Sunday, June 29, 2008

vegetarians look away

My sister was visiting last week which explains my low frequency blogging of late (that is to say, none). Hats off to all of you daily bloggers. I don't know how you do it.

Australian blogger,
Blue Mountains Mary, said she likes reading what we Americans typically do. While I can't speak for all, I can speak for certain Texans and east coast touristas.

One of our traditions is to take a trip to Lockhart, located in central Texas. Known as the "buckle of the barbeque belt," Lockhart boasts some of the best barbeque meat found anywhere.

When I moved to Texas 25 years ago (damn, I sound like an old fart), I wanted nothing to do with barbeque. What came to mind was grilled chicken basted with an overly sweet tomato sauce - and I don't care for that. But Texas bbq, I soon learned, is a whole different animal. Dry-rub wood-fired beef brisket made tender by the slow smoked, 15-plus hour process.

People's taste varies, but diehard Texas bbq lovers swear that "good" bbq doesn't require a sauce. Shouldn't, in fact, have a sauce. A cardinal sin to even ask, some believe, including my native Texan husband. Some say bbq sauce was a northern invention.

Me? Sometimes I like mine dry, sometimes wet. I like to dip mine in the right tasting sauce, I guess. Proving you can take the girl out of yankeeland, but you can't take the yankee out of the girl. Except that I never liked northern bbq sauce to begin with. It took Texas to get it right, I gotta admit.

And what makes the "right" sauce for me, exactly? I have no idea. I've never attempted to make it. I just know it when I taste it.

I'm reading Catfish and Mandala by Andrew Pham, a true story based on a bicycle odyssey across Vietnam. Vietnamese are phanatics, apparently, about their fish sauce. Every family boasts their own secret recipe with a huge range of exotic spices.

Same with Texas bbq sauce. I've never been to two backyard bbq's with the same tasting sauce. Many recipes claim 15 or more ingredients. For example, Worcestershire and Tobasco sauces, chili powder, dry mustard, liquid smoke and cajun seasoning (such as my stand by, Tony Chachere's - pronounced sash-sha-rees - of which, by the way, my sister stuffed three containers in her yankee bound suitcase).

But in Lockhart, sauce is a five letter word. No sauce made, none served. It weren't fittin', I was told, so don't ask for it. Ok. Fine. I put horseradish sauce on it instead. I was feeling rebellious.

Lockhart is a town of little more than 10,000 but it has four large bbq restaurants: Black's, Smitty's,
Kreuz Market ("Krites"), and Chisholm Trail. Everyone you meet seems to swear by their favorite. We like Kreuz, not the least because my sister HAS TO HAVE their pork chops when she's in town.

Below is a picture of one of Kreuz huge fire-box fueled bbq pits. They use post oak for the flavor as do most bbq houses (mesquite is too strong, contrary to popular opinion).

Kreuz has an interesting backdrop. It used to be located in the center of town. The owner, Smitty, left the business to his son and the building to his daughter. They couldn't get along, so the son loaded up some of the burning coals into a wagon and with small fanfair, walked the embers out to the present Kreuz location. Some claim the fire has been burning continously for almost 100 years. The sister in this story remained in the old building and started her competing bbq restaurant, Smitty's.

Below is the cutting board where they saw off the amount of meat want. You order it by the pound.

And the final product below. Served on butcher paper: no plates, no forks (because tender beef bbq doesn't require a fork, only fingers). White bread is the standard. Sliced dill pickles. Sliced raw onion. A slab of colby cheese. And, as you can see, no sauce.

They do, however, keep a bottle of Louisiana Hot Sauce on every table. They may be Texans but they're no dummies.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

summer's here

Summer is in full throttle, whether my aching back likes it or not. A few days ago friends from a neighboring state surprised us with an overnight visit. We hadn't seen each other in more than a dozen years. They came armed with some of the world's best ethnic food. I'm talkin' cajun, sha: boudin, cracklin', and crab stuffed chicken breast. Our mouths are fixin' to have a party!

Same night our friends left, my sister's family flew in. We're all hugs and big grins and excited and busy with plans: water parks, inner tubes, water slides, pirate ships, squirting guns, slip 'n slides, slow moving rivers and skipping stones. It's about staying cool in the heat since our travelers have come from a milder summer climate.

Today more family and friends were in to help us welcome our visitors. The cajun mood carried over into our menu planning - a sausage creole gumbo over steamed rice (is there a true cajun alive without a rice cooker?) and a favorite recipe from my mom's kitchen: farm-fresh okra stir fried with homegrown tomatoes.

It's been so fun catching up. I'm overjoyed watching all the little cousins play and reconnect. Awkward smiles and shy glances at the airport followed by whooping and giggling and jumping on beds at home. A year's worth of absence falls away in an instant.
The heart never forgets.

None of these pictures are mine, by the way. New camera in hand but not my hands. I just checked through the memory card and found 15 pictures of my son mugging it up but none from the backyard slip 'n slide he was supposed to be taking. Narcissus was 13 years old, I am sure of it.

What's everyone's plans for beating the summer heat? Anyone else looking forward to family get togethers?

Friday, June 20, 2008

where the hell is matt 2008

Matt chose the perfect spot in Texas - in front of the Stevie Ray Vaughn statue on Town Lake, Austin, newly renamed "Lady Bird Lake."

What a dream job, huh? "Dancing badly" across the world.

Here's some of Matt's earlier dancing.

Here's an interview where he talks about landing this awesome gig.

And here's a story behind the haunting song in Matt's earlier video, Rorogwela, a traditional folk song sung by a woman named Afunakwa. Matt goes to the Solomon Islands to find Afunakwa and pay tribute but learns she has died. He interviews Afunakwa's cousin who translates the song. A very old ancestral history, she sings about comforting her "e nomi," orphan brother and sister, who are crying because they are living on their own. "Stay quiet. Even though you cry, I still carry you."

In 1992, Rorogwela was sampled by Deep Forest and used in a song called "Sweet Lullaby" which is the music used in Matt's dancing video. The song became an international pop hit, selling over 3 million copies.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

john on john

Like my favorite blogstress, Mrs. G at Derfwad Manor, I have my own list of secret boyfriends. Here's one of them:

After this video, I'd like to bump him up to secret fiance. Are you available, John?

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

i'm back and on my back

I had such a good time relaxing and sunning and slurrrping poolside over the long weekend that I came home and promptly put my back out. Or, more technically, strained a ligament while reaching for a tennis ball. Proving once again the theory that I call "The Homeostatic Pleasure Pain Principle" which states that a body can only have so much fun without paying a price.

I've had lower back pain for years. It really got out of hand after carrying twins for 40 weeks. Since then, I've had chronic lower backache and lots of small episodes of smarting pain down my back and into my butt and thigh (known as sciatica). Especially after long periods of standing in line or standing on hard floors, such as the stained concrete floors in my kitchen.

A few years ago I started playing competitive tennis. At the start of my third season, I found myself hobbling off the court in pain. After several days of pain and stiffness, I was afraid to play. A teammate recommended an Iyengar yoga instructor who specialized in rehabilitative yoga.

"But I'm not very limber, even on my best day" I protested.

"That's exactly why you need to see her," she insisted.

Fearful and skeptical, I went. To a private yoga session. And then to a follow up visit. It was two of the most well spent hours of my life.

Iyengar is the type of yoga, I learned, that concentrates on getting the poses just right, making sure the skeletal system is lined up just so, identifying alignments that are maximally therapeutic for healing, that reduce the risk of injury.

I learned a lot about the mechanics of my back and the importance of particular postures. For example, switching my normal stance of feet splayed outward, to facing my toes inward slightly.

She told me I had sacro-illiac joint issues (aka, S-I Joint). She recommended a regimen of simple, gentle yoga poses that incorporate back and hamstring stretches. I learned that part of my problem is that I have large, tight hamstring muscles.

I had always hated and avoided stretching. Any kind of stretching. Tight hamstrings run in my family and they were the muscle group I was least fond of stretching. I'm one of four kids; three of us have lower back problems. I now know how important it is to routinely stretch my hamstrings.

With so much good information about my back problems, why am I flat on my back as I type this?
This is what I think: In a previous post I mentioned that this blogging addiction has meant I've stopped doing lots of important things in my life, including my back stretches. In other words, I've been slacking again. Except for immediately prior to tennis, I haven't been stretching much at all. I think I've learned the hard way that pre-exercise stretching isn't enough. I've got to make it a part of my daily routine.

I also think the weekend of sun and cocktails contributed to dehydration. Apparently a girl CAN have too much fun.

For those interested, here are books that has been helpful for my lower back.

The yoga instructor recommended this wonderful book: Back Care Basics: A Doctor's Gentle Yoga Program for Back and Neck Pain Relief by Mary Pullig Schatz and William Connor. It has a preface by B.K. Iyengar. With lots of pictures, its divided into sections on the different types of back issues.

Backache: What Exercises Work by Dava Sobel & Arthur C. Klein. I find this book helpful immediately after I've had a back episode. It has gentle stretches that help me get back to the basics of stretching as I work my way back to regular movement.

Treat Your Own Back by Robin McKenzie. This is one of the first books I read about lower back problems. McKenzie is a widely recognized back and spine specialist from New Zealand. Many physical therapy regimens encorporate McKenzie's exercises.

And here's a blog I've been checking out: the backpainblaster blog. Its got selfhelp posts and good back information.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

rita's calling

Just so you know, I will be gone for the next few days. Impromptu vacay. Picture me kicked back at a place like this:

In the company of girlfriends who look sorta like this:

Doing things like this:And this:
And even more of this:

I do not know who the above ladies are,
but they sure have the proper technique down, don't you think?

Picture me enjoying beverages like these:

And these:

And most especially, these:

Minus the glass. We rowdy girlfriends cannot be trusted with glass poolside.

We will, instead, have plastic tumblers that look like this:

Or maybe even like this:

But they absolutely will NOT look like this:

And finally, the weekend will most certainly tolerate none of these:

As the weekend wears on, this last point might be negotiable.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Thursday, June 05, 2008

steel thighs, bad skin and hag hand

I went to Huffington Post the other night to read my favorite author and now political contributor, Erica Jong. She was talking about her disappointment that Hillary lost, lamenting the role sexism played in bringing Hillary down:

"I want to believe that America has moved beyond violence and racism and maybe we have. But I thought we had moved beyond sexism, and this campaign proved me wrong. The petty woman-hating jibes, the ageism, and the physical mockery have not been easy to watch."

Meanwhile, as I'm reading this, out of the corner of my eye I see the right hand panel of the Huffington screen -- a picture of the face of a woman with unsightly skin. I think it must be a meth addict. I scroll over and discover it is Amy Winehouse. The article talks about Winehouse showing up at her husband's court hearing (he's been in jail) but its about her bad skin . I hadn't heard any updates on Winehouse since the news of her going into rehab (maybe it IS the skin of a meth addict) so I was curious. The article talks a little bit about the court hearing but mostly it's an excuse to show everybody how ugly her skin is and how she's trying to cover it with make up. It bothered me. The woman is coping with her husband in jail and she gets close-ups of her bad skin splattered all over cyberspace. Nice.

Then a little later that same night I was following some other link and stumbled on a blog post entitled, Hag Hand. Its a picture of Sarah Jessica Parker's hand looking old and wrinkly as she reaches to sign an autograph. What is the universe trying to say?

These last two examples are entertainers, of course. But it happens to politically powerful women often enough. Too often for coincidence according to communications researcher Erika Falk, PhD in her book, Women for President: Media Bias in Eight Campaigns.
In particular support of Jong's Hillary point, ABC News asked, Is Clinton Scrutinized About Her Looks Too Much? back in January.

And who can forget Katherine Harris? The media had a field day skewering her makeup in the 2000 Florida election debacle.
The media's double standard in focusing on Harris and other prominent women's appearance was noted by Caryl Rivers, contributer at Women's e News who notes that "men can look like unmade beds and that fact goes unmentioned, while the bodies, hair and makeup of women receive intense scrutiny."

So I certainly agree that sexism is alive and well, undeniably where physical appearance is concerned, and particularly salient in election politics, which matters.
The underlying message to women is "if you're not attractive, you have no worth." Or, "we'll keep you in your place one way or the other" and focusing on physical attractiveness (or the lack of) is one way to maintain the status quo of male power.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

no more teachers dirty looks or incorrect imbeds

Apparently my dread of summer "vacation" had a catastrophic effect on my previous blog posting accuracy. Specifically, imbedding Pink Floyd's The Wall instead of what's there now. Apologies to Pink Floyd and to all readers who were scratching your heads thinking, "huh? I don't get it." Or the less polite, "what the fock?"

Note to self: Test run.

no more teachers dirty looks

the clock is ticking
on my sanity
school ends tomorrow
oh profanity

summer's here
know too well
kids home all week
bloody hell

take deep breath
smile pretty
children excited
vacation city

shoulders straight
must be trooper
school bus rolls up
screaming alice cooper

for a fascinating interview of alice cooper, listen to fresh air's terry gross, here (May 2007). his father was a pastor, his grandfather the head of a protestant church, both missionaries, he claims has traded in his addiction to alcohol for golf (26 years sober).

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

more lessons from jr high sex ed

Texas leads the nation in the rate of teen pregnancy. Read more, here.

Yay Texas public education wonks. Keep sticking your heads in the sand with your abstinence-only policies despite repeated studies showing how ineffective they are (examples, here and here).

Moms Speak Up reads like Moms Fed Up in their post on the rising teen pregnancy rate, here.

My kids will be getting an earful of options but that doesn't mean their friends will. Those kids will hear it from me too, if they ask. If they don't ask me, they'll hear it from my kids. Fact is, peers are the leading source of sex education, right or wrong.

Wouldn't we rather they hear factual and accurate information by adults than listen to nonsense on the school bus?

Monday, June 02, 2008

just got my jane austen fix

and I'm on cloud nine. Watched PBS Masterpiece and the latest version of Persuasion (2007). I did like this adaptation quite a bit, especially the way the director heightened the sexual tension. Not an easy thing with an Austen novel. Rupert Penry-Jones as Captain Wentworth didn't hurt the effort any.

If you're interested in watching THE longest anticipatory kiss in the history of theatre, push the play button. Be prepared. You might wonder if she's a woman waiting for a kiss or a baby bird waiting for a worm.