Wednesday, January 28, 2009


As I was telling Gette in a Facebook instant message chat last night, I feel like I'm cheating on this blog some times with my love of Facebook. If I get a whiff that any of you bloggers are also on Facebook, I'll track you, hi Lacy.

Facebook allows for the speedy upload of photographs and you can do a one sentence status update. Today mine says: Nora thinks you should all stay home today. She and her hat have it under control.

This fabulous photo appeared on my Facebook page the other day. A friend photoshopped Aretha Franklin's Inauguration hat on to my head. I love this photo of me. It's from the day that I got my MacBook. I was following the the instructions for setting it up when it asked for a picture and the camera was activated. The look on my face is pure amazement and joy. Of course, not six hours later I'd already scarred the poor thing.

Today is a snow day. There is almost a foot of snow on the ground. The public school is closed and we closed Second Helpings, but I came in anyway. I wanted to make sure all of the agencies that were open could get food. And the students came in to prepare for their big buffet tomorrow. I got so much done! It's amazing what you can accomplish with out any interruptions.

We had a nice cozy lunch and now I'm heading home to shovel out my driveway (and work off those chicken enchaladas the students made).

Get your own Aretha hat by clicking here.

post script: 

The best $40 + tip I ever spent. Not only did I get my long driveway shoveled but I feel a little more comfortable with the neighborhood kids. I'll admit to to feeling a little trepidation when two guys approached me as a I was shoveling, but we soon negotiated a price and the three of us knocked it out in half an hour. It takes me at least two hours and I probably wouldn't have gone all the way back. 

The bad news: I still can't get in the driveway. The street has not been plowed yet and every time I try to make the turn in to the drive I get hung up. Luckily I can park the truck in the lot of a neighboring business (an annual batch of toffee goes a long way). 

Sunday, January 25, 2009

soup swap 2009

There were a record number of soups this year--29 varieties, 168 quarts!, at Kirsten and Ben's swap. You can see my very photogenic corn and potato chowder above.

My favorite part is the Telling of the Soup - sharing with the group about your soup. Dad attended this year with his Ox Tail soup. Here he is telling a sweet story about his sister Joan and the ingredients in his soup -- garden-grown sweet corn and peppers and tomatoes.

We ate very hearty soups when I was young. Stew and chili. The traditional Campbell's tomato and chicken and noodle are still favorites. On a side note, when I lived on the same street in Riverton, New Jersey as Joseph Campbell did from 1872 until his death in 1900.

I'm not very confident in my soup-from-scratch skills so I consulted the family recipes. The fact that I found almost 400 recipes for cakes and cookies and just two for soup - and they both contained hot dogs as the main ingredient explained a lot about my eating habits.

I dug a little deeper and found a spiral bound church cookbook that four of Dad's sisters signed! I forgot that I had it (and had moved it from state to state). I was looking for a recipe that featured corn or that I could add corn to - I had to make room in the freezer if I was going to try to wedge six quarts of soup in there. I found a potato soup from Aunt Mary Alice - and it made me giggle. She's such an intuitive cook that she does not mess with measuring or cooking times or temperatures. Two potatoes for each onion, milk and salt and pepper.

I started with those ingredients, sauteing the chopped onions in butter, adding chopped celery and carrots. To that I added soy milk, potatoes and corn. It did turn out quite nice. And I got to spend some quality time with my beloved stove. I was having so much fun looking at recipes and puttering around the house that I stayed home - on a Friday night. I'm going to be hard pressed to find something to write about for my music column.

The soup swap is just another reminder of why I love the community I'm in. Lovely people that genuinely care about each other and the world we live in. Dad was a hit - here we are with Rachel, who used to live on the other side of the double.

It was a great way to spend Sunday...and guess what I had for supper?

What to host your own soup swap? Check out Kirsten's guidelines here. If you have one, let me know - I'd love to pass it on to Kirsten.

More photos here.

Read Kirsten's soup swap posts here and here and read the piece she wrote for the national soup swap site here

Saturday, January 24, 2009

catchin' up

I'm sorry about the plethora of back-dated posts --December 31 to now were posted in the last three days. 

They'd been rolling around in my head for a month and I wanted to catch up while I had time. I'd left this blog in the back burner for so long that I was afraid I'd never get back to it. Blogging is one of my favorite things, but I took some time off to get my life in order - organize the house, clean out storage space, write about music, take naps and read books. 

I hope not to get so far behind in writing -- and reading your blogs, but no promises!

Monday, January 19, 2009

mlk jr. day at the farm

Ann Herr Mitchell and I always get to the farm early to set up the fry station, roll up the dough to make donut holes, bread fish and make sure that nothing catches on fire -- and put it out if it does. That's what we do, its our thing, our routine and our time together. We're full of giggles and good cheer.

I was especially looking forward to it this year. I actually laughed out loud on the way to the farm in anticipation. Our traditions had taken a big hit last year. I was Blogstock for July 4th - I'm not second guessing or regretting my decision, I had a wonderful time. Unfortunately it would turn out to be the last with Larry and Kathy and it was the first without Mr. Herr. There was no celebrating Christmas with Ann this year either, in light of Larry and Kathy's deaths just two days before.

Imagine my surprise and dismay when I learned that dad had replaced us! And by dismay, I mean that I was furious! Frosted! Dare I say it - pissed off! This lead to Ann and I having heated discussions in the kitchen and exchanging lots of glances and internal eye-rolling. The whole thing might have been a little easier to swallow if our replacement was not so condescending and bossy.

There was a group of guys around the fryers trying to get them lit. I asked if I could try it and was told: It's a complicated piece of equipment. Those are fighting words dude! And it's really not a complicated piece of equipment - light the pilot, turn up the gas to heat the oil and fry stuff. And there might be one person in the group that has lit more fryers in their career in the foodservice business than any of the assembled yahoos. Any maybe someone who had lit those very fryers the year before. Hummm, who could that be?

Between Ann and I (with a quick call to her brother to confirm something) the pilot lights were lit in no time. Our replacement started to fry something immediately, and I very nicely suggested that maybe he should wait until the oil got to the proper temperature. I handed him the thermometer and skedaddled out of the barn before I stuck it some where that I shouldn't.

Annie and I retreated to the house where we exchanged Christmas gifts - she gave me a swell jacket (that makes me look shapely!), a necklace, an amazing photo album (did you know that we were fifth grade cheerleaders?) and a great photo calendar. I gave her a 2.5 gallon shop vac and a Spode tree pattern bowl. I have no idea where I stashed the books I bought for her.

I had a come-to-Jesus talk with myself and decided that I was not mad at our replacement -- after all, he'd never been there before and had no idea that we usually ran the 'kitchen.' I decided that I should be mad at dad, but made myself get over that - it would make for a very long day if I didn't. I wish I could say that I quit grumbling, but that would be a lie.

We did go back to the barn and impart our 15 years of cooking for the event knowledge. And I did mention to dad that an apprentice year might have been appropriate for the new cooks and I let it go.

As it turned out the cook took off after a couple of hours and Nora and the cousins went back to their routine -- breading fish, telling stories and drinking beer.

I needed some normalcy after the craziness of the last month. Of course, it's pretty funny that cooking in a fryer, in a barn, on the Martin Luther King holiday, drinking beer is normal - but it feels more right than a lot of things in my life.

I did take time to give the next generation a lesson.

More friends than ever made the trip to the farm.

And you're all invited next year - just don't get between Ann and me and the fryer.

Here are more photographs of the day - and I thought that posing the twins was great fun, poor things.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

proud as can be

I know it sounds trite and goofy, but I'm proud of all of my friends. I'm surrounded by so many fantastic and talented people and  I especially love it when I get to see their name on a marquee. 

I worked extra hard for the last three weeks to earn enough money for a new camera. I really wanted to have it for Otis Gibbs' album release party. I giggled when I saw Otis’ name on the marquee of the Vogue and a ticket scalper in front of the Vogue. I think a scalper is a sure sign that you’ve made it!

The Vogue was packed! I overheard someone say the evening felt like a class reunion; only it was with people that you actually want to see. I was anxious to catch up with singer-songwriter, friend, former co-worker and Otis girlfriend -- Amy Lashley. I had not seen her since they moved to Nashville over a year ago. 

I was enjoying the camaraderie and my new camera even though I had no idea how to actually use it.
Otis started the show with several solo acoustic songs, then brought Amy to the stage to sing and the rest of the band to join him. 

They sounded great and harmonized beautifully.

I loved looking back and seeing another friend, Jonee Quest running sound.

I wound up spending the second half of the show selling Otis merchandise. Which I love! I’m not good at math or standing still, but I seem to be a merch savant. I told music booker/ talent buyer, Matt Schwegman that I’d always wanted to be a merch girl at the Vogue. I guess I need a new goal now.

It became apparent after just a few minutes that I had totally no idea how to operate my new SLR camera, including shooting without the flash. I’d read the manual and practiced on my cat, but that didn’t translate to real life photography. Matthew “Dirty Matt” Aaron gave me a quick lesson. Matt is an amazing photographer, you can find his work lining the backstage walls of Verizon Music Center (Deer Creek for you traditionalists) and in a bunch of CDs. Getting a photo lesson from Matt is equivalent to getting a violin lesson from Itzhak Perlman. 

I made my annual trip to the Alley Cat after the show. Much like the Red Key, nothing seems to change there – in a good way.

Amy and I caught up on our lives pretty quickly. 

The show also marked my first time out and about after The Incident - wheeee! 

More photos here

Sunday, January 11, 2009


I've hauled tons of crap out of this house and it has been painful. 

Painful finding the time to do it. 
Painful actually doing it. 
Painful reliving the memories of the stuff that I found or wondering why in the hell I kept it in the first place. Did I save that piece of paper because it was some life changing thing - and then I didn't follow up? 

A couple of weeks ago I was feeling particularly non-nostalgic and took advantage of that by doing major culling of papers. I filled baskets with papers and drove to the recycling bin only to have great remorse about throwing away decades of ticket stubs. I stood in the subzero afternoon picking through the papers, rescuing the tickets. 
The oldest I found was from 1980- Journey. 
And they don't take up that much room, really. 

It made me nostalgic for actual tickets. With online ticket sales you print out a bar code, festivals use wristbands, most of the music I see you just pay a cover - no ticket or I'm on 'the list' -- no actual ticket. 

I think I finally found a filing system that works for me. I'm not a file folder kind of person - but throwing it on a shelf seems to work. At least its separated out, right? 

I have managed to pare down - except that I have not had the energy to go through the box of photographs yet. I can only imagine what that will stir up...

Monday, January 05, 2009

chez pez on the road

Part of my PEZ collection is on display at the College Ave library through the month.
I need to snap some photos - now that I have a camera again!

Saturday, January 03, 2009

new year expectations

Lets not call them resolutions - that sounds so harsh. How about this - expectations.

Financial stability.

I spend a boatload of money last year.
Some of it on pleasure - Ireland, Austin and concerts.
Some of it necessary - new bathroom floor, waterproofing the basement.
Some of it unexpected - property taxes, truck repairs.

A big chunk of it went on to a credit card. After The Incident people asked if the bad guys were able to use my credit card. Truth is, they couldn't have gotten very far. I'm committing to paying cash as much as possible. And saving up if I need to purchase something. I felt downright naked with out my camera. I picked up extra shifts at the Red Key, more writing gigs at NUVO and sold some clothes at the resale shop to buy a new camera. I'm the proud owner of a Canon Rebel XS. Not that I have any idea of how to use it. I'm back to taking accidental vs. deliberate photos of my feet.

Continuing to shop locally.

I've been shopping locally even before it was cool. I know that money spent in my community stays in my community and employs my friends and neighbors. I bought the camera here. Not only did I get to hold the camera and make a hands-on decision, but they threw in another lens. And I know they're available for help. I ran in the other day with the camera to ask a question and got an immediate answer.

Get my junk under control.

I did lots of work last year. Cleaned out the basement and the storage space. I've been going through clothes and taking them to the consignment place. Who needs a dozen sparkly skirts? I've been giving away furniture and other household things. I'm coming to grips with the fact that I live in a 750 square foot living space. The trip to Ireland helped me put things in to perspective. I don't need a separate place to write. I sit on the sofa most of the time anyway. I was able to ditch the desk and a filing cabinet. I still have lots to do -- get the CDs under control and figure out a better plan for the stack of books on the floor (notice I didn't say I'd get rid of the books). I've been pleased with my progress so far. I'll never be a minimalist, but it is nice to be able to move with out the fear of knocking stuff over.

Maintain the weight loss.

I don't measure or weigh my portions, from years in the foodservice industry I have a pretty good eye for weights and measures, but I do record absolutely everything I eat or drink. Some times it is painful to record. Last week's bat capture and release incident at Tammy's led to a stop at the Red Key on the way home. And to this on-line entry: Two whiskeys and two bags of Cheez-its. I've learned that I made really bad decisions when I drink -- potato chips and fast food drive-thru visits.

I look forward to walking and riding my bike again.

Leaving work earlier.

I was in the horrible habit of working way too late. My work day is so crazy and full of interruptions that I'd gotten in the habit of staying a few extra hours a night to catch up on paperwork and phone calls. After The Incident I started leaving work on time -- and it was revolutionary! I have time to work in the house, read, visit friends, eat soup at the Newsstand and go out to dinner. And I'm more productive during the work day (and I've learned to shut my office door if I need to).

Not scheduling my day so tightly.

I now have downtime and can be spontaneous. Time to help my friend, Liz with her bookstore move - which has been great fun. Time to go to MCL for dinner, time to sit on my ass and read. Time to recycle and keep the house clean. Time to just be me.

Social life.

And when I say social life I mean dating. I've put up a lot of barriers to dating in the last couple of years. I was using my weight as an excuse, I was still too emotionally tied to AVS and plain old just not ready. So world, here I is a new year.

Friday, January 02, 2009

the incident

That is what I've been calling it - The Incident.

Mugging sounds like I got hurt. Armed robbery sounds too scary. The Incident it is.

I took Annie's advice and have gotten professional help dealing with it. I know something like that brings up old memories. As it was happening I was silently cursing them - in that incident a flood of other emotions came welling up. Jerks.

I've taken more time to hang out in my house to get reacquainted and feel comfortable being by myself. I've been patiently talking about it to people who are curious. I realize that it didn't just happen to me -- but to my neighborhood, my single friends, family and people that care about me.

I've gotten my share of crazy questions and observations, "Has it scarred you for life?" and "Are you going to quit writing about music?" and "Are you going to move?" My favorite - "Are you going to get a boyfriend now?" - Humm, yeah - that was the missing piece in my attracting a man....

It has changed some of my habits. I'm back to a smaller bag, carrying just ID, enough cash for the night. My phone and a truck and house key in my coat pocket. I've started wearing pajamas - I had a couple of pairs that I'd wear if I was traveling or had house guests, but as a rule I slept in nothing or a tee shirt. There is something incredibly cozy and safe about hunkering down in flannel pjs. I've started leaving lights on in my house - a new habit that I hate. I do a better job of letting people know where I am, even if its just a Facebook update.

I continue to discover things that I lost. A sock cap, my Guild and work name tags, grocery store discount cards and business cards. I'm rebuilding my phone number base in the cell phone - it's been fun trying to figure out who's sends me text messages. The New Year's Eve "gappy nude rear" is still a mystery.

And the good has outweighed the bad.

A brand new Jesus key chain arrived anonymously though the mail and the Hatch Show Print was mailed to the Red Key for me - thanks Mr and Mrs WYA. Both packages made me burst in to grateful tears. In the photo the keys are in the ash tray at the waitress station at the Key - I put my keys there to discourage people from smoking there. I snapped that photo with the loaner camera that a friend brought to me. I've had friends hand me house keys, offer to get up at what ever hour to follow me home, Marigold gave me a new purse, Rachel and her fiance gave me a gift card to replace my makeup and I've gotten lots of messages and well-wishes from strangers (I wrote about The Incident for the Gazette). And I could feel the love from all of you - thank you.

What doesn't kill you makes you stronger. The Incident didn't kill my spirit or faith in my community. It definitely made it stronger.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

the year that was -- 2008

The off-the-top-of-my-head highlights (in alphabetical order):

Austin City Limits Festival
Lieber twins
Lost 25 pounds
NUVO cover story

Low lights (in order of importance): 

Deaths - Mr. Herr, Uncle Cletus and Larry and Kathy, Vi Walker
Held up
Financial challenges - replaced computer, replaced bathroom floor, dry basement, replaced camera, replaced cell phone, replaced locks, major truck repairs.....

Lots of great stuff happened this year. 

I got to travel and stretch my wings. The trip to Ireland and Austin were the first vacations I've taken in years that did not involve my family. Not that I don't love vacationing with them, but I loved exploring new things on my own. My computer died right after the Ireland trip and I didn't get the chance to properly write about it -- and about what a wonderful time I had.  I just figured out how to get the photos and notes I took off of the old computer. One of my goals for 2009 is to blog about that trip - and since I can't afford to take a trip like that for a while, it will be good to re-live it. 

The Austin trip was also amazing - I got to reconnect with Uncle Bruce and Cousin Sheila -- and I still owe them thank you notes. I was nervous about the Austin City Limits Festival. I was so sure that I'd be found out as a fraud - no journalism background, not an esoteric music freak or cool-kid blogger. The festival gave me a lot of confidence. I might not be up on the latest scarf-rock band, but I do my homework and I'm not afraid to ask questions. And I blogging about the festival and producing articles were great fun and helped me find my voice. I can see a big difference in my music writing since then - ironically it's closer to what you read on this blog.  And - I had a blast and made a new music-y friend. 

Blogstock was wonderful - and I got to meet a whole bunch of you. Jerry and I travel well together, I got to be in a parade and throw candy, the company was amazing, I rode a horse, ate amazing food and reveled in the fellowship of amazing people. 

Twins! The whole thing is amazing- the birth, the adorable kidddos and the way Tammy is handling it all with grace. And it makes me appreciate my dear niece and nephew even more. 

I spent the first 44 years of my life being skinny. Then something happened -- 30 somethings. It crept up on me. My activity level changed - my first desk-ish job and writing more = sitting more. My metabolism changed and menopause happened (shocking for someone so freakishly young, I know). I knew I'd been gaining weight and at Blogstock something really clicked - I realized how big I'd gotten when I needed a boost on to the horse. One of my young hip friends mentioned Weight Watchers. I always thought it was for old ladies (I know, I know) but when Amy said she was on WW, I went back to my office and signed up online. 

Apparently I just needed someone to tell me what to do! I am fanatical about tracking what I eat. The WW site makes it easy to count points and track progress. The weight loss has been steady and healthy. I've quit eating Twizzlers (more for you Ralph) and potato chips. I feel wonderful and I'm enjoying my smaller jeans and the wonderful compliments I'm getting. Just five more pounds! 

The NUVO cover story was amazing - it was a cool validation and gave me a huge confidence boost. I've been writing more and more (including something I can't talk about -- remember the jinx factor?). 

This year felt like it had more than it's share of adult crap. I was obviously affected by the deaths of Mr. Herr and Uncle Cletus. I'm still shocked about Larry and Cathy. Two of my close friends had dads die this year - Becky and Amy. My neighborhood mentor, Vi Walker died in December when I was so sick and I couldn't even get to the funeral. 

It was a hard year financially. I spend money on fun things -travel and the house, and not so fun things - replacing the computer and all of the stuff in my purse. And property taxes. Ugggh. 

But all and all it was a good year, although I am anxious to see what 2009 has to offer!