooooommmmm!

Monday, October 28

DFW spells Metroplex

I spent last weekend in Dallas so that my sons, Tex and Bandit, could compete at the St. Mark's Invitational Debate in the Cross X Policy Debate division. I have no idea what most of that means. I told them it was going to be just like a vacation except they got to do exactly what they wanted. And so did I. Friday was spent in Ft. Worth where I visited some old and new haunts. First, was a trip to the Cabbage Rose Quilt Shop where I had purchased my Kaffe Fassett Hot Diamonds Quilt. The shop has moved across the street, it's bigger and even better than I remember and I picked out some perfect solids to calm down those hothothot prints. Lunch at the Swiss Pastry Shop where they use the exact same recipe for their killer Black Forest Cake(no cherries) from when I was a teenager. I made a trip to the Kimbell Art Museum(I worked there one summer during college) to see the Picasso/Matisse exhibit (very well curated---Brancusi, Modigliani, Max Ernst treats) and to view some old friends (loves me some Vigee Le Brun). And I even had time to see the Cowgirl Museum (I snuck in the photo above). What a treat! And the gift shop is a lot of fun!
Debates start early, end late and there's a dress code. I feel like I'm living with teenaged Mormons on the weekends. I decided to introduce the boys to the retro side of Dallas dining. We had a great dinner at Javier's (filete Cantinflas, of course) and the next night was a total blast at Campisi's Egyptian Lounge where we all maxed out on really cheap and really good RatPack Italian. Speaking of cheap, I had the most amazing Vietnamese food at Bistro B with my old SNB pal, Renee. The combo Banh Mi was YUM and be sure to order the crunchy pork rolls as well as the duck rolls. We decided to stop by The Woolly Ewe for dessert.

Epic fail. The shop is VERY different from what I remember. It used to be the hot chick of yarn, full of surprises, new lines and amazing samples that turned you into a zombie marching up to the register with a full year's yarn budget in your basket. Now? Divorce and menopause. And I know what divorce and menopause feels like, ladies. A cry for normal surrounded by a rare hot flash of sexy surrounded by mom jeans and some really tired scarves. It was the first time I've ever walked out of a yarn shop empty handed. Yeah. I know.
So, here are the solids I picked out for my hot prints.

And here's one of the first blocks. It's a little fussy with the piecing and you're not going to bang out 10 in one day BUT look at how pretty it sets up!

Wednesday, October 16

Fabric Therapy and the Diva Princess Bordello

Yesterday, a neighbor asked me if I quilted and we proceeded to have a nice chat about charm packs, jelly rolls and layer cakes. (these are all pre-cut fabric packs, FYI) Quilting really has gotten zippier in the past few years! Especially since the fabric companies realized that we all enjoy a little instant gratification when it involves NOT having to cut a bunch squares.

 With quilts on the brain, I took the morning to 'curate' my collection of quilting and fashion fabrics. Looking through my fabrics is like flipping through an album of the past 20 years or so. There are fabrics that I bought on trips and others that I stashed while living in France (toile, provencal prints, silk chiffon). Some are clearly for skirts and dresses while others are strictly patchwork. Scraps remain from quilts large and small, curtains from another house, skirts long since retired and a little bit of everything else. Why do I have 3 yards of a bold watermelon print? And am I really going to make a pale pink Jackie O dress with the linen I bought at Rex fabrics in Miami like 10 years ago? Do I really need to hang onto every dinky quilt scrap? Mainly, what this album shows is someone who was clearly trying to bury herself in busyness to avoid some big holes in other parts of her life. (And let's not even talk about the yarn stash right now) A little wave of melancholy passed over me and then...
I rediscovered the Kaffe Fassett Hot Diamonds quilt kit.
I had seen this quilt on the wall at the Cabbage Rose Quilt Shop in Ft. Worth, TX. It was big and beautiful and had more hot pink and fuchsia roses than a Diva Princess Bordello. I wavered about 5 seconds before pouncing on the pretty little package that included over 20 prints and a copy of "Kaffe Fassett's Kaleidoscope of Quilts." I swear to God I was going to make that quilt, fly to Malta and drape it over the first stone wall I found just like almost every supersaturated quilty photo in that book. It was going to be Diva Princess Bordello time with some earthy red wine, night blooming jasmine and that quilt on a big 'ol four poster bed just waiting to be violated. Well, that was the idea until Ex took one look at all that red, pink, fuchsia and magenta and starting blinking like he just had a visual hairball and was desperately trying to remove it. And so Hot Diamonds went into the depths of a Rubbermaid bin, patiently maturing like a fine wine.
 Now, the thing is, I still love the fabrics but I'm not so keen on Hot Diamonds anymore. I want a pattern that is a little calmer, more cohesive. So, I started perusing my other Kaffe Fassett quilt patterns and came across Sunny Frames.
But the squares looked a little too chunky for my taste.
My neighbor had mentioned how much she loved the My Sister & Me charm packs, so I went to their website to look at their patterns and voila! Pin Curls (reminds me of the Tory Burch logo) would allow me to use a solid to unify all the prints and have a distinctive design. Now, which solid works best???
We got yer turquoise, rusty brown and fuchsia. Feel free to weigh in on this because I haven't made my mind up and I'll need to buy the solid color. I decided to blend the two designs and came up with this. Now, does that scream Diva Princess Bordello or what???

Wednesday, October 9

I'm not the only one...

who is intrigued by the world of perfumes and scent! I just finished "Coming to My Senses: A Story of Perfume, Pleasure, and an Unlikely Bride," by Alyssa Harad. Go read the proper reviews elsewhere. All I can say is that Harad's book is utterly charming. So charming, that I spent all afternoon reading it with my copy of "Perfumes: The Guide," by Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez at my side. So charming, that I then went online and figured out her signature scent, ordered a sample of it plus three others that I was interested in. And there wasn't any sex or swearing (I loves me some dirty dirty every once in awhile)---now, THAT really is charming!

 I have always enjoyed identifying perfumes on people. For instance, I had drinks with my ex-husband and his parents last week. After his father asked me to consider remarrying their son in 10-15 years, I leaned over to kiss my former mother-in-law goodbye. "Ah, you smell great! What are you wearing?" I asked her. "Yves St. Laurent" was her reply. Well, that is an old trick, my friend. Just like getting a recipe from a French grandmother who 'accidentally' leaves out the key ingredient. Yves St. Laurent can mean any number of fragrances but I went into my mental scent vault and pulled out...Paris. A big-assed floral that almost has a tantrum before drying down to the "Come sit by me and I'll tell you a secret" school of perfume. I'm more of a spice, earth, touch of lemongrass kind of gal with a true appreciation for what a really well done floral can smell like. Like the most gorgeous bouquet of flowers all smooshed into a bottle. Now, is that charming, classy or decide.

 Sooo, this morning when I volunteered to oversee the Homecoming election table between voting times at Austin High School (after my sons fairly sprinted away from me in the parking lot like I was the original MomCootie), I pulled out my book and mentioned that I was interested in perfume. "Oh, really?" was the response I got from one person while "Ahhhh...." was from the other. I'm used to it. Harad gets used to it beautifully!

 OK, for yer information: I ordered samples of Coco Chanel, Malle's Une Rose, Guerlain's Plus Que Jamais and Ginestet's Botrytis. Botrytis means 'noble rot' in winemaking terms. Did you ever see the episode of "Big Bang Theory" where the girls go to Disneyland and dress up as princesses and the show ends with the responses of their respective boyfriends? Uh, Botrytis would be Penny and Leonard. FYI: Alyssa Harad curated this scent for the All Souls Book Trilogy over here.

Thursday, February 14

Happy Valentine's Day, Y'all!

     Grapefruit and Key Lime Pie with Guava Glaze and Meringue Buttons (pie adapted from Steve Raichlen) I added the extras.

 Full Menu: Iceberg wedge with Blue Cheese dressing and bacon crumbles
                   Filet Mignon marinated in balsamic vinaigrette and crushed peppercorns, steamed broccoli with lemon butter, super gooey mac&cheese with panko crust (adapted from Pioneer Woman Cookbook)

He's in charge of wine...maybe a Williams Selyem Pinot Noir. I do have a 2009 Chateau Guiraud Sauternes for later....!

Friday, February 8

Super Bowl Blackout Baby Boom?

I'm just sayin'....

Orange and Blue

Last year I broke into a flurry of activity for the holidays, as in 12 days and counting. Was I shopping? Nope. I was canning and knitting, knitting and canning.

Jiro persimmons from a neighbor's tree. Nothing says "Howdy, neighbor!" like strolling over and asking "Are you going to eat those or what?"
Persimmon jam waiting for cheery holiday labels. I put up at least a dozen jars of the stuff plus some chutney. A few were set aside for the aforementioned neighbor. I also scored some green tomatoes from another neighbor and made some zesty relish. It was at this point that my sons started looking in the fridge and asking about the origins of various foodstuffs. "Gee, mom, is this mango from next door? What about the broccoli?" I think I heard something about shameless scavenging...
Half Granny Square Shawl, 42"x20", Freia fine handpaints Fingering Ombre, color Moab.

 It was for a golf buddy who likes to hang out in Taos.

 Painted Forest Ribbed Hat, mystery burnt orange yarn in stash. This was for a friend's husband who helps me save money and is a UT Longhorn fan.

 Robin's Egg Blue Hat, Madeline Tosh Chunky, color: Well Water. And this was for that friend. She likes the Longhorns but this color was perfect for her blue eyes. I have enough leftover to make one for myself and got a big pearly button for it.

The Corn Dog Casserole is from a new favorite, The Casserole Queens Cookbook, by Crystal Cook and Sandy Pollock. This goes in the 'Teenaged Boy Food File' along with Tamale Pie and the Gooey Apple Butter Cake (Granny Smith apples+cream cheese+yellow cake mix=Oh. My.)There's a recipe for Bread and Breakfast Casserole that was a huge hit at my knitting group's Annual Thievin' Santa holiday party. It's our version of a white elephant swap, except we all bring nice yarn. That's where I got that pretty skein of Freia Handpaints from.
Monte Cristo from Gourdough's Public House. This is what happens when a classic sandwich meets a freshly fried doughnut. And this is breakfast. And now I need to take a nap.
Christmas and New Year's are long behind us which means Valentine's Day must be coming up. I have an uncle who decided that it was high time he get hitched for the first time just a few months before he turned 70. Talk about hope springs eternal. Some of us in the family have been married and divorced multiple times and we're all younger! This is a picture from the reception which was held at a finca outside of Merida, Mexico. The tuberoses smelled heavenly and were surrounded by orange and blue candles. Really, they should have provided bath tubs for the guests. See? More orange and blue. And speaking of romance, if cupid and roses aren't exactly your style then read this little gem from Smart Bitches Trashy Books. I dare you not to laugh. Double dog dare you. Triple dog....

Friday, November 9

365 days later.....

11/3/12, Formula Run, Austin TX

It's been a very busy, crazy and stressful year....
I refinanced my mortgage. (the road to thrift is not always painless)
I ran the Capitol 10k. (neither is the road to 6 miles)
I sold my old house. (3500 sf in boxes, plus yarn)
I bought a new house. (2000 sf and a lot of trips to Goodwill)
I hired a contractor to remodel the new house. (ah, the promise of fresh paint...)
I got a job as a sales associate at Sur La Table. (crazy schedule, but 40% employee discount)
I fired the contractor. (I unpacked my Big Girl panties)
I hired a new contractor who finished the remodel. (you should see my LED track lights)
I quit my job. (crazy+schedule+long commute = au revoir and some new knives)
My two sons are now both in high school. (one stop taxi service for me)
My two sons are now on the debate team. (I never get the last word around here)
I ran the Formula Run at the new F1 track. (a personal best time)
The election is finally over!!! (now, we can ALL move on with our lives)

The following is what I was going to post around last Thanksgiving before all hell broke loose in the reality department:

  Fast and Fuzzy

(Twinkle Handknits Baby Chunky, color:Moss)

Here's my early holiday gift to you. A simple scarf in a super soft yarn with a more masculine feel. You cast on 100 stitches and knit it lengthwise, so I'm calling it...

Century Scarf
yarn: Twinkle Handknits Baby Chunky, 136-150 gms
approx. 6" x 48"
needle: size 17 US

Using long-tailed method, cast on 100 stitches. Knit 4 rows.
Row 5: *K4, P4* K4.
Row 6: *P4, K4* P4.
repeat rows 5 and 6 until the scarf is 5 inches wide or desired width.
Knit 3 rows.
BO very loosely or with size 19 US needle.

Thanksgiving 2011. (look at that smile, little did I know...)

Friday, April 15

Life and Taxes

My little write-offs.
Thanksgiving 2010

Some people find that they have 'senior' moments and others have 'Aha!' moments. I have 'Erma Bombeck' moments. You see, I live with 2 boys who are transitioning into teenagers. The younger one will be officially 13 in a month, but he received excellent training from his 14.5-year-old brother. I'm positive that schizophrenia or bipolar disorder doesn't run in my family, but I'm starting to have my suspicions. Imagine if you threw "The Simpsons," "Tosh.0," "Lucha Libre," "The Golf Channel" and "Dark Shadows" into a sitcom blender, then you'd have a close rendition of my life. They are completely evil, smelly, messy and rude. They are funny, affectionate, clever and curious. They are the future. They must be stopped. They say stuff like, "When I grow up I want to be a real boy," in a silly voice that makes me laugh every time.

And have I mentioned that they sleep a lot? They sleep so deeply that I'm always tempted to grab a mirror to see if they're breathing. But not always. When they're not sleeping, they're eating which brings me to my latest enthusiasm:

Frugal Fixes for Leftovers!

Periodically, I get a sanity break when the boys stay with their father. And, inevitably, I am left with half eaten bags of chips, cookies or a box of Krispy Kreme doughnuts. I am not about to eat 4 doughnuts and they'll get stale by the time the boys are back with me. Remembering an article I read in the NYTimes, I searched their website and found "Jelly Doughnut Pudding."
I only had 4 regular doughnuts and not the original 14 jelly doughnuts as called for in the recipe, so I used about a quarter of the ingredients. I cut the cooking time to 45 minutes, removed the foil and baked the pudding for another 10 minutes, broiling on high for the last 2 minutes. I might drizzle a little chocolate sauce over it...or I might not.


I just taught a class on working 2 toe-up socks at the same time, using "Socks from the Toe Up," by Wendy D. Johnson. Judy's Magic cast-on is a marvel. Watch the youTube video and cast on the stitches when you'll not be interrupted. Another delight was the heel. It's a deceptively simple gusset heel that neatly rejoins the instep stitches without any holes. We did work the final decreases to 36 stitches instead of the 34 as written in the pattern. Now, we're working on the "Ruched Yoke Tee' from IK Spring 2011. I cast on for the 38.5" and have increased to the 42.5" size as I want a tighter neckline. I also plan to work my keyhole opening a little deeper as a result. If you want to make a cardigan version of this piece, then try the "Tea Leaves Cardigan" from Madeline Tosh. This pattern has you work with 2 different needle sizes to create the ruching effect.

I feel like I just paid for the new craft room at the Treasury Department, so I think a little recycled doughnut goodness is in order....