Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Another new hobby

Not that Doug and I need another diversion, but last week Doug and I started taking a glass fusing, jewelry-making class at Blue Moon Glassworks. It's a four week class and tonight was week two. We got the stuff back that we made last week. We can either make a magnet or a pin out of them. Doug's pieces are the top two, mine are the bottom. Tonight we learned how to make pendants and earrings. I can't wait until next week when get those back.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

April WOW tasting

Last night was the first wine tasting of the season for the Women of Wine and The Men Who Adore Them (WOW). We were tasting Ste. Genevieve, Peregrine Hill, and Lorval. Everyone seemed to have a great time. Below are a few photos Doug took at the tasting.

I'll make you a movie you can't refuse

This afternoon Doug walks into the living room, where I am watching tv. He sees what I have on and chuckles. "Just leave me alone!" I scowl. He laughs. "There is nothing else on!" I insist. He walks out. I turn my attention back to the television.

Doug has a very good reason to laugh. The AMC channel is having a Godfather marathon this weekend -- continuous showings of Parts I, II and III. I really haven't been feeling well this weekend as spring allergies are kicking my tail, so I've been puttering around the house. Since Godfather is one of my favorite movies, I can turn it on in the middle and watch parts of it. I had Part II on yesterday when I was cleaning the living room. Last night when we got home we wanted to watch just a little bit of tv before bed, so we turned on Part I. Doug decided he couldn't go to bed until after Michael got his jaw broken. This afternoon I wanted to watch something, and since it happened to be in the same place as where we left off last night, I picked up Part I there. Although I haven't sat down to watch the movies in full this weekend, from the bits and pieces I've watched I've seen all of Part I and up until when Michael returns from Cuba in Part II. Of course, not in order.

I even watched about 15 minutes of Part III this morning when Doug was still asleep. That's all I could stand. You can tell Coppola made the film just because he needed the money. Unlike the first two which draw you in, this one seems like a parody of itself.

I think the other reason why Doug laughed is that we have the trilogy on DVD, so I can watch it any time I want. I don't have to have a marathon. Still, when it's on, I have to watch, it draws me in.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

South Park jumps the shark

I am a devoted South Park fan. I love the way the creators, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, poke fun at political and controversial issues. Last night, however, they went to far and jumped the shark.

For those who aren't familiar with the term, "jump the shark" is a reference to the tv show Happy Days when the Fonze jumped a pool of sharks while he was on water skis. The term comes to mean that a show is pulling some crazy storyline to garner interest in a show that is starting to go downhill.

Last night South Park aired an episode that was parodied the exaggerations James Frey wrote in his book, A Million Little Pieces. So first off, the show was a bit dated. It only takes 6 days from start to finish on the show, so I thought it was weak picking an issue that was several months old. Secondly, the show was pretty flat and not very funny. But what really got me last night was that more than half the episode featured Oprah Winfrey's talking minge (vagina) and anus.

Evidently the minge was upset that Oprah is a workaholic and doesn't pay him much attention. He tries to discredit her by showing how the book is a fake. When that doesn't work, he takes hostages and shoots a cop. Most of the show shows a close-up of Oprah's groin area (abet fully clothed).

I just think it was in bad taste, and as I said, wasn't funny. Also, when South Park lampoons someone, they usually deserve it -- people like Paris Hilton. It was almost like they had to use Oprah because she was part of the book controversy, but didn't have anything to really make fun of her, so they used her vagina.

The main character in last night's episode was Towlie, a towel. He couldn't come up with an idea unless he was high, yet every time he was high, he came up with bad ideas, like faking his autobiography, A Million Little Fibers. I think maybe Trey and Matt had been smoke the weed when they came up for the idea for last night's show.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Berry, berry good wine

Doug and I had a project this weekend that we have wanted to do for a year – making strawberry wine. We hope will turn out delicious, although it will be several months before we know for sure. We are experimenting with six different variations to see what works and what doesn’t.

The project started Friday morning with a trip to Poteet, a town two hours to the south. Poteet is known as the strawberry capital of Texas and the strawberries from that area are super sweet. The wineries we’ve talked to in central Texas that make strawberry wine say they get their fruit from Poteet, so we decided that was the place to start. For those not familiar with the process for making fruit wine, it is very important that we get fruit that doesn’t have preservatives. It is also important that we get fruit that is freshly picked – grocery stores just won’t work. The fruit in grocery stores are picked early and ripen on the way to the market. This means that the strawberries won’t have the same sugar content (very important for wine) as berries we can get from farmers.

After arriving in Poteet (blink and you’ll miss the town), we stopped at a roadside fruit stand where the berries were gorgeous. We bought two flats, or 24 pints of strawberries and headed back to Austin.

Saturday morning we woke and headed to the market to pick up a few things we needed for the wine. Some of the batches are going to have raisins and/or dates. Once we got home, we started on the process. Each of the six 1-gallon batches called for three pounds of strawberries – and I was the one who hulled the berries – all 24 pints of them. We then crushed the berries in our juicer and poured the strawberry juice into 1 gallon jugs. Doug added the other ingredients and started the yeast. This morning he added the yeast to the fruit. I noticed this afternoon that some of the wine is already starting to ferment.

Last spring we missed the strawberry season and didn’t get to make wine. It’s a good thing we got the strawberries over the weekend as the guy at the fruit stand told us that it was starting to get too hot for strawberries (it’s been a short season this year and I doubt that the crop can survive this 100-degree weather). As it was, after the trip home in the trunk of the car and overnight on our kitchen counter, the berries were already starting to get mushy. That’s okay for wine and tells us that they were definitely not picked too early.

Now we are just waiting for blackberry season to make blackberry wine. Of course, we’ll make another batch of peach wine this summer.

Silly dog

Because it is so hot today, Dante has opted to wear his ears in a new style.

You think THIS is hot???

For the past week I've been remembering our trip to Rhode Island. While there, the high temperature was 37. I had stopped into Wal-Mart to pick up hats, gloves, scarves, so we wouldn't get too cold while walking around. There was a crusty New Englander in front of me at the checkout line and he had to comment on my buying winter gear in February. He asked if it was because they were on clearance. I explained I was from Texas and I had no winter gear (as we don't really have winter) and I needed some gloves because it was cold.

"You think this is cold?" he kept asking. While I didn't appreciate being made fun of by a total stranger, I later found it humorous. I knew he wouldn't be able to last more than three days during a Texas summer.

Of course we are beginning to brace ourselves for the heat. The air conditioner has already been on for a few weeks -- highs in the upper 80s, lower 90s. That is, until yesterday. It was 97 degrees yesterday. Just sitting on the back patio, watching Doug wash out bottles, I began to sweat. Today it will be 100. Given that it is only mid-April, we are in for a long, hot summer.

I wonder what that crusty Yankee would think of this weather?

Saturday, April 15, 2006

A San Francisco treat

Although not as exciting as my parents' trip, Doug and I are planning a get-away to a place we've been wanting to visit for a several years -- San Francisco and Napa/Sonoma. Last July Doug won a poker tournament and received a $500 travel gift certificate. We've been sitting on it, trying to decide when/where to go (and to see if Doug won another tournament). Since we need to use it by July, Doug and I decided to get away once school was out in May. We'll also be using our frequent flyer miles. We are going to fly out on a Thursday night and back on Monday. Except for all the wine we purchase to bring back, we should be able to do this on the cheap.

I tell you, getting frequent flyer miles for your credit card, and using your credit card for all of your household bills, really can build up your frequent flyer miles. If we could, we would even put our mortgage on our credit card. Of course, the trick is to pay off your card, but we do that. We also receive airline rewards by grocery shopping and dining out at certain places.

We are both getting excited about our trip and are looking forward to it.

Second attempt

This is my second attempt at creating a mosaic flower pot. Better than the first, but still not there. I actually lost about a half dozen tiles when I was trying to grout the pot. I think I cut the glass triangle too wide for the curvature of the bottom of the pot. The tiles worked well on the rest of the pot, but not at the bottom. I still have some blue glass left, especially the lightest and darkest blues, so I will use it to make another pot.

Jealousy, thy name is daughter

My parents are leaving Wednesday for a two week cruise to the Mediterranean. About 10 days ago my mom was surfing the Web and found a great last minute deal. They are leaving from Portugal, going to Spain, Italy, Turkey and ending in Greece. I am so jealous! One of their ports of call, and one of the twelve reasons I'm jealous, is Santorini. According to a Travel channel special I saw several years ago, Santorini is just gorgeous and THE top destination for a romantic destination honeymoon. One of our favorite Greek restaurants in Austin has these huge photo murals on the wall of Santorini. When we eat at that restaurant, I like to imagine being on this Greek isle.

I guess it's a good thing we aren't going. From port to super Tuscans, we'd need two extra suitcases just to bring home all the wine we'd buy.

If you want to be jealous too, check out the itinerary.

Monday, April 10, 2006

New hobby

I am attempting to teach myself mosaics. I've been interesting in learning for years, especially after watching HGTV once and seeing how easy it looked to do. I've thought about enrolling in a class, but haven't done it. In our attempt to revitalize our backyard, we bought some plant stands that would look nice with pretty pots and flowers. Instead of buying pots, I decided to try my hand at mosaics. I finished my first pot this weekend. Not bad for a first attempt. Now I just have 9 more pots to do. Maybe they'll be done by the end of summer.

One thing I learned is that I need to wear gloves when grouting glass tiles. I didn't even think about it and got tiny cuts all over my right fingers.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Pour, pour wine

“Do you know what’s wrong with Texas wines?” Today I am a volunteer wine pourer at the Texas Hill Country Wine and Food Festival in Georgetown. I’m working the Artesa Winery table, pouring a cab/merlot blend and a chard. We have been slammed since the gates opened at noon.

I look at the guy in front of me who asked the question. He is a bit older, with bad teeth and a straw hat. I am sure his name is either Bubba or Joe Bob. I want to tell him that the problem with Texas wines is that most wineries produce for the ignorant masses like himself. Instead I just smile.

“The problem with Texas wines is they pour too much sugar in them.” I realize then how clueless this guy is. Adding sugar? We make wine, not kool-aid. I decide to educate him a bit. “Actually, most Texas vintners tend to grow what they think will sell, growing the more well-known and popular grape varieties, versus the grapes that are better for our hot, dry climate. Alamosa Winery is doing a good job making wine out of sangiovese and tempranillo, which grow really well in our climate.” I point to the table a few booths down, hoping he’d get the hint. It didn’t work.

“Do you know of any place that makes wine out of mustang grapes? Those are really well adapted to our climate.” Yeah, and a Ford LTD is really adapted to trailer parks, but that doesn’t make it NASCAR vehicle. There are a few Texas wineries that I’ve been to that have experimented with mustang grapes as part of a blend; it’s okay, but really, those are not wine grapes. I just smile at the guy and pour for the next person in line.

It’s really interesting watching the people who want a sip. For the most part, folks at the festival don’t know a lot about wine. That’s okay, and that’s a good reason to come to a wine festival to try and learn. These folks take sips, listen to what I tell them and may ask a few questions and move on. Sometimes they really like it, sometimes they don’t.

Then there are the folks like Bubba who think they know more than they do. I will be the first to admit, I don’t know a lot about wine. Doug knows more than I and he will say he doesn’t know much. Still, I would venture to guess that we know more than the average drinker. After all, we like wine, we like wineries and we try to learn about wines when we visit various wineries. But I have to hold my tongue when I get certain questions:

“Do you have any rose? What about white zinfandel?” No, but you can buy a box of each at HEB and let everyone know how white trash you are.

“What’s the difference between cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc? Cabernet franc is more oaky, isn’t it?” This one, I try to explain oak comes from barreling. Cabernet sauvignon is a heavier, full-bodied wine while cabernet franc is more used for blending. It didn’t work as the woman really wasn’t interested in my answer and didn’t stop talking long enough to listen.

“Why don’t you say it’s a meritage of merlot and cab, instead of a blend?” Are you kidding? I’m having trouble with folks understanding what a blend is. Do you really think they would understand a word like meritage?

Since I’m not supposed to wear my volunteer t-shirt, folks think I’m actually from the Artesa Winery in Napa. Because I’m wearing a t-shirt from Hawaii that mom gave me years ago, some folks think I’m from the islands. If I had known I wouldn’t be wearing the food and wine t-shirt, I probably would have worn my Will Work for Wine t-shirt. Since I’m next to Gigi and she’s having a rough day, I could have easily gotten by with my I’m with Grumpy shirt. Folks ask me what is my favorite wine that I make. I am tempted to tell them it’s my peach wine, but decide against it. That’s not what the day is about.

Within an hour I’m worn out. The two and a half hour shift seems to take forever. I think I’ve spoken to more than 1,000 people. “This is a chardonnay for the chardonnay lover; Artesa is really well-known for their chardonnays.” People agree and some ladies come back for thirds. I hate when they ask me if I like it and I have to explain that I am a red drinker. “Our red? It’s a cab/merlot blend, with some syrah and cab franc mixed in as well. The grapes are from both Napa and Sonoma, with the vintners taking the very best elements from the various regions and grapes to produce this wine they call Elements. There was quite a buzz about it at the Four Seasons tasting last night.” My mouth gets tired from saying the same thing over and over. Gigi brings me a bottle of water so my tongue doesn’t swell.

Some of the wine tables have ran out of wine and shut down. I wonder if our four cases will be enough to last through our shift, much less the next one. However, we make it though and our relief finally comes. Pouring was fun, but exhausting – I really earned the admission to this festival. Before I leave I take another drink of the wine and head out of our booth. My pouring time is through and now it’s my time to enjoy the wines.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Job hunting update

Within 15 minutes of yesterday's posting regarding job hunting, I received an email from the university. They asked me to teach an advertising class during the second summer session. After discussing the pros and cons with Doug, I decided to accept.

While I've had some frustrations this semester with some of my students, over all, I really enjoy working with them. While I'm not an expert in advertising, I do have experience in it and teaching it will help me learn more. Plus, some of the areas I'm most interested in have to do with influencing behavior, which could be a meld of some advertising and PR. This also gives me a chance to finish the thesis and find just the right job.

The thing that struck me most about this whole thing was the timing. I had pretty much thought I was at a dead end on that track, at least for a semester or two. Not sure about the job hunting thing either. Then I just put it out there and suddenly there was a response. It was like giving it over to a higher power and things were just taken care of. I wonder if God reads blogs?

Thursday, April 06, 2006

New toy

People often wonder why our Dante and Allegra don't have many toys. The only thing they seem to have at the house to play with are old buffalo bones (after they have gnawed off the meat and have sucked out the marrow), each other, and the kitty. There are two reasons for this. One, they are simply not interested in many toys. I throw a tennis ball and Allegra just looks at it (throw a bone, and she'll go get it). Get out a kong, and Dante will work hard to get the treat in less than two minutes and then doesn't bother with the kong until there is another treat inside.

The other reason they don't get toys is that they destroy them. Once we bought a stuffed squeaky toy and within 30 minutes Allegra had the stuffing strewn across the yard. It was a violent decapitation of a squirrel as I've ever seen, only instead of red blood and guts, it was white fluff.

Today I was feeling generous and bought a new toy for the dogs when I was at the store. I am trying to get them interested in fetching without worrying about the dents the buffalo bones will make in the walls and furniture. This toy seemed perfect. It was rubber, and I thought durable. It was soft and wouldn't leave dents when thrown. I got home, showed it to the dogs, and threw it. They were interested and went after it. They brought it back to me to throw again. They chased each other and were having a good time. They left me alone so I could have lunch in peace.

Fifteen minutes later, Allegra had snatched it from Dante and laid the toy at my feet. I picked it up and realized that it was soaked in dog slobber. Yew! Then I saw it -- they had chewed one of the spindles partially through. Inside was foam. Not wanting to give them a chance to digest the foam, I picked up the toy and set it on the counter. Within 15 minutes, the fun new toy was no more. Guess this means we have to stick with the bones.

Job hunting

In less than a month I will be done with teaching. I won't graduate, as my thesis isn't finished, but I will be available to go back to work. As such, I have started job hunting, posting my resume at various internet job sites (i.e. Monster, Career Builder, Hot Jobs), and have applied for a few positions.

It's been more than two years since I've seriously job hunted and I have forgotten what a humiliating and frustrating process it is. For example, this morning I was on my computer and received an email entitled "Agency Position." I got excited and wondered which PR agency it was. I opened the email to see that it was some mass marketing template to work for an insurance company -- you know, become an agent and have your own agency franchise.

I took a few minutes to visit the various job sites to renew my resume. One trick is to renew/refresh your resume at least weekly, to keep it at the top of the pile. While doing this, I was able to see how many folks have clicked on my resume -- not good. In two weeks my resume on Monster has only been viewed three times.

Occasionally I receive a call or email saying someone has viewed my resume and thinks I will be a perfect fit for a job in their company. What is the job? Sales. I'm not sure where on my resume it says that I have done sales. I have done marketing, I have done PR. I give great account service and I can get on the phone and pitch a reporter, but please, don't have me cold call some schlocky product. That is not me. I don't enjoy sales. I want to do communications, that is what I enjoy.

Now, a few people have asked me why don't I stay teaching. As of right now, that's not an option and not the direction I want to go. Ideally, I would like to work full time in the field and then teach a class or two at night. I have discussed the possibility with various folks about being an adjunct, and get told they are keeping me in mind. The issue is that right now there are no evening PR classes scheduled (mainly because no one has ever wanted to teach at night), and that we are hiring a new director for the school of journalism and mass communications. No one wants to make any decisions until the new director comes on board. Of course, that will be late summer, assuming that one of the current candidates gets the job.

I know that most likely my job will not come from want ads, and I am starting to work my network. Still, it's frustrating and a slow process and not one I enjoy. Every unanswered resume submission, every interview where you aren't hired, you wonder what it is about you, where you went wrong, why you aren't worthy. You ask people you've known for years if they know of any job openings in the field and the answer is no.

However trying the process is, it's still what one has to go through in job hunting. Maybe the difficulty is what will make the job worth it.

Monday, April 03, 2006


I am feeling so gross today. Occasionally with my allergies I get this inner ear thing going on when I sleep. When I turn over to a particular side, I get vertigo and the bed spins. It's not really that fun to wake up and the bed is spinning, especially when you haven't even been drinking.

I had another episode of the bed spins this morning. I love waking up feeling nauseous. That, and I woke up early and couldn't fall back asleep. So I go to bed at 10:30 and wake up at 4, which is really like 3 with daylight savings. In the mean time, my head is pounding, my tummy is queasy, my ear hurts and my eyes are itchy. I couldn't even get Allegra to cuddle with me this morning. I am a total mess.

It's a good thing I'm not actually lecturing today. I have guest speakers. I will moderate, though, as we are doing a panel discussion.

I wonder if anyone would notice if I fell asleep at my desk. No, I can't do that. If I put my head down, I think I'll throw up. I'm feeling like being mean today and taking roll as a pop quiz. I know Monday after time change I'll be lucky to have 20 out of 50 students in an 8 a.m. class. If I have to be here, they should be too. :-)

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Taking his life in his own paws

Lately Dexter has found a new place to nap--the dogs' bed. For a kitty who runs everytime he sees one of the dogs, he sure is living life dangerously.