Friday, April 27, 2007

Vacation Fun

First, does this condo make me look fat?

Second, isn't it fun when somebody you know knows somebody and they claim they can get you an upgrade and, indeed, they get you a mega upgrade? This is the kitchen of the best room at the Valley Ho in Scottsdale. I'll bet anyway. It's the only one I ever had.

We are having a good time driving across vast parts of the Western U.S. looking for good food and fun.

I have been trying to figure out why I have been enjoying this vacation so much. It's not that we've done things all that exciting. It's more like just really getting away and putting off the things to do at home. We've been answering a lot of e-mail with variations of 'we will be back next week and then...." It's interesting to see what Santa Fe and Scottsdale are sort of about. And the great space between them and between Austin and here is interesting even in its sometimes emptiness.

The art galleries have been fun although I feel like I've been haunted by one artist. To explain: this guy is an artist who does Indians in bronze. Early in his career, almost thirty years ago, he was represented by a gallery in Austin. FFP did some work for them. We ended up with a couple of his pieces. Lovely bronzes. Of Indians. For a long time those pieces and a couple of others provided an eclectic counterpoint to our otherwise native-American-free art collection. A couple of years ago we had a surge of downsizing and found a dealer who managed to get us thirty or forty percent of what we'd paid for them. I knew that the artist had kept on going in his career, drifted away from simple patinas to all kinds of colored effects. In Santa Fe we'd mostly walk by the Indian 'stuff' and go into galleries with interesting contemporary art. But we were walking by this Canyon Road gallery and I saw a lot of Indian sculpture with intricate bead work and was about to pass by when I saw what I was sure was a Milt Kobayashi painting. I went in to look and it was a painting of his. Then I noticed that all these Indian sculptures were by this guy we had owned early in his career. Then we were on this street of galleries in Scottsdale and here were two monumental bronzes of Indians. Yep. You guessed it. The same guy's stuff. I felt like the guy was haunting me a little.

We've met a few people. An architect from Pittsburgh. A young couple living in Lubbock and loving it. An office manager for lawyers from Coronado, California. We haven't done much in the natural wonders and museums category. We did see a Jack Kerouac exhibit that was stunning. One doesn't expect that in the Palace of the Governors in Santa Fe with the Indians sitting outside.

We always intend to exercise a bit when we are on vacation. Usually we just manage walking between meals and drinks. But on this trip we actually have managed to use the hotel gym four times. Two have been in the delightful gym at the Valley Ho (no, no, not that kind of hotel, think 1950's retro when it was a bit of word play on tallyho).

We've had some good food. Quality NMex food, fusion Japanese tapas, stuff like that. We've gotten to visit a good friend.

Good vacation so far. Wish me luck on the 'last gourmet meal' and the 'long drive homeward.'

Monday, April 23, 2007

Where are the Pictures?

The pictures are in my head. I haven't been taking pictures although I did bring my digital camera. I remember hearing (is it true?) that Indians think photos steal your soul. As a kid, my one other time in Santa Fe, I seem to remember that they would sell you the right to take a picture but I could have made that up.

I promise to take some pictures today.

We drove from Lubbock to Santa Fe. If there isn't much to look at between Austin and Lubbock, there is far less in the drive from Lubbock to the state line. Then the landscape is a little more interesting. There isn't even much livestock or road kill. No animals. No animals killed on the road. I have sucked FFP into road kill spotting but only Firestone and Bridgestone yesterday (strips of tires thrown from trucks) yesterday.

The drive was easy. We had a so-so lunch along the way. We kept the coffee cup full. An Allsups (a popular convenience store gas station out this way) filled it for 59 cents. That's what I'm talking about. There was some special New Mexican wildflower (a low-lying purple one) after state line. There was a lovely derelict church with the NM landscape behind it that I should have taken a picture of. I have a fantasy project of taking pictures of derelict buildings and junk yards across the country. I don't stop, however. One looks forward to the little derelict towns. Because the landscape is relentless. There were many long trains, though, and the long straight road follows the long straight tracks.

When we got to Santa Fe, we found our cheap chain hotel where we are staying one night before going to a hotel near the plaza. We got here really early. We'd sort of forgotten the time change, too. Our cell phones confirmed it, though.

After settling in we went to the Plaza area and spent the day wandering around. We saw some interesting contemporary art. We saw the Indians at Governor's Palace selling jewelry that was lovely. I don't wear much jewelry. It simplifies my life. We had some snacks at the bar at La Fonda while some guys played mariachi-type tunes. We scoped out some high end Men's clothes for FFP but made no purchases. We checked out the hotel where we will stay tomorrow night and FFP made himself a spa appointment. I'm not that into massages and stuff but he loves them. We found a restaurant that had piano music. Made a reservation for eight.

We went to an independent book store and bought a couple of books and sat at (gulp) Starbucks because it was the only coffee shop we found. I've noticed that the demographic here tends to be older than Austin. By a long shot. You'd think you were in a retirement village sometimes. And you sort of are. At Starbucks I just wanted brewed coffee and I wanted to drink it there. My request not to have the stupid paper cup with the cardboard around it was met with chagrin. They provided a cup but said it was 'bigger than tall,' tall being the smallest cup of coffee and the one I ordered. "Do you just want me to fill it to the tall level?" asked the girl. "Um, yes." I think that in spite of all the signs about fair trade and the fact that they sell water that is supposed to give 5 cents a bottle (about the value of the water!) to clean water in the third world, in spite of all that, they don't want to wash dishes but want to fill landfills with their stupid cups. Sounds like a journal of unintended consequences entry when I have time.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Being Some Place Else

It focuses your attention on a different set of things when you travel. I find that the act of putting everything you'll expect you need (except for food and drink, of course) in some bags and taking off makes you think about your possessions and your needs and relax and go with the flow of the world. Or fret over finding the one thing your spouse decides he wants while you are driving.

When you go on a driving trip, things at home take on a different perspective as the miles unwind behind you. You imagine yourself cleaning out a closet or cabinet and having it go really well, knowing just what you want to do with everything, no hesitation, no sneezing because of the dust.

Today we left the house to the house sitters and headed out for a leisurely drive to....Lubbock. Rather than make Santa Fe in one nearly 700 mile hop, we decided to spend the night in Lubbock, making two pretty easy drives of it.

Our new Accord seemed to purr along effortlessly. I like to eschew cruise control to stay connected to the drive and I had to keep from putting my foot in it and exceeding the speed limit. we don't see a reason to waste gas and squeeze past the limits too much. It's a vacation! Relax! We listened to jazz (mostly...the real non-Kenny G type) and acoustic rock on the XM radio. That's a plus. When the other person was driving, we read the day's papers. We made a stop for gas and the bathroom. We stopped at a Chili's for an early lunch. And we stopped at, gulp, McDonald's for a fill-up of our commuter cup with coffee and the bathroom. (McDonald's coffee is not that bad. And cheap. In any event, there weren't a lot of local coffee shops offering organic shade-grown fair trade brews at that point.)

The road offered the usual small and half dead Texas towns (with names like Bangs and Lawn). One town's school mascot was the Gorillas. Hmmm. Most of these towns had a few derelict structures along the highway, some suspicious-looking eateries and maybe a junky 'antique' shop. To add to those usual entertainments and the roadkill spotting there were some amazing displays of wildflowers, a few dramatic wind farms and donkey heads pumping oil. With our reading material and radio, it was really effortless.

Lubbock is just a stop so that we don't work too hard getting ourselves to Santa Fe. The road is part of the trip.

When we arrived at our Quality Inn the staff was nice and upgraded our room. We searched the Internet on the free wireless and found what we hoped was a non-typical restaurant for Lubbock. We ended up having dinner at a wannabe French place called Chez Suzette. It wasn't bad and better than we could have hoped for its arbitrary selection. Drinks and music at a place called Stella's was unexpectedly good, too. Especially the conversation with a young couple who could walk right onto the set of Friday Night Lights.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Dreaming Some Place Else

When you are planning a move, a job change (or retirement) or a vacation, you visualize yourself somewhere else. You imagine what you'll do, the things you'll have around you, how each day will shape up.

Reality is always somewhat different. To say the least.

This photo was taken on a bit of the hike and bike trail in downtown Austin, looking east at some of the flock of cranes that are ubiquitous in the Austin skyline at the moment. For those keeping score at home the building in the foreground is the 360 which will one day be 44 stories and will contain our small home. The eighteen-story building next in line is the new AMLI rental units.

With hundreds of units actually being built at the moment in downtown Austin and others on the drawing board, there are lots of people visualizing a new lifestyle.

My own vision is having a lot less stuff. I'm a bit puzzled about how I'm ever going to accomplish this but I know that I just have to keep asking myself: Will I use it? Will it look good? Could I just get something like it later if needed? It seems like we've been getting rid of stuff at a good pace for years especially since we started remodeling the house. But we've acquired stuff, too. And maybe the getting outpaced the getting rid of. The pendulum has swung around here, but it's not going fast enough to suit me. I have to look at every little thing and ask myself "do I see it being useful and having a place in my new digs?"

We are thinking about a trip we are going to take soon. Going on a trip is like moving in a way. You take with you what you think you need for a short period instead of the rest of your life. One finds that a lot of things can be left at home and not missed when you pack up for a car or plane trip. Of course, you might eventually miss your souvenirs and book collection and miscellaneous gadgets. And, of course, the coffee machine. Other than the stuff I take on a trip (clothes, toiletries, camera, laptop) I guess the things I most want to keep are books and things with sentimental value. We faced the fact long ago that books took up a lot of space around here. The paring down of those continues but a kernel of the collection is going to surround us in that condo, I think. Making it a warm and welcoming place to sit and read. While drinking coffee. When I visualize myself elsewhere I'm always reading (or writing in my notebook) and sipping coffee. Or maybe enjoying a walk on a trail or sitting on a lawn. Many people say when confronted with our yard "you must spend a lot of time out here." It isn't true, though. I'd visualize that, too, if I were them. But what time I spend out there is usually doing something like chopping bamboo back that escapes from my neighbor's yard.

Can you tell that the downsizing is weighing me down again? I keep finding more stuff and it gets harder and harder to decide what to do with it. But meanwhile...let me pack for a trip and forget about it for a little while. Just taking along things I really might need.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Recycling? Good or Bad?

This picture is a detail of an image from my hard drive. I took the picture outside a small theater in Waterville, Maine in 2005. (See journal entry here.) I think this work of art, made from found objects, is a depiction of the town of Waterville.

I'm a great fan of found object art. I save old and useless things sometimes, pretending that I will turn them into a clever collage or sculpture. But, truthfully, I'm no artist. So this old junk just takes up space and taunts me.

Today, while cleaning out a cabinet that hadn't seen any attention in a decade or two, I came across some moldy old books that belonged to my mother and her siblings. One of my favorite local artists, in fact one of my favorite all-time collage artists, is Lance Letscher. His work often uses parts of books, old book covers, etc. (As the link shows.) So immediately I thought: I should give these to Lance Letscher. I've never met him, of course. I heard somewhere that he actually fishes around in the dumpsters behind places like Half Price Books to find material. Somehow I doubt that. Surely his friends are always giving him old books and such.

Our downsizing is this crazy effort to find just the right homes for things. Discarding books is very hard for me. It just seems wrong. I've done it. But it doesn't feel good. A lot of my technical books that are hopelessly out-of-date may actually end up in the landfill. But it's hard for me to be the one that tosses them.

This same cabinet has yielded up FFP's books from his childhood. He has had fun today remembering reading these. What will we do with these old, dusty, tattered children's books? Right now I haven't a clue.

As we go through this purging process a lot of people give us advice. About selling things on ebay or getting one of those estate sale people. Or who might like different things we have to give away. I've mentioned before how weary it makes me. I just have to keep saying "progress is being made." True the stack of moldy books is on the floor of my office. Along with other things awaiting their fate. I sometimes think back to a time when I was much younger. When I would have been so delighted to know someone who was like I am today...getting rid of all kinds of interesting 'stuff.' Fact is...maybe that's how I acquired many of these things! Mostly we get rid of things by taking them to the thrift store, putting them on Freecycle or giving them to a friend. We have sold a few things over the past few years. Giving things away is hard. Selling them doubly hard.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Unexecuted Ideas

I love museums but I'm almost as fascinated by the other people as by the art and artifacts. Today I read in the Arts Section of The New York Times about a photographer Thomas Struth who took pictures of people in museums looking at art. And then inserted some of them in the Prada among the paintings for one show. Hey...I had that idea. Lots of times I get one of us in the picture, too. But sometimes strangers as here in MOMA in 2005.

I finished shredding a bunch of old financial stuff from the eighties and early nineties today. I always think I will keep stuff organized, discard it at just the right time and then it ends up jumbled together in a box. There was almost nothing we needed to save in the box but it needed sifting through to be sure of that. And some things needed to be shredded. Although many accounts were defunct and financial institutions had changed their names, etc. a depressing number of things had signatures, driver's license numbers and even Social Security Numbers.

I did find a report from an EEG I had 1990 after having an unexpected faint. They didn't find anything. I decided to save it, though. "The predominant waking activity is a well-organized admixture of 10-11 per second occipital alpha with some intermixed low to medium voltage fast." At least my brain waves were once well-organized.

Slowly stuff moves to the thrift store piles. Including some of the stuff that I saw receipts for in those credit card bills from the twenty years or so ago. And as I decide to keep books I wonder when I will have the time to sit down and enjoy reading them. I have been doing a better job of reading the papers that show up since our subscription to The Wall Street Journal lapsed. (FFP has renewed it now, I think.) As a consequence I have been reading a book I found and decided was a keeper. Memoirs by Tennessee Williams. Published in 1972 it is a stream of consciousness remembrance and diary of what was going on at the moment. I seem to have bought it at Powell's during a trip to Portland. Believe I'll keep it even after reading it. What a name dropper he is!

I suppose that maybe I'll look back on the downsizing of 2007-2008 as something that I did execute on, however slowly and painfully.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

The Gala Fete Ball Performance Dinner

This picture is a couple of years old. But it is an example of one of the many 'events' we attend in the course of a year. They are intended to (a) raise money for good causes; (b) focus attention on the work of various organizations; and (c) jolly up the patrons of said groups.

We attended one night before last. I don't have any pictures. It wasn't black tie. As this one clearly wasn't either. (If it had been, FFP would certainly have been tuxedoed.) This most recent one was at the Driskill Hotel. As was the one where we took this picture.

And lest the suspense be killing you...yes that is Carol Channing with FFP. The event was a fundraiser for Austin Cabaret Theater and she performed.

I remember when we were younger and poorer. When we finally had some money to invest in charity and its requisite gala/fete/ball/fundraiser/performance/dinner events, I remember having some joy in going to them and even in helping plan one called Black Tie and Tennis Shoes to benefit Women's Athletics at UT. And it's not that I never have fun at these events. I do. And money is raised. All good.

However, there are a number of things that I guess I've become a little jaded about over the years. I'm too demanding or something. So this is a bit of a rant, but not really. That's why I didn't put it over in the Journal of Unintended Consequences. Although there are consequences. And some unintended.

All these gala/fete/ball/performance/dinner fundraisers have some elements from the following list:
  • formal attire
  • silent and/or live auctions of goods to raise more money
  • food
  • drink
  • entertainment
  • presentations of awards and acknowledgements
  • decorations
  • souvenir gifts
Now formal attire does take things up a notch. There are lots of dresses to look at (not on me, of course) and the guys look elegant in tuxedos (or dinner jackets when it's appropriate or sometimes even when it's not). You sort of feel like there is a certain amount of elegance that you can co-opt. I get weary of coming up with appropriate outfits, though.

We went to an event two nights ago that was just 'business/cocktail' which let some of the mucky-mucks where fancy dresses but allowed FFP and I to slide with business suits.

Then there are the auctions. The way it works is that a committee forms and then people and businesses are talked into donating everything from wine and jewelry and gift certificates to trips, clothing, signed memorabilia, etc. Bids are either taken on sign up sheets or by live auction. Our event of two nights ago didn't have an auction. (Although they were selling off the beautiful art glass centerpieces at the 'after' party.) It was into the entertainment/presentation mode. The tickets for those who paid to eat the dinner and share in the festivities were, I believe, $500 a piece. So not so necessary to raise extra money, I guess. Anyway, a couple of weeks ago we were at an event that had a large silent and a live auction. It does give people something to do, walking around looking at the stuff on offer. FFP had helped gather donations for that one. He mostly got restaurant certificates. We bid briefly on some wine in that silent auction but didn't get anything. We ended up not getting something in the live auction but donating some money for one. Complicated, 'nuf said. I can't tell you how much we have donated by buying items in these auctions. I never try to write off the donation either. Unlike the tix to some of the events (which have a stated value of services less than the ticket price, natch) usually these items are pretty much worth what you pay for them or a little less. But the charity gets a donation and, I guess, some of the donors get a write-off. Anyway, yeah we have bought a lot of these things in the past. Just a brief look around our house uncovers a number of items we got at these auctions: several pieces of framed art, a 48-inch round table, a Chinese-looking vase, a Christophle vase with snakes on it, a beautiful wooden painted chair, an oak coffee table, some yard art, wine, glassware and an antique silver party purse. There is a large photographic portrait of us, too, that we bought the sitting for in an auction. Innumerable gift certificates for restaurants and stores and entertainments were purchased, too. And most of them used.

My biggest objection to these auctions? Long checkout lines for the silent ones. Confusion about who is bidding what in the live ones. But they do raise money. And, I'm convinced you could furnish your house with the stuff you could buy if you went to enough of them. And I have solved the silent auction thing a few times by walking out and contacting them and paying up later. They always know where to find us and we are good for it.

Ah, food. The most formal and expensive of these have a sit-down dinner. (Although dessert is often offered buffet-style.) Sometimes the food is quite good and innovative. But I'm a little tired of the beef and fish plates meant to (half) satisfy people. You shouldn't go to one of these things expecting to be dazzled by the food. Or expecting a good cup of coffee. Cheaper stand up affairs may have restaurant-sponsored little 'stands' or hors d'oeuvres buffets. It's funny how you perch at a table and gossip with strangers about where to find the best offerings.

The expensive events have open bars. Some have cash bars. In order to avoid crowding at the bars the venues put waiters out there with trays with, usually, white wine, red wine and water. Occasionally champagne. I usually take one of these offerings as a line of least resistance. But I'm usually happier standing in line for an actual cocktail before dinner rather than an indifferent wine. The cheaper stand up affairs (tix $100 or less) often have liquor sponsors which can lead to dazzling specialty martinis but no Jack Daniels. You can get very, very drunk at many of these events. Which is, of course, a bad idea. The worst ones for me as far as curtailing the amount of drink to allow feeling fresh in the morning are wine dinners where excellent wines are poured. It's all too easy to drink every glass offered. Which would be too much. Think tasting.

Entertainment at these events can be bands, dancing, performances, etc. I can't stand the really loud bands. (Especially on the mezzanine of the Driskill hotel, the loudest room on earth. The sound drifts into the ballroom and side rooms to make even conversation there impossible for those of us with any difficulty hearing.) When there has already been ample entertainment (sometimes a performance/presentation occurs at the Paramount and then an after party at the Driskill), any music should be quiet and allow patrons to talk about what they just experienced.

Presentations and entertainments where everyone needs to be focused must be done at an actual theater or at a time in the dinner when people are sort of captive at their tables. [Presentation and entertainment at the Paramount for the one the other night had the most fidgety audience I've ever seen. There were cell phones ringing, people talking, people going in and out and in and out.] What seem like great lines when one is forming a script can get very tedious when one is sitting there in an after five outfit with a few drinks needing a bathroom break and things go on and on. Have your entertainment choreographed and precise. When you are presenting awards to people who are going to be allowed to speak, try to keep them from making a speech as if they are in Oslo. Especially if they are in their dotage. They won't mind being taken off the hook. I promise.

The decorations at some of these things are so darned elaborate that you really question the sanity of it all. Towering candelabras, hundreds of colored votives on tables (so many napkins were burned that night), etc. I sort of like the ones where they have some centerpiece they can sell off. Makes me feel better about it all.

And then there are the souvenir gifts. The phrase 'swag the rich' comes to mind. It isn't like Hollywood with companies giving gift baskets worth tens of thousands to famous influencers. No. It's perfume samples, key chains, memo pads, corkscrews, T-Shirts. A lot of the stuff just adds to the clutter, I think. But the gift bag to take home has become a standard at some of these things. Maybe sponsors insist on it. Anyone want two AT&T key chains made in China? I'm just saying.

Yeah, we keep going to these events. But I have to tell you. When there is an evening, like this the one tonight, when our calendar is blank after 2PM, I breathe a sigh of relief.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Down about Downsizing

A couple of years ago I stuck the camera in a drawer of pens and scissors and such and took a picture. I wish I could tell you that mess is gone, gone, gone. But it's not. All the scissors are from an era when I thought my homemade greeting cards would benefit from those scrapbooking scissors that make different decorative cuts. They didn't.

We are getting rid of stuff, however. When we are filling up the trunk of the car for the thrift store or piling stuff on the sorting table it seems like a lot of stuff. (The sorting table is divided in half. Himself puts things on one half and I use the other. Then, at our convenience, we 'approve' the things and put them in the box for the thrift store or other recipients.) We are processing out lots of stuff this way and every week our recycling pile is huge and our 'pay as you throw' garbage can is stuffed. But when we look around, it looks hopeless.

I get depressed about it. It's not that I mind going through the stuff. It's kind of interesting actually. This week I was shredding old receipts and bank statements and found the receipt for something I'd thrown in the garbage that very day. That was strange.

It's not that I mind trying to find homes for things either . (Although that requires some communication with people that isn't always easy for me.) No, the worst part is that sometimes you feel like you aren't sending the thing to the right home. Should I just throw it away? Is there some specific person I should ask to see if they can use it? Could I sell it? Would it be a perfect thrift store donation? Should I just put it out on the curb and see if someone takes it?

I offered some technical books to old techie friends. This resulting in giving away eight books out of several dozen, one date for listening to jazz with another couple and a couple of lunch dates.

I posted some stuff of the Yahoo group for Austin Freecycle. This is a deal where people post things they will give away or want to acquire for free. I have learned that you give a deadline and then review all the e-mails trying to find a good home for the stuff with someone who might actually pick it up. It is sort of depressing. You offer an old digital camera that needs a battery (the ones I have for it won't take a charge and it uses only special rechargeable ones). And has some other issues. And someone writes that they want it to take pictures of their grandkids for Easter. This weekend. You know they will be disappointed by having to find a battery (if they can afford it and find one) and get it charged by Sunday. I wrote all the issues for each item as clearly as possible. And wrote, as clearly as I could, that I would wait until Thursday evening to decide among the requests. But people don't read that carefully. They fire off a response and say they can pick it up now. I also try not to be too critical of spelling, grammar, etc. One person wants the cameras. She says she is 'a Camera Conasour.' Does bad spelling make a person a bad owner for the cameras? One of the cameras I'm offering I described as an 'antique digital camera.' A guy responded who is a camera collector. It made me wonder whether I should offer him my Polaroid Land 100, a camera I'll never use again but have kept for sentimental reasons. I received that camera for Christmas in the early sixties and took hundreds of shots with it, particularly of my nieces when they were babies. They are 36 and 38 now.

There is entirely too much thought involved in this downsizing thing. And it's getting me down.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Feed the Rich...Desserts

I was torn about where to post this entry. Here in my regular journal (which my husband says makes our lives an open book but I don't really think so)? Or in the Journal of Unintended Consequences, my other blog, which is intended to capture the chaotic results from well-intentioned (or not) actions? I decided to put it here because somehow I thought that would be less controversial. I'm not really raising an objection to feeding the rich. Everybody's got to eat, you know, to sustain life.

The photo is of a sausage-shaped big cheese (I think) at Mandola's Market, posing with some of its sausage friends.

Now, I consider myself rich. I don't have any debt, I can budget for things like 'gifts' and 'donations' and 'eating out.' I don't work. Yeah. The idle rich even. Hasn't always been so, but I was never as poor as my parents or grandparents once were.

I've noticed that, when you donate money to things or you entertain friends or do them favors or people think you are going to do them a favor or donate money, people give you free food and booze.

I have often wondered if you could just live off this free stuff. For weeks at a time. I'm not really trying to do that and, besides, it would probably require lining your pockets with zip lock bags as my friend SuRu points out. But yesterday when I got up I realized that for that one day I could probably get by on what was free. So I decided to try it.

Now first off, I'm not a 'breakfast is the most important meal of the day' person. When I get up in the morning, I'm not usually hungry at all. I want coffee. Black coffee. And lots of it. So in my experiment I decided that I would allow myself unlimited coffee made in my very own Jura-Capresso E8. (See this entry also.) Of course, there are no calories in black coffee. Just a buzz.

During the morning, I went to my club and rode the recumbent bike for thirty minutes. The bike claimed I'd burned 200 calories. Just before I showered I weighed on the fancy-looking digital scales from Sharper Image that we bought when we decorated our remodeled bathroom. (See photo of bathroom in my old journal...the scales fit in with that decor. Hmmm...maybe FFP is right about the open book thing!) My weight was 163.6. Seems like the scale said just over 160 a few days ago. But it fluctuates. Who knows?

Around 12:20 we headed downtown. We got into a huge traffic jam at 5th and Lamar caused by the city's urge to close a couple of lanes of W. 5th every weekend. Still we found a parking place and found a bus that was taking the media around for a tour of markets as part of the Texas Hill Country Wine and Food Festival. I food! While we waited for the bus to depart I took a quick swing through the Saturday Downtown Farmer's Market. (I imagined when we were living downtown how I would stroll through the market and buy some vegies and greens and goat cheese for the week.) I got a free taste of some delicious Hibiscus Tea. I saw that the goat cheese and honey people had those tiny plastic tasting spoons. But I figured a small taste would just send my juices up too high.

The bus headed out to Mandola's Italian Market near our house. For some reason they used the surface streets. As we drove by the University I saw some homeless guys digging in a trash can. I was feeling a little hungry myself. Several eateries on Guadalupe (Milto's, Ruby's Barbecue, Zen, NeWorlDeli) suddenly seemed very attractive. As we filed into the market to get a talk from one of the owners we walked by outside tables where people were scarfing late lunches (it was 1:15 by now) of pizza and salad and anti-pastas and all manner of stuff that was looking increasingly delicious. But there were no samples! The best I could do was to grab a little bit of cranberry walnut bread out for sampling by the general public. I listened to the owner talk about the operation (their own winery, imported Italian groceries, baking almost all their own stuff, very interesting actually, etc.) and tried not to feel too hungry. We were given a goody bag. It contained a jar of artichokes and olives and stuff in a tomato sauce, a pack of three or four baked crackers and some biscoti and cookies along with one of those napkin/cutlery packets you get with takeout. On the way out I looked at the bread sample basket...but all the samples were gone. Darn! In the bus, I ate one of the crackers and a little cookie of some sort. That took the edge off.

We drove back toward downtown and over to South Congress and were soon at Cissi's Market. This was feed the rich nirvana! I took a glass of the offered white wine but fortified myself before drinking much with chips on sample. They had some Austin Slow Burn Salsa Verde out, too. Then they started circulating with platters containing tiny bite-size hors d'oeuvre. Ah, heaven. Vanilla-poached lobster with Shiraz grits. Little pulled pork sandwiches on cornbread the size of pill boxes. They had a lot, too, so we were encouraged to have multiples. I began to think I'd survive on my free food diet. I sipped a little wine. I had one bite of lemon bar dessert. I'm not much of a dessert person. That would be my downfall on this regimen. A peek inside our goodie bag from Cissi's revealed a sack of coffee beans, giant home-style cookies and chocolate!

Next we went to Farm To Market Grocery. It's been there on South Congress for a while. A tiny space stocking a lot of food and a few gift items, it has 30% local products including flowers out front that are from the Hill Country. The people there were really nice and were passing out goat milk ice cream, sodas and water. And they gave us goody bags with a private label chocolate bar and a Butters Brownie. Now, as I said, I'm not much on sweets. I actually had eaten a Butters Brownie a few nights ago. (There was a sample in the media bag we got.) The goat milk part tempted me on the ice cream but I just ask others how it tasted.

We headed west of W. Mary and located the P&K Grocery. This place was ultra funky and hip at the same time. They had taken an old building, used antique fixtures where possible and had some antique glassware and china and collectibles for sale. They had a deli counter with hot sandwiches and other stuff. They make their own pimento cheese and hummus and hot dog condiments. They sell goat cheese on a stick (lolipops!). That made my stomach rumble. But they weren't giving them away. They were giving away little square pimento cheese sandwich samples and freshly made lemonade. Also deviled eggs but for some reason I didn't get one before we got on the bus. I'd regret that. That 1.5 inch square sandwich wasn't going to hold me long. And their goodie bag had samples of their hot dog condiments. Which would have been great if someone was giving away hot dogs!

When we got home, I had some coffee and water. I was actually a little hungry. The only free thing that wasn't sweet was some of those plain crackers and that artichoke concoction Mandola's gave us. So I opened it up and had a little of that with the crackers. Later a bag of caramel corn Cissi's gave us (a private label product with a light hand on the coating, not at all like Crackerjacks) called to me. As I always do with such products...I checked the calories in the entire bag...about seven hundred and eighty! They were pretty good, sort of salty and sweet, but I stopped eating after only a couple of hundred calories.

A few hours later, we dressed up and went to a house over near Lake Austin. The party was free. Well, if you don't count the hefty annual donation that had yielded the invitation. When I saw plates of food, I found the dining room and filled a plate with tender beef, roll and butter, green beans, roasted root vegies, roasted purple and white fingerling potatoes and rice. The offerings seemed a bit chicken or fish and a lot of starch but I wasn't complaining. I took some of everything and polished off all the carbs and a few ounces of the beef with a glass of free red wine. (I had finished a glass of white I'd gotten coming in.) Later I had a coffee and three mini madeleines.

At home Forrest ate some of the caramel corn and so I finished the bag. I was tempted to grab a cheese snack from the fridge, but true to my word, I stuck to coffee and what the world fed the rich today. Which seemed a little heavy on the sweet side. Let 'em eat cake, I guess.

As I finish this entry I'm waiting for FFP to come home. We might go to the Texas Hill Country Wine and Food Festival Fair. There would be lots of free food. And we have press passes. But jockeying for free food with thousands of other people and drinking wine outdoors on a hot day sounds less and less fun now that I think about it. I haven't eaten so far today. I've had my coffee, a bottle of water and a walk around the neighborhood. I'm feeling a little hungry. But not hungry enough to go for the chocolate and cookies left over from the free stuff from yesterday.