Top Chef

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Jumping around Top Chef a little lately for the first time as I had never watched it. I began watching it for two reasons, but one of them was after reading a new article about Chef Nina Compton ( See here Chef Nina Compton )

Her season (11) of Top Chef took place in New Orleans (with some at the end in Hawaii) and she is from St. Lucia so all of that interested me. I have also been on a huge kick from San Antonio to Florida on women chef’s and women owned and run restaurants. I had been to both her first and her newest restaurant in New Orleans. So…I watched the season 11 Top Chef.

Joe comes home and with him and with an upcoming project and being on the restaurant kick and he and I being total foodies (we travel for food but as example our Sunday was a bite shared and a drink at several restaurants, creating our own little through town tour. Before that in another city. In one weekend we’ve done two cities. One being New Orleans, all tying into the Top Chef watching. I had already previously mapped out the majority of our little tour myself but a few extra got added in. That food truck, though…..

Mostly drink wise we judged on Old Fashioned and French75’s. Let. Me. Tell. You just how BAD a bartender can be…and just how amazing. There was a patron margarita in there as well that I will admit, as a come from Texas gal, was the best done drink I’d ever lay on my taste buds. I don’t even like margaritas much.

This is how we travel. Usually not as much on the drinks as this weekend but we felt like remembering that we were grown ups. We enjoyed our time and ate and drank a lot of water and meandered slowly. And we truly enjoyed some classic drinks and a lot of judging because we are very judge people. We enjoyed at each place good bartender conversations as bonus…or bad like their obviously don’t know what a French75 even is kind.
Funny enough…the personality usually matched their drink ability.

So…anyway…all about Top chef these days. Nina is awesome….how the heck a chef who had to be told he had no salt on EVER single dish, and turned out TERRIBLE dishes on several attempts won over her I just don’t understand. But the woman moved to New Orleans (from Florida at the time where she was chef) and opened her very own beautiful restaurant. And since then…a second as well more recently. She ain’t no small deal and maybe the title of Top Chef wasn’t won by TV reality but it was certainly won by peoples hearts and palettes and I can understand why by both show, meeting her, and tasting everything on her menu’s.

With Joe home I decided to jump to watch the Charleston season (season 14) but it was SO bad that we had to switch and try another season. NOLA S11 had been produced SO well and the show as a first really sold me on the TV show altogether. Charleston would have ruined it full stop had it been first. It was just poorly produced to tears of boredom and lack of clarity, a badly put together team (although I was excited for Shirley back from season 11). I will likely discuss that in more detail later.

So, I jumped to Season 10, the episodes prior to the one I had enjoyed so much. And…better than Charleston. Not as better as New Orleans for sure. Even down to I see clearly when and where Padma (love her) really finally gets a real and good stylist (from hair to makeup to clothes finally) to the team working a bit better together and more. However…still more out of kitchen drama than in and frankly…I ain’t here to watch a soap opera. The production on season 10 is much better than season 14 but still pretty terrible and not clear on what some of the challenges even are or the end product of the food (both parts of which season 14 truly failed on greatly) and where New Orleans season 11 was VERY god on. My full props go to production, stylists, team, chef’s, and every detail of season 11. Even Judges discussion, played out challenges where all so well done and kept a person from boredom.

I still can’t get over the obvious stylists changes you can tell for Padma…like my bartenders and a French75…some people had it…some did not. Greatly. Did. Not.

Still watching season 10 now and soon I look forward to trying the after my favorite season 11 and jumping to 12 and see how that one goes. Then I am looking forward to watching the Kentucky season happening as we speak. I will totally have to watch Miami (s4) and of course, Texas (s9) if I don’t watch the entire catch up of it all. I don’t know, as much as I’d love to finish a Charleston season, if I can make myself finish S14 at all. I ask #BRAVO for a redo.

Also…throw out there real quickly…I LOVE chef’s Table but also my newest start on Salt Fat Acid Heat two eps in and I am swooning.

At its best.

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Really need to add to my resume “Really good at procrastinating on end of the minute house work”.
 
I mean. I keep a clean house on the daily. Every time right before my vacation begins it seems to have exploded. I also always deep clean…and in the midst of deep cleaning…it gets ugly before it gets better.
 
Right now I think my closet is the only thing looking good. If I can’t grab and go with my wardrobe I pretty much fall apart in the morning. Last vacation I hadn’t prepped and organized my closet just so and I would wake and just sit looking at it until Joe said “You ok?” and I would be like “I can’t pants right now” He would get up and go make me coffee. But…he is also gone for four weeks at a time and the world needs me to have the ability to pants. I GET Mark Zuckerburg’s plan on the wardrobe.
 
I started some Spring cleaning stuff yesterday…just going through and finding “joy” in some areas. But today and tomorrow I planned to deep clean every nook and cranny that pet hair and dust gets into plus put away all of my books and papers I pull out during my work month (i.e. cramming everything into good hiding places and hope Joe doesn’t open any doors). Like in RV’s the window seals get super dirty really quickly (I also always have open windows), and in RV’s there are many weird places that trap dust and pet fur. On the daily I get the majority and keep it pretty well. On the weekly I do a deeper go at it. On the monthly I tear shit apart and am always like “HTF does that even happen?”
 
Joe always asks why I have little boxes of baking soda hidden everywhere. Small spaces. Big stinky pets. Also RV’s easily can get a milder smell even without the mildew (I’ve checked). You kinda have to remember this thing is really a big vehicle and you know how sometimes after a rain even when it doesn’t get wet inside it can kinda smell like it has? Yeah. That. Moisture wreaks havoc on an RV and no matter what, moisture gets in. Little cheap boxes of baking soda do WONDERS. And I hate perfumy smelling coverup options to smell control in a home.
 
So anyway. I have a lot to do. I’ll admit I allowed laundry to build until I can’t close my cabinet anymore. Oy. Why do I punish myself?
 
And yet.,…I am still sipping my coffee and googling “Best pie” and “best BBQ” and “Bourbon” along my next planned travel routes.

The Tree of Me.

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There is a lot of what makes a person the person they are.
 
There are the people they come from.
 
It is a funny thing, studying a family tree, because so very much of it is wrong. In generations of time there are children raised as siblings, children sent away, illegitimate children, children from affairs and thus not connected to the husband in the tree…or the mother…and often, not even on the tree…because who really knew?
 
There are the secret adoptions, into the family tree…and away like a branch of the tree we never know is missing. The one family cousin who had several boys and sends one to live with another of the family to work a farm and thus is actually a branch attached for our viewing upon the wrong section of the tree.
And in the world of mumps and more…there were many fathers who could not father and mothers who could not mother and children stolen, bought, yes…this happens even now, raised from another without proper proceedings, and secretly adopted…or impregnanted by another who could. And even a child adopted from across an ocean that someone seemed fit to hide from the tree altogether.
 
Sadly…in thousands of people and many hundreds of years, there are children born of rape. There are children of white fathers born unto slaves…due to rape except in perhaps the very rarest and least likely in most times exception. There are the children born with “something wrong” and sent to be raised in asylums, in orphanages, in special homes, and during that tme, by slaves. And somewhere…hidden or forgotten about of the family tree. There are the hidden families…one because they way men do. The other because of what was legal or not.
 
And there are the disowned that slipped by.
 
When we look at our tree’s…there are so many of the people in it who may not actually be blood related at all. A second husband or a second wife without the proper mention or documentation. So many reasons.
 
There are these new DNA tests. It is funny…and perhaps much simply over my head. They can’t gather and prove “North American Native American” blood “because there isn’t a data-base” and yet we well know that these companies began with a foundation of a data base to begin with. And we very well know that the government has collected enough, and is willing to sell.
 
Often the excuse or reason is that not enough people NOW (NA) are entering into this new fad of DNA testing and thus…they have nothing to go on because of that…and yet they hand a paper with 50’s of this or that, even with a different “Norwegian than the father” I have read many times of the type…and then your results change. You go from being 50% such and such to 40% or 60% based upon “more people entering into the DNA testing data base” which to me does not make sense. You are…or you aren’t. If I test and have a % then all 8 of my siblings test…why would that change what I actually am?
 
And IF that is the case…then they DO have a NA data base by every tiny percentage in each person tested. It isn’t like the data base began with the cleanest Norwgian of centuries back, either.
 
What am I missing?
 
Family is a funny thing. The people…and the history…and the blood relation and the non-blood relations which make it all up. We can’t fully trust our tree’s, and now, especially with the DNA companies selling our data base to the FBI, we can’t truly trust even our own DNA (scary that there could be a data base for white nationalists to literally know who to wipe out should we ever come to another world of Hitler).
 
Family is a mysterious thing. There is much we never know about our own. And there are things we always thought we knew and learn not to be quite true. There is the family long gone who we wished we had asked more questions of when we had the chance or been able to get to know. And there is the family alive who we don’t even speak to for twenty years.
 
Family…in every which way…is both a very large part of who and what creates us as we are. And yet….they can be also a very small and slim part of it as well.
 
So…what makes me me? A lot of this…a little of that. But mostly in all the end…nothing at all to do with the family tree. For some we need that ability to change and create our own destiny. For some of us it will always remain such a mystery that we may wonder where something of us comes from…but it will only ever be a wonder. And never should we rely. Remember that we can change. And yes…some things are built into our DNA…and beyond that in how we are raised and influenced. Some are “so much like…” and others are born and grow into “nothing at all like…” so in the end, all of the destiny is ours and in only us.

Vacay preparation.

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Tuesday.

The last of my research away from home days before vacation begins. Meaning, really, no more time for the library in the next few days.

The shift begins.

Though I have a few spot locations to go to and more actual research to do…the library is done for for a few weeks. I likely won’t enter another for two weeks and two days time.

I kinda do need that break…never thought I’d hear myself say that.

The fun part is that much of my vacation wraps into Stuff To Do For My Work in multiple ways. So travel and work get combined, vacation and work intertwine. Pretty much always for me.

After this two week Vacations, though, we will actually be off to new and next adventures. I won’t be researching anything for work for a good minute. Actually…I do take that back. Because work for me is not only ever a book in progress but also articles from whatever to whatever and also travel and food and music and art and politics…a lot of politics. And a lot of whatever. So, I do take that back. But the bulk..the bulk of research for the big projects is coming to a close with a few months of none of that left to do. For me…a huge chunk of time to other things (perhaps actual writing, which I also still do now for no less than three hours a day on this one project alone but…still..huge chunks of time spent doing Other). Because of the slow down of the holidays, however, the after-vac month of work until the next vacay begins is still to be research.

I know….it sounds so terrible and all. That my research is being buried in books, archives, newspapers, walking streets and cities and towns and neighborhoods with a camera and a notebook in hand, museums and talking to locals and historians. Among so much more. Terrible…it is not. I know. I know. But mind boggling and at times incredibly emotional it is. I am not complaining. Hear the pure tease of my tone.  I mean…lord knows how much I hate books and old photos and architecture and the like.

I tease, really. I love it all. And still I look forward to an actual break and vacation of two weeks. Time where I may read a LOT but actually research less. Time where I will still take photos and explore but without the pressure and with companionship of Joe who will be home and who is actually really fun to do these things with…though I need my time alone for it even more, the change, balance, difference and company are still an enlightenment for a couple of weeks.  At least I talk to my pets less…or rather not…but to a human a little more. And not just strangers and librarians and archivists.

I am excited for this trip. I have been missing the guy whom I actually do share my life with. Though we have text and email and phone calls, it isn’t the same. As much as I will likely utterly complain that he does everything wrong, I will bask in the warmth that he is. As much as I am ready for him to leave I am always just as ready or more for him to come home. And he makes my coffee first thing when he wakes up.

We’ve been talking a lot about this trip and our next coming up and have a lot of plans and things to do.

However, it is about time to put away books and about a truck load of notes. Fold away my laptop. And do a little laundry and deep cleaning to get it all out of the way for vacation time. I will have planned To Do lists, details, plans, and grocery lists, too…all of which I will lose or forget to use altogether or look at and wonder what the hell I meant by that.

Joe does have a Honey Do. A leak to fix. Light bulbs to replace. Taped to the fridge which he will completely ignore. Aquarius. They like to do things. But never actually tell them to do it. Except if you live with me. You pretty much do as I say.

Do I have any chick shows I wanted to watch before he gets home? Do I have plans or reservations I have forgotten to make yet? Do I have enough books on my bedside and the couch side that don’t have to do with work related reading?

Have I still forgotten to break out the Christmas present I bought us for some of our adventures? And where the heck DID I hide them? Do I have clear camera cards and have I backed up the computer and what is it that I feel as if I am forgetting to do?

This is my brain right now.

Ahhhh, vacation…the before moments. You’d think it would be different when you don’t have that suitcase packing to do which you have completely until last minute put off doing. It is not.

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Monday Keeps Repeating.

Yesterday was a busy day but also kinda like a Monday…It seems like we’ve had a lot of those. Restart..stop…start…stop. Get going…wait wait…hold up.

The Grinch stole like a week and a half or two easy.

I didn’t go home this holiday. I didn’t see too many personal friends. I didn’t even have Joe home. I had a month of working and being alone (not in a bad way) so I was thinking I would get SO much accomplished.

Noooope.

There would be days not planned out perfectly…ok, that’s on me. But some days buses I needed didn’t run at all where I needed them. And anyone who knows me knows I prefer public transport, biking, or walking. And I had Joe take the jeep to work rather than keeping it thinking I wouldn’t need it. LOL on me.

So that sorta set me back.

Second was the rain. A LOT of heavy drench your ass like a drowned rat real quick rain. The kind that didn’t matter if you had an umbrella, a raincoat, rain boots, and transportation to where you were going…you were going to get wet the second you opened a door.

Those days already make you want to stay in the house and warm up with socks and coffee for your work with the music of the rain warming your very soul. But also…there wasn’t a chance of getting around without being drenched. So…it actually set me back a little…only in some ways…since I DO have the great wide web at my fingertips, and a truck load worth of books to read through, not to mention so many essays ready to read, and my Nook, I was set. But in some terms…I was also still set back in doing some of what I needed to do in a location of limited time.

The third set back would be that, along with limited public transportation where I needed to go and when I needed to go there due to the holidays (and Sundays), e’rything else was also closed. Like Libraries, archives for city and history and black history locations I needed to go. And Museums where I was also doing research. So even had I been able to get there…that door would literally have been closed in my face. So…I am still not mad at my choices of public transportation by any means.

For photo’s I wanted to take, when it wasn’t raining, I was able to switch gears for a day or so pretty easily on that. Though for some locations I need I am super crazy behind. Thankfully Joe is on board to help me catch up after he comes home this week.

So then…ok, we make it through holidays and closings due to people being with their families. I can totally live with that. But there is also the government shutdown. This affects some of my research and archive locations among other. And if the Dems back down I will beat some ass because we already know we are only up against the man best known for backing his weak ass down. I mean, there is North Korea, Russia. Saudi Arabia. China. I think we can take him. I feel for those affected and I hope that due to this the Democrats will pick up some loose ends learned by it and create some change for that situation…it is something to put on the list. This shows some things that need change and help. but Trump is going into re-election. He won’t be able to keep the government shut down. The wall isn’t happening. No. And if we give in every financial period and every $5 billion dollars achieved is Trump getting his wall and every time he gets a little he is going to take more of it. Don’t. Give. It.

How about we clean up some Flint water…and by saying that I call out my Democrats to make that happen this year. If we end 2019 without that….I vote everyone out of office.

So…yeah…my only harm of the shut down being slowing down my research is definitely my privilege talking.

And every day keeps feeling like another Monday.

In so may ways.

There are a few other things which slowed me down…or seemed to speed time up…or both.

Yesterday was just. One. Of. Those. Days.

I made it out of my research to see the sunlight again. My eye’s swimming, words smearing, my head exploding. I breathed in the fresh air…raining, grey, but fresh.

I had plans for the rest of the day to hit some on foot research but I was suddenly not in the game. I sought out coffee but stumbled on fresh pressed juices instead. (So I made ONE right move for New Years healthy starts) and afterward I was still not feeling it so I wandered a moment trying to decide on going home. I didn’t want that. But I was in that total I didn’t know what I wanted mood.

I wandered into an antique shop and searched through file cabinets of old documents from closed up offices. Yes…this was my version of NOT researching. I bought a copy of a Maya Angelou book I’d have a copy of ages ago and didn’t now.

I pulled my camera out of it’s bag when the rain stopped turning my glasses into an even more blurred vision of the world and took photos in a garden. My spirits lifted a bit from my slightly grumbly mood…

I stopped to eat some food, realizing that at 4:pm that hadn’t happened at all and aside from a stomach of coffee and juices I was starving. Here I destroyed my smart new year start and eating habits. Lets just say on a rainy day fish and chips sounded way too right.

I  read my copy of another Jezmyn Ward book, of essays collected by many authors. I’ve kept this one in my camera bag a minute reading while waiting for buses and eating when out and about. And no, to the sir who asked, I don’t read while I eat alone to help my awkwardness of eating alone. I read when I am eating alone because I actually want to eat and read alone, thankyouverymuch.

I was triumphant when glancing at the news on my phone and the bartender recognized my uplift in mood…You look super happy” He said…”I am” I beamed. “Women just took a huge chunk of the world over today.” I sat amongst men in suits, one slightly miffed at my earlier rebuff. I bet someone thought “Fucking feminazi”.

Cup your balls, boys. We gonna be grabbing you by them and we women only have that gentle touch when we choose. I don’t think we will choose that coming up. You didn’t vote Hillary for her ball cracking…but instead you got over 100 women ready to do the job. And that is only counting Congress. There are many…many…many state seats and court seats filled as well. Many. Be careful, a women vengeance is fierce. A woman scorned is a force to be reckoned with. Many of us have felt scorned these past two years.

After my food and my delightful bartender, waitress, and chef, I moved on to deciding that my mood was lifting but that it still ultimate boost against all nature (and I do mean nature as she had a hand heavily in my mood). I chose to catch a viewing of Mary Poppins. And that did the trick. I mean the kid at the ticket counter’s genuine smile didn’t hurt. Nor his lack of judgement this early on in the new year to my pack of rolos and popcorn.

I walked out of the theater with a much lighter mood but deciding that I was totally destroying this day of health and feeding all of my “I feel the need to baby myself today” mood I stepped into a wood polished pub and ordered up a coffee and a warm rum bread pudding. I mean, if you are gonna have that day, girl, have that day.

After uberring home in the downpour that began I stayed up too late reading again but with the storm my pets cuddled hard next to me and we were all warm and dry and cozy. Going to sleep late or not, I woke up significantly in a less of a Monday Mood.

 

#IGetToBeGrumpySometimes

 

 

 

To a New Year. To Hope.

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I went to bed last night with huge Monday plans. My time in The South is closing in soon and the time seems to speed, the Grinch stole like a week and a half with the holidays it seems, I have had since June, and I have still so much to do. More research at libraries (most of which are closed a lot right now of course) and more museums, etc. And a lot about town, in the city, around it, and in cemeteries and like…all over. I typically do a lot of walking with my camera in a place to A. Enjoy and have fun and marvel at the architecture and gardens, B. To capture my travels C. To capture images for my storyboards and so forth. This how I write. As a writer, photos really do help me. And being around town I also sit and write. I take a notebook typically for the area or for the specific project I have at the moment (currently my DeepSouth5). I listen to people talk, their voices, accents, language, discussions (FYI, being on a bus and listening to peoples new years plans and NY of past and going to church drunk is pretty interesting). And I breath it in. Heck…I can sit and marvel at a tree for hours by itself. I might take a few photos. then sit and just…be. Then write what comes. Then even sketch a little (not a talent of mine at all but something I have begun doing as a different mode of Being, traveling, exploring, and describing, and seeing). This. Is. How. I. Write.

 

I explore and discover as little by internet as possible when I am in a place. I will prefer to walk and find by myself, to talk and ask questions and learn of a place the things that I could likely Google. But then…when you google mayors of certain cities you also see their “image” and not what the people actually feel. And then exploring the demographics of that even deeper can easily take me off track of DeepSouth5 but put me into my articles and writings of politics and social justice, even economy and travel and more. Mostly, I like to meet the people and know them and their thoughts and feelings of places persons and things. I learn things that Google can not teach me. Nuance plays a large role.

This is how I write.

 

Google can paint one entirely different picture of a place. To listen to some…all the good places/businesses/safeness are white. And all of the black people are in the newspapers committing crimes…this is a very sad truth of what image can come across. And a very false truth. I will discuss that more later because it so very deserves the time.

In The south you can’t travel, much less be a writer or photographer, and not see the social part of any city and all that that word might mean. If you’ve managed…then you are truly gifted with blinders. I don’t find all gifts to be virtues.

A recent overheard topic that stands out as I was crossing a street and nearby there was a group of women of color, one woman says to another “No, that’s jaywalking. We can’t jay walk” The other woman says “she’s doing it”, and the first woman says “She’s white. We can’t do what she can do.” She didn’t even mean for me to overhear this. She wasn’t being mean or rude. She was speaking truth to her her friend and protecting a woman who still, in 2018, can not do as I can do with my white skin. And it broke my heart to pieces.

I feel like I have so much more to do. Here. For DeepSouth5. And for everything. For those women wanting to cross the street. In 2018 as it breaths its last breath. More than my 2019 calendar can hold.

Today I had plans to take my camera and walk the streets of an area and my notebook and sit on park benches and write and the library to check a few more things off my list. Writing about a particular time and place and going and seeking that place and learning about it in that time.

…And then I woke up to rain. Heavy rain. Enough to make me lounge a little longer in bed with my pup curled up. (He doesn’t even get out of bed in the morning until I am at the door with his leash in hand.)

And I realized while walking him that this was New Year’s Eve. I hate crowds. I hate drunk drivers. I hate unsafe situations. I hate knowing that this is a heightened night of crowds for those types of terrorist gunmen who go out to kill people in the name on nationality, white skin, sexuality “pureness”, and God.

No thanks. I am staying home. Plus half of the places I need to go will be closed. And the rain falls heavy. And I have enough coffee before I need to head to the store next.

 

~

 

Even with feeling that time is slipping away too quickly and my To Do list grows. I will check off things I can do from home and safety and comfort and dryness and warmth….realizing that not everybody has that. Realizing that as I look toward the new year with my grand plans, my full editorial calendar already set for the entire year with work, and promise, and food, and travel, and love, and fun, and experience….that there are those who don’t even know what day it is…or that it is only one more day to be survived. Those who see no hope,  who held on until they were too tired. Surviving is exhausting. I know that. I still to this day am recovering from a childhood of surviving. There isn’t often energy to work toward…. forward.

I have to work very hard to seek that energy myself even now. I have been saved by many second chances. I hope for second chances (even if it is the 100th second chance) for those who need it this year. Tonight as the calendar page turns. And I hope that in the finishes and accomplishments of my own energy and work that one day I can help give those second chances. Little by little.

I was just discussing role models and mentors. People and things to learn from, admire, and shape after bit by little bit. Lessons in life to learn…and things to learn NOT to do, or to be like, too. How to fix mistakes, not make them, and move on from them, make something of them.

What makes us. Shapes us. Creates us.

And what we do with that is us.

Going into the New Year this is on my mind.

Who we shape ourselves to be…what life shaped us to be.

I feel like the start is the clay you are, the type you come from.

I feel like next is the hands that shape you.

I feel like with that is the power of the wheel that spins you.

I feel next is the shape that the clay takes between all of the hands and the spinning wheel and the type of clay and how much water is added or not and the conditions that still change was what The Plan, what was In Mind. How that even underneath the direction of hands, the clay still finds some of its own form.

There is the hardening, setting parts of life. Those things that set into you. Ingrain into you. Make you who you really are. What is going to stay with you.

There is a glaze that can create a barrier or make you shine, give you strength, or all of  the above.

There is a paint which adds color, design, decor, shape, change, flare, personality, and own self.

There is the shelf upon which it can blend into the background on, or stand out upon.

There are the cracks which form over time to break us down, our weakened moments. Which all add a little of who we are and the character that makes us us.

There are the hands that we pass through, the lives, the mantles, the voices we hear, the places we’ve been, and those places we’ve been put. Not all are places w wish to be. Not all places are near a window where we can feel the sunshine through. Some times we are like within a box stored within a forgotten attic or a cold basement. Sometimes we just kinda move through life not getting the chance to really be US. To show our beauty.

Some hands will throw us, shatter us, break us. Neglect us. Put us in our wrong places. In our not best places. Less prominent less shining places. Hide the best of what we are. Some hands will misuse us. Be careless with us. Move us around like we don’t really matter and have little or no value. Forget about us. Mistreat us. Pack us away.

Some hands will pick up the pieces of us. Repair us. Match our pieces where they belong. Glue us back together. And some even bond our breakage with gold. Some hands will save each and every of our little pieces as if in a jewel box, honoring the memory of us. Some will treat us with love and tenderly and care for us.

Sometimes we collect dust. Sometimes we don’t shine bright. Sometimes we are admired. Sometimes someone knows our worth and sometimes our price.

Sometimes we get broken. And sometimes we get put back together. sometimes perhaps with a little chip left here and there, a wider crack, a little less left to us than what was there before, and sometimes that glue that binds us stands out. And sometimes what binds us is gold.  Sometimes our golden cracks make us shine more pure, more brightly, more beautiful than ever before.

Over time we only become more valuable. Stronger. Beautiful. Colorful. Cracks and all.

 

Here is to New Year’s 2019. 365 new chances. 365 Do Over’s. 365 second chances. 365 First tries. 365 days to shine. 365 possibilities. 365 days to discover. 365 days to start anew. 365 days to wake up and be in awe of what this Earth and Life give us.

 

Building Traditions & Memories.

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Joe and I have been traveling full time for our third Christmas now and before that we were busy working, he was out of town for actual Christmas for work, he was new on the job, and we were settling into our new loft in Galveston at the time as well. I had just done a month of NaNoWriMo and was in my editing process and layering and second draft and preparing for the next year. We just really didn’t do Christmas at home.

We haven’t really been able to decorate much for the holiday. Many times (only once in four Christmases now) we don’t even get to be together on actual Christmas (Joe will be on the boat/work). But we always take Two pre-Christmas vacation weeks together to truly enjoy the holiday to its fullest.

~

With our traveling we realized that decorating (currently in our RV, next in our boat) just didn’t work out for us. We tried it one year in our RV with a brand new kitten but by the next holiday season we’d added a puppy. And even prior to that I discovered that the storage of Christmas decor just didn’t work out in our limited space (it takes space from my books). Even the when-out-decor space was limited and became more cluttered rather than enjoyed. And I hate clutter.

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If we had a house the decorating would be to the fullest. Joe enjoy’s the outside home decor…I am sure we would have a great time trying to out do each other.

But until that time, we quickly realized that, here we were, two in our 30’s people, sometimes alone on the holiday but still a couple for two weeks somewhere in the holiday season, and no kids…Christmas can be a lonely time, depressing, and Joe isn’t the Go Home For Christmas kind of guy and I might have a very large family but they are a very large and broken and spread out family. And frankly…I don’t really fit in any parts of it.
So we knew that we needed to really be able to make our own traditions, that were fitting to us, both loving the holiday we also did not want to just let it pass us by, and also I realized that being home alone for part of the season and often the days themselves I needed to really make a tradition for myself, by myself, too…I love the holiday and I wanted to be in the spirit.

 

 

So while not decorating our own small moving home (s) for many years we decided to travel a different city (or often many cities) and enjoy the decorations, giant tree’s, and lights wherever we went. We sing carols (ok, I sing, Joe rolls his eye’s) and we will drive around neighborhoods and walk George for the traditional home lights decor. We see large tree’s in city gardens, town squares, and whatever else a city may offer.

 

At home we break out movies for the holidays, hot cocoa, cider, music even while driving (love the classic holiday music), and we always cook and bake something along the lines of the holidays…though I have been tweaking and updating my traditional life long recipes and wow…so much more us today and really fun to do!

 

I even make some cranberry oatmeal cookies…a favorite of Joe’s. So even at home, we still do a lot of Holiday spirit, even if not the decor…then we go out and do a part of a city, or a new city (or section of) each day for two weeks .

 

 

I personally get more holiday time to myself than that and continue on or start beforehand. I like doing my photos when by myself, my writing in parks, coffeeshops, and various park benches. And I have my own thing to make my holidays rich even by myself…and my two stinky pets.

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I watch old classic versions of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade -1981 was my birth year so that I did this year – I watch super traditional to my own childhood nostalgia movies. I listen to a lot of holiday music that reminds me of my grandmothers beautiful tree or happy childhood moments.  And holiday music makes me HAPPY, so I am sure to play it through my day for about a month..from ending Thanksgiving to ending Christmas. I bake a LOT and give away cookies and loaves of breads of many kinds. I walk George through neighborhoods and admire the lights in the evening. I discover other holiday things that weren’t able to be done with Joe. I go to see theater holiday themed shows where ever I am. In San Antonio and New Orleans this is amazing. Sometimes I go if I am not even really interested in the show. And I am always uplifted for the holidays for it and enjoy the architecture of the theater. And more to still enjoy the holiday when…basically alone and single. And honestly? I really do enjoy it.

 

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Don’t let the holiday stuff get you down. I don’t understand the being stressed for the holidays…like stressed about being able to buy presents…just don’t stress over that stupid stuff. It isn’t what the holiday is about. Build memories. Not piles of stuff you will throw out later. I enjoy my own time and make the best of it. I enjoy time with Joe and we really have a lot of fun and make memories…way better than presents. And stress about family or get depressed or sad about the things that people get depressed or sad about during the holidays? I just can’t allow it for myself. I did that one year. It was horrible. I hated that black sunken hole in the Earth feel, that feeling of total emptiness it left me. So I know I don’t want to feel like that again and I know to do that I must make an effort.

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I have some rules I go by.

  • I don’t allow myself to swell on the sad parts but I do enjoy remembering the fond moments. I even spend time listening to music that makes me most remember those times, sip on a warm drink, be all cozy and thankful for that coziness in my home, and write those memories down…and write about them for myself now in life.
  • I don’t watch sad movies. I will watch uplifting things, listen to uplifting music, and even write uplifting writings while setting my usual pretty depressing stuff aside.
  • I walk George and wave to people and end up talking to locals and see the lit up Christmas trees in lit up windows at night and the lit up yards. When Joe was home I made a big deal of yelling out CHRISTMAS every time I saw a good batch or tree or decor. This year nearly got me down because so few people decorated. So few towns seemed to really show the spirit that I remember and know my home towns to do. So little was festive without super searching for it. It seemed that way at times at least. There were a few times when both Joe and I were like “This is it?” So rather than get grumpy…we bought it out and then really allowed ourselves joy at our discoveries.
  • I even put aside much of the news and negative things in the world that can get a person down.
  • I created little rituals and fun days. I super experimented with banana bread (making a super yummy but also WAY healthy version). I got creative with cooking, baking, and in the kitchen. I didn’t stress when things didn’t turn out right.
  • On Facebook I silented negative people for 30 days and payed closer attention to the holiday cheer sharing.
  • I only read happy books. In fact, I read over some old classic Christmas stories and read them out loud…something I had never done and frankly was quite lovely. Doing this by volunteering time at story readings for kids at the local library or nursing home makes that even better. And if there are any open mic readings I could attend…I did this there, too.

 

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We have celebrated in Galveston Island, our last Christmas there for both of us, our first Christmas together as a couple in 2015. Houston was another year when we came back for part of the holiday and ended up with a kitten from Neiman Marcus pet adoption happening with the HSPCA. She wasn’t planned. We had planned for a dog.
And Austin/Fredericksgurg/Marble Falls/San Marcos and other Texas cities on another partial trip. We spent some time in some very small outside of Texas cities. We had a lot of time in the woods that year.

 

 

And then we celebrated in San Antonio last year…when asked where I wanted to go that year (2017)…that was it. I wanted to see SA in Christmas.
I gained ten pounds on tamales alone without regret. We love this city and if it wasn’t land locked we would certainly make it home…but we are both mermmammals at heart. We saw SO many lights there. We love the Pearl and seeing it in Christmas spirit was a whole new experience. The River Walk even more festive was inspiring. The spirit of the city is always dancing there but at Christmas…it came truly alive. Snow that Christmas on the Alamo topped off the magic of the city.

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We drove through neighborhoods of the most beautiful tree filled front yards in front of the most wonderful area of solid Mid-Century homes I have ever experienced, seeing them lit up made me feel like a kid. I sang carols loudly out my open car window.
We drove through the neighborhood of Mansions off of Broadway up past the Central Market (still my favorite grocery ever). And we drove through so many beautiful homes from modern to victorian to mid-can to tiny to huge. The diversity of that city is truly on point. And we had Christmas tree’s…giant…everywhere to see. Lights over other tree’s in the city full of them that transformed them completely from the gardens of the Alamo to the hundreds of lit tree’s at the college off of Broadway. That city knows how to do magic. And I did suffer whiplash when I heard someone yell out TAMALI’S!

 

 

This year has been The Deep South and New Orleans. We have hit every single city and town along the Gulf Coast from Fairhope, AL to New Orleans (and then some). We knew this holiday season we would be in the South still so we chose to say one last goodbye before leaving it for awhile and we certainly wanted more time in New Orleans (my research took me back there anyway). Along the way we celebrated among the Southern hospitality.

It is truly easy to drive through a state full of many cities hugging the Gulf of Mexico all in a day….but we took our time, too. Fairhope and Mobile Alabama. Ocean Springs, Biloxi, Gulfport, Long Beach, Pass Christian, and Bay St. Luis in Mississippi…a state that really has built some memories for me this year. And New Orleans…the grand Jewel. Need I say more?

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Ok, I will, though….I had particular things in mind here…jazz carols in the cathedral concerts every night for free. Gardens decorated. Garland everywhere. And a city that seems decorated when it isn’t. And popping in and out of every single hotel lobby along the way…especially…the grand jewel of them…The Roosevelt. I also had hunted out any bar or restaurant or hotel lobby with a fireplace, hot and cold days flipping back and forth or not, I was determined for the winter spirit, dammit! There are four in particular, one is a grand gay bar…famous…it is a place to go. Another is The Absinth. And still others. With so many trips to the city we had yet to actually do any bars, and even now we didn’t do the “bar scene” but we did do cozy, with a good drink for the city- we are always about old 1920’s-1940’s classic drinks- and fireplaces. We stayed away during the weekends…oh lord do they spill out into the streets! Joe never knew where we were going until we got there…and we joined an old man at the table near the fire of one on a very cold night to share the space nearest and bought him a drink.

 

We listened to non-Christmas jazz in many places but also we had particular tastes in mind. A Muffaletta to split for lunch at Napoleon house. Where their tradition is to hand out bells at Christmas. We jingled the rest of that day. A French Onion soup for a lunch another day…ohhh, we indulged in that bread as well, warm butter over crusty on the outside, oh so soft like a cloud on the inside bread to dip into our soup. The restaurant beautiful, the people ever so kind. A gumbo for lunch before we hit City park on another day…a restaurant on a corner of streets, no one sat inside but one table of two old fat black men and a bar with the three people who worked there and even owned the joint. The server jolly as all to fuck.

 

We had yet to do this so we rode the streetcars all around their full routes and through one portion of The Garden District, which we knew…the homes there cool, quaint, cute, adorable, even large for some, small for others but our kind of place for sure. Then we discovered a portion of another part of The Garden District which we had yet to explore before…the houses, if you can call them…well, they are mansions…but even then…huge mansions…and they kept getting bigger and bigger and they kept going on and on. And I found the most beautiful library to stop at on another day when we came back to enjoy the gardens and some walking around…though to walk one block was only to see one house there. But the library, once a home to a fmaouse silent film acctress, had been transformed and now I was able to enjoy both architecture and books. Otherwise we enjoyed by streetcars the lights of the holidays at night as well. The peeks inside the windows of homes with their Christmas tree’s decorated in the front windows. We also walked through many neighborhoods and saw this a bit closer.

 

Next we plan on New England Christmas and a Miami/Keys Christmas among others in our future. Creating our tradition of enjoying a cities decor for the Holidays when we aren’t doing our own. Eventually perhaps we will have our own house and you will be able to see it from space I am sure.

Here are a few of the photos along the way to share (I have lost most from 2015, our first Christmas together, up until now in 2018,  and even some of those, however. In some places I didn’t even take photos at all. Other photos were non-holiday related so I am only sharing here those that are).

 

But memories live on.

 

You can see the full photo album HERE.

  • What are some of the traditions that you grew up with?
  • What are some that you tweaked and made your own?
  • What are some “Single or No Kid or just a Couple or Spending by yourself” traditions you have created?
  • Favorite Christmas movie?
  • Favorite Christmas song?

 

Morning Meditation

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It’s that first sip of coffee in the morning. It’s the lovely loft I live in….it’s nothing fancy but it has a great view, is comfortable, super well lit and like a tree house for me. I am inspired and happy and it is truly home. Even the colors simple as they may be in here give me warmth and inspiration. The storms are amazing when they surround me. It’s a walk hand in hand during sunset on the beach. It’s browsing through antique shops and bookstores on a weekend afternoon. It’s a good meal that I was able to make myself. It’s the simple things. #MorningMeditation #MorningCoffee #inspiration #Simplethings #Life

An oldie hidden in the drafts.

Better Me. Balance in the scales.

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#BetterMe As I have said that one should not bury themselves against the negativism of the world, there is also a balance in a person’s life to make. There are people, individuals, who create turmoil to thrive. Those who can “never get it together” no matter how much help in the world they have had. Those who gossip behind your back but are friends and even family to your face. There are those people who leave you feeling purely drained of all energy. All the time. Those who take take take but not give and if they give it comes with strings or mean words or some type of hurt to follow.

In the balance of life there is not burying your head in the sand to what goes on around you. But there is also the other side of the scale, by not welcoming negativity into your door. If you feel totally drained of relationships all the time…move on. Love, friend, or even family relationships. Work relationships. Sometimes you can adjust these with a good honest talk. Or spending less and less time responding. Everytime the conversation veers negative, veer it to the positive.

Now, sometimes a friend is in a bad time of their lives and that can be emotionally draining…don’t cut that off though….be a good friend. Know the difference between negative drains and just bad times that can be draining for a moment. There should always be some positive in any relationship. And some feeding to the soul.

A coffee with a friend should often leave you feeing refreshed rather than emptied of all energy. There are moments for all things but if everytime that coffee leaves you with a bad taste in your mouth or wishing you hadn’t….maybe you should take some time to evaluate that friendship.