Friday, April 30, 2021

04.26.21 Ch.ch.ch...changes

After an inauspicious start to the vaccine rollout...which included the Governor lifting statewide mask mandates and indoor capacity limits back in March, before most of us were getting shots...the state of Texas managed to get its act together, and as of now all adults (over the age of 16) are eligible.

I was 1B, so I got my first dose in late February. In mid-March, the process was opened to anyone over 50, so my husband got his first shot.  As of today, we are both vaccinated and are past the two week mark that represents maximum immunity - and we are grateful.

Over the next few weeks and months, we'll be venturing out again, to some of our favorite restaurants (although still dining outdoors), small gatherings with vaccinated friends, and hopefully by the end of the year, seeing our children again.

But, there are things I did before, without giving them any thought, that I won't be returning to. 

The yoga studio...

I have been taking yoga classes online with some of my favorite teachers three or four times a week.  It has been one of the most important things I do for myself, mentally and physically...and I'm going to keep doing it, but virtually.

I cleared out my office to make room, and have acquired a full set of mats and props so there's no need to return to the studio.  I haven't missed rushing to get to class on time, trying to find a parking place and being squeezed into a room with 20 other people.


At first it surprised me, how much more I seemed to be getting out yoga by doing it at home...but then I realized I was practicing with teachers who are friends, who know me, and my body's quirks and limitations. 


For those times when I can't attend class in real time, I'm taking advantage of recorded sessions with my instructors, and bought a set of yoga dice, if I want to squeeze in a quick practice on my own.

Finally, if I want to stay in savasana for 30 minutes at the end of my practice, no one is forcing me to roll up my mat and move along.

The nail salon...

One thing that did annoy me as I practiced was bending over in forward fold or downward dog and seeing naked nails on my hands and feet.

I bought an Olive & June nail polish set last summer, because it was clear to me that I wasn't going to get a salon mani/pedi again soon, maybe ever. I'd read lots of good reviews, but honestly, what sold me on their kit was the tools...because (as I have written about before, in previous posts) having the right ones can make all the difference.

Olive & June mani vs
memory of a Shellac mani
I've actually become quite proficient at manicures, and at making them last several days to a week.  It's not like the before times, when I had a UV cured Shellac mani - in the salon - that would last at least two weeks...but I could do it safely, at home.

My toes were a very different story...

Nearly 20 years ago I was in a truly horrible automobile wreck.  A woman ran a red light and broadsided me.  She broke the axle on her car, totalled mine, and as my car was spinning around, my spine twisted...and one of the disks in my low back ruptured like a Christmas cracker.  Within a matter of hours, my entire left leg had gone numb.


I needed back surgery and 18 months of physical therapy - which were some of the longest, hardest months of my life. I am fortunate to have made a virtually full recovery...due in very large part to an amazing medical and rehabilitation team as well as my regular yoga practice. 


But I have residual nerve damage on my left side, and painting the toenails on my left foot is a difficult process that usually ended with a less than satisfactory result (with as much polish on my toes as my nails).  In the before times, it wasn't an issue...during the winter, it didn't really matter and during the summer I had a pedicure once a month.

Enter Olive & June again, this time with a pedicure kit.  It really is all about the tools, and in this case, erognomics. The kit comes in a container that becomes an angled foot rest...which means I don't have to contort myself to reach my left foot.  


The result is that instead of swearing and making a mess of my feet...I can polish my toenails - and look down at them on my yoga mat - with a pretty significant sense of satisfaction, feeling no need to return to the salon.  Not to mention, the pedi kit costs less than two appointments!

The grocery store...

In the before times, I had pretty much quit cooking.  We were busy, sometimes my husband and I had different schedules, so we weren't home at the same time or dinner was late.  Covid changed all that.  I've returned to cooking, and baking, and because I wasn't able to go to the jewelry studio - my kitchen became my happy and creative place.

We will eat out again, but not the same way...and I won't shop like I did in the before times, either.  I've come to love my Sunday trips to the farmers market, and incredible the fresh meat, produce and specialty baked goods I am able to purchase from vendors I have come to know.  

What I can't get at the market, I will continue to buy at HEB or Target (when HEB is occasionally out of something I want that week)...but I am a curbside convert! Before the pandemic it never occured to me, an able bodied person with a flexible schedule, not to go into the store and do my own shopping...but I have been so impressed with the process and the consistent quality of items that are picked for me (even when there are substitutions), I see no reason to return to the old way.

The jewelry studio, on the other hand, is someplace I hope to return to soon...and when I do, I'll share with you here.

Until next time.





Thursday, April 29, 2021

04.12.21 MoJo sez...goodbye

Fourteen is old for a cat, especially one who spent as much of his life outdoors as MoJo did...and I hadn't noticed how much he was aging (or maybe it's just that I didn't want to)...

we called him the Tabby Spaniel, because when he joined our family as a kitten, he was trained by our cocker spaniel, Max.  They did yard partol (sniffing along the entire fence around the backyard) every morning; they came when they were called for meals; they slept side by side, indoors or out.

When Max died, more than 5 years ago, we had entered a busy part of our empty nest lives, and didn't get another dog.  Honestly, I didn't feel the need for one...we had MoJo.


When I say he was more dog than cat, I mean that he came running when he was called, slept in a crate in the house, and never ventured far from home. Sometimes he'd go to one of the houses next door, or across the street to hang out on a porch with a neighbor cat...but mostly, he would nap close enough that he didn't have to walk very far if he wanted to come in for a snack.

He would snooze in the corner just outside the kitchen door (where you had to be careful not to step on him if you went out)...or under the silverleaf bush just across the driveway.

He was also like a spaniel in the way he ate.  We tried free feeding him once Max was gone (we used to feed them at the same time, because otherwise Max would eat his own food, and then the cat food).  However, with his bowl always on the floor, and a constant supply of kibble, MoJo got fat, so we had to put him back on a scheduled - and a weight control diet.

He had no fear of preditors (you'll notice he sleeps with his feet up and belly exposed, like a dog not a cat) and believed that he, not he humans, was in charge of the property.

Covid was great for MoJo because there was almost always a human around...as opposed to be before times...when I would go to the jewelry studio and my husband went to the office.  Back then, sometimes, he'd have to go *gasp* more than four hours between feedings!

Even when we were home all the time, except in cases of bad weather, he preferred to spend his days outside.  Every few hours he would appear at the kitchen door during the day, or on top of a patio chair behind the family room where we watched TV in the evenings, announcing his presence and demaning that a human let him in and give him his portion.

He did this every night...he didn't want to come in while the humans were eating dinner, or even cleaning up.  No, he waited until we were settled on the sofa to appear in the windows behind our head barking orders.

It's what he did the last time we saw him.

On a Sunday night, a few weeks ago...during the 10 o'clock news, he made himself known and came in.  He ate a little - but not very much, he got his chin and ears rubbed, then he went to the door and asked to go out...of course, we let him.

Thinking back...all the signs were there...he was eating less; he'd had terrible allergies for years (and we happily purchased and administered expensive medication from the local compounding pharmacy to treat him) and they had been pretty bad - but we just attributed it to spring allergies.  His eyes had become glassy and droopy, he was coughing more and sometimes his breathing seemed a little labored...but nothing that set off any alarms for us, or frankly the vet, who had seen him recenlty.  We all thought he was doing pretty well, considering.

When he didn't show up after 24 hours, I was worried...he'd wandered off before, but never for more than one or two feeding cycles.  We posted his information on neighborhood lists and missing pet forums. We put his favorite towels out on the front and side porches, so that he would be able to smell his way home.

I kept refreshing the water in his bowl on the back porch...and on the third day he was gone, there was a cardinal perched on the edge of the bowl drinking...something I'd never seen before.  I noted it, but didn't think much of it.  But, when...after more than a week of searching for him, checking with neighbors and shelter postings...the cardinal appeared again, I thought maybe the bird, the cat, the universe...is trying to tell me something?

We left the towels, and his rag toy out on the porch a little longer, but I knew in my heart that he had crossed the rainbow bridge...and I had to let go.

This pendant was last piece I made in the jewelry studio before everything shut down...I bought the stone and designed it for myself, and named it "MoJo sez".  

I stayed late that day to finish it, because I had a sense that it might be a while (I thought maybe a couple of weeks, or a month) before I got back...and I'm glad I did, because I can wear him close to my heart on a day I need some warm fuzzies.

Before MoJo, I would have put myself squarely in the "dog person" camp...but he changed me.  Dogs need their people, cats appreciate you but want their independence, and are okay if the humans have some too...which is where I am in my life right now.

There's a lot of joy in having four legged members in a household, and imagine we will invite a new feline into the family sooner, rather than later.

Until next time.

Monday, March 29, 2021

03.29.21 Let's Dance

When I was an undergraduate at the University of Virginia in the 1980's - during the Ralph Sampson era - I was a four year season ticket holder for basketball.  Those were great teams, and they won a lot of games...but never a national championship.

In 2018, UVa went into the NCAA Tournament as the overall #1 seed...only to be knocked out in the first round by UMBC (University of Maryland Baltimore County). They made history...but not in a good way.  That team was the only #1 ever taken out in the first round by a #16 seed.  It was awful.

In 2019, the Hoos came roaring back - vowing redemption - and earning it by winning it all against Texas Tech in overtime!

Last year, like everything else, the NCAA Tournament was cancelled, but this year it's back...and my beloved Hoos were the #4 seed in West Region (even though the entire tournament is being played in Indianapolis).  

After winning the conference championship for the regular season, and a buzzer beater in the first round of the ACC tournament...it looked like they might be cancelled by Covid this year, too...but they made it to the big dance.


However, there's a reason fans refer to them as the heart attack Hoos - Coach Bennett and his players love to keep it interesting until the last seconds tick off the clock - and this year, that meant not making it beyond the first round.  Neither did the University of Texas (where I earned my graduate degree) or many of the other top seeds.  

The first weekend of play was upset central...and by the time the slots were filled for the Sweet Sixteen, there was not a single perfect interactive bracket left!



Even with my alma maters out of the running, I still had a couple teams to pull for...

The University of Houston, which has had great teams since the 60s! My Dad taught physics there in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and was in the arena when Elvin Hayes (the Big E) and the Cougars matched up against Lew Alcindor (most of you know him as Kareem Abdul Jabbar) and UCLA in first ever March Madness game, also called "the game of the century".  Living in Texas for most of my life, including in Houston when my Dad taught there, the Cougs are a sentimental favorite.

The University of Maryland, which was part of the (original) ACC and a huge UVa rival in the 1980s when I was in school.  Like Guy Lewis of Houston, the Terps also had a rough around the edges coach named Lefty Driesell.  They also had an incredible player named Len Bias, who had he not overdosed in the summer of 1985, would have gone on to greatness at the level of his ACC opponent, Michael Jordan.  In addition to seeing Maryland play a lot of basketball during my high school and college years, three of my children have degrees from UMD.

Villanova, because their chaplain is the brother of a dear friend.  Whenever we get together we always talk about family, education policy and NCAA basketball. 

Photo: NCAA Sports, 2019 Champs
Neither Maryland or Villanova - along with several other higher seeded teams - made it through the weekend, but Houston did! 

I'm going to keep watching it all...until the streamers and confetti drop and CBS plays the last note of One Shining Moment...

...grateful for the little bit of normal that comes from watching three weekends of great, if heartbreaking, college basketball.

Until next time.

Monday, March 15, 2021

03.15.21 Quarantinewhile* - The Kitchen

I'm pretty sure I've spent more time in my kitchen over the last year than in the previous seven (when our youngest child went away to college, and I started this blog).

Early on in the pandemic I realized I needed to clean out the pantry. I'll spare you the list of things with "best by" dates from the late 00's to the early 10's that went straight to the compost (and their containers to the recycling)...let's just say it reinforced how little cooking I'd done in that period.

It also rapidly became obvious that a lot of things in the kitchen were worn out. It wasn't long before kitchen appliances - large and small - started failing

We replaced the mixer, toaster oven, microwave, a refrigerator and two hot water heaters over the course of the spring and summer...just a couple of weeks ago, we had to have the "pilotless ignition" on the stove replaced...and this morning, as soon as I get this post up, I'm shopping for a new dishwasher (the panel on ours is now blinking like a pinball machine).

Despite all of that, I realized I was enjoying cooking and baking again...but, like my office, the contents of the kitchen needed to be sorted, purged and updated.


I started with baking pans.  Instead of sourdough, I baked muffins...but the pan I had dated to my days as a student. It was flimsy and rusty, and needed to be replaced.  I also bought some really nice (and just plain fun) odd sized measuring cups and spoons.  I think it's worth noting, that I am still baking several times a week, so these were good purchases.


From there, I moved on to cabinets and drawers...that was almost as big an undertaking as the office.  For years I'd just shoved things in where I could find space for them. There were threadbare linens that should have been tossed on the rag pile a decade ago, cheap bakeware with dented bottoms (metal) or chipped glaze, as well as sippy cups and plastic juice boxes (did I mention that my youngest child - referenced above - is in the third year of her PhD?). 


One of the most satisfying outcomes of this process is that now, when I open the cabinet that contains plastic storage containers, not only does nothing fall out...but I know every piece has a matching lid.


Last, there were the bookshelves...like the cabinets and drawers...they were overloaded.  I pulled everything off, and gave it all - the books, the tchotchkes, and the shelves themselves - a thorough dusting and wiping down.

I recycled years' worth of magazines that I had kept - for reasons I could no longer remember (or, because they contained a recipe that is now online) - which freed up a whole lot of shelf space, and made it possible to line the books up properly, with nothing stacked on top of them.

I don't think it's much of a leap to guess what I did with some of the newly available space...

...I upgraded!

Dented baking pans and cheap plastic utensils (from the same era, with melted spots on the handles) were replaced with deep ceramic pans and silicone untensils.  I traded frayed, faded linens for new, bright colored ones...and all those new tea towels (both the ones sent by friends, and those I purchased) fit in the drawers.


I'm really glad to have gotten rid of things I wasn't using, and not feeling any buyer's remorse about the new stuff. I'm going to be serving up three meals a day at home for the foreseable future.  This is the new normal - at least as far as dining goes - and it's nice to have things that are pretty and functional.


Now, you'll excuse me while I go whip up a marble pound cake.

Until next time.






*again, the disclaimer that I totally stole this term from Stephen Colbert.


Monday, March 1, 2021

03.01.21 Quarantinewhile* - The Office

We have a four bedroom house, and for 23 years, one of those rooms was the home for my education finance consulting business.  I closed the business at the end of 2019, and planned to devote my time to improving and expanding my jewelry endeavors.

Well, as my grandmother liked to say...

"Man plans, God laughs".  

So here we are in 2021, and I haven't been at the bench in almost a year...I've spent more time than ever in the room that I figured I wouldn't be using much...and I've cleared it out, a lot.

In the beginning, it was about making space to be able to take yoga (over Zoom, of course).  When I started the process, I had just enough space to roll out my mat, but I couldn't really even spread my arms without bumping in to something.

Amazingly, I didn't burn up the shredder

It was a multi-step process...to clear the floor, I had to get rid of or find space for the dozens of binders, bins of files and countless books that were consuming valuable space.

It's a wonder how much paper one person can accumulate in a career (especially if it spans more than 30 years)...in my case, it was enough to fill a 96 gallon recycling bin a half dozen times.



I got rid of a lot, and it took weeks - the greatest limitation being the recycling schedule, although our bin is huge, it only gets picked up every other week - but once I was down to just the things that were worth keeping, I actually had space in my filing drawers...

...so much space, in fact, that I was also able to clear off the top of my desk.

You might think, at that point, I would have stopped - satisfied with my clean and spacious desk top - but instead, I used all that new found space for the kind of fun, new accessories (my husband calls them "unnecessary plastic things") I never had room for when my desk was covered in work.

I started with some artificial greenery...because I can't keep real plants alive.  

I made a lovely little air plant garden at an Crafternoon event with my talented and crafty friend Emily, back in the before times...and managed to kill the plant. I also won a small succulent garden in a raffle from Amanda Deer...and did pretty well with that for a while, but eventually, one by one...they died off, too.

Enter Etsy...and faux succulents...voilĂ ! Plants I can't kill.




I just kept going with the botanical theme...ordering a Rifle Paper pencil cup and trinket dish, and a darling floral desk calendar (all from Paper Source).

Yes, a desk calendar.  Not because it's particularly useful, but it was on sale and just too cute - and frankly too clever - to pass up!


There are six cardboard sections, printed on both sides with a different month and flower. At the end of each month, you turn the section around and place it at the back...so the little garden changes all year.

The last, but far from least, unneccesary plastic things were two SHERO action figures from FCTRY.   Now I have RBG and MVP (Madam Vice President) keeping me company every time I sit down to write a blog post, Postcards to Voters or attend a Zoom meeting (and yes, that IS an Official Inaugural Announcement, on my desk).

It wasn't all silly stuff, either...

I bought a  mug warmer, filled with coffee beans, that you heat up in the microwave to keep my cup o' Joe warm,

a great (and inexpensive) Bluetooth speaker for listening to music, 

and a nifty little technology brush to keep my keyboard dust and crumb free.

So, until I can get back to the jewerly studio, my desk has become a happy place, along with the kitchen (more on that soon).

Until next time.


*with apologies to Stephen Colbert, I totally ripped of  his term "Quarantinewhile".





Monday, February 15, 2021

02.15.21 Polar VorTexas


I had a post all lined up and ready to publish today...but like everything else in Central Texas, it has been canceled due to weather.  Since Saturday afternoon, we have been in an historic series of winter storms, the likes of which Austin has truly never seen.

I have lived in Austin for 35 years, in this house for almost 24, and I hope that this is truly a once in a lifetime photo...6 inches of snow.

I don't like winter. I have never liked winter...and when people ask how I can live in Texas when we have 100+ degree days regularly from June to September, I answer simply...

You don't have to shovel heat to get down the driveway.


This was the 7 day forecast from the local CBS affiliate on Sunday night...the circled low of 1 degree is accompanied by the note "THIS IS NOT A TYPO".  I'm concerned they are going to be right, because the forecast low last night was 8, and when we woke up this morning...it was 9, that's degrees... Fareheit.




The good news, if you can call it that, is that the current mid-afternoon temperature is now 23, several degrees above the predicted high of 17 for today. 

I've actually seen people posting on social media that the current conditions in Texas...in which all 254 counties are under a severe winter storm warning...is proof that global warming doesn't exist. 

I am not a climate scientist, but a I am reasonably well read person, and as I understand it, our weather this week is a direct result of global climate change.

In June, 2020 the town of Verkhoyansk, in Siberia, recorded a temperature of 100.4 degrees Farenheit, a record breaking high.  It wasn't just Siberia, either - Alaska saw record high temperatures as well.  Abnormally warm weather at the north pole displaces the cold air (that usually lives up there) further south...in this case, way south, to the Texas Gulf Coast.

As of this writing, our power and water are on, we have plenty to eat...and the snow is mostly an incovenience.  But while we are personally ok, a lot of people are not.  Climate change isn't just about the weather, it's about social justice and economic sustainability.

I don't think it is a coincidence that this is happening while we are simultaneously dealing with a worldwide pandemic...we have ignored science at our own peril, and if we continue to do so, things will only get worse.

So please...

listen to the scientists and doctors, stay home and wear a mask.

If you have the means to do so...

upgrade your appliances and cars to the most energy efficient ones you can afford, support politicians and organizations who recognize that we must address climate change as an issue of survival.

Stay warm, stay safe and stay informed.

Until next time.





Monday, February 1, 2021

02.01.21 Galentine's Day...the Ladysmiths of ATX Maker Magic Valentine Show


I haven't had much creative energy for a while, which is why my first post of 2021 only appeared last week.  But, I'm back at it - and making up for lost time with new content two weeks in a row.  

In my wrap up for last year, I wrote about how important the Ladysmiths of ATX have been to me in terms of staying connected to the jewelry community, since I can't be in the studio right now...and because of that, I'm going to write about them again.

Meet the Core Team, my Galentine's, with whom I'll be celebrating - our ability to adapt, build community and make space for other makers during these very uncertain times - all this week.


These women are the heart of Ladysmiths of ATX, and I'm not sure how I would have gotten through 2020 without them.  

Our weekly core team meetings and monthly Sip & Smith events (all on Zoom, of course) were some of the high points of my year.

Chelsea is part of the original core team in the shop at Canopy.  From painting the walls in the Canopy trailer to updating the website, she embodies the "we can do it" spirit of the Ladysmiths...and does it all with a smile. In her own words, her work is "inspired by symbols, people, and language, each Fragment piece is meant to instill confidence and comfort."  Her jewelry and wall hangings are exquisite in their simplicity.

Natalie is our "jewelry connoisseur" and expert in all things organizational and marketing.  She designed the "Ladysmiths" logos and did the interviews for the fabulous IG Lives during our Maker Magic Show (she'll be doing them again this week for our Valentine Show).  When she's not supporting us, she's making the world a better place as the marketing manager for a local non-profit organization.

Like me, Charity came to the core team by way of the Canopy gallery, where she was showing her jewelry (this time last year) when Covid struck.  Her work is the epitome of "one man's trash is another man's treasure". She works in a range of materials, including discarded single use plastic. She transforms unwanted containers and bags into organic, gossamer like creations. Additionally, her enthusiasm for creating a virtual market for makers in the absence of in person holiday events was a driving force behind the Maker Magic Show concept.



...and because y'all showed our featured makers so much love at the end of the year with our Maker Magic Holiday Show, we're doing it again! 

The Maker Magic Valentine Show will run all week on the Ladysmiths of ATX Instagram. There are a dozen diverse, talented, Austin based women makers (including me) in the show, and they will be sharing their beautiful work.



In addition to the community and camaraderie, being part of the Ladysmiths has pushed me to continue putting my jewelry on social media and promoting it, even though I'm out of the studio.  It's hard to get excited about being a metalsmith when I haven't been at the bench or had a tool in my hand for almost a year.

Focusing on the themes of love and friendship - and feeling especially grateful for the support of so many women during period of social distancing - I'll be posting pieces with decidedly feminine details on my feed throughout the week. 

So whether you are a maker, a shopper, or simply someone who appreciates quality craftsmanship and creativity - make sure you are following the Ladysmiths of ATX on Instagram - so you don't miss anything!

Until next time.